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 to my Grandfather after his Capture

 

¶47

Stamped on back: 12.7.1918 Limburg

 

May 14th, 1918

Tuesday

 

My Dear Son,

At last I am able to write to you again now you have sent me an address which only arrived this morning, thirty-seven days after it is dated. Well, to begin with I thank God you are safe and well, and to hear that you are in charge of such just and friendly officials. I say again, I am fervently thankful for all these mercies when you might have been beyond our reach from this world for ever. Well, if you only meet with people like my old and revered friend Mr Voigt, the Prussian who came and prayed with your beloved Mother through her last tragic days, you will be blessed indeed, as we know he was a saint on earth, if one could ever be known.

I cannot tell you all my fears and efforts since the 21st of March. After your letter of the 19th I thought you were right in the zone of danger. I went up to Ormrod's many times and wrote to Edward and the Lieutenant Colonel, the British Red Cross, the RAMC Record Offices in Woking and London, the RAMC at Chorlton Road, three people at the Record Office at Preston, the Territorial Headquarters in Salford and more still advertized in the 'Evening News' and yet withal your first post card was as early as any news I got from them all. You can believe how profoundly glad I was to see your own handwriting again. So then I began to make all enquiry if I could send parcels etc and find it is not allowed, but I am told that the Prisoners of War Society has sent and is sending you parcels, but I wait to hear more particulars from you. We are only allowed to send one private parcel per quarter and the things in it are nothing but trash, no eatables whatever. I shall send the two things you mention (cash and cigarettes) you may be sure, but the RAMC Comforts Fund write me that they sent 100 cigs in each parcel, do they or not?

Edward told me the RAMC prisoners were repatriated in four months by mutual agreement between Germany and England, and that matter also I have enquired into most exhaustively and am most pleased to hear by your post card also that it is correct. You were disappointed of your visit home in April, but you have I trust done better than that four two months of captivity has gone already. Well get some of your guards and patients to teach you German and bring me a German pipe home if you are allowed enough liberty to buy one.

Many people have been to see me (whose sons were with you) after my advertisement. A Mrs Pontefract from Chorlton and others and some G. W. Parkinson has written to ask me about you. Is that the red-haired chemist you once had at home? I hear that Edward and Wilfred got your last parcel, it got there some time in April, they say the stuff had gone rather bad but they cut off the outside and ate the other gladly. Will Boor of Bishop Street, whom you knew, was killed this month. Ralph is in London yet. Dora is still at Emily's, little Ivy is pronounced by the doctors to be in incipient consumption, which it is to be hoped is not so. I went to spend a Saturday lately at your Uncle Percy's new house at Eccles Old Road, it's the finest house they've ever had. Arthur and his wife are there too. I don't know where Clarry is now. Arthur is still as dotty and imbecile as ever. I often wish I could run over to see you and have a day or two but I'd be a prisoner too then instead of having mugs of lager with you, so we must wait till you come to us. Have you got your wallet of photos still, and your flask and other things, or were they lost? In your last letter (19th March) you said 'a good allotment had come round,' did they pay it you or not, you told us no more about it?

I am looking forward with avidity to your full letter and to hear all the details you are allowed to tell us. You can still write to Mabel as of yore. She will be glad of any news as you used to once remember her. Well I intend to write you each week so you will have a succession of letters after this month passes and you can send each fortnight. I suppose you are attending both the German and English wounded, have you got interpreters and have you difficulty with the language. I shall be glad to hear.

I must close now to get this letter off the same day as yours came, so with my blessing and prayer for your welfare I remain with best love your ever loving Father.

God bless you.

My great grandfather must have been so relieved to discover his son was still alive. He had already suffered the loss of his wife and younger son. His wife's relations figure large in the letter. Ralph Hargreaves was her sister's husband. They lost all their children. he survived the war and they settled in America. Uncle Albert appeared in the pageants with his daughter Ivy, who suffered from consumption. Uncle Arthur sounds distinctly odd. I met Uncle Clarry, Clarry Wilkes, in about 1960, when he came to visit my grandfather who was visiting us at Manley Road. He was suffering from cancer then, and sat on a special ring. I believe his father, Percy Wilkes, was a violin maker. I kept in touch with uncle Clarry's widow Dora for several years. Her daughter married a Czech and had children there. We have lost touch now.

 

¶48

132, Langworthy Road

Thursday, 12 PM, May 17 1917 [sic]

 

My Dear Frank

I was delighted to find your last post card when I went home yesterday, with your address and to know that we could at last write to you. We heard nothing of you for a month, and were in miserable suspense. Every time I went home there had still been no letter, then we heard the Germans had taken Peronne, and we knew you were somewhere near. Dad wrote all over:&emdash;to the Red Cross, your CO, Edward and others, and received back a letter from Edward, saying that you had been at a little place called Bernes (or something) when Peronne had been taken, and that you were missing, but that he thought you had been taken prisoner. Well, the idea of you being reported missing was awful, and devilish, it might have meant that you were killed or very badly wounded. Well, three days later we heard from one society to say you were officially reported Prisoner of War. Well that was a relief, at any rate, then better still we had a printed post card from you yourself from Germany. The following day week we had another from you, in your own writing, and then, at last, the last one. If you are as well etc., in all ways as you say, I am thankful you are out of the fighting. By Jove, if it is true that you get back in a few months, home here, it will be worth waiting for. We are all looking eagerly forward to your first letter. As you can only send one letter a fortnight you won't be able to send me any here, so just scribble a line or two for me at the bottom of the letter you send home&emdash;please! Well, if we could write all we felt it would be a dashed lot, but oh! we're awfully thankful you are all right and well and everything Frank old chap.

Matty is now courting Alex McCloud from next door or dashed nearby. I'm still on my own, which suits me best. We are going to have a frightfully busy time this week-end in the shop as Whit Week time is the very busiest of the whole year for us. Mabel and Aunt Frances are coming to help us. It is much the same here, only queues are a thing of the past nearly. Uncle Ralph went to France on Tuesday, at last he has had a final leave. The confectioner's shop on the next block is our enquiry office, because they have two sons who have been prisoners of war for ages and they can tell us this, that and the other. They say that you are not allowed to write long letters to Germany only short notes or they will never be delivered to the soldiers. Is that so? Anyhow I'm not risking any more in case it doesn't get delivered to you which would be awful, but I will write as often as I possibly can. It is now 12.30 PM and I'm writing this upstairs so will write more tomorrow but will get this posted in the morning, so Good Luck, and very fondest love, from your loving sister Dora.

