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"To Our Boys on Service"


Harrogate Herald - 27th June 1917

To Our Boys on Service

Dear Chaps,

The Beechwood Boys received the gramophone and records while they were having a rest, and are enjoying themselves hugely. I had a letter on Thursday from Lieutenant Quarter-Master Riley giving me the information and expressing his thanks to Miss Dennison and Miss Wild, who provided them. These lads will now have some time to think, and I'll be bound that their thoughts are pleasant, for they will be of home. I think I can see them turning over in their minds the good times they had when they were in billets at the Beechwood Hotel. When they first went into quarters there the rations were not quite what they ought to have been, and the lads on the quiet pulled wry faces. It was not allowed to continue long however, for eventually Mr H Dawson, confectioner and caterer, of Beulah Street, undertook to feed the lads. He is not a profiteer, therefore fulfilled his contract in the most liberal way, so much so that I frequently hear, even now, references to the good meals which he provided when the boys were at the Beechwood. Last week I was requested to obtain a football for these lads, and on Tuesday morning Mr Waters, of Shires' Sports Depot, brought me the finest football that money could buy. Who do you think it came from? Why, that old friend of the Beechwood Boys, their former caterer, Mr H Dawson. Jolly nice and appropriate, wasn't it?

"It did one good to see his smile!" I don't know how it is, but you can generally trust a woman to realise by instinct that which would escape a mere man. As it was getting near a meal time one day a daughter-in-law of mine looked round my office door, paused, then retired. The fact was I had one of my soldier boys with me. He turned his head to see who was coming and smiled. The opening words of this paragraph were uttered by my daughter-in-law to a lady friend outside, who she regretted had not caught sight of the soldier's happy face. The boy was my friend Lance Corporal J Houseman, of a Yorkshire battalion of Regulars. Only on Saturday he had been wed to Lizzie Malloy, of Harlow Hill. My daughter returned the smile, for she felt the man was associated with some pleasant incident. That is why I remark they somehow instinctively see and feel much that we men are blind to. She was right! Houseman has a contagious smile. He is as bright and jolly a chap as I have seen for a long while - all this after being in hospital since April 20th [maybe 26th] at Rouen where happily, strange to say, he was under the patient care of Dr H Douglas Wilson, of Ripon Road, Harrogate. Houseman is just now on leave, but will soon go to one of the home camps. He has been out two years and three months, untouched, until rheumatic fever got him. I was interested to hear that with him is Tom Spencer, the fruiterer. They are great pals. Then Reff Laycock is of the same lot. I was very disappointed to find that, though Houseman's wife was just outside, she didn't like to come in, and so I missed seeing her. Never mind, I have no doubt I shall see her on some future occasion, and I hope that will never be a sad one. Now, lads, let us all stop breathing a second or two and wish Lance Corporal Houseman and his bride every happiness, he'll do as much for you when you get home and have reached the happy marriage state.

A soldier who is in Egypt wants the address of Gunner J Jenkinson. Who will oblige?

Seaman C Thorpe, of HMS -, is home on seven days' leave. He has been enjoying life at sea immensely. Pte E Waters, of a West Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs E A Waters, of 18 Cecil Street, who was wounded by shrapnel, is getting on nicely and was out the other day for the first time in a chair. We hope to have him here in the convalescent stage. By the way, boys, as this is a miscellaneous paragraph, I will here remark that I have a number of shirts on hand, new ones, and old ones as good as new, if not better than new, which have been carefully mended. In the absence of laundry you need not hesitate to throw th latter away, for there will be more. Last Thursday was the 21st June and the longest day. It was a bad sample. Not that there was any rain, but it was as cold as November. It took the sun all its time to win the fight even towards noon. I told you all about the "Concorde for the Front" movement. Well, I had a letter from my son the other day, in which he said he had been to one of these to hear Charles Tree and John Harrison. Afterwards he spent some time with them. They asked him to remember them kindly to the Breares at home. Next Saturday is Alexandra Rose Day in Harrogate. Wish, hard, for a bumper. Will you?

Concerts at the Front. General Haig has written a letter of thanks to Lena Ashwell, the organiser, saying how much they are appreciated.

