First World War Poetry Digital Archive

CSM Fear, William Henry 'Grandad's letters'

Page 1/4 16.12.1915 Darling Alice, I am still going on alright love & Quite well. We are back again for a rest for a few days. Well love, we shall have our Xmas day in the trenches so we are having our Xmas dinner on Sunday but cannot say what it will be. But never mind, we shall have to make the best of it and look forward to having a jolly good tuck in when I get my next leave. I shall try for another next month but do not know how it will act. I am glad to hear Leslie is a little better & hope baby will soon be well again. I hope Ruby is not going to be ill. Yes I expect May is like me, she takes a lot of shifting when she gets down to it. I hear the Rgt have moved up again. Could not get to see any of them this time, although only down the road. Freeman (With WHF in India) is away again on leave. Mr B is going about with a long face. We have been lucky, had no rain today, but it is fairly cold of course. We can expect it now this time of year. I am trying to send you money on Friday. I believe there is a (group) going home on that day for a months leave. Well love, must close now for I am just off on staff parade. So Ta Ta with fondest of love & kisses to you all from your ever loving hubby, Will.

Undated letter Judging by the last paragraph of the letter of 26.06.1916, he came home on leave on 26.01.1916. Ruby was only 7 at the time, so her letter will have been included with a letter to Grandma. Dear Ruby, I am glad to say I got back quite safe and was not seasick crossing over the water in the big ship. I am glad to hear you are a good girl. Help your Mother all you can. With love from Dad xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

27.03.1916 Barn (Probably the damaged structure shown on the sketches) Dear Ruby, I am glad to hear you are a little better again and you will soon be able to go to school again. I am quite well and strong am glad you are being a good girl and are helping Mother. The weather has been awful again, but I think it is clearing up now, but Oh so cold and we have no fires. Fondest love & kisses to you all. From your loving Dad xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx to Leslie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

08.05.1916 Billets Dear May, I am glad you are doing your best for Mother. I hope her hand will soon be better and that she will also be better herself. Mrs Beaumont did the right thing to give Leslie the strap if he was a bad boy. She should also have given Ruby the strap. We are still having fine weather here and I am getting quite brown. Dear May, now that Mrs Beaumont has gone home again, I hope you will help Mother all you can. I must close now with fondest love & kisses from your loving Dad. Mother xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx May xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Ruby xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Leslie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Cecil xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

29.05.1916 Darling Alice, I was pleased love to get 4 letters from you in two days & to hear the good news about your finger. Otterburn told me it was going on grand the last two or three days he was at home and you cannot tell how it has relieved my mind, for OI was always thinking about you and the kiddies. Cecil looks quite well in his new clothes, he seems to have quite a big tummy don’t he. So that party has called off again then, I shall have to keep an account of the date so if I am able to get leave I shall not get sucked in. I am pleased to here that the kiddies are keeping well, I am still in the best of health myself and quite fit. We are still in the same place, but we get plenty to do to keep us out of mischief. Cecil’s lucky getting home for weekends isn’t he (Grandma’s younger brother). I am glad Ethel is getting on fairly well, it must be a struggle for her these days (Grandma’s younger Sister in Leicester). Well love, things are about ass usual with us. Ta Ta with fondest love & kisses to you all, from your loving hubby, Will.

2 of 4 12.06.1916 Darling Alice, I was so pleased to get your letter of the 9th inst & to hear the good news about your finger. Yeas it must have improved for you to write with, but I think you write better with the left than you do with the right. So the kiddies have been having a gaff are they. Oh well I suppose they are all tarred with the same brush. There is one thing, they no better than us and perhaps they may get a fall One of these days, poor Mrs L, she must have suffered. Yes it’s a bit rotten for poor old Kitchener, well he has done his bit. If every other in England had done the same the war would have been over by now. No you did not say you had Mrs Yates, did you call? I am pleased to hear the kiddies are keeping well. I am still in the pink and quite fit, although we have had some nasty weather just lately & we are up to our necks in muck but of course we are used to this. Things are very quiet here but there is plenty of noise all around. I have not been able to find out where the (Leeds) Pals are yet, so have not been able to come across Horace. Give my kind regards to the Dyson’s if you should see them again soon. I have been wondering just lately how May Dixey is getting on, she must be getting a big girl now. Did the kiddies have their tea today? I have been thinking about them all morning & hoping it is not so wet in England as it is here just at present. Well love, I don’t have any particular news for you, my name has just gone in again (for an award), I wonder what luck this time. I am afraid not much for a regular (discrimination?). Ta Ta darling, fondest of love & kisses to you from your ever loving Hubby Will.

