Oz and Myrtle
As a part of the PostWar Project research I am working on transcribing a suitcase full of letters which were written by 'Oz' Edwards between 1914 and around 1925.
In June 2014 I held an exhibition at The Art Vault in Mildura, Victoria, while undertaking a residency with them. At the opening I asked interested locals to contact me to chat about the World War 1 soldier settlement history in the area. The very first person to approach me was Pam Shugg who invited me to dinner to come and see her grandmother's suitcase....she thought I might be interested in its contents.
When I arrived for dinner a few nights later, laying open on the table was a suitcase full to the brim with letters. Each one had been written by her grandfather 'Oz' Edwards to Myrtle, her grandmother. The letters had been sitting in the suitcase, packed away for decades, safely stowed by their granddaughter Pam. She and the family had only read a few and so it has been a particularly exciting process to go through them together. We are currently scanning and transcribing them - a big job!
The letters begin during Oz and Myrtle's early courting, then continue as he enlisted in the AIF. He was sent overseas, fought at Gallipoli, went to France and was captured by the Germans. He was a Prisoner of War in Germany for 2 1/2 years and continued to write to Myrtle throughout. When he was returned home to Australia he applied for a block of land under the Commonwealth land scheme and received a block at Red Cliffs, Victoria. Oz worked the block, living first in a tent as many settlers did, then building a house. Myrtle remained in Melbourne until the end of 1923, waiting until their home was complete. Because Myrtle remained in Melbourne while Oz was in Red Cliffs, and because he was such a prolific letter writer these letters are allowing us some fantastic insight into life on the settlement blocks in those early years.
I cannot express enough my gratitude to Pam Shugg for approaching me that night and sharing this history and to her father Noel Edwards who has provided invaluable additional, contextual information about his own experiences growing up on the block.