The recent ANZAC day remind me of a story of how my grandparents met during the war. As they have since gone to God I felt it was time that their story could be shared.
Private Patrick Francis Baldwin was an engineer for the 9 division of the Second Australian Infantry Forces (AIF). Born and raised in Dubbo he joined the army when 21 and was sent to the Middle East: Egypt, Palestine and Syria. It was while on this first tour of duty that he receive a care package.
Eliza Francis McNamee was a shy gangly girl from the tiny city of Hobart. The most southerly of the capital cities of Australia Hobart has a large country town feel, and though she was a “city girl” they would frequently take mushroom hunting onto the slopes of Mount Wellington.
She worked at the Cadbury’s factory just down the river at Claremont. There chocolate bars were made for the care packages send to the soldiers. The girls on the assembly line would often slip papers with their names and addresses into the wrappings for the chocolates hoping for a reply letter from a soldier overseas. Eliza was too shy to put her name into a wrapping, what would she say if she did receive a letter. The other girls, ignoring Eliza’s protestations added her name to a bar and sent it off overseas.
The chocolate bar in a care package made it to the Middle East where Private Baldwin received it. He did send a letter and Eliza found the courage to reply. A correspondence started which lasted through his entire remaining tour in the Middle East.
When his unit were shipped back home he visited his pen pal, not an easy task during war. More than a thousand kilometres and the Tasman Sea between he still made it to Hobart in the shadow Mount Wellington.
Soon enough he was out again on another tour to New Guinea but he never forgot his pen friend in Hobart. Their correspondence continued until he was finally discharged due to ill health and he returned to Hobart.
Though it can be said that they were brought together by war, I prefer to think that they were brought together by chocolate. It has been a guiding force in my life ever since.