Family History


Walsall Years

Frank Neal was christened 17/11/1896 at St Peters Walsall, Stafford Street, Walsall, the son of John and Alice Neal. At the time the family were living 16 Blue Lane Walsall. John Neal was described as a labourer. Frank had older brothers George and James and younger sisters Elsie and Kate. His brother James died in 1908 and his niece was told this was due to damage done by heading a football.

Before entering the army Frank worked in the Alma Tube Works of J Russell & Co Ltd. The Victoria County History (Stafford, Vol 17 ed. by M W Greenslade et al 1976) records that "1855 Edward Russell opened the large Alma Tube works on land leased from Lord Bradford at the corner of Rollingmill and Wharf Streets. By 1860 it had passed to John Russell & Co of Wednesbury. The company continued to occupy the works until 1929 when Stewards & Lloyds took of Russell’s and closed it". The History also describes how Walsall became the centre of wrought iron gas tube production in about 1830. Tubular products such as chandeliers and bedsteads were also made. By 1905 welded steel tubes were being made and seamless tubes were introduced in 1906. Edward Lees Glew’s ‘History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall 1856 describes "Within the short distance of St Mary’s Chapel [now St Mary of the Mount] …several intermediate works, among which stand out prominently those of Messrs Lancaster and Beyfords, situate near the Pleck, and the new ‘Alma Tube Works’ belonging to Edward Russell Esq."

The King’s Liverpool Regiment

Frank enlisted in Wolverhampton in 1912. He joined the King’s Liverpool 1st Battalion. As its name implies the Kings Liverpool took the majority of its men from Liverpool or other places in Lancashire. However ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19 The King’s Liverpool Regiment’ lists seven other Walsall men in the 1st battalion who died, all in France and Flanders, and there were several more from the surrounding towns. The seven were Richard Crompton (Private 11389 enlisted Wolverhampton, killed 29/9/1914); Joseph Dalloway (Sergeant 9202, enlisted Birmingham, killed 29/10/1914); Thomas Kennedy (Private 9201, enlisted Birmingham, killed 11/11/1914); William James Mason (Private 8183, enlisted Lichfield, killed 19/5/1915) and Bert Nightingale (Private 50203, enlisted Walsall died of wounds 15/8/1918) Arthur Ballinger (Private 42787) killed 12/3/1817 was born Walsall but was living Tue Brook Liverpool when he enlisted and Thomas Andrew Metcalfe (Private 11400) killed 27/10/1914 enlisted Wolverhampton but though born Walsall was living London. I wonder whether Frank knew them before the war or during it?

In the autumn of 1915 whilst home on leave Frank began a relationship, which soon lead to an engagement, with my husband’s great aunt Ellen, Nell, Bentley. The letters and postcards he sent her until his wounding on 5 July 1916 were passed on to my mother-in-law.

I have annotated the letters as best as I could with both explanations of the people and places in Walsall which he mentions and also the movements of his Battalion as described in the Battalion’s War Diary (most of which for this period have been published on the ‘Long Road to War’ website). For the period of the War before the letters start I have read History of the Kings Regiment Liverpool by Everard Wyrall, 1928, and any quotations in the rest of this section come from that.

To France

The Battalion was at the Talavera Barracks, Aldershot when war was declared on 4 August 1914. "The men stood about in groups, or marched to and fro on the barrack square, discussing eagerly the prospect of war" The Battalion had practised mobilisation a few weeks earlier so was already half mobilised. They had to carry into action a first field dressing, identity disc, jack knife and iron (energising) ration which consisted of a tin of bully beef, 6 biscuits, some tea and sugar in a tin and two tubes of meat extract. These were not to be consumed unless ordered to do so by an officer. The 1st Kings was in the same Brigade as the 2nd Battalion South Staffs, 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire and 1st Battalion Kings Rifles. The first week of war was spent getting the reservists into shape and it left on 12 August from Farnborough Station "with only two or three porters, a few officers wives and a sleepy paper-boy as witnesses of their departure". It crossed to Le Havre from Southampton on the SS Irrawaddy in the company of the 2nd Staffordshires. The weather was very hot, at 6am on the 14th they were bathing in the sea. The following day they entrained to Busigny via Rouen and were cheered all the way, including Hannappes where they were billeted for a good five days.

Mons

On the 23rd they were turned out 2.30 am from farm-house at Hargnies, had a hurried breakfast at 5 am at Malplaquet, and then to Givry. There was a march of 18 days and then 14 and a half miles with a night of trench digging in between. The Kings (C company) exchanged their first shots with the enemy on the 25th, giving the Germans a good slating and incurring 5 casualties. The continued heat was much more of a problem. Following the Battle of Mons, the first battle of War the British Expeditionary Force retreated south to outwit Von Kluck’s movements. The French were saddened and frightened by the retreating allies, and the Kings were no longer cheered. On the 26th they were back at Hanappes where they had to bivouac out in the rain, but the men were so tired that it didn’t matter. The 27th they passed through Guise "their feet were swollen and blistered, some of them were bleeding yet it was wonderful to see how the men bore their afflictions. Some wore their boots around their necks" it was not surprising there were a lot of stragglers. And they sang Colonel Bogey and Tipperary. However by the 28th they had almost reached the end of human endurance. At last sleep cam in a farmhouse at Rouy. On the 30th the retreat continued. 31st August saw the loss of private mason when he went for a swim as they were crossing the river Aisne. The next day "This was the first occasion the battalion had of firing on the Germans and the men did not lose many opportunities". The following day it continued to be very hot and the men wondered whether they would ever stop marching. The straggling was worse than ever, over the 24 miles covered that day.

By 5 September the Germans had lost nearly all they had gained in the August onslaught. Our Battalion was probably more concerned with rushing to buy things in Chaumes. In all the battalion covered 205 miles in 13 days. With so long being spent in retreat it was pleased to learn it was going on the attack

Battle of the Marne

"At last we flung them back, along their drenched and smoking track. We hurled them back, in blood and flame, the reeking way by which they came" (C.G.D. Roberts on the Battle of Marne quoted in the The History) 7th September marching again but much more cheerful now, chasing the enemy back to The Marne. They had to defeat the extreme German right before it could be reinforced. Orders were given to take a bridge, but the Germans retreated before force was needed. On the 10th 400-500 Germans surrendered to them during the fighting at Hautevesnes, This was the Battalion’s first real dose of horror. 11th saw advance in the rain and by the 12th both pursuers and pursued were near the Aisne. This was a perfectly horrible day, dark with torrents of rain turning roads into seas of mud ankle deep. The Kings were in the rear of the advance party. They had been ordered to leave all of their packs behind days before so they only had oil sheets to protect them when they reached Monthussart farm where they spent the night. The 14th – "For the Kings men many of whom (officers and men) were as yet scarcely ‘blooded’ it was another test of their soldierly qualities". They were ordered to take the heavily defended Malval Farm on a plateau commanding the valley below. This was the first time they suffered from ‘Black Marias’, 8 inch howitzer shells.

Joffre, the French commander, said on the 15th "it is no longer a question of pursuit but of methodical attack using every means at our disposal and consolidating each position in turn as it is gained". The Germans attacked that day but were repulsed, and the day was spent digging in, with it raining and food scarce. The situation reached was deadlock, trench life and trench fighting was beginning for the King’s.

