4th August 1918

Dear Emmie

In answer to yours of the 29th ult I don’t think you read that French as I meant you to. It was a joke; I should have told you! Did you see it. It is not exactly against the rules to write in French but the censor might have to find the interpreter which would cause a bit of trouble. I don’t know if I told you I was about 2.5.0 in debt a little while ago but the books have been made up and now I have an enormous credit:- 3/-. I think I’ll take a leave to Blighty to spend it. I am glad to hear George Todd is safe. I wonder how he likes his German home. I’ll write to home when I get his address. I did not see G. Watson what is he in? I can’t make out where he saw me. I think we used to play ‘Maid of the Mountains ‘ in England but I forget how it goes now. Glad to hear the concert party goes on well. I suppose Mr Cannon still sings comic. We are playing retreat soon so I will finish this later. It is now Bank Holiday Monday, I was unable to finish this yesterday. I don’t want to bother about Ch+pn-ism now as I havn’t really time to spend on it. I might speak to our Padre about it. It is only about 500 years old as far as I can make out and if you only listen to one side of the question it will have its desired effect. You say “how is the war getting on” well that’s more of a question I would ask you. We get papers especially printed for us so you see we don’t see both sides of the question. There are Blighty papers issued but I havn’t seen one for some time. The Germans were certainly retreating according to plan when you wrote last; the papers said that his retirement was being very well carried out but now I think he is beginning to run. Of course his plans now are not the original ones of taking Paris etc. but nevertheless they are plans. I do not know the places to which you refer and nobody else here seems to. We have finished our cooker job and I am glad to say they took the first prize in a show. Well I will now close.

With Fondest Love

from Will xxx

2nd August 1918

Dearest Emmie

I hope you are alright as I hav’nt heard from you this week yet. I received the Book of papers this eek as I said in the other letter. We are still going on the same so there is nothing much to report. I havn’t heard from home now for a long time so I don’t trouble the postman much do I?

Yours to hand of the 27th ult just received with four other letters. The postman did not forget me this time. This letter has taken six days coming. The weather is a bit wet lately but quite warm. It was really too hot yesterday but has been raining almost without a break today. I dare say it will stop so as we can play retreat this evening.

Yes! Gen Foch is still doing well, I think this lot ill be over about this time next year at least we all hope so. I think “Jerry” is absolutely beat and he knows it. I don’t think it will be worth his while to go though the winter. There will be many more “cousin sammies” here by next year. I havn’t seen many because there’s nothing much doing here: they are only where the things are being done and they are making a good name for themselves; they beat the Prussian Guards the other day, I dare say you read about it in the paper. I have been dreaming a lot about home lately, the first time it has ever occurred in fact I was at work at the shop again. In this case I say “dreams very often come true”. I am sorry to hear that you have still a cold in your gum especially as it stops you enjoying yourself. I heard a selection of Chu Chin Chow on a band last night and it brought back to my memory the different scenes i.e. the Cobbler’s shop and the cobblers’ march into the cave etc. I would very much like to see it again if they have all new dresses. Ask my dad to get you the music he would be able to get it a little cheaper for you. Thanks very much for Mr Chapman’s address. I will write him as soon as possible. I am glad the organ is so near to being repaired. I will have to have some practice before I play in front of public again. I have been getting a little practice on the piano lately and it makes a difference too. I understand the the Paris leave is extra, he will get his Blighty leave later. I don’t think I would care for a leave there, I don’t know why, perhaps its because I don’t suppose we will be offered it. You make a mistake when you think that I will not answer your question, all I can sat is “Yes”. Well how is Mrs Lucea going on? I don’t know if Bert’s idea gives you any news does it. Please remember me to your Ma and Pa and the boys. The twins will be 17 this month, I hope they never encourage militaryism by joining if the war is over. I hear Les wants to join the Navy I don’t think a few years of that would hurt him although Mum doesn’t want him to go.

Well I will conclude now

With fondest love

From yours ever



Enclosed: paper cutting of “Buckshee” word.

10th October 1917

16, Tiber St
Dear Will

In answer to your, thanks for the drawing. I wondered whatever it was, very lifelike too I must admit. I hope you are in no immediate hurry for the gauntlets, I went to the Scotch Wool stores this afternoon after work and they were closed when I arrived but I will hurry along when I get the wool, in the meantime if your hands are getting very cold, the only suggestion I can offer is, that you get someone with warm hands to hold yours, rather an economic suggestion don’t you think? I think I must consider that during this war time too and it will save me buying gloves.

