Saw a bird of paradise today


Contrary to the title and the picture above, this is not going to be a piece on ornithology.

“Saw a bird of paradise today.”were some of the words that,Stanley McTacket wrote as he  prepared to go into battle on the Kokoda Track on August 19, 1942, Stanley McTackett took a moment to write a letter to his mother.

“Mum, we all write these letters and leave them at the base to be posted in case we are killed.When you receive this letter, please don’t grieve too much as we will know that I died trying to help save Australia.I am sorry I will not be able to help you in your old age and repay you for all the trouble I was”

Few of the young men, if any, were expected to survive the enemy’s onslaught.But Mr McTackett made it through one of the toughest battles of World War II, and his letter was never sent.


Not everyone was as fortunate as Mr McTackett, he passed away in 2011 aged 92.But his words are still poignant and reflect the mindset and emotions of those brave men who were willing to sacrifice their lives.

Below are some farewell messages and death notices of those who were less fortunate then Mr McTackett.The letters are from both sides of the divide.

Captain Kuno Last Letter to his Children


Dear Masanori and Kiyoko,

Even though you cannot see me, I will always be watching you. Obey your mother, and do not trouble her. When you grow up, follow a path you like and grow to be fine Japanese persons. Do not envy the father of others, since I will become a spirit and closely watch over you two. Both of you, study hard and help out your mother with work. I cannot be your horse to ride, but you two be good friends. I am an energetic person who flew a large bomber and finished off all the enemy. Please be persons who rise above me and so avenge my death.
From Father

This letter was written by a Lt. who was with the 34th Bomb Squadron, 17th Group


My Dearest One,

Nothing much new and also it is quite late so as usual a short shorty to say hello and to let you know how much I love you.
At present I am listening to Bob Hope guess I forgot to tell you that we now have a radio. It is an Italian job, we bought it from Bohlan. He is going home so we took it off his hands. Spent a very busy day. Can’t remember doing a thing but I guess I did manage to stay on my feet.
Say I believe that a tan is developing, not sure as yet but the red seems to be changing color. At present I am quite a two tone job, imagine I will remain that way too because I don’t dare chance getting my rear sunburned (spend too much time on that thing) Hope you don’t get frightened when you see this two toned job advancing toward you in your boudoirs. Certainly hope that time isn’t far off.
Well sweetheart I must say goodnight for now and a million kisses. Write often sweet I love so much to get your letters and I haven’t had any for three days. I love you darling with all my heart, body and soul.

Always your husband,

HG Johns – War Department Letter of Death Notification – 17 July 1945


The Acton Family

The letter was sent from the Minister of War Transport to Mrs Evelyn Acton of Whitehaven, Cumbria. It told Evelyn one of her sons was ‘supposed drowned’. Another son, William Acton, was also lost on the same vessel.


Berkely Square House, W1
19th May 1943,

Dear Madam,

It is with the deepest regret that I have learned that your son, Mr George Acton, who was serving in the Merchant Navy as A.B. has been recorded as supposed drowned whilst on service with his ship.

By command of His Majesty the King the names of those members of the Merchant Navy who have given their lives in the service of their country are recorded in the Merchant Navy Roll of Honour. I am now adding Mr. Acton’s name to the Roll of Honour, and, as I do so, wish to express my admiration for the services he rendered and to convey to you and your family my profound sympathy in your sad bereavement.

Your son worthily upheld the noble traditions of the Merchant Navy and I may perhaps hope that the realisation of this fact may help to soften the heavy blow which has fallen upon you.

Believe me,
Yours sincerely,
Minister of War Transport

Mrs. Eveline Acton,
93, George Street,

Frank M. Elliott

June 5, 1944


. . . This is a beautiful summer evening, darling. I am sitting at the kitchen table (and not even noticing the noise of the refrigerator) from which place by merely lifting my head and looking out the window I can gaze upon a truly silvery, full moon. It’s beautiful, dear — really beautiful, and it has succeeded in making me very sentimental. I had begun to think that I was becoming immune to the moon’s enchantment — so often I have looked at it without you and to keep myself from going mad told myself “It’s pretty, yes — but, so what?”. . . That’s not the way it really is though, darling — the sight of that shining moon up there — the moon that shines on you, too — fills me with romance — ; and even though it’s just a dream now, it’s a promise of a glorious future with one I love more than life. The darned old moon keeps shining for us, darling — and even as it now increases that inescapable loneliness, it also increases my confidence in the future. I truly love you . . .


Frank was killed the day after on D-Day


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