When the old family home was sold in 1998, and before it was demolished, at the back of a cupboard was found, a very old leather bound journal, which no-one knew had even existed. It contained all my Great Uncle Charlie's letters home, from the day he left in May 1915, until the very last letter before his death at Mouquet Farm, August 26th 1916. Every one of his letters was transcribed into this now very fragile journal by my great grand mother in her beautiful cursive script. It also includes newspaper clippings from the day, including the reporting of his death which occurred within two weeks of the death of his cousin Cyril.
What is also extraordinary and incredibly touching, is the glimpse of my Great Grandmother, as the tears she shed in the transcribing are captured on those pages as they made the ink run, and stands as testimony to a woman's love of her son and her heart-breaking grief. She looks so strict and upright in those faded family photos, the care and love in compiling that old diary, whispers much to me about her too, the heart of that woman behind the stoic, stern face.
Due to the fragile nature of the original book, my mother and I embarked on a project of transcribing them yet again. Mum read each letter and I typed furiously, so together we have come to know Uncle Charlie, his gentle eloquence and his dry wit, his warmth, his love of family, a myriad of characters, his mates, his boredom, hardship and his despair, his whole war service story. It is an incredible tale, he writes from transport ships, the trenches of Gallipoli (including his version of the famous exit), his time in Egypt (there is a funny letter where he wilfully goes AWOL in Cairo, all for the want of a hot bath, clean sheets and a bed), the horror of The Somme...
How he could write such witty repartee whilst living some kind of man-made hell on earth I do not know.
The purpose of this site is not to glorify war. It is to honour the life of a young man, felled all too soon, by honouring his own words. All families have rich tapestries of oral histories, stories of the minutia of family life and characters, funny and foul . The Great War robbed this young man of an ordinary family life, thus we wish to present this to all his family so his story lives, woven through ours. It is an intergenerational labour of familial love which began with the beautiful cursive script of my Great Grand Mother, and continued by us, my Mum, my brother and myself.
Rest in Peace, Uncle Charlie
Lest we forget.