A woman whose grandfather’s romantic love letters are exhibited in a war museum has been inspired to retrace his steps back to the trenches.
Karen Joyce is gearing up for the 2014 Brussels Cycle Challenge in aid of The Argus Appeal, which passes through Dunkirk, Ypres, Bruges and Ghent, to mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War.
Her grandfather Horace Brice Joyce was in 41st Division Royal Engineers and recruited as a carpenter and joiner and later promoted to corporal.
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He returned home alive but was pensioned out with rheumatism from digging and shuttering the trenches and died aged 42.
Mr Joyce wrote poignant letters to his wife Lillian Ethel from Belgium describing his sadness at being apart from her.
In one he writes: “My thoughts are always very far away from here… I have to pull myself together and say buck up young man the day will come God willing when you will have her once again to yourself and then all will be well.”
In another he wrote: “Try to keep cheerful and pray and hope for the best and may the war soon cease so that once more we may enjoy our loving lives together again.”
Granddaughter Karen, 58, of Newhaven, said she wanted to travel to Belgium to find out more.
She said: “I love the sentiment that they had a very deep love for one another. He was a working class man but his writing was very romantic and he wasn’t afraid to show his feelings.
“It’s nice that a man in those days was able to express himself so well.
"He doesn’t say it but it sounds like he doesn’t think he’s coming back. They’re quite painful to read. I felt like I was intruding at first.”
Karen unearthed the letters after her father died in 1997 and gave them to the Royal Engineers museum in Chatham for safekeeping.
Female staff at the museum told Karen her grandfather’s letters were their favourites because of the deep romance.
Karen will join 49 riders on the 2014 Brussels Cycle Challenge, when she hopes to establish where her grandfather wrote the letters.
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/ Karen-Joyce4.
For more information about fundraising cycling challenges for The Argus Appeal visit www.theargus.co.uk/argusappeal/cyclechallenges.