26.06.1916 Darling Alice, I am pleased you are beginning to use your finger again but suppose it will be a long time before you get proper use again. I am glad to hear the kiddies are keeping well. Yes the weather has been awful, but it is quite alright again now. I have got another bed and nice clean sheets & it does feel nice to get to bed again. I am quite well & fit. I have got your list of despatches but your humble was not there, but I do not know what lick I shall have this time for my name has gone in again. Well lets hope for the best. I am glad Leslie liked his card, I also sent him a field postcard. I have not been able to get a letter off to you this last two of three days as I have been so busy. I got a letter from Jack (John Henry Fretter, a fellow Colour Sgt from India – survived the war, died in 1928 and is buried in Bowling Cemetery, Bradford), he said Eileen was on the improve. No I don’t think Leslie is old enough forf an airgun yet. The one you got him is quite good enough just now. So Cecil (3) wants to come & shoot Germans does he. Tell him I will shoot some for him. Yes the Russians are making big strides just now. So you have been having a man in the house then, I shall have to apply for a Divorce. Yes the youngsters seem to ramble a bit don’t they. I am glad I am not at home amongst the paint, ids it pink? Yes it is 5 months since I arrived home on my last leave, just to the day. Yes I expect it will be a long time before they do put the ribbon in, for it takes some time to make it I believe. I hope that fellow has been with the money love, I will get his proper address for you next time I write. Remember me to all inquiring friends. So Ta Ta etc

28.06.1916 Darling Alice, Just a line to let you know I am quite well & fit. Have lost my bed again. I was pleased to hear yoju are still on the improve also to hear the kiddies are well. Well love, I shall not be able to write another letter for a few days, but I will send you a PC now & again. (A number of postcards from this period have survived including several from Vignacourt where they were billeted during a break from the front –probably the bed & clean sheets referred to). Oh, by the way, get May a PC for me (Mother was 9 on 07.07.1916). I am afraid I shall not be able to get one for a few days, now. Things are about as usual with us, we hope the war will soon be over now. Give my kind regards to Mrs M, tell her I am sorry I cannot answer her letter yet. Also remember me to all inquiring friends, tell them I am in the pink. I saw Harry Rhodes this morning (possibly from the OTC), they are with us here, he sends his best wishes. Well love must close now, wishing etc

29.06.1916 Darling Alice, Still another line love to let you know it has come at last, the Military Cross. I hope you are all well as I am pleased to say I am just at present, we have had some more rain and it has been very cold again, fancy we shall soon be in July and things seem about the same, we are still going strong. I am glad you got the money safe and I hope you spent it upon yourself. How does Leslie shape with his gun. I am afraid I shall not be able to get May a PC so you might buy one for me. According to the reading of the papers things are going fairly well with us & lets hope we keep it up. If you have not sent my things off, keep them until you here from me again for they may only go astray. Give my regards to all inquiring friends, tell them to keep smiling. So Ta Ta etc.

3 of 4 30.06.1916 Darling Alice, Just a line to let you know I am still quite well & going strong. I hope you are still on the improve and continue to do so & that the kiddies are still well. We continue to have very showery weather but in between the storms it is quite nice. Well love I shall not be able to get a letter off for the next 4 or 5 days, but I maybe able to send you a FPC now & again. Everybody is quite cheerful and in quite good spirits. Excuse the short scribble now love for IU am in haste. So TaTa etc.

