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Love letters from Ypres revealed

By Emily Beament

Love letters from First World War soldiers fighting in the Battle of Passchendaele have been made public a hundred years after the bloody clash.

Descendants of soldiers who were killed in the battle, which was fought near the Belgian town of Ypres between July 31 and November 10, 1917, are revealing the keepsakes to mark the centenary commemorations.

They include letters from Private Charles Snelling to his wife Alice and daughters, and a photograph of Alice carried by Charles, which was discovered by chance in a wood in Belgium months after he was killed in action.

The image was returned to her by the corporal in the Soldiers Christian Association who found it with a note saying "I am very sorry to say I could not find the owner of the photos. I cannot say if he has been wounded or killed".

Louise Argent, in Devon, has a poignant last letter home from her great-grandfather Private Albert Ford to Edith, the "best of wives", before he went over the top.

He urged her to think of him sometimes if he died, and mention him to the younger children sometimes, but to remarry if the chance came. "Know that my last thoughts were of you in the dugout, or on the fire step my thought went out to you, the only one I ever loved, the one that made a man of me," he wrote.

Albert was killed on October 26, 1917, and Edith, who treasured his last letter, never remarried.

As she lay dying in February 1956, she said she could see Albert in the corner of her bedroom.

First World War Minister Rob Wilson said the letters showed love could survive even through the harrowing experiences of the Battle of Passchendaele.

"I hope these stories will encourage more people to explore their past and apply to join in this summer's commemorations of this infamous battle."

To enter the ballot for tickets for the official commemorations of Passchendaele - the Third Battle of Ypres - in Belgium, people can visit https://passchendaele100.org. The ballot closes on Friday, February 24, 2017.

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