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The Suitcase


The suitcase first came to light when I helped my father, brothers and sister clear the house of my Great Aunt Anne's many possessions after she died in 1990. The various cupboards and boxes we uncovered included numerous unopened Christmas and birthday gifts and no end of embroidered table cloths and napkins, but the case went largely unnoticed by me and was stored by my father until his death in 1992. Subsequently it was stored in my brother's attic until space was needed and the ensuing clear out brought it back into the daylight after some thirty years.

  E.E.Bardner The lost Suitcase

E.E Bardner suitcase photographed at Montrose Air Station
Heritage Centre in typical bedroom − March 2022

The case is full of photographs and documents relating to various family members and after a brief review of the contents, the case was pushed into a corner to be gone through in detail at a later date. It lay for many weeks gathering dust until I noticed that the name faintly stencilled on the top did not appear to be a known family member.

So a search for answers began, a search I initially thought would take me a few hours of online digging but which eventually would take me many weeks and span more than one hundred years, two world wars and two families who shared experiences of sacrifice and heroism.

The case is a small one; measuring just eighteen inches in length by eleven inches wide with a depth of only five inches. A child could carry it and probably did but as it stands, it might have contained papers at one point or perhaps enough clothes for a short weekend away. Brown in colour, the corners are reinforced with what at first appears to be metal but which is in fact some form of compressed cardboard fitted as brackets, and the edges of the case are carefully stitched.

Whilst the shaped leather handle has disappeared completely and one of the thin metal hinges on the rear rusted through many years ago, it is still possible to make out the manufacturer´s stamp on both sides of the case boldly stating "GLADIATOR", surrounded by the words "Real Vulcanized Fibre − Best British Made". There are locks on the front which have a small twist element to be used before the key was inserted to activate the locking mechanism, although the key is long gone. The bottom of the case is scratched and scraped but shows little sign of deterioration. The whole thing is in good condition, they don't make them like this any more.

© Frank T Connelly March 2022