Monthly Archives: December 2013

Other voices, other times

At the moment I am mining a rich seam of unintended comedy in a variety of letters, some written by the family, and some to them.

On Sat: Mrs Stotherd comes to lunch after decorating – it’s always rather a trial- altho’ she doesn’t sit among the tombs as much as she used.

What can one say? Straight from a Wilkie Collins novel, in spirit if not in fact. Mrs Stotherd was presumably decorating the church by arranging the flowers in it.

We have Reggie at home now, also wounded – it is such a blessing to feel they are safely in England & receiving the best attention. The dear old boy is very cheerful, but in a good deal of pain as his sciatic nerve has been injured in some way.

Lucky, wounded, cheerful Reggie.

And here is someone whose tartness I feel I would have enjoyed:

We have lots of wounded in all the Red X hospitals round us- & they may take our school later on. … I would much rather have a government one. Red X is wonderfully muddled as a rule, & such squabbles!

I have spent my life knitting, & am still at it, for the French wounded now.

A PS on a letter to a wounded officer sent home to England to recover from a fellow officer in France:

By the way- the C.O. has asked me to tell you that your Mess Bill is 11.50 Francs (say 9/-) Could you send a Postal Order? Sorry to trouble you but C.O. &c.

I love the economy of phrase of “but C.O. etc”.

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Posted by on 31 December, '13 in About


Honey still for tea

Not all the letters are grim.

I am surprised how much time some of them spent in England. Not Paul, at sea in the Navy, but Richard was a doctor and was posted in troop hospitals on the English coast during 1915. I am not sure what Jim was doing in England at this time (few of his letters survive) and Ted was either on leave or training troops during this day trip straight out of Betjeman:



My dear Mother. I expect you’ve heard of Ted’s & my trip to see Mrs Hughes Hewett. We enjoyed it awfully & it was a pity Ted had to come away so soon. He missed so much of the motor part. It was so nice seeing Blanche again, & Diana is a dear little girl.

I motored back here & found nothing doing. No wounded & the place empty. I wonder whatever they will do with us. I must try & get up to see you all again soon. I miss Ben, she has not written yet, but I suspect she is busy with her new job. Please tell her I have been to Swanage today. Quite a nice little place & such a good tea. Honey – cream – lovely bread & butter & gorgeous cakes! I took Miss Twining.

I am wiring to Jim tonight to get him over for a dance tomorrow. He’s been here on Sunday. Lovely weather nowadays. I bathed today and enjoyed it.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


Wherever he is outside the trenches, Richard stays in the best hotels and his letters are full of pretty girls, dances, motorcars, race-horses and occasional tallies of figures as he works out how to pay for them all.