16 September to 13 October saw the need for improvisation due to lack of suitable equipment.. One officer wrote at this time "War is an eternity of boredom relieved only by moments of abject horror". At this time they were subjected to ‘Weary Willies’ as they the men were weary and the explosives were from Kaiser Wilhelm. There were also ‘pip-squeaks’, ‘whizz-bangs’ and fuzz-bangs’ from small guns firing high explosives or shrapnel, the shell known as little Spitfire. C and D companies came under heavy fire on the 20th and the following day was of note as the telephone was used for the first time to relay orders. Then relief but not before they could hear the wounded Germans "whose loud cries were pitiful to hear" and seeing a trench in which there were at least 70 dead Germans. In billets "Both officers and men found it necessary to let their clothes dry before dealing with the mud which finally had to be scraped off before a brush could be used"

26th saw return to the trenches, at Mousy, but not all the companies of the battalion as this was the first use of inter-company relief. Casualties continued; 27th-30th September 9 NCOs and other ranks killed or wounded, 1-5 October 25 NCOs and other ranks killed or wounded. From 6-13 October the Battalion was relived and billeted in the village of Soup and by 18 October was with the rest of Division in Hazebrouck.

Ypres

The battalion was not actively involved in the battle until the 24th October when ‘It is an unforgettable date in the history of the 1st Battalion for at dusk, when the day’s fighting was practically over and both British and Germans were seeking what rest was possible before renewing the desperate struggle on the morrow, their gallant Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel William Sterling Bannatyne was shot down and died a little while after receiving the wound". On that day the Battalion was sent to Westhoek above the infamous Polygon Wood with orders to attack the village of Molenaarelsthoek, and it would be here for the next 30 days. The village was cleared apart from three houses from which heavy fire was coming. 24 NCOs and other ranks were killed or wounded. On the 26th much action; D Company cleared the village at the point of the bayonet B company charged the trenches and got them. 54 NCOs and other ranks killed or wounded. Another heavy attack was repulsed on the 28th and on the 29th-31st the Battalion was in reserve in a corner of Polygon Wood during the Battle of Gheluvelt. On the 31st there was a big German push and the battalion had to hold a line of 1400 yards with only 700 men, so one man for every two yards. No rations could be brought up so they had to rely on biscuits and rum. Neither could they smoke as they were under constant German observation. The Germans had sapped very close to them so they were under heavy fire, and had to repulse attack by the elite Prussian Guards. By the 12th November the battalion was very weak, only about 450 other ranks and 6 officers. This fighting "practically saw the last of the old pre-war regular army". This day saw another heavy attack; the B company shot down two machine gunners and trench warfare was now in earnest, with lots of water and mud. Relief came at last on the 16 November, as had the winter. The 21st saw the men hobbling on ice to Caestre where there were three farms for billeting. They were ordered to wear two pairs of socks and very large boots to accommodate these, but there is nothing in the official Diary to say these were issued.

La Basse

22 December the battalion was bussed to Bethune and then marched to Cambrin via Beuvry. They were now in the La Basse sector. Christmas day the officers and sergeants enjoyed and enormous hamper sent out for Lord Derby. Was Frank a Sergeant at this point? After dinner the battalion had to move into the Cambrin trenches, and were pleased to find them not muddy as they were paved with bricks.

New Years Day 1915 was spent in billets in Loos. The front line meant three days on and three days off. In early months of war relief was carried out in daylight but later had to be at night. Being relieved so no simple process though. Firstly the commanding officers would inspect the trenches and then a guide from the troops being relieved would show the relieving troops in. This could be difficult in the dark and frequently resulted in getting lost. The next trench duty was at L’Epinette "at some time on the 2nd or 3ed a man of B company was killed in a communication trench and as he fell the mud swallowed him up and he disappeared from sight and was never recovered". The conditions were so bad that companies were ordered to be relieved every night. At this time they also suffered from inferior equipment to the enemy who had telescope lenses for their rifles and hand grenades. However a trench mortar did arrive on the 7th. Respite was in Hingelle but ‘rest billets were a snare and delusion, often front line was preferable". But on 2nd February they moved to Givenchy where the trenches were better. "There was a bombing accident, the first in the 1st battalion on 5 February. A bombing party was being taught by an NCO how to use small cast iron French bombs when one exploded, detonating 19 other bombs with two men being killed and five wounded". With better conditions in the trenches the men were able to give more attention to sniping and strengthening defences. At night ‘the sky was red with lurid glow from burning farm houses and cottages set alight by German guns’. On 19 February they were on relief at Le Preol and given demonstration of incendiary bombe throwing and on 1 March the Prince of Wales visited their trenches.

On the 10th they were not involved in the main battle of Neuve Chappelle but carried out a holding attack (to prevent a German section joining in the battle) and the Rev R G Bell wrote of this

"Dull broke the famous morn of Neuve Chapelle

Mist wrapped Givenchy like a dead man’s shroud

Fierce shooting flames as from some hidden hell

Gleamed where the cannon’s voice spoke hoarse and loud

Now Liverpool! Get ready for the fray

Hark! ‘Come on boys’ the young it calls

Now strike for England, let none fear to-day

Cheers for the brave, and fame for him who dies"

Givenchy – Richeborg - Festubert

Givenchy 3 may A & B Companies charged at 8.10 and were met by a dreadful hail of bullets. All the officers were killed or wounded. The survivors of B Company crawled into shell-holes and took cover if they could. A company 3rd platoon got to the German wire but found it hadn’t been cut by the guns, and not one survived. Total deaths and casualties were 9 officers and 219 other ranks.

On the 10 May they were in reserve for the Battle of Richeborg. A nerve-wrecking day as orders kept being given and then cancelled. From 15 -25 May they were at Festubert "For several days before operations the assault had been practiced behind lines, both assaulting troops and the sand-bag and engineering parties told what to do". Heavy bombardment for three days had resulted in gaps in the enemy wire entanglements. The assault started at 11pm but as the battalion Diary is missing there is no detailed information on how it went. However we do know there was great difficulty in crossing no-mans land but some German trenches were captured. On the next day there were orders to advance again and more trenches captured. Of these "the trenches held by the 1st battalion were a truly terrible spectacle; dead, wounded and dying were everywhere; the trenches themselves were broken and shattered…the rifles were a welcome capture for the King’s men had hardly a rifle fit for use, all being clogged with mud. But each man was given German rifle and ammunition to be used in case of emergency". Some companies were only left with 60 men.

On the 18th they were ordered to attack again in the afternoon, hostile fire on the trenches was intense between 1.30 and 4pm. Several men were buried and the Battalion machine-gun was knocked out 3 or 4 times. At 4.30 the postponed attack happened, the goal, the moat of a farm, was reached but nearly all the men wiped out.

Finally on the 19th relief arrived. The commanding officer wrote "We marched out about 12.30am through bogs, mud and streams; passed many dead cows smelling the same; struck everything that was possible and fell into every hole there was but no-one minded. We were out"

By 20 may they were in the best billets since they arrived in France, on farms in Reveillon. On the previous 5 days 14 officers and 639 other ranks had been killed, missing or wounded. 20th may back to Bethune. The Battalion diary is lost for May-December 1915 but on 24th may Major-general Horne, divisional commander congratulated the battalion for on the order for a new attack behaving "in a consistently gallant manner…the task of breaking the line of the enemy’s trenches in which you took part, supporting the attack and carrying ammunition was very well carried out. After that you carried out magnificent work with bomb and bayonet which culminated in the surrender of 200 German prisoners to you.

Loos

On the 2nd June the battalion moved to Loos sector, and on the 19th were in the front line at Cuinchy. The Cuincy sector was a plain dotted with mining villages and slacks here and there. Annequin, Beuvry and Cambrin had all bee shelled. Walking up the La Basse Road there were trenches and barbed-wire entanglements everywhere.

On 7 August the battalion took over Cuinchy, and spent the time mostly improving the trenches as there was little warfare. No-mans land was perilous ground cut up by gaping craters and at night men had to keep to the paths for fear of falling into shell holes, but these paths were marked by the enemy. Coming up to the Battle of Loos the troops were looking forward to a big fight as it might win the war and prevent another winter in the trenches. The sections of the British line of particular interest to the King’s men were those just of the Vermelles-Hulloch Road, Cuinchy immediately south of canal and just north of and between the latter and Givenchy. The Germans had first used gas back in April; the Battle of Loos would be the first time the British responded in kind, with hand grenades of the Battye and Ball types, filled with liquid chlorine. For the latter type the troops carried igniters strapped to the wrist which proved practically useless in wet or damp weather.

