LET­TERS TO MAM

HOW SOL­DIERS SPARED FAM­ILY TRUTH OF FRONT LINE HOR­RORS

South Wales Evening Post - - FRONT PAGE - NINO WIL­LIAMS @ni­nomi­noli • 01792 545546 nino.wil­liams@me­di­awales.co.uk

THE last thing any child wants to do is worry their mum.

When that child is fight­ing on the front line in the First World War, it be­comes quite dif­fi­cult.

And those dif­fi­cul­ties have been thrown into the spot­light by the dis­cov­ery of more than 100 let­ters sent by three broth­ers to their Swansea mother.

The chatty let­ters re­veal lit­tle of the hor­rors faced by the men, and could al­most have been writ­ten as hol­i­day post­cards.

But a di­ary kept by one of them, un­seen by their mum, re­veals darker fears, and doc­u­ments young adults grow­ing into man­hood amid the ter­rors of war un­fold­ing around them.

For the best part of the past 100 years, the let­ters and di­ary have re­mained in the keep­ing of one Swansea fam­ily, un­til a rel­a­tive was given the op­por­tu­nity to share the story of the Eustis broth­ers on the cen­te­nary of the end­ing of the the Great War.

And the ma­te­rial proved in­valu­able for Dr Gethin Matthews, a rel­a­tive of the three men, who hap­pens to be a lec­turer in Swansea Univer­sity’s his­tory de­part­ment. The sto­ries are col­lected in a new book pub­lished to co­in­cide with this week­end’s com­mem­o­ra­tions, launched at Myny­d­dbach Chapel, which the broth­ers at­tended and where two are buried.

Dr Matthews said: “This book is based on more than 100 let­ters penned by three broth­ers from Myny­d­dbach dur­ing the First World War.

“Richard, Gabriel and Ivor Eustis wrote home about a range of dif­fer­ent is­sues as the war was be­ing waged, keep­ing the fam­ily bonds strong dur­ing their ab­sence. The dy­nam­ics of the fam­ily are re­vealed in let­ters full of si­b­ling ri­valry and af­fec­tion.

“I didn’t know much about them un­til a few years ago, when by chance I met a rel­a­tive who had kept them in a box.”

Richard Eustis was 21 and a col­lier in the Pen­lan district, as well as in the Ter­ri­to­rial Army which he joined in 1913.

He got a two-week camp­ing hol­i­day in Aberys­t­wyth af­ter sign­ing up, but 13 months later was sent to fight. His brother Gabriel, who was in the Royal Navy, was a tin plate worker in Mor­ris­ton and was still in school when the war started, but was con­scripted in 1916.

Dr Matthews said: “The let­ters re­veal they do not know what is hap­pen­ing around them. They

send them to their mother and aun­tie, and they all have a sub­text; ‘Do not worry about me, I’ll be okay.

“You see the fam­ily dy­nam­ics, the boys grad­u­at­ing into men, be­ing forced to grow up quickly.”

“They write to keep their mother happy, and they are shar­ing what they are up to, but also shield­ing them from the nasty as­pects.”

The book’s ti­tle, Hav­ing A Go At The Kaiser, comes from a let­ter writ­ten by Ivor Eustis ex­actly 100 years ago from the book’s launch.

On Novem­ber 8, 1918, know­ing that the war was just about to end, he wrote back to his mother that Kaiser Bill was surely quak­ing in his boots, and added that he and his two broth­ers “have each had a ‘go’ at him, some­where or other”.

The book also fea­tures a sig­nif­i­cant re­veal later on, as the story of the fam­ily un­folds. But Dr Matthews pre­ferred to keep that twist for read­ers of the book, which was launched at Myny­d­dbach Chapel on Thurs­day and is pub­lished by the Univer­sity of Wales Press.

Broth­ers Richard and Gabriel Eustis.

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