skip to Main Content

Australian War Memorial brings historic Aussie love letters to life in digital collection

The Australian War Memorial is calling on the public to assist in transcribing thousands of love letters dating back almost a century.

Launching on Valentine’s Day, the project will see the digital release of hundreds of thousands of personal letters, diaries and other handwritten documents.

That includes the beginning of Dorothy and Mac’s 70-year love story, which was penned in hundreds of love letters spanning five years.

Photo A Current affair

Their romance began in 1937, when a 17-year-old Mac met a 14-year-old Dorothy, or – as he liked to call her – his darling Dot.

“He kept on asking me to go out but my father wouldn’t let me,” Dorothy laughed.

In 1939, Mac was off to war, but the plan was always to come home to his Dot.

He said to me, When I come back home…’ he said, ‘Will you come out with me then?'” Dorothy reminisced.

photo A Current affair

The couple met when Mac was 17 and Dot was 14, but her father would not let the pair date. (Nine)

“I said, ‘Of course I will, Mac!’ And then he gave me a kiss and went to war.”

They wrote letters to each other every week for five years.

Even when Mac was captured by the Germans and became a prisoner of war the letters continued.

“I hated him being away, and when the letters came back oh gee they were wonderful,” Dorothy said.

“A letter meant he was still alive, you see, so it was so exciting.”

But the best message of all came in April 1945.

Mac left Australia in 1939 to fight in WWII. (Nine)

Mac had escaped and he was coming home to his darling Dot.

“Hello my darling. What does one say in a moment such as this?” Dot wrote on April 30, 1945.

“I have butterflies in my stomach, love in my heart and few words that make sense in my mind. Well Mac, it’s really coming at last. You’re almost home”.

And he wrote back to that: “Hello darling. I miss you more now than ever.

Unfortunately I can’t find a boat to take me back to you.

“If they don’t hurry I guess I’ll just have to pinch a rowing boat and see what I can do!”

When Mac got home, he had some very precious cargo – half a decade’s worth of those love letters and a portrait of himself painted by another prisoner of war.

It hangs proudly at the end of Dorothy’s bed and is the first thing she sees when she wakes.

Now Robyn Van Dyke and Terrie-Anne Simmonds from the Australian War Memorial are sifting through thousands of donated love letters, including Mac’s and Dorothy’s.

“He not only managed to escape, but he managed to take all her letters with him and that blows me away because it’s not a small amount of letters,” Robyn said.

The team is looking for volunteers to help ensure those stories – and all that love – live forever.

“We’re asking people to jump online and look at those letters up close and transcribe them,” Terrie-Anne said.

“Essentially you can type what they’ve written so that way everyone can access them.”

Dorothy, who is now 101 years old, had more than 70 wonderful years with Mac before he died in 2014.

“He was nearly 90, you know. And me I just kept on going and going and going!” she said.

“He’d be up there watching every minute I bet.

“We had such fun. Oh dear we did have fun. We laughed a lot and we cried a lot.

“But we lived – and that was the main thing.”

If you’d like to volunteer for the Australian War Memorial’s project, head here.

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back To Top