© Peter Hodgkinson 2016

Dr Peter E Hodgkinson Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Military Historian

The Letters of Private Whitham

November 18th 1914 (post card)


Dear Wife

I hope all is all right at home. I am now in the place where they are fighting. I could see the shell burst. Do not fret about me, I'm all right now and hoping you are. You should see the damage they have done here and see the frightened looks on the children faces. It is awful. You over there do not know what it is like, only them that is in it. So good night lass and God bless you. This is my address: No 8143 A Coy 2nd Batt 19th Yorks Regt, 7 Division, Expeditionary Field Force.





















December 12th 1914 (post card)

No 8143 Pte F Whitham 2nd Batt Yorkshire Rgt, 7 Division, Expiditionary (sic) Field Forces.


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you all in good health as it leaves me at present. I have not had a letter from you for a long time. Kindly write more often will you and don't forget to send me some writing paper. I received two letters in all from you. I can tell you more when this lot is over, the sooner the better. So goodbye for the present, from Fred. Write back by return of post, don't forget to give the children their ½.




20th December was a Sunday, and there was “Divine Service”.



December 20th 1914 (Field Service Post Card)


I am quite well.

I have received no letter from you for a long time.




January 1st 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you all in good health as it leaves me at present. I received your letter all right with the postal order in it and was very glad to. You will be getting a bit more money soon and I have not received your parcel yet. Tell our Emma to take care of her doll then I can see what sort of a doll it is. Tell Fred we want him out here so that he can shoot germans with his shooter instead of shooting his daddy. I did not expect it to be a very good Christmas because there is such a lot of men out here. It is very cold out here, but the Officers see that we get plenty of clothing so we have nothing to grumble at. I receive your last letter with Postal order in it that you writen (sic) on New Years Day and I got one from Bill Atwood and he send (sic) his best respects to me. And you must not get down-hearted because I know that I am not forgotten by you lass so don't fret. Do not forget to address all your letters and anything else you send me to this address: No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces. So good by(e) for the present.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxxxxx.




The war diary continues with reports of sniping and water pumping.



January 11th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health as it leaves me at present. I have had a very bad Christmas as you know that it is different been (sic) out here to what it is at home. And you will get more money very soon. Do not forget to let Frank Parker know when the happy event comes off then you will get the money sooner. I have got a box with cigs and bacca in it. It is a pretty thing. It is a gift from the Princess Mary with a photo in it of her. If we get anywhere near a post office I will send it to you. And tell our Emma I thank her for her good wishes. I received your postal order but not your parcel. I have given up all hopes of getting it. It must have got broken and they have thrown it away. And tell our Fred he will have to go in training because I am and I will give it to him on the nose. I'm very sorry to hear that our Dot is very poorly. I hope she soon get better. Do you know what lot our Sam has joined, if so let me know will you? I have got a lot of company but it is on my back.* They keep giving me a nip. When I get one his bones cracks very hard but it can't be helped can it. So no more present from your loving husband. So good morning and God bless you all. No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxxxxx.


I have sent a letter to my mother and have received a reply to the same date. You must have made it up to write together.


* A reference to lice.



January 25th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you all in good health as it leaves me at present. I receive(d) two letters from you - one was dated Jan 16th and the other Jan 18th - just as I came out of the trenches. When I am out I write you about two letters a week and the reason that you have not got them is that our officer has not got a Censor Stamp. I am sorry to hear that our Dot is very poorly. And tell our Freddy that I'm getting myself ready for him and then he will get it. I received your sharing loaf that you sent me and the postal order and I received a parcel but I don't know which of you sent it. I told you in the last letter what it contained. When you send a letter or a parcel you must tie it up very tight and put your address on it so that if it does not get to me it will come back to you. That parcel that I received, it had to go back to the base to get wrapped up again and then it had to go back to York to be re-address(ed) again. Tell our Freddie he will have a 1/- for a Puffing Billy when I come home if God spares me. I hear tell that they are allowing 4 out of each company to come home on furlow. If so it will be a long time before I come home because I am at the bottom of the roll. I received your News of the World, so I have received all but one parcel and I wish I had received that to(o). I am not getting downhearted lass, but I always say my prayers when I go in the trenches but I'm out now for six days so I nothing to grumble about for the present, but every time we go in there is some one get knocked over. I always look after myself so you have nothing to be afraid of. So no more present from your loving husband Fred.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxxxxx For that good girl xxxxxxx. No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


February 5th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you all in the best of health as it leaves me at present. You will be very pleased to hear that we have moved out of the firing line for a rest and I am enjoying it. I can tell you I might be lucky enough to get a leave. Did Frank Parker get you the money and were you comfortable? Did you write to that address I gave you at York, because if you did you will get the money sooner? We are not allowed from the place where we sleep but then we are comfortable. We can play at football to pass our time away. Hoping to be with you in good time. Excuse this letter as I can't tell you anything more, so good morning.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx For the New Born xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


PS Call the baby what you like. If Rose does not satisfie (sic) you that is the name (I?) like. Tell our tich that he will get bump when I come home and tell our Emma to let you know what the Don* is like. This is all that present. Write back by return of post.


