Friday 13 February 2009 by Nicholas Schmidt. 13 comments
News, Collection, Exhibitions, Private Records, Valentine's Day, Of Love and War

The Memorial recently acquired a mysterious letter. It is beautifully written and decorated, but we don't know much about it. It seems it was written by a French woman to her sweetheart, and we assume he was Australian, as the letter ended up in Australia. We do not know who they were, but we do know that the letter was written on 25 August 1918 and was sent from Saint-Sulpice-les-Feuilles in France. The writer, Martha (or perhaps Marthe) Gylbert, obviously missed her soldier, and went to a great deal of trouble to decorate the letter. It seems that the two were engaged to be married, as the letter ends with the words (almost obscured with kisses) "wife to be very soon".

First page of a letter written in France in 1918.  PR03970 First page of a letter written in France in 1918. PR03970

Second and final page of the letter. Second and final page of the letter.

Both pages of a letter written in France in 1918, PR03970

As can be seen from the images above, the letter is written in broken English and is difficult to read. Below is a transcript with some minor corrections: 

My Darling Little Sweetheart, Just few lines hoping that my letter find you in the best of Health.  I am very well myself at  present and my family the same. 

Well Lovey, you see I am faithfully thinking of you not too one else only to you.  You know I love you very well my Little Husband.  I am never love any body else. if you [illegible, probably 'get'] killed I stay every time with my little Baby. if you give me one.  I hope to see you very soon.  Darling I Dream about you last night I see you married with one else. I don't thing you [illegible - looks like 'daw date'.]  

So will close now with the best Remembrance from all my family and me.  Best Love and Kisses XXX from your ever Loving Little Sweetheart.  Wife to be very soon. 

                                                                                     Martha Gylbert

We are hoping that someone will be able to identify a relative of the soldier or his French sweetheart before we open our Love and War exhibition in late 2009.

The exhibition will look at the effect of war on those who were married, or who met and fell in love, during wartime.

We have also set up a group on Flickr, the photo sharing website, called Australian War Memorial: Love and war for people to share their images and stories about the Australian experience of love in times of war.

Comments

Martin Elliget

A fascinating story. I hope you manage to find out more about the letter writer and who she sent the letter to. If I am locating it correctly (in Google Earth), Saint-Sulpice is about 85 miles south-east of Paris, a rural town surrounded by fields. I wonder how Martha came to meet an Australian soldier, if that is indeed who she sent the letter to. According to an article in The Times dated 10 June 1918, entitled "The Week In Paris", the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice was setup (possibly by the Red Cross) as a temporary home for refugees of the war (Paris was still being bombed at times). Perhaps it was also a place for wounded soldiers to convalesce and Martha met her sweetheart there. Pure speculation, of course! Good luck finding out more. Martin

Martin Elliget

Just had another look at that name. It could possibly be GYLBERT, which returns some Google results, including some in France.

Martin Elliget

Hi again. I posted a message on this to the Great War Forum. One option for the town put forward by members is Saint Sulpice les Feuilles, a village apparently just north of Limoges (210 miles SSW of Paris). The place I had located (85 miles SE of Paris) is actually called Mont-Saint-Sulpice, so probably not the place. I would still like to know where the Seminary of Saint Sulpice is, though (mentioned in The Times article), as it was described as being some distance away from Paris. regards, Martin

Nicholas Schmidt says:

Dear Martin Thank you for your enthusiasm! We agree and believe that the young woman's surname is Gylbert as far as we can tell. I've updated the blog entry to reflect this and correct name of the town, Saint-Sulpice-les-Feuilles, which was accidently shorterned when the blog entry first went up. Regards, Nicholas Schmidt

Elayne Whatman

What a wonderful letter. It is to be hoped that more information can be found regading the Martha and her Darling. This letter is one of many that indicates just how much letters between one and the other meant. I accepted during WWII my mother waiting on a letter from my father in the SWPA, but now I understand why she was always so anxious for one and relieve when a letter arrived. I wish the AWM every succes with the search.

Penelope Hunt

This oh so touching letter reminded me of cards written to my Grandmother by her husband during WW1. I've checked - my almost 91 year old mother has the cards, albiet in poor condition. My Mum will do some thinking and recall the stories from her Mum & Dad. He was lying in a ditch gassed, found by Germans and sent to a hospital. A French doctor saved his sight and he was repatriated, in due course, to England. Dates will take some thinking!!! I'll arrange getting the cards to Canberra. My Mum has just moved her abode and I felt sure that she would have parted with the postcards - just shows the power of the written word traverses generations!!!

Therese Clancy

Franciose Gilbert, Noyer, St Supplice les Feuilles 81760 is still listed in the phoene book. It is near Limoges and I will be there later in the year if I can be of any assistance.

Dee Moore

This beautiful letter must have been really important to someone in order for it to have survived so long in such good condition. It would be wonderful to find out even part of the story associated with it. I just wanted to suggest that the illegible "daw date" is probably a phonetic rendering of "do that".

Annette Gaykema

Funnily enough Dee, I had the exact same thought about that piece of text and I have mentioned it to Nicholas. It's fantastic that this letter has generated such interest! Regards, Annette Gaykema.

Clyatt

nice blog, thanks for the information

Claire

this letter is so beautiful. Whoever this was directed to has to be the luckiest man alive. the poor woman who wrote this lost a lover, war tears families apart. the sooner other countries come to realise this and get over any problems, the sooner they'll come to realise that love is the greatest of all weopons.

Australian War Memorial Blog » Love Letter Update

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Australian War Memorial Blog » Love Letter Update for

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