My first Trove Tuesday post has been prompted by the discovery of a series of letters written by John (Jack) CANET originally of Tallygaroopna, Victoria, Australia but who at the time of writing was based in Brunswick, Victoria, Australia, written while he was stationed in England during World War One.
Jack was the brother of my great grandfather, Henry Vincent CANET. While I searching for articles about Henry CANET I found these letters (Henry is mentioned in a couple).
The letters were sent to various family members, mainly Henry and his (and Jacks) mother, Elizabeth Ann MONTGOMERY. It appears that they felt the letters would be of interest to members of the communities to which Jack was a part of, Tallygaroopna and Brunswick. In all the letters, a number of other people from these areas who were stationed overseas are also mentioned.
The letters tell the story of Jacks’ journey from Australia, to England via Africa. He mentions having stopped briefly in Durban and Cape Town, before travelling and landing in Free Town, Sierra Leone. He goes into quite a bit of detail about his time in Free Town. Some of the language used reflects the racial attitudes of the time, so if you read them, be warned. From Free Town he travels for several weeks to finally land at Plymouth, England. From there he and his fellow troops travel by train to Exeter, Bristol, Swindon before finally stopping at Tidworth, the location of his army camp.
The letters then go onto describe life in camp, visiting various sights around the country, including meeting up with other men from Tallygaroopna at Salisbury Post Office before a day on the town. He also talks about possible deployment in France and machine gunner training.
The letters are listed in here in the order in which they appear to have been written, rather than by publication date.
- “INTERESTING LETTER FROM PRIVATE J. CANET Part I.” Brunswick & Coburg Leader 22 Jun 1917 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87678500 – To Elizabeth Montgomery (Mother) from Tidworth, England
- “INTERESTING LETTER FROM PRIVATE J. CANET Part II.” Brunswick & Coburg Leader 29 Jun 1917 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article87680540 – To Elizabeth Montgomery (Mother) from Tidworth, England
- “LETTERS FROM SOLDIERS.” Shepparton Advertiser 31 May 1917 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92110178 – To Henry Canet, (Brother) from Perham Downs, England – 11 March, 1917
- “OUR LITTLE BIT OF FIGHTING.” Shepparton Advertiser 31 May 1917 – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92110176 – To Bert (Albert) Canet (Brother) from Perham Downs, England – 3 April 1917
What The Letters Tell Us
- His address in Australia – 30 Smith Street, West Brunswick, Victoria, Australia
- The route and method of travel from Australia to England
- The unit Jack was serving with and where it was based
- That he was athletic and enjoyed physical activity
- That he liked to travel and did so whenever possible
- He attempted, unsuccessfully, to make contact with his father’s family while in England
- Who many of his relatives were
- Liked to write really long letters (lucky for us!)
- That many people from Tallygaroopna joined up and they kept in touch while overseas
- That the following people known to Jack were serving overseas, they met up while there and where they were stationed:
- Lester O’BRIEN
- Billy LEWIS
- Bert RENNICK
- Bob RENNICK
- Bob (Robert) CANET
- Information about where the other soldiers were stationed and what units
- The living conditions of the soldiers – 30 to a hut, sports days, leave, quantity and quality of food (better quality but not enough)
- Local train fares in England
- Henry CANET address – Wyndham Street, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia
- The some locations were incorrectly transcribed – there is no Sidworth, but there is a Tidworth near both Salisbury and Perham Downs – always worth checking things on a map