A Letter from WW1

Some of you may know that I’m a family history research addict. And during my quest to compile my children’s family tree spanning back sixteen generations, I’ve had the opportunity to discover some amazing places, people and records. One of these is the Nelson Memorial Public Library in Apia where there is a collection of newspapers dating back from before 1900. They provide a fascinating insight into life in Samoa –how our forebears lived, loved and died. This month is ANZAC Day. I wanted to share with you, some of the articles and letters written about Samoans serving in WW1. So we can remember, the men who served and died.

28th December, 1918 edition of the Samoa Times. A letter written from Sgt Edward Westbrook, to his father in Samoa.

Dear Dad, Just a few lines to let you know how we are progressing. I thought Samoa was hot but this country is beyond the mark as it is impossible for one to cool off at any time and I reckon it would be a fine place to send some of our friends who would like to reduce their weight. The soldiers have been suffering badly from climatic diseases and other complaints. Many of our lads are in hospital suffering with malaria fever. The country is infested with snakes, many of which are poisonous and quite a number of our troops have died of snake bites…Nearly all the boys from Samoa have been in hospital but so far I am feeling very fit and healthy.

A few weeks ago we had a ding dong go with Johnny Turk, the enemy putting up a great fight but under strong pressure in a few hours they commenced to give way. The New Zealand boys although outnumbered fought like heroes and gave them ‘what for.’ We took 600 prisoners and advanced our line a depth of four miles. I really think the Turks will not be able to resist much longer as the prisoners say their side is very short of war materials and their food supplies nearly exhausted.

I am sorry to tell you that we lost one of our best soldiers from Samoa, Allen Williams, who was respected by all those who knew him. He was only in the hospital four days when he succumbed to malaria fever.He is the first of the Samoa born soldiers to be buried in the Holy Land. He rests in a quiet spot at Jaffa and I was deputed to take some of the Samoa born boys down to Jaffa and fix and decorate his grave.

Your affectionate son, Edward.

The next time you’re in Apia, I highly recommend a visit to the Nelson Memorial Library. You might be surprised to find what stories you can find there about your ancestors.

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5 comments

  1. Gosh, Last trip home I was in tears at the current state of this library. As you know books are so important and there did not seem to be any new books there. Raymond

  2. Thanks for sharing this experience. Felt for the family of the soldiers who served from Samoa. I didn't even consider the Samoan soldiers until your post. Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you at your Brisbane Book launch of Telesa – The Covenant Keeper on 3 May, 2012.

  3. Thanks Lani – it's very moving! Would love to visit this library – it feels so much more close to home now that I've read about the samoan soldiers – talofae i le toto na masa'a mo le tatou saolotoga – lest we forget!

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