Incredible tale of WWI soldier letters reuniting with his family

Sometimes, social media is magic

Ahh, Facebook. Whether you love it, loathe it, or are indifferent, every now and then it does prove to be the ultimate gem in connecting people.

This time, the social networking platform has reunited a series of letters written during the first World War to the family of a soldier who received them.

The letters, which date back to 1916, were discovered more than a century later by a schoolteacher beneath some floorboards during a building renovation.

The soldier in question is Lance Corporal William Swift, who signed up to fight when WWI began in 1914, before eventually leaving his native Liverpool for France two years later as part of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

[Credit: Shutterstock]

It was here that he fought in the Battle of the Somme, between the British Empire and French Third Republic against the German Empire.

However, he was to move once more and was later stationed at Noeux-les Mines.

It is here that a little piece of history was discovered 100 years later, with the teacher stumbling upon the letters in what used to be the soldier’s former living quarters.

Still in readable condition, one of the letters can be seen saying, ‘My dear son. I am uneasy at getting no letters from you… I do keep thinking you are hurt.’

[Credit: Museums Victoria]

Once in possession of the letters, the teacher swiftly handed them over to Mathilde Bernardet, a historian with the Memorial 14-18 museum at Notre Dame De Lorette.

Recognising their sentimental value, Mathilde and her colleagues kickstarted a mission to find Swift’s living relations so they could handover the keepsakes.

Yet despite months of hunting, they struggled to locate his family.

That is, until they turned to Facebook.

[Credit: Tilloy British Cemetery]

Within hours of posting online, they were overwhelmed by the response and found exactly what, or rather who, they were looking for.

Chatting to the BBC, Mathilde said: “In less than four hours, the post had been shared a few thousand times and we had found a few connections to the family.”

Now, she plans to return the letters to Swift’s family, while also inviting them to France where he is buried following his death at the Battle of Arras, aged 19.

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