9th January 1914
The fourth page of the 4th January letter to Mabel contained an extra letter Frank had written five days later on the 9th January. He then went onto write another letter to his Aunt. They are both included below.
On a fourth side another, more closely written letter dated 9-1-14 (he’d forgotten what year it was)
I have received your last two letters and got the 2/6 alright. Now I am pleased to hear that you had no trouble getting the money, and now I want you to spend it on yourself and Aunt. I don’t want it and if I do I will let you know.
Tell Aunt I have not forgot her for am going to write to her next. We are lucky at time to strike a small town or village and then we are able to buy things and they don’t half charge 10d for a loaf so you can guess what it is like.
We are having some hard times for the country is absolutely flooded and mud in heaps so you can guess what the trenches are like.
I have just finished scraping mud off myself, wet through to the skin. That’s where it is, if only they would send me out some of Kitchener’s Army to relieve us it would be alright.
Now Till I have been out here 5 months and have not had chance of a good rest, which I can say I am in need of, for we have been on the go ever since we left Belfast. That’s where it is fellows at home won’t enlist and enjoying themselves and us out here putting up with the hardships of it, it will be a long time before this War is over!
Now I will pack up and will write soon. Remember me to all at home and I hope you enjoy yourself along of Dolly and Edie on Sunday.
Love to all at home
We get some more first hand descriptions of the conditions facing the men in Belgium that winter. The other interesting information is about money.
Firstly, Frank now has the postage money to send back the Princess Mary Christmas Gift Fund Box to his sister. I wonder if we’ll hear about it again in a later letter?
We’ve found out already that Frank has been incredibly generous and given over some of his pay to his sister. She’s already managed to get hold of it. quite how that was done is something I will come back to in a future post. He’s insistent that she spends it on herself and their Aunt Carrie. What a decent fellow.
We find out that the soldiers are being absolutely fleeced. The UK Cost of Living index was started in July 1914 and records that a loaf of white bread cost about 1 pence (1d). So to be charged 10d was daylight robbery, even if there was a war on. It’s very common to find soldiers complaining about the price of goods in their letters and diaries throughout the war. Local trades people knew that they had a captive client base and so prices naturally soared.
Frank is beginning to complain regularly about a lack of rest and the fact that there’s no sight of new recruits on the horizon. But it took an awfully long time to build a new army. Especially an army of amateurs. He’s right to complain about men dragging their heels in volunteering, but the fact was that the British Army didn’t have the resources to process to the sheer numbers of volunteers, let alone conscripts. Conscription was some way off in the UK.
Frank mentions his ex-girlfriend Dolly and also Edie, who appears in a letter from Frank back in June. Perhaps Dolly and Edie were sisters? We found out in the last letter that Mabel was going to meet them on Sunday, which would have been the 12th January 1915.
And now we have the letter Frank promised to write to his Aunt.
PC to Mrs (could be Miss) Webster, 29 Strathleven Rd etc, franked 11 January 15 – dated 09.01.14
I expect you are thinking that Bid has forgotten you, for not writing to you before now. Well Aunt I haven’t forgotten you and never will but have not had time to write you a letter lately which I have been going to do. Glad to hear that you had a good time Xmas and also hope you get rid of your cold. I am getting on as well as can be expected and still in the pink.
Tom is getting plenty of leave, I wish I was able to. Remember me to old Tango, tell her I hope to give her the Glad Eye before long and also Old Uncle. How is E Jim, has he started yet or is he still on the retired list? Glad to hear Uncle Mattie is still on the old knocker.
Now I think this is all the news for now Aunt, hoping this finds you in the best of health and still merry and bright. The weather out here is wicked, it’s pouring in torrance.
Love to all, Bid.
This letter is similar to many letters I wrote home from school when I had nothing to say. The first paragraph describes the act of writing a letter while writing a letter.
Frank then asks after Tango, Old Uncle, E Jim and Uncle Mattie. I only know who Uncle Mattie is out of this roll call. E Jim must have been ex-forces and old enough not to have to re-enlist but other than that I am no nearer identifying him.
Frank ends the letter with a creative bit of spelling but a sentence that sums up conditions for Frank and the rest of the Dorsets.
The Dorsets spent another day in Dranoutre in billets making up sandbags and hurdles and delivering them to the trenches, according to the 15th Brigade’s diary.