It has just occurred to me that it will not be long before you are fraternising with the Yankee boys where you are. In that case you will have a good time, for they are jolly chaps, full of humour and solid kindness. In fact, they are very much like our Colonial chaps, and you know how nice they are. You will find them ready for anything, and time won't hang heavily on your hands while they are about. They'll enter into your sports and sing-songs - that reminds me they'll join with you in our National Anthem; but I am just wondering how they will treat a certain line in "God save the King".

I'll open up my private cupboard, and let you have a glimpse at something that happened many years ago. My father was born in Burley- in-Wharfedale, and in his youth was a member of the choir of the Parish Church of Otley. He went to America when he was 18 and settled. He was very musical. Could read anything at sight, play any instrument. Perhaps I inherited a little musical instinct from him. Anyway, I sang in America in public before I was five years old, and continued to do so until after I was 15. I was what is called a boy soprano; travelled long journey to sing anthems in churches and at festivals and other concerts. At one time 365 miles from Boston to New York every Saturday, returning on the Monday. had become rather tired after long concert tours, and my father proposed that he and I should run over to England for a holiday. I suspected he would want me to sing there, and so I made it part of the contract that I didn't, but I did. One night in an English town I was asked to take the solo of "God save the Queen". You must remember I was only eleven, and my ideas were rather misty. I had the words of the anthem, and when I opened the first line, "God save our gracious Queen", like a flash it darted through my mind that I was living under an American President, and so I substituted "your" for "Our", at which the audience smiled. Perhaps the Yankee boys when they join with you will make a similar alteration; but, nevertheless, the sentiment will be as sincere with them as it was with me. At that early age I did not know that having been born of an English father in America I was still an English subject, but I have been proud to gather that assurance later, and to retain the knowledge of the fact. As I said my father went to America when he was 18, and I squared the account by coming to England when I was 18, and I have been here ever since. Now, lads, that I have confessed, I hope you won't consider me a half-breed. I am English through and through, and yours as long as memory lasts. 

I am afraid you will have discovered that I am un-English in one respect - I am not given to reticence. You must put that down to Yankee influence in my earlier, the most impressionable years. Yet I am thankful, sometimes, for that peculiarity, plus a super-abundance of assurance; particularly because it has emboldened me, on your behalf, to ask of our townspeople a generosity which I felt to be extraordinary. Happily, I made the delightful discovery that I had much underestimated the hearts of our people.

When you find yourself in the position of host to our American friends, will you help to pay my debt to the land that gave me education, and much else of value, by showing them a little extra consideration on my behalf?

I have just had a visit from Mrs Thomas Lang, of 11 Baldwin Street, whose husband, I told you last week, had been taken prisoner, and was in Germany. He is a Beechwood Boy. She has just had a letter from him asking for shirts, a safety razor, cigarettes, tobacco, and soap. She has two children living, one of whom, a twin, is delicate; within the last year and while her husband has been away, she has lost a boy of five years and a baby of nine months. Her hands and heart are full. I mention this case because I like to touch those sympathetic chords of yours, which ever respond like soft, soothing strains of music. In this case I am not seeking the help of anyone. The boy's wants will be supplied, and the slender purse of the wife untouched. When you read this just turn the case over in your mind. I know your thoughts will be as far-reaching prayer, for the wife and family. There are petitions which need no altars, no subdued lights, no stained-glass windows - the kindly thoughts welling from the great hearts of you boys.

I have had a letter fro Sapper S Colbert, who used to be a telegraphist in the Harrogate Post Office. He sends me a photograph, in which he is standing on the left, whilst on the right is a member of the Australian Flying Corps. They are attired in shorts and look cool. They need to be, for they are in Palestine. Colbert has been transferred to another lot owing, as he says, to depletion. His letter to me is mainly private, and so I do not publish it. I hope I shall, be able to give the photograph in the Herald, possibly this current issue.

To F Winterburn : I hope the razor will reach you safely and that you will like it. It is very good of you to propose to share your paper with another Harrogate boy in your lot; but, as it happens, I do not know of one, so under the circumstances will you do the next best thing - hand it to your comrades who are not Harrogate and district boys, for I understand they lie to read it. Give them all to understand I include them amongst "My dear Boys".

