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 but we are moving Sunday afternoon so it would be no good you coming. Our transport went today and our advance party goes tomorrow. All we are doing now is packing up so it is official this time
Best Love From Will
Bandsman W Metcalfe 46534, Band Room No 5, 52nd. Royal Sussex Regt, Googerat Barracks, Colchester
Thanks for nice long letter received this afternoon. You say you will not answer this if it is not long well, I would not like to disappoint my dear little girl, but at present I cannot think of much. I am glad to say that I have worked a new pair of boots off the sergeant snob so now I stand pretty firm on my feet. Although I will be farther away from you at Cromer I don’t think I will forget you, but of course the inevitable happens at times. I hope Cromer is a nice place, but I have heard quite the opposite. Some of “B” Company boys are on their final leave and I think they go out some time in March. I don’t suppose I will see much summer by the sea side. Of course if I was there when you had your holliday it would be tres bon! I think working on the railway is quite enough Government work and you would do better by taking a rest for your holiday. I am very sorry to hear of Mr Bryce’s death now we will have to find a new doctor. I would rather that you didn’t find a beau in platonic friendship but of course as somebody said before, you have a “will” of your own, is that not so? I am glad to hear that Bert has joined the C.L.B. but I don’t advise anyone to join the regulars. I have not heard much of a big affair in the spring, what is it about. You know there was going to be a big push last year but I don’t think it came off. I hope you get sufficient to eat when you are rationed I would not like to think that you were having to go short. I would like you to come down next Sunday if I am still here; we expect to be moving this week though, so I will have to let you know as soon as poss for certain. The weather was not unsettled hear when I asked you before although it was in London. I think you have known me long enough to suggest almost anything to me now I don’t know why you are so formal, you don’t like me to be. I am glad to hear everybody is satisfied with the Rev. Ferdedado? or whatever you call him. Well my dear I will have to close now with
From Yours Ever Will. xxx
Bandsman W Metcalfe 46534, Band Room No 5, 52 Royal Sussex Regt, Googerat Barracks, Colchester
I was very disappointed at not meeting you at the station this morning but if you are not feeling up to the mark it is wiser for you to have a good rest. Somehow, today I am not feeling very bright; we had fish for dinner yesterday and I do not think it could have agreed with me. I told you that I was confined to barracks for three days for being about two minutes late on parade, didn’t I! well
I was supposed to answer every hour from 6 o’cl in the evening until 10 o’cl. but I played at a sergeants dance and dodged it Friday evening, and on Saturday I went on Guard and dodged it again. Today the Captain let me off because I told him you were coming down and now I have to think out how to dodge it tomorrow as it is the last day. I feel very tired this afternoon, I suppose it is because I only had about five hours sleep Friday night and none last night. It is the first guard I have ever had to do and I don’t want another one in a hurry. I am enclosing my photo’ and would like you exact critisism of it. I hope you like it. As it happened, I was not asked out to tea today; I suppose I was too sure. I thank you very much for the parcel the contents of which were A.1. I liked those rock cakes with especial favour. I do not know whether I told you or not but we have lectures every afternoon on History and Geography and next week our officer is lecturing us on the causes of the present war and why we are fighting. I would rather listen to him “chew the rag” than form fours! quick march! On the square. etc. etc. I would like a nice long letter from you next time something to cheer me up you know dear. I believe you asked me if I am getting any leave, well I don’t think I will get any before my embarkation leave. No doubt you think I am always talking about it but the time must come and I hope the war will be over soon; I think it will. Well my love I must close now
With Fondest Love, From Will xxxx
P.S. Please give one photo to Mum and the other is pour vous
Bandsman W Metcalfe 46534, Colchester
I am now sitting up in bed writing this letter before the lights go out. We have had a very hard day today and marched over fifteen miles just to fire five shots. I saw a proof of the photos I have had taken and I dare say you will be able to have one if you come on Sunday. We had breakfast at 6.15. this morning and only had one biscuit and a piece of cheese up till 5 o’clock this evening and then we had too much. Dinner and Tea combined. I heard of the raid quite early last night and all our lights went out. I am glad to hear you are still safe after the raid you know my prayers are always for you. I suppose you get quite used to them now. The photo makes me very fat; I think I will have to take antipon or eat less. I don’t see how I am getting so fat on Army food. Well my Love I must conclude now
With Love From Yours Ever Will.
Sorry I have not time to write a letter as we have been out all day on special training. I am writing this in semi darkness as there is a raid warning
Love From Will
I am glad to hear you are safe after the raid. will write letter as soon as poss.