About the letters

Somewhere in BelgiumGordon Iles’ parents, Arthur and Margaret, collected an immense archive of written material about their son. They went to great effort to keep the war-time letters, postcards and photographs exchanged between Gordon and his family members. They also kept letters from his friends, references to him in the newspaper, and seemingly every piece of official correspondence about his military service. It was if they were trying to reassemble their dead child from bits of paper.

Most of this written material was passed on to Gordon’s younger brother Tom Iles in a metal box marked with Arthur’s initials “AH Iles”. In turn this box was passed on to Tom’s grandson, Geoff Iles, who served in the Australian Defence Force. Some of the letters from this box were passed down to Tom’s daughter, Bev Croome. It was these letters I read as a young man.

My goal is to post all the letters, postcards and photographs from this collection on this website. The documents I post are scans of the originals. Many of the letters were written in pencil. I have enhanced copies of these letters to make them easier to read. Alongside the original correspondence I will include transcriptions and my own commentary. My transcription will remain true to the original except where punctuation clarifies meaning. Missing or illegible text is represented thus […] or [thus] where I can safely assume what I cannot read.

This hundred-year-old cache has given me insight into family and community life in rural Tasmania at the beginning of the twentieth century, thereby helping me understand my origins and the origins of today’s Tasmania. It has also given me a deeper understanding of love, war, grief and resilience. I hope it does the same for other people who read this site.

I hope, too, that if there are letters, clippings, photographs or stories that bear on the life of Gordon Iles but are unknown to me, this site will encourage the stewards of this heritage to share what they have.


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