WWI Time Capsule Finally Opened

The Battle of Somme was one of the most tragic events of WWI, leaving behind many dead soldiers on all sides. Private Edward Ambrose was one of those fallen on the side of the British, and his suitcase became something of a time capsule when his family found the memories of him too much to bear. Now, during the WWI centenary, the time capsule is being opened.

None of Private Ambrose’s immediate family ever had the will to open the suitcase themselves. After Margaret Ambrose, his sister, inherited the case, she eventually left it to her children. After much time had passed, her son John opened the so-called capsule in response to a WWI exhibit’s need for memorabilia.

In some ways, it is a shame that the suitcase became a time capsule in the first place. Had Ambrose’s mother ever opened it, she may have been honored by some of what she saw; the case included letters home, as well as two posthumous war medals. However, it also contained bits of shrapnel from a German shell, the very reasons that her son was never to make it home from WWI. Other bits and pieces that may have increased her despair were a locket containing pictures of Ambrose and his loved one Gladys, as well as a Parisian guide book from a vacation on which Ambrose never embarked.

The letters written both to and from Ambrose in his correspondence with his family during WWI were truly touching, and the Herts at War centenary exhibit to which his nephew has given the time capsule will certainly benefit from having them in their collection. Ambrose’s father wrote to him of his family’s prayers for safety, asking that Ambrose pray for himself as well. Toward the end of the letter, his father asked that Ambrose write home often. Ambrose’s surviving nephew is touched by the contents of the suitcase as a whole, but finds the letters particularly emotive, the Mail Online reports.

Many soldiers went to war and died during WWI, but Ambrose is unique in having the bulk of the possessions he brought with him locked up in one place where they were preserved for one hundred years. The opening of the time capsule is a landmark moment in his family’s history, and his belongings can now be cherished by everyone who gazes upon them in the WWI exhibit to which the time capsule has been sent. It is amazing to think that, were it not for the centenary, his letters might never have been read and his medals never honored.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE