17 Oct 1915 So the Zeps have made you get wind up eh!

No 58 B Co
5 platoon
17 Oct 1915
Dear Mother and Father
Received your letters yesterday pleased to hear all are well. So the Zeps** have made you get wind up eh! glad some of the people begin to realize there is a war on. The weather here is turning chilly. Tell Ethel I’ve not gone up the line yet but expect to soon.  I heard from Kel the other day he’s fed up.  Kind regards to all neighbours and love to all at home.

Your affect son
Jack

** There was a Zeppelin raid on Croydon on the night of the 13 October 1915.

15 Oct 1915 … We are fairly comfortable here in a barn


No 58 B Co
No 5 platoon

Dear Mother and Father
Received your letter yesterday glad to hear all are keeping well. Sorry to hear Dad is not doing anything but hope something will turn up soon.  Hope that bonus has turned up alright. Had a letter from Mr Cornish yesterday & he says his sister & Mrs Milward are writing later. Should like a few pairs of socks as soon as poss. I’m getting on alright out here and keeping fit. We are fairly comfortable here in a barn, concrete floor with straw to sleep on & the food is alright.  Did Teddy go over on Sunday, when you see him tell him I’ll write as soon as poss & give him my kind regards. Hope Ethel is getting on alright. I’m glad she’s getting a few bob. Ern Millest** never answered the letter I wrote him, perhaps he’s too busy.  Will write as often as poss.  Kind regards to all neighbours and love to all at home.

Your affect Son
Jack

** Ernest Millest was the son of Grocer and Provision Merchant, George Millest. They lived at Railway Approach, Wallington. Ernest was a private in the Royal Fusiliers (regimental no. B/19436) and survived the war.
15 Oct 1915 pg2

21 Sept 1915 … the last few days I’ve played cricket & footer

No 58 B Co
LRB
B E F

Dear Mother and Father
A few lines to let you know I’m still keeping fit & in the best of spirits. The weather here is grand & the last few days I’ve played cricket & footer. Will you ask Conny to give you

21 Sep 1915

21 Sep 1915

Harold’s and Charlie’s address as I want to write them. Had another letter from Flip yesterday & one from Uncle Will.  I’ve shifted a bit farther up since I last wrote you. Flip tells me he has to wear smoked glasses now, rather rotten luck eh! Hope everything is going alright at home & that all are well. Will you send me each week if poss the Penny Pic, Tit Bits & the Penny Mag, just wrap them up as a newspaper & they’ll come out for about 2d out here they cost 2 ½- 3d each.  Love to all

Your affectionate Son
Jack

4 Sep 1915 …dozens of the Jocks being here

Written on “Soldiers’ Christian Association” headed paper

From Widdicombe
No 58 D Co L.R.B. British Exp Force

Dear Mother & Father
Just a few lines to let you know I am quite well &c. I expect to go up the line to the boys in a day or two, will write you when I join them but if poss will write before then. Have had rain here best part of the time since we arrived. There are men of all Regiments at this camp, dozens of the Jocks being here.

4 Sep 1915

4 Sep 1915

Tell Ethel to learn “Alice” thoroughly by the time I get home again, which I hope will be soon. Give my kind regards to Pansy (er hem!) and all the neighbours. Love to all at home and don’t worry about me.

Your affectionate Son
Jack

29 Aug 1915 … put an X through the line underneath the day …

Jack's secret code for letting his parents know where he was.

Jack’s secret code for letting his parents know where he was.

No return address

Dear Mother & Father
I arrived at Southampton about 1.30 pm Sunday. We are at the rest camp now & go out about Tuesday. When I write & let you know where I am I shall do so as follows:- put a X through the line underneath the day and the first letter of each sentence will spell the name of the place. I shall only put the X through the line when I am letting you know the name of the place. Cheer ho! all & love to everyone

Your affectionate Son
Jack

P.S I met young Kirkham from Stafford Rd he going out in the [Kensingtons]

Note: Jack in fact never used this complicated system in any of his subsequent letters which is possibly just as well.