Initial bombardments started four days before the battle. At 5.35 am on the appointed day 25 September 1915, the officer commanding 86th Company Royal Engineers reported the wind was not favourable for a gas attack but was overridden by Head Quarters. Major h C Potter reported afterwards "At 5.50 am Lieutenant White reported to me that he could not use the gas as it would blow straight down our lines. Immediately afterwards the gas from the south with dense smoke began to roll along our front line obscuring all view and necessitating using the smoke helmets. An order was then received that the gas should b tried and if dangerous discontinued. This was done. Punctually at 6.30 am the leading platoons on both sides jumped over the parapet and advanced. That on the south side was immediately wiped out by machine-gun fire and no further advance was attempted. The wire was not broken. On the north line all platoons of B Company advanced and soon reached enemy wire. In the dense smoke which flew across the front line the leading platoon went a little too much to the right and some men crossed the road. All this time nothing could be seen even from our front line…left support company was sent over the parapet and lost heavily and I then held up the attack as the gas had failed us and further advance for the time being appeared to be only sacrifice of life".

The battalion had 4 officers killed, 1 wounded, 77 other ranks wounded, 60 missing (assumed dead) and 46 gassed

The Battalion continued to hold the line until 30 September. For the rest of the month and into October there was almost continuous fighting especially about the Hohenzollern Redoubt. On the 1 October the Battalion was next to the Big Willie trench and was subjected to heavy bombing but they attack successfully repulsed the attack. When the Germans launched a big counteract on the 8th the Battalion was in reserve so not involved.

This tour lasted until 18th and during it 11 other ranks were killed, 22 wounded. They remained in Bethune area until 18th when they were billeted at Gonneham village until 2 November. Training was carried out, with tragic results as 24 other ranks were wounded and one killed in bombing practice. The 2 November saw return to front line in Cuinchy. The front line meant three days on and three days off. Being relieved so no simple process though. Firstly the commanding officers would inspect the trenches and then a guide from the troops being relieved would show the relieving troops in. This could be difficult as it had to be carried out in the dark and frequently resulted in being lost.

The War Diary for December has been lost and the author of ‘The King’s Regiment’ unable to obtain information from other sources.

January to June 1916

The movements of the 1st Kings Liverpool during this time can be followed in the annotations to Frank Neal’s letters.

Afterwards

you destroyed in fierce redoubts.

The following announcements appeared:

From the Walsall & South Staffs Observer Sat July 15 1916

Sergeant Frank Neal of the Kings Liverpool Regiment was wounded in the head on July 5th. He is a single man about 22 years of age and his home address is

1 Penkridge Street. Before enlisting in September 1912 he was employed by Messrs J Russell & Co Ltd at the Alma Tube Works. He is at present in a base hospital in France

And this was followed by

Aug 12th 1916

Sgt Frank Neal of the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment whose photograph appeared a few weeks ago as wounded in action is now officially reported as having died on July 29. A single man aged 22 years of age his home was at 1 Penkridge Street and he served 5 years in the army

 

This first letter to Uncle George is undated but by its content it comes at the start of these letters. Frank must have been home in Walsall in leave in October 1915, and formed an attachement to Nell Bentley the recipient of most of the letters. How did Frank and Nell meet? Their families lived very close to one another as Hall Street and Penkridge Street run into one another and in 1916 the Neals were at 1 Penkridge Street and Nell Bentley at 20Hall Street..Frank’s Uncle George to whom Frank seems to have been very close was married to Nell’s Aunt Frances.

They would also have seen each other at St Patrick’s Church.

Undated

Sergt F Neal

1st the King’s (Lpool) Regt

Brit Exp Force

France

Just a line hoping that you are keeping well in health as I am quite well myself at present. We are having very bad weather, it has been raining nearly all the time since I came back. Wish to ask a favour of you Uncle (1), would you please send me a set of those stripes that you had. I had a letter from Nell (2) a few days ago and she said that you were looking as well as ever and she says that Aunt (3) is keeping as well as can be expected, but so much we and cold weather will not improve Aunt’s health at all. I may tell you that I have thought several times of the feed we had in the town. I quite enjoyed it, a little different to the bully stew (4) I am getting at present, as you may guess.

By the way I’ve not heard of anything of our George (5) since I came back although I have wrote. Well I must conclude for the present hoping to hear from you soon

I remain

Your loving nephew

Frank

(PS) I expect you have heard that nothing at all exists between that lady and I (6)

  1. Uncle is George Neal, younger brother of Frank’s father. George was born in Hackney district of London in 1874. His parents came from Market Harborough. His father William (a hawker in 1861, described as basket maker on George’s marriage certificate)) died the following year and George’s mother Martha moved to Walsall with her three young sons and established herself as a marine dealer (selling goods to canal people) in Portland Street. George worked as a general smith and blacksmith in his early years at least. He first married 1892 Eliza Wilson who died 1898 aged 26. She was buried with her six day old daughter May. Another daughter Martha had died four days old in 1896. On 3/4/1902 he married Frances Harrison at St Peter’s Church, Walsall. As well as brother John, Frank’s father, George had an older brother William James who died 1887 aged 23.
  2. Ellen (Nell) Bentley, the recipient of most of Frank’s letters. She was born 1/10/1888 at 10 Hall Street, Walsall (baptised 21/10/1888 St Patrick’s Walsall). She was the elder daughter of Thomas Bentley and Sarah Ann Harrison. The death of Frank was apparently left her devastated. She eventually married William Morris a widower with three children in 1926. This could be the Frederick Morris born 1884 and in 1901 working as coal miner (hewer), living 6 Booth Street, Bloxwich. She died in 1972 in Walsall Hospital and was buried by Father in Ryecroft cemetery.
  3. Frances Ellen Neal born Frances Harrison 1876 was the younger sister of Nell’s mother and married to Frank’s uncle. She spent some time in a sanatorium before succumbing to TB on 14 February 1918. She was buried in Ryecroft cemetery on 20 February 1918.
  4. Bully beef was corned beef and a staple in the diet of soldiers in World War I. I guess in bully stew a few vegetables were added
  5. George Neal Frank’s older brother born 1891. He was buried Ryecroft cemetery 15/5/1937 from Walsall hospital. He had married Agnes Ball in 1909 and by 1915 Frank was uncle to Leonard born 1911, Agnes born 1913, Beatrice born 1915 and possibly George or William George born 1910. There at least one more child born to them, Elsie in 1919..
  6. Lizzie Hatfield. Possibly Elizabeth Hatfield b 1898 daughter of William and Elizabeth Hatfield. In 1901 they were living Barnes Lane Rushall, William a collier.

