LETTERS FROM THE GREAT WAR

 

Foreword

Letters from my Grandfather before his capture

Letters to my Grandfather before his capture

My Grandfather's account of his capture

My Grandfather's diary as a prisoner of war

Letters from my Grandfather after his capture

Letters to my Grandfather after his capture

The journey of the field ambulance

 

Return to Thorn Gent Home Page

Letters from my Grandfather after his Capture

¶20

The blue postcard, announcing his capture.

 

I am a prisoner of war in Germany

Captured 21.3.1918

 

¶21

Dülmen i. Westf., the 7th April, 1918 [arrived 13th May]

 

Dear FMD & H

Quite well and in comfortable quarters and being well treated. I'm allowed one post card a week and one letter a fortnight, full letter next week, all news as possible. Will you send a little money, enquire at Post Office, and some cigs if possible. Cheer up, all is well and I'll be exchanged in six months or before, I'm on staff medical duty at present. Write at once, I believe it takes a month to come. Very best love to all and God bless and protect you, Frank.

 

¶22

14th April, 1918 [arrived 3rd June]

 

Dear FMD & H

This is the first chance of writing, unless you got the blue postcard, which I don't know whether reached you or went to the War Office. I shall be allowed a letter every fortnight and a post card every week, so you will hear every week from me. You see by above where I am, but I will address to Mabel now and again and let her know how I go on. Well, dear ones, they got me on the 21st March and we came through some dangers through the mercy of God that day, we were marched across no man's land and right back and then left for duty at a German Field Hospital, about twelve RAMC lads and two Medical Officers. We were treated with respect and every consideration here and worked tremendously hard for five days and the food was plain and rough but plentiful, we got the same as the Germans themselves. After that we were sent with many more prisoners, Infantry etc. etc. a long march to a guarded building, fed, and slept, and next morning another long march to an open cage. Things had changed now, we were prisoners. At the hospital we had no armed guard and went about at will almost, we spent a bad time in the cage and then entrained for Germany and landed at this camp. I've kept a diary of everything and will continue to, so as to show you afterwards. We are in comfortable quarters here and at present under ten days quarantine, bathed, fumigated, vaccinated, inoculated etc. then we'll be put on different jobs. I with two others have been put on the medical staff of the Camp and have been going round dressing the last two days. We get our food augmented by parcels from Prisoner of War Funds, an emergency parcel we've already had, bully beef, cheese, dripping, tea, cocoa, milk, one parcel between two, it isn't much but a God send for all that. You won't be able to send me any boxes from home now, only through some Prisoners fund. I hope you'll make enquiries and see what can be done; letters I don't think there's any ban on, so you know what to do, all. Well, this is my 25th day and in six months I will be safely home again, this is quite true, there are several RAMCs here about to be exchanged after five months and others have gone before them they knew, so buck up and don't worry. I'm with four more chaps out of our Ambulance and our work will keep our minds occupied to a great extent. If you can send a little money and some cigs do, but food is the most urgent, it's a bit thin at first, but when settled down alright. Very best love to all and God bless and protect you. Your loving Frank.

 

¶23

Postmark: Dülmen, 13.5.1918

 

Pte A. E. Ormerod

2/3rd E. Lancs Field Ambulance

RAMC

BEF

France

 

14th April, 1918

 

Dear Albert

A line to tell you the lads and myself are safe and sound. Dibb, Chapple, McNulty, Taffy Thomas, Moir and some 2nd F.A. are here, I don't know where Sergeant Miller and others are. Well, Albert old pal, we've been through a lot, but are settled now and I'm on the medical staff of the Camp. Let me know if you're alright and who's copped, we're quite in the dark, how did Parkie go on? Being treated better than I thought. Best luck Frank.

See ¶72. This postcard was forwarded to his father reaching him in August.