P.S. When you feel a bit off, think you see Scott and Whaley. They have been over here again.

 

¶49

Stamped on back: 5.8.18 Limburg

 

Prisoner of War

F. Gent

Group 3 Block C

Comp. 54 Barrack 123

Gefangenenlager

Dulmen i Westf

Germany

 

May 23rd, 1918

 

69, Lloyd Street South

 

My dear Son

I have been looking for your letter ever since your post card came ten days ago but no news yet. We both find it very painful waiting and I wish to write you every week so think it best not to wait longer till yours arrives. We sent you a long letter on 15th May and I sent you 10/- through the Post Office same date, so you will be getting them both, then you can tell me if you need more sending. I have been unable to find out if I can send you cigs myself, but I am told they will send them in the parcel you get from the War Prisoners Comforts Society.

I had a letter from Rose Hewitt asking for your address. I see Mabel tells it to you. I saw Mr Kelly and had long talk. Parcel going to be sent to you and to Frank Hardman, three every fortnight I believe, through the Lancashire Prisoners of War Society so I suppose that will do away with the parcels from the RAMC fund, as they most likely know what names are on the list of each fund. I think it will cost Rose Hewitt £9 per quarter each of you so it is very much to be thankful for.

I am longing to hear from you more fully and more often, and do trust you will be repatriated at the four months' end as per the agreement of the governments.

Mr Clarke's sons write home how fit they are keeping and I read the letters and see their photos and think how much more sensible they are by waiting patiently that fellows who attempt to make the captivity shorter by a little by trying to escape and so risking so much by their folly.

This Whit Week has been intensely hot till today, Thursday. We were going out with McLeods today to Dunham but great thunder storms set in so everyone disappointed. All of us were going, we seem to have got very thick the two families since Alec was over and so keen on Mabel.

I am trying to teach Harry to read a bit, slow work. I put him through Æsop's fables, lesson in reading and lesson in wisdom at the same time, have just been going through the oak and the reed in the storm, the oak sneers at the reed's bending humility in the face of a stronger force. The oak is too proud to bend, so is cast down wrecked, and when the storm has passed the reed bobs its head up again but the grand huge oak is done. Very good moral, eh, never be too proud to yield to the inevitable.

Well things at home about as monotonous as ever, longing for you to be home again. God grant us that joy soon. I don't think there is any fresh news, so with my dear love and blessing I am your affectionate Father. God bless you.

 

¶50

23rd May

 

My dear Frankie

Just a few lines to let you know that all is well. I hope you are alright. Have you got the parcels that are being sent to you through the Red Cross? You should have had several by now. Rose Hewett's have written asking us for your address. They are going to see about sending you boxes, three every fortnight. Isn't it good of them? You will have got our letters by now, won't you? We all wrote last week, so I hope you will have had them by the time you get this. Last night we had a terrific storm. The thunder and lightning was fearful, I was awake half the night. We have had some lovely weather though up till now. What is it like where you are? We are all anxiously waiting for your letter. It is miserable waiting for letters, isn't it? I suppose you are getting quite despondent with not having any news from home for so long. It is much worse for you because you are alone, but it is no use we have simply got to wait patiently until the end. It seems to last a long time. It is Whit Week and we were going to have had a day in the country. McLeod's were going to have come too, but the rain put the ky-bosh on it all. We will go tomorrow if it is fine. I think it will be as the glass is going up. Well I wonder if we will get a letter tonight. I hope so. I will write again soon.

With best love from your affectionate sister Mabel.

¶51

Postmark: Manchester, 30.[5].1918; Limburg, 9.8.1918

 

Private W. J. Parkinson

168, Moss Lane East

Moss Side

Manchester

 

Dear Friend

Just a few lines hoping you are keeping well. Your Father called and asked me to write to you but for the life of me cannot bring your name to mind but probably it was my brother you knew, but we heard that he was killed six months ago.

I am pleased to say I am keeping fairly well myself but have not properly got over my gruelling yet, and am afraid that it will be a long time before I do.

If you know anything about my brother Bert I would be glad if you could let me know as it would put my Mother and Father's mind more at rest to know what exactly happened to him.

Well as I say I cannot bring you to mind but I have got a terrible bad memory now. Hoping to hear from you soon.

I am yours sincerely

W. J. Parkinson

I have put my private address on as I expect to be home any time.

 

¶52

Postmark: Manchester, 31.5.1918; Limburg, 9.8.1918

 

Private F. Gent 354198 RAMC

Nº des Filiallagers 107198 Limburg

or: Group 3 Block C Comp. 54 Barrack 12B Gefangenenlager

Dülmen i Westf

Germany

 

Friday 31 May 1918

 

My dear Son

Your post card arrived this morning written Sunday, 21 April stamped Limburg 2nd May, eleven days after writing, arriving here twenty-eight days after that. A weary length of time. I was expecting it every post for the last week, as it was seventeen days since the post card before that one and I thought you were allowed one post card every week and one letter a fortnight, so I thought it would be a letter this time. I have sent you two letters and a money order for 10/- to Dülmen since your postcard on May 13th… Now you say on this post card you are at some other place so I shall put both addresses to be safe. We didn't write as often as possible when we could did we and now we see what it is to be unable to? I don't think we are allowed to send you either papers or photos, tell me if any use getting any for you? Edward writes to ask the news of you. Oh how I wish you were home with us this glorious weather, I was assured you know that the RAMC men of both nations were certain to be exchanged at or near four months as it was the usual custom between Germany and England and you say the same on your post card. How can it be expedited. If I can do anything, tell me. I suppose you have got the parcel from the RAMC Comforts Fund, the first one, I mean. Rose Hewitt is sending through the Lancs Comforts Fund. Eva was here a few times lately but I'm tired of going to Northenden. Mabel has gone to see Dora and Dora comes here most Wednesdays on her day off. I am so thankful you are keeping well and trust you may be allowed to tell me even a few things of your every day life. As you say, one has to possess one's soul in patience, waiting for our letters. Were it not for faith and hope we should be undone. I think I told you Ralph went over to France so Edith won't go over there to see him, eh.

