Fred Firth's World War 1 letters

The birth of Frederick Cooper Firth was registered at Huddersfield between April and June 1895 (Vol. 9a, p. 255). In 1901, aged 6, he was living at Upper Gatehead with his family. His father Thomas Firth (born October 2nd, 1864) was a plumber, married to Clara Alberta. Also in the family were his sister Mary aged 4, and his brothers Norman Garside and Thomas aged 3 and 1. Another brother, Joseph Cooper was born in 1908. In 1911 the family were living at 19 Peel Street; Fred's father was a "plumber and glazier", and Fred, aged 16, was his assistant in the business, while Mary was a dressmaker's assistant.

Fred_1930s.jpgFred's father Thomas was well connected. He was one of the sons of Thomas Firth who, in the censuses, is shown in 1871 as a woollen clothier at Gatehead, and in 1881, still at Gatehead, as a "farmer of 15 acres and woollen waste merchant employing 12 hands".

Thomas's elder brother Samuel founded the woollen firm of Fisher, Firth & Co at Cellars Clough Mills and, with another brother Cooper, founded S. & C. Firth at Holme Mills. Two more brothers, Herbert and Fred Firth, ran Firth Brothers, Shepley, while the eldest brother David Firth, according to Ernest Lockwood in Colne Valley Folk, "remained in the old homestead at Gatehead, as a farmer". In addition, Thomas Firth senior had four daughters; Jane, Elizabeth, Annie and Ellen.

According to his WWI Medal Index card (online record), Frederick Cooper Firth enlisted in the West Riding Regiment (Reg. No 204732) as private on 23rd February 1916, at the age of 20. Addresses on envelopes show that he began his service in the 3/5th Battalion, which (with others) formed as depot/training units at home stations in March 1915, and on 8th April 1916 became reserve battalions and moved to Clipstone Camp.

The letters which follow were donated to the Marsden History Group by Norman Wrigley, whose sister Marjorie was the wife of Fred’s only son David. The family are happy for Marsden History Group to publish the letters here. Most of them were written to Fred in 1916 by his family and friends. They provide a moving picture of the anxieties faced by those whose young men had gone to war, as well as the way that everyday life continued, albeit with difficulties caused by the shortage of men as workers, bandsmen and Sunday School teachers.

If anyone has any additional information about the writers of the letters or of the people and places mentioned in them, please do contact Marsden History Group.

N.B. In the transcription below, words which were "inserted above the line" have been placed in square brackets. Words which are unclear have been put in italics. Those still to be checked against original are in red.

December 15th 1908
The following was written by Fred at the age of about 13 to a friend. It is in an unstamped envelope, addressed to Master Arthur Sykes c/o John Sykes. The "little brother" mentioned is Joseph Cooper, later referred to as "Cooper", born on 26th June 1908.

Oliver Road
Marsden
Nr. Huddersfield
December 25th 1908

Dear Arthur,
I thought I would just write you as letter as it is a long time [since] I heard any news from you. This morning I found on the table by my stocking a writing case which I thing will be of use to me. On the 26th of June last I had a little brother born which a family of seven including (father & mother) Grandma Firth and Mrs Schofield are keeping very well and so are the rest of us. I hope [End of page] 
you have not forgotten Marden and your old friends. Marsden has altered a great deal since you left. I am very well at presant hoping you are and written soon.

Your loving friend
Frederick C. Firth


August 17th 1915
This letter is from Fred's friend, Corporal Arthur Walton who was based at Thoresby in the 2/7th Leeds Rifles Battalion of the West Riding Regiment.

Cpl G A Walton
2520 D Coy 2/7 WRR
Thoresby*1 Camp
Worksop
17/8/15

Dear Fred

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still living & have not forgotten you although you might think I have.

I have been away at Babworth*1a for a week, but came back on Friday. There were about 20 Officers & NCO's went & we went for a course on bomb throwing, but we had to come back, waiting for material, so I don't know wether we shall go back there or not, I hope we do because we were having a fine time. We had a very heavy storm here about 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon it only rained for about half an hour but the water ran over the road in one place. Well Fred I don't know wether I shall be coming home this week end or not I think we are only allowed 5 passes this week because one chap stayed over his leave this last weekend & that knocked us 15 off, so I look like having much chance this time. Are you having any holiday, this time we shall not be going to Morecambe at any rate, so if you go remember me to all at Mrs Lunn's that is if you lodge there. Well I will close now as it is getting dark & near post time give my respects to all enquiring friends & except the same yourself, I am Your Affect Friend

Arthur

Good night



February 29th 1916 (Tuesday)
The following letter, written soon after Fred enlisted, is from "G.H." (George Herbert Wilson, who was in 1911 a weaver, of 1 Peel St, aged 35), his wife "MAW" (Mary Alice Wilson, in 1911 aged 30 and a shop assistant), and "Eli of fighting fame" (possibly their daughter Sarah Elizabeth, aged 8 in 1911). It would appear that Fred's younger brother Thomas had taken his place assisting their father in the plumbing and glazing business. The "Old man at the farm" is probably David Firth at Gatehead. The Norman mentioned as (Sunday) School Treasurer may be Fred's younger brother.

1 Peel St
Marsden
Feb 29/16

The 1st Epistle To Joshua *2
1st verse

Dear Fred
Many thanks for your letter to hand.
We are all very pleased to hear you are alright & keeping your end up.
I have been up to your house to see [how] they were sailing & I found everything in apple pie order. Your Thomas seems to be driving the pen & your father is at his elbow, telling him about unions & all that sort of plumbing talk. So far as I can gather the Old man at the farm is A1, as his temperature was dead on normal this morning, if he shows any sign [End of first page]
of scarlet fever or typhoid I shall wire for you at once.
The hens are frozen up with the storm & as soon as it breaks we shall be mooed aat wi eggs.
I met Amy up Warehouse Hill this morning & by the way she spoke I think you must have been telling her something.

Anyway I mean to get it out of her when I meet her again. Your Mary came down on Saty. evening & we put a record score on, 1518 at one call. Little Sam came in last night & we had a short round, & they kept wishing you were here.
I think the Kaiser has got to [End of second page]
know of your action as he seems to be putting speed on, so that he may get it over before you get on the scene. Give him a Jack o Marker's if you come across him! There's soon be a lot more cuckoos down at Clipstone as I hear they are migrating. But I shall have to close Fred, as G.H. & his Mrs are booah wanting to have a word i't epistle to Reckabites at Likes Sherry.

[Eli of fighting fame.
with love]*3

The 2nd Epistle to Joshua Dear Fred
I just thought I would have a word with [you] before tea, they are papering the Old School windows up
[End of third page]

for Sat, [tis &] my word if you had been at our house the other nights and seen Mary Alice face went they put that big score against us, you would have thought that the cat was lost. I have got Norman to be School Tresurer and I think he will do his work very well. 

Some week end we are going to have a Concert at our house
Norman is practicing on the Clarinettee till he is black in the face. Mary Alice is getting a Solo for the occasion how beautiful are her feet. He ha could laugh but tha knaws ha darnt. Im conducting and when they goa wrang ha tell Norman to boil it then he will have a better tone and Mary alice to drink some leather watter then who wint be rusty and who looks a black as thunder
[End of fourth page – no signatory but probably by "G.H."]

The 3rd Epistle
to Dear old Fred 
Dear Fred
I must have my turn now, you cant scarcely imagine what a pleasure it was to have your nice letter. I don't think there is much I can tell you about the Chapel only you was very much missed on Sunday in fact you are missed every day at our house, I have not seen Annie or H.E. this week yet, I went to School on Sunday afternoon, Charlie was there, but H.E. was not perhaps they have had a little Tiff, but you know Fred they will love one another all the more for it when they make it up again, after School Annie wanted to go for a walk it was very nasty & sloppy but she said H.E. had made a cake for her brother James & would
[End of fifth page]

 

I go up with her for it, we went up when we got to H.E. she had gone to Chapel, & we must have missed her however the cake was not mentioned & I think she may have sent it to Charlie to get round him again, I shall be able to tell you more news next week after the Sale of Work Mr Evans gave it out on Sunday that Mrs C.H. Fisher was going to open it on Saturday. Annie is coming round again I think she will keep popping up to see your Uncle now you are not here to look after him, Oh by the way, Mr J.W. Dyson called in last night, & he said we must tell you not to come back again unless you had got the V.C. but you know Fred we shall be very glad to see you anytime with or without V.C. We have had a P.C. from Frank, he is at Osterley Park
[End of sixth page]

& he says he is liking very well but it is very dirty about 6 inches in mud & he is learning Moter Driving*4 I hope you have come across Joe Garside before now Fred because you will feel much better with some one you are quite used to. Frank Sykes was sick on Sunday so Guthrie was at the Organ Mr Evans said he had four letters from the boys last week one from H. Cotton, H. Hewett A. Walton & E. Cawthorne, I went & sat with the children they were fairly good Annie B. was there & Lillian Dransfield Sunday turned out very nasty we went to Mr Harpers to tea, I let you mother see you letter on Monday morning. Mary & Mrs Dyson greenboarded us on Sat night I do wish you could just look in every night as you used to, I must stop now it is 7 oclock. G.H. said I must tell you the concert was postponed till you come home. write again soon Fred

M.A.W.
 

March 8th 1916 (Wednesday) 
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.

MANSE,
MARSDEN
HUDDERSFIELD

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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
Marsden

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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
[Third page ends here]

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.
M.A.W.

 

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.

Eli

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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.
[Third page ends here]

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.
M.A.W.

 

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
[First page ends here]

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

[Page ends here]

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
[First page ends here]

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
Arthur

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
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.
(2)
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.
(3)
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.
(4)
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.
(5)
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".
[Third page ends here]

Page II

(6)
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.
(7)
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.
(8)
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.
(9)
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.
[Fourth page ends here]

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

 

April 5th 1916 (Wednesday) 
This letter is from Fred's mother, apparently after he had taken brief home leave.

Peel St April 5/16

My Dear Dear Fred
We received your letter this morning, you have no need to think we shall forget to write, for we are always thinking of you, even if we are not always writing. I am writing this is the room before the Bank man comes for your Aunt Martha is coming this afternoon so you know how we shall be, it will be all talk, so I thought I would write this morning. I was pleased with the P.C. you sent, we can almost see you in our imagination now that you have sent us that, it looks as though it would be nice when the weather is fine, I hope you have settled down to it again it has not upset you coming Home, I was upset when you had gone, I wish you could have seen our Jack he came and sat beside me & licked my hand & Whined & looked up at me as though he knew I was in trouble, but I have got over it now since I got the letter & we seem nearer to you since you have been over. Our Mary told me you
[First page ends here]

had seen Mrs Eastwood & your Grandfather & that you did look upset but we thought you would phraps get over it when you got to the other lads as you seem to have done. Your Father was disappointed he could not see you he just got back about 6 o'clock he said he had time to get back but could not. We whent to Hudd yesterday as I told you, to buy a new carpet we got one but I am afraid it will be to fine, your father has bought it how much do you think he has given for it 5 pounds don't you think he is very generous he says we shall only bank a day sooner. Your Uncle David is better your father has bought his sheep off him so I think he will get well now, Mrs Gledel called last night & our Mary said she though Uncle Fred looked very quiet on Sunday, but she said he had been like that a few week now he seemed bothered about the war. I must close now or I shall never have done ready for your Aunt Martha
So God bless you my Dear lad. 
Mother

 

May 2nd 1916 (Tuesday)
This letter is from Fred's sister Mary, and the Norman referred to is probably their brother. Pole Moor was a Baptist Chapel: other chapels mentioned in the letters are Sunny Bank (founded 1890) and Zion (probably Slaithwaite Zion founded 1886) – both were offshoots of Pole Moor - and Clough Head (Pole Moor chapel founded a school at Clough Head in 1876)*13. It appears that although Fred was involved with the Congregationalist church in Marsden, he also attended local Baptist services. The "Band of Hope" Mary refers to was a temperance organisation aimed at children.

Pinned-in cutting reads: FIRTH – SELLERS – April 27th, by license, at Almondbury Church, by the Rev. W. E. Charlton, Fred, son of the late Thomas Firth, Gatehead, Marsden, to Mary Louise, elder daughter of the late Thomas Sellers, Somerset Road, Huddersfield. This is presumably the marriage of Fred's uncle Fred Firth, who lived in Shepley, and it was registered between April and June 1916 at Huddersfield Vol. 9a p.523

 

Peel St.
Marsden

May 2/16

Dear Fred,
I have not quite forgotten [you], although, no doubt you will think I have. I have just an hour to spare & so I thought I would write to you.
Well, for a beginning I am going to Suny Bank, on Sunday, that is, if it is fine. I do wish you were going with me. Our Norman does not seem to want to go, but he says he is going to Clough head, but of course, I shall go to both, I wanted Norman to go to Pole Moor with me on Sunday to the Choir Anniversary but he wouldn't go, & so you see I had to stop at home.
I have not been anywhere particular this Easter. I was in all day on the Monday with a bad cold, & so you see I could not go with Mrs Wilson. They called at Aunt Martha's, & she said, she had such a job to get Mary Emma away, & so they must have enjoyed themselves. I went to huddersfield on Easter Tuesday with Edith Pinder, & then again to the pictures on Saturday night & Lizzie Walton sat behind us, & so you [she] will see I
[First page ends here]

am not quite fast to her. Edith seems such a nice girl, & I like to go with her, she is such a "tar", & she is without friend, like me.
Well, Fred where do you think I am going to to-night To the "band of hope." I have promised to play for Hannah Dransfield, who is singing, & so I shall have to go, but I think I shall have to start going, & I know it will just suit you.
I suppose you will know by this time about Goerge Dransfield. He is in the Northumberland Fusilliers & is stationed at Chelmsford in Essex, so Uncle Arthur tells me, & so he has sent for his violin, & so you see they will be having some music where he is.
Now, Fred, mother told me when she came home from Clipstone Camp, that you told her, Wilfred Hellawell was not quite teetotal. I do hope you have not started taking a drop, I has bothered me since, afraid that you might be led off. Do keep this in mind Fred but do not tell anyone about it. Grandpa is here just now, & he said that I had to give to me you his best respects, & hopes you will come back to look after the farm, he is so suited with everything
[Second page ends here]

Well, Fred I am afraid I shall have to stop now, because it is time to go to the Sunday School So Goodbye for the present, & keep your pecker up.
With love from all,
Mary.