 

¶24

Postmark: Limburg, 25.5.1918

 

5th May, 1918

 

Dear FMD & H

Nothing reached me yet. No chance to write, no paper or cards through all travelling and changing. I am now on a farm in Rhineland, dropped on my feet again you see, beautiful country. They are the hardest working and most economical people on this earth. I work on the farm, cows horses and fields [c. six lines obliterated by German censor][last line in pencil illegible]

¶25

14th June, 1918

 

Dear FMD & H

A letter at last, but little time to write it. Well, more changes, I'm now at a factory, coal and briquettes, only came to-day but it looks like mining, but it will be easier than the farm. Seven weeks on a farm has altered me for the better with good food, but the work! 6 in the morning to 10 at night, at it like steam all the time was killing until you got used to it, you may guess. I don't know the reason of the change, the food will be different, but I believe it's a step towards exchange as RAMCs go from here. It isn't because I didn't work, I worked like a black on the farm. A strange experience it has been, isolated from week's end to week's end, not able to understand anything and never hearing a word of English, also knowing nothing about farming, it was extremely difficult to get on at all, but gradually I picked up the lingo and gained strength for the work, though misunderstandings were always occurring and I didn't get on well. I had just the same food as the farmer, wife, boy, family at same table, nice bed etc. The window was barbed wired and I had to report to the sentry every Sunday, which was the only time I saw Alf McNulty, my only pal (128, Sewerby St) I heard that strange language English. On Sunday I could go a walk in the woods and country which were beautiful. That may be the reason I'm here as they were afraid of us escaping with so much liberty and so near to Holland but I shouldn't have risked that. I was well off at the farm and working hard knowing that as soon as proof came through that I was in the medical Corps (Sannatator) the deutsch government would keep their pledge and see I was exchanged. I fully expected being at the farm for the season as my work was good and always getting better as I learnt but I expect it's all for the best. It's with sorrow I leave the farmer, he was a fair good man to work for, though some of them used to make it miserable for me at times. At present I'm among friends, twenty-odd English chaps here getting pals and good natured as ever, of course, I sadly missed company at the farm. What a treat it will be to get a letter from you, it will be a tonic to see the dear old writing again; three months is nearly up now, I shall be hearing any time and I'm living for it, I pray every night all is well and that I shall see you all as usual again before so long and I believe it will be answered. I'd felt the change coming for the past fortnight. What notice did you get? That I was missing, or missing believed prisoner or what? I got it through as soon as possible. I got a German officer at the Hospital where we worked at first to promise to send a post card I gave him, did you get it? The post is frightfully slow. I've written you every week except last when I could get neither post card nor letter, the lads here have been kind enough to give me this, they cannot do too much. I tell you, it's good to be among comrades again, food and cigs they've given us from their scanty store. The French are also the best of friends, made us coffee and gave us a tin of sardines between the two of us. Well to-morrow we start work here for better or worse, though it cannot be harder and it's only a twelve hour day which should be a lazy life for me now. So until next writing time I must close as I've written a great deal and [……]

Good night and God bless and protect you all. Your loving Frank.

Excuse hurry, lucky to get a letter card, but better next time.

¶26

Postmark: Limburg, 10.7.1918

 

23rd June, 1918 [received 13th August]

 

Dear FMD & H

Just a post card this week but I can tell you this has been a change for the better [three lines obliterated by German censor] They have been real comrades, given [Alf?] and I two shirts and a razor and many articles of food etc. and it makes things far happier than the farm to be with them. I'm only anxious about you and once I start hearing can bear it all until the good time comes. We're in a hut with the other English and seventeen French all tres bon, all the rest of the concern is done by Russians, the whole country is full of them. Well, over three months gone and quickly too with so many adventures, another three months and old 69 I can feel it coming. Till then God bless you and protect you, Frank

'69' is home: 69, Lloyd Street South.

 

¶27

30th June, 1918 [arrived September 26th]

 

My Dear FMD & H

I'm allowed one letter a fortnight again now, and the boys French and English have given us some post cards and letters. It's even harder to know how to write here than it was in France you may guess and I thought that bad enough. I wonder whether you've received all my letters etc.

I haven't heard from you yet, nor received any parcels from the Prisoners of War Help Committee, though some of the chaps in another compound who were captured in March have started getting parcels, but it's from you I'm so anxious to hear.

