The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Letter to A Soldier

When I was a child, I remember hearing stories of my Great Uncle Stanley who fought in WW2 and who  became a Prisoner of War (POW). Apparently, as the story goes, my Great Uncle Stanley was a Navigation Officer and the plane he was in was in trouble. The pilot instructed them to jump out. After my uncle and his buddy bailed, the pilot managed to get the air craft under control and fly to safety. My uncle, on the other hand, landed in a body of water and then swam to an island. Soon after, the Germans promptly took him and his friend as prisoners. Here is one of the letters he wrote on August 3rd 1943. It is addressed to my grandfather (who wasn't yet my grandfather) and somehow in August of 1943, this letter from a war camp in Germany found it's way to the upper Ottawa valley with only 3 words as its guide: Sheenboro, Quebec, Canada.

And here is the other side:

I have managed to decipher the faded penciled words on this letter and wish to share them with you:

Dear Brother of mine;
As ever, I am in the very best of health but I am still looking forward to mail. I have nothing to worry about except my sun tan and my occupation after this war. Tell me all about the conditions upon our return and what the gov't expects to do for us. I also have two or three businesses in mind but they will take time to mature. I expect to be in England for some time after the war on a diet. But I never felt better than I do now. Send Delores an engraved compact for Nov. 5th and also initiate travelling logs for Christmas. I expect to get married when I return if I feel up to it. By now the Red Cross will have advised you about what you can send. Also tell all the folks to write. Had any news since Jean was married? Tell Gilbert that the demand for lumber will be very great after the war so buy your own mill. Send some snaps if you think they will reach me in time. Say hello to Father Harrington and all the folks. I will be with you all soon.
Love to all, Stan

As you can see, he had a sense of humour. They were fed a potato per day (if lucky) and sometimes there wasn't a thing to eat. The biggest crime you could commit in the camp was stealing food from another prisoner. This resulted in a harsh punishment that involved a head dunking into the hole that was used for voiding. Little did he know when he wrote the last line of "I will be with you soon" that he was just beginning a two year stint as a POW from 1943 to 1945. In that time, he wrote a few letters to his brother and sister-in-law who eventually became my grandfather and grandmother. These letters are an important part of my family history.

During WW2, the only option of staying in contact with your loved one was letter writing. I imagine the joy a young soldier would feel when the mail came in and he was handed a letter from home.....maybe from his mother or from his gal whom he left behind to go to war. How many letters were written in the quiet hours of the night by lantern and how many letters were worn out from being read over and over again? It is fascinating to me to handle this 67-year old letter and to know that my Great Uncle touched it as did my Grandfather and Grandmother when they were in their early 20's.

Today, when soldiers are deployed to places like Afghanistan, many families can stay in contact with their loved one through email and regular doses of Skype. Often, mothers (and sometimes fathers) are left behind to single parent their children. This alone leaves little time for handwriting letters. And who can resist the instant communication of email and the chance to view your loved one in real time on the computer screen.
Since this is The Letter Writing Revolution, I am going to suggest we all write one letter (at least) to a soldier serving in Afghanistan. If you would like to write a letter to a Canadian Soldier serving in Afghanistan right now, click HERE for instructions and addresses.

I have been told that it is their policy to answer every letter they receive so you should receive a letter back from the soldier who gets your letter. Tell them about you, your family, what you do, what you appreciate and let them know that you are grateful for their service (even if you disagree with this whole war thing).

And of course, I want to hear about it!!! This is a post that I hope will be spread far and wide and if you are reading this and you live outside of Canada, you can contact a military base close to you to find out how to get letters to your soldiers.

On that note, I am off to write a letter to a soldier.


  1. Hey Julie,
    What a fascinating post! That's so wonderful you have those letters, it brings the story home of what life must have been like as a POW. My grandfather worked as a signal man in the Australian Navy during the war, but didn't leave behind any letters (that I know of). I think it's great that you have yours!

  2. nice job! Sorry Chuk didn't get back to me with answers to your request :(

  3. I think Ruby and I just might send off a letter to a soldier! Thanks for the info!
    xo maureen

  4. Hello Julie!

    My name is Stephanie and I wrote you a letter. I took it to the post office and they put the "correct" postage on it. It was returned today due to insufficient postage. However, I also sent you a postcard from my recent travels. If it gets there before my letter does, I wanted you to know who I was so you weren't wondering who the heck sent you a postcard from NM. Until we write again...


  5. I always loved these letters, and the stories we heard from Uncle Stan. I will never forget going to see the movie "Memphis Belle" with him. This hot weather is a good opportunity to write letters...too hot to do much else!

  6. Love this post, Julie. I'd love to see that letter one day, too. (I am also a great-niece of Uncle Stan)
    My family and I will be writing letters this weekend to a soldier. What a wonderful opportunity for everyone to make someone's day!

  7. Julie, you are truly amazing!!! Love the blog especially since this is my first experience on a blog and I happened to glance through the quarantined emails on my computer and found your name and address among all the opportunities for penis enlargements to drive woman mad!!!!
    You now have another follower! Pat

  8. Love your blog, Julie! This post was especially moving and tonight I finally wrote a letter to a soldier. Thanks for tell me how to do it!

  9. I am working with an author to create a book for soldiers and families that includes writing, drawing, and talking to heal wounds and aid re-entry to family life after deployment. The mission of the work extends to First Responders of all sorts, i.e., firefighters, EMTs, and police.
    This picture may be perfect for the cover of this self-published work. May we have your permission to use it? It really encompasses the power of the written word. Thanks.

  10. Have you ever considered taking the letter you have and copying it in some way in order to put it in a museum. I'm sure many people could benefit from that piece of history you have. Thank you so much for sharing this. I thought the letter was really interesting and we need to keep things like this so we can remember the past.

    -Zane of ontario honey


I need to know that this revolution is growing and impacting the masses. Your comments motivate me! Please take the time to let me know how TLWR is working for you.