Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia

  • Megan Robertson Simon Fraser University
Keywords: letters, archives, war, memory, Victoria, letter writing, military history, Henry Ralston and family


This article takes the form of a letter to the reader, much like the letters in question – the hundreds of missives sent from Henry (Harry) Ralston to Gertrude (Gertie) Walker of Victoria, BC during the Great War (1914-1918). This piece considers the history of letters in an academic context as well as their unique role in the lives of two British Columbians. Harry’s letters to Gertie are valuable historic documents and are deeply affective; their inclusion in a public archive (the University of British Columbia Special Collections) was a fate that their writers could never have imagined. However, the affective and historical value of the letters depends on their continued circulation. In creating an archive story, a letter to an unknown, yet acknowledged reader of this journal, Harry’s letters travel once more. The letters are complex objects and are positioned at the intersection of personal, institutional, and memorial motives.

Author Biography

Megan Robertson, Simon Fraser University
Megan Robertson is a Doctoral Student in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University.