© Peter Hodgkinson 2016

Dr Peter E Hodgkinson Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Military Historian

The Letters of Private Frederick Whitham

Frederick Whitham (1883-1915), the son of Joseph and Mary J. Whitham, was descended from generations of filecutters from the Ecclesfield area of Sheffield. In 1911 was working as a shell turner for Vickers Ltd in Brightside, Sheffield.

He married Emma Loomes in early 1905, and had three children: Emma (b.1908), Doris (b.1913), and Frederick (b.1911) by the outbreak of war. Emma was pregnant when he enlisted, and Sarah Ann was born in early March 1915. The parish of Heeley commemorates his death, (and the CWGC gives her address as 91, Heeley Green, Sheffield) but he and his wife were living in August 1914 at 13 Court 19 House, Solly St, Netherthorpe, Sheffield, his parents also living in Solly Street in 1911.

Thirty-six letters remain from Frederick to Emma, although there are indications that some are missing.

Soldiers Died in the Great War states that Frederick Whitham enlisted in Sheffield, but a letter from his wife dated 20 August 1914 places him at the regimental depot of the Yorkshire Regiment, at Richmond.


20 8th1914


Please find enclosed Marriage & Certificates of birth of wife and children of Regtl. No. not yet known of Pte. Whitham Depot 19th Foot Richmond Yorks. Sir I remain your obedient servant address Mrs Emma Whitham 13 Ct 19 House Solly Street Sheffield Yorks.

The prefix 3/ in his regimental number 3/8143 means that he was enlisted in the Special Reserve, and the number itself indicates he enlisted after 5/8 but before 17/8/1914. The fact that he entered the France & Flanders theatre on 14/11/1914, i.e. early post-enlistment suggests he had some previous military experience. It is likely that he had joined the Special Reserve of the Yorkshire Regiment pre-war, but had left by August 1914, and that this is why he served with the Yorkshires, rather than the locally recruiting York & Lancasters.

The letters (reproduced with the kind permission of Alistair Caisley):

Letters from England October-November 1914

Letters from Flanders November 1914 - February 1915

Letters March-April 1915 – The Battle of Neuve Chapelle

Letters from Flanders May-June 1915 – The Battle of Festubert

Letters from Flanders June-September 1915 – The Battle of Givenchy

The Battle of Loos

The article analysing the content of the Whitham letters can be accessed via the downloads page.

Great War