I’ve been spending a little more time with the World War 1 letters this morning – a good activity for a snowy day. There are three ‘voices’ in the group: my great-aunt Emma who served as a field nurse, my grandfather Ridd, who served as a chaplain and stretcher bearer, and my great-uncle Joe who was sent immediately to Europe as a non-commissioned officer.
Joe lied about his age on his attestation papers. When he enlisted in June 1915, he said he was born in 1896. Someone of authority noted in the side margin that “…birth certificate shews date of birth 19 March 1899.” He was sixteen years old, but no one prevented him from being shipped to active duty in France.
His letters are expressive, and retain a chatty innocence.
This one, dated “France, 25/12/17“ is written to his older brother Ridd who was still based in England at that time. He starts writing it Christmas Day, thanking his brother for the gift of a new pair of warm gloves, and continues on page 3:
“It is just 3:40 am now of the 26th and there is about five inches of snow up on top. This is one of the best ‘holes’ in the ground I have struck, warm as toast and very roomy. Someone with lots of time, made a large desk, pigeon holes and all, so it is very comfy for writing letters on shift. Have to call it off for now. Love from Joe.”