Well, I'll just tell you briefly how I'm faring here and risk it getting through. [ten lines obliterated by German censor]

We have two hours for breakfast one hour for dinner in which we have to come to the hut and go back, about one mile each way and half an hour from 3.30 till 4 and finish at 6 at night. We get a big bowl of soup at 12 and the same at 6 when we finish and about 8 oz of bread with a little jam or sausage at 8 PM for the next day's issue. We aren't allowed out of the little compound in which our hut is situated, of course, except to go to work and we are constantly under guard, but all the guards are decent fellows and never bother us. We manage to keep cheerful in spite of the restrictions and conditions, though of course it will be better when your letters and parcels and the Help Committee's start coming, the Frenchies and our chaps spend lots of time cooking and warming stuff from their parcels, toasting their army biscuits etc. and it's rather hard to have none of your own, though they've been very good and we've had little bits of extras from them at times. And we're all good company, in the same boat as it were, all I've to do is to copy Mr Micawber and wait for something to turn up and the sooner the better, all we hear in the way of exchange is hopeful, there are no RAMC men here but us two, they've all left after a month or two, so I believe that when proof comes through from our War Office that we are non-combatant (and we know how long it takes from our experience) that I'll be home again. I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to that first letter. I'm looking out every time any post comes now and it gets a bit disappointing. Some of the men get so many cigs a month through some firm like Martins, you used to send them to me in France, I wish you could do the same, the comfort of a smoke you get to want more and more. If you haven't sent the money I asked for at Dülmen, don't now, because it's practically of little use, as we can't spend it to any advantage.

Well, I must close until next Sunday's post card and by then I expect to have heard something from you or had some post at any rate, so God bless and protect you all.

Best love from your loving Frank.

 

¶28

Postmark: Limburg, 1.8.1918

 

[Sunday] 21st July, 1918 [arrived 24th September]

 

Dear FMD & H

Was too late with my letter last week, but there was nothing new. I've had the 10/- you sent [two months' journey] dated Princess Road 14th May and I was very thankful to know you'd heard from me by then. Nothing else has arrived since, but it's a start and I was very grateful. More next week.

God bless and protect you all, Frank.

 

¶29

Postmark: Limburg, 7.8.1918

 

[Sunday] 28th July, 1918 [arrived 24th September]

 

Dear FMD & H

I received your letters on Friday night, the first ones. To think you never heard from the War Office. It has made a world of difference to me since I got your letter. I'd been afraid of bad news and was very anxious. Goodness knows where the parcels are the RAMC have sent, not one has come yet, though most other regiments have got them through to their men who were captured same time: G.W. Parkinson was a good pal in France, I thought he'd been captured. Awfully sorry about Ivy. Keeping well and fit. Letter next Sunday. God bless you, Frank.

The reference to his cousin Ivy is in response to his father's letter telling him she had been diagnosed as suffering from incipient consumption (see ¶47).

 

¶30

30th July, 1918 [arrived 12th September]

 

Dear FMD & H

I told you in my post card that I'd got your letter and Harry's and I was very delighted to receive word at last. You should have had word from the War Office very soon to say I was missing. I expect you thought it was all up with me that's why I tried to get something through to you as soon as I could, one post card was sent on March 27th from Le Cateau as we went through that place, and the next from Dulmen, which is the one you got. You must have been to endless trouble and it's a wonder my parcels are so late, as they must have got to know through you very early that I was a prisoner, I can't understand it. But still, I suppose they're mixed up somewhere and on Sunday they sent some stuff from Limburg for those who hadn't got any parcels yet and I got some oatmeal, tea, sugar, bully beef and tinned maconachie and a tin of jam with a small packet of biscuits and I can tell you I've enjoyed life this last three days. I'll do my best to get you a pipe, but we can't get out at all and our money is in check form, all the same I'll manage it. Did I tell you, I had a fine new pair of boots ready for bringing home when I came on leave and I left them with Edward, and I expect he had to leave them when they evacuated, so that's off it's sad to say. Your second 10/- came on Sunday I got 12 marks for it [six lines obliterated by German censor] If anything happens as regards being repatriated I'll let you know at once, these moves happen very suddenly and our time is nearly up here I think. Yes, Pontefract was captured the same day as me but I never saw him. George Parkinson was a particular pal at the time in France. I thought he had been captured too. I shall drop him a post card. Oh yes, my wallet, cigarette case and photos are still intact though the worse for wear, I've stuck like glue though everything else has gone for bits of food. I can't say how glad I was to hear you were all well as ever, may God keep you so. I'm in good health and bucking up now and as well as ever except for dropping a little weight. I weigh about 8 st in my clothes but when my packets come I'll soon put it on again, all the English prisoners look fine and plump and healthy [looks like it]. I've had to rush this so please excuse it. Well, I must finish quickly and try and make more time next letter. Thank Harry for his letter and I am looking forward to Mabel and Dora's also, as Harry says they are writing.

