Family reunited with lost war letters

LOST letters written by two brothers killed in the First World War - including a note sent a day before one of them died - have been handed over to descendants of the pair.

Dave Gooderham

LOST letters written by two brothers killed in the First World War - including a note sent a day before one of them died - have been handed over to descendants of the pair.

The touching letters from Ernest and Frederick Pilgrim are made even more remarkable as they make reference to their eldest brother, David, who also served during the war but survived.

Now the original letters have been given to relatives of the three brothers, who lived in Great Cornard, near Sudbury, after they were discovered by a woman in Beccles as she was spring cleaning.

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Among the letters was a poignant note from Ernest to his parents, John and Rosina Pilgrim, written just a day before he died in France.

The 21-year-old, who served with the 1st Battalion Norfolk Regiment, wrote: “I was very pleased to receive (your letter) and to see that you are all in the very best of health and I am very pleased to tell you that I am the same up to the present .”

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He signs off: “So now I must say goodbye for the present hoping to hear from you soon. I remain yours forever.”

The bundle of letters, which have now been passed to family members who live in Essex, also included equally touching words from Ernest's brother, Frederick, a member of the 1/5th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.

In one letter, written five months after the death of his brother, Frederick said: “Well Mother, do try and cheer up a bit as my dear brother has gone to a better home and we shall all meet again some day. So cheer up and try to make the best of it for the sake of us all.”

Frederick, who had pleaded to join his brother in the Somme, was killed in 1917 in Gaza, Israel.

The letters, found by an unnamed homeowner, were passed on to the Sudbury branch of the Suffolk Family History Society, which was able to locate David Pilgrim's great nephew, Gary Reeve, who lives in Halstead, Essex.

Mr Reeve said: “I remember being told that our family had two brothers who were killed in the war but I had no idea these letters existed. It was quite emotional reading them and to think by the time their mother received one of the letters the brother who wrote it was already dead. We are so grateful to the woman who found them and to the family history society.”

Society vice-chairman David Daldry said: “The letters are quite poignant and it is sad when you think one of them was dated just a day before the brother who wrote it died.

“We are pleased that we were able to trace the family of these two men. They were quite emotional as they didn't know the letters existed.

“The lady who found them said she had bought the items in a sale 20 years ago and it was only when she recently read the letters that she thought they must be returned to the family of these two young men.

“This highlights the importance of retaining historical documents which might otherwise be thrown out. They are important to someone.”

The letters and information on the two brothers will now be featured in a special book featuring Great Cornard's war dead to be published later this year.

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