Annette Brotherson looks at the war letter from Grafton fighter pilot Jack Yarra to his mother.
Annette Brotherson looks at the war letter from Grafton fighter pilot Jack Yarra to his mother.

Letter from beyond grave strikes a chord

WORLD War II fighter pilots were made to write and regularly update letters and keep it in their pocket in case they were killed, but it’s the kind of missive no mother would want to receive.

The Grafton-born author of the letter, John ‘Jack’ Yarra, was killed aged 21 while fighting in Europe in 1942.

When Annette Brotherson from Annette’s Flower World was shown the letter by the Grafton RSL sub-branch, she knew it would be perfect for her planned Anzac Day window display.

But what started out as an impressive display for Anzac Day has remained in place at the Grafton florist due to popular demand and The Daily Examiner has had repeated calls about the touching tribute.

“Jack’s mother died and the letter was handed in to the sub-branch not that long ago,” Mrs Brotherson said. “I find it amazing that the letter made it back to Grafton and also that someone could hold onto it for that long and I’m so glad they did.”

The reaction to it, she said, had been very powerful.

“So many people have been touched by it, Billy Dougherty was so emotional – he remembers swimming with Jack in the river as a little boy,”" she said.

Mrs Brotherson, whose father survived WWII and whose grandfather was killed in WWI, said she took her Anzac Day display very seriously.

Last year, the endearing florist also displayed war letters – correspondence between two friends.

“They didn’t even talk about the war which was remarkable,” she said.


Flight Leiutenant J.W. Yarra's letter to his mother:


My Dear Mother,

By the time you receive this letter you will have offically been informed of my death.

This is just to let you know that I am quite satisfied with my life and the way it has ended.

I entered this war with the knowledge that I had a rather small chance of coming out of it alive. I was under no false impressions - I knew I had to kill - and perhaps be killed. Since I commenced flying I have spent probably the happiest time of my life. I loved flying more than most things, and, if I had come through the war alive, I should probably have killed myself in civil flying. I am not just being fatalistic - I honestly think I would rather have ten years of action and thrills than fifty years of security in some stuffy office.

Since I’ve been in the Service I have met more real friends than I could ever hope to meet in a lifetime of peace. Not just self-style friends who talk plati- tudes to one’s face, and, when it is conducive to their own well-being are quite prepared to disown your friendship; but men who daily risk their lives to save yours.

There is nothing like the element of danger to seal a friendship.

I have seen a lot of men killed and have often wondered how I managed to escape alive from some shows, but I know when the time comes I am quite prepared to face it.

Do not grieve too much, Mother. My life was not wasted. To date I have destroyed 11 enemy aircraft, which squares the account to the nation for my training. I am not sorry it happened this way. If I could live my life over again I would certainly have made a lot of changes, but I should still have flown in the war, and tried to accomplish what I have. What better way to die than fighting odds in the service of one’s country.

Above all, Mother dear, I have proved to my satisfaction that I was, at least, a man.

God Bless


Flight Leiutenant J.W. Yarra Distinguished Flying Medal. Killed in action 10.12.42, Flushing, Holland. John ‘Jack’‘Slim’ Yarra was one of 16 ex-pupils of Grafton High School who lost their lives while serving in the RAAF in WWII.

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