There are lots of accounts of World War One available. Written from many different perspectives by people who fought or served in one way or another. They can concern any part of the war: strategy, battles, heroism, or the terrible conditions in the trenches, the helplessness of the relatives at home or the psychological effects of war. We came across a small snapshot of life on the front in a letter home recently shown to us by our Mother. It is a relatively short letter, beautifully written to our Mother's Uncle Tom Causey, by a friend serving on the front line. Below is a copy of the original letter, followed by a transcription.
Here is the transcription:
(Many thanks to Jonathan Ali for his assistance with the transcription and other help researching this topic)
You will be glad to know that our Great Uncle Tom did indeed survive the effects of the gas and lived on well into his eighties! He was only Five foot Two and a Quarter inches, with a 33" chest, but he did his bit in World War One in the RAmCT (Royal Army Medical Corps, Territorial).
Great Uncle Tom, Private 834 Thomas Causey, received the Victory Medal and the war Medal. His friend, Alexander Smellie, received the same two medals.
The letter writer, A. Smellie, also arrived home from the war safely. We do not know any more than that unfortunately. Whether the two of them, and Wally, ever met up again, we do not know. Nor do we know if Wally made it back alive.
However, thanks to The Fusilier Museum in Bury, we have been able to gain a little more knowledge on the story (Our thanks to Phil Mather for his time and help).
We know that the three friends served with the 66th East Lancashire Division either in the 2/1st, the 2/2nd or the 2/3rd East Lancs Field Ambulance of the Royal Medical Corps. They were in the British Expeditiary Force serving in France. Great Uncle Tom volunterered in Manchester on 18th September 1915 while Alexander voluntered on the 20th. Tom was gassed on 22nd August 1918 and returned home to Huncar Street, Bury. his only other entry of note on the database was a charge sheet for 19th January 1917 for being impro[erly dressed on a 7:40am parade, for which he was "abmonished"!
Alexander Smellie lived on Kirkham Street, Higher Openshaw, Manchester. It would be nice if we could pass on a copy of his letter to any living relative.
Here is a photograph dated March 1916 from Tunbridge Wells (according to the back) where Tom Causey trained (according to Alexander Smellie's letter).
Great Uncle Tom is third from the Right, Front Row. Are Alexander Smellie and Wally, his friends, on this photo, we wonder?
Phil Mather at the Fusilier Museum Bury, also helped us learn more about another Great Uncle, William Walker, who also fought in World War One. William Walker enlisted 17th August 1914 and was part of the newly created (31st August 1914) 9th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. Formed in Bury largely from workers in cotton mills, coal mines and factories around Bury, Bolton and Manchester - this was one of the New Army or "Kitchener" battalions. So new infact that they would have been issued originally with blue uniforms and the old long Lee-Enfield rifles. This new battalion was sent to fight at Gallipoli arriving 11th July 1915.
Great Uncle William Walker was discharged 15th December 1916 through "sickness", "no longer physically fit for war service".
On 22nd December 1916 he was awarded the Silver War Badge to wear on his civilian clothes to show that he had served his country and been discharged (so that he was not party to any of the hysteria back home dished out to anyone who may be seen to be avoiding volunteering to fight).
He received three medals, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914-15 Star.
Our copy of the certificate for the first two medals states "Which would have been confered upon"....."had he lived".... Unfortunately, we do not know when William Walker died. His Service records and Pension Records are lost (bombed in WW2). We presume he died soon after his discharge. He was the eldest son. Our Maternal Grandfather's older brother.
The Fusilier Museum in Bury is a great place to go to learn more about military history. It has some really interesting exhibitions and things for the kids too. Plus there is a shop which has a great choice of gifts, many of which you won't have seen elsewhere. And they are able to help you with your family research too.