We can finally see the face behind the letters

Since we started this blog in 2008, we feel we have got to know Oliver quite well, from the letters home we have shared here. One thing that frustrated us though was not having an image of Oliver. We really wanted to put a face to the young man.

The Great War saw an explosion in photography, with every proud soldier and sailor having a studio photograph taken of themselves in uniform, and made into multiple postcards to send on to family and friends. And less common than the studio portraiture, not helped by strict censorship in force, were pocket cameras and amateur photographers. Oliver himself mentions his camera several times ...

"Talking of photographs I am sorry you will have no studio ones of me because while I was at home and at Birmingham I had no clothes fit to wear and while at the C.F.S. had no opportunity but I do promise that I will have some done here when and as soon as it is possible for me. It should not be difficult. Keep all the letters from me that are interesting for they should make a fair record of my day here and events as well."

Well, good fortune has smiled on us.We have just been emailed two studio photographs, probably those referred to above.

Alison Glazebrook, from Oliver's village of Lowdham, contacted us earlier this year through the blog as she was looking for reference on a book she was writing on the local men listed on the village war memorial.
Alison attended the Lowdham Local History Society WWI Archives Day recently and by chance met Steve Smith. In the 1980's Steve bought the house that used to belong to Oliver's Brother Aubrey (Referred to as 'Jim' in the letters). When they bought it the 'box room' was still full of family effects. Tucked away in a corner were photos of Oliver along with a box made out of a wooden aeroplane propeller, an ammunition shell, and Oliver's records about his egg collection from when he was a child, along with copies of the letters home.
Steve had bought the photos along to the WW1 Archive Day, and Alison kindly made copies to send to us.

It's strange finally being able to see Oliver. Sharing publicly his personal letters home to his family was never a decision we took lightly, but we felt they were an important record of the time. They were nearly 100 years old, there were no relatives alive who knew Oliver personally. As we went through the letters though, we got to know Oliver better. These letters are open and unguarded, there is little 'front' to them, we see the real Oliver through them. I think we actually have a better 'picture' of Oliver now through his words than through his photograph.
I'm looking at his colourised photo right now as I type this, wondering if he would approve of our blog today. He is looking back at me rather intensely from 97 years ago, and I can see he is made from far sterner stuff than me. I don't think he would approve, and I like him all the more for it.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

Lt. O. C. Pearson

Lt. O. C. Pearson

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