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Letters of our lives - online gallery

the Royal Mail Letters of our lives team / 11 April 2016

To celebrate 500 years of the postal service, Royal Mail is launching a campaign encouraging people to hunt out the forgotten letters that unveil our social and political history.

Letters already received include:

A letter from William Fellowes, the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Julian Fellowes, describing a coach trip to stay with his son at Adbury House near Newbury. Commenting on the letter, Lord Fellowes says: “I find the domesticity and ‘ordinariness’ of all this very beguiling. It isn’t a period drama. It is how people lived.” The letter is dated 4 May 1820.
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A detailed account of the beginning of the Battle of Jutland, from 17 year-old Cyril Clifford Watson, who served aboard HMS Iron Duke. The letter remarks upon the skill of Admiral Jellicoe: “It was a glorious sight in itself to see our huge Dreadnoughts getting into position and no-one save Admiral Jellicoe could have done it so splendidly.” Cyril also describes standing in the Torpedo Director Tower, where he saw flashes of guns off the starboard bow and knew that he was ‘in close proximity to the battle.’ The Battle of Jutland, fought over 36 hours on 31 May 1916 between the Royal Navy and the German High Seas Fleet, was the biggest sea engagement of the war.
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A letter to the parents of Charles Henry Featherstone, who had been seriously injured during battle in 1917. The letter states that Charles’ “leg has been set by two of our surgeons and everything possible in human power is being done for him.” This accompanied by a postcard from Charles himself, written during his recovery from his hospital bed. In it he writes that he is “quite well.”
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A letter (dated 1978) from Henry Winkler, better known as “the Fonz” in the television series “Happy Days” thanking a fan for a scrapbook that ‘knocked his socks off’.
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A notification from the Captain of the HMS Nassau to the Meteorological Office (now the Met Office) on 25 October 1866. Its crew had picked up a glass bottle dropped by another ship. The Captain writes that the bottle was ‘picked up by some fisherman…on the beach near Cape St Augustin about 20 miles south of the port’ in Brazil. It included a message to be returned to the Meteorological Office, which would help it to gather data on the direction and speed of ocean currents.
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Submit your own letter or postcard >

Learn more about the campaign >

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