© Peter Hodgkinson 2016

Dr Peter E Hodgkinson Chartered Clinical Psychologist - Military Historian

The Letters of Private Whitham

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


Battle of Givenchy – 15-16 June 1915



Normal trench duties resumed, and on 17 July the battalion moved to Paradis at Merville.


July 19th 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. Please excuse me for not getting a letter away before now. I had written one and forgot to give it the post man in the trenches, but it cannot be helped, can it? We have come out for about ten minutes and then we go back - the sooner it is over the better. I have got everything that you have sent me up to now, cigs and postal order. And the first chance I have of sending you a button I will do so when I get to town. I will send you something. I will not forget you, don't bother, I have not had time. Nearly all my time is took up now, and another thing is we are not allowed to send letters out of the trenches unless it is in them green envelopes* and it would take them to reach you about six days. Let me have a photo of the young one as soon as you get it took will you. To tell you the truth about been (sic) fat or thin, I think I am on the thin side. Do not build your castle high lass, because God knows when I shall get a chance. It might be when all is over or when I get severely wounded, I don't know. I seem to be one of the unlucky ones, but never mind. Buck up and don't get downhearted, everything will come right in time. Tell our Emma to write a letter to me, will you, I'm going to send her one now.


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.


Do not get jealous of me writing to our Emma.


*Green envelopes were letters which could be sent uncensored, on trust that there were only personal and family matters mentioned within


July 19th 1915


Dear Daughter

I write these few lines to you hoping to find you in good health as it leaves me at present. It was a very nice letter you sent to me and will you send me another letter like that and say a prayer before you go to bed for me and be a good girl and then I will love you always. And don't forget to tell me what the pictures is like when you go will (you) and tell our Fred not be a bad boy will you and I will love him as well. I am sending you all some kisses.


For you all. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Good afternoon to you and your brother and sister.


During this period the unit was near Richebourg St Vaast.


July 30th 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 and I hope the baby is better now. In the last letter I sent you I told you that I felt everything at home was not right and the feelings told me true for I have received a letter from you telling me that you had to send for Dr Harrison and that shows, does it not? You want to know what I think about the child that I have not seen, well she is a little beauty isn't she? And I have put it at the side of your photo and childrens. And she is just like our Dot. I could not take my eyes of(f) it last night. She is a little peach. And I have got the photo and cigs and I thank you for them. I have a button in my pocket for you to have a brooch made of it when I can get a box to send it in. And I must have lost that crucifix that I was going to send you. I used to wear it on my watch chain - you will have one as soon as I can get to a place where I can buy one for you. And the child, I cannot help it but she is a little beauty. I often have a look at it. So no more at present from your loving husband Fred. Don't forget to let our Emma write a few lines to me will you.


For Sarah and, Doris, Fred, Emma, yourself. No 8143 Pte  F Whitham, C Coy, 2nd Yorkshire Rgt, 21st Brigade, 7th Division, B.E.F.


This is a button off my officers coat and it is the very same as our badge. It will make you a very nice brooch.


There are no surviving letters for August and the last letter is dated 6 days before Whitham’s death.



September 20th 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. Please excuse me not writing before now as we have been very at hard work. Just before I wrote this letter the Germans sent a shell over and it killed one and wounded two just w(h)ere we are doing our cooking for the officers.* You should have seen me running to get shelter! Our Fred is taking to school better, it will be a load off your hands, lass, and I am pleased to hear that our Emma enjoyed her outing. It is like sunshine to me to hear that my children is enjoying themselves and it makes me happy. I will be glad when I can see your Dear Face again. Did you read that case about a soldier coming home from the front on leave and finding his wife out carr(y)ing on with other men? And his child Tich I have just signed my hand to have him let off. He killed his child put it out of it(s) misery. Lass, just fancy a man staring death in the face and coming home on a short leave and thinking what a pleasure it will be to his wife and child and then find when he gets home that his wife is false. I pity that man. Please send me some writing paper.

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.

You written (sic) this letter on Sept 13th and I got it on Sept the 19th. There has been (something) up in the English Channel.


*Whitham was clearly still an officer’s servant.


Index - Letters of Private Whitham