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98 year-old letter finally delivered

On the wall of the War Memorial in Canberra, two names are placed together, more for their alphabetic attributes, but descendants of both men know the true link between the soldiers.

The memorial wall at Canberra's War Memorial, showing both Frederick Hastings Richardson and George Henry Richards together. Courtesy Jill Barnett.

Frederick Hastings Richardson and George Henry Richards served together in the 12th Light Horse Brigade during the Great War. They were to become part of the Battle of Beersheba - where a mounted infantry charge by the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiments, armed only with their bayonets, their only weapon for mounted attack as their rifles were slung on their backs, charged into the small Palestinian town against the Turkish defences.

Frederick would survive but George was killed instantly in a hail of machine gun fire to the stomach. He was buried not far from where he fell. The boys were from towns not far from each other on the Northern NSW coast, so Frederick from Casino, wrote to George's mother who lived in Ballina.

Frederick's letter to George's mum, that didn't get delivered until 98 years later. Courtesy Jill Barnett.

"I take the liberty of writing these few lines to you," he wrote. "You have my deepest sympathy in the loss of a son...a man who commanded the respect of everyone he came in contact."

The letter, however, never made it to George's mother. For want of stamps, envelopes or time to post it, the letter remained in Frederick's possession until he died a year later from disease and his belongings were sent home.

The letter writer, Frederick Hastings Richardson. Courtesy Jill Barnett.

In 2015, when I was a journalist with the Northern Star newspaper on the Northern Rivers, Jill Barnett of Casino was sent Frederick's letter by a cousin. She realised it had never made its destination so approached me for help. Thus began some indepth researching and a descendant of George Richards was tracked down in nearby Ballina.

Back in 2015 Peter Farrell was a recently retired school bus driver and George's great-nephew. He was only too delighted to accept the letter from Ms Barnett on behalf of his family.

The letter, after 98 years had finally been delivered.

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