Remembrance Day: Sixty Five Letters

Sixty five letters … that’s is how many letters my grandma wrote to her husband while he was fighting overseas in WW2. How do I know this? Well, sadly I don’t have the letters, but I do have her diaries which lists the date of every letter she wrote to him over a period of 14 months.

During the past few months I’ve been slowly going through our family heirlooms. Photographing, documenting them, and preserving them etc., and I have recently made my way on to Evelyn Hannaford’s (nee Randell) diaries … (aka my maternal grandma). I must say our family is fortunate that she was a diarykeeper, as we have 49 diaries covering a 61 year period. I can’t say I’ve read many of them yet, but two of these years 1942 and 1943 are what have intrigued me, as in the back each, grandma noted the date of every letter she wrote to my grandpa while he was in the Middle East fighting in WW2.

Now it’s Remembrance Day next week on November the 11th which marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War. For this Australians observe one minute of silence at 11am on the 11th of November, “in memory of those who died or suffered in all wars and armed conflicts”. So while this isn’t actually about a relative who died or was wounded, it is still a post about my military heritage.

Remembrance Day and Anzac Day both make people think deeply about their ancestors. Those who fought in the many wars. Some died, some were wounded, some came back … all fought for their country. But not forgetting the families back home taking on tasks to make ends meet, as well as patiently waiting for news from their loved ones on the battlefield.

Through obtaining my grandpa’s military records from the National Archives of Australia which can now be viewed online for free, I was able to construct a timeline of his whereabouts and shall include a mini one here so you can understand what’s happening when:

01 May 1941    Cecil Hannaford signed up for military duty
21 May 1941    Cecil Hannaford reported for duty (primarily for training at Woodside – I think)
31 May 1941    Cecil Hannaford marries Evelyn Randell at Salem Baptist Church, Gumeracha
13 Nov 1941    Embarked on convoy for the Middle East
25 Feb 1943    Returned to Melbourne
24 Oct 1944     Discharged

1942-00 dates letters written to Cec WW2

1942 diary lists letters from No. 1 2 Nov 1941 to No. 56 27 Dec 1942

1943 Diary lists from No. 57 3-1-1943 to No. 65 21.2.1943

1943 diary lists letters from No. 57 3 Jan 1943 to No. 65 21 Feb 1943

Evelyn wrote to Cec almost weekly for 14 months, carefully numbering and noting the date of each letter sent. She also mention the telegrams and parcels she sent as well (see below). Sadly I don’t know what happened to her letters, or to any that she received from Cec. Maybe another relative has them? Maybe they didn’t survive?

Evelyn Hannaford even noted the cables that she sent

telegrams that Evelyn Hannaford noted she sent 1942

cables noted in the 1943 diary

telegrams noted in the 1943 diary

I love finding stuff like this. It adds a whole new dimension to not only my grandparents, but also of a couple going doing their best to make it through World War Two.

3 Responses to “Remembrance Day: Sixty Five Letters”

  1. Reminds me of a book by Robin Klein called The Listmaker.

    Lists are a wonderful resources but can be frustrating when we can’t find the items the lists are referring to. Hope you unearth some of these letters one day.

  2. Pauleen says:

    Wow Alona, isn’t that a treasure! I imagine she wanted to be sure that he got all of them and that she knew when she’d written (obviously). Perhaps once he returned they decided to destroy them, but how wonderful to know her commitment and attention to detail.

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