As our logo states, Pemberton Holmes was established in 1887. This date has given the family-run company time to amass an extensive history represented and recorded by an impressive archive of materials. In the spirit of remembrance this November, we will be pulling out a few items from our archives to take a closer look at the lives and losses of those before us in this three-part article series.

Over the past year and a half, the concept of connection and communication with our loved ones has shifted drastically. While technology has helped us bridge the gap of distance, whether small or large, it still leaves a bit to be desired. And with the novelty of video chat meetings wearing off, we can’t help but think of our loved ones of the past and their more classic methods of staying connected. We are, of course, referring to the ever-loved art of letter writing.

While the practice of passing along a recorded message to a distant loved one has existed for as long as the written word, the Canadian Mail Corps was not introduced until 1911. Created specifically to handle military correspondence, during 1915 alone over eight million letters were sent from Canada to the four hundred thousand soldiers fighting the First World War overseas. And, between their duties and battles, these correspondents found the time to send at least four million letters back (Macleans, 2018). As Philippa (née Pemberton) Holmes’ eventual brother-in-law Lancelot de Sausmarez Duke put it, “One can’t imagine how really lovely it is to get a letter, it is the only thing to live for here.”

Of these millions of letters sent, our own archives hold the two letters seen below. Both were sent to Philippa from two family friends. While some handwriting has proven difficult to decipher, the general content of each letter demonstrates the longing and joy the friends shared in sending and receiving correspondence. The letters reflect an optimism that certainly has solidified our own interest in penning a letter to a loved one, post haste.

While the photos above can be found within our own archives, an amazing project called the Canadian Letters and Images Project began allows access to an extensive database of wartime letters. This project “…is an online archive of the Canadian war experience, from any war, home front and battlefront, as told through the letters and images of Canadians themselves.” Check out their website here, where you can search for letters to and from members of your own family, donate, or even submit letters of your own.