 

 

May? 1916 
This is another letter from Mary Alice Wilson, undated but apparently around May 1916. The "Gaurdian" (!!) referred to is almost certainly The Colne Valley Guardian.

S.E. is allright she has won her Tre. at the night school

1 Peel Street
Marsden

Dear Fred/
I am sorry I have not written befor this, but you know it is coming a very busy time for us, the shop bell is always ringing but nobodys says "right" Mr Dyson is very busy with his chickens, Old Tom is as nazzy as ever he was & Billy is going home this week end for good I think his uncle & his Mother have it between them so his Mother has asked to have him discharged, of course it makes it rather awkyard you see he was just getting useful Jim seems to be the only right man we have, I dersay they will be finding me a Call of war if things does not alter he is advert for a man but they seem to be all in Karki Charlie's wife has been in this morning she says Frank is on Salisbury Plain he & Charlie were going to spend last Sat. afternoon together. G.H. has just sent the Anniv*14 Hymns to print to Lenny Halstead's Mr Roberts would not quote him a price he said they would be much more this time than last, so he rung Lenny up & he promised to do them cheaper than Mr Roberts did them last time, I hope you will be here for the Anniv Day. Annie told us last night the teachers had a meeting about a band again yesterday but she told them she would give nothing & she told them G.H.
[End of first page]

would not go collecting for more they have seen Linthwaite Band advertising in the Gaurdian I think our own band Sec. wrote about a month since he said a good few of them was in the army & about 50 came under the Compulsion Bill so he said they would be a one man band soon, he wanted to know if Sammy had joined yet, Sammy got his papers last week he told me the war would soon be over now he was going to kill every man he saw after that, yes. H & J went to West vale on the car on Sunday it was beautiful we got back for tea, H.E., A. & I went to Oldham the other Sat (E.E. E.K.) we had a time we took Annie into Tommy-field*15 seeking a new hat H.E. said we should not take her home unless she bought one so Annie had to do has she was told we did wish G.H. & you had been with us. Annie was very sore about spending her money you see Joe Kaye has got his papers to join the Army & I think she will be saving up to buy him a waistlet watch for a present, Mr & Mrs Sam Whitehead has come back from Matlock they have been there three weeks I think they are both feeling better they brought us a boiling of nettles back we had nettles & bacon to supper on Friday night Mr Whitehead came down & cooked them they were very nice you know Fred when we used
[End of second page]

to have fries & peas on Friday nights I wish we were all having them every Friday again My word Fred we have got some buxom lasses down the back now I am sure you would not think about going to Hey Leighs if you was her they are lodging with Mrs Law & working at Mill Company Oh I forgot to tell you Annie nearly made it up with Mr Dyson Oldham Manager they would make a nice couple don't you think so. I have just broken off to read your letter it has just come by the Afternoon post, I am more sorry than ever Fred I have not written before, but I will try & write every week after this I have told You about the Fatty cakes he nearly ran me up the steps instead of you I think your Mother is looking very well considering you know Fred she is bound to feel lost without you & I think it rests with you to send her some cheerful letters to keep her going because she will think if you are keeping up well she will try, I think she is doing very well she went down to Slaithwaite on Sunday with Cooper, Mary, & Norman went as well Mary told me they got 32£ at the Annis. Mr Dyson is talking about sending you a page but I think you will have plenty with Annie & misen this time & I will gog his memory in a day & two, my father & mother & Aunt Emma are all keeping well, Mother & I are going to Pole on Tues. doing the grave up so I hope it will be nice I wish you were home again to go to all the Anniversarys it is Zion on Sunday Pole sunday after West Slaithwaite on Sunday I bet you would like to go there how are you going on with the Daylight Saving Bill*16 Mr. Dyson has gone worse. he misses his letters on Sunday morning 9 oclock nearly this morning I must thank you for a second letter Annie is sending you an Epistle, from your friend M.A.W.

 

May 8th 1916 (Monday) 
The following letter is from Fred's cousin Jessie Isobel Firth; in the 1911 census she was aged 13 and living with her parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Firth at Crow Hill, Marsden (Samuel was woollen manufacturer at Cellar's Clough Mills). Isobel's reference to the "new aunt Molly" presumably refers to their uncle Fred Firth's marriage to Mary Louise Sellers (see cutting attached to letter from Mary Firth, above).

Crow Hill
Marsden
May 8th 1916

Dear Fred
I expect when you get this letter from me, you'll have a fit (I hope you don't) and think I've gone mad, because I've taken it into my head to write to you. Anyhow I don't suppose you'll mind getting a letter. I know I always looked forward to the post, and I felt very disappointed if I didn't get a letter when I was at school. Perhaps you don't know that I've left now. I'm going in solely for piano now. I am going to begin lessons at the Hudfl'd College of Music shortly. Of course I'm going to take warbling lessons as well, and also I'm going to try & learn how to book-keep, type and shorthand.
[First page ends here]

Well, it's rotten weather here. It has rained for four days. I believe I could swim on the flags now, but I'm going to refrain from doing so, as I had a bath on Sat. you will be pleased to know. Spring cleaning is in great evidence here. We are heaved out of every possible corner, so you are lucky to be out of it, for I called at your house the other day, and your mother was washing the house floor, and your dog was parading over the clean part, and your mother said gentle words of rebuke to it in a mild tone of voice (I don't think) We (mother & I) went to chapel yesterday, My, it was a poor turn out. It was Communion and there were 13 there, I don't know what the place is coming to. We were out at 11.25, and mother was out and up home (and it takes her over ten
[Second page ends here]

minutes to walk home) at 12 o'clock. The lads said the prayers at a speed of something like 100 miles an hour, and the singing oh my hat _____ It beareth not to be mentioned. Only Mrs George Mellor was across the aisle and she nearly drove me mad (That is between you and me, you know) I told mother I shouldn't ever go in the morning again, and I told her I shouldn't go regularly, and I shan't. However I promised her I wouldn't stop off altogether. I suppose you know that I've had an operation on my nose and throat. I had adenoids and tonsils. I didn't know that I cultivated such reptiles, but is seems I did. I went into a Nursing Home in Colwyn Bay and had it done. I am quite al- [Third page ends here]

right again now, and I'm very glad the reptiles are no more. I havn't written to Thomas Shaw so don't tell him you've heard from me or he might be mad, I don't expect he'd want to hear from me though in any case. What do you think of the new aunt Molly? You'd get a slight shock when you knew didn't you? We had Walter up the other day, something went wrong with the water, and we hadn't any. It is alright now though. Yours is the fourth letter this morning and I've two more to write so I must stop.
Hoping your keeping quite
fit and cheerful
With love
from 
Isobel

P.S. I'll buck mother up and make her write, though she hasn't forgotten you.

 

May 25th/29th 1916 (Thursday/Monday) 
The following two letters were in an envelope addressed to Pri. Fred Firth, 5th Reserve D of W.W.R.R., No 3 Lines No 30 Hut, Clipstone Camp, Notts. They are from Ann G. Bamforth and Lizzie Bamforth, who in the 1911 census were aged 33 and assisting their father James in his confectioner's business at 7 Peel St.

7 Peel St,
Marsden
May 25th/16

Well Fred, we received your letter a few days since and were glad to hear from you again and we were very pleased to find the photo for us as well, your Mary had showed us theirs one morning and we thought then we should like one but we didn't like to ask for one, for we didn't know whether you would have many, we think it is good and like you, but you are looking a bit serious, but you seem to have got the state chair and all complete for the time being. You asked about the school well we keep doing as well as we can, we seem very short of teachers on my day, I have taken another class with mine in the morning for a few times now, we keep doing fairly well in the chapel, he hasn't sent them out again that I know of, we could do very well with you to help us with those little tars, that little ginger Goodman and a few more like him, I had him the other Sunday but I don't want him again yet. I wish you could hear the 
[First page ends here]

variations we get on the organ sometimes from F. Sykes, we had quite a mix the other Sunday night with that hymn (Angels of Jesus) it wasn't the old tune, but one that we have sung many a time and the choir would have managed alright, but he didn't seem to play two verses alike, and when he played it over he put such flourishes in that made people look at one another and wonder what what*17 sort of a tune we were going to have and the Rev Ben. didn't know whether to sit or stand to it, but he finished off with saying the last verse please, there were lots saying after that he ought to go where the other lads have gone but he seems to think he settled for good and there's a lot that doesn't seem to like it. We are going to Zion Anniversary next Sunday for a change, yes I think ours are chosen and G.H. seems to think they will be a nice lot. I hope you will be able to manage for then if you don't get here before you must have a try, it seems a long time since we saw you. We are sending you a small parcel with your folks and we hope you will enjoy it if there is any you don't like you must tell us, we thought the fruit drops would be nice this warm weather so hoping you are still in the best of health and spirits. keep smiling. yours respectfully
A.G. Bamforth

sankey. (494)*18

7 Peel St,
Marsden
May 29th

Dear Friend You ought to have had this letter before now, but it has been waiting for me, & we set off to Zion yesterday so it did not get any further but I thought I would try & do a bit this morning, well, we had a very good time both afternoon & evening & they got £28 - 2s - 3d & they seemed to think it very good. Mr Rutherford read the roll of Honour, but in a very different way to what it is read at our place, when it happens to be read, he read the names out & then asked all the Congregation to bow in Silent Prayer it was very impressive & you know Fred we don't forget our own Lads. Mrs Wilson tells us you are expecting to go away before very long but I hope you will get a good leave before you go & we hope & pray that you will be spared to come back amongst us for it feels something wanting without you. Cooper keeps trying to keep things bright, he keep singing early in the morning
[First page ends here]

it feels to do one good to hear him, he came in the shop the other week, he very often asks if we have had a letter from our Fred, but this time he asked if we had had a Photo he said, we have, but I think he looks a bit home sick quite old fashioned he said it, but I think it is very good & we thank you very much for it. I expect Mrs Wilson will have told how busy they are with the Chickens we went down Sat morning to see them roll over on to the flannel. I daresay if you had been here you would have had a hand in it. Your Mother told me you had got your parcel & I am sure you are very welcome to our small contribution, she seems to be doing very well but she misses you very much. but I think I shall have to conclude for this time. Father & Nellie sends wishes to be remembered to you so with best wishes for your welfare I remain
yours respectfully
L. Bamforth
(494)

 

May 30th 1916 (Tuesday)
The following is another letter from Fred's sister Mary.

19 Peel St,
Marsden
Nr Hudd.
May 30/16

Dear Fred,
We received your letter this morning, or I ought to say, Thomas did, but, of course, we all read it.
I have just finished my work for to-day, & it is only about eleven o'clock. I am really waiting for the end of the month, & then, as you know, I shall be busy enough then.
Father has got the work at the Co-operative Stores, & he has just gone to see Mr. Berry about something belonging to it now. I think the business is going on very satisfactory at present. I have started cutting glass, but I notice the first panes I cut for a customer have come back, so there must be something wrong with them, so I don't sound to be progressing very favourably, do I?
We have just had a "mother's meeting" & Mrs Battye has been down, & she says that Frank Calverly is going signalling in the Mary, Mrs Battye also says he will be on the "bridge with the Captain", & she says she won't be sorry if he falls off.
[First page ends here]

Well, Fred, if you are coming on your last leave, I should think they will let you have more leave than from Saturday to Sunday. It is scarcely worth coming far. You must write & let us know, how much they are allowing you, & what time you will get here, etc, & then I shall be able to tell Mrs. Wilson, & we will have a "beano".
I am still going about with Edith Pinder a bit, I was up there last night, I stayed with her while she looked after the shop, & we all going to the pictures to-night if all's well, & so you see we aren't doing so bad.
Father stopped harry France week before last, but he came again last night, & father set him on again.
I suppose you will know that it is Pole Anniversary on Sunday, I do wish you could come & go with me for I have no one to go with, Norman says he won't go, & so it looks like staying at home. I have not been able to get a Clough head hymn-sheet yet, & I should like to know what sort of hymns they are having. I suppose they are having a Congregational Minister from Stainland to preach, & Aunt [Martha] says she has heard they liked him at Pole once when was there, & so it sounds as though it will be very nice 
[Second page ends here]

Mother received your letter Sunday morning as she was going to the station, & so she let them read it at Longlands. She also says I have to tell you that she will write you to-morrow.
I am enclosing a letter we received from Aunt Mary, but you must let us have it back as soon as you have read it.
I hear Ernest is coming home on Thursday, but of course, I don't know wether it is true or not. I have also heard that Ben Firth has got his papers, & not before it was time, either, I say.
I am sending you these few chocolates "All bid, i-chung", as our Cooper used to say, & I hope you will think of me & enjoy them.
I think I will close now,
With Best Love from all
Mary

 

June 9th 1916 (Friday)
The following short letter is from Fred's mother, apparently after another home leave.

