Alf Ewen’s letter at Albany service a “complete surprise” to daughter Bev Bell who never knew it existed

Melissa SheilAlbany Advertiser
Bev and Sharlene Bell.
Camera IconBev and Sharlene Bell. Credit: Laurie Benson

Hearing her father Alfred Ewen’s letter read aloud to hundreds of people at the Anzac Day commemorative service in Albany was “quite emotional” for Bev Bell who only learnt of the letter’s existence a week ago.

Mr Ewen gave the letter to the University of New South Wales during a 2004 interview for their Australians at War Film Archive, detailing his experience as a young soldier in World War II.

Read by St Joseph’s College student Lachlan Gorman, the letter describes his wartime experience from his send-off at the Narrogin train station as a 19-year-old to postings in Egypt, Lebanon, and the battle of El Alamein.

Ms Bell said she knew little of her father’s time in the Second 43rd Battalion.

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“He didn’t speak a lot about the war to us,” Ms Bell said.

“He got wounded when posted away, shot in the shoulder.

“I think he may have had a bit of PTSD because when I look back now, being so young and going into that environment it can’t have been any good.”

Though he died seven years ago, Mr Ewen’s legacy lives on, his story inspiring both his son Steve Ewen and granddaughter Charlene Bell to join the armed forces.

“I was doing a part-time job and this girl that I worked with said ‘I’m leaving to join the army’,” Charlene Bell said.

“She was writing to me the whole time she was training, and I thought ‘wow, this sounds great’.

“But I wasn’t quite sure, so I went to speak to Grandad about it.

“He said ‘you will never regret it’ so off I went.”

Bev Bell said she was grateful to the RSL for unearthing the letter.

“It was a complete surprise to hear they had it, I didn’t know it existed,” she said.

“It was really special reading my dad’s words again.

“It makes me wish he was around now to say, ‘sit down, I’ll talk to you about it’.”

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