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"To Our Boys on Service"


Harrogate Herald - 24th October 1917

To Our Boys on Service

Dear Chaps,

Lance Corporal A H Robinson, fresh from the ridge, arrived on Tuesday and called to see me. It is 18 months since he last sat in my room, then straight from the Front. His brother James Robinson was with him on the former occasion, but, alas, his chair is vacant, for he was killed on the Somme, September 28th. My visitor has been wounded, but has gone scot free since. He is a son of Mr & Mrs William Robinson, whose home is 41 Regent Avenue, and one of the Herald staff. Robinson brought me unwelcome news that William Rowling had been wounded again, this time in the last push. He also brought me a letter Rowling sent his mother, written from No. 11 Ward, Queen's Hospital, Sidcup, Kent. Glad to see he is not dangerously wounded, but it will be some time before he recovers, for the bullet went through his chin, happily sparing the tongue.

I have just heard of the death of two well-known Harrogate men who have fallen in action. Jack Knowles, son of the late William Knowles, butcher, who carries on his father's business at the same spot in Parliament Street, has lost his only son. I have not the particulars at present, but if I learn anything further you shall know through the columns of the Herald. We are feeling very sad on Mr & Mrs Knowles' account and on our own. The second death is that of the son of Mr & Mrs Skinner. You will identify him when I tell you that the father is the well-known coal merchant. Private Skinner volunteered for the last attack on the Germans of October 9th, and was killed on the 9th. He was very keen to have "a go", as he put it, at the enemy. I have seen a letter from his officer, which will appear in another column, paying high tribute to the lad. My sympathies are with Mr & Mrs Skinner in this trying hour. But I trust the kind words of the Captain, giving such high eulogy to the lad's bravery and work, will help to ease the pain of this inexpressible bereavement. Harrogate has made a large and pathetic contribution to the sacrifices, and you will find the names of other heroes who have either given their lives or been wounded in the service of their country. I wish I could speak to you about them all, but I hesitate to depress you in my letter when you will probably find such information in another part of the Herald.

To Private H R Longfellow, of the 17th Service Battalion Transport Section : I want to acknowledge to you, my dear lad, how much I am indebted to your good father and mother for inestimable service to one of my family. My eldest grandson, who is but ten years of age, happened to be in Knaresborough on his bicycle the other day, late in the afternoon. He was riding down Kirkgate on his cycle and found, when nearing the bottom, that the railway gates were closed, so he tried to turn off up that street near the gates which rises from this point. It was too sharp a turn , and seeing his danger jumped off. He was discovered at the bottom of those steps of the subway under the line unconscious, and the case looked serious. Your father and mother, with that rare parental instinct and kindness of heart which distinguished them, brought the lad home. Other members of the staff of the station did what they could. I am sorry I do not know their names. We feel very much touched by the kindness of your dear father and mother, and that is why I am so anxious to tell you the story, for I know what satisfaction it will give you. Your mother, when the mother of my grandson endeavoured to thank her for all her kindness, said something very nice about my interest in you boys. Now I want you to do me a favour, and that is to let me know if there are any things you happen to want from time to time. Do not imagine I am trying to discover something in the way of recompense; there could be no repayment to the kindness of your parents. I should be glad to be able to send you something just to feel that I was in closer touch and friendship with the son of your mother and father. Thanks to their promptness and care the accident passed off without and serious consequence.

I hope you boys that were in the last push managed to get your rations. I am sorry to hear that in some cases transports were unable to get through, at least promptly. My son's battalion was in the push, and being transport officer he had great difficulty in getting his stuff up. They succeeded by means of pack horses, and were often up to the waist. By the way, Captain Bain, son of Dr Bain, of Harrogate, I understand, has been selected as one of the officers to train American officers in a certain class of gunnery. He has been out over two years and a half, so I imagine the change will be welcome to him, as his battalion has had a good deal of dangerous work and suffered its full share of casualties.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hudson, of Leeds, was first reported wounded, and now I regret to learn has been killed. He was a nephew of Mr Hudson, who at one time kept the Commercial Hotel in Harrogate. He leaves a wife, several children, and many friends.

Some of you have often had a cup of tea in the Winter Gardens on a winter afternoon and listened to the orchestra there. You will think we are getting on in Harrogate when I tell you that the band play from 11 to 12.30, as well as in the afternoon from 3 to 4.30. These affairs have made things very pleasant in the winter-time for visitors.

To F Relf : Will you please forward me your full address? I sent a parcel last week to you, and it was returned owing to insufficient address. If other boys will be particular about this, the dispatch of parcels will be greatly facilitated.

Will T B Spackman send me his address? I have a football for him and his pals. Harrogate boys will remember Mr Kirk, the chemist, whose place was in Montpellier Parade. Little Miss A L Kirk, his daughter, who is aged nine, of 2 St Mark's Avenue, has sent me one, so I can fulfill Spackman's request.