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Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regmt

B.E.F

France

30/10/15

Dearest Miss Nellie,

Arrived quite safe on the 25th inst. Had quite a good time at home. Nellie I hope to bring your sacred heart back to dear old Walsall again.(1) I had quite a lovely time on reaching here, perhaps father (2) will show you my last letter. Nellie I sincerely hope that you will not mind me writing to you, we will say it is only friendship but perhaps later s- W – C- am hoping so. Please remember me to Aunt & Uncle. But if I have time I am going to write. Of course Miss Hatfield and myself are still friends but then Miss Nellie such great friendship must cease. I must conclude for the present dear friend, hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your sincere friend

Frank

(P.S.) Remember me to your parents (3, 4) and Brother Jack (5) s’il vous plait

Francis

 

(1) Probably Nell had given to him a prayer card, medallion or similar with a depiction of the Sacred Heart

(2)John Swinger Neal born 1860 Market Harborough, older brother of George Neal.(although 1901 census record gives place of birth Coventry). He married Alice Davis 9/4/1882 St Paul’s Church Walsall (marriage witnessed by William Hughes and Alice Stringer)and died 1938 . She was born 1862 in Walsall, daughter of David Davies, shoemaker and died at the end of 1931. On the 1881 census and his marriage certificate he is recorded as a locksmith, and on the baptismal record of his daughter Elsie 1899 he is an axle fitter. On other records described as a labourer.. In the 1890s and early 1900s the family lived at various addresses in Blue Lane East. By 1916 John and Alice had moved to 1Penkridge Street where they lived for the rest of their lives. Other children were George born 1891, James born 1893 died around August 1908 (died from abcess on brain, this was believed to have been caused by heading footballs), Elsie born 1899 and Kate 1902.

  1. Thomas Bentley, Nell’s father. He was born in Walsall in 1864 son of John Bentley and Sarah Woodcock who settled in Walsall from Lancashire between 1861 and 1864. He married Sarah Ann Harrison 25/12/1885 St Paul’s Walsall. In 1891 he was a journeyman saddler and in 1901 stoker in a gas works. He died 1936. On the 1891 census the family were living with Thomas’s recently widowed mother-in-law at 10 Penkridge St, on the 1891 census 64 Hospital Street. At the time of these letters they were at Hall Street. They finally moved to 116 Green Lane.
  2. Sarah Ann (Annie) Bentley, Nell’s mother. She was born 1862 Rushall the daughter of James Harrison and Ellen Smith. She worked as a bridle stitcher from home. She died 1943 from son Jack’s house, 100 Harden Road, Walsall
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  4. John (Jack) Bentley, Nell’s younger brother. He was born 19/4/1898 at 9 Penkridge Street. He married Gertrude Cooke in 1923 and they had one child Eileen who died aged 4. They later adopted adopted Mary, a baby girl from Ireland. Jack was a bus inspector and died 1958.

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st Bttn the King’s Regt

Brit Ex Forces

France

8/11/15

Dearest Nellie,

Received your loving & most welcome letter on the 7th inst. Having heard from you Nellie dear, I cannot express myself to you in this letter. I am so pleased, but I will endeavour to write plainly my inmost thoughts. You wish me to answer a few questions Dear

No 1 question

You say that you are older than me and would my parents object

No 1 answer

Admitted dearest you are older than me, but I am in love with you and not your age & most decidedly my parents would be very pleased indeed, especially father.

Question of Miss L Hatfield. Nothing at all has passed between Lizzie & myself with regards to you Nellie. Do you know I could have expressed my feelings to you on the 23rd/10/15 but company would not permit, I mean to say that if she had seen anything between us two it might have caused a scene. If I have answered your letter to satisfaction will you please write soon, as my sweetheart, dearest I am really feeling very happy since I’ve had my short leave at home. Have had the chance of going to mass twice since I’ve been back here. I am often wondering why I changed my religion from Cof E to RC. (1) Nellie I can assure you that it has pleased me vey much to know that you think of me a little. I have had my thoughts concentrated on you since we met. I have wrote to Miss Hatfield & I have explained everything fully. I must conclude for the present with true love for you. Please remember me to your parents & Jack & Aunt & Uncle. Am hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

A loving friend (at present)

Frank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(P S) Paddy wrote a letter (2)

  1. He was baptised 17/11/1896 St Peters Church, Stafford Street, North Walsall. His family was then living 16 Blue Lane. As a Roman Catholic he would have attended mass at St Patricks, Blue Lane East, where Nell and her family worshipped.
  2. Paddy. As yet unidentified
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    Sergt F Neal

    1st Btn The Kings’ (Lpool) regt

    Brit Ex Forces

    France 10/11/15

    Dearest Nellie,

    Received your loving P. C. with much pleasure on the 9th inst. Your PC was very nice indeed so I am sending you one in return. We are at present having a short rest from the trenches so I am able to write to you fairly often Dear. I sincerely hope that you are keeping well as regards your health as I am in the pink of condition at the time of writing to you. I must conclude for the present hoping to hear from you soon

    I remain

    Your loving

    Frank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    P. S. Hoping that I am not too previous

    [On the other side of paper ‘Just turning out for football’]

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Sargt F Neal

    1st The Kings regt

    Brit ex Forces

    France

    My Dearest Nell,

    Received your loving letter on the 16th. Am very pleased to hear that all at home is going so well. Will you please allow me to say Nellie, that I do not at all like that expression of yours, just fancy, old woman. I am glad indeed to hear that Uncle George had been home again (1), with his tales he can impress one, more than any other person that I know of. I am very pleased that you liked the P. C. I will send you and Aunt some more when I come out of the trenches all being well please God. By the way Nell Dear I have received an answer to my request of Miss Hatfield, stating that she has accepted our parting with good grace (Merci beaucoup)

    We are having the worst weather possible imaginable, wet & bitterly cold & the trenches knee deep in mud. I look beautiful at present unwashed & unshaven for 5 or 6 days & wet through, but we are doing excellent as regards to food. You know my age well enough do you not, now old woman, please excuse me asking what yours is Nellie Dear do not let that cheeky little Paddy dictate to you, you do not understand how patiently I await your letters. Well the general opinion of the troops out here with regards to the war is they are expecting peace in the very near future. I can tell you I have had my share of trench warfare & at present am not thinking of the Boches but the fast coming winter. The only intoxicant drink I have taken since I returned from leave is the ration of rum we get issued with when in the trenches. It is given to us as a sort of medicine. I am getting quite a good boy. See by the papers that recruiting is much stronger at home now things are turning practically into conscription (2). Our regiment has started sending more men on leave again, so will not be long before it comes to my turn again. The day we went back to the trenches I tried to get my photo taken but owing to so much custom I was too late. Have you a small photo of yourself Nellie that you could forward to me. Will you please remember me to your ma & Pa & Bro & give my love to Aunt and Uncle. I sincerely hope that you are keeping well in health as I am as well as can be expected under the circumstances at present.

    I conclude now with my love to you hoping to hear from you in response. I remain

    Your ever

    Loving sweetheart xx

    Frank xxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Au revoir & god bless you

    P. S. I have a new song for Paddy when I return about Von Kluck (3)

    (1) Uncle George seems to have had a job which took him away from home a lot. Other references are made to it in the letters. As yet I have been unable to find out anything about it

    (2) Conscription was introduced by the Military Service Act which came into effect on 2 February 1916. In the first six weeks after the war started 500,000 men had enlisted but losses were so great that voluntary enlistment couldn’t keep up with the numbers needed.The Act allowed for the conscription of unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 41.The second military Act in May 1916 extended conscription to all men 18-41, allowed length of service to be extended and cases of physical unfitness to be rexamined.

  4. Alexander von Kluck 1846-1934 the German general who commanded the German First Army in World War I, notably the Schlieffen plan offensive against Paris in August 1914. He was seriously wounded in the leg in March 1915 and retired in October 1916.

 

Sergt F Neal

1st the King’s Regt

B.E.F

[Undated]

My Dear Nell,

Have received your letter & parcel with much pleasure. Am very pleased to hear that you are keeping well asm I am quite well myself at present. Am very pleased to hear that Uncle is out of Hospital (1)and I hope that he is keeping well now. Am lazing in bed tonight writing to you by candle light. Am hoping to see you very soon so please remember me to all at home.

