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Sapper Gilbert Whittall


Harrogate Herald - 7th February 1917


Spr Seaman Gilbert Whittall, writing from the South of England, says : The residents here say it is the severest winter for 30 years. I want to ask if there is any kind friend in Harrogate who could supply me with a pair of sea boot stockings. My work consists of crossing the channel on munitions barges, and we get rubber sea boots, and ordinary are no use for keeping the cold out. I often think of the ld town in peace times and wonder if it will ever be the same again. Still, we are all living in hopes of putting "paid" to the Kaiser's account this Spring. I do not meet many Harrogate boys. They are all men of the merchant service, and the rivers and canals in this section and most of the boys in Harrogate who went to sea joined the Navy. [sic] Still, my wife sends the Herald each week. It is good to read home news and see old friends' faces from week to week. It keeps you in touch with things which you don't read about in the "Mail", "Mirror", or "News". I think I shall have to close now, as we are getting ready for sea. I trust you will excuse the scribble, as a barge is not one of the steadiest places to write. Wishing you all the best of luck and good health during the coming year. PS - If you see Councillor Webster give him my best respects. Tell him it is Gilbert, who worked at The Granby.


Harrogate Herald - 14th February 1917

W H Breare letter

I have just stopped to have a word with Councillor Webster, [Herbert Webster, 2 Granby Terrace] who has looked in on me this morning. I am pleased to hear from him that he and his committee have been very busy and very successful in looking up allotments where vegetables may be grown. I am also gratified to hear that pig-keeping, so long as the animals are maintained under clean conditions, is to be permitted in Harrogate. Councillor's main purpose in calling to see me was to say that he would like to send Whittall, who asked me for the sea-boot stockings, what he requires. I have undertaken to find out where they cane be got, obtain them, and Councillor Webster is going to pay the cost. He asked me if I wanted anything in particular besides the socks. I was in the happy position that I could not mention anything. But I know I can rely on him in case of emergency.


Harrogate Herald - 25th April 1917

W H Breare letter

On the voyage to Canada, Crossley met a Harrogate man called Lenevaitre, whose mother lives at 20 Glebe Road, Harrogate. His father is chef at the Royal Hotel. Crossley kindly went to see the mother of [f ?] Lenevaitre, who was delighted to hear news of her boy, especially when it was that he had been safely landed and all right. Out in Canada a lady gave him a portrait group in which was her son, who was shortly to be discharged from service with the Canadians in that country and to return home. She gave him the photograph so that he might pick him out if he happened to be on the same transport when her lad comes home. This boy's name is S G Whittall, C Company of a Canadian battalion. Crossley's term of seven years' service expires next November.


Harrogate Herald 1st October 1924

A Debt Unpaid

Private Thomas Aitkins, God save the King and Queen,
Back in civvy clothing, is a might-have-been.
Never young civilian's prospects were so bright,
But his country wanted him to go and fight.
Certainly he did it, all the world knows that,
Five long years it took him to knock Jerry flat.
Things he did in Flanders, there across the sea,
And the sacrifices made, all for you and me.
He was just a peaceful chap, working for his pay,
Saving up a weekly mite to buy a home some day,
Then there comes the message, how they needed men.
He left his plough and workshop, held rifle 'stead of pen,
Weeks of strenuous training, learning to obey,
Then he crossed the ocean to join the mighty fray,
Nineteen fourteen saw him living in the mud,
In the trenches countless days, sleeping where he stood.
Cooties for companions, in battalions form,
Marching up his spine all night, disappear at dawn.
Rounding Hell Fire Corner, along the sunken road,
Think he was a jack mule, judging by his load.
Up goes Jerry's starshells, in the mud he flops,
Curses Jerry's fireworks, perhaps a bullet stops.
Now he's in the front line, he can breathe again,
But his best pal's lying back there in the rain.
Gasses, mustard, chlorine, liquid fire, tear shell,
Also every known device that helped to make life hell.
Five long years he stuck it, with ne'er a cry or moan;
One bright thought to cheer him the ship to bring him home.
To the glorious things you promised, if ever he came back,
To the country fit for heroes, for work he'd never lack.
For men who fought for freedom, home, and liberty,
Should never for a meal want in the years to be.
Have you kept that promise to those splendid men,
Who at the call of duty dropped their tools and pen?
They left their wives and children, they sacrificed their all,
When England was in danger, with her back against the wall.
A million wooden crosses, mute testimony give
Of the generous sacrifices that you and yours might live.
Six years since it finished, and the promise made
To a quarter of a million of these men, is still a debt unpaid.

Gilbert Whittall


Harrogate Herald - 8th January 1919

The Editor has received post-cards from the following : W A Ballance, Private C Barker, Louis Metcalfe, G McBretney, W Brown, Sapper G Whittall.


Harrogate Herald 29th January 1919

G Whittall writes from Le Have: 

The last time I wrote to you I was in the cross-Channel service, but I am working on the rivers and canals now. We are carrying the stores between here and Paris for the Sammies.


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