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 sent you my address the other day but as it was at the head of the letter perhaps it did not pass the censor. It is “Pte W Metcalfe 19013, 9th Royal Sussex Regt, “A” Coy, 3 Platoon, B.E.F. France. I did not have time to write yesterday only a P.C. We are now in a loft and have to get up and down a ladder every time we go in or out. The first night here we slept in a field and every night so far we have been in a different place.
I have had my name taken to go on a stretcher bearing course and I think it might just suit me. The little French that I know comes in very handy, and I can easily make myself understood. I thought at first that I would find the money difficult to use but it soon became easy. We had a ciggarett issue yesterday; they are unobtainable in any shops here. I hope you are quite well at home and please remember me to your Ma & Pa. Perhaps you have read of the good work that our div: has done we are now at a base and will be for some little time yet.
Well my dear I will have to conclude now
With my very best Love
From Yours Ever
Pte W Metcalfe 19013, 9th Royal Suss Regt., [censored], B.E.F., France
We were moving all day yesterday and I didn’t get a chance to write. I think this address will find me. We had a route march from 8 o’cl last night till 1.30 this morning and a lot of the boys fell out. Will write a letter as soon as poss. We slept in a field last night and it wasn’t bad either. My face is better now. Think I will have the tooth out.
Please write soon
Best Love From Will xx
We have all been posted to different batts: I am in the 9th Suss: now but still I do not know my address. We are moving tomorrow and then I hope to let you know what it is. C.Gibbs is now in the Royal W.Kents so I have a new friend now; a Bert this time. All the old band boys are separated now the first time in 11 months. Will try to write a letter by tomorrow.
From Will x
We are still at the same place; I think we are moving tomorrow. We have no address yet. This afternoon we had a Russian Steam bath. It’s like an abbreviated Turkish bath. The sun is shining brightly and we are doing the same as yesterday. We are with a lot of Canadians and they are very fine chaps. There are a lot of Chinese men here in the labour corps. Cigarets are very cheap here. Will write a letter tomorrow if I have time.