LOVE letters sent from an RAF airman to his fiancee during the Second World War are set to be published – 66 years after his death.

The letters sent from Philip Spencer, who was from Burnley, to his Whalley love Ivy Starkie date from 1939 when the couple first met.

RAF airman Philip was deployed to South Africa in 1941, aged 19, and sent more than 20 letters – some of which were 20 pages long – to Ivy.

Tragically Philip, a former Oxford University student, died in a plane crash just weeks before he was due to come home on leave for Christmas in 1943, aged just 21.

The letters and poems declare his love for her, quoting Shakespeare and also telling her of his life on the other side of the world.

Ivy, a retired headteacher, has received interest from publishers wanting to print the letters alongside photo-graphs of the couple and poems written by Philip, to tell the story of their love.

Ivy, 87, who now lives in Cambridgeshire, said: “The letter were so romantic and poetic. Philip was very articulate and affectionate.

“The tragic thing is that because of the six-week delay in the post I continued to recieve letters after he died.”

The couple met at Pendle Hill in 1939. Ivy said: “It was a story of true romance. We met by fate.

“We swapped addresses so we could discuss books we were studying for our exams.

“Before he went away we made a commitment to each other, planning to marry when he returned.”

Ivy was on her way to work at Higham Primary School near Burnley when she found out her fiance had died.

She said: “It was just awful. A friend said ‘have you heard about Philip?’ and I thought she meant he was back home early.

“I continued on and taught at school that day.”

Following her fiance’s death Ivy went on to become headteacher at Grassington School near Skipton, where she worked for 25 years.

Ivy married her Polish war veteran husband John in 1948. He had been held captive in a prisoner of war camp in Siberia for long periods.

Ivy said: “John died 10 years ago but he always understood my feelings for Philip. I have been very lucky that I had two very good men in my life.

“The letters from Philip while he was at war have given me great comfort over the years and I have never forgotten the special bond we had.”

Philip went to Sunnybank Primary School, and lived in the Scott Park area of Burnley. He was buried in South Africa.

Publishers became interested after Ivy’s story was picked up by Northern Life magazine.