Remembrance Letters

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Remembrance Day
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 100 and Exodus 15: 1-18 and Revelation 21: 1-7


Every Remembrance Day is important because of what we do, who we remember and how we remember. This Remembrance Day is unique in that it is the 100th anniversary of the first Armistice back in 1918 and because of that, it has a different significance this year.

It is difficult for us to contemplate what it must have been like back then, after four long hard years of warfare in which no family was left untouched. We try to imagine but we really can’t. At least, I know that I can’t.

So I thought it best today that, rather than me trying to paint a picture in your minds of what life was like 100 years ago, I’d let the people from that time tell us. But how am I going to do that? I happen to be in my family the keeper of the family history. I have all of the old pictures and documents. I have the old family Bible. I also have what correspondence is left. One of those letters is a letter from my great uncle who was a soldier in the British Army during WWI. He wrote a letter to my grandfather in Hamilton Ontario in the first week of December 1918 telling him the news of what the Armistice meant to the people England and more specifically to my family of one hundred years ago.

In this letter, you will learn that my grandfather’s name is Walt. My grandmother is Mae. His brother, my great uncle, is Frank and his wife is Maisie – although I knew her as Aunt May. There are two other brothers in the British Army, Arthur and Albert. Arthur is currently missing in action and Albert is in hospital recovering from wounds received in the trenches. Nancy is their sister and my great grandmother is the one who is lovingly referred to as Little Mother. So, let’s step back in time 100 years and hear the news shared between two brothers.

143 High Street

Stony Stratford


Dear Walt, At last I am going to attempt to write to you as I am at Home on a months leave, the last I hope in khaki, for I look for the next time to come Home to stay. Perhaps you wonder at such a long leave, but my five year contract in the Terriers has recently expired, thus the months furlough and a bounty of 10 pounds and retained in the Service through the Military Service Act of 1916 enforcing conscription which I’ve no doubt you read all about in your own newspapers. So I am accepting this golden opportunity of answering your kind letter of some months ago. I am not stopping now to apologize & explain the reasons for my silence, but will trust the drift of my letter will give a little idea as to the difficulties in the way the long expiration of time since I wrote last.

I suppose you and Mae rejoice with All at the triumphant conclusion of this last four years of strife and bloodshed and with the news you have daily read in your journals, you will realize what the past few weeks have meant for Good Old England, although there has been a good deal of outward rejoicing, yet there are very few but that inwardly feel sadness and grief, for as I’ve no doubt you know, the Old Country has paid a heavy price in this Cruel War. It is absolutely impossible Walt to describe what not only the fighting men, but the Mothers of England have had to endure, but Praise God he has brought us through victoriously in a fight for Freedom, & the uplifting of everything that is Just and Noble. Still, to an end with the War, as you have read sufficient about it all.

So I will start from Home and convey as much news to you about All of us as lays at my fingers ends. I am happy to relate we are all well that are at Home just now. Mother is keeping up bravely although inwardly her Heart is anxious and yearning for news of Arthur, which is not forthcoming yet, for I suppose you received Mothers letter telling of the War Office notification to the effect that he is reported by his Regiment as missing from the 26th August last. It is very hard to receive same just at the winding up of affairs, and my personal opinion Walt I regret to say, is very little hope of his return. His Battalion, the Terriers as you will know have done splendid work in this Campaign, since embarking for France early in fifteen. They went through all the terrible battles in France and lost heavy indeed, then when the big offensive commenced in Italy about this time last year, Reliable Regiment were dispatched forthwith and the Bucks Battalion with Arthur were detailed for Italy as their destination & I know Walt they saw a great deal of hard fighting there.

If there is any news of him, then it should come forthwith, for by the terms of the present Armistice, all Prisoners of War are being handed over, & perhaps perchance he may be included among them, although hope is getting very faint, as a good many thousand have already arrived. He was reported Wounded as well as Missing but with such news one does not know what to think, as so many peculiar experiences have occurred, for instance, Men reported as killed eventually turning up. But we leave his keeping in God’s hands, if it be the Masters wish for him never to return, then we pray he has found Peace in Heaven, the result of so glorious an end, for I assure you Walt he is a lad to be proud of, and his thoughts were always centred upon the Old Home and Little Mother. This War Walt if it has not taught us much, it has brought us all to realize the worth of Home and Loving Mother, & believe me, during the time when I, Albert and Arthur were facing the dangers of battle, She like the noble Little Woman she has Ever been, faced all the anxiety & difficulties of keeping the Home fires burning with a patient & smiling Heart, & an ever Homely welcome whenever we returned on a spell of furlough, & really now, it seems good to be Home…


