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We opened a treasure trove of memories - and found a new family 12,000 miles away! REUNION: Discovery of 100-year-old letters in a trunk leads to amazing meeting.

Byline: By Emma Cullwick

IT was a chance discovery in a gloomy attic in Redditch - but a series of letters telling the amazing story of Fred Benson's family sparked an amazing reunion 100 years on.

The 92-year-old travelled was so enchanted by the story, he travelled from his home in Melbourne, Australia, all the way to the Midlands to meet the family he never knew he had.

His journey was sparked by the discovery of a treasure chest of letters from the 1880s detailing his grandmother's involvement with a British Prime Minister and his own father's death in the First World War.

Fred was tracked down by distant relative, Michael Reeves, aged 48, of Berkswell Close, Church Hill North, Redditch, whose aunt found a trunk in her attic which had belonged to her great-grandmother, Alexandrine Benson.

"It contained the most fascinating story we could ever have imagined existed in our family," said Michael.

Fred is Alexandrine's grandson. His father - Alexandrine's son Charles - emigrated to Australia in 1910 and was killed at Gallipoli during the First World War.

The family's story was told in letters between Charles and his mother and Alexandrine and Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, who whisked her to London from Paris as a 17-year-old orphan to be governess to his children.

Alexandrine married and had two children, Charles and Arnold, but moved to Wales to live with her mother-in-law when she was widowed. She ended up in Birmingham after the women fell out.

Charles fought in the Boer War but was court-martialled for theft and sent back to Birmingham. He emigrated to Australia in 1910 and was joined by wife Flori before Fred was born.

Michael said: "We were desperate to reunite the letters with close relatives of Charles and I couldn't believe our luck when we managed to find Fred so quickly." Now Fred has been to Redditch and made a whistle-stop tour in the footsteps of his ancestors. "Fred and I really hit it off," said Michael. "It's like we've known each other for years.

"I'm so pleased he has the letters, they're a priceless piece of history."

Michael is now trying to trace Charles' brother, Arnold Benson, who lived in Bearwood and had two children, Jack and Charles Junior. Call 01527 69534.

Do you have an amazing reunion tale?

Phone 0121 234 5999 until 4.30pm, email log onto our website www.birminghammail. net/news/yoursay or write to us at Birmingham Mail, PO Box 78, Weaman Street, Birmingham B4 6AY.


FAMILY REUNION... Australian Fred Benson, centre, who travelled to Britain after hearing the amazing story discovered by Michael Reeves, left, and his aunt Josie Benson. On the right is a picture of Fred's father Charles. Picture: Jeremy Pardoe' FACES FROM THE PAST... Alexandrine Benson and her son Charles, Fred's father, who died in the First World War after emigrating to Australia.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Aug 16, 2006
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