A SCHOOL has helped a man thousands of miles away discover his family roots.

A workman doing repairs found a letter dating back to 1939 underneath floorboards at Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School in Lancing.

The four-page letter was addressed simply to “Jim”, who was a boarder at the school during the Second World War.

It was sent by his mother and described her first experiences of the war.

Though there was no surname for Jim, intrigued staff at the school wanted to find out more.

And they succeeded – by tracking down Jim’s son Craig Macbride some 10,500 miles away in Melbourne.

They struck gold after contacting Sussex historian Margaret Sear, of the Lancing History Group, to see if she could find out more about the yellowing pages.

Ms Sear was able to use the street address on the letter to determine that Jim was Donald James Macbride, born in Richmond, London, in 1926, the son of Colin and Ivy Macbride.

She also ascertained that the entire family, including Jim’s older brother David – also an ex-Sompting Abbotts pupil – emigrated Down Under in 1948.

Another historian found that Jim died in 2003 aged 76 in Tasmania, but discovered his son Craig was living in Melbourne.

Craig, 53, was delighted by the school’s efforts to contact him and show him the letter.

He said: “It was a wonderful surprise to learn of the letter’s existence.

“It was a bit of dogged detective work by the school to find me.”

Craig said the colourful letter from his grandmother to his father had given him “a fascinating glimpse into his family’s past life in the UK”.

Stuart Douch, headmaster of Sompting Abbotts, said: “We’re so happy that the story of the mysterious letter has an ending.

“It has really captured the children’s imagination and stimulated their interest in this important period of British history.

“This letter to a former boarder is an illuminating insight for today’s pupils into the Second World War, which they all study as part of the history curriculum in Year 6.

“The letter will be a wonderful teaching resource, made all the more relevant to them as Jim attended Sompting Abbotts too.”