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ANZAC Syd Duchesne’s last letter home

Events, People, Social comment

Extract: Letter from Syd Duchesne to his parents from Mena Camp, Egypt

Lieut. W. S. Duchesne

After giving some news from the training camp, Syd explains he’s received a letter from Rita (a cousin, I presume, from context), dated Christmas Day. He continues…

“She also told me that Aunt Ada wasn’t doing well and that Aunt thinks I shall never return. Well Dad I hope you don’t let mother worry like that, because it makes it harder for us to think that those who we love and who love us are worrying over our safekeeping. Tell them Dad that for them and our country, we who are from Australia are ready to give up that which is most precious to all­ – that is our life, that if by doing so we help to keep you all safe and free. And tell Mother and Aunt Ada, that I wish them to remember the text of one of Canon Vaughan’s sermons: “Weep not for the Dead but for the Living” Because if by chance my time has come to leave this world, I wish not for a better death than on the battlefield helping Englishmen keep our Empire in freedom.

I know my father will only be pleased to know his son was able to go and take his share of his family’s safekeeping.

[…]

Well dad, this is not a very pleasant letter, but it hurt when I heard that Aunt was worrying and that I knew Mother would be doing the same, that I thought I had better write and tell you that my last wish will be that you all shall be proud and not grieve if I never return. I have met a young officer of the Manchesters and we got talking about our homes and he showed me the letter his mother wrote when she heard he was ordered to be ready to leave for the front and one sentence I thought was simply lovely ­– it read like this: “I have given my husband for my country’s need when she called. And now she calls again I gladly give my only Son.” What a time she must suffer waiting news of her son – I wish my people to think the same as she does.

Well Dad, I’ll close now. I don’t know if I’ve made my thoughts plain. But the main thing I want is for mother to understand she’s not to worry over me. I don’t think all the worry will decide whether I return or not. That part lays with the Almighty. And if my time to die has arrived, then I will die as a solider and as a man. Good bye, Dad, Mum, George and Annie. Plenty of love and kisses, from your son, and brother, Syd.

Mother, don’t worry. I’m enjoying myself and happy. Remember mother, I’m only a son. Many a husband with children are here, and it’s them we must pray for so they might be spared to return to their wives and families. Not us single boys with nobody depending on us.

Many war memorials include these words from Jesus Christ, whom God sent as the ultimate, atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christ’s words are more than appropriate when remembering Syd Duchesne:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, KJV)


FURTHER READING

You can read about Syd’s story here. His letter is dated 31/1/14, although the year reference is clearly an error, since it must have been early 2015. Transcript typed by Rev Sandy Grant. Click here for the source.

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