I am yours

With love

Frank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(1) This was probably the Sister Dora Hospital, Wednesbury Road. The present day Manor Hospital was still Walsall workhouse, although it did have a large infirmary by 1915.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st King’s Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F

[Undated]

My Dearest Nell,

Have received your letters & parcel on the 29th inst with much pleasure. Please thank Uncle George for fags, accept my thanks yourself. I think your photo is a very good one Nellie Dear. You must excuse me for not writing as often. I have been a very busy man of late. I hope you are keeping well in health also Aunt and Uncle and grandma (1). How are things going at home now. I expect Turners sons (2)

have gone. Whats my big Uncle got to say about the war now when it’s finishing. I don’t expect it will be long before I see you again Nell, roll on. I can’t make it out at all, I am in the pink of health yet I feel about 40 years of age. I must conclude for the present with love hoping to hear from you in response.

I am your sweetheart

Frank xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  1. Grandma. Probably Ellen Walker, Nell’s maternal grandmother. . Born Ellen Smith in 1840 in Bilston, daughter of William and Ellen Smith she married first James Harrison a miner (originally from Dawley bank, Shropshire). He died Christmas day 1890 as the result of a mining accident and she remarried 1893 Joseph Walker a stone miner who like her was living in Penkridge Street. He was a widower with five children. In 1901 she was running a shop on the corner of Penkridge and Hall Street. She died in 1923, Joseph following her in 1925.
  2. Turner sons. Two possible families on 1901 census, both in Rushall area; William & Jane Turner had Charles 17, Daniel 5, George 3, Frederick 1; Henry & Eliza has Ernest 8, Thomas 6, Frederick 11, Henry 22 HOWEVER the 1920 census lists Edward and Edna Turner living at 11 Penkridge Street. I have been unable to find them on the 1901 census.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter undated but envelope stamped 1916

Seargt Neal

1st King’s Regt

B. E. F.

Dear Nell,

Received your loving letter and PC with much pleasure on 7th inst. The P.C. is very nice indeed Nell. No doubt you will think I have forgotten you Petit Correspondent Metro (?) I hope you and all at home are keeping well in health. I am very sorry to say Nell that all leave has been cancelled for an unknown period but if God keeps me safe I shall be one of the first to come when it commences again. How is Aunt keeping Nell, please remember me, also to Grandma Walker and Uncle. I suppose Paddy is as cheeky as ever. Must conclude Nellie Dear for the present with love.

Yours affect.

Frank XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

P.S. When I am under different circumstances I intend writing you a long letter. How are you thinking of it at home. We are expecting the war to finish any time now, the end is in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regt

2nd Division

B. E. F.

8/12/15

My dear Nellie,

In answer to your loving letter which I received on the 7th inst with much pleasure. Well you must think me a nice one, I have not even mentioned your Grandma in any of my letters, but giver her my kindest regards now, old woman. Yes I did promise to send you a French book, but have lost the one I had and will send you one the first chance I have. Thank you for sending the stripes(1) and please thank Uncle for me. I received a letter from Aunt the same time as I got yours Darling and I must say that I am very sorry that the bad weather affects my aunt so, I wish she could get well, I am sure that she has had enough illness. (2) It would be my delight to get home for a couple of days at Xmas and there’s still a possible chance of me coming about that time.

Nell dear I am wishing this that it would finish, I do not think it will last very long though, because it seems to be going in our favour now our artilary are knocking spots off them, we are using ten ? times more shells than the allemonds are.

Our regt is going back for a rest so I think I shall have Xmas out of the trenches this year.

Well Nell dear I conclude with love hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank X X x x x x x x x x

  1. These stripes must be the one requested in his letter to Uncle George. What were the stripes and what were they used for?

(2) Frances Neal had tuberculosis and spent some time in a sanatorium. This probably was not the Sanitorium for TB patients at Pelsall. This opened early 1918 and she died on 14 February of that year.There is a photo of her with other women patients taken in Weston-super-Mare. Was she at the sanitorium there (built 1871) or were they on a day trip?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt Neal F

1st The King’s Regt

2nd Division

Brt Exp Forces

France

17/12/15

My Darling Nell.

Received your loving letter dated 12.12.15. Am very pleased you mentioned me to Nan (1). Yes I am afraid it will be a very quiet Xmas. I know it will be for me. It pleases me very much as regards conscription. I would simply love to see them getting sworn in and would like to assist in bringing them out here. Fancy you a soldier, would love to be in your squad. I expect you’ll have uncle home for xmas and no doubt our George will be there also. Please remember me to Aunt and Uncle and I sincerely hope that you all enjoy yourselves. I conclude now Nellie with best love hoping to hear from you in response (moi chere)

I remain

Your loving sweetheart

Frank

X x x x x x x x x x x x

(P S) I wrote this letter after coming from mass and I go again on Christmas Day if all’s well, so I shall be thinking of you deeply on xmas morn x x x x x x x x

Au revoir

(1) Nan. Who was Nan. In a subsequent letter he mentions both Nan and Grandma. If Grandma is Nell’s Grandma Walker and Grandma Neal is in Market Harborough would Nan be his mother’s mother? His maternal grandmother was probably Harriet Davis born in Canada in 1826. In 1881 she was a widow living with her daughters (all born in Walsall) at Back Court 62 Holloway Head, Birmingham. Alice was a bridle stitcher. Harriet died in 1893.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F. France

Dearest Nellie,

Just a line hoping to find you keeping well in health. It has been quite a long time since I last heard from you and I sincerely hope that you are not ill. I did not enjoy myself much for the xmas but as well as can be expected under the circumstances. I hope that you enjoyed yourself Nellie, but still I expect things were very quiet. Am waiting patiently for a letter Nell. Must conclude for the present, wishing you a bright new year at home, hoping to hear from you in response

I remain

Your loving sweetheart

Frank

x x x x x x x x x x x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Srgnt F Neal

1st The King’s Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F.

2nd-1-16

My Dear Nellie.

Have received your letters and parcel dated 28th and 29-12-15. Thank you very much for the parcel, it was beautifull. I think that you are a very good cook. Well Nell I hope we have a good time. If it is God’s wish for me to return again. Because none of our old NCOs got leave at xmas time I shall have to take my usual turn for leave through the company. So it will be a couple of months before it comes my turn, if the war lasts that long. Am very pleased dearest that I was away from the trenches for xmas. Am awfully sorry Nell but I am not able to send the wrapper back to you again as our lot is miles from nowhere (1). I went to Mass again today in an old barn, our priest is a very nice man indeed named Father Kelly.(2) I am at present attaches to the Footballer battn (3) but still keep the same address. I expect Pa was drunk at xmas and had that old gramophone on the go (Sunbonnet Sue) (4). Haha. Well I must conclude for the time being Nell Dear – with best love hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

X x x x x x x x x x x x

(P S) Remember me to Aunt and Uncle, and Nan

(1) The War Diary 1-16 January 1916 records that the regiment marched to La Perriere for the Divisional rest. During the period the men were trained daily in open warfare (skirmishing and attack formations being frequently practiced). There was a Brigade Field Day when an attack from the trenches was practiced.

(2)Father Kelly. No further information yet

(3) Footballer battalion. I will try and research this batallion

(4)Sunnbonnet Sue. This song was from the musical play School-days, lyrics by Will D Cobb, first produced in New York 14/9/1908-10/10/1908

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter undated but envelope stamped 1916

Seargt Neal

1st King’s Regt

B. E. F.

Dear Nell,

Received your loving letter and PC with much pleasure on 7th inst. The P.C. is very nice indeed Nell. No doubt you will think I have forgotten you Petit Correspondent Metro (?) I hope you and all at home are keeping well in health. I am very sorry to say Nell that all leave has been cancelled for an unknown period but if God keeps me safe I shall be one of the first to come when it commences again. How is Aunt keeping Nell, please remember me, also to Grandma Walker and Uncle. I suppose Paddy is as cheeky as ever. Must conclude Nellie Dear for the present with love.

Yours affect.

Frank XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

P.S. When I am under different circumstances I intend writing you a long letter. How are you thinking of it at home. We are expecting the war to finish any time now, the end is in sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regy

2nd Division

B.E.F.