Home June 9/16
Friday

My Dearest lad
Just a line to tell you we received the P.C. this morning & how glad I was, I did not think you would have got in so soon. I watched for the Postman but I did not expect anything, as I thought you would scarcely have time to write so it was an agreabbl surprise. Ernest Cawthorn came home last
night he was sorry he did not see you, but they only let them out on the Thursday, he is looking well he is getting right fat in the face, he has liked where he has been, he says he wants to go back. We have just had Mrs Hoyle with the papers, she does not know if Harry is coming, she has not had any word but she says she will look for him tomorrow night.
I think this is all just now, I am sending it in the Guardian, I forgot to put you some soap in, I will send some next week when we send a parcel, I hope you have got settled, but it takes a long time, will write again soon best love Mother

 

June 18th 1916 (Sunday)
The following two letters from Fred's younger brother Norman and his mother were enclosed in the same envelope addressed in Norman's writing to 4695 Pte Fred C. Firth, 3/5th Duke of Wellington's W. R. R., No 3 lines, No 26 Hut, Clipstone Camp, and postmarked 18 June 19…. The reverse of the envelope is stamped Thomas Firth, Plumber, Marsden. A "sturk" (stirk) is a young cow or bullock.

19 Peel Street
Marsden
June 18th 1916

Dear Fred./

Just a line or two it is Sunday dinnertime, [and] I seem to have a bit of time as I've just been playing my instrument and got out of wind and fairly feel "puffed". I have been to Chapel this morning and taken up the weekly offerings so you see I shall soon be a sidesman. We are practising the Anniversary Hymns this afternoon and G.H. will be conducting.

Mary and I went to Clough Head last Sunday and it was a "poor do" for I did not like the selection of Hymns at all their was W. Whitwam there as usual "banging" forms about and he nearly knocked [the] pulpit down in his alley attempt to get a form in too many and there were as many "tall Shiners" as I couldn't tell what when it was over I asked someone for my hat and they were giving me a "tall shiner" but I rejected it and said I hadn't got into a parson yet. I sat at the side of "White Ned" you won't know him but he is one of weavers and he would have me sit at the side of him.

On Whit-Monday morning I went with father to Huddersfield Fair with Joe Armitage and he bought 2 sturks but they are at a price, Uncle David says they have got to the "devil of a price" so I think things are coming to a "Crykus" says Aunt Martha. We have got 3 sturks now as he has bought another one last week

We walked on Whit-Monday and managed very well without a band but of course you must remember we had John Allen O'Co[r]kers conducting and he had a "pitch-fork" and Mr Evans with his good voice also "William O'Bobbiners" and of course our worthy "Chief Ruler".
Well its g got practice time so Good Noight Moi Lad.
Your Loving brother
Norman.

 

Home June 18/16
Sunday Afternoon

My Dear Fred Do not think I have forgot you with not writing sooner, for I am always thinking of you, & wondering what you are doing, even if I cannot always find time to write.
I suppose Mary told you that Grandma was very ill, I went down on Wednesday & the doctor seemed to think she was a little better, however on Thursday morning she was a lot worse, Your Grandpa went down to fetch Aunt Fanny, but she could not come so Uncle Arthur went to Crowthers for Aunt Alice, so she is going to stop at home till she is better, I went down on Friday Morning and helped Aunt Alice to clean, the doctor came when I was there & said she was a bit better she was to have bran bags on instead of poultices, it is the Bronchitis she has had & Influenza, it has left her very weak. I shall try to go tomorrow, then Aunt Alice can wash till I look after her. I just got home on Friday
[First page ends here]

2

as Mary was tying your parcel up. She forgot to put the Guardian in but we will send it to you. You said in your letter that it seemed a long time since you left home, Are you not liking as well? I have written you two letters, did you not get the first one, I wrote it as soon as I got the Postcard for I thought it would seem long if I waited till you wrote again so I wrote straight away.
Arthur Horsfall is over this weekend, he landed Home about 3.45 on saturday Morning, he has to go back on tuesday dinnertime, so he has not so long a stay. Uncle Herbert & Arthur came up to Marsden yesterday Afternoon & had tea with us, they wint to look at the farm he is looking well, he is almost as tall as his father & he is broader, He seems to be liking very well, though he will be glad when it is over & he can come home & stop. He seems to thing it will not be very long now, he is expecting being home for good at Christmas, I hope that will be true.
(Second page ends here]

3

I had one of your Companions in the Hut to see me yesterday, his name is Dyson. I was pleased to see him, as he had come from you, I felt as if I could have got hold of him to think he was lif living in the same Hut as my lad was in. You have no idea how it feels to see some one who has been with you. he said he would call again before he went back, so if he does I will send you some choclate, as I know you like them.
You do not say anything about going out, perhaps you will not be going out yet, I do hope & pray that you will not have to go, but I suppose we shall have to leave it. We are all in his hands & he can look after us in France as well as England but you will be such a long way from Home and all your friends.

I will close now hoping you are spending your Sunday as you would if you were at Home, remembering there is one above who sees all that we do.
With best love for my Dear lad. Mother

[on reverse of sheet] P.S. Put a line in for Cooper if you have time.

 

June? 1916 This fragment, apparently from David Firth, Fred's farmer uncle at Gatehead, may "belong with" the letter above; the reference to buying two stirks certainly suggests it was written around the same time.

P.S. Since Nellie wrote your letter I have informed her that the Bull has been sold to Mr G.H. Dodson & your father has bought two stirks in its place.

For the cows wont milk, & the
Bull wont roar. –
The ducks wont quack,
Nor the pigs wont snore,
The Cocks wont crow,
Nor the Hens wont lay
And all's gone wrong,
Since Freddy went away

Uncle David

 

Late June? 1916
This undated letter from Fred's mother appears to belong here in the sequence, as there are references to his grandmother's illness, and a message sent to Fred via his fellow-soldier George Dyson.

My Dear Fred

I am sending your watch & a few choclates by George Dyson, I had to have it repaired at Edwards Mr Hoyle could not do it within five weeks & I knew you could not wait so long, so I took it to Edwards & I called for in on Monday when I went to Grandmas. The Doctor said she was a bit better on Monday, she could sit up about 20 minutes, so you see how bad she has been, & she is very weak yet. I shall try & go down tomorrow, so you will see I have not much time for writing, but never mind you know I am always thinking of you. You said in Normans letter that you might be going out this week I do hope not but let us know as soon as you can. This is just a short note I will write you again soon Oh bye the way, Mary wrote you last week & sent you some stamps, did you get it? you have not answered it. Just say if you have got it.
With best love from Mother

 

September 8th 1916 (Friday) 
This letter is probably from Fred's aunt Annie, born Annie Firth.

Manse Side Marsden Sept 8th/16

Dear Fred
I was sorry to learn you had gone to France, although we know It was what you was training for, well my lad you are doing your bit, I do hope it will not be long and heavey, I dare say you will know it is Marsden Feast, nearly everbody is off and all is very quite, last Sunday their was only 6 in the top at the Chapel, that includes organist singers and blowers of which your Cooper was one, so you may be sure it was a very tame
[First page ends here]

affair, their was not many at night, but he keep them in untill a quarter to eight so he had is ining anyway, I was up at Gatehead last night they are much the same as when you left, I have not been very well lately, I am like your Aunt Jane uses to say – "done, dee when I will, but you keep know Firths keep trailing on, we have not been away this time so last week I said to Daniel I would like a bit of a taste for the Feast either a Duck or a Chicken, well he
[Second page ends here]

could not get one in Marsden so he went to Huddersfield for one, of course I cooked it, and helped to eat it, thinking what a good Duck it was, when he told me it was a Cock Chicken so you can just immagen what hoting I got for not finding it out myself, well I got over it and was no worse for it, you know the Curate lives in John Bradleys house Mrs Eveans was telling us that they lockedes themself out the other week and he was trying to go down the coal shunt when he got fast just immage all that 
[Third page ends here]

length being fast in a coal shunt poor chap he as some bother in is wedded life, I dare say they will have told [you] about our eggs and flower service, don't you think we did well to get ten pounds and all those eggs we are doing our best but I think sometimes we shall have to shut it up for we are nearly at the far end, well I hope you are very well and if you have time to write we shall be very glad to hear from you and you know Fred wherever we are there is One who is watching over us, and I hope and pray he will keep you in the hollow of
[Fourth page ends here; fifth page on attached scrap of paper follows:]

His Hand and bring you [safely] home before long, and then we can talk, and that will be much better than writeing
With love from
Aunt Annie

[On reverse of attached scrap:]
Since writing your letter word as comes of Cyril Newmans Death*19

 

November 27th 1916 
This letter is from Fred's brother Norman Garside Firth. His birth was registered between April to June 1898, so he would therefore have been 18 when he was either enlisted or volunteered to serve.

19 Peel Street

Marsden
Nov 27th 1916
Tuesday

Dear Brother/
You will see by this letter that I am still at home and I wish everybody else was the same, but it is evident that I am not fit for General Service what for I cannot tell but I think it is either my eyes, or ears which you [know] I am deaf on one of them or my heart being a trifle weak, however I passed for CI Garrison Duty*20 at home but they sent me home again and told me that I should have to go on Munitions when called upon I am now under the Labour Exchange awaiting instruction but still working at the old Silk mill and I have valued it ever since I came back I feel very glad in one sense that I have not had to go but in others I wish I was right a so that I could take my turn with the other chaps They were nearly all married men when I went. We had a day I can tell you snowing just as it was where you went and Halifax looks a "Cowd" Shop at the best hand
[First page ends here]

plenty of nice language turned out I can tell you but I suppose it's the way of the Army.
They seem as mad as "blazes" down the street because they have not taken me and Thomas Shaw has decided to write to me because he heard that I had been to Manchester to see if I could get in the Navy and I wrote back telling him that I had got my papers and would soon be a soldier and it must have wakened him up a bit for I have had another letter this morning a good long one and he fairly thinks I am in the Army but "T. Beggar" will be "sucked in" when I write and tell [him]. I don't think I shall hear from him again but I will let you know he says this morning that if he had your address he would have written but I know different if he had wanted it he would have written for it you may expect no good graces from down their for its all our Thomas at every verse end but it has made me mad about him writing just when I was having to go.
Reggie Dean wants remembering to you 
[Second page ends here]

he still keeps writing and said that he hoped I should never have to go different to the other.
James B. Jenkinson told me about a month ago to tell you he has had to join up again this time in kilts he is in the Highland Light Infantry so someone will catch it when "Jinks" gets at them.
Mary Alice has just come up and is telling mother a tale and father has just eating some Pick feet off one of those pigs of Aunt Martha's which has p been killed this week-end we are having half and Fred Holroyd the other Samuel O'Rodgers has cured it for us so we shall be grunting when this week is out
It was the Choir Anniversary last Sunday and we had a very fair day on the whole but the congregations are very poor at present. Both W. Dransfield and W. Sykes are both pleased because I have not had to go so that I can still play the harmonium, and go to the Sunday School especially the former who gave it out in the School just before I went that I was having to go and that the School would joining
[Third page ends here]

with him in wishing that God would be with me always and I did feel it that afternoon I can tell you but I am thankful I have been able to come home again if it is only for our mothers sake for I am afraid she would have bothered more if there had, had to both of us having to go.
Well I think I will close now Fred [and] I am sure I join with you in wishing this awful job over and when I waken in a morning I wish many a time that you was by the side of me again and everything normal again. So Good Noight Moi Lad.

From Your Loving and Sincere
Brother
Norman

 

There are no letters in the collection from the period of Fred's service between the end of November 1916 and June 1918.

June 3rd 1918
This letter is written by Fred a few days before he was wounded, sadly the 3rd page of that letter was missing.

June 3rd 1918
Somewhere-in-France

My Dear Mother
I will first of all thank you for your most welcome letter which I received yesterday (Sunday) morning. I received one from you and one from father at the same time. You do not know how these two letters cheered me up for about a couple of hours before day break. I was on sentry looking over the parapet and old Fritz let two shells right in from of my face and I was not touched I can say nothing only that it was Providence watching me I am glad to say that I am alright and do not feel any effects from the experience.
[first page ends here]
Now you must not get the wind up when you read this but I thought I would tell you. I also received the Exam and Guardian by the same mail but I almost dread open the Guardian for nearly every week I see in it that one or more Marsden lads have paid the great sacrifice there are two in this week Tom France and Lewis Bottomley. I do feel sorry for Mrs France for she is a widow woman. You will see that I am writing this with my pen well I have had an ink pelet given me so I have filled my pen up I want you to send me some ...

