Cromwell resident Lesley Miller has been handed a treasure from her family’s history, in the form of letters sent back from France during the First World War. Who kept them for so long and where they have been is, however, a mystery.
The large number of letters were written to Lesley’s grand-mother, Christina May Andrew, when her then-husband William Andrew was serving in the New Zealand forces. All she knows is that they were apparently found under a house in Invercargill, and then went to the West Coast, and were kept there by the Andrew family.
The grandparents’ marriage ended when Lesley was too young to remember her Grandad, but she met him twice before her Gran died. She had no idea that the letters were in existence.
“How they arrived in another family may never be known, but we think maybe a relative of Debbie Hills was visiting when my Gran was cleaning out Grandad’s stuff after he left and she said ‘if you want them, take them’ “, says Leslie.
She was sent the letters last September, and has been busy reading, translating the now-faded letters, and sharing them with her family.
One of the letters, to ‘My little sweetheart’ (below), was written from a rehabilitation facility in Lymington, Hampshire, UK, after William was injured. It is on YMCA stationery, which was headed with the message ‘Write Home First’. He seems determinably cheerful.
When William returned to New Zealand he became a sign-writer, and Leslie has received a drawing of his, which won a prize in the ‘Australian School of Sketching’. His address at that stage was Pleasant Point.
The family are very appreciative that the letters were sent, Leslie saying, “I know my family will treasure them for a long time. My grandchildren all attend the ANZAC services and have a real interest in who went to war. My own Mum and Dad both served in WW2 and Mum’s brother was killed and is buried in Scotland.”