So I'll close with best of love and God bless and protect you all, Frank.

'Maconochie' was tinned meat and vegetable stew for soldiers, a standard item of diet. His reference to his weight is, of course, ironical. Hunger was his greatest problem whilst a prisoner, even when on the farm.

 

¶31

Postmark: Limburg 15.8.1918

 

[Sunday] 4th August, 1918 [arrived 10th September]

 

Dear FMD & H

The second 10/- arrived safely and your letters of June 1st came to-day. It's great to be in touch again. I don't feel so lost. I'm still keeping well but no packets come for me, though nearly everyone else are getting theirs. I wish they'd let you send something it would have been here now. You don't need make the letters quite so short, the other came alright. The address is to Limburg, Fil. 1, not Dulmen now, but so long as they keep coming I can stand the brevity. What are R.[ose] H.[ewitt]'s sending Mabel? Nothing come! Letter next week. God bless and protect you all, Frank.

 

¶32

Postmark: Limburg 22.8.1918

 

[Sunday] 1[1]th August, 1918 [arrived about 13th September]

 

Dear FMD & H

Delighted to get your letter from Dad and M[abel] to-day. I'm glad to hear about R.[ose] H.[ewitt] & Co. it may mean more stuff but up to now nothing has arrived from either lot. Your letters are coming fine now, three from home and one from Dora. If you can send some Capstan cigs please do as they often get lost out of the other packets, you can do it through the Red Cross. Letter later in week. All OK. God bless you all, Frank.

 

¶33

Postmark: Limburg, 29.8.1918

 

[Sunday] 18th August, 1918 [arrived 17th October]

 

Dear FMD & H

I got two letters on the 15th, yours and one from W. J. Parkinson. I don't know him, you've got the wrong chap, Dad. My pal is George W. P. (17? Pinder Street). Well, time is wearing on, five months now. If I'm not moved before this post card reaches you, I shan't know what to think. Could you get to know from Edward if any of the other lads have been returned. Beautiful weather and keeping well. Partner got more parcels and sharing them with me. Mine nil. More in letter. God bless and protect you, Frank.

The letter from the wrong Parkinson is ¶51.

 

¶34

Postmark: Limburg, 10.9.1918

 

[Sunday] 1st September, 1918 [arrived 22nd November]

 

Dear FMD & H

Letter day again but nothing to reply to from you to-day, it's about a fortnight since I got your last letter and then you hadn't had anything beyond my first post card. That makes six letters I've had all told, three from home, two from Dora and one from that J. W. Parkinson (whom I don't know). There is nothing fresh [three lines obliterated by German censor] The weather is […] pleasant this time of the year here, nearly always raining and none too warm. I wish you could send me some papers, but it isn't allowed, but photos you can send, the other chaps get them. I'd just like to see a letter issue of the 'Weekly Despatch' etc., we hear all kinds of rumours of happenings on the Front, but get nothing really definite, we are told to expect the end of the war in two or three months, is that so? Well no news of exchange or any sign, we seem to be forgotten here. In our paper the 'Continental Times' there was a lot about an agreement of prisoners exchange, but the paragraphs suddenly ceased, did you hear anything of it. Well, my ill luck still clings to me, Alf McNulty is getting his parcels regularly now, and though I've been with him, next name and number to him, ever since capture not a single one has come for me yet in spite of the fact that you say they started sending May 14th, there's only an odd one or two left without now and of course I'm one. I spent two marks on a lottery with Alf McNulty and he got fifty marks prize with the next number to mine. He still has the nice job in the hospital which he luckily got through being sick just when they wanted one, so I may be excused for looking out for a bit coming my way one of these dreary days. My pal still shares half his parcels with me and that makes me more anxious for mine to come. Could you write to the Committee in Grosvenor Square, London and tell them and give them my right address, so as not to delay in Dülmen again if possible. The Northumberland chaps' packets see us through for splendid additions to our food and to-day we had a grand dinner for Sunday, having to work delayed it, that's all. I feel quite different since I started hearing from you and I don't mind things as long as that privilege is still allowed. I reckon patience is a thing I've learned. Well, God grant we may be together again very soon. I trust all are as well as ever, just as you were seventeen months ago, when I saw you last.

