I haven’t found any Thomases yet

You say you haven’t heard from Tom yet, well you can take it from me that he is alright thats what we have heard, that we have beaten the Germans quite easily as sea. I wish we could say that out here.

Read the whole letter from the 17th September.

18th September 1914

This is a snippet from the letter Frank sent home yesterday. Frank is referring here to the Battle of Heligoland Bight. This was a raid by the British Grand Fleet on German patrols in the North Sea on 28th August 1914. It very nearly didn’t succeed and communication between Royal Navy senior staff was very poorly handled. But it, nevertheless, resulted in a British victory and severely curtailed Germany’s willingness to move their fleet into the North Sea for some time.

Tom is obviously out with the British Fleet. They had moved to Scapa Flow, a natural harbour in the Orkney Islands,  at the outbreak of the war. Quite who Tom is remains a mystery. Was he a cousin of some sort? I am still expanding the Crawshaw/Webster family tree but I haven’t found any Thomases yet. That said, his first name could be anything. I’ve got Alexander as Frank, Maud as Till, Doris as Ginger, Walter as Mattie and Caroline as Carrie or, possibly, Muff (although I am starting to think she’s a different aunt). The Crawshaws certainly love to obfuscate.

Franks ends this section of his letter with the rather downbeat “I wish we could say that out here”. It was obvious to the British troops in France that they were really up against it. The German Army was held in the same high regard on land as the British Fleet was on the open seas. Then again, as he sits sniffing in a damp barn, having spent the last month fighting and roughing it, with only memories of a pint of mild to draw from, you can somehow forgive Frank his gloominess.

The Dorsets continued to dig trenches along the southern section of the Aisne. Larger calibre guns were arriving at this new frontline all the time and began to assault the heights to the north.

Gleichen recalls, “It was a nice time for the Artillery; for guns were there in large numbers, and they had some good targets to shoot at, over Vregny and Chivres way, in the shape of the enemy’s batteries and lines, when they could be seen.” But the downside was that this attracted the attention of the German guns.

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