Ballarat woman shares great-uncle's World War I letters

LYN Williams can’t believe how well the letters her great-uncle Bill sent during World War I have survived. 

Snake Valley man Bill Nunn served in Egypt and France, where he died in 1917 at the age of 25.

The letters and cards he sent back to his family still remain, slightly yellowed but in good enough condition to bring to life the harrowing conditions he and his fellow ANZACs served under. 

One letter tells of the oppressive heat while digging trenches in Egypt, where it felt like it was 120 degrees. Hot enough to “burn the skin off your face” and boil bottles of water if they were left outside.

Another shows a bit of dry humour when some uninvited guests decided to share camp.

“I hope the fleas aren’t so bad down there, they are a bugger here. I have a roll call every day and can always mark a few present,” he wrote. 

Ms Williams said she would take part in her first dawn service this ANZAC Day in Snake Valley at the newly restored war memorial.

She said she never know how her great-uncle died in France because while she was growing up she never heard her grandparents discuss it. 

It was a “different time”, she said.

Left behind are about a dozen hundred-year old letters and cards, some with embroidery on the front “to my dear sister” and “greetings from France”.

Ms Williams said it was amazing that the priceless pieces of family history had survived, considering her aunt hadn’t been too concerned about keeping them preserved. 

“My aunt was a hoarder, I’m really glad she did actually. We used to laugh about her hoarding things but it’s just incredible,” she said.

“I know lots of families must have things like this, but just the fact that you can still read them.”

Marvelling at the stories Bill had shared, Ms Williams said today’s generation perhaps wouldn’t understand what their forebears had done for them.

“Young people of today, if they can’t get a bottle of water they go berserk,” she said.

“They would have no concept of what these young blokes went through. And he was 25 when he died.”

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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