It appears that Fred joined an active service battalion in France some time between June and September 1916.

He was wounded in early June 1918 and taken to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). The following is a letter from a nurse at the clearing station.

June 6th 1918

29 Casualty Clearing Station
B.E.F 6 6/18

Dear Mrs Firth

Your son - Pte R.F.Firth
204732 W. Ridings has been brought to into this hospital wounded in the head & is very ill -

We are doing all we can for him - I will write to you again
Sister Forrest


June 11th 1918
A short and shaky handwritten letter - Fred's first letter home after he was wounded

June 11th 1918
CCS

My Dear Parents

I am just tryingto write a few lines to let you know how I am getting on for I know that you will be uneasy, for I expect that you will have received by this a letter fomr the matron and the chaplain for they both said they would write to you and let you know how I was getting on.
Well I have been wounded in my head with a small piece of shrapnel it went through my tin helmet but i am thankful that I came through with my life. I would have written sooner only I was too ill to write the first few days but I am improving 
[first page ends here]
nicely I am still at the CCS how long I shall be here I do not know. I should like to get to Blighty but you must not have much hopes about that I don't think they are getting across now with slight wounds. I will close now for I don't feel like writing any more today
I send my love to you all at home
You loving son
Fred

He finished service in the 9th battalion (which formed at Halifax in September 1914 and landed at Boulogne 15 July 1915). His Medal Card states that he was discharged on 29th August 1918 with Cause of Discharge "W", indicating that he was wounded.

August 7th 1918 (Wednesday)
The following letter was written to Fred in hospital, after he was wounded, by his mother; it is addressed to Pte Fred. C. Firth 204732, 9th Battalion W.R.R., No 1 Ward Military Hospital, Woking, Surrey. It seems she had already visited him there.

Home Aug 7/18
Wednesday

My Dear Fred

I got your letter yesterday afternoon, I was pleased for I had been looking for one, you had written to the others but not to me. You said in Normans letter that you had got the parcel but the eggs was broken, I cannot tell how that was Fred for I had packed them in a tin so that they would not shake. & how was it, it was so long in coming, you would get the stamp alright. I will put a few more in this one. 
Isobel has been this afternoon to tell me she had a letter from you yesterday, she said she had sent you Frank's address, so try to write to him if you can for they have been very good to us, and they are so homely*21.

You do not know how glad I am you have found the chapel & are going to it, I hope it will prove a blessing to you Fred, for I believe if there is true religion anywhere you will find it there, for they preach according to Gods word, & that is what we want. I had seen it in the C.P. for August that Mr Snow was preaching the Anniversary sermons & I wondered if you would know if it was the same that was at Slaithwaite, have you spoken to anyone
[First page ends here]

there & what kind of a chapel is its is it anything like the one we went to at Southam; or is it larger you must tell me about it, it seems a funy time to have the Anniversary on a Monday dont it Fred.
I was surprised you had not been down in Woking since we was there, havent you been very well or have you been to buisy.
I saw Mrs Wilson this morning she said George Herbert had been expecting a leave this weekend for he has been three months, but he says it is all off for this weekend she says he is disapointed, but they are thinking of going to see him at the holiday.
While I am writing this Eliner Moorhouse has come to give our Cooper his first lesson on the fiddle so we shall have some music soon they are just tuning up.
Another Old Marsdener gone in the person of Harriet @ White Syke you will know her very well, it is a blessing for she has been in bed a good while, & that is the end of things here Fred.
I will close now, hoping you are improving slowly, but surely.
With best Love
Mother

 

Possibly August 1916
The following is a letter from a "John" to his mother; he appears to be in hospital, perhaps war-wounded, and gives instructions for Fred (presumably Fred Firth) to visit.

Dear Mother
Just a to say I am doing nicely. I am in bed yet my Pal is up for half an hour a day. Tell Fred to ask for D Block and any one will tell where I am. Tell Teddy he wants to go see the Dr or he might be deaf all his life. I hope Janie will soon be better and the other at the Hill that are poorly. you have never told me how the pigs went on or if you have got any more. I think that is all at present
I Remain
Your Loving Son 
John

PS I got your letter alright and 10/- and stamps

 

September 1st 1918 (Sunday) 
The next letter is from Fred (now returned home) to his ‘Pals' in the Army, in an envelope addressed to Pte Henry Sykes, 9th Batt Duke of Well W.R.R., B. Coy, 8 Platoon, B.E.F, France. The envelope, postmarked Marsden, is stamped on back "Huddersfield Post Office 9 Sept 1918", also stamped "No 2 Infantry … 26 Sept 1918", there is writing in red "Rd" (read?) and the envelope has been re-sealed with a sticker. On the front there is a stamp over the address "R.E. (S.R.) A.P.S." The address (except B.E.F., France) is crossed though in purplish ink, and above it is written, in the same ink, "Deceased F Marshall Lt 8.9.18". The letter was contained in a Services Returned Postal Packet envelope to Fred., 19 Peel St, Marsden, Nr Huddersfield.

Henry Sykes, therefore, died in the War, and never received Fred's letter. He may have been Private Henry Sykes from Netherton, No 267894, 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (WRR) who died on 1st September 1918, aged 26 and is commemorated at Vis-en-Artois. "Over 9,000 men … fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and have no known grave*22" . Fred's wound and discharge rescued him from possible death in this "Hundred Days Offensive".

1/

19 Peel Street,
Marsden
Nr Huddersfield
Sept. 1st 1918

Dear Pals 
I received your welcome letter the other day. I was pleased to hear from you also to know that you were all alright at the time of writing. I had begun to be a bit uneasy when I was such a while in hearing from you, for I thought you must be in this last push. You will wonder why I am writing this from home well the reason is that I have been discharged from the army because of my wound in the head, I have been at home about three weeks now. It is the Feast
[First page ends here]

2/

Sunday today and the majority of folks in Marsden are off on there holidays, but I am not going away for a week or two yet. It is miserable weather for it has done nothing but rain today so far. I am sorry that you have lost Leigh Moss to the platoon for he was a decent sort remember me to him. Tell John I have been doing a bit of farming for we have two grand pigs, also two cows two calfes and upteen hens and ducks. I will close now remember me to Tommy Walker also Walt Weatherhill when you see him. I wish you all the best of luck
Your old pal
Fred

 

September 7th 1918
The following letter concerning Fred's War Badge was enclosed in a registered letter. The Services envelope is addressed to Mr Frederick C. Firth, 19 Peel St, Marsden, nr Hudds., with a blue cross on envelope and a red wax seal, date stamped 7th September 1918.

449429

No. 449429

WAR BADGE awarded to Private Frederick Cooper Firth

late No. 204732 The Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment
(Regimental Number and Unit)

for "Services Rendered" in H.M.'s Military Forces since 4th August, 1914

Station York   W.W. Laxbury Major
Officer by whom Badge is issued
Date 7 " 9 " 1918   Colonel, O. i/c.
No. 2 Infantry Records, York

11th January 1922 
A postcard dated 11th January 1922 to Mr F.C. Firth, 19 Peel St., Marsden, Huddersfield states that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his services as No 204732, Rank Private, in the West Riding Regiment.

The following card is in an envelope addressed to Mr Fred Firth, Gate Head, Marsden, and from "Ethel" (probably Fred's future wife Ethel Beaumont). It is undated, but given the Gate Head address and the romantic flavour it was possibly sent some time between his return from war in 1918 and his marriage in 1925 It bears the words "Best Love" on the front, with decoration of holly berries, a flowery heart, and red ribbon. The message inside reads:

Kind Thoughts and Wishes
for a
Happy New Year

Just a loving thought of you
Just a wish a greeting true
From this heart of mine to say
Happy be your New Year's day
And, wherever you may be,
In your heart a thought of me

Clifton Bingham

From Ethel

 

30th April 1925 (Thursday) 
The following from 1925 is on a standard lodgings account form, and probably represents a week's holiday for two people (see milk bill). This was very probably Fred's honeymoon. The marriage of a Frederick C Firth to an Ethel Beaumont was registered at Huddersfield between April and June 1925; Fred would then have been 29 or 30 years old.

Accounts Rendered Weekly

April 30th 1925

Mr Firth
DR. TO Mrs Read

Beds 1 week & 1 night @ £2.2.0 per week   2 8 0
Teas 2     2 2
Milk, Cream 1d a day each     1 6
Potatoes 8 days     2 8
Puddings 6     2 6
Extras cookery sundries     1 0
  £ 2 17 8

May 29th 1925 (Friday) 
The following letter, from Fred's uncle Herbert Firth is in an envelope to Mr Fred C Firth, Gatehead, Marsden, Nr Huddersfield. It is written on Firth Bros headed paper. The "great day" referred to is presumably Fred's marriage. Within the envelope is also a printed poem "Lines on a Remarkable Circumstance Connected with Bretton Hall" which recounts the Ulysses-like return of the Lord of Bretton, after 20 years at sea, to his wife who has just remarried.

Wood Lea
Shepley
Nr Huddersfield 
May 29th 1925

Telegrams 
"Firth Bros. Shepley,"
Telephone No 22 Kirkburton

H. FIRTH
F. FIRTH

Dear Fred
We had fully intended being over to see you before now lent what with one thing & another we have been put of. However we hope to see you before long. Enclosed find cheque for a reminder of the Great Day & With best wishes from all at Wood Lea for your future welfare. With kindest regards to your wife & yourself
Yours Truly
Uncle Herbert

 

October 7th 1928
The following is probably to Fred's father Thomas, from Fred's uncle Fred Firth. It shows that Fred was now farming. Ernest Lockwood, in Colne Valley Folk, states in 1936 that David Firth's "farm is now [in 1936] in the occupation of Fred Firth, a son of Thomas Firth". Fred's uncle David did not marry, and died in March 1925; previous letters suggest that Fred was expected to take over the farm.

TEL. 878

BROOK HOUSE KINGS MILL LANE HUDDERSFIELD Oct 7/28

Tom/
I am Sending you £25 towards buying the Cow Cow for Fred, & I want this Money spending on a Cow or heifer & would like to see it when I Come up 
I don't See that there is any need to be in a hurry have a look round and see if there is anything good about F.F.

 

The following hand-written opening speech for a church Sale of Work is undated; reference to "the recently demolished Sunday school under the chapel" should provide a clue. The writer, like Fred, is a farmer; the writing, however, resembles neither that of Fred nor of his brother Norman.

Mr Chairman Ladies & Gentlemen,
It was with a certain amount of reluctance that I promised to occupy the position of opening the Annual Sale of Work here this afternoon. When Mr Armitage approached me with regard to it I refused, but he asked me to think it over. This I did & after due consideration, I finally decided to accept, because knowing that the old scholars who have been asked to do it in the past did not refuse, but accepted willingly & in all fairness to them I felt in duty bound to accept.

I may as well say here that I should feel more at home on a milking stool or opening a bag of corn than opening a Sale of Work, but these footprints in the sands of time come along & we look back of on them very often with very pleasant recollections.

I have spent many happy hours in this Sunday School preparing for past Sales of Work, they are a good thing in many ways the most important in my opinion being that it gives everyone a good chance of doing their share & pulling their weight towards the upkeep of this place.

I can cast my mind back on many happy occasions at these functions, but the one I enjoyed most I think was when I took part in a dialogue held in the recently demolished old school under the chapel. This dialogue was entitled "My Wife's Dentist" & I think one or two here this afternoon will remember it. In those days the platform was made up of old table tops & forms & packed as well as we could for the occasion (no set stage manager as you have today) & well remember during the performance one of my colleagues intended making a dramatic entrance, which he did, but in a much different way to what he intended for on coming into view of the audience he stept on to a weak place of the platform & his foot went through much to the amusement of all present except himself.

I am pleased to have my friend, [Mr] Ben Smith alongside me this afternoon as Chairman for we were together here for a good number of years as both scholars & active workers in both Church & Sunday School.

I do hope y

The birth of Frederick Cooper Firth was registered at Huddersfield between April and June 1895 (Vol. 9a, p. 255). In 1901, aged 6, he was living at Upper Gatehead with his family. His father Thomas Firth (born October 2nd, 1864) was a plumber, married to Clara Alberta. Also in the family were his sister Mary aged 4, and his brothers Norman Garside and Thomas aged 3 and 1. Another brother, Joseph Cooper was born in 1908. In 1911 the family were living at 19 Peel Street; Fred's father was a "plumber and glazier", and Fred, aged 16, was his assistant in the business, while Mary was a dressmaker's assistant.

Fred Firth in the 1930sFred's father Thomas was well connected. He was one of the sons of Thomas Firth who, in the censuses, is shown in 1871 as a woollen clothier at Gatehead, and in 1881, still at Gatehead, as a "farmer of 15 acres and woollen waste merchant employing 12 hands".

Thomas's elder brother Samuel founded the woollen firm of Fisher, Firth & Co at Cellars Clough Mills and, with another brother Cooper, founded S. & C. Firth at Holme Mills. Two more brothers, Herbert and Fred Firth, ran Firth Brothers, Shepley, while the eldest brother David Firth, according to Ernest Lockwood in Colne Valley Folk, "remained in the old homestead at Gatehead, as a farmer". In addition, Thomas Firth senior had four daughters; Jane, Elizabeth, Annie and Ellen.