Well it's over two months now, it seems positively ridiculous that it takes four to five weeks for letters to pass to and from the prisoners of both countries. I am sending you another 10/- today same as before through the Post Office. Be sure to say if you get both and if it's enough, and whether you are still on hospital work. I believe clothing is sent out to new prisoners, are [you] rigged out by them yet? I expect you are. Oh have you heard from Parkinson. I left your address at his father's very near the Alec. When I get your letter it will be a guide as to what is permissible in the correspondence and I am so longing to know if any of the old pals are with you. Did you ever read a more joggy letter from me? I've had a few hard days this hot weather with Mr Thatcher and this is my first quiet day this week. Oh how I wish we could meet for a day or one hour and then back, each at our place, it would cheer us both up for weeks or months again.

I am grieved you cannot have parcels from us now but hope the official parcels will be decent. Do let us hear. Harry is quite well, one pair shoes from mending and another new pair this weekend, so he rackets about, you will see.

May God bless you and keep you in honour and purity is my constant prayer for you, and for your restoration to us. So with my best love and blessing I am ever your affectionate Father.

The letter of 21st April is lost.

 

¶53

Saturday, June 1st, 1918

 

My Dear Son

I wrote you yesterday (the third letter since you sent your address) but I learnt to-day that it is necessary to put your address and mine in the letter as well as on the envelope so I hasten to send another with this order fulfilled to assist the other letters to reach you. I hope they will. You did not tell me to do this and I did not know before. I also hear we are only expected to write short letters so I must observe that in future. I have sent you two remittances of ten shillings, one on May 13th, one May 30th. I will send this letter very short, I said all in yesterday's.

So God bless you and with my blessing and fond love, I am your affectionate and loving Father.

 

¶54

132, Langworthy Road

Seedley

 

Dear Frankie

Just a few lines to you hoping you are keeping very well under the circumstances; we hear you are on a farm but we hope not by yourself as you must feel dreadful lonely not being able to speak their language, the time must seem dreary to you. Uncle Ralph is in France and longing for the war to be over. I had a letter from Clarry this week and he has had a bad knee but is alright, he says he has come across some chaps who belonged to your ambulance so they told him about things, it is three months since you were taken prisoner, Clarry says you will be released in six months so you have only three more months let us hope so, there is a boy who lives on our road who has been a prisoner for three years and he writes home, he is also on a farm.

Grandma is keeping very fair, Uncle Arthur is about the same, Ivy and Uncle Albert are going on alright, I have had an attack of cold but am alright again, Dora is writing to you so you may get these letters together, hope you get the letters alright, could you say if you are receiving any or not.

So no more until I write again, hoping you keep in the Pink. I remain your loving Aunty Emily. Love from Grandma and all at home.

 

¶55

132 Langworthy Road

 

Dear Frankie

We were all sorry and surprised to hear you are a prisoner of war, but we sincerely hope and trust it won't be for long and that you are being treated alright. Dora told me you can receive letters from us, so I thought I would write a few lines. Well Frankie, things are much about the same here, we are all keeping well in health, Ivy seems to be getting better, she is away at Blackpool for a month or two, and grandma and Arthur are with her for a week or two. Uncle Arthur doesn't seem to improve at all but we keep hoping for the best. Uncle Ralph is now in France and we hear Clarry is still alright but one never knows, but keep up, surely there will be an end to all this some day. I dare say your experiences would fill a book. I wonder when you will get these letters. Dora is writing one to you also, same time. There is not much fresh news to tell you at present but I will write again soon with love from all here. I remain your loving Aunty Emily.

 

¶56

1st June

 

My Dear Frankie

Just a few lines to be going on with. We were very glad indeed to get your card and are anxiously waiting for your letter. It must be terrible for you having to wait so long, but it will be alright when the month or five weeks have passed then the letters will be much more regular. I hope by the time this reaches you that you will be settled down in a regular job. We are dying for news but we must have patience and wait same as you have to. The weather is glorious here. We have heard that we will only be allowed to send short letters and as we are afraid if we do otherwise they might be destroyed we will do what we are told is best. Tell us if this is so when you write. I wish we could send you stuff. Do you get the parcels that Rose Hewett is sending you? If you think it wise perhaps you will write to me. It is nice to get a separate letter for myself. You know. Just consider it. I will close now. Good night and God bless you. I am your loving sister Mabel.

She is requesting a coded message.

 

¶57

132, Langworthy Road,

Seedley,

Manchester

Tuesday, 4th June, 1918

 

My Dear Frank

I was delighted to hear we had received a letter from you at last. Mabel brought it up last night for me to read. Thank heaven you will be returned in six months at any rate, and not after the war, for goodness knows how long the war is going to last. Six months is a very long time though to wait and see anyone again, and I am longing and looking forward to seeing you again. As you are allowed about, is there any possibility of you being able to get your photo taken, if so, will you do so and send one? Are you with any of your old friends?

There are plenty of scandals about here. Last week there was a great sensation about a soldier's wife going about with another married man, both sides were well known, thrashings were rife for several nights. This war is going to be the means of all sorts of rotten things. Do you have much pleasure or spare time?

Aunt Emily was at Blackpool all last week and I was in charge of the shop which I was able to manage alright for we were very slack. The weather here is beautiful. Harry is very well, and Mabel. Dad is alright except for indigestion now and again. Grandma is at Blackpool with Uncle Arthur this week and for another fortnight. Uncle Ralph is in France. Fred Adams is exempted absolutely. Uncle Arthur does not improve at all, and wanders aimlessly about Blackpool, Uncle Albert says. We still meet Eva and are going to the baths with her tomorrow. It is lovely at Northenden at present. They have lots of great roses&emdash;white, yellow and red, but later on it's better still. It seems nice to me, coming right from filthy Salford.

Well, I've no more news this time, but will write in a day or so. With fondest love, your loving sister, Dora.

P.S. I hope you have received my first letter.