Neuritis and Frostbite, Plugstreet, Feb 1915

From army records we know that Jack was sent home on the 11 February 1915 having been suffering from neuritis, effects of the cold and frostbite since January. Frostbite was a common problem amongst the troops and one to which Jack had referred to previously (See Blog dated 4 Jan 1915).

December 1914 was incredibly cold and frostbite and trench foot became major hazards.  The puttees that were wound round their lower legs shrank when wet and reduced circulation, feet swelled and the pain became excruciating.  At the end of a tour of duty, boots might have to be cut off and sometimes also toes.

1/5 London Regiment in their winter gear.

1/5 London Regiment in their winter gear

The photograph above shows the winter garb worn by soldiers of the 1/5 London Regiment (Jack’s Regiment) in the trenches of Flanders. The  Regiment’s war took them first to the village of Ploegsteert – nicknamed ‘Plugstreet’ by the British soldiers. In a typically flat lying area of Flanders, the trenches here were half trenches and half breastworks – positions built above ground level – and they soon became clogged with water and mud as winter set in. [Courtesy of WW1 Photos Centenary Website: 2014-2018 By Paul Reed]

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28 July 1915 – the next letter in the collection
28 Jul 19150

45 Park Lane
Wallington
Surrey

Dear Mother & Father
Thanks for your letter of today. I have heard nothing officially about the draft yet. Shall try to get home this weekend don’t know if I can manage it. Hope everyone at home is alright. Thank Ethel for letter.  Love to all. Your affectionate Son

Jack

Jack appears to have been staying at home since the return address is his parents’ address. Where Jack was between February and July is unknown, but he made his way to Southampton where he embarked for France at the beginning of September 1915 – see next three letters.

8 Feb 1915 Don’t send chocolate

8 Feb 1915

8 Feb 1915

The following is Jack’s last letter for 5 months. We know he came back to Britain in for a period in February 1915  and army records show he returned to the front a short while later so we must assume that letters between then and July 1915 were lost.

 

 

No 58 No 2 Co
LRB
British Exp Force

Dear Mother & Father
Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive &c. Have had a lot of rain here lately. Have just received your letter jolly pleased to get it first for about ten days. Don’t send chocolate I asked for shan’t want it. My feet will not be right for a long time. Kind regards to neighbours.  Love to Ethel & selves.

Your affectionate Son
Jack

8 Feb 1915 pg2001

29 Jan 1915 … snow over a foot deep

No. 58 No 2 Co 5 Platoon
LRB
British Exp Force

Dear Mother & Father
Received you letters of 22nd 23rd & 25th pleased to hear you are well. It snowed a little while we were in the trenches & the weather was freezing. Rather rough having snow over a foot deep. Have not received registered letter yet but expect to tonight. Business seems to be slack in the town. I had a letter from Harold yesterday he is getting on alright. I expect the work he has had in the REs has pulled him out a lot. It will be rotten if compulsory service comes into force still I suppose it is necessary. Why are you trying to disguise yourself afraid of getting run in as a spy or something else. You ought to try a beard now for a change. Glad to hear Paula is going on alright. Can’t think of anymore to write at present. Kind regards to neighbours. Love to Ethel & selves & trusting this will find you in the best of health.
I remain

Your affectionate Son
Jack

29 Jan 1915

29 Jan 1915

 

25 Jan 1915 The cake was nice & quite fresh

No 58 No 2 Co 5 Platoon
LRB
British Exp Force (Belgium)

Dear Mother & Father
Many thanks for parcel received yesterday everything OK. The cake was nice & quite fresh. We are going up to the trenches tonight so you wont get a letter from me for another three to four days. We receive letters in the trenches but [can]’t send any. I am feeling rather [   t] now & hope my feet will keep alright. We have a draft of 200 men on the way out now so that doesn’t look as if we are likely to get leave for some time, still cheer up! Hope you are all well at home. Have had no rain for a few days now. Love to Ethel & selves.

Your affectionate Son
Jack

25 Jan 1915

25 Jan 1915