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Letters from the trenches during First World War kept loved ones in Timmins informed

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Officials with the Timmins Museum say that during the First World War, 12 million pieces of mail travelled between Canada and the front lines every week.

Karen Bachmann said mail was a necessity to maintain morale in the trenches. It's all they had to hang on to when their loved ones were away.

“It’s a very touchy kind of thing to look at when you start looking at these and they can be really quite emotional," said Bachmann.

She said the local newspaper at the time, 'The Porcupine Advance,' would print letters that people received from local soldiers as a way to keep those at home informed.

In one of those letters, C. Digby Salkeld wrote in 1915:

"George, you do not know what mud is, the whole map is nothing but mud ... Dan McRea who you know well had a near shave when his cycle was blown up by a German high explosive."

And in another by Len Dunsford in June 1916, he wrote:

"Well, I had all the bad luck to get shot in the calf of the right leg. We were coming back to the trenches and I caught it coming overland about 600 yards from the line."

Bachmann said it was a time when everyone knew everybody in the Porcupine Camp. The population was only around 3,000 and 651 men enlisted.

A young soldier by the name of Frank Fettes shared one of his observations in France when he wrote a letter to a friend:

"The girls in this vicinity all fall for the Canadians, to the intense disgust of the other soldiers."

Bachmann said it's interesting to learn what local soldiers were longing for from the trenches.

“What they really missed in Timmins was the camaraderie and talking about the boys and going out on Saturday night and (wrote), you know, I miss playing cards with so and so and being home with my wife or mother.”

Bachmann said although all that happened more than 100 years ago, there are still families living in Timmins with ties to the First World War.

In fact, she lost a great uncle two weeks before it ended.

As a sign of respect, the city shines a modern display of remembrance on the McIntyre headframe. The digital poppy signals all who pass by it that Timmins still has connections to that historic event.

Bachmann said the war letters may be read at the Timmins Public Library, which has transferred all the Porcupine Advance newspapers onto a computer. 

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