 

¶58

Postmarks: Manchester, 6.6.1918; Limburg, 8.9.1918

 

Private F. Gent

Group 3 Block G Company 54B Barrack 12B

Detachment Nº 55525

Gef. Lager Dulmen i Westf., Germany

 

Thursday, 6 June, 1918

 

My Dear Son

We got your letter on Monday the 3rd. It was a great joy to get a letter again and to hear details of your doings. How thankful I am you are doing well and in good hands and well treated. I got all your postcards also two blue ones, the white postcard sent on April 21st telling me you got to Limburg (I suppose) on the 19th to be put on jobs got here some days before the letter which was dated 14th a week earlier than postcard. But no matter as long as they do arrive. I am delighted to hear you will be repatriated in six months but I have heard the medical corps were always allowed four months. Which is it? I again give thanks that you are safe after reading your letter and hope you have not had a bad time through vaccination and inoculation. Surely that was needless, you had been through all that before. I am surprised you may keep the diary and very pleased also, but you will know how to be always discreet. I hope you will soon get our letters sent on 13th May and subsequently, I did not know till after to put both addresses inside, so hope it will not cause delay or miscarriage. Have you got any of Rose Hewett's parcels I wonder yet through the society. I have made every enquiry possible my dear lad, you bet on that, but I believe I am prevented by rule from doing more, they send cigs they say in the parcels and I have sent you 20/- say when you want more and amount. I wish we could send private parcels, as you know. I fancy you would think my letter of 30th May just like your old letters to Mabel, it was joggy right through, did you notice it. I was upset with many little things all the way in it. You'd be sure to know I was not in form. A lady has just been here to ask me to ask you if you can find her husband if he is in Dulmen Camp, name Reginald Bromley, Platt St, Moss Side ELFA, RAMC. She has heard that he is a prisoner there but has never heard from him.

Mabel has heard this morning that Alec McLeod is in hospital wounded in foot. I do hope to hear more next week and trust you may keep well, and always be in God's protecting hand. Let any paltry materialistic little wound laugh who please. None but fools presume to do that, they don't laugh when the bill has to be met. So this above all, Frank, unto thyself be true, a peace above all earthly dignity, a still and quiet conscience.

How I long to have you home again. Keep straight and look to that day. Post time now. So God bless you always and with the knowledge that you are with […] circle in memory always. I am your affectionate Father.

[Note from German censor: Write to your correspondent that letters must be written quite clear, otherwise they cannot be delivered.]

Letter of 21st April is missing; letter of 14th is ¶22. His father seems to be hinting he had sent a coded message, but I cannot decipher it.

¶59

6th June

 

My Dear Frankie

We have received your letter. We were delighted. You have had a rough time, I fear. I was glad to hear that you had been kept on at your old job, nursing, and to know you were with two others. It would be awful to be alone in a strange country. You ask us to see about sending you parcels. Well you know Frankie that we are not allowed to send you any ourselves. The Red Cross Prisoners Fund have got all particulars. They will see about sending you things. You should get three a fortnight. It is hard luck not being able to have anything sent from home, but from what I hear, the parcels you do get are very good. I hope it is true. When you write to me perhaps you will tell me. Well Frankie all is just the same at home, waiting for you. I have been dabbing white paint around today on the window ledges etc. Can you swim Frankie? Yesterday Dora, Eva and I went to the baths. I tried to swim. I had a few deep drinks. It made me feel pretty rotten. I sort of lost my balance and went to the bottom several times before I could get a footing. I had a letter from Alic McLeod this morning, he has been wounded in the leg with shrapnel. Poor lad. His Mother hopes he will get sent to England but I don't think he will. Have you heard from Dora lately? We want this letter to catch the post so I must close now. I will write again in a day or two. With fond love, I am your loving sister, Mabel.

 

¶60

Postmarks: Manchester 11.6.1918; Limburg, 29.8.1918

 

15th June 1918

Saturday

 

My Dear Son

It is a week or two since your letter (the first letter). We replied to it immediately, and have been hoping for another letter or post card. How I hope you are safe and well and long to see you again. The four months will be up the end of next month, July, I suppose it will be that date by this reaches you. I pray you may be repatriated by about then in accord with the agreement you speak of and which I have heard of so often. Day after day, morning and night I look for your letter and disappointment makes me sad and weary, but you have to go through the same and more. I hope you are bearing up in the prospect of happiness with us again soon. Mr Clark's sons at Münster have sent photos home from the camp and they look well and they are not in the RAMC. Don't take any notice of what I said in the first letter about bringing me a pipe or mug, I only said it to cheer you up a bit and knew you would have something else to think of than paltry trivialities. I hope you are getting the parcels from the Lancs Prisoner of War Society and the money, and that cigarettes are in the parcels. I am told they send six parcels per month and 100 cigarettes in each parcel but your one letter received (dated April 14th) says you had but got one parcel to then so I hope you have had four since then. Anyhow I'm aching for your next letter to tell me all this and how you are and when we shall have the joy of your return. All is stagnant here, no news, and nothing but the constant craving for you home again, as your thought will be oftenmost in the little four walls of the cot which shelters us. We got a letter returned yesterday from your Lieutenant Colonel that we wrote you on St Patrick's day, four days before your seizure. We wrote several, but that is all we have got back. It was a very long one so I am sorry you didn't get it.

I suppose all your letters may be censored by both sides, so I don't want to risk them being destroyed so I put nothing but family matters. I do so wish the letters took less time to travel but there is nothing but patience for us both so cheer up my dear Frank, you are never forgotten by your loving Father.

God preserve you and bless you always.

The first letter requesting a pipe is ¶47.

 

¶61

Postmarks: Salford, 19.6.1918; Limburg, 2[].9.1918

 

18th June

 

My Dear Frankie

Just a few lines to tell you all is well at home. We have not heard from you for a fortnight. I look forward to every post and keep being disappointed. I hope you are getting our letters safely by now. Are you. I am looking forward to my letters, but I must have patience and wait. I hope you are getting the parcels. I only wish I could send them as I used to do. I can't say much to you in a letter nor can you. I lie awake thinking at night all sorts of things about you, wondering where you are and how you are. Oh if only you were home again. Then all this anxiety would be over and we would know for sure then that you were happy, while at present I know in my mind that you are not. How can you be, it isn't possible. I know, my dear, that you are not a grumbler. You would not complain in any case. However, you must hope for the best this war can not last for ever. Let us hope the day is not far off when we all meet again in England. Have you heard from Dora lately? I am going to see her to-night. Harry has got a gathered finger, so I have kept him away from school today to poultice it. He doesn't like pain.