God bless and protect you all. Best love from Frank.

Don't forget those recipes Mabel and Dora and keep up the letters all and Harry not excepted.

Five packets came after 1st September, since then they have arrived regularly.

My grandfather always reckoned he was unlucky, whether it was raffles or anything else.

 

¶35

Postmark: Limburg, 19.9.1918

 

[Sunday] 8th September, 1918 [arrived Thursday, 10th October?]

 

My Dear FMD & H

Got both letters from Mabel and Dad. My parcels have started and I've had two fine one from the RAMC Fund London, both sent in July, I suppose all the earlier ones are held up somewhere. Will reply to your welcome letters next Sunday (letter day). Nothing fresh, we must be patient at both ends and trust that all be right soon. I am better off now than any other time since capture, so there's nothing to worry about. Write again soon. Good night and God bless and protect you all. Very best love, Frank.

 

¶36

Postmark: Limburg, 25.9.1918

 

15th September, 1918

 

My Dear Mabel

Just a line as PromisEd yOu'll Perhaps get my LettEr at home as well. I hope your cold is Better it will hAve had time During the time this takes. I had a few days off lAst week but am alright again now and feeling any amount better since my parcels stArted. Yes, it was lonely on the farm, it was awful but that Lot's fine nOw. Write again Soon and I'll answer more fully next Time. Good night and God bless you. Best of love from loving brother, Frank.

Here's one of the secret messages, but I found it hard to decipher.

¶37

Postmark: Limburg, 25.9.1918

 

Sunday, 15th September, 1918 [arrived 14th November]

 

Dear FMD & H

I've had Dad's letters dated 15th June and 3rd July and Mabel's dated 8th July, all came week before last. I didn't get one last week, but I'm looking forward for something next week, also from Dora and Harry. Well, I expect you'll be getting some of the post cards I wrote from the farm just now [four lines obliterated by German censor] we've bought some more stationary to-day. Though it's no easy thing here and a lot less freedom I thank goodness I was taken off the farm. Now my parcels have started, I'm not doing at all badly, it makes a great difference, it's a grand novelty at present and something to keep looking forward to. I've had three up to now, all sent in July, I expect May and June's are held up somewhere but will come soon. They are grand parcels, different every time, there are from eleven to thirteen articles in each: jam, butter or dripping, soap, bully beef, pork and beans, meat and vegetables, biscuits, salmon or sardines, camp pie or sausages (and onions), puddings, bacon, Quaker Oats or rice, tea, cocoa or coffee and sometimes milk and sugar besides condiments. We should get a box of bread biscuits every week, which when soaked in water and put on the stove, swell up and soften and are like bread, but we've only had an issue sent from Limburg, no boxes yet, but they all come eventually [one line obliterated by German censor] my parcels have been in fine condition. My pal has got his clothes too, mine will be coming any day, he got three pairs of socks, three shirts and undervests, three handkerchiefs, suit and overcoat, pants, cardigan, boots and braces. So you see we are looked after like spoiled children. It makes me feel sorry for the Russians, Rumanians, Servians etc., the French and Belgians and Italians do get something but we are the best off people in this land. I see you say the four months is up, Dad. Yes, the six is almost up now and no sign, but as long as we all keep safe and well, we ought not to grumble, just bear up with patience, I've not much time to worry and I'm glad of it [two lines obliterated by German censor] I'm sorry I never got those […] sent just before I was caught, as long ones aren't allowed now. So you got my first postcard from the farm and that was all they let through. Oh, well, it's nothing, it can all wait. I got your letter Mabel and am dropping you a card to-day, instead of this letter, you know. I don't know how I'll go on about R[ose] H[ewitt]'s parcels, only so many are allowed, perhaps the money is going to the RAMC Fund instead of the Lancashire POW Fund as the three parcels I've had have come from the RAMC, Grosvenor Square, London.

Well, it's a treat to hear all are well at home, that is a mercy I pray for every day. That's the next best thing to seeing you and I trust it won't be long before that happens. Anything you want to know and I can tell you of course I will do, so don't fail to ask in your next. All your letters have come intact so far, nothing crossed out. Photos are allowed and I long to see some, Dora and Harry must be grown up by now, it seems to me. Well, the longer away only makes the joy greater when the good time comes along. Write often, I must close now.