03.07.1916 Darling Alice, I am pleased to say I am still quite well & cheerful. Many thank for the congratulations. Am doing well. Glad to hear you are well also kiddies. Will.

06.07.1916 Darling Alice, I am pleased to hear you are all quite well & I am pleased to say I am still A! & quite cheerful. Well I do not mind now if you do allow them to publish my photo in the papers, perhaps it may do me some good when I get back into civil life. I got the MC for rescuing an NCO who was wounded. I rushed out along a road for 150 yds under very heavy machine gun fire & artillery fire & carried him in on my back as there were no stretchers, all of them being in use for other cases of another regiment that had got knocked about a bit. Also for general devotion to duty, but it was nearly nothing for anyone would have done the same. Yes I’ll take good care they do not know when I do come home on leave if I can help it. I daresay the teachers would like to see me, but I do not want to see them, So GM (George Meredith, I think he was another colleague from India days) is on leave again is he. I made some inquiries a few weeks back about him & his commission. Enough said, I will let you know more when I see you. I take no notice of the 2/8 about the last leave, for they have had that so often. So Blanco (‘White’, not heard him referred to – either OTC or India) is still on the range job then. I’ll see if I can get away one, but I think it’s hopeless as we are far away now for all those sort of things. I think you had better send the blades for I want them. Do not bother to register them. Well love, I must close with fondest of love to you all, your loving Hubby, Will.

09.07.1916 Darling Alice, Just a line to let you know I am still A! and glad you are all well. I got your letters of 2nd & 4th and am glad Jack called to see you. Yes you had a big day out. No I am afraid Eileen will not get any better (she subsequently died & Jack Fretter married Amy Ellen). Yes I bet they all had a good look at your sailor visitor. Things are fairly quiet with us, of course we do with a little smoother. I believe things are going satisfactorily, of course cannot see much. I hope May got her card for the 7th. Yes I heard Perkins was out here somewhere (probably OTC). You can let the Williams know about me for I have not got time to write to anybody. Ruby has not forgot her byke then poor girl. I sent May a PC for her Birthday (embroidered card in collection), I hope she got it alright. I am sorry it turned out wet for the kiddies tea, we are having some very funny weather, but one can expect it after the artillery fir we are getting here now. I am glad our fellows have got a good stock. I dare say it will have been in the papers now about us being in action & I am very pleased to say the troop are all so cheerful. They are singing here like crickets from the hearth. So Leslie has got his wish, I have just let the cat out of the bag. Well Ta Ta love etc. If you should call in on the Sunderlands, tell them I saw their son today & he isquite well. I am sorry I cannot see Horace Dyson.

14.07.1916 (Granddad’s last letter, written the day he was killed) Darling Alice, Just a line to let you know I am still in the pink & quite well and I am glad to hear you are all well. Well things seem to be on the move a little. I hear Preston (probably OTC) has been killed but cannot say whether it is true or not, of course we get all sorts of yarns now. I am pleased to say the troops are all so cheerful through it all. Well love I must close, fondest love & kisses to you all from your loving Hubby, Will.

4 of 4 09.07.1916 (Grandma’s last letter to him, probably arrived after he was killed and was returned) I was more than delighted to get another letter from you this morning, my word you did get a budget, all these letters together, an unusual occurrence for you. Your letter quite cheered me up this morning for I was feeling quite depressed. I woke up with such a start in the night, I thought I heard you calling for me & it was in a shocking voice, of course I must have been dreaming. Still it sounded so real it quite unnerved me, so I felt quite pleased when I saw a letter from you. There was also one from my brother Cecil. Well love, the children want me to take them for a walk today again, but I don’t feel much like it. I expect Mr & Mrs Stockdale would make quite a fuss, it was quite nice of them to write. Well love, things are about as usual, Cecil is standing here worrying me to go and post Daddies letter. I see the Pals have got knocked about last week according to the papers. There are also several of the Rifles names. I shall be so glad when it is all over and you are safe home again. Fond love & kisses from all, your loving wife Alice.

