The Fredericton Region Museum has solved a First World War mystery involving a letter in an unknown language.
Last summer, some students working at the museum discovered the letter tucked inside a messenger book in a trench exhibit.
The book has a bullet hole in it and is credited with saving the life of a soldier from Stanley named Arthur Cleveland Kelly.
He was running a message on the front lines when the bullet hit the book in his hip pocket. Instead of a serious or fatal wound, he was only knocked down and bruised.
The students scanned the elvish-looking script and the museum posted it on its blog. But no one could shed any light on it.
The museum's executive director Ruth Murgatroyd stepped up efforts to solve the puzzle this week after a question from an interested history buff.
She plastered the internet with the letter. Some people thought it was Icelandic, or Dutch. But it turned out to be German.
"Apparently it's early German," said Murgatroyd. "From what I understand, the script in German changed during World War Two and they stopped writing like this. It's incredibly difficult to read, but once you're used to it, it's not so bad."
On Monday, some members of the York-Sunbury historical society from Germany sat down to translate it.
From a mother to her son
Murgatroyd says it was written by a mother named Bertha in Bavaria near the Czech border to her son Ludwig.
"It's a heartfelt letter of a farm woman, telling about what has happened recently in her life," said Murgatroyd.
"Since she hasn't heard from Ludwig in five days, she decided to write again hoping that she will receive a reply. Since he has not written she can only speculate that something has happened to him, but writing him again tonight gave her courage."
Bertha tells her son she has just discovered four sacks of potatoes that were in storage were rotten and slimy from frost. She also talks about marriages and deaths in the community, and tells of a recent visit from relatives. And wonders if Ludwig can come home to help her move.
"'You are the only joy that I have in this world,' and she goes on to say that she hopes, 'the dear God will soon bring an end to this war and that you will return home safe and sound. It's almost too much to expect since no one returns home in the same condition that they left,'" said Murgatroyd.
The letter was dated March 29, 1917, which was just before the Battle of Vimy Ridge. That's where it likely came into the possession of Kelly, the soldier from New Brunswick.
"I suspect he picked it up somehow either off somebody or on the ground, tucked it into the back of his messenger book and never thought of it again," said Murgatroyd. "This is the only document in the messenger book without a bullet hole."
Article posted automatically from www.PathfinderOnline.co.uk, the UK's first historical military online magazine.