Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Letter from Dunkirk soldier arrives 80 years later

Letter from Dunkirk soldier arrives 80 years later

A poignant yet remarkable story this - an incident one can scarcely imagining still happening but which I suppose we will keep seeing as more historical material from the period is unearthed, despite the lengthening passage of time since the end of the war.

An intriguing concatenation of circumstances looks to have led to this wartime letter and several others turning up after a prolonged period of time - first in the attic of a German ex-officer almost 30 years after first being written and now over 50 years later finally finding their way back (at least in part) to the families or villages of the senders, thanks to the work of the Suffolk Regiment Museum and later the Suffolk County Council's Archives.

source - Suffolk Archives

In the instance of Private Harry Cole the archivists at Suffolk County Council also managed to locate surviving relatives in the persons of his two younger brothers, a quite incredible achievement after all these years made even more so by the fact that one of the brothers and an SCC archivist both live in the same village. 

The fact that the siblings are still alive and remain in the same part of the country from which their brother would have left to join up brings a whole new level of immediacy to this particular story and serves as a welcome reminder that for all the time that has passed since the end of the Second World War 75 years ago it remains a relatively recent event in our history with people still alive today who were directly affected by it.  All the more reason then to applaud Suffolk Archives for its work in trying to return these letters to their rightful owners and, where that has not been possible, to produce an excellent online exhibition featuring some of them.  It is a fine example of local history within the context of a global war, which I look forward to delving into in detail and which hopefully might reunite a few more families with these long-lost reminders of relatives and their sacrifices during the Second World War.

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