AMONG my collection of Great War ephemera, I have some correspondence between a naval man and his fiancée.

Although he refers to her letters (and how grateful he was to receive them) only his have survived the passage of time – presumably treasured by the recipient for many years afterwards.

We know that her name was Miss Joyce Woore and her address is initially given as Clapham Common, in London, and later as Epping.

But it is the man’s temporary residence that is the most intriguing as far as our local history is concerned.

In the top right hand corner of the first yellowed page of each letter it is given as “R.N. Mobile Brigade, Highlands Farm, Mayland” and concludes “Yours Noel”. So with a bit of detective work are we able to unlock the story behind all of this – who was “Noel” and what was a Brigade of the Royal Navy (as in R.N.) doing in Mayland all those years ago?

I certainly hadn’t previously come across any reference to them being here.

All of the letters were franked by the Post Office between February and April 1917.

Although they aren’t officially censored as such, the detail is quite scant and the content very generalised.

Noel talks about “shooting on the marshes” and being “tired and covered in mud from head to foot”.

However, happier references are made to him catching fish and collecting oysters for tea, of sawing wood for the fire and playing football against a team from the Essex Regiment.

On another occasion he spent the day “out signalling” and then “bought some milk from the farm people”.

A request for leave was refused, but he did have enough free time to “walk into Maldon” (no mean feat at over eight miles each way by road, via the villages of Latchingdon and Mundon).

In his last communication to Joyce he was “in the mud again” and “on guard duty all day”.

Highlands, or ‘Hellondys’, Mayland, first appears in the written record in 1504. The current Highlands farmhouse, on Highlands Hill, is an early 18th-century timber-framed building that is now quite rightly Grade II listed.

On the eve of the First World War, the Spurgeon family lived there and farmed the surrounding lands.

The population of the village at that time was just over 350.

All in all, it was a remote, sleepy place that most people passed through on their way to somewhere else.

It was a most unlikely location for the military, but elsewhere a terror from the air was being experienced – German Naval Zeppelin L6 dropped bombs on nearby Tillingham, Burnham, Maldon and Heybridge in the April of 1915.

However, another enemy airship, L33, was successfully brought down by anti- aircraft fire, on the opposite side of the river at Little Wigborough during the night of September 23-24, 1916.

Doubtless buoyed up by that success, in early 1917 the Mobile Anti-Aircraft Brigade (a sub-unit of the Anti-Aircraft Corps or AAC RNVR) was relocated from the Norfolk coast to the Essex marshes.

They established their headquarters at Burnham (with officers billeted at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club) and anti-aircraft guns were deployed in fixed installations along the north bank of the River Crouch and south bank of the Blackwater – including at Stansgate and, as we now know, some of the men were based at Mayland.

With at least that part of the mystery solved, we turn to “Noel” himself.

According to the registers, Poplar-born Joyce Mary Pauline Tennant Woore married a Henry Noel Munro at Epping on September 25, 1919.

Born in 1893, that same Noel Munro joined the RNVR on December 10, 1915, “for the duration of the hostilities”, and served as an able-seaman (service number AA1404) with the Mobile Anti-Aircraft Corps.

So there we have it, a 24-year-old naval rating, stationed in the Maldon area in 1917, trying to make the best of things and keeping in touch with his girlfriend through a regular exchange of letters.

When it was all over, following their marriage they had a daughter, Daphne Rosemary, born in Epping in 1920, and the family then moved to Norfolk.

Noel continued in the navy during the Second World War as a Lieutenant RNVR (Special Branch).

Part of that later period included an appointment to the Combined Operations Training Base, HMS St Mathew, at Creeksea Place, west of the familiar surroundings of Burnham-on-Crouch.

He died in service on October 14, 1946.

Joyce outlived him by a further 40 years, eventually passing away in 1986.

Daphne then died in 1996.

I can’t remember how I came by those letters, but I am so pleased that I have them.

They are a remarkable survival and collectively form a remembrance, not just to a local Great War posting, but also of a very human, family story of love, marriage, birth and death – all revealed through pencil on paper, preserved and passed down that we might not forget them.