My Grandpa’s Letter Home: 3 January 1945

One of the greatest surprises of the year was to learn from my Great Uncle Jimmy that a letter my Gpa Mike had sent to their aunt, had come into his possession.  He first phoned my grandma to let her know he had the letter and that he was going to post it to her. His two cents were that that since I was the “family historian” the letter should make its way to me, but he left that decision up to my grandma. In the end, my grandma agreed with him and in keeping with Uncle Jimmy’s suggestion, the letter made it into my hands over the summer.

Letter home from Gpa Mike while in Italy to his Aunt Hattie

Letter home from Gpa Mike while in Italy to his Aunt Hattie

It is a bizarre thing to see, smell and read with your own eyes, something so old. The letter is nearly 68 years old and was written by a 24 year old that had already been away from home overseas during a World War for almost three years.  It is kind of surreal.

I cannot decide if I am going to share the letter in its entirety so for now, I share the front and back covers and a few observations about the document itself.  I know that at the time the letter was written, he was still in Italy, somewhere near the Senio River.  The Italian Campaign was nearing its end and the Canadians were preparing to leave, but for my Gpa, he would have another three plus months before leaving Italy to make his way to the Netherlands via Itigem, Belgium and the Reichswald Forest in Germany.

The letter itself is a self-mailer, that is the stationary folds in such a way that it can seal and act as an envelope.  When folder, it is approximately five by four inches.  The letter is dated January 3, 1945 and was stamped in Claremont, Ontario in February 1945.  It looks like it took a month to arrive! I find it fascinating that on the reverse side, my Gpa Mike had to sign an honour statement indicating that the contents of the letter are purely “private and family matters.”

In preparing this entry, I had my brother helping me by doing some investigating into censorship of soldier’s mail during WW2.  This was prompted by the stamp on the front portion of the letter that indicates the letter was “passed by censors no. 5167.” There is very little that we could find at quick glance, but it does seem that there is some consistency in how mail was handled among the Allies. Of great interest was the report written by the Office of Censorship in Washington, DC regarding wartime mail.  I am a little skeptical of these stats but will share them here anyway; the mail that went from the theatres of war back to Canada and the USA combined totalled a million letters a day through a system that employed more than 10,000 employees at its peak. The initial intent of this entry was to share a little about my newest, prized possession but it has sparked an interest and I have a feeling that in the near future I will want to investigate further, how censorship of personal correspondence impacted the soldiers and their families back home.