Letters from back in time

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The Royal Mail is urging Wiganers to search for forgotten letters under a project to reveal the UK’s “untold” history.

The idea was sparked by a member of staff who found a letter from her grandfather, Cyril Watson, detailing the start of the 1916 Battle of Jutland when he served on HMS Iron Duke.

The plans also mark the 500th anniversary of the postal service.

The Royal Mail is looking for handwritten letters or postcards, especially about moments in history, wars, travel or popular culture.

Historian Lucy Worsley, who will be reading all the letters, said: “’One of the best bits of my work as a historian is unfolding a manuscript that no one has read in decades, if not centuries.

“Every aspect of doing it is a thrill, from deciphering the handwriting, right down to the fact that old documents have their own special unique smell.

“Of course, lots of the nationally important documents in our archives up and down Britain relate to nationally important events, like the Industrial Revolution or the abolition of slavery. But often legal or official documents miss out the human stories, how people were feeling about the great issues of the day. That’s something you get best from personal letters.”

David Gold, head of public affairs at Royal Mail, said: “There are few historical texts that are as compelling to read as personal letters.

“The idea for this campaign really came to life when a member of the team found a letter from their grandfather, who aged 17 fought aboard HMS Iron Duke during the First World War.

“Personal letters come from the heart and as a result, often tell us details that aren’t included in official documents. Our hope is that the letters and postcards people find will help us build a picture of how life really was for communities throughout the ages - warts and all.”

The letter from Cyril Watson remarks on 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.”

A selection of the letters and postcards will form part of an exhibition.