In January 2020, I received an email from Dominic Sparke who had seen a YouTube video which I made about the life of a soldier who fought in WW1 following the chance discovery of his luggage tag in the Thames mud in 2016. It read:-
In 1999 I was living in South London. My landlord was a friend who was doing up the house where we lived and he used to go rummaging around in skips and tips to find unusual things to help with the renovation. One day he came home with an old 1940's style suitcase, which was full of letters, documents and magazines. All the letters etc related to the life of a man called John Spiers, who studied at Oxford University before the war, was in the Navy during the war, and then moved to Ontario Canada for work”.
Dominic then went on to explain that he had always intended to do something with the contents of the suitcase and that he had wanted to tell John Spiers' story, but time had gone by and he no longer had the time to do so. "Would you like them?" he said in the email. "Would I like them? Are you kidding? Yes I would!" I eagerly replied. And so he sent them to me. I received them on February 7th 2020. Rather uncannily, John himself died on 7th February 1993.
The story which jumps out for me from what I have read of the letters, is a man who was eluded by love and who left in his wake some heartrbroken and angry women. Just as I have found many objects in the River Thames which I believe have stories which need to be told, Im looking forward to giving a voice to Dr John Ashley Spiers, as well as the many women, friends and family members, who loved him.
Within this suitcase is a jumbled mix of fragments of the past ; Some funny, some sad, some hopeless, some downright strange. This is a project quite daunting but extremely exciting – and it is also a time capsule of life during the war with everyday details from those involved - which surely needs to be shared. All relevant copyright laws will be adhered to.
I look forward to sharing it with you.