Thursday, January 28, 2016

WW1: One Man's Letters Home

I found this and felt it worthy of sharing. This is just one man's notes home to his wife and daughter. His name was Wilfrid Cove. He was a gunner in the trenches.

Tuesday 14 November 1916  
My Darling Ethel, 
I hope you have received my birthday present, but in case you haven’t here’s again wishing you many many happy returns of your birthday. It is the first of your birthdays that we have been apart since you were sweet 17 that I can remember. I hope it will be the last. Heaven send that by your next birthday – or mine come to that – this terrible war will be over & that we may both be spared & united on each of our birthdays and those of our dear little kiddies & for many years to come. It causes me many regrets and much sorrow when I remember that my selfishness has more than once caused you unhappiness and I sincerely hope that my future conduct will make you realise that notwithstanding my shortcomings I do love you with all my heart and realise I have one of the best wives in the world.  
I can now quite understand the Late Lord Kitchener’s preference for bachelors as soldiers. He must have realised, altho’ a bachelor himself, that it is not the coward’s fear of death but the fear that by death many a good soldier may thus be prevented from rejoining the wife & family he loves so much. I have just that very feeling myself at times when the shells are dropping all around us and the air is whistling with them.  
Goodnight my darling. Longing and hoping for a letter from you tomorrow. 
What happened to the English language might be your first reaction, but here is his letter to his daughter one month later.
Monday 4 December 1916  
My dear little Marjorie, I have only just received your little letter which Mamma sent with hers on Nov 19th. Do you remember that you asked me to be home for Xmas? I only wish I could but there are many more soldiers in our Battery who are more entitled to the Xmas leave than I am, so am afraid you will have to do without Daddy this Xmas.  
Santa Claus will come as usual. I think your writing and dictation just splendid, and your drawings are getting funnier than ever. I have pinned your crayoned tulips on the wall of my dug-out bedroom beside your photograph. Daddy is as comfortable as possible. I expect even you would get tired enough to go soundly asleep in this dug-out. It would be a change from your pink bedroom.  
And how is little Daffodil getting on? I expect you quite enjoy the time when Mamma reads you more about her. It was Mamma’s book when she was a girl like you. Write again soon, dear, + send another crayoning to help cover the sand bags.  
Heaps of love & kisses, which you must share with Mamma and Betty.
From your ever loving Daddy 
This picture was found in his breast pocket when he was killed in 1917. The numbers of WW1 can make one lose sight of the humanity.

Here is the drawing his daughter sent to him as he fought at the front.

Never forget.


Stanley said...

Both my grandfathers were in the trenches. This reminds me of their manner of speech. Very gentle in mixed company anyway. They never spoke about it despite the pain in their faces. The novel "Birdsong" contains some letters from the trenches which are almost unbearable in their style and sentiment.

Toddy Cat said...

May God have mercy on his soul, and on all the souls of the faithful departed. And may God's eternal light shine upon them.

paworldandtimes said...

His wife and daughters are with him now.


Toddy Cat said...

WWI still makes me angry, in a way that WWII, Korea, and Vietnam do not. Communism and Nazism were foul, murderous anti-Christian ideologies that had to be opposed, even though they were grossly mishandled, at least partially caused by Western miscalculations. But the Kaiser? They destroyed a civilization and killed 12 million young men for that?

Damn fools, still makes me angry a hundred years later...

paworldandtimes said...

I should do some deeper reading about the Bloomsbury Group, a left wing in England that opposed the incipient WWI. It included Virginia Woolf, Keynes, EM Forester. Knowing more about organized opposition and even their pacifism would be interesting.


stengle said...

A memory I carry from World War One is my name.

My grandfather from Manchester, England served in I think the Manchester regiment (Most regiments then were from definite areas, or in the case of industry, the Pals regiments where all would be, say, miners or steelworkers) and he was billeted with a family in France. I have no idea what my grandfather's war was like: he died before I was born just after the Second World War.

I think my grandfather had enormous respect for the French family who looked after him and he became friends with the son of the family, who having been born at Christmas, was called Noel. Sadly, the French lad was killed while fighting in the French army and as a mark of respect my grandfather resolved that if he survived the war and he had another son he would name the child Noel in honour of the dead young man.

My father was born in 1919 and so was named Noel, and when I was born I was given my father's first name as my middle name. Thus in a small way I am keeping alive the memory of a French soldier who I could never have known. The name, of course, dies with me but I am enormously proud of the fact that I carry this small memory of the human side of the Great War.

It still in its own way makes me weep, but I hope in whatever may come to pass as an afterlife I might somehow meet this French soldier. Probably a ludicrous thought, but one holds on to what one can.

Son of Brock Landers said...

I love these comments guys. This is why I do this series. At the end, I will reveal why I did it. It echoes your great heartfelt sentiments.

Toddy Cat said...

"Knowing more about organized opposition and even their pacifism would be interesting."

The Bloomsberries were pretty much conventional, sexually mixed-up leftists, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Pacifism is an evil heresy, but if ever it was justified, it was in the run-up to WWI.