Fred Firth's WWI letters

March 1916

March 8th 1916

The following letter is from Ben Evans, who was (in the 1911 census) aged 43 and the "Minister of the Gospel of the Congregational Order", living at The Manse, Marsden with his wife Jane.


March 8/16

Dear Fred Thanks for your letter & I am pleased to here you are settling down to your enforced soldiering & ‘we will keep the Home fires burning until you Come Home"*5 
We did well at Sale, close upon £143. We shall
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more than need it if the war continues & as people feel the stress & strain – still we must Hope & Trust in God. Little Cooper did his little part admirably & Mary had drilled it into them all fine.
The girls at the Cafe & at the Entertainments were at their best & did their utmost to
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make things ‘Hum" in the absence of the boys. There's No News to send & you will here all worth getting from Home. The War does not seem to end or mend – I hope it will before you will be needed. Now no more. Mrs Evans sends best wishes with my own I am your friend

Ben Evans

March? 1916

The following is another letter from Mary Alice Wilson. It is undated but from its content ("Charlie" falling asleep and "HE" breaking off her engagement to him; the Sale of Work) it seems close in time to the preceding letters.

1 Peel Street

Dear Fred,
We got your letter on Thursday morning, I thought you had forgot all about us. I daresay you have heard all about the Sale of Work from home, Mary Cotton Said she wished to be remembered to you, Annie Broadbent is still on the sick but I think she is going to work on Monday next. She is sending you a tin of Pomfret Cakes you must think about her every time you eat one. M.E. & Annie stayed to tea on Sunday you can just imagine us sat round the fire talking H.E. came down about 7 o'clock we were talking about something when she said: "Oh shut up abaat that an lets talk abaat Fred thoud lad" I wonders what he's doing naah!! I wish you could have been at the Chapel on Sunday afternoon, we were all nearly Shlilling with laughing at Charley, he could
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not keep awake he kept nodding & then all at once he would begin snoring, H.E. says she does not think she will have him now when he snores – he would keep her awake all night so it is all off now & Charlie is to let she did not turn up on Tuesday night I guess the Zeppo frightened her on Sunday night. I must thank you very much for the money you sent us I made it into 3/6 with buying a few pots & putting a few coppers on G.F. took the Battery on Sat. night, he only made 4/7 & gave it to our Stall, he would not take it on Tuesday night because he said he would not go about the same, but you know Fred it was very funny without the young men you were all missed very much & I think you the most of all
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Mr Dyson did not go at all, but I think we did very well as far as money matters in these bad times everybody has such a lot to think about just now, M.A. Bamforth has knit you a Coushion Mr Dyson has found the wool for it & we all hope you will have such nice dreams when you use it you know such as Martha Hannah gathering Onions & you collecting rents, Oh I forgot to mention Elizabeth Alice, was selling golliwogs on Sat Mr Harper sends you one so you will be able to sell more than tomatoes when you go round with your wheel-barrow, my Mother came up yesterday she was asking about you so I read the letter for her she had a good laugh at the last sentence she is sending you a few Choclates, when you write again just tell us what kind of friends you have made, G.H. says he is going to appeal, when I asked him what for He says there will be nobody to emty the ashes on Thursday nights, so he thinks
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we cant do without him at home*6 , H.E. is sending you a snot rag she says I wonder which is you washing day, I am sending you one as well M. Cotton got the bit of nougat for you, Mr Sam Whitehead has been in for the battery he takes it up to John Schofield, he came in for it on Monday night & when he was going on Derby Terrace he slipped & fell in a little while he came back & said it would not act & he had fallen & must have shook something inside the Cop, so Mr Dyson put it together & it went allright you see (thoud baat Trump*7 ) had not connect[ed] the thing right he said he had tried a long time but it would not go, so he had to come away without tickling John his leg. I have not seen Amy for a long time I think they must be snown up at Hey Leighs anyway Mr J.B.J. will go round that way on Sunday & see that everything is all right, I must now come to a finish it is nearly tea-time your Cooper did very well on Tuesday G.H. says I have to stay in on Sunday & cook the dinner we have had a right set to I wish you was here to help me.

March 17th 1916 (Friday
The following is another letter from Mary Alice Wilson with an added note from "Eli"- possibly the "S.E." referred to, who is probably her daughter Sarah Elizabeth (aged 8 in 1911). It is in an envelope addressed to 4695 Pte Fred C. Firth, 3/5th Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regt., No 3 lines, No 26 Hut, Clipstone Camp, Notts, postmarked Marsden 17 MR 16.

Dear owd dog

This is the only bit of space left & I join in wishing you many happy returns & let it be soon (I mean the first)! You missed the message on the top lid from ‘Baas trump' & myself. I havn't been able to find the P.O.s for snow.


