This blog will record, in real time exactly 100 years later, the correspondence between Miss Emma Ash and Mr William Metcalfe during the First World War. From bundles of letters found under floorboards long after their deaths, we are able to witness the development of the later stages of the War through the eyes of a serviceman and his sweetheart, played out alongside a growing romance.
With no consideration of literary prowess, no thought that this correspondence would be seen by others (except perhaps the military censor), an unvarnished portrait of a different age and world appears.
The letters run from May 1917 to mid-1919, and will appear here in the order they were written, a century later.
I am very sorry to have put you out so, but my leave was stopped this morning. I was quite ready, had had an early breakfast and was feeling as if I was at home when I found that I was unlucky as my pass had not been put in. You can imagine my disappointment. As I am writing this the boys are marching off to the station. I hope you will be able to cancel the week you have got off because next week is holiday week and you will have one or two days given you then. I have a good piece of news and that is, I don’t think that this is my last leave, most likely it is but I am going to try to get another one to bring my cornet home because I will leave it behind. I would write more now only I don’t feel up to it. I will now conclude hoping that I am not disappointed next week.
With most affect. Love
Dear Emmie leave postponed until next week letter following love Will
Bandsman W Metcalfe 46534, Band Room, Russel House, Jetty St, 52. Graduated Batt, Royal Sussex Regt, Cromer, Norfolk
Yours to hand of the 19th. I half expected such an answer, before I sent my letter to you and now I have got it I suppose I must put up with it. If you would rather save your week until the summer by all means do so I would not like to know that I was spoiling your holiday in any way. I will arrive in London about 12 noon on Friday. I think it is Liverpool St where my train gets it. Well I must get on or I will have somebody running me for neglect of duty.
Love From Will x
52 Batt. R.Suss Reg’t No.1 C Coy. Cromer
Thanks for paper and letter received this evening; it has taken two days to come. I have had a very hard day today and do not feel like writing a letter so will answer yours tomorrow. Hope you are quite well,
Best Love From
This is a photograph of North Walsham parish Church Tower. I did not have a chance to look at the organ as expected.
Love From Will. xx
Yours to hand; thanks for the Mag: and paper. I feel sure I wrote you more than once last week, of course you have received one from me by now; written Monday. I am glad to hear Will Sharp is home, will you ask him to write to me so that I may know his address. I heard from F Champ today and he is still the same as usual. I am not surprised to hear of H. Chapman’s promotion for I fully expected him to get on well. Once he said he would like to take me as his servant only I wasn’t old enough then. I wish I was coming with you to Emanuel can you remember last time, it doesn’t seem so long ago and yet it seems ages. (Compre). On Friday we were told to do a “stunt” and that it would take a week but of course it sounded too good to be true. As usual there was a lot of “red tape” as to whether we should go or not as we were supposed to be firing a refresher course Monday and Tuesday. Time kept on rolling and at length we found ourselves getting out of the train at N.Walsham (Monday afternoon) to act as a source of attraction for War Bonds this Boom Week. The figure aimed at was £10,000 for the purpose of building four aeroplanes, and on the second day a sum of £13,000 is reached much to everybodys satisfaction and with a new objective £20,000. I think it is very good for a small town with the population of about 6,000. Monday evening there was a free concert (which was no good apart from the orchestra) at which there were two 15/6d vouchers given away. I picked up No73 and one of the winners was 78 but a miss is as good as a mile. By the way, have you heard that a “waac” on the knee is better than a smack on the face. But still that is nothing to do with horse racing so I will proceed.
Yesterday there was a Grand Military Procession in which were Boy Scouts, the Fire Brigade, Grammar School boys, the Voluntiers and also some real soldiers. – Break for Tea –
This afternoon there has been a foot ball match in aid of the same cause at which we played. On the whole we are having an easy time here and the food is better than we generally get. I told you that we were in private billits didn’t I! and they are “tres bon” with bed-steads too. We generally get up about a quarter to eight in the morn. and we have hot cocoa before we go to bed. Oh! we are enjoying ourselves.
I don’t know whether to go to the sergeants’ mess or to church this evening. I had a look round the church this morning, it was built in the 1300ds and its tower has fallen down and the verger has promised to show me the organ. I am becoming quite an explorer of Churches. I hear that we are getting our final leave very soon and I will let you know as soon as poss: so as you can get some time off. I don’t like the final business about it though. I won’t know how to handle you when I come home I am getting quite out of practice. Well my dear I will now conclude with heaps of Love
From Your Most Affectionate