© Peter Hodgkinson 2016

Dr Peter E Hodgkinson Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Military Historian

The Letters of Private Whitham


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





May 6th 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 was very sorry to hear that you had to take the baby to the Doctors. This letter that I am answering is one that you written on April 23rd and I have not received your parcel that you sent me yet lass. Nearly everyone has received their parcels that expected one but me. It might turn up, if it does not you must send me money so that I can buy tobac(co) here with. And when I went into the photo shop and asked him the price for three and (he) told me the price was more than I was getting so I did not bother but was downhearted just the same because I could not send you one. I shall have to save up, that is all there is in it. The money that I get I can spend in bread because I cannot eat them biscuit - I wish I could. I should never buy bread you can bet on that lass, but it cannot be helped. I will write more oftener now because I might have more time. It is very hot out here, the sun is telling a tale on my face and the gaspers are having a hurdle race  over my back but when I go hunting I always have a blood shed battle field on my shirt.* So no more at present from your loving husband.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, Attched to 4th Army Cor. Hd. Qrts. B.E.F.  


Do not forget to put my number on the other parcel or letter.


*Again a reference to lice


May 9th 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 just got ready for church and had a minute to spare and I started to read one of your old letter and I pulled out your photo and the children's and I was studying it - you look close. Our Emma (h)as still the same fluffy hair and our tich has a look on him as if he was going to bust someone. I study you very close and memories come to my mind what me and you had gone through. I had to put the photo away because it began to hurt me when I study what we had gone through. I am very pleased to hear that the baby is going on all right and always have a gill* if you can lass because it will not break you. Get it when you can. I have not got that box of cigs with the cho(co)late in it, but it cannot be helped. So no more at present from your loving husband.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, Attched to 4th Army Cor. Hd. Qrts. B.E.F.


*A quarter of a pint – a likely reference to the restorative power of stout



May 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 received one of the letters that you sent out in April and received one that you written on 7th of May. Whatever you do look after our Freddie's health and don't forget to take him to the hospital and see what they have to say about him. I have received one lot of cigs but have not got them with the cho(co)lates in it. I have given it up as a bad job. Tell your Sarah Ann I thank her for doing what she has done for the child. My head is all right thank you and I am all right in myself to(o). I shall not get downhearted, you can bet on that. Whatever you do don't forget to take our Fred to the hospital. Make it the first thing you do. Don't forget lass, so good morning.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, Attched to 4th Army Cor. Hd. Qrts.



The Battle of Festubert - 15-27 May 1915




The battalion was then at:

Gonnehem (north of Bethune) 20-31 May

Mt Bernechon 1-4 June

Mespalux 5-14 June



May 21st 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 have not received any letters. Reason is that we have been moving about and all your letters that you have sent me will reach me all together, so you need not bother. I am all right up to now, so no more at present. Please excuse this letter as I have not much to say. In the next letter you very lightly (sic) hear more. Write back as soon as possible. Please take notice of my address.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  


Always put my number on every letter and parcel that you send out. No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.



May 24th 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 have not received any of your letters yet and I do not know what to think. I expect it is with us moving about so much but I will let you know as soon as I receive one and then you will have nothing to bother about. And I am in the pink of condition and we are having such lovely weather here, it is grand. Tell our tich that if I get home I will bump him one on the nose. What sort of a time have you with the new arrival? If you see my mother tell her that Tommy Finn is in the same lot as me. So no more at present.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.



June 3rd 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. Let our tich claim my chair if he wants it. And I am not in the trenches but God knows how soon I will be in them. You must not send me any bread or butter because I am all right. We get paid out every month and it just last(s) me until next payday. I got a bit of bread extra with you sending that 4/- order but the first chance I have of getting my photo taken I will do so. Don't forget to send me cigs. You know that I would sooner go without my meals than smoke. And you get what you want and (don’t) fret about me getting enough. I have just got a billet and that is servant to my officer* so you need not bother about me not getting enough to eat now. He is very good to me. Don't send me any spice of any kind. You can send me a bit of spice cake if you like. Tell our tich I will bump him when I come home and don't forget it and he does right to claim my chair. When you see him in the chair think that it is me and the(n) you will not get downhearted. Give my best respects to all and tell my mother my address will you. So good night and God bless you all.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.


*He very likely means his platoon commander. The individual is not identifiable. Every officer had a servant whom he chose personally.


7th June 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 parcel of cigs and toffee and was pleased and am writing this letter just before going into the trenches and I have made a will out in your favour, all of it, then if anything becomes of me. The reason that I have done this is because there was a lad got killed and he had not made a will out and when his wife went for to claim she could not get it until she had sent to his sergeant so it will save a lot of trouble for you. Trusting to God nothing happens. Save this letter and you will have a prove (sic) of it. So good morning and God bless you all.

 

For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.


I had written a letter to send to you and fell asleep and it was a good (thing) to(o) because the same night I received a parcel with 25 packets of cigs in it, but I have not received the other parcel with the cho(co)lates in it. So no more at present. Good morning. Tell our tich I will bump him. I would like to see him because I have often pictured him in my mind when I have been running after him.


June 8th 1915


Dear Wife and Children

I write these few lines to you all hoping to find you all in good health as it leaves me at present. I have received your letter with the money in it. And I am just about to move off to see the Germans again. It is just about my luck. I am one of the unlucky ones but as soon as I come out of the trenches again I will see that you have a photo if I have to go all over France to have it took and they can make me a prisoner if they like. I have kept telling you and sending for money and never had luck enough to get it took but don't be disappointed lass - it is the thing that I cannot help having to go in the trenches. The next time you write please let our Emma put a line or two in with you and tell me about the pictures she see at the Don. The letter that she sent me was very nice and I like to read it. And tell her to try and learn all she can, will you. If you were to see that watch you sent me it is rusty with the sweat from my body. I wish I could get it mended; the first chance I have I will do. I have everything you have sent me and with pulling your photo out of my pocket it is getting worn out but I have got a case for it now. And has Harry Mrs Johnstone's brother come out with his rgt? If so let me know will you. He is a sergeant major. So this is all at present from your loving husband. Don't forget to let our Emma write me another nice letter again will you.


For Doris xxxxxxxx Emma xxxxxxxxx Fred xxxxxxxxx  Sarah Anne  xxxxxxxx Yourself xxxxxx  No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.


I would like to see a photo of the new arrival - it would be a pleasure for me.


Index - Letters of Private Whitham