The key to this story from WWI is a rather frail letter, passed on by our Grandmother, type-written in September 1917 from the front in France by her brother, our great uncle, and sent to his parents, our great-grandparents in Winnipeg. It was written home two days after his elder brother, Wilmot Turner, had been killed within his sight as they “went over the parapet” together, in a charge on German lines. Addressed “Dearest Mother & Dad”, it is a three-page letter from a son relating how his brother died, his feelings about the incident, and about the War, for his parents half a world away from where their eldest son fell and never returned. It recounts in the most direct way possible the way that war touched this prairie family, our relatives now all passed on, those many years ago.
In a sense, the family story here is the physical letter itself. It was found amongst our Mother’s effects as we helped her move from the family home of two generations in Winnipeg to a smaller townhouse in Victoria; it surfaced during the sorting and packing – a crackled and tightly folded letter on light, worn paper. It is our Great Uncle Torrance himself doing the telling, on the paper and equipment available to a young infantryman at the Front – a typewriter of uncertain alignment, the ribbon clearly over-used. The paper is now fragile, and while the typing is still quite legible, it too is beginning to fade.
Attached are the three pages of the letter along with photos of my grandmother’s three brothers, who were all born in small towns on the Canadian prairies, and all served at the Front in the war with the 27th Division of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry: Wilmot, the eldest, who was killed in action in 1917; Torrance, who wrote the letter home; and Harold, their youngest brother, who enlisted eight months before his eldest brother died on the battlefield and was at the Front when the Armistice was declared a year later.