Barbara Harper-Nelson was once the sweetheart, living in Liverpool, of 22 year-old French airman Francis Usai. Amazingly she kept the letters (over 2000 pages of correspondence) from this witty and amusing young French airman exiled from his conquered country and based here near York, where he undertook nightly missions into the horrendous firestorm which was the Battle of Berlin. Along with her own diaries, these letters constitute a unique, evocative, often amusing conversation between young people during a time unprecedented in history and with the daily threat of permanent separation, plus the very regular loss of close friends. (51% of all air crews were killed). The authenticity of this account hits home while the intensity of their love story and the quality of their courage catches at the heart.
Now aged 89 and living near Perth, Western Australia, Barbara Harper-Nelson (nee Rigby) served in Malaya and Hong Kong in the Women's Royal Army Corps and did community development work in Kenya. She married and lived in Uganda, from where she migrated to Western Australia in 1962. This book is based on the remarkable diaries and letters she treasured for so long. The excerpts of diaries and correspondence are edited by French veteran's daughter and film-maker Genevieve Monneris, and the excerpts of correspondence are translated into English by the son of another French veteran, Michel Darribehaude, Senior Lecturer in British Civilisation Studies at the Universite de Toulon, France. 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.