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Private Jack H R Cooper


Harrogate Herald - 20th January 1915

Private J H R Cooper, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, writing to his wife, says :

I am just writing these few lines screwed up in my dug-out out of the rain, but you might as well be outside, as it is quite as bad inside - blanket wet through. Its rain, rain practically day and night, and you are up to the knees in slush. I don't know how the Germans are. I expect they are worse than us. On New Year's Eve I think some of their patrols got out, and we kept up a continuous fire and drove them back. Then we in the trenches sang the old year out and the New Year in with the National Anthem and hurrahed. Then the Germans cheered back. There is no doubt it would not be so bad only for the vile weather. You are always wet through. When you get this letter we shall have been a fortnight and not one fine day. The country around is like a swamp. It is quite a treat when you come out of the trenches and get on a hard road to walk on - you feel a different chap. I think we come out next Wednesday. I was down the dressing station again last night having my shoulders done; they are painful. I van hardly get my rifle to my shoulder, yet we must stick it. I was talking to Jim Roberts, Sam Forrest's pal; he is not so grand. We had a nice chat for half-an-hour. The dressing station is an advanced house or farm someone has forgotten to take away in their hurry, and is generally a few hundred yards behind the trenches. When all at once when the troops commence an action, then you will find yourself in the way of spare bullets, which no one seems to want travel that way, and as you wend your way back to the trenches you trust to luck. If you could see us leaving the trenches you would see a mass of tired troops, unwashed, unshaved, struggling along a muddy or cobbled road in the moonlight - a black huddled mass with their rifles sticking out from the shoulder, passing along like shadows past the tall, stately poplars or spindly trees skirting the road. It is also marvellous at the coolness of our "blokes". You go past your pals perhaps in another company or platoon, and ask how things are going on. You'll find they will remark, "Oh! Very quiet". This is one of the funny things people are not able to understand. Big guns, little guns, machine guns, searchlights, all going at once, and Tommy will tell you it is all very quiet. I shall be very glad to get into billet again simply to get a good bath and change of underclothes. The last time we had a bath it was a novel and pleasant experience. We all marched up to what was a derelict laundry. As soon as we entered we were all served out with a bundle of clothing, containing a clean shirt, pants, vest and socks. Then we filed into a long room, where there were eight enormous vats full of hot water, with little chunks of soap ringed around the sides. We all undressed at one end of the room, throwing all our underclothes into a big heap. The outer clothing was all collected, done up into bundles, and passed up to the room overhead, where it was all done over with a hot iron. The Royal Army Medical Corps sergeant in charge of the arrangements then ordered fourteen of us into each vat, and then there was some amusement and splashing for about ten minutes, and cries of "Eh! Bill, you've got your big feet in my bally mouth", "Lor, lumme. I've got the blinking soap in my eye". Talk about a panto, I never laughed so much. When the sergeant thought we were clean enough, he ordered us to dress to allow another fourteen of the unwashed to have a go. Well, I have nothing more to add. Of course, as you know, I can only give my experiences; as to news, we have none - one day is just the same as another to us. I believe it is Saturday today. I'm sure I am not certain. Many a time we have to study a few minutes to be sure what day it is. You never told me about the medal. Did you send the photo to Ackrill's? they send me the paper from the office every week. I generally get it on Tuesday. I have had it twice now; they send it free to all Harrogate men out here. I think I told you J Brennan, of Knaresborough, was wounded, besides young Thirkill. You might tell Mr Peacock about the papers. Give him my best thanks for sending them, but regret I have never got one. Someone send me "The Weekly Dispatch" every week, but I don't know who it is. I cannot make the writing out. It is addressed very plain. Anyhow, I am very thankful to them for it, so now I will conclude.

Your ever affectionate husband, Jack

PS. Still raining, raining; it's rotten.


Harrogate Herald - 9th May 1917


A R Hubbard writes : 

Having seen quite a lot of chaps getting jolly good things from Mr Breare and Harrogate people in general, I take the liberty of writing to ask if you could supply me with a stove suitable for boiling a drop of water for cocoa, tea, etc. We often get to places where we could use a stove, whereas we must, on no account, light a fire. You have no idea how nice a drink of tea is in the middle of the night, and how we look forward to one, but sorry to say often get disappointed. If we go out on a working party, sometimes the Army supply us with a drink, but it isn't a regular thing, so I am writing to you to help me to obtain this; then I can have a drink when I like. I am in the trenches (Sunday morning), sun shining and fairly arm. My word, how pleased we are to feel the warmth of the sun after the bitter cold weather we have had. I should like to ask if you would through the medium of your paper remember me to Fred Padgett, Frank Leggett, Jack Cooper and Alf Exelby, all "Monkeytown" [Oatlands] chaps. If this should catch the eye of anyone who has more toffee or sweets than they can eat, would they please send them along. We don't get much sweet stuff, and a few sweets are very enjoyable, so hope I shall be lucky. So keep smiling and thanking you in anticipation.


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