HARRY Holt knew all about death. In the years before the First World War he was the village undertaker at Crowle, near Worcester and made coffins in a shed at the bottom of the garden at his home Thatched Cottage in Church Road.

But come the war, Harry, who was actually christened Henry, joined the Worcestershire Regiment and was to see a lot more men die. Fortunately he survived the conflict, returned to Crowle and his funerals and was verger at the parish church for more than 30 years.

Harry eventually died in 1975 at the age of 77, but left behind a remarkable collection of letters and documents relating to his wartime experience, much of which was spent as a prisoner of war.

The collection, which includes an engraved tin cigarette case, has now come into the ownership of Harry's granddaughter Sue Carger, recently returned to Worcester after living for 28 years in Australia. "Grandfather's collection has always been kept safe by the family in a box," said Sue, "but to read through it all was fascinating." The items comprise seven letters sent home by Harry to his family, plus several photographs, army documents and even his discharge papers from the Army on June 1, 1918, when he was considered "no longer fit for war service".

In fact Harry, who enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, the Worcestershire Regiment, on January 19, 1916, had been captured in Poland in May 1917 and was incarcerated in a German PoW camp until April 25, 1918, when he was released. He was transferred to The King George Hospital in London, where he received treatment for wounds to his left arm, which had been damaged below the elbow.

Harry's Army discharge papers describe him as "a good,steady, intelligent man", who was five feet 11 inches tall with brown eyes and fair hair.

"The cigarette case in the collection is a complete mystery," Sue added. "It is engraved, but we cannot make out the language, let alone what it says. We always understood the case was given to grandad when he was in prison camp, because there is a date on it from 1914 and he wasn't captured until three years later. So it must have been made for or by someone and come into his possession later. Maybe if anyone recognises the language and what it says they can help us solve the mystery."