Lancashire At War.co.uk
Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire
World War One - a letter home
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.
Further down the page is an update for 2018.
With one of those unique instances that only the internet can create.
Here is the transcription:
(Many thanks to Jonathan Ali for his assistance with the transcription and other help researching this topic)
Saturday Sept 7th 18
My dear Tommy,
I am divided between two emotions, one of extreme gladness that you are in England in cleanliness, and peace, and then I remember what you must have endured and are enduring.
The formidable list of diseases or rather I am thinking of them as merely temporary ailments certainly appears imposing, and tells me you must have had a very good whiff of the diabolical gas.
I want to say here that although I trust you may never have to come over again you will speedily recover and that you will be none the worse from your rough experiences.
In dear old England surrounded by comforts and friends I am sure you will regain all your lightheartedness, that was sadly missing when last I saw you, and again be the happy-go-lucky fellow as you were in those far-off-days in Tunbridge and Colchester.
Although, the 3 of us, you, Wally, and myself are now irrevocably separated by distance and perhaps we shall not meet again until the War is over, I know each of us carries a tender and affectionate memory of the years spent in each other’s company, and look forward to the time, when under far happier circumstances we may meet again and renew the friendship, began in loneliness and cemented in misery and danger, and thus may we carry it down with us as the future years run their course.
If forthcoming events do cast shadows ahead perhaps the gleam of sunshine in the dark clouds of War parting the dawn, that dawn to which all our eyes are constantly turned.
With a fervent hope that soon we shall all be with you in dear old England I will close.
Your sincere friend
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.
An update from 2018 - We found Wally!
Gillian Bamford contacted us to say that after her research, she believed that her grandfather was our "Wally!" See her words below:
"While researching the 2/1 East Lancashire RAMC in connection with my grandfather Walter Leonard Gordon Archer, I was very interested to come across the Letter Home from Tom Causey.
I have the same photo from Tunbridge Wells 1916, passed on from my father, and I am almost certain that my Grandfather is standing just behind Tom Causey, slightly to his right (to the left on the actual photo, looking straight at it). I never met my grandfather, but my father, when he gave me another photo, said that he was called "Wally," although later in life after his marriage he seems to have been known as Len. I wonder if he is the Wally referred to in the letter.
His war records have not survived, but his discharge certificate shows that he enlisted at Chelsea on 5th September 1914. he gave his year of birth as 1896, whereas he was actually born on 16th February 1898. The discharge certificate from the RAMC (T) is dated 14th June 1919, after serving four years and 284 days with the colours. He had served overseas on active service and had one wound stripe and four blue chevrons.The National Archives WW1 Campaign medal Index shows that his regiment number was 240 and he was entitled to the British medal and Victory medal".
Gillian kindly sent us photos of the “B” section, 2/1 E. Lancashire Division Field Ambulance RAMC, showing Bathing Parades in Tunbridge Wells in November 1915 and Colchester in June 1916, both places in the photos are referred to in Uncle Tom Causey's letter home.
Gillian told us a little more about her Grandfather "Wally":
"According to other members of the family Walter Leonard was wounded at some point, apparently shot in the rear while in the latrines (and his rather taciturn demeanour was later attributed to this) although he must have recovered sufficiently to be sent to Hilden.
After demobilisation he returned to work as an electrical engineer and toolmaker (he had abandoned an apprenticeship to join up) and married in 1921, and had two children, my father and his younger sister. They lived in West London, then he and his wife moved in 1943 to a smallholding near Southampton. He died in 1963."
LEFT: The back of a postcard probably sent by Wally courtesy of Gillian Bamford. BELOW: The front, entitled "Bathing Parade, Tumbridge Wells 1915"
ABOVE: Walter Leonard Gordon Archer ("Wally") who also survived WW1
BELOW: The interior of his billet at Hilden
BELOW: The 2/1 East Lancashire Field Ambulance football team in Hilden in 1919 courtesy of Gillian Bamford.
BELOW: Colchester 1916, courtesy of Gillian Bamford
BELOW: Another photo from Tumbridge Wells courtesy of Gillian Bamford
Our sincere thanks to Gillian Bamford for sending us these photos and giving us permission to use them.
Further Thanks also to Phil Mather of the Fusilier Museum, Bury:
These pages, all text and photographs, unless stated, are the copyright of The Brothers B. No reproduction is allowed in any form without prior written permission