Well Frankie I must not write much or else the censor will not pass it, so will close now with much love from your ever loving sister Mabel.

 

¶62

Postmarks: Manchester, 3.7.1918; Limburg, 20.8.1918

 

My Dear Son

I wrote you last a week ago and immediately after that I got your postcard written on 5th May telling me you were on a farm in Rhineland in beautiful country, among horses, cows and fields, and people very hard working and economical, that was all I was able to read on the card, so you will know in future that whatever was the other matter you had written is not permissible. Well, the four months will be up this month and is it possible for you to be allowed release by then? If you have to be six months before repatriation that will be the 21st September. I hope you may come home before that, it does seem so long since you went. I am so rejoiced to hear you have got to a good place, which I suppose is what you mean by saying you have dropped on your feet.

Edward wrote me from the regiment to say I could send a parcel to you myself. So I have written to ask him to tell me how, as I have enquired of every place here and am told I cannot do so. I do hope you are getting the parcels Rose Hewitt pays for, three a fortnight, costing £8 18s 6d per quarter, containing cigarettes, bread, tinned stuff etc. I do wish I could hear oftener from you and the post was quicker. Fifty days is such an awful time for letters to take. All is well at home so don't disturb yourself about us. I pray God may bless you and that you will get with friendly people and do your best for them. I dare not make too long a letter lest I give the censors too much trouble with my acrobatic calligraphy and it gets ruled out.

I am longing to hear if you have got my letters and money and if you want more and if you get Rose's parcels. I find that lots of people whose lads were captured in March have not yet got anything but the blue post card, so we are a bit better than that.

With my fondest love and constant prayer for your welfare. Always your loving Father. God bless you always.

 

¶63

Postmark: Manchester, 8.7.1918; Limburg, 30.8.1918

 

7th July, 1918

Sunday

 

My Dear Son

Your post card of 19th May only got here on the 5th July, the one in which you say you are living and looking well and that they pay for you a shave and beer on Sundays, which I am grateful to hear and thank them heartily. You are getting 212 marks a week and can get a few cigs. I wish your parcels would arrive as they contain cigs. I am sure you must have got parcels and letters and money by this date, seven weeks after your postcard. You say in post card of 19th May that the next Sunday is nearly sure to bring you a letter. I am very grieved that you would be disappointed for long after that. I wrote you my first on the 13th May the very day I got your first post card with your address so I don't think that would reach you till near the end of June. Since then I have written about six times. I don't suppose this will reach you till middle of August and hope and pray you may be coming home then. Since your post card of 19th May received 4th July I have been up to Prisoner of War Society to tell them you had not got parcels and they say you would only be getting them by about now. You say you had a visitor who spoke English so I conclude you have none of your old pals with you, it will be dreadful for you if that is so. I wonder how to get to understand what to do if no one talks English. I am glad you have the photos still to look through, we are not allowed to send photos (only unmounted), no newspapers, no parcels, but find I can send cigs by special permission through a dealer in London, but when I had got the permit and then ordered them and they had sent them it would be another fifty days so you will have got the parcels from the Society with cigs in them long before that would reach you and you would also I trust be coming home by then. I do so long to hear you are coming soon. It is four months on the 21st of this month. Surely you will be allowed to come in August at any rate. Don't forget my advice to wear a belt in crossing whenever that is, through danger of any floating mines etc.

I never cease thinking of you night or day hardly and give thanks that you are with good people and trust you may be comforted and supported in your loneliness in a strange land. My blessing is always with you, live a good life, do right, fear God and you will be helped and protected.

May God bless you and bring you safe to us soon. Best of love from Mabel, Harry and your loving Father.

 

You will see I don't know how to address your letters, your post cards from the farm show no new thing but Num. des Fil 1560. So I keep putting all the old address on as well, lest if I put less it fails to reach you. Don't fail, write every week.

The postcard of 19th May is lost.

 

¶64

Monday, 8th July

 

My Dear Frankie

You will wonder when I am going to write so I will start now. What a treat it was to get your card. I was so glad to hear that all is well with you. I dare say you have a lot of hard work to do, but even hard work has its advantages, it stops you from brooding. I wonder if you have got any boxes yet. I hope so. All's well at home. I have got a cold. There has been an epidemic of influenza in Manchester. Many people have died with it. I judge by your last post card that you are alone because you told us you had met someone who spoke English and you had been in conversation with him, so by it I gather that you must be separated from the others. You will be awfully lonely, no one to talk to all day long. Oh Frankie, how terrible. You must learn German as quickly as possible, but I hope you will soon be returned then you won't need to. There are tons of questions I would like to ask you but I am afraid you could not answer them. You will tell us all the information you can. We are looking forward to your letter now it holds more than a card.

Well dear, we must be content with just a few lines. I would write a lot more but perhaps it is not allowed so I will close now with best love from your affectionate sister Mabel.

 

On back, draft letter with code from Frank:

 

Just a line as PromisEd, yOu'll Perhaps get my LettEr at home as well, let me know what date in your next. 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 Lots fine nOw. Write again Soon and I'll answer more fully next Time.

God bless you

Your loving brother, Frank

 

Message: People bad s[i]tate [b] lost

The influenza was also probably the 'mystery illness' that went through the briquette works around July 15th, 1918, according to my grandfather's account and diary. The postcard with message is ¶36.

 

¶65

Postmark: Limburg, 1.10.1918

 

Sunday, 14th July, 1918

 

My dear Frank

I hope you haven't been thinking harsh things about us all for apparent neglect because it seems so very long that you have been away from us. But Albert only received your postcard date 14th April about two days ago, and we have been in the dark entirely as to your whereabouts, so you can pardon seeming neglect on this account.