Read Exodus 15:1-18 – the Song of Moses and Miriam

The passage from Exodus that was just read is called the Song of Moses and Miriam. It is a song of how God got the people of Israel through the tough times when Pharaoh and the military might of Egypt threatened to destroy them. But that didn’t happen because they were delivered by the hand of God who destroyed the enemy and brought the people to a place of safety. In this second section of the letter, Uncle Frank tells my Grandfather about how their brother Albert and their sister Nancy’s husband have come home, battle scarred and wounded but home, delivered finally from the horrors of war…

Well now, I will continue with news of Albert, as I know you will want news of each and every one as far as it is possible to tell. Of course you know he enlisted under age and spent his eighteenth birthday in the Firing Lines. The poor kid has had a rough time especially this past eight or nine months, as it has been over the top in No Mans Land every night for sometime, & I suppose he with me considers himself fortunate in escaping with the loss of a right foot & a wound in his left ankle. I have been to the Hospital where he lays in Liverpool & am happy to relate found him quite comfortable & cheerful although in need of a fearful amount of nursing yet which of course is expected for it was touch and go for a few hours across the other side of the Channel. His Army career Walt is a splendid one, you would think so too, if you could only read some of the letters he has received from both Officers & men in his Battalion, telling of how he was idolized & held in high estimation in the Field, & he has won a dozen times the decoration he has received for bravery in the Field. Of course the Government will provide him with a false foot & I have no doubt but what he will be able to get around as easy & as much as ever. Mother is looking forward to having him Home for Xmas, & I sincerely hope she will not be disappointed as it will help brighten her life, which believe me has been very dull and full of anxiety this past four years. They will also give Albert a pension such as it is for you know the sort of firm & the ways of the Government. I suppose the first six months he will get a full pension of 27 pounds 6 pence & after that they will give a life pension of about 7 pounds 6 pence a week, or probably less, for it will all depend upon his capacity for working…

…Now I can give you a piece of good news for I am afraid my epistle so far has been full of despondency. Nancy’s Hubby has arrived Home from his detention as a Prisoner of War in Germany since March last so imagine the delight at Beachhampton last Friday the 29th, the day he put in his appearance. He is looking well and has been granted a two month furlough so he returns on the 30th January next.


Read Revelation 21:1-7 – the New Jerusalem

Revelation 21 speaks of the New Jerusalem when Christ returns and establishes a new kingdom in which there will be no war and no suffering, a world in which everyone has enough and peace reigns. It’s the kind of place that the people dreamed of at the end of WWI. In this final part of this letter, Uncle Frank shares with my Grandfather his hopes for a future without war and without strife…

Well Walt, you will begin to wonder at myself. I am quite well, happy & delight in the knowledge that I have come through with a whole skin and a smiling face. At present I am absolutely Happy to realize I am with Mother & a loving wife beside me. You are surprised I know, at the same time I know I have Yours & Mae’s wishes for a life long happiness & the best that life can offer. I am enclosing a cutting from a paper, the announcement of our Wedding, & by that you will see we had a splendid assembly. I assure you Walt I have not taken this step of life without giving the matter every thought & consideration for which every way I looked upon it, there was always the same conclusion, That my wife was the One to make & share my Happiness & with this decision was the One also of setting down close to Mother and Home, so that I, if no other, can arrange for her future joy in years to come, for I feel it a sort of a duty we all owe, that someone must stay & be near to offer a helping hand to the Dear Old Folks.

I trust you will not think I have cast aside the offering you made to me in your last letter, or think me inconsiderate Walt, for really I know I am turning down a good thing & against my own ambition have I decided for I would have loved to have accepted the opportunity you held out to me, & I had quite decided on coming to join you & settle if at all possible, as recently as twelve months ago, but circumstances have made me change my mind… In the first place Walt let me state matters as they are just now. You yourself are miles away. Arthur is missing. Albert will find a job and make a living. So you will see it will not be yet a while before I think of leaving once I get Home again. Of course things may turn out brighter, one never knows & then if your kind offer is still further extended, then I may seize the opportunity. But after all the worry & anxiety Mother has passed and is still having to pass through, I am determined on this front, to make Stony my abode at least for a time after leaving the Army which I am hoping to do by Easter.

I had quite a nice quiet Wedding Walt, as I was married from Maisie’s Mistresses House at Sheffield where she is at service. Her Home is in Norfolk & I made her acquaintance during the time I was training on the East Coast. She is a Good Christian Girl, & Mother & Father are quite Happy at the step in life I have taken. We had a lovely lot of presents Walt & I will send you a list of them later. Now I am going to be cheeky but if you have a photo of Yourself and Mae I would love one for my Home, or two if you like. I have hopes of living in York Road as soon as I leave the Army & can look forward without the elephant fear to a Happy & Prosperous Life.

