Envelope addressed to Miss Crawshaw, 29 etc – franked 11 Jan 15*
letter dated 04.01.15
I received your welcome letter yesterday and was glad to hear that you are getting on alright. Till I was surprised to hear that Tom was on leave, he is getting plenty of leave considering how things are at present, but I don’t blame him, I wish I could do the same.
Pleased to see that you heard from Doris she seems to know when her birthday is, what say you? You have heard from Jess then, she is getting on alright. Bert don’t half get some leave,when is he coming out here, you can tell Bert there’s not much chance of a fine time out here, well not up to yet, but lets hope so.
Pleased to see you enjoyed yourselves Xmas, I should reckon you had a gay time, I don’t blame you.
Well Till have you heard from the government yet as regards the 6d a day which I have allotted to you out of my pay, I expect you will hear soon, don’t forget to let me know directly you hear from them. I expect you will draw a month’s money and it’s for yourself.
Well me old dear I am getting on as well as can be expected but I have got a terrible cold. Bert mentioned in one of his letters that he was layed up with inoculation, well I have just been done and it gives me fab(??), I can hardly move.
We have just finished 6 days leave and we was all glad to get it. Now Till there is a chance of me getting seven days leave, that’s all the men who came out here first, but I don’t know when it will be granted, not just a present but later on I expect, that’s all according to how things go, but still lets hope I get seven days.
I received a very nice letter from Dolly, yes it was an interesting one. She said that she had heard from you and that you called and had a cup of tea along of her. She said you was just the same, all smiles, but just a wee bit thinner. I have answered her letter.
So Arthur spent his Xmas at Tottenham, I expected something like that. What say you remember me to them when you go over to see them. I was glad you never went.
Now Till I think this is all the news at present, trusting you are all in the pink and I hope to hear from you soon.
Your loving brother,
### 4th January 1915
Frank’s letter home to Mabel asks after his sister Doris. Something about his question makes me think that Doris suffers from some kind of learning difficulty. This would certainly explain why she has been away at school. A school which became an official centre for disabled children a couple of years after she left.
Frank has heard from his girlfriend, Jess, and has also now received a letter from Dolly, his ex-girlfriend. She’s met up with Mabel, and presumably the split between Dolly and Frank meant that the two girls’ friendship had come to an end or cooled somewhat. Dolly has referred to Mabel’s warm smile, which is ever present in all the photographs I’ve ever seen of my Great Grandmother.
Frank confirms that he has allotted 6 pence out of his daily pay to Mabel. I haven’t found out anything about how a soldier might transfer some of their pay to a family member – I just haven’t had time – but soldier’s pay is a subject I will return to in the future.
The enteric fever (typhoid) inoculations from a couple of days ago are confirmed in this letter. Frank is now ill with a cold. The transcript says it gives “me fab” but I have no idea what this means and I take it it’s a typo on the part of Frank or Geoff’s transcription. Whatever it was, he’s not feeling great from the jab and I can’t blame him.
Frank also continues to complain about the amount of leave everyone else seems to be getting. I’m not surprised. It must have been maddening. He mentions that seven days leave are due to men out since the 16th August. How he must have longed for a return to his family in Brixton. (Please excuse the maps that are now missing on some pages – my old map plug in is broken and I need to fix them – another reason why I don’t use WordPress professionally.)
More references to tension in the family continue to pepper Frank’s letters home. Again, the source of the tension appears to be Tottenham – namely St Anne Road. Arthur could well have been Arthur Coulson Webster, Frank and Mabel’s cousin by Uncle Matt’s older brother John Webster and his wife Elizabeth. Arthur was 43. “I was glad you never went” makes it clear that Frank is not impressed by this member of the Webster clan.
The Dorsets left the comforts of Bailleul and marched to Dranoutre with the rest of the 15th Brigade. By 3pm the Norfolks, Bedfords and 1/6th Cheshires went into billets as reserve. The Dorsets and 1st Bn Cheshires drew the short straw and marched on to Wulverghem. The Dorsets relieved the East Surreys once again, taking over Sector D at 8.30pm. The Cheshires had taken over Sector C from the D.C.L.I. at 7.30pm.
The Dorsets completed the relief by 9.35pm. The Germans constantly sniped their new guests but no one was injured, which is miraculous as there was a full moon at the time. The rest of the day was spent digging out the trenches. Much work had been done shifting the line of the trenches towards the enemy as there was quite a distance on the right hand side of II Corps’ area between the British and Germans.
The trenches might have been basic but they were growing all the time. Communication lines begin to appear on the maps like little snakes worming their way back from the frontline. A system of numbering the trenches had now begun. The Dorsets occupied Sector D trenches numbered from 11 to 14. I imagine that a lot of grumbling about the East Surreys went on that night.
* Today’s letter also contains a second letter written in condensed handwriting on the fourth side of paper, according to Geoff’s notes. I will return to this extra letter in a few days’ time and this explains the later franking date.