Poignant wartime letters written by a tragic soldier to a girl back home have been returned to his family nearly 80 years after his death.

Over 40 letters by Lieutenant Kenneth Pritchett were unearthed from a garage at a house in Shropshire last year.

The Lieutenant was killed in action in Italy in December 1943 at the age of 21.

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After successfully tracking down his niece Amanda Pritchett, journalist Toby Neal from Telford has now travelled all the way to her Oxford home to deliver the letters back to members of the family.

The young officer’s letters had been written over three years to Mr Neal’s mother, vicar’s daughter Elizabeth Caiger.

Oxford Mail:

Their return was a particular boon for Amanda’s nephew, Austin Pritchett, who has taken a special interest in his story and will be using the letters to piece together a fuller picture of his short life.

Mr Pritchett said: “I studied history at university and always had this interest.

“I am 22 and he was 21.

“His life ended there.

“If nobody remembers, that person ceases to be in anybody’s memory.

“We have that duty to remember.”

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Lt Pritchett, the son of a doctor in Tunbridge Wells, was one of six siblings the last of whom, Desmond, died two years ago.

Desmond’s 80-year-old widow Carol recalled that when she came into the family in 1961 and visited his mother and sisters at their home in Bournemouth, where they were then living, there was a large picture of Kenneth in the hallway.

Oxford Mail:

She said: “As time went on I learned that he had died in the war.

“I didn’t know that he had had a girlfriend.”

She had travelled up from Bournemouth for the ‘reunion’ with the letters in Oxford this month.

The collection includes one final and tragic letter from Lt Pritchett’s commanding officer, telling his family how he was killed in an artillery barrage while he rested a short distance behind the front line near the Sangro river.

In his last letter written just a few days before his death, Kenneth, who served in tanks, told Elizabeth he was dead scared all the time but was driven on by something that he supposed was courage.

Oxford Mail:

Mr Neal, who writes for the Shropshire Star newspaper, said: “I knew something about Kenneth as there are pictures of him in a wartime family album.

“When I asked my late mother – she died in 1984 – about him, she told me that he had been keen on her.

“The letters had been in my parents’ loft and after their deaths went into my garage with lots of other stuff.

“I have been having a bit of a sort out and realised that when I die they would inevitably be thrown away as they mean nothing to my wife or son.

“I am delighted that I have been able to give them back to the Pritchetts, and that they are safely home with the family, giving them a new insight into their family history.”