7-1-16

Dearest Nell.

I received your loving letter dated 2nd 1. 16. with much pleasure. Am very sorry to hear that the weater at home is so bad, but we are also having very wet and windy weather here.

I will have my photo taken first chance I get Nellie Dear, but I say old lady, what about the photo of yourself which you promised me some time ago. I certainly will write to Grandma today, it has been quite a long time since I wrote to her before and I am very pleased that you have reminded me. Please remember me to Aunt & Uncle & Nan.(1) Well I must conclude with best love, hoping that you are keeping well in health.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

X x x x x x x x x x x

(PS) Respndre mon letter s’il vous plait

****************************************************************************************************************************

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sgt F Neal

1st The King’s Rgt

2nd Division

B.E.F.

20-1-16

Dearest Nellie.

Have received your loving letter dated 11-1-16 with much pleasure. I think that your French is getting on beautifully. In response to your last P.S. I reply – every day and night

By the way I have heard from our George. He says that you were introduced to him as young Frank’s wife. Haha.

Am having a very trying time at present Nell. (1)

I should be very pleased to receive your photo Moi Chere. No matter what you say about the camera.

The first time I stop in town I will have my photo taken.

I must conclude for the present hoping that you are keeping well in health & hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving sweetheart

Frank

Xxx

(1) On 16th Jan B and C companies of the King’s were attached to the 17th Middlesex regiment and A and D companies of the 17th Middlesex were attached to the Kings. The regiment marched to Bethune, and on 17th January to trenches, B section near Givenchy. As Frank sent a postcard of Bethune I assume he was with this part of his Regiment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Undated letter ]

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regt

B.E.F.

France

Dearest Nell,

Received your parcel on the 26th Inst thanking you very much. I do not know why you sent it at all Nellie Dear as I am quite alright. But I must say that the best smoke I have ever enjoyed came from you whilst I were in the trenches. Well how are things looking at home (moi chere). I hope that you are keeping well in health and also Aunt. Have wrote to Uncle George and am awaiting a reply. I often think of our George. I have wrote to him several times but it appears that he has forgotten me. Well I am hoping to see you soon Nell, if what I hear comes true I shall probably be sent home again soon about Christmas. I must conclude for the present with the best love hoping to hear from you soon. God be with you till we meet again.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The Kings Regt

B.E.F.

14-2-16

Dearest Nell,

Have received your letter 5/2/16 on the 10th inst with much pleasure. Please excuse me for not writing sooner. I have been expecting to come on leave and I was hoping to surprise you. Am very sorry that (Moi mamoselle) sooner. I have given you one excuse for not writing and hope to explain fully in person inside a week from when you receive this letter (1)

Thanks very much Nell for the photo tres, tres bien & merci beaucoup moi cher. So you have had the Zepps (2) eh, Von esplonk lo bonles allemande Solsat [????] . Have had a very hard job to write at all to you for the past month, you cannot understand how we are sometimes fixed. Must conclude for the present sending you my best love & hoping that you and all at home are in the best of health.

I am for ever

Your loving sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(1) War Diary says 20 January the regiment marched to Gorre and 23 January the regiment marched back to the trenches in B sector . Germans were still active with rifle grenades and trench mortars. On the night of 26th the regiment exploses a small mine in front of Duck’s Bill, and the German trenches bombarded heavily. The Germans did not reply. All precautions were taken to meet a German attack in case they had planned one for the Kaiser’s birthday. 27 January marched back to Gorre; 30 January marched back to trenches in B2, all quiet; 1st February some shelling and rifle grenades; 2nd February minenwerfers and rifle grenades. Also 2 february the men were relieved by the 1st hertfordshires and went into billets at Le Quesnoy. B and C companies rejoined and the two companies of the 17th Middlesex departed. 3rd February brigade rest and marched about midday to Essars; 4th February billets; 7th February marched to Bellereve; 8th February billets. During this rest period the usual training was carried out, particular attention being paid to bomb throwing. 11th February marched off at 3pm to Gorre and relieved 17th Middlesex, a very wet march, arrived 5.30pm.12th February. Billets, during this period the batallio was used as a pionerr battalion and furnished and a lot of fatigues in Givenchy and Festubwert sections under direction of the RE

(2) Zeppelin Raid, night of 31 January 1916. Nine airships of the Royal German Navy set out for England, two, L19 and L21 flew over the Black Country having become lost in their attempt to reach Liverpool. Thinking they had reached that city L21 dropped bombs on Bradley, Bilston killing two people. They then moved onto Wednesbury and Walsall ditching their remaining bombs. The Wednesbury Road Congregational Church was extensively damaged, and the last bomb in Walsall wounded the mayoress Julia Slater as she rode on a tram. She died a few weeks later of shock and septicaemia. The Walsall war memorial is now on the site where this bomb fell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Service Post Card post date Mr 6 16

I am quite well

I have received your letter date 29-2-16

Letter follows at first opportunity

F Neal Sgt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt FNeal

1st The King’s Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F.

13-3-16

Dearest Nell,

Have received your loving letter, dated 9-3-16. You are quite right things are looking warm for the future, but with Gods help we will bear out alright . Am very sorry to hear about Uncle George and I hope he is getting on alright now. I think it is time the chaps that come out at the beginning got a spell out of it, when we read in the few papers we get out here of the men at home cribbing about compulsory enlistment. I do not think that I require anything in particular unless a mouth organ to cheer the boys a little. Yes I can understand how miserable it must be at home, all lights out, bad weather, expecting Zepps and very few men at home to speak to. I sincerely hope that you and also aunt are keeping well in health as I am quite well at the time of writing. I conclude now with love hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

War diary. 17th February marched to Ecleme; 18th February wet day, cleaned up billets, draft of 106 NCOs and men arrived; 19th February billet inspection by CO, men bathed, German aeroplanes flew over by night; 20th February morning church; 22nd February snowing hard, marched to Gonnehem and went through gas

Chamber; 23rd February snowing hard, route march, division under short notice to move south to take over from French near Souchez. 24th February. All leave stopped. 25th February marched 8.45am to petit Sains via Bethune and Noeux-les-Mines. Difficult march owing to slippery state of roads, still very wet and ground covered with snow. 26th February relieved French 32nd regiment at Calonne after dusk, B company on right, C in centre, D on left and A in support. 66th Regiment d’Infanterie on right, 17th Middlesex on left, 2nd South Staffs in immediate support and 13th Essex in brigade reserve. Very comfortable and well-constructed trenches. 27th February quiet day, some shelling in morning; 28th February some shelling, the French torpees did some very good shooting; 29th February German observation balloon blown onto British lines, heavy shelling about dusk. During this time considerable work was down by the companies in cleaning up the trenches and clearing communication trenches.1st March some shelling, changed over with South Staffs after dusk and went into their billets in cellars at end of the village. 2nd March in billets, men very comfortable. 5th March in billets. Took over front-line from South Staffs. Some shelling. The Brigade area has been moved south about 500 yards. A company on right, D in centre, C in left, B in support with 24th Royal Fusiliers on the right and 17th Middlesex on left. During the days in billets the batalilon was employed at work on the village line by day and by night on Brigade fatigues, under supervvision of the RE. 7th March a strafe by the French torpees rsulted in considerable shelling in retaliation. 8th March a quiet day. 9th march. Quiet day, relieved by South Staffs after dusk and went back to billets at Bully-Grenay. 10th march men bathed. 12th March, church service, several aeroplane duels in morning. 13th march, Some shelling in the morning, relieved South Staffordshire Regiment in Calonne. A few bombs exchanged with enemy in the evening. One man killed by a rifle grenade.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s Regt

B.E.F.

26-3-16

Dearest Nell.

