The final days of Alphonse

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THE life and times of Alphone Vaesen had not been easy in England.

Ever since his arrival in Seaton Snook, in Hartlepool, in 1915, he pined for his hometown of Hamont, in Belgium, as we have reported over the last fortnight.

Here, in the final part of our story, we tell of Alphonse’s last letters home and the final correspondence to his family from the doctor who told of his sad passing.

Alphonse was the great uncle of Jan Vaesen who hopes some ancestors of Alphonse – also known as Fons – may still be living in the Hartlepool area.

Here, in one of his last letters, Fons described how he was terrified of having to fight in the First World War.

He said: “I have been thinking for a while now that I will never see Hamont again. I think we are stuck with it and will have to go through it. For me, it’s a game that drives me crazy to think about it because now it upsets me and doesn’t let go.”

As if resigned to his fate, Fons added: “Once the time comes, then it will be what it is.”

Yet it was not the dreadful horrors of war which cost Fons his life. In March 1919, his family received one final letter about their son who had been struck down with Spanish flu during a ship’s passage to the Continent.

It was from a Mr M Wendelen, the Army chaplain of the war hospital at Adinkerke, and was dated March 18, 1919 – three months after his death.

Mr Wendelen wrote: “He died quietly, didn’t suffer much, and was aware until the last moment. With the finest feelings of Christianity he already received the Last Sacrements. How sad it may be, to die so young, if it still was the adorable will of God, no one could have wished for a cleaner death.”

Jan would love to know more about his ancestor. Anyone who can help his search should contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377, or email