Good night and God bless and protect you all. With best love from Frank.

 

¶38

Postmark: 3.10.1918

 

22nd September, 1918 [arrived 22nd November]

 

My Dear FMD & H

Very delighted to get three letters yesterday, Mabel's and two from Dad. Besides I've had a parcel from RAMC and one of biscuits, a good week, eh? I'm in hospital at present, had a slight accident [two lines obliterated by German censor] I've had a nice week's rest [………] I'm right, it was only outward injury, very welcome, in fact, for a change. Your letters haven't broken any rules, for I've had them all good […] I'm looking forward for the 200 smokes you've sent, we're very short. Yes, I was disappointed about letters for long after that, it was a bad time but happy enough now, it is wonderful how well your letters come. Letter next Sunday. God bless and protect you all. Best love, Frank.

The details of the accident are in the diary (see page 16, June 13th, 1918). My grandfather suffered from this injury for the rest of his life: he was never able to straighten out his right arm.

 

¶39

Postmark: Limburg, 10.10.1918

 

30th September, 1918 [arrived 22nd November]

 

My Dear Father Mabel Dora and Harry

I received Dad's and Mabel's letters alright on Wednesday and also one from Edward same time. From what he says the old Ambulance did wonders, getting through an astonishing number of wounded British and German, there was no time to get the equipment away, so all that was lost. I learnt the fate of many pals, some got the Military Medal, some got captured like me, while some were caught in the barrage, so I'm not of the unluckiest. I thought Edward would have told you all about it himself, but I was surprised to hear he hadn't had his leave yet. And I've been blessing my luck at being captured just as I was about to go on leave and I shouldn't have got it after all. Yes Mabel, I know you can't send any parcels like the old ones in France, all you can send is one every quarter or three months, it was perhaps hardly worth it as you say, the only things I want really are razor, brushes, comb, muffler. But, smokes I want you to send as often as possible if you will every month and risk it. Well, Mabel I see you've been decorating the old home, how I should like to see it, it is approaching two years since I last saw it now. You'll have to play some soft touching music, while I recite the 'Wanderer's Return' (The Old Home&emdash;How things have changed etc.) when I come again. Can I swim, well, I could. I got across a lake when we were at Arques in France and did several marvellous feats in the sea at Braydunes, my strokes were breast and back, if I tried any others it depended how deep the water was, the distance I swam for I always sank to the bottom. But still, I was doing well and messed about miles out of my depth. You'll do it both you and Dora if you stick it, it took me a fearful time and it was delightful to feel oneself actually floating for the first time. Alec McCleod's touch is a grand piece of luck nowadays Mabel. I'd give something for it and his place. Well Dad, I knew of no rule about putting both addresses inside, but it perhaps is so, neither have I heard any of the other rules. The only wrong yet was your last letter which had been delayed a little but kindly sent through after. There was a note saying you must write clearer so I hope you will in future, as I can't afford to miss any letters. I hadn't noticed your letter being joggy as you say, what was worrying you at the time, don't worry about me, you have no need to fear, I'm with the best of fellows. I've not heard from Dora lately, or Harry, but I'm glad to hear all is well with them with all. I'll try and write more to them next time after I've heard.

Well, everything as usual here. I soon got out of hospital and only feel a little sore now, which will soon pass off. How are you faring, as well as when I left? And when will the war be over? That's another question. I had better close now, next Sunday I'll send another post card, so until then, good night and God bless you all, very best wishes, your loving Frank.

 

¶40

Postmark: Limburg, 17.10.1918

 

Sunday, 6th October, 1918 [arrived 21st November]

 

My Dear FMD & H

At last it has come. On Friday I had an interview with three representatives from Switzerland and they tell me in a week I shall start for Limburg, then to Switzerland and dear old home. I can hardly realise it, I've been seething with excitement ever since. Well, I've had two letters from Auntie Emmie and one from Dora (and also three more parcels) since I last wrote, so let them know the good news. How long will it take before I finally get home, I wonder, not long once started. Will write when I can on the way. So good night and God bless and protect you all. With my best love, Frank.

