Soldier’s Letters: Written by Signaller/Sergeant W. H. Pethard, 7th Battalion, between 1914 and 1917

Signaller W. H. Pethard, 7th Battalion, 1916

Soldier Identified: Signaller William Henry Pethard, Service No: 811, 7th Battalion, 1st Australian Overseas Expeditionary Force, A.I.F. Returned to Australia, 19 December 1918.

Originally published: The Argus (Vic.) 6 January 1916

Hints to Senders

Signaller W. H. Pethard of Bendigo who left with the First Expeditionary Force was wounded at the landing at the Dardanelles on April 25, and on his recovery was taken on at the post office where he worked for five months. He has rejoined his unit and he writes as follows regarding precautions to be adopted by senders of letters and parcels:-

After five months experience with postal work, I feel confident that I can now give a little helpful advice to those communicating with soldiers at the front, in hospitals, or elsewhere. During my connection with the post-office work I was struck very forcibly by the number of letters insufficiently addressed. In nearly every case the sender was to blame. Just prior to leaving a letter passed through my hands addressed to

Pte John Smith
On Active Service, Egypt

Apart from being a very common name, one cannot but admit that such an address is altogether too vague and insufficient; yet this is only one of many similar cases. In addressing letters, &c., to soldiers, it is essential that the addressee’s regimental number, name and battalion be inserted. The platoon, company, brigade, division, or number of reinforcements, if such be the case, is an advisable addition.

Very often people are careless in making initials, with the result that a letter addressed to “Healy” is taken for “Sealy”. If this lad happens to be wounded his letters are sent back to the Wounded Department, where the letters are sorted into their various units, and then into alphabetical order. This poor lad’s letters will probably be placed amongst the “S’s” instead of the “H’s” and eventually sent back to Australia amongst the “Unable to trace”.

When writing to lads in hospitals it is always wise to insert the unit address somewhere if only in a corner for often when the letters arrive at the various hospitals the addressees have been discharged. Repeatedly letters addressed to hospital, have been returned to the Wounded Department without any information of the whereabouts or unit of the discharged soldier. Such letters as these are generally bundled back to Australia as insufficiently addressed.

Regarding parcels – I have found boxes to be a very poor covering for articles. A little rough usage and the box is broken and the contents separated. Tins are certainly preferable, but very often a few knocks and they are out of shape; the tin then quickly cutting through its wrappings. For small parcels, strong brown paper, tightly tied, is generally substantial enough. For larger parcels, canvas, strong cloth, or bagging, prove, almost without exception, an excellent wrapping for parcels. The address should always be written twice in case one becomes torn or illegible through continuous travel.

Always write distinctly, address fully, and you will greatly facilitate postal work, also ensuring quicker and more accurate delivery of mails.

The post office at an Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Egypt. 1914-1918 (Australian War Memorial).

Sources: 

  1. Letters to Soldiers (1916, January 6). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), p. 8. 
  2. The post office at an Australian Auxiliary Hospital in Egypt. Australian War Memorial

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