WW1 Love Letters To Be Reunited With Family

The letters, addressed to a Mrs Mary Fortune from her soldier husband, were found in a charity shop in Sunderland.

A collection of First World War love letters found in a charity shop are set to be reunited with the family of the woman who received them more than 100 years ago.

The Sue Ryder charity launched an appeal on Monday after finding the love letters in a sewing box donated at one of its stores in Fulwell, Sunderland.

Now they are set to be returned to David Bambrough, who came forward to identify himself as the great-grandson of Mary’s brother after being alerted to the letters via "random people" on a genealogy website.

"I thought it was a scam at first," said Mr Bambrough, an engineer from Sunderland.

"I did my own research just through Google and I found the story and was, like, ‘Blimey, it’s true!'

"There were about five people in total who sent me an email, and one, in particular, was the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society," added the 53-year-old, himself a keen family historian.

"They had basically done the research, all these people had done their own detective work, and found this Mary Bambrough through my family tree.

"It was really amazing that they took the time to go to the lengths to find me."

The letters were addressed to a Mrs Mary Fortune from her soldier husband George Fortune who served in the Durham Light Infantry.

The collection also contains a letter from King George V confirming that her husband had been killed in action, aged 27.

A section of one letter reads: "We had a little bit of excitement here the other night when there was an aeroplane which had some engine trouble and was forced to land in a corn field which was badly damaged by the people rushing over to see the aeroplane which landed quite safely.

"Best wishes to all at home.

"Love to you + baby I am your loving husband George xxxx."

A letter from King George V confirming George Fortune had been killed in action during the First World War (Picture: Sue Ryder).

It was not the only loss Mary, who was one of 13 children, suffered during the war.

"She lost two brothers within a day of each other in 1915 and then she lost her husband in 1916," said Mr Bambrough.

"It was a really tragic story."

He now hopes to find out more through George Fortune’s side of the family, with whom he has been in contact via Facebook.

He said: "I’m more than willing to share them and do copies, and George Fortune’s family has invited me to go along and meet them and have a family gathering, so I’m going to take them up on the offer."

The letters were lost to the family in 2003 when Mary’s daughter, Marjory, died.

Marjory did not have any descendants, and neighbours got rid of her possessions.

Staff at the shop had initially struggled to find any relatives and the address to which the letters were sent no longer exists.

Cathy Duncan, supervisor at the Sue Ryder shop in Fulwell, said: "We are delighted that Sue Ryder has been able to reunite the letters with their rightful owner.

"All the treasures and trinkets donated to the Sue Ryder charity shops by members of the public are greatly appreciated, but this story has definitely been one to remember.   "The letters are an important part of history that brings home the sacrifices our soldiers made during World War One – and we are happy we could be part of that story."   

The Sue Ryder shop in Fulwell is currently closed but staff intend to send the letters on to Mr Bambrough once they regain access after lockdown.

Cover image: One of the love letters written by George Fortune (Picture: Sue Ryder).