Bugler Kendall, KRR, was invalided home with trench fever and has been at the Gosforth Hospital, Newcastle-on-Tyne. He came into see me on Friday quite recovered and looking very fit. I noticed that he wore a very happy, buoyant expression, and later it leaked out that he was to be married the next day - that is last Saturday - at Christ Church. The name of the bride is Jennie Windsor, of 21 South Park Road. We will wish them, boys (all together, now!), every happiness. She is the only daughter of Mr & Mrs Ernest Windsor. Kendall is the elder son of Mr & Mrs W Kendall, of 1 Avenue Terrace, Bilton. The best man at Kendall's wedding was Robert Wardman, 23rd KR, who was then on leave from the Front.

Private J T Marshall is in No. 1 Ward, A Division, Military Hospital, Eastleigh, Hants. He writes to his mother to say that he is only there for a few days and then will be coming into Yorkshire, he hopes. He tells her that he is all right. You will know the father when I tell you that he is at the wine merchant's in Montpellier Parade. You will likewise remember that Mr & Mrs Marshall lost a son in the war, some time ago. I have been much interested to read J R Marshall's letter to his mother, it is so gentle, kind and considerate of her and his father. I don't know Marshall, but I am sure that he is one of the right sort. It has been a pleasure for me during this war to notice that boys that are so very good to their mothers invariably turn out well-equipped in all the highest virtues of real manhood.

Last Friday we had a delightful break in the weather. It was not only a fine day, but a warm day; the first we have had for some time. Everything seemed to dry up like magic. It set me hoping that you would find less wet and mud on your battle front, facilitating those operations interrupted by the elements at the last push.

"Our Day" is the title for the effort for the Red Cross and St John's Ambulance Societies, which are now amalgamated. It was flag day in London on Thursday, but at the time of writing I cannot tell you the result. It was ascertained that something like 700,000 had been received in subscriptions. This is without counting the huge sum collected on the flag day. The receipts from the flag sellers were so big as to take a long time to count. I have not heard the result. I will try and give you the total before I finish your letter. Does this not show the spirit and generosity of our Empire? The whole Empire has contributed. Even Egypt sent getting on for 200,000. The American Red Cross 200,000, and Sir Ernest Cassel himself gave 20,000, I think. Towards the Red Cross he has contributed something approaching 100,000 altogether from time to time. Who says that we are running short of money?

The day for the Red Cross in Harrogate was last Saturday. I saw a long list of subscribers on Friday, when I was told that local promoters quite expected to raise 500 in our town alone. Lots of things were given for the auction sale promoted by Captain and Mrs Titley in connection with the cafe chantant.

You will be glad to know that I am daily receiving parcels of socks and other comforts from your kind friends at home. I want them all, and more, because there are many demands and they will increase as the weather becomes colder.

Since writing the above about Private W Rowling I have received a letter from him. He tells me he was hit in the lower jaw by a bullet which badly fractured his chin besides tearing the flesh. He lost a lot of blood before he got to the ADS, where he had morphia injected to ease the pain. An operation to square his mouth, as he terms it, took place the same night, and when he came round hew was fairly comfortable. He next found himself in the hospital train, which was in darkness, as Fritz is busy dropping bombs on hospitals now. He is at Sidcup, Kent, in the Queen's Facial Hospital there - an institution which puts men's injured faces right and makes them whole again. He says he is quite comfortable. On Wednesday, Rowling had another operation which had for its object the removal of fragments of bone. This "eased him a lot", he says. He desires us to give kind regards to all his friends. The letter is written in a firm, bold hand, which shows that we need have no anxiety about him.

At twenty past seven last Friday nights lights went down in Harrogate and rose again. This occurred twice more and the third time remained down. It was the signal of an air raid, and everybody sough night lights and candles. At midnight the signal had not come "all clear". Six or seven Zeppelins had ventured over once more after the lapse of a year, and attempted to operate on the North and North-East coast, and a little inland. In the semi-darkness it became weary waiting. We heard no bombs, for the Zepps were nowhere near us. Despite all warning, our streets were busy with promenaders, and in the frosty night air and general stillness footsteps sounded like busy streets in a crowded town. It is astonishing the indifference of our people. Matches were struck and youths were even singing, forgetful that noise ascends and might be a clue for the enemy. The Advertiser had to stop work three hours earlier than it should and commence again in the morning about five. This delayed the issue until about noon. Your friends at home were not at all alarmed, merely weary of the monotony of the thing. Yet, we ought to be thankful that thus far Harrogate has been immune from air raids. The night was clear and starlight, though later a mist hung nearer the earth, but not so as to impair vision. Trains seemed to run as usual in this district.