I returned from leave alright spent a bon time over there which I needn't dwell on. I intended calling to see your father and he did come to see me but unfortunately I was out when he called and I only spent two days in the old town and the rest of my leave was spent at the seaside Llandudno to wit. I did the best possible thing in the circumstances and wrote your father reassuring him and telling him all that I knew about you, which wasn't really much after all, as I realised that things must have changed after I had left. We spent an anxious time until we had definite news of you, Frank, and I got the surprise of my life when I returned and found you missing. In all, Frank, twenty three were missing, Ruan, Millett, Walker (water duty), Linfoot, Sumner, Jack Harrison, Teddy Smith, Richardson 7, Melville, Pontefract, Morhead, Adshead, Surrey and Jones and others besides those with you. I think all have been officially posted as prisoners of war except Millett of whom nothing has been heard.

We are still altogether here, although of course there have been plenty of changes. You will have heard about the promotions because Captain Wells told me he had mentioned them in his letter to Dibb.

I am glad to hear that you are having a good time, and keep smiling Frank. All here are A1 and trust you and all with you are keeping fit. Let me have a little line if you can possibly write, but if it is a case of only being allowed an occasional letter, write home and don't bother about us as we will understand. We can get all news from your father.

Cheero and good luck, Frank. With all best wishes.

Yours as ever, Wilf.

Private W. Bradley

Private Millett was in fact killed.

 

¶66

14th July, 1918

Sunday

 

My Dear Son

Your post card of 26th May to hand to-day. So write back, as usual, same day. Again it has taken forty-nine days to come, I grieve to read every time, that you have been expecting our letters, in vain. Because I only got your first address on May 13th and replied same day, so if it took forty-nine days to reach you, that would be 1st July for you to receive it. I am sure you would feel very distressed and hope you were given fortitude to bear the anxiety. Do you think I have not groaned in spirit for you daily, and prayed for your welfare and that you might be with good people who would so treat you as they would wish their own son to be.

Well I know that by this date your weary waiting and suspense is relieved. You will have had both letters, parcels and money so as I said in my last I am longing to hear that you have done so. I am glad you say you are a little easier, and having supper one hour earlier, and that the food is 'very good.' So when the slow going parcels do begin to arrive you will get a bit more change and variety. You are right in saying that work keeps you from getting 'nervy' and brooding and so on. I know it absolutely. I myself even, at home here, should not feel the anxiety nearly so much if I was more occupied. So I can quite understand your feeling. I think you may trust that I quite realize everything in your letters so rest content that your father is with you in sympathy and heart. I hope and pray you had strength to bear the loneliness from May 26th, date of their [?] card, till my first letter came which I think would reach you July 1st. After that you would know we were alive and well.

I saw Henry off to London from Liverpool last Sunday week to his government appointment, and he commenced his travelling the second day. Train specially stopped for him as government servant and every possible consideration. We have had no more photos taken yet to send you and by the time this gets to you it may be the end of August, so you will then have been away nearly six months if you have not been released before then. The Royal Army Medical Corps informs me that the prisoners of that corps of either nation are repatriated in four or six months so I look forward with certainty to you being released very soon from now. So cheer up and pull yourself together as I know you will. I got a permit from government to send you some cigs through the dealer so I sent you two hundred a few days ago, which I hope will reach you safely. I should send you more money (whatever you require) but don't know if it would reach before your release.

I will stop this letter lest the censor swears at my contortionist writing and gets vexed at me. All is well at home, but very cold summer here. With fondest love and my blessing and may God bless you is the hope. Your affectionate Father.

[Two lines at bottom of page obliterated by German censor. Note in father's handwriting: 'Returned 26th November.']

The postcard of 26th May is lost. Henry spent his life as a civil servant, I believe, never marrying. My great grandfather's handwriting was affected by the serious injuries he suffered when run over by a tram in 1909, which almost severed his right thumb.

 

¶67

Postmarks: Manchester, 25.7.1918; Limburg, 9.9.1918

 

France

July 15th, 1918

 

Dear Frank

Just a few lines hoping this letter finds you in the best of health as it leaves me at present. I received your very welcome post card which you dated April 14th, 1918. It was handed to me July 10th, 1918, so you can guess how long it takes to come. Best part of the boys are now down at the base, but hope very soon to be attached to unit again soon. Parkinson came through alright he is one that is with us at present, he is writing you soon and Wilfred is also forwarding you a letter to-day. There is not much to mention about the changes, only Jim Seddon and Bill Manners have both been given a stripe each, with the same pay as I got for mine. Charlie Bowkett received about two weeks ago the DCM and Sergeant Dale MM also little Jock M.T. received DCM. Charlie got his for the time he was in Belgium, and Sergeant Dale got his for the last do. Same with little Jock. Captain Bounds received the MC The following men are reported prisoners Lindfoot (Walker water duty) Adshead (young Ted Smith) Johnny Moorhead, Surrey, Sumner, J. Harrison, Pontefract, Fred Richie. Sergeant Millar. I cannot just think of the others. Millet is reported missing. Poor lad must have been caught in the barrage. The concert party got to be very good, they improved on that medical sketch. And Lawson got a good many more songs off, but sorry to say that it is now broken up. We lost a great deal of stuff at the place you left me, in fact we lost all of it, my music included. We were too busy with our wounded and German wounded, Frank, the Field Ambulance works excellent, you must have been very hard worked because I worked at a different post and know what it was like, but everybody who came to our dressing station received the best attention. No Field Ambulance could have done better, although I say it myself, and to think that we lost such a good lot of boys. Never mind, Frank, cheer up. I am pleased to know that you are being well treated. Kindly remember me to the boys and give them my kind regards. I haven't been home yet, Frank, but if I do I shall without fail call and see your Dad and all at home. We have been very unsettled lately or else I should have answered your card before now. We left Sergeant Early, Fred White, Nobby Roberts and Bridge with another party. So you see the football team has gone west. I am sending a photograph to you through your Dad. You won't have much writing matter, Frank, so always write to your Dad and he will let us know how you are going on. I will now conclude Frank but will write again soon. So goodbye for the present. With much love from your pal Edward.

See photograph of Concert Party on p. 30.

