How a let­ter brought two lives to­gether af­ter 101 years:

Nieces meet 101 years af­ter deadly day

Dalby Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Ebony Graveur [email protected]­by­her­

A LET­TER from 1917 brought two women, whose sto­ries had been in­ter­twined for more than 100 years, to­gether last week.

Meet­ing for the first time, Margaret Buchanan trav­elled with a let­ter to Es­ther Skir­man’s home in Dalby.

The let­ter, dat­ing back to the World War I, was ad­dressed to Mr and Mrs Larsen, Mrs Buchanan’s grand­par­ents, and signed by a Pri­vate Ge­orge Wal­ton.

“It’s from Pri­vate Wal­ton in the First World War, to my grand­mother, when her son was killed over in Bel­gium,” Mrs Buchanan said.

The let­ter de­scribes the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing how 22-year old Harold Leslie Lar­son passed away.

Ge­orge Wal­ton and Les Lar­son were ex­tremely close friends and work­ing as stretcher bear­ers across two sep­a­rate squads on the fate­ful oc­ca­sion.

The let­ter reads: “My squad ar­rived safely but the squad Les was in had a shell burst some­where al­most un­der the stretcher, killing him­self and pa­tient in­stan­ta­neously and wound­ing an­other bearer. I ran back... V. Sneyd and I car­ried his body be­hind a Pill­box for shel­ter... col­lected his ef­fects... an­other shell... wound­ing three of us.”

The let­ter telling the story of her un­cle’s death floated around in Mrs Buchanan’s fam­ily for a long time.

“I of­ten won­dered if I’d ever meet any­body who was there,” said Mrs Buchanan. “The let­ter has al­ways been around.

“It’s only in the last lit­tle while that we’ve dis­cov­ered the niece of this Ge­orge Wal­ton has met a few of my fam­ily mem­bers with­out re­al­is­ing.”

That’s when Margaret de­cided to con­tact Ge­orge Wal­ton’s niece, Es­ther Skir­man.

The two nieces of the re­spec­tive soldiers met on Novem­ber 29 at Mrs Skir­man’s home in a quiet street where they chat­ted and look­ing at pho­tos.

Mrs Buchanan said it felt strange to meet­ing af­ter years of liv­ing only a cou­ple of hours from each other.

“It’s only since I’ve been back that I’ve thought about how that man tried to res­cue my un­cle,” she said.

“Even though he died, he ended up with an of­fi­cial grave; he could have been one of the un­named Aus­tralian soldiers who were just buried.

“We’re nieces of the two men and that’s over 101 years ago.

“And dif­fer­ent mem­bers of my fam­ily had known Es­ther and other mem­bers of that fam­ily but didn’t know the con­nec­tion.”

❝ I of­ten won­dered if I’d ever meet any­body who was there. — Mrs Buchanan


FAM­ILY TIES: Es­ther Skir­man and Margaret Buchanan meet 101 years af­ter the let­ter that brought their sto­ries to­gether was writ­ten.

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