Peel Street
Mch 17th

I saw your mother his morning, & she told me she was sending you a parcel today, so I must be quick with sending you a few rambling remarks, I don't think there is any big change in Marsden during this last week, only H.E. has had a letter from the trenches, I leave you to guess who from, & I am going with Annie some fine day to choose her bridesmaids dress you will have to save up now for a wedding present. I forgot to tell you that John Allen had to waken Charlie the other Sunday
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by digging him in the bread-basket with his conducting stick, you can just imagine how we all laughed. Mr Harper has been telling us today he is going to leave us after all, so I think you had better ask off and come home to be the Chapel Keeper Mr. Dyson has heard they have sold your Hannah so I daresay you will be eating some of her to dinner some day, My word Fred we have had a time down here this last few days the new sideboard has come the one you call an Incubator we have got it in the cellar the oil lamp has been going since Thursday morning … J.B.G. has been busy, Kathy Cake & Jim as well & little Willie is running round like a two year old. they say they are
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going to put your Mary & me in & frizzle us up so you may be eating us for bully beef but I am afraid we shall be to fat for you. I saw Amy one day but I did not mention you, she say they have had a lot of snow up at Hey Leighs, they could not come down the road they had to cross the fields. Annie B. & I are going to the L. Club on Saturday night the Married Men are giving a tea for the Parcel Fund*8 & Annie is going to have a dance with Charlie if he is there now that H.E. has thrown him over she thinks there is a chance for her, I think I shall suggest going round by Rochdale again on Easter Monday looking for that [B] Linen Shop it may be in H.E. way before long. I have not seen M.E.
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for above a week so I cant tell you much about her she did good work at the Sale of Work so perhaps she is resting (Old Baat Trump) came down on last on last Saturday night, we had a game at bridge, we had another game on Wed night your Mary was down & she & Mr Dyson Green boarded S.E. & I. they have some edge on now I wish you could just see us now G.E. is on one side the table writing poetry, & I am on the other & S.E. is at the front of the table writing to Ternanll they are in France we had a Post-Card last week from them & they seem to like France better than England, I went down to Hill Top on Tuesday & mother was asking about you one of my Father's sons has been here on leave & he stayed a week to long so you may guess what he would have to go through when he got back, I think I shall have done to much you must let me know when you are tired of long letters.

March 17th 1916 (Friday) 

The following letter and poem (both in the same writing) are not signed. However, they were in the same envelope as the preceding letter from MAW, who referred to "G.E." writing a poem:

Dear Fred
It looks ages since I saw your bonny face. But I think we shall have you in Marsden on furlogh before long. Do you keep in the best of health, when you are up to the knees in mud, as I think it will have been at Clipstone Camp. We shall send a band to meet you at Marsden Station if you will only let us know when you are coming. We are doing very nicely your Norman and I with the School work I must tell you that John Allen as resigned Choirmaster
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But do you know we are in doubt whether to put Charlie No Mack in to his place, he has has*9 a voice like a Jack Daw and it is very noticable. If you had been there the other Sunday when he had his twenty winks you would have asked him not to come again. There we are having Such a lot of Young Men leaving the Mills till I think it is not far distant when you will see me in Khaki I saw Lewis Hall the other day and he had just had a telegram to join is regiment, and he thought that they were going out again
[rest of letter may be mislaid]

Keep your self in training
Till the war is oer
For your Amy's waiting
Till the money has piled up more
If you think she as forget
You are mistaken I am sure
For she comes to our window
Till its time to climb the moor
We shall all [be] pleased to see you
In that bright and happy place
Back among the dear old faces
In the Congregational Church
Have tried my skill at poetry
But its not the best I know
For you know I'm only a Mill boy
Of Crowther Bruce & Co
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There is Benny & Mary Alice
And there's Tom & Jim & Will
For you know we're allways jolly
In the midst of all the din
If you think that it is better
Not to talk of your better half
Let us know and we will tell her
That weve killed the fatted calf
For she is a nice Jam Tart
Signed by
Not Laycock

March 22nd 1916 (Thursday) 

The following letter (in pencil) is from "Arthur", who has also "joined up". He could be the Arthur Sykes written to by Fred in 1908, or possibly Fred's cousin Arthur, referred to in the next letter from M.A. Bamforth.