 

¶41

Postmark: Limburg, 25.10.1918

 

Sunday, 14th October, 1918 [arrived 4th December]

 

My Dear Father Mabel Dora and Harry

The last letter I had from you was one of June's, this was a bit late bit I've had most of them very regularly and I don't think a single one has been lost. I owe thanks to someone for I should have felt very lost without letters, they've made a great deal of difference. Well, I told you the good news in my post card last week, another day or two should see me off to Limburg and after getting everything settled journey to Switzerland and then home. That's what the men told me anyhow. They said in about a week I should be in Limburg and in a fortnight start for Switzerland, it's two days over the week since they came, so I'm expecting to be off any time. Everything is the same here, the weather is grand for October, although it has been rather cold in the early mornings. We're all in the best of health and living in the hope that peace may soon come to all the countries at war. If we happen to see the German Red Cross men who are coming in exchange for us there will be some congratulations. I had another letter from Auntie Emmie and one from Wilf Bradley. So Edward hasn't had leave yet. Well, the hope that perhaps he had taken that new pair of boots I had for you, Dad, is squashed, in fact I don't suppose he ever got away with them as everything was left, equipment, stores, packs etc. they were so busy with wounded at Bernes, but trifles like that don't matter at all, I shall get some more very probably. All are well at home by your latest letter and Auntie Emmie (whose letter came very quickly and which is by far the most recent) says the same. That's the best news I could wish for, may you all keep so. I have indeed a lot to be thankful for, I'm quite aware of it. I grumble about my luck but it is better to be lucky in the big things than in trifles. Well, I will close for the present. Should I be able to write on the way you may be sure I will as often as possible. So good night and God bless and protect you. Best of love to all, Frank.

Love to Auntie Emmie, Uncle Albert and Ivy and tell them I was very pleased to get the letter.

 

¶42

Postmark: Limburg, 31.10.1918

 

20th October, 1918

 

My Dear FMD & H

I had no letters from you last week and its the first time I've missed for some time. I'm still in the same place, I expect things have been delayed. This is the hardest time, waiting day by day for the hoped for order to go to Limburg. But I don't give up hope, something will happen before long and I shall see dear old England again and be with you all by Christmas. Very wet lately here. Well, better news next Sunday. God bless and protect you all. Best love, Frank.

 

¶43

Postmark: Limburg, 7.11.1918

 

27th October, 1918

 

My Dear FMD & H

Perhaps I was a little previous with my rejoicings for I haven't had the expected order to move to Limburg yet. It was just after I'd had your letter saying you'd heard from the War Office that I was to be exchanged that I saw the Representative from Switzerland. They promised we should be on the way in a fortnight, but although I should know by now that these exchanges take a long time I was over eager. Well, we must trust it will come soon. I've not heard from you for a fortnight. All's well here. God bless and protect you, Frank.

The Armistice was signed a fortnight later, on 11th November, 1918. The exchange never happened: the gates of the Camp were just left open, and the prisoners set off. I presume my grandfather walked to the Dutch border.

 

¶44

Postmarks: Venlo, 24.11.1918, London 2.12.1918 [arrived 4.12.1918]

 

My Dear FMD & H

We crossed the Holland border to-day [Friday, 23rd November] I come through Rotterdam and will be home in a few days. Best of love, Frank.

Venlo Saturday

 

¶45

Postmark: Venlo, 27.11.1918; London, 4.12.1918

 

Venlo, Tuesday, 6 PM [3rd December (wrong, must be previous week), arrived 6th]

 

My Dear FMD & H

Just another line while I'm here. We're having a good time, but not allowed out of barracks as most of us arrived in an unenviable state from Germany and we're in a kind of quarantine. So it may be a few days before we leave. We've been supplied with underclothes, good food, chocolate and cigs and been treated with the finest hospitality by the Dutch who think the world of us, but I'm all excitement to get home. I expect we'll have to be rechecked, inoculated etc., etc. before then so it won't be for a bit yet. Very best love, Frank.

 

¶46

Postmark: Venlo, 1.12.1918; London, 2.12.1918

 

Venlo, 30th November, 1918

 

My Dear FMD & H

Still here you see. We're held up for some reason or other. We're alright but I'm impatient to start on the homeward journey. There's about ninety of us put up at the District Casino a fine place and we're looked after by the British Help Committee. About 150 British soldiers are in Venlo all waiting to go to Rotterdam, some have been here ten days. It will be fine if I can get home for Xmas. They'll have to move us as more prisoners come through I expect. Best love to all, Frank.

 

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