On Saturday afternoon, at 2 o'clock, we received a wire saying - "Killed in the Zeppelin raid 27 in all districts, injured 53. Some material damage caused to houses and business property; about 12,500 in the Metropolis". On Saturday afternoon, at 5 o'clock, I received the following wire : "Official. On Wednesday two German raiders attacked a convoy in North Sea. British destroyers Mary Rose and Strongbow engaged enemy and fought until sunk. Nine neutral vessels unarmed, were sunk by gunfire. 135 British officers and men lost". This was a depressing draught. As soon as I received the wire I went on to the Winter gardens, where the cafe chantant for the Red Cross was going on. In the waiting-room on the right an auction sale of gifts was proceeding and drawing in lots of money. The whole thing was a great triumph for the promoters and cause.

After this I went home to tea. Immediately after, I received the following wire, which proved something of an antidote to the depressing message received at five : "Press Association French headquarters correspondent says four Zeppelins which believed raided England attacked by French airmen and brought down or brought down to land in France. A fifth believed to be destroyed. Reuters message says a Zeppelin fell in flames at Rambervilliers". I got this about 7.30. There was no evening papers to come in till much later, if at all, and so we had this cheering news all to ourselves. Two of us on our separate wires immediately commenced to telephone the good tidings to our agents, the Harrogate hotels, principal neighbours in the district, hospitals, headquarters at Ripon, and even as far as Mr Storey, who lives so far from the madding crowd as Fewston, where he has charge of the reservoirs belonging to Leeds. Perhaps you will remember Mr Storey originally came from Pateley Bridge. Well, it took us an hour and a half to do this telephoning, but we were glad of the job, because it would so delight the people all over the division. You will notice that there are three separate good things in the telegram. In almost every case I had but finished the first when the receivers of the message began to shout for joy. I generally had to tell them to wait, as there was more, after each separate item. When the end came it was almost too joyful for them to get breath enough to exclaim.

The Harrogate munitions girls on the night of the Zepp raid were due something after ten o'clock in Harrogate, but on account of the raid they did not arrive until after 1am on the next day. Other trains, as I have said, seemed to run about as usual. When raids are on, munitions workers are not allowed to go out as a measure of protection for the girls.

Lieutenant Norman Beech, DCM, is reported wounded and missing October 9th. I would be very glad if any of you boys could send me information regarding him.

Lance Corporal E Lowry, of the 18th Labour Company, who is on light railway construction work, is the son of Mrs E Lowry, 21 Bower Road. He came to see me on Saturday. He has been 17 months out and this is his first leave. Private J O Walton, of Mayfield Grove, is in his lot. Lowry brought news home from Private Holmes to his people, who live in Alma Terrace. Holmes was barman before the war at the Dragon Hotel. He was well, and expecting to come home on leave shortly. My caller looked in good form and so I was surprised to hear that he had been in hospital with a touch of valvular disease of the heart. Since he was discharged he is feeling better than ever. I was interested to hear from Lowry that he received the Herald each week whilst in hospital. Australians, New Zealanders, and other boys he found just as keen to get the paper, and it went the round until there was not much left of it.

Boys, will you pass on the facts I am about to relate to you to all the Canadian soldiers you meet and ask them to do the same to their Canadian comrades? I have been trying for a long time to get the Canadian authorities in the Army Pay Department to make allowance of a wife's pay to a Harrogate girl who married a Canadian soldier after he joined. The Canadian rule was the very hard and unjust one that no allowance would be made to a wife who was not engaged to the Canadian soldier-husband before he joined the Army. I am glad to now learn that the lady in question is not only to receive a wife's allowance in the future, but back pay from the date of her marriage. I rejoice to believe that this case, no doubt with others, is responsible for a new Order in Council by which such wives previously excluded from separation allowance, will now not only receive them in future but arrears, as well, from date of marriage. The new Order provides that where a soldier neglects to apply for the allowance, the wife may do so through the commanding officer. There may be Canadian soldiers affected by the new Order who do not know of its existence. That is why I want you to help pass on the good news.

Sapper J Harrison, of the RE, son of Mr & Mrs John Harrison, the father being one of our Herald Office staff, came on Tuesday from France and called to see me Monday morning. He has been out 11 months and this was his first leave. He has never met a Harrogate man except when he went out at first, and that was Forrest, son of Mr W Forrest, Oatlands Mount. Harrison has worked in Darlington for many years at his trade as joiner. He suggested to me that I might save mothers and wives of soldiers much anxiety if I explained to them that men who are at all unfit are not allowed to go into the fighting line. They are given a comfortable job at the base, where they are as well off as they could be at home. Mothers and wives sometimes jump to the conclusion, indeed invariably s, that when their dear ones go over to France they are plunged at once into the thick of a shower of bullets. It is not so. They remain back at the base some time, and then only take their place in the firing line when fit and for brief spells followed by rest periods miles away from the fighting.

Mrs Bodman, of Skipton Road, Harrogate, has heard indirectly that her son, Private Alfred Bodman, 22761, Lancashire Fusiliers, has been missing since about October 5th, and would be glad of news.

Since writing, subscriptions to the Red Cross have reached over 1,000,000, without taking into account flag days. Toronto, Canada, alone has contributed 180,000. Harrogate's flag day, cafe chantant, and subscriptions amount to about 1,000.

W H Breare


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