Fred Firth's WWI letters


Foot notes

1 Thoresby Park, near Ollerton, Nottinghamshire, became an army camp in World War I. The 2/4th Battallion of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment moved here in May 1915.

1a Place name could be 'Balworth', but Babworth is a village near Retford in Nottinghamshire: Babworth Hall became an auxiliary hospital during World War I, and very likely also the site for the Army training described here.

2 There is no Epistle to Joshua in the Bible. There is a Book of Joshua in the Old Testament: Joshua was a leader of the Israelites who succeeded Moses and conquered the Promised Land. Joshua may have been Fred’s nickname, or maybe this an allusion to him becoming a soldier.

3 These words enclosed in a circle

4 During the First World War part of the park of Osterley Park, an Adam house in Middlesex, was used as a motor instruction camp (Victoria County History, History of Middlesex Volume III, pp 100-103)

5 "Keep the Home-Fires Burning ('Till the Boys Come Home)" was a song composed by Ivor Novello in 1915.

6 It appears, from a later letter by Fred’s mother, that George Herbert Wilson was in fact called up – he will have been aged about 40 in 1916. The British conscription act of January 1916 specified that single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called-up for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of religion. There was a system of tribunals to adjudicate upon claims for exemption upon the particular grounds of performing civilian work of national importance, being a key worker within a particular concern, domestic hardship, health, and conscientious objection. The law went through several changes before the war's end, married men ceasing to be exempt in June 1916, and the age limit eventually being raised to 51

7 There are several references to “Old Baat Trump” which is clearly a nickname, possibly dialect for “old but trump” (similar to “coming up trumps?”), and in this case “the old but trump”.

8 The Parcel Fund was started in July 1915 in Marsden. Money was raised to pay for the postage on all parcels to men on war service. Parcels were simply taken to Frederick Russell’s newsagents where they were weighed and stamped for the post, free of cost to the sender (See Lockwood, Ernest (1936) Colne Valley Folk, Heath Cranton Ltd, p.147)

9 repeated in original

10 possibly Eugene Sandow, famous Edwardian bodybuilder

11 Crown Prince William, the son of Kaiser Wilhelm II, led the German 5th Army until November 1916. He was belittled as the "Clown Prince" by British soldiers.

12 paper partially holed; probably Garside or Gartside.

13 Royle, Edward, ‘Religion in Huddersfield since the mid-Eighteenth Century’ in Hillary Haigh E.A (Ed.) Huddersfield A Most Handsome Town (1992) Kirklees Cultural Services.

14 probably Anniversary of chapel, see later

15 Tommyfield is Oldham’s market hall

16 Daylight Saving Time (i.e. British Summer Time) was first used on May 21st, 1916, following Germany; “World War I changed the political equation, as DST was promoted as a way to alleviate hardships from wartime coal shortages and air raid blackouts” []

17 word repeated in original

18 This may be a reference to a hymn number in the hymn book Sacred Songs and Solos by Ira D. Sankey (1840 – 1908), an American gospel singer and composer known as “The Sweet Singer of Methodism”.

19 Cyril Brown Newman, son of John E. & A.E. Newman of “West Leigh”, Marsden, died aged 20 on 3rd September 1916 and is buried at Authuile.

20 “General Service” required the highest category, A, of fitness: categories B1, B2 and B3 followed, allowing service abroad, and C1 allowed for Garrison Service at Home Camps. All in C categories were deemed “free from serious organic disease, able to stand service conditions in garrison at home”. Source: ‘Conscription Categories in the Great War’

21 Presumably this is Fred’s cousin Frank Firth, son of Samuel Firth and sister of Isobel, who would have been about 18. He survived the War to inherit the business at Cellars Clough Mills.

22 Commonwealth Graves War Commission, Vis-en-Artois Memorial