According to his WWI Medal Index card (online record), Frederick Cooper Firth enlisted in the West Riding Regiment (Reg. No 204732) as private on 23rd February 1916, at the age of 20. Addresses on envelopes show that he began his service in the 3/5th Battalion, which (with others) formed as depot/training units at home stations in March 1915, and on 8th April 1916 became reserve battalions and moved to Clipstone Camp.

The letters which follow were donated to the Marsden History Group by Norman Wrigley, whose sister Marjorie was the wife of Fred’s only son David. The family are happy for Marsden History Group to publish the letters here. Most of them were written to Fred in 1916 by his family and friends. They provide a moving picture of the anxieties faced by those whose young men had gone to war, as well as the way that everyday life continued, albeit with difficulties caused by the shortage of men as workers, bandsmen and Sunday School teachers.

If anyone has any additional information about the writers of the letters or of the people and places mentioned in them, please do contact Marsden History Group.

N.B. In the transcription below, words which were "inserted above the line" have been placed in square brackets. Words which are unclear have been put in italics. Those still to be checked against original are in red.

December 15th 1908
The following was written by Fred at the age of about 13 to a friend. It is in an unstamped envelope, addressed to Master Arthur Sykes c/o John Sykes. The "little brother" mentioned is Joseph Cooper, later referred to as "Cooper", born on 26th June 1908.

Oliver Road
Marsden
Nr. Huddersfield
December 25th 1908

Dear Arthur,
I thought I would just write you as letter as it is a long time [since] I heard any news from you. This morning I found on the table by my stocking a writing case which I thing will be of use to me. On the 26th of June last I had a little brother born which a family of seven including (father & mother) Grandma Firth and Mrs Schofield are keeping very well and so are the rest of us. I hope [End of page] 
you have not forgotten Marden and your old friends. Marsden has altered a great deal since you left. I am very well at presant hoping you are and written soon.

Your loving friend
Frederick C. Firth


August 17th 1915
This letter is from Fred's friend, Corporal Arthur Walton who was based at Thoresby in the 2/7th Leeds Rifles Battalion of the West Riding Regiment.

Cpl G A Walton
2520 D Coy 2/7 WRR
Thoresby*1 Camp
Worksop
17/8/15

Dear Fred

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still living & have not forgotten you although you might think I have.

I have been away at Babworth*1a for a week, but came back on Friday. There were about 20 Officers & NCO's went & we went for a course on bomb throwing, but we had to come back, waiting for material, so I don't know wether we shall go back there or not, I hope we do because we were having a fine time. We had a very heavy storm here about 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon it only rained for about half an hour but the water ran over the road in one place. Well Fred I don't know wether I shall be coming home this week end or not I think we are only allowed 5 passes this week because one chap stayed over his leave this last weekend & that knocked us 15 off, so I look like having much chance this time. Are you having any holiday, this time we shall not be going to Morecambe at any rate, so if you go remember me to all at Mrs Lunn's that is if you lodge there. Well I will close now as it is getting dark & near post time give my respects to all enquiring friends & except the same yourself, I am Your Affect Friend

Arthur

Good night



February 29th 1916 (Tuesday)
The following letter, written soon after Fred enlisted, is from "G.H." (George Herbert Wilson, who was in 1911 a weaver, of 1 Peel St, aged 35), his wife "MAW" (Mary Alice Wilson, in 1911 aged 30 and a shop assistant), and "Eli of fighting fame" (possibly their daughter Sarah Elizabeth, aged 8 in 1911). It would appear that Fred's younger brother Thomas had taken his place assisting their father in the plumbing and glazing business. The "Old man at the farm" is probably David Firth at Gatehead. The Norman mentioned as (Sunday) School Treasurer may be Fred's younger brother.

1 Peel St
Marsden
Feb 29/16

The 1st Epistle To Joshua *2
1st verse

Dear Fred
Many thanks for your letter to hand.
We are all very pleased to hear you are alright & keeping your end up.
I have been up to your house to see [how] they were sailing & I found everything in apple pie order. Your Thomas seems to be driving the pen & your father is at his elbow, telling him about unions & all that sort of plumbing talk. So far as I can gather the Old man at the farm is A1, as his temperature was dead on normal this morning, if he shows any sign [End of first page]
of scarlet fever or typhoid I shall wire for you at once.
The hens are frozen up with the storm & as soon as it breaks we shall be mooed aat wi eggs.
I met Amy up Warehouse Hill this morning & by the way she spoke I think you must have been telling her something.

Anyway I mean to get it out of her when I meet her again. Your Mary came down on Saty. evening & we put a record score on, 1518 at one call. Little Sam came in last night & we had a short round, & they kept wishing you were here.
I think the Kaiser has got to [End of second page]
know of your action as he seems to be putting speed on, so that he may get it over before you get on the scene. Give him a Jack o Marker's if you come across him! There's soon be a lot more cuckoos down at Clipstone as I hear they are migrating. But I shall have to close Fred, as G.H. & his Mrs are booah wanting to have a word i't epistle to Reckabites at Likes Sherry.

[Eli of fighting fame.
with love]*3

The 2nd Epistle to Joshua Dear Fred
I just thought I would have a word with [you] before tea, they are papering the Old School windows up
[End of third page]

for Sat, [tis &] my word if you had been at our house the other nights and seen Mary Alice face went they put that big score against us, you would have thought that the cat was lost. I have got Norman to be School Tresurer and I think he will do his work very well. 

Some week end we are going to have a Concert at our house
Norman is practicing on the Clarinettee till he is black in the face. Mary Alice is getting a Solo for the occasion how beautiful are her feet. He ha could laugh but tha knaws ha darnt. Im conducting and when they goa wrang ha tell Norman to boil it then he will have a better tone and Mary alice to drink some leather watter then who wint be rusty and who looks a black as thunder
[End of fourth page – no signatory but probably by "G.H."]

The 3rd Epistle
to Dear old Fred 
Dear Fred
I must have my turn now, you cant scarcely imagine what a pleasure it was to have your nice letter. I don't think there is much I can tell you about the Chapel only you was very much missed on Sunday in fact you are missed every day at our house, I have not seen Annie or H.E. this week yet, I went to School on Sunday afternoon, Charlie was there, but H.E. was not perhaps they have had a little Tiff, but you know Fred they will love one another all the more for it when they make it up again, after School Annie wanted to go for a walk it was very nasty & sloppy but she said H.E. had made a cake for her brother James & would
[End of fifth page]

 

I go up with her for it, we went up when we got to H.E. she had gone to Chapel, & we must have missed her however the cake was not mentioned & I think she may have sent it to Charlie to get round him again, I shall be able to tell you more news next week after the Sale of Work Mr Evans gave it out on Sunday that Mrs C.H. Fisher was going to open it on Saturday. Annie is coming round again I think she will keep popping up to see your Uncle now you are not here to look after him, Oh by the way, Mr J.W. Dyson called in last night, & he said we must tell you not to come back again unless you had got the V.C. but you know Fred we shall be very glad to see you anytime with or without V.C. We have had a P.C. from Frank, he is at Osterley Park
[End of sixth page]

& he says he is liking very well but it is very dirty about 6 inches in mud & he is learning Moter Driving*4 I hope you have come across Joe Garside before now Fred because you will feel much better with some one you are quite used to. Frank Sykes was sick on Sunday so Guthrie was at the Organ Mr Evans said he had four letters from the boys last week one from H. Cotton, H. Hewett A. Walton & E. Cawthorne, I went & sat with the children they were fairly good Annie B. was there & Lillian Dransfield Sunday turned out very nasty we went to Mr Harpers to tea, I let you mother see you letter on Monday morning. Mary & Mrs Dyson greenboarded us on Sat night I do wish you could just look in every night as you used to, I must stop now it is 7 oclock. G.H. said I must tell you the concert was postponed till you come home. write again soon Fred

M.A.W.
 

March 8th 1916 (Wednesday) 
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.

MANSE,
MARSDEN
HUDDERSFIELD

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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
Marsden

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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
[Third page ends here]

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.
M.A.W.

 

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.

Eli

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
[First page ends here]

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
[Second page ends here]

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.
[Third page ends here]

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.
M.A.W.

 

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
[First page ends here]

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

[Page ends here]

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
[First page ends here]

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
Arthur

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
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.
(2)
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.
(3)
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.
(4)
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.
(5)
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".
[Third page ends here]

Page II

(6)
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.
(7)
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.
(8)
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.
(9)
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.
[Fourth page ends here]

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

 

April 5th 1916 (Wednesday) 
This letter is from Fred's mother, apparently after he had taken brief home leave.

Peel St April 5/16

My Dear Dear Fred
We received your letter this morning, you have no need to think we shall forget to write, for we are always thinking of you, even if we are not always writing. I am writing this is the room before the Bank man comes for your Aunt Martha is coming this afternoon so you know how we shall be, it will be all talk, so I thought I would write this morning. I was pleased with the P.C. you sent, we can almost see you in our imagination now that you have sent us that, it looks as though it would be nice when the weather is fine, I hope you have settled down to it again it has not upset you coming Home, I was upset when you had gone, I wish you could have seen our Jack he came and sat beside me & licked my hand & Whined & looked up at me as though he knew I was in trouble, but I have got over it now since I got the letter & we seem nearer to you since you have been over. Our Mary told me you
[First page ends here]

had seen Mrs Eastwood & your Grandfather & that you did look upset but we thought you would phraps get over it when you got to the other lads as you seem to have done. Your Father was disappointed he could not see you he just got back about 6 o'clock he said he had time to get back but could not. We whent to Hudd yesterday as I told you, to buy a new carpet we got one but I am afraid it will be to fine, your father has bought it how much do you think he has given for it 5 pounds don't you think he is very generous he says we shall only bank a day sooner. Your Uncle David is better your father has bought his sheep off him so I think he will get well now, Mrs Gledel called last night & our Mary said she though Uncle Fred looked very quiet on Sunday, but she said he had been like that a few week now he seemed bothered about the war. I must close now or I shall never have done ready for your Aunt Martha
So God bless you my Dear lad. 
Mother

 

May 2nd 1916 (Tuesday)
This letter is from Fred's sister Mary, and the Norman referred to is probably their brother. Pole Moor was a Baptist Chapel: other chapels mentioned in the letters are Sunny Bank (founded 1890) and Zion (probably Slaithwaite Zion founded 1886) – both were offshoots of Pole Moor - and Clough Head (Pole Moor chapel founded a school at Clough Head in 1876)*13. It appears that although Fred was involved with the Congregationalist church in Marsden, he also attended local Baptist services. The "Band of Hope" Mary refers to was a temperance organisation aimed at children.

Pinned-in cutting reads: FIRTH – SELLERS – April 27th, by license, at Almondbury Church, by the Rev. W. E. Charlton, Fred, son of the late Thomas Firth, Gatehead, Marsden, to Mary Louise, elder daughter of the late Thomas Sellers, Somerset Road, Huddersfield. This is presumably the marriage of Fred's uncle Fred Firth, who lived in Shepley, and it was registered between April and June 1916 at Huddersfield Vol. 9a p.523

 

Peel St.
Marsden

May 2/16

Dear Fred,
I have not quite forgotten [you], although, no doubt you will think I have. I have just an hour to spare & so I thought I would write to you.
Well, for a beginning I am going to Suny Bank, on Sunday, that is, if it is fine. I do wish you were going with me. Our Norman does not seem to want to go, but he says he is going to Clough head, but of course, I shall go to both, I wanted Norman to go to Pole Moor with me on Sunday to the Choir Anniversary but he wouldn't go, & so you see I had to stop at home.
I have not been anywhere particular this Easter. I was in all day on the Monday with a bad cold, & so you see I could not go with Mrs Wilson. They called at Aunt Martha's, & she said, she had such a job to get Mary Emma away, & so they must have enjoyed themselves. I went to huddersfield on Easter Tuesday with Edith Pinder, & then again to the pictures on Saturday night & Lizzie Walton sat behind us, & so you [she] will see I
[First page ends here]

am not quite fast to her. Edith seems such a nice girl, & I like to go with her, she is such a "tar", & she is without friend, like me.
Well, Fred where do you think I am going to to-night To the "band of hope." I have promised to play for Hannah Dransfield, who is singing, & so I shall have to go, but I think I shall have to start going, & I know it will just suit you.
I suppose you will know by this time about Goerge Dransfield. He is in the Northumberland Fusilliers & is stationed at Chelmsford in Essex, so Uncle Arthur tells me, & so he has sent for his violin, & so you see they will be having some music where he is.
Now, Fred, mother told me when she came home from Clipstone Camp, that you told her, Wilfred Hellawell was not quite teetotal. I do hope you have not started taking a drop, I has bothered me since, afraid that you might be led off. Do keep this in mind Fred but do not tell anyone about it. Grandpa is here just now, & he said that I had to give to me you his best respects, & hopes you will come back to look after the farm, he is so suited with everything
[Second page ends here]

Well, Fred I am afraid I shall have to stop now, because it is time to go to the Sunday School So Goodbye for the present, & keep your pecker up.
With love from all,
Mary.

 

 

May? 1916 
This is another letter from Mary Alice Wilson, undated but apparently around May 1916. The "Gaurdian" (!!) referred to is almost certainly The Colne Valley Guardian.

S.E. is allright she has won her Tre. at the night school

1 Peel Street
Marsden

Dear Fred/
I am sorry I have not written befor this, but you know it is coming a very busy time for us, the shop bell is always ringing but nobodys says "right" Mr Dyson is very busy with his chickens, Old Tom is as nazzy as ever he was & Billy is going home this week end for good I think his uncle & his Mother have it between them so his Mother has asked to have him discharged, of course it makes it rather awkyard you see he was just getting useful Jim seems to be the only right man we have, I dersay they will be finding me a Call of war if things does not alter he is advert for a man but they seem to be all in Karki Charlie's wife has been in this morning she says Frank is on Salisbury Plain he & Charlie were going to spend last Sat. afternoon together. G.H. has just sent the Anniv*14 Hymns to print to Lenny Halstead's Mr Roberts would not quote him a price he said they would be much more this time than last, so he rung Lenny up & he promised to do them cheaper than Mr Roberts did them last time, I hope you will be here for the Anniv Day. Annie told us last night the teachers had a meeting about a band again yesterday but she told them she would give nothing & she told them G.H.
[End of first page]

would not go collecting for more they have seen Linthwaite Band advertising in the Gaurdian I think our own band Sec. wrote about a month since he said a good few of them was in the army & about 50 came under the Compulsion Bill so he said they would be a one man band soon, he wanted to know if Sammy had joined yet, Sammy got his papers last week he told me the war would soon be over now he was going to kill every man he saw after that, yes. H & J went to West vale on the car on Sunday it was beautiful we got back for tea, H.E., A. & I went to Oldham the other Sat (E.E. E.K.) we had a time we took Annie into Tommy-field*15 seeking a new hat H.E. said we should not take her home unless she bought one so Annie had to do has she was told we did wish G.H. & you had been with us. Annie was very sore about spending her money you see Joe Kaye has got his papers to join the Army & I think she will be saving up to buy him a waistlet watch for a present, Mr & Mrs Sam Whitehead has come back from Matlock they have been there three weeks I think they are both feeling better they brought us a boiling of nettles back we had nettles & bacon to supper on Friday night Mr Whitehead came down & cooked them they were very nice you know Fred when we used
[End of second page]

to have fries & peas on Friday nights I wish we were all having them every Friday again My word Fred we have got some buxom lasses down the back now I am sure you would not think about going to Hey Leighs if you was her they are lodging with Mrs Law & working at Mill Company Oh I forgot to tell you Annie nearly made it up with Mr Dyson Oldham Manager they would make a nice couple don't you think so. I have just broken off to read your letter it has just come by the Afternoon post, I am more sorry than ever Fred I have not written before, but I will try & write every week after this I have told You about the Fatty cakes he nearly ran me up the steps instead of you I think your Mother is looking very well considering you know Fred she is bound to feel lost without you & I think it rests with you to send her some cheerful letters to keep her going because she will think if you are keeping up well she will try, I think she is doing very well she went down to Slaithwaite on Sunday with Cooper, Mary, & Norman went as well Mary told me they got 32£ at the Annis. Mr Dyson is talking about sending you a page but I think you will have plenty with Annie & misen this time & I will gog his memory in a day & two, my father & mother & Aunt Emma are all keeping well, Mother & I are going to Pole on Tues. doing the grave up so I hope it will be nice I wish you were home again to go to all the Anniversarys it is Zion on Sunday Pole sunday after West Slaithwaite on Sunday I bet you would like to go there how are you going on with the Daylight Saving Bill*16 Mr. Dyson has gone worse. he misses his letters on Sunday morning 9 oclock nearly this morning I must thank you for a second letter Annie is sending you an Epistle, from your friend M.A.W.

 

May 8th 1916 (Monday) 
The following letter is from Fred's cousin Jessie Isobel Firth; in the 1911 census she was aged 13 and living with her parents, Samuel and Elizabeth Firth at Crow Hill, Marsden (Samuel was woollen manufacturer at Cellar's Clough Mills). Isobel's reference to the "new aunt Molly" presumably refers to their uncle Fred Firth's marriage to Mary Louise Sellers (see cutting attached to letter from Mary Firth, above).

Crow Hill
Marsden
May 8th 1916

Dear Fred
I expect when you get this letter from me, you'll have a fit (I hope you don't) and think I've gone mad, because I've taken it into my head to write to you. Anyhow I don't suppose you'll mind getting a letter. I know I always looked forward to the post, and I felt very disappointed if I didn't get a letter when I was at school. Perhaps you don't know that I've left now. I'm going in solely for piano now. I am going to begin lessons at the Hudfl'd College of Music shortly. Of course I'm going to take warbling lessons as well, and also I'm going to try & learn how to book-keep, type and shorthand.
[First page ends here]

Well, it's rotten weather here. It has rained for four days. I believe I could swim on the flags now, but I'm going to refrain from doing so, as I had a bath on Sat. you will be pleased to know. Spring cleaning is in great evidence here. We are heaved out of every possible corner, so you are lucky to be out of it, for I called at your house the other day, and your mother was washing the house floor, and your dog was parading over the clean part, and your mother said gentle words of rebuke to it in a mild tone of voice (I don't think) We (mother & I) went to chapel yesterday, My, it was a poor turn out. It was Communion and there were 13 there, I don't know what the place is coming to. We were out at 11.25, and mother was out and up home (and it takes her over ten
[Second page ends here]

minutes to walk home) at 12 o'clock. The lads said the prayers at a speed of something like 100 miles an hour, and the singing oh my hat _____ It beareth not to be mentioned. Only Mrs George Mellor was across the aisle and she nearly drove me mad (That is between you and me, you know) I told mother I shouldn't ever go in the morning again, and I told her I shouldn't go regularly, and I shan't. However I promised her I wouldn't stop off altogether. I suppose you know that I've had an operation on my nose and throat. I had adenoids and tonsils. I didn't know that I cultivated such reptiles, but is seems I did. I went into a Nursing Home in Colwyn Bay and had it done. I am quite al- [Third page ends here]

right again now, and I'm very glad the reptiles are no more. I havn't written to Thomas Shaw so don't tell him you've heard from me or he might be mad, I don't expect he'd want to hear from me though in any case. What do you think of the new aunt Molly? You'd get a slight shock when you knew didn't you? We had Walter up the other day, something went wrong with the water, and we hadn't any. It is alright now though. Yours is the fourth letter this morning and I've two more to write so I must stop.
Hoping your keeping quite
fit and cheerful
With love
from 
Isobel

P.S. I'll buck mother up and make her write, though she hasn't forgotten you.

 

May 25th/29th 1916 (Thursday/Monday) 
The following two letters were in an envelope addressed to Pri. Fred Firth, 5th Reserve D of W.W.R.R., No 3 Lines No 30 Hut, Clipstone Camp, Notts. They are from Ann G. Bamforth and Lizzie Bamforth, who in the 1911 census were aged 33 and assisting their father James in his confectioner's business at 7 Peel St.

7 Peel St,
Marsden
May 25th/16

Well Fred, we received your letter a few days since and were glad to hear from you again and we were very pleased to find the photo for us as well, your Mary had showed us theirs one morning and we thought then we should like one but we didn't like to ask for one, for we didn't know whether you would have many, we think it is good and like you, but you are looking a bit serious, but you seem to have got the state chair and all complete for the time being. You asked about the school well we keep doing as well as we can, we seem very short of teachers on my day, I have taken another class with mine in the morning for a few times now, we keep doing fairly well in the chapel, he hasn't sent them out again that I know of, we could do very well with you to help us with those little tars, that little ginger Goodman and a few more like him, I had him the other Sunday but I don't want him again yet. I wish you could hear the 
[First page ends here]

variations we get on the organ sometimes from F. Sykes, we had quite a mix the other Sunday night with that hymn (Angels of Jesus) it wasn't the old tune, but one that we have sung many a time and the choir would have managed alright, but he didn't seem to play two verses alike, and when he played it over he put such flourishes in that made people look at one another and wonder what what*17 sort of a tune we were going to have and the Rev Ben. didn't know whether to sit or stand to it, but he finished off with saying the last verse please, there were lots saying after that he ought to go where the other lads have gone but he seems to think he settled for good and there's a lot that doesn't seem to like it. We are going to Zion Anniversary next Sunday for a change, yes I think ours are chosen and G.H. seems to think they will be a nice lot. I hope you will be able to manage for then if you don't get here before you must have a try, it seems a long time since we saw you. We are sending you a small parcel with your folks and we hope you will enjoy it if there is any you don't like you must tell us, we thought the fruit drops would be nice this warm weather so hoping you are still in the best of health and spirits. keep smiling. yours respectfully
A.G. Bamforth

sankey. (494)*18

7 Peel St,
Marsden
May 29th

Dear Friend You ought to have had this letter before now, but it has been waiting for me, & we set off to Zion yesterday so it did not get any further but I thought I would try & do a bit this morning, well, we had a very good time both afternoon & evening & they got £28 - 2s - 3d & they seemed to think it very good. Mr Rutherford read the roll of Honour, but in a very different way to what it is read at our place, when it happens to be read, he read the names out & then asked all the Congregation to bow in Silent Prayer it was very impressive & you know Fred we don't forget our own Lads. Mrs Wilson tells us you are expecting to go away before very long but I hope you will get a good leave before you go & we hope & pray that you will be spared to come back amongst us for it feels something wanting without you. Cooper keeps trying to keep things bright, he keep singing early in the morning
[First page ends here]

it feels to do one good to hear him, he came in the shop the other week, he very often asks if we have had a letter from our Fred, but this time he asked if we had had a Photo he said, we have, but I think he looks a bit home sick quite old fashioned he said it, but I think it is very good & we thank you very much for it. I expect Mrs Wilson will have told how busy they are with the Chickens we went down Sat morning to see them roll over on to the flannel. I daresay if you had been here you would have had a hand in it. Your Mother told me you had got your parcel & I am sure you are very welcome to our small contribution, she seems to be doing very well but she misses you very much. but I think I shall have to conclude for this time. Father & Nellie sends wishes to be remembered to you so with best wishes for your welfare I remain
yours respectfully
L. Bamforth
(494)

 

May 30th 1916 (Tuesday)
The following is another letter from Fred's sister Mary.

19 Peel St,
Marsden
Nr Hudd.
May 30/16

Dear Fred,
We received your letter this morning, or I ought to say, Thomas did, but, of course, we all read it.
I have just finished my work for to-day, & it is only about eleven o'clock. I am really waiting for the end of the month, & then, as you know, I shall be busy enough then.
Father has got the work at the Co-operative Stores, & he has just gone to see Mr. Berry about something belonging to it now. I think the business is going on very satisfactory at present. I have started cutting glass, but I notice the first panes I cut for a customer have come back, so there must be something wrong with them, so I don't sound to be progressing very favourably, do I?
We have just had a "mother's meeting" & Mrs Battye has been down, & she says that Frank Calverly is going signalling in the Mary, Mrs Battye also says he will be on the "bridge with the Captain", & she says she won't be sorry if he falls off.
[First page ends here]

Well, Fred, if you are coming on your last leave, I should think they will let you have more leave than from Saturday to Sunday. It is scarcely worth coming far. You must write & let us know, how much they are allowing you, & what time you will get here, etc, & then I shall be able to tell Mrs. Wilson, & we will have a "beano".
I am still going about with Edith Pinder a bit, I was up there last night, I stayed with her while she looked after the shop, & we all going to the pictures to-night if all's well, & so you see we aren't doing so bad.
Father stopped harry France week before last, but he came again last night, & father set him on again.
I suppose you will know that it is Pole Anniversary on Sunday, I do wish you could come & go with me for I have no one to go with, Norman says he won't go, & so it looks like staying at home. I have not been able to get a Clough head hymn-sheet yet, & I should like to know what sort of hymns they are having. I suppose they are having a Congregational Minister from Stainland to preach, & Aunt [Martha] says she has heard they liked him at Pole once when was there, & so it sounds as though it will be very nice 
[Second page ends here]

Mother received your letter Sunday morning as she was going to the station, & so she let them read it at Longlands. She also says I have to tell you that she will write you to-morrow.
I am enclosing a letter we received from Aunt Mary, but you must let us have it back as soon as you have read it.
I hear Ernest is coming home on Thursday, but of course, I don't know wether it is true or not. I have also heard that Ben Firth has got his papers, & not before it was time, either, I say.
I am sending you these few chocolates "All bid, i-chung", as our Cooper used to say, & I hope you will think of me & enjoy them.
I think I will close now,
With Best Love from all
Mary

 

June 9th 1916 (Friday)
The following short letter is from Fred's mother, apparently after another home leave.

