Search

Letters tell tales of life in Great War

PUBLISHED: 10:21 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 09:31 11 May 2010

Ron Ashby with the old biscuit tin full of letters and other belongings of Pte William Holland. Picture: RICHARD WOOD

Ron Ashby with the old biscuit tin full of letters and other belongings of Pte William Holland. Picture: RICHARD WOOD

NINETY years ago, thousands of young men left behind their loved ones to fight for their country. Many crossed the channel to Europe, while others were deployed to the east coast to act as the first line of the home defence.

NINETY years ago, thousands of young men left behind their loved ones to fight for their country. Many crossed the channel to Europe, while others were deployed to the east coast to act as the first line of the home defence.

Whether they were at home or abroad, the troops relied on the postal service to help keep in touch with their families and friends. One man from Padiham, near Burnley, was one of the many to take the opportunity to write home, but little would he have imagined that 90 years later his letters would appear in The Journal.

In December, 1918, Private William Thomas Holland, of the 52nd Kings Liverpool Regiment, was living at 15 Marine Parade, in Lowestoft. From here, he sent numerous letters to relatives across the country to let them know how he was doing.

Many of them returned his correspondence, to update him with reports of their health and the latest developments in their own lives.

Pte Holland neatly kept all these letters in a biscuit tin together with a number of other possessions, but when Ron Ashby, now of Broad Fleet Close, Oulton, changed the building into a guesthouse over 30 years ago, an electrician discovered the box under the floorboards.

“It's full of letters and photos of the soldier, who was billeted in Lowestoft. They are dated in December, but perhaps he went to France in January and didn't come back,” said Mr Ashby.

Amongst the box of treasures are old scraps of newspaper, a Players Navy Cut Cigarettes case, complete with a Dennis Eadie in Disraeli card, envelopes, a small cap gun, glass tube of glycerine, odd buttons and a billeting card.

The card for 15 Marine Parade was signed on October 18, 1918, and states that two men were in room five, but it is unknown who Pte Holland's roommate was.

Alongside these various items were a number of letters to William from his family, including a handmade new year card and a felt black cat, and two photographs. One of the photos, which is accompanied by a wallet from Woolston's Arcade Studio, 12 Victoria Arcade, Lowestoft, is thought to be of William.

He had sent a number of copies of the image to his friends and family, with many of them mentioning it in their letters to him.

“I think your photo was a very good one, but it would have been much better if you have had your cap a bit nearer the back of your head. But never mind, better luck next time,” said his cousin Maggie Holland.

However, this was with an envelope addressed to Frank Holland, so it is unsure whether it is intended for him or not, particularly as William had a cousin, sister and aunt named Maggie. The other photograph was taken by Edgar Bradshaw, in Padiham, and may be of Frank Holland.

The letter from Maggie Holland also sympathised that William would not be returning home for Christmas, while she also updated him on the condition of Alfred Holland, William's uncle, who had been flown to Aberdeen after being injured, and Wallace Holland, who had been “over the top” the previous weekend.

William was provided with an address for Alfred and had clearly made contact, as he had replied with a letter.

“Glad to hear you are you are in the front and still in England and I hope you never go out there and if you can get out of it, do so for it is hell out there. This is my third wound now and I don't want anymore I can tell you,” he wrote.

Ninety years later, Mr Ashby has no idea what happened to William, Alfred, Frank or the other Holland family members, but as William never returned to pick up his box of letters, he fears he may have never returned to his home land.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Lowestoft Journal

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists