Grandpa’s Letter Home in 1945, Part II
After thinking it over for a few days, I have decided to share most of the contents of my grandfather’s letter home, dated January 3, 1945. As mentioned in the earlier post on the letter, we know that at the time the letter was written, Gpa Mike was still in Italy. It was sent to his Aunt Hattie, one of his aunts. Gpa had become quite close with several of his maternal aunts following the sudden passing of his mother in May of 1941, but this was particularly true of his Aunt Hattie, who was his mom’s younger sister.
Upon reading the letter, I found it so interesting that Gpa was trying to make it seem as if things were okay – there is, to me, an element of “it’s business as usual.” – note the multiple use of the adjective “swell.” Anyone who knew my Gpa would tell you this was not a regular word in his vocabulary!
Of course, there is much information mixed in the letter that is anything but usual. Gpa notes that Christmas was not very bright because the guys were in action and in the mud. Mud was a regular challenge the Allies faced as they made their way up the Italian boot and it made transportation of troops and supplies difficult at times, to say the least. Gpa Mike counters the comment about the holiday not being overly bright by noting on the up-side, he was fortunate to have received numerous parcels from home. How curious this makes me and how it makes me wish I knew more about who wrote to him, how often and how did everyone manage to try and keep an upbeat attitude in their writings?
Gpa makes mention of hearing from”Ada,” which is one of Hattie’s younger daughters, once a month or so. I am hoping to work with Gpa’s only surviving brother, my Uncle Jimmy, to try to see if there is any chance that Ada’s children came across and kept any letters from my grandfather. We also learn from this letter that Gpa heard somewhat regularly from the Brown side of the family, who were in Middlesex and Manchester as far as I know. In this case, I hope to work with my second cousin Eleanor, daughter of my Great Uncle Jack, to reach out to that side of the family to see if they have any correspondence from my grandpa. It’s all likely a long shot, especially since I don’t know how much my Gpa would have written. But I figure it is worth asking – it only takes one extra letter or one extra photo to give us a whole new added insight to my Gpa’s time in the War.
Many, many times I have found myself wishing that my Gpa Mike was a diary/journal keeper like me! To know him is to know that this would not have been his style! But because my grandfather spoke so little of his time in the war, a journal would be the only way to get true insights into what he was experiencing and feeling, and how he went about coping with the realities of war. Without a journal, any war letters become the next best thing.
As this letter draws to an end, you sense that Gpa is grateful this winter to have warm, dry places to sleep like tents or in homes, compared to the previous winter when they had to sleep in their trucks. The last sentence reads “I am sure glad I am not in the infantry.” It shows a real sympathy for those on the line who don’t have the luxury of sleeping in anything other than a fox hole or bombed out building.
I am not showing the closing of the letter because there is something in me that tells me Gpa Mike wouldn’t want the vulnerability of his sign off to be made public on the internet! I do, however, love that he literally signs his name in quotes like this: “Mike.” It makes me think that even at this point, his Aunt, Uncle and cousins still called him by his Christian name, Morley.
As mentioned in the original post, to have received this letter after so many years has been a wonderful surprise. I never imagined that I would be so fortunate as to have a document like this find its way to me, so many years after the War ended, and even so many years after Gpa Mike’s passing, which is coming up on nine years ago. This letter is truly priceless. It has had the same affect on me that all other tidbits of information, be it from war files, photos or memorabilia from the time, have had one me – the new insight leaves me wanting to learn more and to dig deeper. And when we read the hardships experienced by our loved one in his own words, to see and recognise his handwriting, causes us to feel ever more proud of our husband/father/grandfather/brother/uncle.
How did this generation manage to put the terrors of war and what they saw behind them and lead “normal” lives? How is it that for the rest of their lives they wanted no accolades but saw their service as duty and not something that was a big deal! Every Remembrance Day, more than any other day of the year, I am struck by the fact that this generation will forever fascinate me and it makes me sad that we have so few of these men and women left. Every time one of them passes, this world is truly a lesser place.