Home June 9/16
Friday

My Dearest lad
Just a line to tell you we received the P.C. this morning & how glad I was, I did not think you would have got in so soon. I watched for the Postman but I did not expect anything, as I thought you would scarcely have time to write so it was an agreabbl surprise. Ernest Cawthorn came home last
night he was sorry he did not see you, but they only let them out on the Thursday, he is looking well he is getting right fat in the face, he has liked where he has been, he says he wants to go back. We have just had Mrs Hoyle with the papers, she does not know if Harry is coming, she has not had any word but she says she will look for him tomorrow night.
I think this is all just now, I am sending it in the Guardian, I forgot to put you some soap in, I will send some next week when we send a parcel, I hope you have got settled, but it takes a long time, will write again soon best love Mother

 

June 18th 1916 (Sunday)
The following two letters from Fred's younger brother Norman and his mother were enclosed in the same envelope addressed in Norman's writing to 4695 Pte Fred C. Firth, 3/5th Duke of Wellington's W. R. R., No 3 lines, No 26 Hut, Clipstone Camp, and postmarked 18 June 19…. The reverse of the envelope is stamped Thomas Firth, Plumber, Marsden. A "sturk" (stirk) is a young cow or bullock.

19 Peel Street
Marsden
June 18th 1916

Dear Fred./

Just a line or two it is Sunday dinnertime, [and] I seem to have a bit of time as I've just been playing my instrument and got out of wind and fairly feel "puffed". I have been to Chapel this morning and taken up the weekly offerings so you see I shall soon be a sidesman. We are practising the Anniversary Hymns this afternoon and G.H. will be conducting.

Mary and I went to Clough Head last Sunday and it was a "poor do" for I did not like the selection of Hymns at all their was W. Whitwam there as usual "banging" forms about and he nearly knocked [the] pulpit down in his alley attempt to get a form in too many and there were as many "tall Shiners" as I couldn't tell what when it was over I asked someone for my hat and they were giving me a "tall shiner" but I rejected it and said I hadn't got into a parson yet. I sat at the side of "White Ned" you won't know him but he is one of weavers and he would have me sit at the side of him.

On Whit-Monday morning I went with father to Huddersfield Fair with Joe Armitage and he bought 2 sturks but they are at a price, Uncle David says they have got to the "devil of a price" so I think things are coming to a "Crykus" says Aunt Martha. We have got 3 sturks now as he has bought another one last week

We walked on Whit-Monday and managed very well without a band but of course you must remember we had John Allen O'Co[r]kers conducting and he had a "pitch-fork" and Mr Evans with his good voice also "William O'Bobbiners" and of course our worthy "Chief Ruler".
Well its g got practice time so Good Noight Moi Lad.
Your Loving brother
Norman.

 

Home June 18/16
Sunday Afternoon

My Dear Fred Do not think I have forgot you with not writing sooner, for I am always thinking of you, & wondering what you are doing, even if I cannot always find time to write.
I suppose Mary told you that Grandma was very ill, I went down on Wednesday & the doctor seemed to think she was a little better, however on Thursday morning she was a lot worse, Your Grandpa went down to fetch Aunt Fanny, but she could not come so Uncle Arthur went to Crowthers for Aunt Alice, so she is going to stop at home till she is better, I went down on Friday Morning and helped Aunt Alice to clean, the doctor came when I was there & said she was a bit better she was to have bran bags on instead of poultices, it is the Bronchitis she has had & Influenza, it has left her very weak. I shall try to go tomorrow, then Aunt Alice can wash till I look after her. I just got home on Friday
[First page ends here]

2

as Mary was tying your parcel up. She forgot to put the Guardian in but we will send it to you. You said in your letter that it seemed a long time since you left home, Are you not liking as well? I have written you two letters, did you not get the first one, I wrote it as soon as I got the Postcard for I thought it would seem long if I waited till you wrote again so I wrote straight away.
Arthur Horsfall is over this weekend, he landed Home about 3.45 on saturday Morning, he has to go back on tuesday dinnertime, so he has not so long a stay. Uncle Herbert & Arthur came up to Marsden yesterday Afternoon & had tea with us, they wint to look at the farm he is looking well, he is almost as tall as his father & he is broader, He seems to be liking very well, though he will be glad when it is over & he can come home & stop. He seems to thing it will not be very long now, he is expecting being home for good at Christmas, I hope that will be true.
(Second page ends here]

3

I had one of your Companions in the Hut to see me yesterday, his name is Dyson. I was pleased to see him, as he had come from you, I felt as if I could have got hold of him to think he was lif living in the same Hut as my lad was in. You have no idea how it feels to see some one who has been with you. he said he would call again before he went back, so if he does I will send you some choclate, as I know you like them.
You do not say anything about going out, perhaps you will not be going out yet, I do hope & pray that you will not have to go, but I suppose we shall have to leave it. We are all in his hands & he can look after us in France as well as England but you will be such a long way from Home and all your friends.

I will close now hoping you are spending your Sunday as you would if you were at Home, remembering there is one above who sees all that we do.
With best love for my Dear lad. Mother

[on reverse of sheet] P.S. Put a line in for Cooper if you have time.

 

June? 1916 This fragment, apparently from David Firth, Fred's farmer uncle at Gatehead, may "belong with" the letter above; the reference to buying two stirks certainly suggests it was written around the same time.

P.S. Since Nellie wrote your letter I have informed her that the Bull has been sold to Mr G.H. Dodson & your father has bought two stirks in its place.

For the cows wont milk, & the
Bull wont roar. –
The ducks wont quack,
Nor the pigs wont snore,
The Cocks wont crow,
Nor the Hens wont lay
And all's gone wrong,
Since Freddy went away

Uncle David

 

Late June? 1916
This undated letter from Fred's mother appears to belong here in the sequence, as there are references to his grandmother's illness, and a message sent to Fred via his fellow-soldier George Dyson.

My Dear Fred

I am sending your watch & a few choclates by George Dyson, I had to have it repaired at Edwards Mr Hoyle could not do it within five weeks & I knew you could not wait so long, so I took it to Edwards & I called for in on Monday when I went to Grandmas. The Doctor said she was a bit better on Monday, she could sit up about 20 minutes, so you see how bad she has been, & she is very weak yet. I shall try & go down tomorrow, so you will see I have not much time for writing, but never mind you know I am always thinking of you. You said in Normans letter that you might be going out this week I do hope not but let us know as soon as you can. This is just a short note I will write you again soon Oh bye the way, Mary wrote you last week & sent you some stamps, did you get it? you have not answered it. Just say if you have got it.
With best love from Mother

 

September 8th 1916 (Friday) 
This letter is probably from Fred's aunt Annie, born Annie Firth.

Manse Side Marsden Sept 8th/16

Dear Fred
I was sorry to learn you had gone to France, although we know It was what you was training for, well my lad you are doing your bit, I do hope it will not be long and heavey, I dare say you will know it is Marsden Feast, nearly everbody is off and all is very quite, last Sunday their was only 6 in the top at the Chapel, that includes organist singers and blowers of which your Cooper was one, so you may be sure it was a very tame
[First page ends here]

affair, their was not many at night, but he keep them in untill a quarter to eight so he had is ining anyway, I was up at Gatehead last night they are much the same as when you left, I have not been very well lately, I am like your Aunt Jane uses to say – "done, dee when I will, but you keep know Firths keep trailing on, we have not been away this time so last week I said to Daniel I would like a bit of a taste for the Feast either a Duck or a Chicken, well he
[Second page ends here]

could not get one in Marsden so he went to Huddersfield for one, of course I cooked it, and helped to eat it, thinking what a good Duck it was, when he told me it was a Cock Chicken so you can just immagen what hoting I got for not finding it out myself, well I got over it and was no worse for it, you know the Curate lives in John Bradleys house Mrs Eveans was telling us that they lockedes themself out the other week and he was trying to go down the coal shunt when he got fast just immage all that 
[Third page ends here]

length being fast in a coal shunt poor chap he as some bother in is wedded life, I dare say they will have told [you] about our eggs and flower service, don't you think we did well to get ten pounds and all those eggs we are doing our best but I think sometimes we shall have to shut it up for we are nearly at the far end, well I hope you are very well and if you have time to write we shall be very glad to hear from you and you know Fred wherever we are there is One who is watching over us, and I hope and pray he will keep you in the hollow of
[Fourth page ends here; fifth page on attached scrap of paper follows:]

His Hand and bring you [safely] home before long, and then we can talk, and that will be much better than writeing
With love from
Aunt Annie

[On reverse of attached scrap:]
Since writing your letter word as comes of Cyril Newmans Death*19

 

November 27th 1916 
This letter is from Fred's brother Norman Garside Firth. His birth was registered between April to June 1898, so he would therefore have been 18 when he was either enlisted or volunteered to serve.

19 Peel Street

Marsden
Nov 27th 1916
Tuesday

Dear Brother/
You will see by this letter that I am still at home and I wish everybody else was the same, but it is evident that I am not fit for General Service what for I cannot tell but I think it is either my eyes, or ears which you [know] I am deaf on one of them or my heart being a trifle weak, however I passed for CI Garrison Duty*20 at home but they sent me home again and told me that I should have to go on Munitions when called upon I am now under the Labour Exchange awaiting instruction but still working at the old Silk mill and I have valued it ever since I came back I feel very glad in one sense that I have not had to go but in others I wish I was right a so that I could take my turn with the other chaps They were nearly all married men when I went. We had a day I can tell you snowing just as it was where you went and Halifax looks a "Cowd" Shop at the best hand
[First page ends here]

plenty of nice language turned out I can tell you but I suppose it's the way of the Army.
They seem as mad as "blazes" down the street because they have not taken me and Thomas Shaw has decided to write to me because he heard that I had been to Manchester to see if I could get in the Navy and I wrote back telling him that I had got my papers and would soon be a soldier and it must have wakened him up a bit for I have had another letter this morning a good long one and he fairly thinks I am in the Army but "T. Beggar" will be "sucked in" when I write and tell [him]. I don't think I shall hear from him again but I will let you know he says this morning that if he had your address he would have written but I know different if he had wanted it he would have written for it you may expect no good graces from down their for its all our Thomas at every verse end but it has made me mad about him writing just when I was having to go.
Reggie Dean wants remembering to you 
[Second page ends here]

he still keeps writing and said that he hoped I should never have to go different to the other.
James B. Jenkinson told me about a month ago to tell you he has had to join up again this time in kilts he is in the Highland Light Infantry so someone will catch it when "Jinks" gets at them.
Mary Alice has just come up and is telling mother a tale and father has just eating some Pick feet off one of those pigs of Aunt Martha's which has p been killed this week-end we are having half and Fred Holroyd the other Samuel O'Rodgers has cured it for us so we shall be grunting when this week is out
It was the Choir Anniversary last Sunday and we had a very fair day on the whole but the congregations are very poor at present. Both W. Dransfield and W. Sykes are both pleased because I have not had to go so that I can still play the harmonium, and go to the Sunday School especially the former who gave it out in the School just before I went that I was having to go and that the School would joining
[Third page ends here]

with him in wishing that God would be with me always and I did feel it that afternoon I can tell you but I am thankful I have been able to come home again if it is only for our mothers sake for I am afraid she would have bothered more if there had, had to both of us having to go.
Well I think I will close now Fred [and] I am sure I join with you in wishing this awful job over and when I waken in a morning I wish many a time that you was by the side of me again and everything normal again. So Good Noight Moi Lad.

From Your Loving and Sincere
Brother
Norman

 

There are no letters in the collection from the period of Fred's service between the end of November 1916 and June 1918.

June 3rd 1918
This letter is written by Fred a few days before he was wounded, sadly the 3rd page of that letter was missing.

June 3rd 1918
Somewhere-in-France

My Dear Mother
I will first of all thank you for your most welcome letter which I received yesterday (Sunday) morning. I received one from you and one from father at the same time. You do not know how these two letters cheered me up for about a couple of hours before day break. I was on sentry looking over the parapet and old Fritz let two shells right in from of my face and I was not touched I can say nothing only that it was Providence watching me I am glad to say that I am alright and do not feel any effects from the experience.
[first page ends here]
Now you must not get the wind up when you read this but I thought I would tell you. I also received the Exam and Guardian by the same mail but I almost dread open the Guardian for nearly every week I see in it that one or more Marsden lads have paid the great sacrifice there are two in this week Tom France and Lewis Bottomley. I do feel sorry for Mrs France for she is a widow woman. You will see that I am writing this with my pen well I have had an ink pelet given me so I have filled my pen up I want you to send me some ...

It appears that Fred joined an active service battalion in France some time between June and September 1916.

He was wounded in early June 1918 and taken to a Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). The following is a letter from a nurse at the clearing station.

June 6th 1918

29 Casualty Clearing Station
B.E.F 6 6/18

Dear Mrs Firth

Your son - Pte R.F.Firth
204732 W. Ridings has been brought to into this hospital wounded in the head & is very ill -

We are doing all we can for him - I will write to you again
Sister Forrest


June 11th 1918
A short and shaky handwritten letter - Fred's first letter home after he was wounded

June 11th 1918
CCS

My Dear Parents

I am just tryingto write a few lines to let you know how I am getting on for I know that you will be uneasy, for I expect that you will have received by this a letter fomr the matron and the chaplain for they both said they would write to you and let you know how I was getting on.
Well I have been wounded in my head with a small piece of shrapnel it went through my tin helmet but i am thankful that I came through with my life. I would have written sooner only I was too ill to write the first few days but I am improving 
[first page ends here]
nicely I am still at the CCS how long I shall be here I do not know. I should like to get to Blighty but you must not have much hopes about that I don't think they are getting across now with slight wounds. I will close now for I don't feel like writing any more today
I send my love to you all at home
You loving son
Fred

He finished service in the 9th battalion (which formed at Halifax in September 1914 and landed at Boulogne 15 July 1915). His Medal Card states that he was discharged on 29th August 1918 with Cause of Discharge "W", indicating that he was wounded.

