A WOMAN discovered the unique history behind her sister's silk cloak and she now plans to pass it down through generations as a family heirloom.

Susan Dunham, from South Newton, was visiting her older sister Elizabeth Coopey, 82, when she dug out a pink silk cloak.

Unbeknown to the 72-year-old, her father William Charles Russell bought it as a gift after receiving a letter from his wife Phyllis stating she had given birth to a baby girl while he was stationed in Lille during the Second World War in 1940.

Mr Russell, who served in the British Expeditionary Force, had hidden the baby cloak under his jacket while he stormed through German enemy lines to Dunkirk and returned it in one piece when he came home to England four years later.

Salisbury Journal: William and Phyllis Russell in their early years.William and Phyllis Russell in their early years. (Image: Susan Dunham)

Mrs Dunham's mother decided the cloak was "too good to use" so it was stored and has never been worn.

83 years later, Mrs Dunham became the cloak's custodian. She said: "I didn't realise she had it until a few months ago. My sister didn't want it to be thrown away."

Mrs Dunham said her father never really spoke about his time served during the war but the cape and its story will now be passed on through generations.