* Probably a place of entertainment.


February 5th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you to say that I am very glad to hear that you are all going on all right. Call the baby after your sister Sarah Ann. And what do you mean about the 18/- from York? Is it the extra money the government is giving you? If so let me know because I can't understand you by saying that it (h)as to last you until the 11th of April. You want to send the birth certificate of the child to York as soon as possible and then they will put the extra money on your allowance and it will make it better for you. I knew you would put the money to good use and you have plenty to do with it. I know you want to buy a full box of cigs and then you will get them cheaper and then you can send me a half a box at a time. I am very pleased you sent me a lucky horseshoe out because they all seem to be getting them. Do not forget to write to York about the extra 3d a day I am allowing you and don't you get up to(o) soon because it might make you take to your bed again. You know what them jobs are by now. I expect by now you know that we are having a rest away from the firing line. So no more at present from your loving husband.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  New Born xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade hd qrts, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


Please get me one of Turners 3/11d watches will you and ask them to pack it for you because a watch is very handy out here. Tell them where you are going to send it and then they will pack it securely for you.



February 23rd 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health as it leaves me a present. I have received all you have sent me so you need not bother if you want to send me anything particular because your letter is not open like mine. They keep sending a few on pass but my time I think will come when the war is finished. I would very much like to see our Dot walking. The place where I am there is some graves of the Wilkshire (sic) Regiment and you could hardly realise how nice the men have made them. The men have took a lot of pains to make them look pretty. Tell our tich I won't half bump him when I come home and don't forget it. Tell our Emma to be a good girl and when I come home I will buy her a big doll. I am putting this so that I will not bother you with what I have to do in the trenches. So no more at present from your loving husband Fred.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Yourself xxxxxx No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade hd qrts, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.



February 24th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health as it leaves me a present. I am all right and in the pink of condition at present and hope you are. I am very sorry to hear that my mother as had an accident and hope she soon will be better. I have lost our Sam’s address and if you see him tell him that he is lucky to be where he is. I wished I had half a chance of been at home but it is no good grumbling is it? I don't think I shall be lucky enough to be drawn out of the bag. Tell Harry Walker that I am very sorry to hear that he has lost his mother. Tell our Emma that I want to know what it was like at the Don and she (h)as got to write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the next letter that you send me. So no more at present. From your loving husband.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Yourself xxxxxx No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade hd qrts, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


Feb 26th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you in better health as it leaves me at present. I'm very glad to hear that the happy event has come off and I hope you have written to them addresses I gave you then it will save you a lot of trouble. I shall not bother now that I know everything is all right. I am very sorry to hear that our Dot will not have anything to do with the new arrival. She will soon get used to it. It is very cold out hear (sic), we have not had any good weather to call anything since we came out. The baby killers is getting a bit daring. Have you plenty of clothing for it and are you comfortable? So no more at present. Don't let your Sarah Ann go to work then she will be able to look after you.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  New Arrival xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx No 8143 Pte F Whitham, Grenade Company 21st Brigade hd qrts, 7 Division, British expeditionary field forces.


Don't forget to write back by return of post.



Index - Letters of Private Whitham

November 1914 to February 1915 – Letters from Flanders


The 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment had arrived at Zeebrugge on 6 October 1914, and was first in action at Gheluvelt, Ypres on the 16th. From 20 October they were heavily engaged on the Menin Road, and remained in the area until 8 November when they moved to Ploegsteert, and then to Bailleul on 11 November.


Whitham arrived in France on 14 November 1914, and on the 16th, a day the War Diary 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment describes as “bitterly cold” and snowing, it is noted “at 9pm a large party of reinforcements from HAVRE joined us, 5 officers and 513 NCOs and men (mostly Reserves)” arrived “which brought our strength up to 44 officers and 939 other ranks”.


Whitham was posted to A Company.


2nd Battalion, Scots Guards in the trenches at Rue Petillon near Fleurbaix, 5th January 1915


IWM Q 57397