Peggy Brunt of Sunbury had the surprise of her life when she was clearing up some of her husband’s things. He had passed away several years ago but for some reason Peggy had been looking through some old documents in the lead up to the centenary of the Armistice. In a box of papers, she discovered a letter from Buckingham Palace, dated 1918. It was hand written by George V.
“The Queen joins me in welcoming you on your release from the miseries and hardships which you have endured with so much patience and courage.
During these many months of trial, the early rescue of our gallant officers and men from the cruelties of their captivity has been uppermost in our thoughts.
We are thankful that this longed for day has arrived and that back in the old country, you will be able to once more enjoy the happiness of a home and to see good days amongst those who anxiously look for your return.”
The letter had been sent to Leonard Marshall Brunt, Peggy’s father in law. Born in 1882 in Esher he had joined the army in 1901 serving with the Royal Fusiliers. He had left in 1911, got married and had his first child. He signed up for his old regiment on 5th August 1914, the day after war was declared. His battalion embarked for France on 14th August. The battalion fought in a number of engagements including the 1st battle of Mons then on October 21st he was taken prisoner at Herlies in Northern France. He was prisoner at Wittenburg in what was East Germany.
Apparently this was a notorious camp where prisoners were treated very badly. The letter from King George was to mark his release. The King talks of his wish that Leonard Brunt might be able to enjoy the happiness of a home and see good days with his family. Sadly that was easier said than done for these men who had seen conflict. He died in Brookwood Mental Hospital from two long term illnesses in 1930.
It is suspected however that he was suffering from post traumatic stress and mental illness. The war was bad enough, but what may have sent him over the edge was the death of three of his children. His daughter Winifred was born and died in 1920 and twins Kathleen and Stanley were born and died in 1924. His youngest boy, Tony, however was to go on to marry Peggy who has been living in Sunbury for 36 years now.
What a link with the past and what a glimpse into the emotion of a homecoming, the hope of happiness and ultimately the scars of conflict and death that were insurmountable.
Thank you for sharing this story.