On 9 November 1916, Charles Victor Barratt (my Great Grandfather) boarded the ship “Argyllshire” and departed Fremantle as a soldier in the Australian Military Forces. He left behind his family, his friends, his country and the life he knew. He also left behind his sweetheart.
Matilda Maria Crampton wrote to him not long after he left. This is her letter.
My own Dearest Vic,
You will see I am back at old Argyle again. I landed home today went into my sisters for a day. I’ve been wondering how you have been getting along or if you have been seasick. Cheer up my dearest. We did miss you old boy the place lost its charm after you left. I got your letter on the Friday and Mum got hers. I looked forward to that letter although I knew what was in it.
I did not see you on the boat. I looked and looked. Mum and Dad saw you. I was very glad they did. Wasn’t we lucky to see you at the train, I was never so pleased in my life and when we told Mum I had seen you, she said well that’s as good as 20 pound to me. She knew you would be so glad.
After you went away at the goods shed they locked us in that train and took us away down the other end of the warf. So we got squashed that time.
Well dear old boy Father has come to see me at last got quite a surprise yesterday when I saw him at the train. Of course I told him everything and he said he would like to see you. Uncle Abe spoke up and said he’s a real good chap. I’ve known him since he was so high. Well dear old Peter it was very hard seeing you go but wait till you come back. I am wearing the old penny as you asked me to. You don’t know how it feels now no letter for a long time. Uncle was quite well when I got home. He didn’t expect me home so soon. By the time you get this letter (if you ever get it) you will have landed somewhere. I’m writing it with the hope they will send it on after you. I know you will be pleased to get one. I am waiting patiently for a letter from you dear.
Well dearest there is no news to tell you in these parts so I will bring this scribble to a close. There is one thing you know dear, I trust you where ever you are. Don’t run any risks darling for my sake. May God bless you and comfort you dear old Peter.
With endless love,
Ever your own,
Charles also wrote letters to Matilda and in one instance, he sent her a photograph of himself in uniform and wrote an acrostic poem on the back of it.
To my Darling Kitty
With Deepest Love
Feb. 26 1917
Yours for ever
Our hearts as one
Until death do us part
Our savior watcheth us both
We shall always pull together
Never doubt my love
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
Old friends are better than new
Like the ivy I cling to thee
Dear ones far apart
In the Lord do I trust
Ever of thee I’m fondly dreaming
Rose of my life
Beloved girl my pledge I’ll keep
Oceans wide divide us dear
Your sweet face is always beside me
Ever Yours dear girl
As you can see, the acrostic poem spells ‘Your Own Soldier Boy’.
Charles returned to Australia on 21 June 1919 and three months later, on 24 September 1919, the couple were married.
It seems quite fitting that I came across these photos and letters right around Valentines Day and I also count my lucky stars that such amazing family mementos managed to survive all these years.