 

¶68

Postmark: Limburg, 9.9.1918

 

22nd July

 

My Dear Frankie

It is high time I wrote to you again. We received your card last Sunday. The one telling us what your food consists of. The parcels would be a treat for you if you were getting them, but so far none have reached you. I do hope things are better now, by the time this reaches you you will have been a prisoner five months. Won't it be simply great of you are released. I can't realize it in another month. I bet the work is terribly hard on the farm. We are looking forward to your letter as it is a week now since we heard from you. Time is flying, isn't it Frankie. Just think I am twenty two tomorrow. I took Harry to Northenden on Friday, we had a fine time gathering blackcurrants and raspberries. Harry might go for a few days on his holidays. To-night I am going to meet Dora to help her choose some shoes, and some print for bathing costumes. We are going to Blackpool for a few days together. We both are in need of a change. This will be the first holiday I have had since the war. Well Frankie time is going on and on, soon I trust we will all be together again and all the past will be like a bad dream. So cheer up, dear, brighter days are in store for you and all of us. I am afraid I will have to come to a close now with best love from your ever loving sister Mabel.

God bless and protect you and bring you safe home again.

 

¶69

Postmarks: Manchester, 26.7.1918; Limburg, 30.9.1918

 

My Dear Son

I have heard nothing from you since June 3rd, your post card to say you went to Limburg on 19th April to be drafted to jobs and your letter dated a few days earlier from Dulmen in which you say that I should hear every week after then. It is now over three weeks so I am at a loss what to think and be sure I am very disturbed. Edwin wrote me on Friday and told me about some Sergeant captured about same time who has written to his brother in your old corps saying how well he is treated and Edwin says some chappy Charlton in your lot is also with you and they miss you both very much and send kindest wishes to you both. Edwin gave me Charlton's father's address in Leeds. I wrote him and he replies that he hears from his son four times a month so that makes me surprised again that I have not heard from you. I do hope all is well and that you are not ill with any of the vaccination or inoculation you speak of.

Mr Charlton says his son is at Limburg and he seems very satisfied. He will write me again as son as he hears any more. Oh how I crave to hear from you. I look for every post but nothing comes. I wish I could wire a cable or anything to you to get to know. Shall you be released at the four months' end? That is end of July. You told me that it would be less than six months anyhow. If all is well and you are sent home let me remind you now and don't neglect my advice, wear a belt coming across from wherever you embark as there is continual danger from floating and drifting mines so don't forget my instructions. You know you will never suffer by listening to all my advice.

I heard from your cousin Henry the other day, he is appointed one of the travelling auditors and accountants under government and will be in London three months and then travel anywhere he is required in the land. It will be a very good position you will know. I'm going to Liverpool this week end to spend a day or two before he goes. All is well at home. I am only waiting most anxiously to hear that it is the same with you. I do so long to hear if you have got the money and letters, and if parcels arrive.

May blessings attend you is the perpetual longing in my heart. God bless you. I am ever with dearest love your loving Father.

Is this in the right envelope? The date appears to be wrong, as the contents indicate it was written before ¶66 and the trip to Liverpool to see Henry off.

 

¶70

Postmark: Manchester, 26.7.1918; Limburg, 10.9.1918

 

Friday, 26th July, 1918

 

My Dear Son

I have been waiting a fortnight to hear from you since your last postcard of 26th May telling me your menu etc. and saying you had supper there at nine. Mabel wrote you a few days ago and yesterday I sent off a letter Edwin sent me on for you. I have seen Pontefract's mother and aunts and they have never heard from him or his cousin since the first blue card after their capture and I hear of crowds in like case. It seems very strange. I have written the War Office about you but have no reply yet. I can't say if it will do any good but be sure I have done all I am advised to or can think of. The headquarters of the RAMC and Preston and Geneva etc. but I am hoping you will come before long and shall not be surprised if you get here before letters. If you do, don't forget all my advice re sea passage. You could phone from London to W. Newhall, 550 Rusholme, to give me a bit of notice. By this reaches you I guess you will have had the 200 cigs I sent you through the bonding stores and I hope that you have already got letters, parcels and money. It says in our papers that the German prisoners on farm lands here get 5d and 6d an hour and Eva Neild tells me it is so. I heard yesterday that if we write on both sides the paper or fasten up envelope that letters are not delivered. I wonder if true, if so I have sent a lot wrongly. We are always hearing further rules and orders. Why were not all orders issued complete at first?

We are all well and I hope and pray that you are and will be released very soon now as the four months is now expired. I am longing for a letter from you on Sunday when the fortnight is up and you said it would come each week. I wondered if you were ill, or if you had said something which the censor would not pass. You do not say if you are alone on the farm or if any more of your fellow prisoners are with you and I've no idea of your location so am very distressed for you as you know but for ever pray for your coming back to me; till that joyful day God preserve and bless you and with that joyful day God preserve and bless you and with my blessing and fondest love I am your affectionate Father.

The postcard of 26th May is lost. I presume Edwin is a mistake for Corporal Ormrod (Albert Edward).

 

¶71

Postmarks: Manchester, 30.7.1918; Limburg, 13.9.1918

 

Tuesday, 30th July, 1918

 

My Dear Son

Your letter came last night. I was delighted to hear after fifteen days. It may not be any use sending this if it takes forty five days to reach. I hope you will be home considerably before then. You have had an experience, sixteen hours a day on the farm. Very many hours longer than prisoners work on our farms and they get 6d an hour. It is very strange the difference in treatment. I am glad to hear you are drafted to the camp preliminary to coming home. Your letter dated 14th June shows you have been there seven weeks now, so I guess you may be on the road home any day. I hope that you will be repatriated immediately, the deutsch government are assured you are in the Medical Staff as we are sure they will do. I long for you to get letters from us more quickly and wonder if you will come before they reach and if you will not receive letters, parcels, cigarettes and money or if you will miss them all and what will become of them. You will I hope have had my first letters telling you how we heard. I went to see McNulty's last night when I got yours and saw some of them half an hour. I hope you are not in a mine, we never thought you would have to embrace that dignified vocation, but one becomes acquainted with hard experience in war or in adversity.

I have done all I could and am grieved it has been so useless, owing to the weary length of time it takes the post to reach but I pray you may soon be home with us in peace and happiness.

God bless you and grant us all that joy, your loving Father.

The letter of 14th June is ¶25.

