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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Sepia Saturday - Letters Home From the Front

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories through photographs.

Stories of  my family's military service have featured before on my blog.  But I am pleased in this special commemorative year to make a further tribute to them through their moving letters, telegrams and cards home from the front

Dad with my mother (right) and my aunt (left)
I came across this telegram whilst sorting through papers following the deaths of my father and mother, John and Kathleen Weston nee Danson.   I love the design and the message, with the frank on the reverse showing it was sent on December 31st 1941.  

My father was then serving in the Codes and Cipher Branch of the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, London and had witnessed the Battle of Britain over London earlier in the autumn of 1941.

Very movingly I also discovered a series of letters, still in their envelopes,  exchanged between my parents during 1944-45 when my father  was in France and Germany. Dad by this time was attached to the US forces under General Bradley.


In  a typed letter home, Dad asked "I hope you have managed to have Baby's photograph taken".

This is the photograph!


The telegram below was sent by my Uncle Charles to my father on 24th September 1945 following Charles release from a Japanese prisoner of war camp.   

Charles and my father John Weston were close as brothers and had nicknames for one another - "Ace" and Mel".   Unfortunately I failed to ask my father about the origin of these names and neither my cousin nor I have been able to find out any thin.  Were Ace and Mel popular radio characters for instance?  I would love to know, if anyone has any ideas.  

When he was back home in Leicester, Charles wrote a long letter to my father in November 1945 with details and thoughts on his experience as a POW.   It starts "Dear Mel" and is signed "Keep batting!" - Ace". 




Postcards from Flanders, sent by my grandfather William Danson to his family back home, are the most prized items in my collection of family memorabilia.   They are made more poignant by the penciled messages from William to his wife Alice and children Edith, Kathleen, Harry and baby Billy. 

Grandad was a taciturn labourer, He never spoke about the war and would never have put into words the sentiments expressed  in the cards he sent to his wife Alice and his messages were rather prosaic. 


Dear Alice, received your letter allright.  I have landed back at the Butt and am in the pink.  I have had a letter from Jennie and am glad you have word of Tom.  You loving husband, Billy xxx.  [7 February 1918]

The two Brussels scenes  below were sent to William's daughters, Edith and Kathleen (my mother) around Christmas 1918, when presumably he was waiting to be demobbed.



 ?8th December 1918 - Dear Kathleen, I am in the pink and hope mother and family are the same.  Will send a few more cards in a day or so.  From her Dad XXXXXX


24th December 1918 - Dear Edith, Just a card to let you know that I am in the best of health.  I am staying not from the ?? that is on the card.  From her Dad XXXXXX

"I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field."  
These were the words of my great uncle George Danson, written three weeks before he was killed on the Somme in a letter to his brother Frank the nearest in age of his seven brothers.  

 "At present we are abut 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. As I write there are blooming big guns going off abut 50 yards away every few minutes. Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in."

"The good time" was not to be, for three weeks later, and a week after his 22nd birthday,  George was killed on 16th September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, near Albert. 

Click HERE to find more other blogger tales of letters home

Copyright © 2014 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. A fine collection of letters and postcards from your family treasure box. 'Blooming hard work’ seems like an understatement, knowing what we do now of the dangers of such a role.

  2. A wonderful entry full of fine memories. I can't help but wonder, though, why on earth the censors couldn't find a better place to stamp their approval than right on top of a person's writing? I know the writing is what they were censoring, but anywhere on that side of the card should have sufficed. Oh well. Either way, I enjoyed your post very much. :))

  3. How fortunate that you have all these priceless letters and postcards. How much each one must have meant to those back home worrying and wondering every day how their loved ones were doing. Despite all the terrible things he was going through, George sounds like an optimistic soul in that he could see a good time coming.

  4. That is a very nice collection of family letters, telegrams, photos, and cards. I have some wartime postcards, but none are related to my family.

  5. "I'm in the pink" -- funny that this saying was used twice. Must have been a favorite expression.

  6. A lovely collection of letters, cards and photographs. A great uncle of mine was killed at the Somme the day before George died.

  7. You've got a great collection of family correspondence, war correspondence always is precious but more so when the sender did not survive.

  8. What at a great grouping! Those old wartime letters tell us more by what they DON'T say...

  9. Wonderful, poignant letters to have. In their own words...

  10. A telegram seems like such an archaic communication now, but in its time it was of course a wonder of a fast message system and despite the few words would still be saved. Your grandfather's taciturn nature must have been common for many men in this era, as I've seen many similar sentimental flowery postcards that were produced for soldiers on both sides of the trenches.

  11. Thanks for sharing these extracts from your collection of letters and cards - what a treasure. How fortunate that they have been preserved together.

  12. Thank you to everyone for such lovely comments on a post that I found moving to write. I am proud to have the letters, cards and telegrams amongst my family memorabilia.

  13. Dear Sue - Yes I wondered how you were feeling as you put all of these together. It is a beautiful tribute to those who went before you in such trying times. Thank you for giving us a window into their lives.

  14. Such wonderful mementos, both the letters and the photos. So sad about your Uncle George. Thank you for sharing with us.

  15. This is a wonderful post. Although sad at times, it is very interesting to read and important to preserve these memories for the future.
    I was very moved by your dad's letter and his kisses for you, so can only begin to imagine the emotion that you must have felt on discovering this.
    Great Post. Thank you.

  16. It's wonderful that you have these bits of correspondence to paint in the color and depth to an era in history and your family. Without items like this, future generations might forget what a hard time it was and how family connections helped carry on through it. Good post.

  17. An incredible string of photos and letters - what a treasure! As a set, they tell a great story about your family. I think my favorite is the first telegram - the header is so elaborate, I love it!


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