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.
In answer to your four page letter of 16th inst. I was about to go out and have a tune on a piano when I received your letter and it was such a nice one (quite a Christmas-box) and so long that I had to sit down right away and answer it. I guess your old school chum is some flapper not quite what you expected I guess; well I hope it’s not long before I can be your company once again (that is if you will have me.) I might say I am getting tired of France, or to be correct Belgium and am longing to get back to you Emmie. They talk a lot about pretty French girls, etc but I havn’t seen one that would take my fancy and I don’t think I have heard one speak that doesn’t in some way or other resemble a rasp. (Perhaps it is their gabble). So you had forgotten the lucky sixpence, do you remember the “Mizpah” you gave me. Talking about bachelor, who live the longer, married or single men? In these modern times there are all sorts of patent bed-warmers, what do you say to that. You write about men looking “mère”, in Parliament now. Mère is French for mother how can males be females. Now about this “pleasant surprise” I think I can guess what it is. I know it’s nothing to eat but perhaps it is something which by working with the feet and hands food is given to the ears. Please tell me if I am right. What did G.Todd have to get so weak on? I don’t think he starved much, did he? Perhaps he would be surprised to know that I think he came off very lucky. No doubt he could tell very good tails of the raids he has taken part in on the canteen etc. You said he limps a little, was he wounded? If so it alters the complection of the whole act. I have seen the ends of severed arteries sewn up, etc. and would not relish to be treated “com ça”. I am sorry to hear of the break between him and his girl, of course it’s the girls fault, again. I often think I am lucky to have someone like you because you would tell if you were na poo fine and I could get out of the way one way or another. There is plenty of buck-shee ammunition knocking about still. I know Mrs Sh. makes known her opinion thoroughly. I don’t know what she has against poor old Georgie but although he must take credit for what he has done throughout the war I don’t seem to be able to form an opinion on him now. Of course we donlt get too much to read here so are absolutely in the dark. You must remember me to Mrs Sh. as she inquires after me so much.
So Bertie has been in the wars has he you will have to keep him in his bedroom locked up when I come home in case he gets pounding into me. I have seen the “Rouge et Noirs” concert party when we were at La Compte [La Comté]. We marched to Houdain about six miles away. I think I will go out for a few minutes now for a tune and will finish this when I come back.
It is now nearly 9 o.cl. and I have been out with the cornet. A couple of nights ago we had a musical evening in an estaminet and it went own trés bon. One of the chaps was a comic out of a concert party and he kept things going most of the time (I was on the piano then.) Of course all this is very nice but I would sooner be with you (and perhaps not say a word all the evening) than be all the life and noise here. I hope you don’t get a shock when you see four pages or think it is retaliation for the four I am answering. I am not myself tonight perhaps that is why I have written such a lot; have a bit of a head ache but that didn’t ought to make me write. Well my dear I will now conclude
With Fondest Love
From Your Will.