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image icon Letter of condolence from John Curtin to Mr Joyce, 1944

Letter of condolence from John Curtin to Mr Joyce, 1944
John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library


This is a typed copy of a letter of condolence from Prime Minister John Curtin to Mr Joyce on the death of Mr Joyce's son, 16 March 1944.

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Educational value

This resource is useful because it:

  • This asset is an example of a letter of condolence to a family who lost a son in battle - John Curtin (1885-1945, Prime Minister of Australia 1941-45) knew the Joyce family and had visited their Canberra home; in his letter, Curtin sends the 'loving sympathy' of himself and his wife and a comfort often proffered when a family member has died for his country: 'There is pride in the duty the dear dead completed to the last full measure of devotion'.
  • This asset illustrates the personal tragedies that war brings to families - four brothers in the Joyce family served in the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War and John Curtin's letter to Mr Joyce on the death of one of his sons carries the message of loss very poignantly; Curtin writes: 'War is a frightful calamity. Its general tragedy sweeps into the homes of so many and when its cost includes a loved son the general becomes so personal that it borders on intrusion to just proffer sentiments of grief for those who grieve'.
  • This asset suggests the personal toll that leading the nation in time of war, as well as responding to the needs of individual Australians in their grief, took on John Curtin - Mr Joyce's daughter, Gladys, worked as Curtin's secretary from 1941 until 1945, and Curtin clearly felt the inadequacy of anything he could do to lessen the family's sorrow when he wrote: 'If I could I would help'; as Prime Minister, he felt a personal burden and responsibility for the sufferings of his people, and this probably contributed to the health problems he experienced in the lead-up to his death in office in July 1945.
  • This asset reveals the important place that family held in Curtin's life - he writes that it is 'unbreakable affection which makes a family the earthly locale of what we mean by heaven'; Curtin had a close and loving relationship with his wife Elsie and felt keenly the periods of separation from his family that war and the duties of the prime ministership necessitated; Elsie Curtin spent some time in Canberra but maintained their family home in Cottesloe, Western Australia, where their daughter also lived, while their son was away serving in the air force.