August 7th 1918 (Wednesday)
The following letter was written to Fred in hospital, after he was wounded, by his mother; it is addressed to Pte Fred. C. Firth 204732, 9th Battalion W.R.R., No 1 Ward Military Hospital, Woking, Surrey. It seems she had already visited him there.

Home Aug 7/18
Wednesday

My Dear Fred

I got your letter yesterday afternoon, I was pleased for I had been looking for one, you had written to the others but not to me. You said in Normans letter that you had got the parcel but the eggs was broken, I cannot tell how that was Fred for I had packed them in a tin so that they would not shake. & how was it, it was so long in coming, you would get the stamp alright. I will put a few more in this one. 
Isobel has been this afternoon to tell me she had a letter from you yesterday, she said she had sent you Frank's address, so try to write to him if you can for they have been very good to us, and they are so homely*21.

You do not know how glad I am you have found the chapel & are going to it, I hope it will prove a blessing to you Fred, for I believe if there is true religion anywhere you will find it there, for they preach according to Gods word, & that is what we want. I had seen it in the C.P. for August that Mr Snow was preaching the Anniversary sermons & I wondered if you would know if it was the same that was at Slaithwaite, have you spoken to anyone
[First page ends here]

there & what kind of a chapel is its is it anything like the one we went to at Southam; or is it larger you must tell me about it, it seems a funy time to have the Anniversary on a Monday dont it Fred.
I was surprised you had not been down in Woking since we was there, havent you been very well or have you been to buisy.
I saw Mrs Wilson this morning she said George Herbert had been expecting a leave this weekend for he has been three months, but he says it is all off for this weekend she says he is disapointed, but they are thinking of going to see him at the holiday.
While I am writing this Eliner Moorhouse has come to give our Cooper his first lesson on the fiddle so we shall have some music soon they are just tuning up.
Another Old Marsdener gone in the person of Harriet @ White Syke you will know her very well, it is a blessing for she has been in bed a good while, & that is the end of things here Fred.
I will close now, hoping you are improving slowly, but surely.
With best Love
Mother

 

Possibly August 1916
The following is a letter from a "John" to his mother; he appears to be in hospital, perhaps war-wounded, and gives instructions for Fred (presumably Fred Firth) to visit.

Dear Mother
Just a to say I am doing nicely. I am in bed yet my Pal is up for half an hour a day. Tell Fred to ask for D Block and any one will tell where I am. Tell Teddy he wants to go see the Dr or he might be deaf all his life. I hope Janie will soon be better and the other at the Hill that are poorly. you have never told me how the pigs went on or if you have got any more. I think that is all at present
I Remain
Your Loving Son 
John

PS I got your letter alright and 10/- and stamps

 

September 1st 1918 (Sunday) 
The next letter is from Fred (now returned home) to his ‘Pals' in the Army, in an envelope addressed to Pte Henry Sykes, 9th Batt Duke of Well W.R.R., B. Coy, 8 Platoon, B.E.F, France. The envelope, postmarked Marsden, is stamped on back "Huddersfield Post Office 9 Sept 1918", also stamped "No 2 Infantry … 26 Sept 1918", there is writing in red "Rd" (read?) and the envelope has been re-sealed with a sticker. On the front there is a stamp over the address "R.E. (S.R.) A.P.S." The address (except B.E.F., France) is crossed though in purplish ink, and above it is written, in the same ink, "Deceased F Marshall Lt 8.9.18". The letter was contained in a Services Returned Postal Packet envelope to Fred., 19 Peel St, Marsden, Nr Huddersfield.

Henry Sykes, therefore, died in the War, and never received Fred's letter. He may have been Private Henry Sykes from Netherton, No 267894, 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (WRR) who died on 1st September 1918, aged 26 and is commemorated at Vis-en-Artois. "Over 9,000 men … fell in the period from 8 August 1918 to the date of the Armistice in the Advance to Victory in Picardy and Artois, between the Somme and Loos, and have no known grave*22" . Fred's wound and discharge rescued him from possible death in this "Hundred Days Offensive".

1/

19 Peel Street,
Marsden
Nr Huddersfield
Sept. 1st 1918

Dear Pals 
I received your welcome letter the other day. I was pleased to hear from you also to know that you were all alright at the time of writing. I had begun to be a bit uneasy when I was such a while in hearing from you, for I thought you must be in this last push. You will wonder why I am writing this from home well the reason is that I have been discharged from the army because of my wound in the head, I have been at home about three weeks now. It is the Feast
[First page ends here]

2/

Sunday today and the majority of folks in Marsden are off on there holidays, but I am not going away for a week or two yet. It is miserable weather for it has done nothing but rain today so far. I am sorry that you have lost Leigh Moss to the platoon for he was a decent sort remember me to him. Tell John I have been doing a bit of farming for we have two grand pigs, also two cows two calfes and upteen hens and ducks. I will close now remember me to Tommy Walker also Walt Weatherhill when you see him. I wish you all the best of luck
Your old pal
Fred

 

September 7th 1918
The following letter concerning Fred's War Badge was enclosed in a registered letter. The Services envelope is addressed to Mr Frederick C. Firth, 19 Peel St, Marsden, nr Hudds., with a blue cross on envelope and a red wax seal, date stamped 7th September 1918.

449429

No. 449429

WAR BADGE awarded to Private Frederick Cooper Firth

late No. 204732 The Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment
(Regimental Number and Unit)

for "Services Rendered" in H.M.'s Military Forces since 4th August, 1914

Station York   W.W. Laxbury Major
Officer by whom Badge is issued
Date 7 " 9 " 1918   Colonel, O. i/c.
No. 2 Infantry Records, York

11th January 1922 
A postcard dated 11th January 1922 to Mr F.C. Firth, 19 Peel St., Marsden, Huddersfield states that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his services as No 204732, Rank Private, in the West Riding Regiment.

The following card is in an envelope addressed to Mr Fred Firth, Gate Head, Marsden, and from "Ethel" (probably Fred's future wife Ethel Beaumont). It is undated, but given the Gate Head address and the romantic flavour it was possibly sent some time between his return from war in 1918 and his marriage in 1925 It bears the words "Best Love" on the front, with decoration of holly berries, a flowery heart, and red ribbon. The message inside reads:

Kind Thoughts and Wishes
for a
Happy New Year

Just a loving thought of you
Just a wish a greeting true
From this heart of mine to say
Happy be your New Year's day
And, wherever you may be,
In your heart a thought of me

Clifton Bingham

From Ethel

 

30th April 1925 (Thursday) 
The following from 1925 is on a standard lodgings account form, and probably represents a week's holiday for two people (see milk bill). This was very probably Fred's honeymoon. The marriage of a Frederick C Firth to an Ethel Beaumont was registered at Huddersfield between April and June 1925; Fred would then have been 29 or 30 years old.

Accounts Rendered Weekly

April 30th 1925

Mr Firth
DR. TO Mrs Read

Beds 1 week & 1 night @ £2.2.0 per week   2 8 0
Teas 2     2 2
Milk, Cream 1d a day each     1 6
Potatoes 8 days     2 8
Puddings 6     2 6
Extras cookery sundries     1 0
  £ 2 17 8

May 29th 1925 (Friday) 
The following letter, from Fred's uncle Herbert Firth is in an envelope to Mr Fred C Firth, Gatehead, Marsden, Nr Huddersfield. It is written on Firth Bros headed paper. The "great day" referred to is presumably Fred's marriage. Within the envelope is also a printed poem "Lines on a Remarkable Circumstance Connected with Bretton Hall" which recounts the Ulysses-like return of the Lord of Bretton, after 20 years at sea, to his wife who has just remarried.

Wood Lea
Shepley
Nr Huddersfield 
May 29th 1925

Telegrams 
"Firth Bros. Shepley,"
Telephone No 22 Kirkburton

H. FIRTH
F. FIRTH

Dear Fred
We had fully intended being over to see you before now lent what with one thing & another we have been put of. However we hope to see you before long. Enclosed find cheque for a reminder of the Great Day & With best wishes from all at Wood Lea for your future welfare. With kindest regards to your wife & yourself
Yours Truly
Uncle Herbert

 

October 7th 1928
The following is probably to Fred's father Thomas, from Fred's uncle Fred Firth. It shows that Fred was now farming. Ernest Lockwood, in Colne Valley Folk, states in 1936 that David Firth's "farm is now [in 1936] in the occupation of Fred Firth, a son of Thomas Firth". Fred's uncle David did not marry, and died in March 1925; previous letters suggest that Fred was expected to take over the farm.

TEL. 878

BROOK HOUSE KINGS MILL LANE HUDDERSFIELD Oct 7/28

Tom/
I am Sending you £25 towards buying the Cow Cow for Fred, & I want this Money spending on a Cow or heifer & would like to see it when I Come up 
I don't See that there is any need to be in a hurry have a look round and see if there is anything good about F.F.

 

The following hand-written opening speech for a church Sale of Work is undated; reference to "the recently demolished Sunday school under the chapel" should provide a clue. The writer, like Fred, is a farmer; the writing, however, resembles neither that of Fred nor of his brother Norman.

Mr Chairman Ladies & Gentlemen,
It was with a certain amount of reluctance that I promised to occupy the position of opening the Annual Sale of Work here this afternoon. When Mr Armitage approached me with regard to it I refused, but he asked me to think it over. This I did & after due consideration, I finally decided to accept, because knowing that the old scholars who have been asked to do it in the past did not refuse, but accepted willingly & in all fairness to them I felt in duty bound to accept.

I may as well say here that I should feel more at home on a milking stool or opening a bag of corn than opening a Sale of Work, but these footprints in the sands of time come along & we look back of on them very often with very pleasant recollections.

I have spent many happy hours in this Sunday School preparing for past Sales of Work, they are a good thing in many ways the most important in my opinion being that it gives everyone a good chance of doing their share & pulling their weight towards the upkeep of this place.

I can cast my mind back on many happy occasions at these functions, but the one I enjoyed most I think was when I took part in a dialogue held in the recently demolished old school under the chapel. This dialogue was entitled "My Wife's Dentist" & I think one or two here this afternoon will remember it. In those days the platform was made up of old table tops & forms & packed as well as we could for the occasion (no set stage manager as you have today) & well remember during the performance one of my colleagues intended making a dramatic entrance, which he did, but in a much different way to what he intended for on coming into view of the audience he stept on to a weak place of the platform & his foot went through much to the amusement of all present except himself.

I am pleased to have my friend, [Mr] Ben Smith alongside me this afternoon as Chairman for we were together here for a good number of years as both scholars & active workers in both Church & Sunday School.

I do hope you that you have come along with plenty of money this afternoon & that you will buy freely from the well ladened stalls so that a very satisfactory result will ensue from the labour that has been put into this Sale of Work which I now declare open.

June 1st 1942 A rental bill, delivered from W.H. Sutton & Sons, Estate Agents, Auctioneers, Surveyors & Valuers, 60 Spring Gardens, Manchester, 2, on June 1st 1942, made out to Mr F.C. Firth, 47 Gate Head, Marsden, Yorks. The landlord was Sir J. Wood, Bart. The bill was for three sets of Half Year's Rent (£8 9s 0d: £21 15s 6d: £9 8s 0d): for Improvements £1 1s 7d: for Arrears 14s, totalling £41 8s 1d.

In pencil, 14s has been deducted giving £40 14s 1d. At the side is a sum adding the sums of £20 7s 0½d and 14s to reach the sum of £21 15s 6d.

A further rental bill with the same details, dated February 2nd 1949, gives a year's rent of 14/-

ou that you have come along with plenty of money this afternoon & that you will buy freely from the well ladened stalls so that a very satisfactory result will ensue from the labour that has been put into this Sale of Work which I now declare open.

June 1st 1942 A rental bill, delivered from W.H. Sutton & Sons, Estate Agents, Auctioneers, Surveyors & Valuers, 60 Spring Gardens, Manchester, 2, on June 1st 1942, made out to Mr F.C. Firth, 47 Gate Head, Marsden, Yorks. The landlord was Sir J. Wood, Bart. The bill was for three sets of Half Year's Rent (£8 9s 0d: £21 15s 6d: £9 8s 0d): for Improvements £1 1s 7d: for Arrears 14s, totalling £41 8s 1d.

In pencil, 14s has been deducted giving £40 14s 1d. At the side is a sum adding the sums of £20 7s 0½d and 14s to reach the sum of £21 15s 6d.

A further rental bill with the same details, dated February 2nd 1949, gives a year's rent of 14/-

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June 6th 1918 - shortly before Fred was wounded
From a nurse telling his parents that Fred had been wounded
June 11th 1918 - Fred's first letter after being wounded
Fred's injury report 1918
Fred Firth circa 1916

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” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time]

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’ http://www.westernfrontassociation.com

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 http://www.cwgc.org