Allison launching ANZAC Sons at the RSL in Bendigo.
Allison launching ANZAC Sons at the RSL in Bendigo.

Letters from the Western Front transformed into book

ALTHOUGH it was 30 years ago that Allison Patterson discovered an old trunk full of letters and postcards sent home from five brothers on the Western Front to their family in Mologa, a small country town in Victoria, it was not until Allison was almost 50 that she decided to turn those letters into a book.

And now she has been awarded the May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship for 2017, one of only eight authors and illustrators in the country.

"I had the chance to use a selection (of the letters) in a university assignment about 30 years ago,” Allison, who now lives in Queensland, said. "But back then I was not able to transcribe them all,” she said.

"The letters were from my grand-dad and his four brothers (one did not go to war). Three of the brothers were killed.

"It is hard to imagine the pain and grief of their mother. She literally died of a broken heart.

"In that one tiny town of Mologa, 22 boys went to war and 10 of them were killed. That is almost half. There is a memorial there now and it is heartbreaking to see all the names on it.”

The letters were found in an old farm house on Allison's great-grandfather's property in Mologa north of Bendigo in Victoria.

After visiting France in 2011, and walking in the footsteps of those young men and others who died so tragically on the Western Front, Allison's determination to fully transcribe the letters and postcards became a passion that turned them into a book ANZAC Sons.

"People found the book very moving,” Allison said "People in the local community (of Bendigo) were so grateful it had been written.

"I launched it at the RSL in Bendigo. It helped them understand what had happened to their family members.

"There were 500 letters in that trunk. That gave the book a primary source of information. It also tells the story of people recovering from the war and making something of their lives. That sense of remembrance was important to people.

"We hear accounts of WW1, often on the actual Western Front, but they are very difficult to read. Being able to read of a family and how it affected them as well as a small community gives a different perspective to the story.”

Allison says receiving the fellowship at this stage of her life was 'an amazing moment.”

"I have to make the most of this golden opportunity.

"I will visit Canberra to be immersed in the atmosphere of the Australian War Memorial and the National Archives of Australia as I continue writing.”

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