Have received your papers and mouth organ thanking you very much. You need not fear I shall not give the papers away until I have read them. The weather has turned out very bad again, but we are resting at present yet I may be in the trenches by when you receive this missive.(1) I hope that Aunt, Uncle and Nan are keeping well in health, hoping that you will give them my best wishes. I hope that Uncle George has got home also our George, when I come again which time is the near future I hope. My pal has just started worrying now he says that I would make a loving husband, do you think so. He’s now talking about new shoes and pinafores for the baby.

I see by the papers that the raiders have been over the south coast again, so you are in great danger also, especially the people that live in seaport towns(2) I sincerely hope that you are keeping well in health as I am quite well myself at the time of writing to you, am hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxx

(1) The bad weather is borne out in the General diary. 14th March considerable artillery activity on part of the enemy. Some good shooting by the Stokes gun and British artillery retaliated in evening. 15th March test helmet practice; D company bombed enemy’s worjing party; Lewis and Stokes gun took part in operation; lights of a Zeppelin distinctly visible moving east at 11.05 pm. 16th March very quiet morning; Stokes gun fired some rounds and destroyed house opposite B company’s line. 17th March Quiet morning; enemy shelled D company line at 3.50 with light HE; shooting good; relieved by 10th Northumberland Fusiliers about 8.30 pm marched to Hersin and billeted. 18th March left midday for Bruay. Glorious day but almost too hot for comfortable marching. Arrived at 2.30 pm, billets fairly comfortablr.19th March leave opened. Church parade. 21st March battalion paraded with rest of Brigade for inspection by Corps Commander. Parade went very well, men were exceptionally steady and marched past in remarkably good style. Corps Commander expressed his appreciation of the appearance of the Battalion. 22nd March weather overcast and cold, a football ground has been opened and matches arranged. 23rd march usual parades, excellent bathing accommodation at mines, men really enjoy the opportunity of a bath, they seem to like Bruay, very little crime. 24th march snowing hard, work unpleasant, all arrangements for parades and games cancelled, concert and picture show organised and attended by 700 men and much appreciated. Played the 1st Middlesex at rugby, not a very good game owing to ground being in very bad condition, Middlesex won 42 points to nil. 26 March company teraining in the morning, weather cloudy.

(2)The first Zeppelin raid was on the Norfolk coast 19/1/1915. There were a further 19 that year, killing 181. In 1916 there were 23 raids, killing 293 and injuring 691.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There must now have been a period of leave back in Walsall

 

 

 

 

Carte Pastale pour Civil ou Militaire 9-4-16

Dearest Nell,

Have rejoined my unit quite safe on the 9th inst. I must say I felt the parting very much Dear but still I do not think it will be for long. Conclude with the one love, will write again first opportunity. Hoping you continue in good health. Yours for ever. Frank xxxxxxxx

War diary. Whilst Frank was on leave and on his return the Batallion supplied large fatigue parties averaging 300 men every night. They were employed on work in the Bully-Grenay and Souchez sections and were often under fire. Only one man was wounded. The work in the Souchez was carried out under gruesome circumstances, owing to the number of French and German corpses. Hersin was shelled in the afternoons between 4 and 7pm. Most of the shells were small. Only one man of the regiment was killed. The South Staffs had a few casualties and several civilians were killed.

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10 -4 -16

Dearest Nell

Have been longing for the opportunity of writing a letter since I left you. And now my greatest wish is being fulfilled. As you know love one cannot explain one’s feelings or doings on a simple PC. I hope you and all arrived home safe and sound after leaving the station. As regards myself I had rather a tiresome journey but eventually rejoined my regiment safe and sound precisely 60 hours after leaving Walsall.

Before I cam Nell we did not know each other so well as we do now of course and our parting was a very miserable one for me I can honestly say. Well Nellie I think we enjoyed ourselves fairly well. The best thing I can do now is to settle down again and make myself as content as possible until such times with Gods help we are together again. I hope everything will be alright as regards to you taking a holiday, you know what I mean Nell. How is Aunts feet now I hope she is getting better. When you write to Uncle give him my best wishes and tell him that I got back in good time. Have wrote to Mother also (moi chere). Well I must conclude for the present Darling with my best best love to all at home (namely Nan, Aunt, your Ma and Pa, May(1) and do not forget Jim(2). Am hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

(FE) Frank x x x x x x

X x x x x x x x x x x

  1. May Veronica Bentley, Nell’s sister, born 14/5/1895. She married David Slim in 1920 and they had one child, Kathleen, my mother-in-law. May died 15/6/1969.
  2.  

  3. James (Jim) Bentley, Nell’s older brother born 1886, died 1926, unmarried. His niece Kathleen Slim found him dead in the backyard of 116 Green Lne, the house in which he lived with his parents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Srgt F Neal

1st Bttn The King’s Reg

2nd Division

B.E.F.

15-4-16

Dearest Nell,

Just a line hoping to find you keeping well in health, as I am quite well at the time of writing to you. The weather here has turned out very bad again, wet & windy, I hope that its not the same for you. Do not be alarmed if my correspondence to you ceases for a time in the near future you will know why later or perhaps you can guess when you read the sentence. I am now waiting patiently love for a letter. I hope it comes soon. I believe Corpl Ledbury (1)is still in Walsall, has he called round our way yet. Ah well au revoir for the present Nellie dear hoping to hear from you soon, so please remember me to all at home

Your ever loving

Sweetheart Frank x x x x x

 

(1)Corporal Thomas Ledbury.Probably Thomas Henry Ledbury b 1890 Walsall district, 1901 living Chester Road, Lichfield.

War diary. 12th April moved to Bruay by train. 13th April marched to Calonne Ricouart and entrained for Aire. Moved from there to Coyecque 12 miles distant, good march, no one fell out, 14th April company training in morning. 15th April successful brigade field day, attacked a skeleton army, Essex attacked in the centre, King’s sid a flanking attack, Middlesex in support, South Staffs in reserve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17-4-16

Dearest Nell,

Received your loving letter with great pleasure on the 16th inst. Am very pleased that you did enjoy yourself Nell, considering lack of experience on my part and being our first time together, on the whole a success.

Without a doubt, Dear, I am looking forward to the photos, I do hope that ours have turned out good. We have had a fairly hard day tday and the only thing that I can settle my mind to is writing to you and Ma. I will carry out the (PS) in your last letter as far as possible. I have been once since I have been back. I am very pleased that I got my leave I am very lucky indeed, for it has been stopped now.

I expect Nellie for you to feel strange going back to (Foster St) (1). Have just received a letter from Home and am still waiting for about a dozen from different sources that I had quite forgot to visit when on leave. So Dad completed his holiday. I do laugh when I think about him, the day when he waited for me two and a half hours. I sincerely hope that you are keeping well in health also that aunt is well again, give my kindest regards to Nan and Uncle. I conclude with love Nellie Darling

I remain

Your loving Sweetheart

Frank xxxxxxxxxxx

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Corpl Ledbury has returned, he got married alright (2), he says it was quite a success. But he is greatly annoyed I absented myself, I explained why and he blames you now – why not!

(1)Foster Street. I presume this refers to Forster Street where Nellie worked at Jabez Cliff ltd.

(2)He married Louise E Massey born 1895 Walsall district

War diarry.16th April. Successful Brigade day, in support but afterwards attacked. 17th April Marched to Aire, entrained for Calonne Ricouart and from there marched to Bruay, good march, no one fell out, some rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Envelope stamped Ap 1916

Sergt F Neal

8 King’s Regt

B.E.F

Dear Nell,

Received your loving letter w. s. c. with much pleasure 7th inst. The PC is very nice indeed Nell. No doubt you will think I have forgotten you. Petit corresponsance metro (?). I hope you at home are keeping well in health. I am very sorry to say Nell that all leave has been cancelled for an unknown period, but if God keeps us safe I shall be one of the first to come when it commences again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Srgt F Neal

Ist Btn The King’s Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F.

