World War II letter reveals hotelier’s plea to save his business
Owner: Jason Delf
Published: 28th February, 2020
Typing a letter at his barracks in India on 17 September 1945, Joe Delf told his superiors the Imperial Hotel in Great Yarmouth had finally been derequisitioned by the military, exposing him to significant debts.
Appealing to his commanding officer for his immediate demobilisation, he said he needed to return home immediately to save the business he ran with his sister Louisa Lindsay and her husband Campbell.
“Recently the premises have been derequisitioned which has thrown upon the company the added expense of rent, rates and insurance,” he wrote from Sambre, near Belgaum.
“With the business closed for five years it is inevitable that there is little available income to meet such big liabilities. I needs (sic) hardly emphasis (sic) that unless I am in a position to reopen in the in the very near future I shall return to financial ruin and the subsequent domestic strife as I have a wife and two children dependent on me.”
Joe’s letter was found in the attic of the Imperial Hotel and passed on to his grandson Jason. He now runs the Palm Court Hotel and Marine Lodge Hotel, with his brother Nick.
“Although he wrote the letter in September, he didn’t get home until February because they were quarantined,” said Jason.
“At the beginning of the war grandad became a fireman and then he volunteered for the RAF because there was nothing happening. As soon as he signed up, Yarmouth started being bombed.
“I was fascinated by the letter when I read it and I showed it to grandad, who was still around at the time. He told me how a builder friend of his did the repairs that were needed and said, ‘Pay me back when you have got the money’. That wouldn’t happen nowadays.”
It was in 1956 that Joe Delf bought The Burlington and 10 years later he acquired The Palm Court at auction.
Part of The Palm Court now stands on the site where 26 Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) girls were killed during a German air raid on May 11, 1943. The bomb fell on Sefton House where they were billeted, and the site is now occupied by the hotel’s indoor swimming pool.
A memorial plaque recording the tragedy and listing the names of those who lost their lives was unveiled at the hotel in 1994 by Lady Soames, youngest daughter of Winston Churchill.
This year five former members of the ATS, all aged in their 90s, gathered at the site to mark the 75th anniversary of the tragedy.