Keshan, Malcolm William (Sergeant, b. 1919 - d.2014)

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Accession Number PR06082
Collection type Private Record
Record type Collection
Measurement Extent: 29 cm; Wallet/s: 7
Object type Letters
Maker Keshan, Dorothy Ann
Place made At sea, Australia, British Mandate of Palestine: Palestine, Egypt, Germany, North Africa: Libya, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom
Date made 1940-1945
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copying Provisions Copying is permitted for the purposes of research and study, subject to physical condition
Description

Collection relation to the Second World War service of NX11067 Sergeant Malcolm "Mac" William Keshan, 2/4th Infantry Battalion, Germany, Libya, and Australia, 1940-1945.

Collection consists of letters, telegrams, and POW postcards written between Sgt (Mac) Keshan and his girlfriend (later wife), Dorothy (Dot) Williams in all folders except folder 3 of wallet 7, which contains miscellaneous documents relating to their communication and later visit in the 1980s to Gratkorn, where Sgt Keshan was interned. Throughout the collection, a very prevalent theme is how much the pair love each other and how much they both want to be reunited, and their frustration with the war and POW situation. Letters are often addressed to “Kesham,” owing to an administrative error made by German authorities – the pair agreed it was best to just continue using this name to ensure that letters were not mistakenly sent elsewhere.

Wallet 1:
- Folder 1: consists of 25 letters written by Sgt Keshan to his girlfriend Dorothy between March and September 1940. These letters are written while Sgt Keshan is in training in Australia. They largely discuss training, Sgt Keshan awaiting his commission, and activities (particularly sport) undertaken during brief periods of recreation while training.
- Folder 2: consists of 12 letters written by Sgt Keshan to his girlfriend Dorothy, sent between September and November 1940. Letters are written while at sea traveling to Palestine via Perth and Colombo. Letters discuss life on board the ship, and tourist activities while in both Perth and Colombo. The final letters in the folder discuss the unit’s arrival in Palestine and leave in Tel Aviv.

Wallet 2:
- Folder 1: consists of 15 letters written by Sgt Keshan to his girlfriend Dorothy, sent between December 1940 and April 1941. The letters were written while in Palestine, Libya, Egypt, and at sea en route to Greece, where he was later captured by Axis forces. The letters discuss leave in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Alexandria, and other major sites in the area.
- Folder 2: consists of 8 letters written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan, sent between March and May 1941. The letters largely discuss affairs in Australia, drives for war bonds, and that year’s ANZAC Day celebrations. Curiously in one letter she mentions that she hoped he was not on his way to Greece, presumably after hearing about Australian losses, of which Sgt Keshan was one. Also included are 3 empty ‘returned surcharge letter’ envelopes from the Dead Letter Office addressed to Dorothy, presumably the envelopes that the letters in this folder were returned in, dated October 1941.

- Wallet 3:
Folder 1: consists of 1 telegram dated 30 May 1941 from the Minister for the Army addressed to Sgt Keshan’s father informing him that Sgt Keshan had been reported missing; 1 letter from the Australian Military Forces’ Records Office to Sgt Keshan’s, reporting that he was a POW interned in Stalag XVIIIB; and 1 telegram dated 19 July 1941 from Sgt Keshan’s mother to Dorothy informing her that Sgt Keshan has been taken as a POW. The rest of the folder contains 37 letters dated between September 1941 and December 1942 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is a POW at Stalag XVIIIB and Oflag 3C. Letters discuss general activities at home, including a holiday, changes in her work, how much she misses him, her brother’s wedding, visits to and from Sgt Keshan’s mother, and other similar miscellaneous news.
- Folder 2: consists of 26 letters between January and June 1943 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is at Oflag 3C and Stalag 383. The letters discuss many of the same issues as in folder 1, however includes more on how she likes Sgt Keshan’s family and mail that she received from him.

Wallet 4:
- Folder 1: consists of 26 letters between July and December 1943 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is at Stalag 383. The letters largely discuss Dorothy’s feelings for Sgt Keshan, her 21st birthday, and her response to his marriage proposal that she should wait until he is back in Australia before she agrees.
- Folder 2: consists of 25 letters between January and June 1944 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is at Stalag 383. The letters largely discuss everyday life in Sydney. They also include mention of a visit by the American actor John Wayne, a present that Sgt Keshan asked his mother to buy for Dorothy’s 21st birthday, discussion of a recent holiday including fishing, mentions of the postage and war situations, and her work.

Wallet 5:
- Folder 1: consists of 26 letters between July and December 1944 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is at Stalag 383. The letters discuss general life in Sydney. Of particular note is discussion in Australia about POWs being returned, the marriages of several of her friends to servicemen, and time spent with his family.
- Folder 2: consists of 9 letters between January and April 1945 written by Dorothy to Sgt Keshan while he is at Stalag 383. The letters discuss general subjects, with particular focus upon Dorothy’s workplace, and mail that she received from Sgt Keshan.

Wallet 6:
- Folder 1: consists of 48 letters between August 1941 and June 1943 written by Sgt Keshan to Dorothy while he is at Stalag 383. The letters discuss life in the POW camp. This includes concerts that are organised, the work that is expected of them (Keshan works initially in a cement factor, then on a farm), the postage situation (including photos both sent and received), books available, the Red Cross, bands and sport. Also included are more personal details, such as his desire to marry Dorothy, how he appreciates her friendship with her family, a friend called ‘Bullethead,’ and his general health.
- Folder 2: consists of 50 letters between July 1943 and May 1944 written by Sgt Keshan to Dorothy while he is at Stalag 383. The letters talk generally about how much he loves her, how much he is looking forward to seeing her, and pushing for an answer to his marriage proposal. Also mentioned is the different sports his is able to play during winter and preparations for ANZAC Day celebrations.

Wallet 7:
- Folder 1: consists of 24 letters between June 1944 and March 1944 written by Sgt Keshan to Dorothy while he is at Stalag 383. The letters discuss general affairs inside the camp, how much Sgt Keshan misses Dorothy, a painting that he had completed and sent to her (reproduction image in folder 3), well wishes for her birthday, Christmas, and New Year.
- Folder 2: consists of 19 letters and telegrams dated between April and June 1945, both from Sgt Keshan to Dorothy, and from her to him following his escape from the POW camp and returned to England (account of the escape in folder 3). These letters discuss his escape, their excitement for his imminent return to Australia, affairs relating to the War including VE Day celebrations, Sgt Keshan’s marriage proposal, the postal system, and how each of them are passing time while Sgt Keshan is on leave and Dorothy’s workload is being reduced.
- Folder 3: consists of 11 miscellaneous items including:
1 x printout of Sgt Keshan’s notice of death (2014);
5 x cards that were attached to flowers sent by Sgt Keshan’s mother to Dorothy at Sgt Keshan’s request while he was a POW;
1 x image dated 2004 of Sgt Keshan next to the portrait that was painted of him while interned at Stalag 383, with attached description and account by Dorothy;
3 x facsimiles of letters sent by a Bernhard Samitsch dated 1996-1997 regarding a book that he was writing on Gratkorn’s history. This was the area that Sgt Keshan was interned in initially, and where he made a first (failed) escape attempt from; and
1 x 14-page memoir written by Sgt Keshan and Dorothy about their experience during the War, and their holiday 40 years later back to Gratkorn and the friends that they made there.

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