Barbara Harper-Nelson was once the nineteen-year-old girlfriend of twenty-two-year-old French airman Francis Usai, who served in the RAF Bomber Command. Amazingly, she still possesses the letters she received from this witty and amusing young Frenchman, exiled from his conquered country but still fighting for freedom and undertaking nightly missions into the horrendous firestorm that was the Battle of the Ruhr.
Together with her own diaries, these letters constitute a unique, evocative and often amusing conversation between two young people during a turbulent and often terrifying time in history, as they coped with the daily threat of permanent separation and the regular, tragic loss of close friends. The intensity of their love story and the quality of their courage catch at the heart, showing how the human spirit endures, even and especially during times of war.
Barbara Harper-Nelson (nee Rigby), was living in Liverpool when she met 22 year-old Francis Usai of the Free French air force based in England. This book is based on their remarkable diaries and letters. The correspondence is edited by French film-maker Genevieve Monneris and translated into English by Michel Darribehaude, Senior Lecturer in British Civilisation Studies at the Universite du Sud Toulon Var. Genevieve Monneris won Best Documentary, at the Imperial War Museum London Film Festival 2012, for De Lourds Souvenirs, 24-12-1944, a film about her father's aircrew (347 `Tunisie' Squadron) made with her son Thomas Lesgoirres. She is the author of two other documentary films in memory of the French Squadrons in RAF Bomber Command, which have been screened at the Yorkshire Air Museum, Elvington / York, and at London Imperial War Museum: Apart from that, everything's ok! including six French veterans' accounts with archive wartime footage, and Henry and Pat, December 1943-November 1944, a film about another Franco-English couple, Henri and Pat Martin who were Francis and Barbara's closest friends.