Just imagine how you would feel if you suddenly found yourself in Harrogate on leave for the first time in two years and three months. This is the happy situation of Private J Oldfield, RAMC, who called to see me on Friday morning. He is the son of Mr and Mrs John Oldfield, of Skipton, and at one time worked for Robinson's, grocers, then for Standing's Ltd., from which establishment he joined up. The reason why he did not get leave before is that he first went to Suvla Bay, then to Greek Islands, next Egypt, and finally France. After Thiepval he was transferred to another division, and had to leave his friends George Eaddie and Wood, who lived in Parliament Terrace, and Billy Smith, of Union Street. These boys are all right so far. In his present division with him is Billy Burkinshaw. On June 7th Oldfield had a touch of shrapnel on the shoulder. he calls it "a bruise", but is quite all right, and declares he suffered no inconvenience. You will remember that his brother Dick Oldfield was killed a year ago last November. It is rather singular that Dick should have been sent to the casualty clearing station to which J Oldfield was transferred and now in. Oldfield and the Petty boys are great chums - in fact, before the war they went to camp out at Crimple. Perhaps it was to get their hands in, though they could have had no idea of the great affair which was to come later. Perhaps you would like to know who comprised that party? I van tell you. Dick and John Petty, Jesse Scott, Maurice Broadhead, Ryan, and Chapman. All, in turn, have been casualties; but I am glad to say are now alive and well.

In reply to Private G Slack's enquiry. Mr Bullemoore's address is still the Grand Hotel, now the Furness Hospital.

We are losing another valued member of our staff in the person of our Boroughbridge correspondent, Mr John K Friend. He has not been called up, but is volunteering. I am glad to say that his duties are in this respect going to be taken over by the young lady whom he hopes before long to make his wife. Rather nice this, in both respects, isn't it? It is another case of a woman taking up important work to replace a man for the Army. I am sure she will succeed, for she has already had some experience in journalism. I hope the Boroughbridge people will help her to gather news.

I have been very much indebted to Mrs Breare, a lady visitor, who has known Harrogate some time, for many valuable presents for you boys. I had the pleasure of personally thanking her for her kindness to you when she called at my office on Monday morning to leave me 2 to be used at my discretion in certain cases of emergency where there is no time for delay. The lady knows and appreciates our town fully, and I am hoping she will make it her permanent home. It is such good friends of yours who make my footsteps extremely light and that little inward fire of happiness to glow continuously.

On Monday night some people you know went over to the Ripon Camp to give a concert to a section of the troops there. Sam Hempsall, who is of the RGA, arranged it, and they are all professional friends of his. They included Miss Emily Breare, Miss Norah Kaye, Gordon Williams, and Sam Hempsall. Talented soldiers in the camp likewise assisted.

Bugler Kendall (KRR), son of me and Mrs Kendall, 1 Avenue Terrace, Bilton, who has been in hospital in France one month, was last Tuesday sent to the Northern War Hospital, Gosforth, Newcastle-on-Tyne. He is suffering from trench fever.

I have seen a handy, compact little pillow, for soldiers, that is sold for a shilling or under, which might be useful. It is just big enough for the head, made of flexible leather, folds up to go in the tunic pocket, and has a small valve through which to blow it up. I am prepared to send to the first six boys who write one each, to try. If satisfactory, I am sure generous readers will respond to any further applications for them.

If I mention that a certain soldier is missing, will you do your best to learn something of him? This will save me putting the same question so many times. There is another missing man - Private A Askew, of Togo Street, Oatlands Mount, Harrogate, whose relatives would be glad of any news of him, as he has been missing since the 3rd May. He has a wife and several children, and is one of a family of a father and four sons who are serving with the colours.

Private Bert Wilson, who, I notice, has the stripe for good conduct and long service (out since December 20th, 1914), called in on Tuesday. He is home on a very pleasant errand, that of getting married to Miss Florrie Rodman tomorrow (Wednesday). His father and mother, Mr and Mrs J W Wilson, live at 13 North Lodge Avenue, New park, Harrogate. Wilson has been extremely fortunate in not having been either wounded or sick. He is quite alone at the Front so far as Harrogate lads are concerned, having only seen three during the last eighteen months. Let's wish him and his bride teeming happiness! Wilson is a brother of one of the young ladies of our office staff.

W H Breare


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