2/7th Duke of Wellingtons Regt
No 8 Camp Canada Lines
Larkhill Camp
Salisbury Plain
March 22nd 1916

Dear Fred,
I received your welcome letter last night I have not forgotten you, I was going to write you last week when I found that I had lost your address. I wrote to Ernest & also home to see if they knew it but I hav'nt had an answer yet, of course I shall not need it now. I hope you have got over your inoculation allright have you been vaccinated yet. I will wish you many happy returns of your birthday, but I hope it will be the first & last you have in the army, in war time at anyrate. I saw Hugh Wild & Lewis ‘Crack" about a fortnight ago they are with the 2/5th. We are still getting the Derby recruits we shall have about 200 now & they still keep coming. I am fed up with this blinking hole it has rained for the last two days & its like walking in a sea of liquid mud. I am glad to hear you are liking your new life allright, I bet you hear some smutty language. (what!) I think you would have had to stop at Hey Leyes for a day or two if you had been at home & if you had gone courting, you would have had a beano. I don't know when I shall get leave from here they only give week-end leave from
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1.oclock Saturday afternoon to Sunday midnight that's not much use for going up to Yorkshire. They seem to have had a tremendrous amount of snow at Marsden especially up Stanedge, so We have something to be thankful for, that we were out of that lot. Well Fred I hope the war won't last much longer I have had quite enough soldiering to last me for a while, & now we have to start at the very beginning again, its chronic: I will close now hoping you keep in the pink, I am allright now, just got rid of a cold so so long for the present wishing you again many happy returns of the day
I am
Your sincere Pal

P.S. I am enclosing some poetry of Lark Hill written by a private in the York & Lancs. [Second page ends here]

Lark Hill Camp Page I

There's an isolated, desolated spot I'd like to mention,
Where all you hear is "Stand at base", "Quick March", "Slope Arms" "Attention",
Its miles & miles
Its miles & miles from anywhere, by gum, it is a rum un,
A Chap lived there for 50 years & never saw a woman.
There's only two lamps in the place, so tell it to your mother,
The postman carries one & the policeman the other,
And if you want a jolly night & do not care a jot,
You take a ride upon the car, the car they havn't got.
Lots of tiny little huts, are dotted here & there,
For those who live inside them, I've offered many a prayer,
Its slutch up to the eyebrows, by jove it is some puddle
Sandow*10 wouldn't stand, a blooming dog's chance in the struggle.
Soldiers live inside the huts, they fill my heart with sorrow,
With tear-dimmed eyes they say to me, "Its Lark Hill camp tomorrow.
Inside the huts there's rats, as big as nanny goats,
Last night a soldier saw one, trying on his overcoat.
For breakfast every morning, its like "Old Mother Hubbard,
You double round the room three times & jump at the cupboard.
Sometimes they give you bacon, & when they give you cheese,
It forms Platoons upon your plate, "Orders Arms" & "Stands at Ease".
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Page II

Every night you sleep on boards, just like a lot of cattle,
And when you turn from left to right, your bones begin to rattle,
And when the bugle blows at morn it drives you off your noddle,
You knock the icebergs off your toes & curse the awful bugle.
Week in, week out, from morn till night with full pack & a rifle.
Like Jack & Jill you climb the hill, of course that's just a trifle.
"Slope Arms", "Fix Bayonets" "Then present" they fairly put you through it.
You have to be a stag, or else, an antelope to do it.
With braces, boots, & puttees off, you quickly get the habit,
You gallop up & down the hills, just like a blooming rabbit,
"Head backwards bend"; "Arms upward stretch"; "Heels raise", "then ranks change places";
And later on they make you put your kneecaps where your face is.
This Swedish drill it does you good, it makes your bones so tender,
You can curl yourself up like a snake, & crawl beneath the fender,
Its nothing else but Swedish drill, from 6 o-clock till seven,
And when we die, its ten to one it'll be "On the hands down"; in Heaven.
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Page III

And When the war is over, & we've captured Kaiser Billy,
To starve him would be merciful, & absolutly silly.
Just send him down to Lark Hill Camp among the mud and clay.
And the [little] Crown Prince*11 to watch him, as he sowly fades away.

March 23rd 1916 (Thursday)

The following letter is from M.A. Bamforth, possibly Mary Ann Bamforth who in 1911 was single, aged 47, living in Argyle St and working as a cloth shader. It is in an envelope addressed to 4695 Pte Fred C. Firth, 3/5th Duke of Wellington's W. R. R., No 3 lines, No 26 Hut, Clipstone Camp, Notts.

Argyle St Marsden In Huddersfield
March 23rd 1916

Dear Fred
I was very pleased to receive a letter from you. We have another nice morning this morning they are few and far between, but, it is a pleasure to look out when there is one. I am glad you are taking well to your new surroundings I hope please God you may not have to be away very long before the War is over. I hear they would like you to come home this week end for your birthday, but, whether you come or not I will take this opportunity to wish you many Happy Returns. Your Mother came in yesterday intending to see me Miss Tadd was in at the time so your mother did not come upstairs but promised to come in again before long I hope she does for I should like to see her she might have done yesterday, but, was wanting to go to Gatehead. My cousin Herbert G…..ide*12lives at Golcar has two lads who have joined the Royal Marines I think that is it and the younger of them has a mate went with him who is called Arthur I think by what your mother says it turns out to be your Cousin Arthur don't things turn out interesting sometimes I will now close Mrs Galley & myself are fairly well she is having a little outing this week end. 
Yours sincerely,
M.A. Bamforth