At the archives we film deceased people's probate records. Usually we only have time to film but every once in a while we are touched by how real these people were and the lives they lived. I would like to share a few stories from letters we have read.
Story 1: A young soldier had served courageously and had just been discharged from the armed services. Some chaps (buddies) and him decided to go to Italy before heading back home. They met some Italian women and were seeing the sights with them. They all wanted a picture together so this young man decided to go across the street on the corner to get a better shot. As he was standing there a driver came around the corner too fast, lost control of the car and hit the young soldier. He was rushed to the hospital but died before getting there. This was told in a letter written to his parents by a friend who had witnessed the accident.
Story 2: Don noticed a letter from a soldier on leave written to his parents. He was so excited to be on leave and he talked about finally having good food at a restaurant and about it being served on silver trays. He and his friends also spent time at the beach. In the letter he talked about sending a birthday present for his mom's birthday and how he hoped she would receive it soon. He told about a friend who had died in the war and about visiting his grave. He was so happy and full of life in that letter. The letter was dated the middle of July and then the next document Don filmed was a letter notifying his parents of his death. There was only about seven days between his letter and the letter from the armed service. He was killed in action.
Story 3: There was a movie a long time ago with Steve McQueen titled "The Great Escape". It was about the escape of prisoners from a German POW camp. Some tried to escape but were recaptured and later murdered by the Germans.
Today we ran across a Memorial Service form for the Royal Air Force, Dominion and Allied Air Force Officers who were shot by the Germans after escaping from Stalag Luft 111, March 1944. There were two New Zealand officers on that list and the probate record was for one of those men. His name was A.G. Christensen.
It is very hard now during the World War II era to see all the military death certificates and even harder to see the letters written to parents informing them of the death of their son.