Stockdale congratulatory letters (Mr Stockdale was Colonel of the OTC. One of his grandson’s, Sir Noel, born in 1920, became Chairman and later President of ASDA. The Colonel’s two sons, Guy & George were cadets under Granddad in the OTC and both served as officers in the War. The Stockdales helped Grandma to have Leslie & Cecil educated at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, Dover & Grandma always spoke very fondly of them.

28.06.1916 Spring Lea, Leeds – (very difficult to read & some words guessed) Dear Sgt Major Fear, We are delighted to learn you have gained the Military Cross and I am certain no one in the army deserves it more richly & whose friends will be so glad & proud as yours. I have written & told both my boys who will be glad as they are both so fond of you. I do trust & pray you may come safely through. Hilda remembers you every day. It is nice to think you & Guy have both got it. A Rawdon Buffs has it (Rawdon is 5 m from Leeds), & we think has served in the ones who was under you. Do let us know how you won it unless it is in the papers. I would write to your wife but do not know her address. George is still in (the East) & quite well when he last wrote. With kind regards & our fond wishes, yours sincerely J D Stockdale. Guy went out again on May 21

28.06.1916 (From Mrs Hilda Stockdale, wife of Colonel Stockdale of the LU OTC) Dear Sgt Major Fear, We are simply delighted to see you have got the Military Cross, so will both boys be when they hear & all the rest of the OTC who have passed through your hands. I am so very glad you & Guy have won it just at the same time and he will enjoy his far more for thinking you have got it too, as he always appreciated so thoroughly the way you trained tem all & felt that he got from you. He always said you ought to get a distinction and hoped you would and was very sorry you would not take a commission. I don’t know if you are still with the 8th Battalion, but shall address this there. Guy only went out again on May 21st, he was in England 9 months & after the first three when he was having a complete rest, he went as one of the instructors to the school for officers in Leeds for 2 months & then was sent to the 4th Battalion at Redcar & was with them until he was sent out. With my best wishes &most hearty congratulations, Sincerely yours Hilda Stockdale

19.07.1916 – Officers Training Corps, Leeds University – Sympathy Letter Dear Mrs Fear, I saw this morning in the newspaper that RSM W H Fear had been killed in France. May I on my own behalf and on behalf of the OTC of this University express the deepest sympathy with you in your loss. It is now nearly seven years since I first met your husband on his appointment to this unit and as our own relations have invariably been of the most cordial description over the whole of that period, I feel I have lost an old friend. And I know that I can say the same thing for literally hundreds of men who have passed through the corps here – during the last six or eight months I have met a large number of old cadets, now officers & I think almost without exception one of their earliest questions has been to ask how Fear was. His death will be felt not only by his own battalion, but as a personal loss by the hundreds of men whom he first initiated in military matters at this University. Believe me. Yours very truly. A Woodhead Lt. Commg. Leeds University O.T.C.

Other relevant material in the collection : A number of Postcards, including several views of Vignacourt where the Battalion were billeted during a break from the front. May’s birthday card, referred to in the 09.07.1916 letter & other cards. Photographs including a field inspection and his RSM plan for the parade. Receipt for two swagger sticks (1915) plus photo of Granddad in new uniform & carrying one of the sticks, also both swagger sticks. Granddad at the field camp (Blighty Valley, Authouille Wood?), plus two sketches of the same camp he drew for his daughters. Photo of Grandma at the (posthumous) award ceremony for the MC. Official instructions regarding pay, the Memorandum issued to Widows of Warrant Officers, the Signal from the CO to Lt Farrer requesting the presence of Regt QM Sgt WILDON on the 15th following the death of RSM Fear (presumably his replacement). Whistle, number tag & wallet. Receipt for 2 German Prisoners of War (30 July 1915). Receipt probably relating to A, B, C & D companies.

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