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First World War letter headed to Vimy

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 04/5/2019 8:45 AM

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Amanda Kehler of Prairie Pickers Cafe displays the First World War correspondence she discovered in a stack of old newspapers purchased at auction.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Amanda Kehler of Prairie Pickers Cafe displays the First World War correspondence she discovered in a stack of old newspapers purchased at auction.

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A Steinbach antique hunter who stumbled upon a rare First World War letter will hand-deliver it to a memorial ceremony in France next Tuesday.

"I feel so honoured. It leaves me almost speechless," said Amanda Kehler.

The Prairie Pickers Cafe owner discovered the letter on Feb. 12 while sifting through a stack of old newspapers purchased at auction for $1.

Sent from Liverpool, England on May 3, 1917, the letter’s author, Earl Sorel, informs a Selkirk woman that her late brother, Gordon Rochford, saved Sorel’s life at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

Sorel survived the war and returned to Manitoba, dying in 1969.

Kehler contacted descendants of the two men, who agreed the letter should be sent to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, where preparations are underway to mark Vimy Ridge Day on Apr. 9.

Last month, a French organization called Les Amis du Vimy offered to pay Kehler’s airfare to France so she could present the letter in person. Rochford’s great-niece, who resides in Toronto, will also attend.

"I was blown away," Kehler said. "It feels very surreal."

She and her husband, Calvin, depart today with the letter tucked safely inside their carry-on luggage.

They will attend the commemorative service and receive a private historical tour arranged by the organization.

"I don’t think it could have been written any better," Kehler said.

She noted the ceremony’s date holds special significance. Rochford was killed in action on Apr. 9, 1917, the day the Battle of Vimy Ridge began.

Sorel’s letter will be displayed in France for a year before finding a permanent home at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.

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