Timaru man rediscovers his great uncle's letters from World War I

John Parsloe is ecstatic about rediscovering a bundle of WWI letters of his great uncle, Timaru's Hedley Ferrier.
Mytchall Bransgrove/Fairfax NZ

John Parsloe is ecstatic about rediscovering a bundle of WWI letters of his great uncle, Timaru's Hedley Ferrier.

John Parsloe's timing could hardly have been better.

In the buildup to Saturday's centenary commemoration of the Gallipoli commemorations, he "rediscovered" a bundle of World War I letters from his great uncle, Hedley Ferrier.

Parsloe came across the letters a week ago when going through his parents' "old papers and possessions" after his father died.

"When my grandmother died in 1973 in Geraldine, my mother inherited all her papers. These included a bundle of letters from Hedley to his sister, Ethel.  They included his letters written from Gallipoli.

"Shortly after, I borrowed them briefly from my mother to transcribe them, using an old typewriter, as it was intended that these letters would be 'moved on' somewhere.

"My father died last month and we were surprised to rediscover the letters among papers of my mother's that my father had kept. They had obviously not been 'moved on'."

Parsloe started transcribing them in 1973 and found out some "interesting things" about his great uncle, who fought with the main body of the New Zealand Field Artillery in World War I.

"In the letters he comes across as reasonably philosophical. In one letter he describes a torpedo from a submarine hitting a ship and the ship rolling over in seven minutes, and not until later did they realise the extent of the destruction. And you realise on reading the letters about how positive he was. I mean here are these terrible things happening around him and he remained positive throughout the ordeal."

In another letter to his sister, Hedley attempted to address her question about a girl he has been writing to and his sense of humour is evident.

"You evince a natural womanly curiosity in one of your letters as to the name of the girl I write to in Paris ... but I am afraid that by the time I get my next trip to Paris her love will have grown cold. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but I am afraid that at the rate leave is coming around, the crisis will be long passed before my spell of absence is broken."

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Hedley's oldest brother, Colin, was one of the earliest South Canterbury casualties of WWI.

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"Just prior to WW1, Colin had gone off to England to study architecture, but he joined up when war was declared and was posted to the 4th Royal Fusiliers. He was killed in a dug-out by a shell on Nov 11, 1914 at Ypres. This was not confirmed until April 1915," Parsloe said.

On Saturday, he will be remembering both brothers fondly.

 - Stuff

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