Letters from the trenches provide poignant reminder of Canadian soldiers' sacrifice

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TORONTO -- A remembrance project in Ottawa has honoured the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers on the front lines through their letters to loved ones back home.

“Letters In a Time Of War” at The Canadian War Museum sees wartime correspondence from more than 20 soldiers read aloud by actors, students, relatives and others, accompanied by live music.

One such soldier was Maj. John Archibald “Archie” MacNaughton of New Brunswick, who fought in the First and Second World War.

Maj. MacNaughton had no way of knowing that mail to his wife and children dated June 4, 1944 and read by Meriel Bradford for the letters project, would be his last. He was killed on the beaches of Normandy two days later.

“No matter how things go Grace, life has been very kind to us,” Maj. MacNaughton of the North Shore Regiment wrote aged 47.

“I have had many pleasures to look on. All has been very pleasant.”

The soldier led his hometown regiment onto Juno Beach as part of the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France in the D-Day landings on June 6, a story recounted in a Heritage Minute.

“Fancie and Margie, take care take care of mumser,” he wrote.

For Bradford, the readings are touching and personal. Her father, Brig.-Gen. Ted Beament helped plan the invasion that saw the beginning of the end of the Second World War.

“I think he wanted them to know that it was an important thing he was going to be doing and that he loved them,” Bradford told CTV News Ottawa while fighting back tears.

“And that he was doing it for his country. So yes my dad had all this complexity to deal with and Archie was at the sharp end and had to actually deliver.”

The creators of the project hope it will honour many more Canadian war heroes in the future.

“Even though we are commemorating an act of remembrance and we’re discussing war and conflict, I think the theme that weaves its way through almost every single letter we read is love,” co-creator David Henderson told CTV News Ottawa.

Maj. MacNaughton made a promise to his family in his last letter home.

“Goodnight dear people, I will tell you one day where I wrote this letter,” he wrote.

“All my love to you and may God take care of you all. As ever, Archie.”