Well I trust You & Mae are both enjoying Perfect Health & Happiness & that the day may speedily come when Please God we shall meet again…

… So accept Mine & Maisie’s Love & Best Wishes. Love from all at Home & Kisses from Little Mother. Will write again first opportunity from,

Your Loving Brother Frank.

I have read this letter many times over the years. It is, in fact, one of my most cherished possession not just because of who those people are to me but also because of what they wrote about. Horrors that we could not imagine. But hope for a better future.

My grandfather and grandmother went on to have three children, my mother being the eldest. Uncle Frank and Aunt May remained in Stony Stratford for the rest of their lives where they cared for my great grandmother, Little Mother, until the end of her days. They died peacefully in their old age having spent many years of happy marriage, surrounded by loving family. Uncle Albert recovered from his wounds and got that false foot from the government to replace the one he lost in no man’s land. He got a job and married. But he always lived with the effects of the war and I suspect suffered from what we now call PTSD. He died at a relatively young age with classic symptoms such as addictions and depression. And Uncle Arthur, who was missing…. Private Arthur George Hollyoake, Service Number 265119 was killed in action on August 26, 1918. Little Mother discovered some months later that her youngest son gave up his life on a mountainside in Italy and is buried in a Magnaboschi British Cemetery with his friends who fell with him. For his service and sacrifice he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in battle. He was twenty-three years old… Lest we forget.


God of peace, in the quiet we come to you asking for your blessing and grace. This world is a wonderful creation of your making. We see around us beauty that defies description. We are blessed with possessions beyond our needs.

We thank you for our freedom. We come and go as we please. We walk the streets in safety, unafraid of snipers and land mines. We go where we want to go and do what we want to do. Much of your world, however, is bound by chains. Many of your children are imprisoned by structures and attitudes that keep them from being all that you made them to be. Many are unable to speak out for fear that they will be punished for their words and actions. Break the chains that bind them, O God, that they may live lives of joy and happiness. Write your Good News upon their minds and hearts and enable them, with the necessary help, to complete their struggle for freedom.

We thank, God, for the many people who have fought to secure all that we have. We remember, this day, the many sailors, airmen and soldiers who put their lives on the line for the cause of freedom and justice. We mourn the millions who died to put an end to tyranny. Help us to appreciate their sacrifices so that we may learn how to avoid needless pain and suffering.

We remember all those who have been sick this week but especially those who have been ill this week, at home or in hospital: Lyle, Sharon, Diane and others whom we know. Bless them and all of us with your Healing Spirit that we have life in the fullest.

We lift up in prayer also those who mourn this day. We remember especially the family and friends of Florian Cichon and Sharon Phoenix whose lives were celebrated this week. Grant them Healing Spirit and your peace, O God.

In all things, God, remind us of Jesus, who, in his life, showed us how to live, in his death, paid the price of our sins and, in his resurrection, gave us the gift of eternal life. It is in his Holy Name that we pray. Amen.


November 11, 2018 / Remembrance Day


Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Mark 12:38-44; Hebrews 9:24-28


ONE: We have come to the house of the Lord;

ALL: it is a house built upon the foundations of love and justice.

ONE: Let salvation ring from the rafters;

ALL: as we praise our great and compassionate God.


We come to you, O God, as the one who is the Maker of all heaven and earth. Your majesty abounds in the world and in our lives. Your strength lifts us up above our problems and anxieties and sets us down in safe places. We need you now. We need you to open our hearts to the wonder of your love. We need you to point out the areas in our lives where we need to find healing and growth. Come to us in our act of remembering and celebration. Speak to us in tender words of love and faithfulness. Amen.


Merciful One, thank you that you have shown us how to extend kindness to others, even when they may wrong us. Because of you and the work you have done, we can be free from feeling compelled to respond in vengeance. Instead, with your help, we are able to pray for others when they do hurtful things, which will cause a greater change in their lives than our angry response would have done before. Help us today to be thankful for this and all you have done to bring peace and harmony into the world. Amen.


Thanks be to God who gave us life in Jesus Christ. He broke the chains of sin and death. He gave us the gift of salvation and eternal life. We claim those gifts when we give our hearts to Jesus, confessing our sins and receiving the forgiveness that only he can offer.


We thank you, Father God, that you have counted us worthy to receive blessings and gifts and talents. Out of the great abundance that we enjoy, we bring back our tithes for your work in the Church. Keep us mindful, however, that these gifts represent all that you, in your generousity, have given to us. Give us the courage to use all that we have for your holy purpose. Amen.


Having praised and prayed, having heard and seen, having read and remembered, we prepare to leave to go back into the world. Through the wisdom of God, we are called to go forth with grateful hearts to walk the road of faith to wherever it may lead, knowing that we are never alone through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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