Let­ters de­tail end of the war

Per­sonal jot­tings of a Lewis gun­ner pro­vide in­sights into life on the Western Front

Stanthorpe Border Post - - LIFE LOCAL LIFE - — Your fond son Stan Han­naford — From your lov­ing son Stan Han­naford

LET­TERS are like a look­ing glass back into a time we can some­times hardly fathom.

On Novem­ber 11, 1918, a soon to be Stan­thorpe gra­zier wrote to his par­ents at the con­clu­sion of the Great War, pro­claim­ing it the “great­est day in the his­tory of mankind”.

The grand­son of Stan­ley Devine Han­naford, Barry Flow­ers, with some help from other rel­a­tives, has com­piled a trea­sure trove of let­ters that Stan­ley wrote through­out the span of World War I.

“Stan­ley was born on De­cem­ber 21, 1895, and lived a very pri­vate life,” Mr Flow­ers said.

“Af­ter three years as a ma­chine gun­ner on the Western Front, fol­lowed by some 30 years on the land as a very suc­cess­ful gra­zier on his prop­erty, St Omer via Stan­thorpe, Stan­ley en­joyed the coast life­style, and de­servedly so.

“When my Un­cle Ge­orge and Aunty Ethne un­earthed some let­ters that Stan­ley had writ­ten to his par­ents while on ac­tive ser­vice with the AIF, we were all taken aback with the con­tents – what a truly his­tor­i­cal fam­ily story was un­fold­ing.

“They sur­faced as many fam­ily trea­sures and per­sonal be­long­ings did, well af­ter his pass­ing in 1982. The let­ters spanned from 1914 through to 1919.

“As with most ser­vice­men he didn’t share any ac­tive ser­vice rec­ol­lec­tions when­ever we in­ter­acted dur­ing those fam­ily hol­i­days. Had these doc­u­ments not sur­faced, I would never have ap­pre­ci­ated the im­pact that a close rel­a­tive played in the war to end all wars.

“As a child grow­ing up, fancy not know­ing that your grand­fa­ther was a Lewis gun­ner, and what’s more, sur­vived in that role – not for three weeks but for three years.

“As I re­typed the con­tents of each let­ter I felt that Grandpa had come to life again.

“Ev­ery one of the let­ters tells a spe­cial story. For me, Stan­ley’s two stand­out scripts, be­cause of their date, are the Re­mem­brance Day jot­tings – Novem­ber 11, 1918. What a spe­cial day.

“More sig­nif­i­cantly, what a spe­cial man this Stan­ley Devine Han­naford was.

What about his mother, too? Had Is­abella Jane Han­naford (nee Devine) not stored all his scripts, an amaz­ing part of fam­ily his­tory would be for­ever un­known,” he said.

Dear­est Mother

I FEEL it is my duty to write you all a let­ter on this the great­est day in the his­tory of mankind, and I’m sure it is due to your daily prayers that I am able to be here, alive and well at this mo­ment.

I have passed through an or­deal that I never wish to ex­pe­ri­ence again and I hope this world will never be plunged into such a bloody strife again.

As I sit here tonight writ­ing the bells are ring­ing in the lit­tle vil­lage church, and the boys are cooee­ing like mad through­out the camp.

I am now long­ing to see the dear old Homestead, and the dear ones, which many a time dur­ing the years of hell, I thought I would never have the plea­sure of see­ing again.

I am go­ing to put in the greater part of the evening in writ­ing let­ters to dif­fer­ent rel­a­tives so I hope you will ex­cuse this short let­ter. Hop­ing this finds you well. I re­main,

Dear­est Father

THANK God it is all fin­ished with. We just re­ceived the glo­ri­ous news about

3 o’clock this af­ter­noon, and re­ally I can’t re­alise that it is re­ally over. Now I am dy­ing to get Home, yes Home sweet Home, I wish it were pos­si­ble to get a plane to take me back in­stead of that long, long jour­ney over the mighty long leagues of ocean.

Any­how please God I will be back early next year, won’t it be grand, just think of it.

This war to me seems now like a ter­ri­ble night­mare, there will be mil­lions of ju­bi­lant hearts tonight, also mil­lions of sad hearts mourn­ing over their dear ones who have paid the supreme sac­ri­fice.

I am sure your prayers have guided me safely through this hell that has just ended, as I have had dozens of men smit­ten to death along­side of me and yet I have gone through the lot you may say with­out hardly a scratch.

I have seen the most im­moral dirty dens on the face of this earth, but thank God I could say, “no old boy don’t touch it”, and I have never, whereas thou­sands of oth­ers have suc­cumbed to the wily ways of women, and I tell you they are in a sor­row­ful plight to­day, what of their chil­dren to come?

This tour of the three con­ti­nents over here have been an ed­u­ca­tion. I can imag­ine how ev­ery­one in dear old Aussie feels tonight, and they are say­ing, “When will the boys be Home?” There is a ru­mour here now they are go­ing to send them back ac­cord­ing to their ser­vice abroad, if so I shall not be the last by a long chalk.

Tell Mother and Tom to stick plenty of grain into about half a dozen of those tur­keys as I have not had a feed of fowl since I left Aussie, and feel as though I could eat six right now.

Who is that el­i­gi­ble young man sit­ting on the para­pet of the Rocky Creek dam? Well dear dad the best I can wish you is a Merry Xmas and bright and pros­per­ous New Year.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

STO­RIED LIFE: Stan­ley Han­naford served in World War I be­fore tak­ing up res­i­dence as a gra­zier in Stan­thorpe and then re­tir­ing to the Gold Coast.

Stan­ley Han­naford with father Sa­muel Han­naford.

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