Of late I have taken to transcribing the aging letters written by my Great Great Uncles Norman, Cecil & Ernest to their family members during the course of their service in World War One. I’m conscious of how dangerously thin the paper of these letters have become, this is my attempt to preserve the words written upon them. What is really being driven home in doing this is that these men, (along with the millions of men and women who did their part worldwide in World War One) were as regular as you and I. Caught in the unfathomable situations, the harsh realities of war, they still had families back home that they missed.
“I wish I could go home with him”
— [taken from a letter written by Uncle Norman to his mother, following the news that Uncle Cecil was being medically discharged & sent home following the amputation of his leg, October 1917.]
That isn’t to say of course that this reality hadn’t occurred to me before, however reading the contents of these letters simply serves as a big reminder.
The ability to make the best of bad situations is a quality I have noted in these letters:
“Twelve months ago today we first landed in France, I have had a good many experiences during this time…funny when one comes to look back on them, but not funny when one has to go through them.”
–[taken from a letter from Uncle Norman to his Father in April 1917-he follows up with an example of going out with his company to complete clean up duty in abandoned German trenches, only to come back and find that their trenches had fallen in due to torrential rain.]
In between transcribing these letters, I did some research on my Dad’s side and their involvement in the war. As it turns out, my Pop’s grandfather served in World War One also-his enlistment forms were luckily very easy to find. Included in his files was a marriage certificate following a request for military leave during the war-a reminder that life does indeed go on even in war time. Private Arthur Peace served in the Second Infantry Battalion and was moved around a few times during his service, finally being medically discharged after developing trench foot. I’m hoping to see some photos of him when I see my Nan and Pop next (naturally, the photographer in me is curious!).
I am continuing to transcribe the letters and diaries of my Great Great Uncles and learning about my Great Great Grandfather who, along with thousands of Australians and New Zealanders did their part to form our country’s national identity.
Today, whilst paying my respects to all who have served, I am thinking about the following relatives in particular:
Private Arthur Peace (WWI)
Corporal Norman D. Way (killed in action in France 23/8/1918)
Private Cecil Way (WWI)
Corporal Ernest V. Way (WWI)
Edward Bate (Chaplain in Australian Air Force, World War II)
Today, 101 years on from the ANZACs initial landing in Gallipoli, we recognise the sacrifices and efforts of our servicemen and women past and present in fighting to ensure our country’s freedom and safety. Thank you.
Lest We Forget.
Last year’s post can be found here.