 

¶72

Postmarks: Manchester, 10.8.1918; Limburg, 20.[].1918

 

10th August, 1918

 

My Dear Son

I hope that you will now have received letters, parcels, money and cigs some time ago. Edward sent me your postcard to him to read. It is now a fortnight since I got your big letter (of 14th June) when you were sent to the factory, that is the last date received from you. You say you have sent every week but I have not got more than seven or eight letters and post cards since the first blue card notifying me. I wonder if it is any use writing now as I am fully hoping to see you home before the time it takes these letters, I pray that may be so. I wonder what use it was Rose Hewitt sending parcels if you have not got them.

I wrote the War Office about you and just got a reply saying they have requested the German government to return you but cannot give me specified date, so I hope to see you very soon as you say the Deutsch government will exchange you at once as per agreement upon being notified that you are Sannatator. Just had a letter from Mrs Thomas at Tredegar saying her son asks her to write me to say you are together but she has received four cards etc. at once, taken nine weeks to come. I'm longing to hear that you have got the £1 and cigs and parcels and letters, unless you come yourself first. I think you would get things after 24th June and onwards but you have not had enough time for letters to tell me to reach me.

There was another pageant in that park behind Percy's old house on Bank Holiday. I went alone as the rest were away but it was a lonely, weary do, not as good as M[abel's] and D[ora]'s. Albert was on again of course, the inevitable Red Indian. Ivy was got up as the Indian's child and looked well. They got first prize, brass plant pot. Well I hope to hear from you to-day or to-morrow and that you are being kept and preserved in health. With my blessing and with fondest love from Father. God bless you and bring you safe home.

Edward's postcard is probably ¶23. See photograph of the Pageant on p.31.

 

¶73

Postmark: Army Post Office, 21.8.1918

20th August, 1918

 

Dear Mr Gent

Have you heard anything from Frank, please? I am forwarding letter to-morrow. Hoping this card finds you all in the best of health.

I am your loving friend, A. E. Ormrod

¶74

14th September, 1918

 

My Dear Son

I have this morning got two post cards of 4th and 11th August, so the 11th post card has only taken a month, that's good. I'm delighted you have got letters and cash at last. I had written General Post Office why money not there and they wrote to Holland about it, so all right now. I have done my best about your parcels from RAMC from Rose Hewit so hope they have come too. I had been told must make the letters brief but if not so will gladly write more. The Record Office kept writing me that you were at Dulmen and then Limburg and so on and your letters said Limburg so I kept putting on both addresses.

I wrote for permit for RAMC to send you cigs myself, as I told you, and got order to send you them through Walker's of Liverpool and I sent 200 which I hope you have got by now.

Your last post card before these of this morning was written on June 23rd day before Midsummer now the next is 4th August, six weeks later, so where are the last six weeks' cards? I have been so anxious. I have seen McNulty's who have heard three times since then, saying Alf was in hospital with foot injured, so I guessed you were now separated. I have written Record Office again for news of you, written Thomas's mother and Chappie's father.

We have been expecting you to walk in any day or night and hardly know if it is any use writing you as we hope to see you immediately as the six months is up in a week, but you say nothing of coming in these cards to-day. Edward is over, spent some hours with us on Monday 9th, and M[abel], H[arry] and I went there to supper Wednesday the 11th, a big musical evening. Corporal McCann and wife, Mr and Mrs Henshall, two Miss Lillies and others. I guess you will be home either this or the last letter reaches Germany but write lest you are not.

You said in your previous card, which got here 13th August (a month ago) that you'd be at home in three months from June 23rd date of writing so I hope and pray to see you in a few days. Whether Rose Hewit will have to pay for the parcels whether they reach or not I wonder? I thank God you are safe and well after all this month of anxiety and look with joy to having you home. So God bless you and bring you safe. With best love from H[arry] and your affectionate Father.

The postcard of 4th August is ¶31, 11th August is ¶32. The confusion over addresses may have arisen partly because it appears that all my grandfather's letters went through Limburg for censorship.

 

¶75

France

November 2nd, 1918

 

Dear Mr Gent

In answer to your letter of the 24th ult., I am very sorry to hear about poor Frank. The Germans have been very cruel to our men out there I know, and if Frank has lost all that weight the damn scoundrels have neglected him in food. I'll never forget in which the way you described to me respecting their character and actions every word you spoke was quite true. Since I saw you last I have experienced more than ever of their murderous deeds. For instance, this is one. When our Division captured several villages two weeks ago we released thousands of civilians. Now then when the Germans got away a few miles from these villages they absolutely poured their rotten shells into these places. They soaked them with gas [?] wounding the poor, helpless civilians, those that escaped wounds were gassed. Mind you, the Huns knew that these people were in, because they (the people) as you know have been under their rule since 1914. I carried one poor old lady with both her legs wounded and fractured, and she also had been gassed, her age was 84. Another old lady died on the stretcher. She had been gassed, a few minutes later her daughter was the next gas patient. Just fancy, they are asking for an armistice and at the same time carrying on with their bloody work. If it wasn't for losing our boys I would say carry on with the war, and get an indemnity by blood and treasure. When I look back on those dark days of 1914 when they plunged themselves into war against the world with every type of machinery of war and to get their objective by blood and to stop at nothing it makes me think that they should suffer on their own soil (you know it can be done). They have never got a victory by fair means. I was reading an article in one of the papers. I think it was one you sent me, and the writer suggested one way of getting an indemnity, and that was by being paid off by coal. Well, to my mind it doesn't sound so bad, but it would take a great amount of coal to pay the debt, right enough it would keep down the military and naval power from increasing, but it's a very mild way of getting our own back. Mr Gent, I have been very busy and have been away from the line some time, rather an outlandish place, a place where it was difficult to get away any post. The boys that were captured with Frank have not yet been released. I am pleased to know that Frank has received parcel and letter from you, that is a great relief to both. By the time you receive this letter I hope peace has been declared. I honestly think that they will treat our boys in Germany better now as our government has threatened them. George P. has received a letter with Frank's address enclosed.

Cheero Mr Gent I really think it will all be over in another two weeks' time and then Frank will be released immediately. I dare say that he will be home before me.

I will now conclude wishing all the best of health and good luck from your loving friend Edward [Ormerod].

I am going in the line tomorrow for the big stunt.

 

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