Dating a soldier: Keeping the home fires burning…

Dating in times of conflicts has always been a trying yet romantic business. During World War 1 there was the hastily-scribbled postcard from a shell-shocked trench, while in the next global conflict a heart-felt telegram or the dreaded ‘Dear John’ letter.

Military romance has been through the wars

Fast forward to the Falklands in ‘82, and soldiers and sweethearts could still do little more than to write to each other over 8000 miles if a crackly and covert call aboard a ship was not possible. More recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sky’s the limit for communication. There is the option to text, email and even Skype; the latter giving pining romantics the all-important benefits of body language.
Whichever means of communication is used, dating a serving solider has seldom been straight-forward – from coping with extended periods of service, the elation of reunions to the uncertainty of not knowing what the future holds.
Having reliable and frequent communication, however, is essential to keep those home fires burning, regardless of whether you hold a bright torch for each other, or if you are merely old flames. The good news from Captain Sensible, however, is that the reliability and means of communication has gradually improved over the last 100 years as technology has improved.
Here’s a snapshot of how dating couples have communicated over that time:

First World War

Starting in July 1914, the perceived wisdom was the war would end before Christmas, allowing young hearts to rekindle romance that was interrupted during peace time. The sobering aspect, as we know, is the first global conflict dragged on for four long years, claiming millions of young lives. Yet despite their losses, ‘daters’ could readily keep in touch as this fascinating video on BBC iwonder reveals. Here are a few facts in numbers:

  • Two days: That’s all it took for most mail (love letters included) to reach the western front in France from most parts of the UK
  • 12.5 million letters left the home depot each week
  • 375,000 or four tonnes of letters a day (all censored) were sent at the height of the war; that’s a lot of emotion and sentiment
  • 150 love letters. These were found in October in an attic in Huddersfield last year

Second World War

The method and means of courtship, as it was called back then, weren’t much more sophisticated in the next world war, mainly because of the greater of globalism and movement of conflicts.
Did you know that?

  • In the 1940s, US soldiers had v-mail, not email. This involved soldiers writing their letters on a form that was photographed onto microfilm and flown to the USA. A 16mm reel microfilm could hold 18,000 letters, weighing a fraction of the 18,000 real letters.
  • When arriving in the USA, the letters were printed from the film and then posted onward to the addressee.


There was still no ‘global’ internet in 1982, and soldiers had limited access to international phone lines. Early mobile phones were brick-sized (as Del Boy would testify), were not much more sophisticated than courier pigeon, and certainly could not connect from the other side of the world.

  • The Falklands Islands are 8000 miles away – almost the longest distances soldiers were separated from loved ones since campaigns in Asia during WW2
  • Letters could take many days to reach that part of the world – given the islands in distance terms are only 2000 miles shorter than we are to Australia

Afghanistan and Iraq

As you would expect from 21st century technology, distance and location knows no bounds, giving dating couples many ways and means to keep in touch. Types of communications encompass almost every technology; ideal for tapping into each other’s hearts and minds.

  • US daters can keep in contact via an AKO (Army Knowledge Online) email address. Intriguingly, there are also a handful of Internet cafes across American bases in Iraq.
  • Furthermore, there are several DSN (Defence Switched Network) phone centres and phone tents located in bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are usually allowed 15-minute ‘morale calls’ to phone family back home.
  • Soldiers may also be allowed to use mobile or satellite phones to call home – but per minute charges are often expensive; but there’s nothing to stop sending a saucy text though!
  • Video Teleconferencing (VTC) or skype-type systems are also available – perfect for blowing kisses, giving a wink or to admire your military man or women in their pristinely cut and pressed army uniform.

So, how times have changed. Regardless of the technique you and your date choose to keep the home fires burning, remember that ‘mum’s the word’, not talking about military matters.
Remember, you could find romance across several other uniformed occupations, including police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors and many other occupations.

Please tell us about your military dating experiences in the comments’ box below.