It has been bitterly cold to-day red noses are becoming more popular now, I am meeting them by the dozens. Is it right you are going to have more money? That will make you 7/- per wk, irrespective of what your Mother receives won’t it? You will be getting quite wealthy sure on that. I suppose you will want to save now. I read in the papers to-night “German Navy Mutiny”, sounds healthy doesn’t it, also that typhus hunger is breaking out over several parts of Germany, so things seems a bit ruffled in the Faderland. Did you know that when those recent Air Raids were on, we had the mobile guns up and down the streets? They were along Copenhagen St I think, but I know for certain they were along Barnsbury. Guns are going to be run along the Railways for the next raid. “Some Barrage” we have got for the Bing Boys on their next visit, but I pity our hearing after it is all over. I hope you are able to get the week-end, let me know if you possibly can in case I happen to be going anywhere, for I suppose you would like to see me for a few minutes if you came home.

I went to Mr Rolfe on Monday. I think he is a very clever fellow, but I do not care for him very much. I noticed the photographs of some good old English gentlemen on the wall, bearing the names of Ernst, etc. I prefer “Horace” myself, sounds more British don’t you think? I do not know now exactly how you managed to remain in the band. I thought it consisted of unfit, and you are a fitun (no remarks please) so will you tell me? Well I shall be closing now I think and get on with a very interesting story I have commenced. It is about a solider in France who loved his girl so much and was always thinking of her, and constantly had her in his mind through all the horrors of the battle he was in, and he got shell shock and was sent to a hospital, and when he was a little better he could not bear his girl near him, he simply would not see her, you see she brought back to him all he had been through as her image had been with him through all the terrors of the battle, so you see I am anxious to know how it all ends, rather sad don’t you think, but as I read it, it seems very feasible the way it is explained , however, things like this, they say, must be after a famous victory, so I will conclude now with fondest love to my dear boy. x

Emmie x


4th October 1917

16, Tiber St
Dear Will

I received your post card yesterday afternoon. I sent you a letter on Monday 6.30PM post, have you not received it yet? I am writing this just before going to work as I have been waiting for the postman & he has just past but left me no letter. It is pouring with rain here this morning. We had no excitement last night by way of a change. Well it is just 9 and I must be going so I will close hoping to hear from you soon.

Best Love From Emmie x


21st August 1917

Bandsman. W. Metcalfe. 46534., (Band Hut) 100 T.R.., Albuhera Barracks, Stanhope Lines, Aldershot
Dear Emmie

I did not receive your letter until this afternoon so it took rather longer than expected. I will have to give way to you I suppose but I would like to see you next Sunday. Perhaps Mum will not be coming this week. We had a fair tea at the Officers’ Club on Sunday but we could do with some more when we got back. I do not go every Sunday morning to Communion but I am going next Sunday if I wake early enough. We have had a very hard day today so I feel a bit tired. The is going to be another concert tomorrow night and I am playing in the orchestra. I think that leave is starting soon. I do not know whether it is four or six days I hope it is the latter. I am glad to hear the good news from France; we were told when we were on parade this morning; if it continues the war may be over soon. A boy has just come in and is saying that he has heard that we are not going to get leave until we have left Aldershot. I thought I would let you know the worst so as if it happens it will not come so much of a shock.

I have no more to say now only that the weather keeps very fine so I now conclude

From your Loving Boy Will. xx

P.S. Please excuse scribble as the light is bad.

P.S.S. Please tell me if you don’t like this paper

1576_004 (2)1576_004 (3)1576_004 (4)

26th July 1917

16, Tiber St
Dearest Will

Thanks for P.c & letter. you did get home late, did you have a very tiring journey? I feel much happier to-day, I couldn’t put my mind on the work yesterday, my thoughts were with you the whole of the time, it is too good to be true about another leave in 6 wks. time I am afraid. Dear Will I am going to Lincolnshire on Monday, at 12, o clock, and then I shall be 150 miles away from you, I do not like to think of that. I come home on Wednesday, so I am only stopping 3 days, notice the address, when you write to me, I must hear from you, or I shall feel absolutely lost, not having met these relations for over 10 yrs, it will be, c/o Mrs Cousins, Church Lane, Thurlby, W. Bourne, Lincs. I also noticed “Desmond”s eye in my direction once or twice, I could not help looking at him though, because he is so very much like that other chap, P. Harwood, He would have to try hard as you say, to cut you out, mon amour est toujours pour vous, you know that well enough don’t you Will. I suppose you have settled down again to the general routine, I hope you will never “forget” Will – I shall always look for the cross so “Dinna forget.” You were lucky as regards the weather, for to-day it is very dull & so oppressive. Well I have no more this time, I expect I shall hear from you Saturday, so I will close with best & truest love from your sweetheart Emmie xx


A First World War Correspondence

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.