France

20.4.16

Dearest Nell,

Have received your parcel; with much pleasure on the 19.4.16. Am very pleased with the photos and I expect you are also. I thank you very much Nell for sending the parcel. The ring is very nice also. The cabinet is really beautiful shall keep it dear. I can cut it to a smaller size. I believe that Nick’s (1) or Paddy’s latest expression is Oh your face ducky. Old Nick thanks you very much and readily admits that he has had bad luck. Well how is Aunt & Uncle now and all our relations. I received a parcel from home at the same time as yours Nell so our ucholl? Had quite a treat. Have heard from G Ma Neal (2) she is quite well and says that she was pleased to hear I was alright.

We are not in a place at present where one can enjoy one self but as soon as I have finished writing I intend to have a lie down, read and smoke a cool Marcella (3), by so doing I shall be as content as the luckiest man in Walsall. Hows ducky getting along, as Uncle George by my special request, compris. Conclude with love. Moi cher petit fiancée hoping to hear from you soon, please remember me to all.

I remain

Your ever loving sweetheart

Frank XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

(P.S.) I have met Wilson here in the Staffs, (4) the one that Uncle spoke to in Stafford St tell Uncle that Wilson has got a good job.

(1) Nick. Unidentified yet

(2) Grandma Neal. Martha Neal was born Martha Chapman in Market Harborough in 1839. She died 1924 in Market Harborough. By 1901 she had returned to the town of her birth and was housekeeper to her widowed brother Edward Chapman and his family, as well as working as a charwoman. I can find no trace of her marriage to William Neal.

(3)Marcella was a cigar

(4) As the war diary shows the King’s Regiment often had contact with the South Staffs. War diary. 18th April entrained for Hersin, billeted there and marched up to Calonne about 7.15pm, very wet, relief complete about 10pm. South Staffs and Essex in line, King’s in support, Middlesex in reserve

19th April a lot of shelling, few casualties from a chance shell, about 250 men on a fatigue under instruction of RE. 20th April quiet day, usual fatigues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st Bn the King’s (Lpool) Regt

2nd Dvision

Brit Ex Forces

26-4-16

My Dear Nell,

Have received your loving letter with much pleasure. Am very glad to know all are keeping well in health. I am a treat at present.

I have wrote to say in my last letter Nell that I received your parcel and that I was greatly pleased with everything especially the cabinet photograph. Why should Uncle George have to come out here, someone must do the job that he is doing at present and it is highly improbable that they will put anyone else in his place. The weather has turned out very nice again, I hope it is the same for you.

The reason that Corpl Ledbury had a longer leave than I was he wrote back to say that he had been delayed with the train and they sent him back a chit saying that he was granted two days extension. I conclude Nellie Dear with love, please give my best wishes to all.

I remain

Your loving sweetheart

Frankxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

(P.S) Ask aunt the names of the other two, I only remember Terry (?) and the Colonel. Haha

War diary. 21st April quiet day, usual fatigues. 22nd April relieved South Staffs in Calonne, order of companies from right to left A, B and C, D being in support. 5th Brigade on the right, Middlesex on the left, Essex in support and South Staffs in Divsional reserve, very wet day and night. 23rd April intermittent shelling, some rifle grenades in afternoon. 24thd April shelling and grenades in morning, quiet afternoon and night. 25th April A lot of hostile shelling and rifle grenades, "gas alert" ordered in evening, leave re-opened. 26th April quiet day, relieved by 2nd South Staffs, moved to billets at Bully-Grenay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st Btn The King’s Reg

2nd Division

B.E.F.

29.4.16

My Dear Nell,

Have received your letter dated 14.4.16 with much pleasure. The question Uncle George put to you Nell is left entirely to you. You can bet that I have laughed several times about PF records.(1) No doubt dear the holiday would be dull, but Uncle’s coming would make things better, I guess; yes Ledbury has returned and I may state that we have had one very good evening together. Nick thoroughly enjoyed your cigar and he thanks you, also Ledbury. I conclude with love hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Yours etc

Frank xxxxxxxxxxxx

(PS) Remember me to Aunt and all at your home

  1. PF records. No idea what these are

War diary. 27th April hostile gas attack about 4am about 3 miles north, noisy day, gas warning again in the evening. 28th April quiet day, men bathed. 29th April hostile gas came across about 5am, quite ineffective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st The King’s (Lpool) Regt

2nd Division

Brit-Ex-Forces

France

5/5/16

My Dear Nell,

Have received your letters dated 27/4/16 and 1/5/16. I hope you are keeping well, am pleased to hear that Aunt is a little better. Without doubt Nell your trip to Brum would be rather dull, just think of it, two beautifull young ladies all alone at Easter time (Oh this war)

The weather is beautifull indeed, I hope it is for you also. Give my kindest regards to your lady friend. I remembered you to Nick and he says something about running me off. He’s been working very hard this past few days with very little sleep, you should hear his version about the war.

Corpl Ledbury is here with me, he has been very rude today. I have been two hours already writing so much. I now conclude with love Nellie Dear, so please remember me to all.

I remain

Your loving sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

P.S. What to do with Ireland (1)

  1. This must be referring to the Easter Uprising in Dublin. 24/4/1916 (Easter Monday) to 30/4/1916, when Irish Republican militants seized key locations in Dublin. It was suppressed by force and its leaders court martialled and executed.but succeeded in bringing physical force republicanism to the forefront of Irish politics.

War diary. 30th April quiet day, morning church service, marched up at 2.30 pm and relieved 2nd South Staffs at calonne. B company on right, C in centre, D on left, A in support. During the period the battalion was at Bully about 400 men were on fatigue every night under direction of RE.

The diary for may is missing but according to the British official History Military Operations, France and Flanders 1916 vol 1 the 2nd Division was enjoying a period of rest in Corps Reserve when the enemy attacked in force on Vimy Ridge 21 may. The Division was alterted and rushed to the support of the Divisions involved in the fight, and over the next few days carried out a number of localised attacks to halt the enemy and attempt to recapture the ground lost. No major effort was made once the line was stabilised as high command did not want to divert resources from the imminent Somme offensive . By 1 June the King’s were preparing for yet another of these local affairs,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ist The King’s Regt

Brit Ex Forces

France

15-5-16

My Dear Nell,

Received your most welcome letter on the 15-5-16. The idea of the men at your place using such grammar, they should sleep well at night and work hard by day with the knowledge of working on government equipment.

How has the compulsion bill been taken down at home, it has almost emptied the town of men now, has it not.

Yes Nellie I have given my thoughts to young Jack, and when he has got to go I do not think he will ever see this country. You are keeping Uncle’s birthday up on the 13th but his birthday comes on the 24th does it not.

The weather here is about the same as at home as far as I can make out, very changeable.

Nellie dear just say in your next letter what you would like me to get you, perhaps you would like a nice summer dress or something of that description, state what you require and I will have the money forwarded to you. Elsie (1) wrote and told me about her young mans trouble, the army of course. Did Dad get drunk on the 13th as you contemplated he would..

You will think I have been a long time writing, the papers at home will tell you the reason I missed 5 or 6 days without doing so (2)

This photo (3) Corpl Ledbury gave to me, we had been enjoying ourselves about three weeks ago, you can just show it to Ma Nell as it is the only one I have.

Well dearest I must conclude for the present so please remember me to all at your home, also Nan and your friend. I hope that Aunt & Uncle are keeping well in health.

Hoping to hear from you soon, with love

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank xxxxxxxxxxx

  1. Elsie Neal (Frank’s sister) eventually married in 1929
  2. This must refer to a campain
  3. This could well be the photo we have a copy of

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sergt F Neal

1st Battn The King’s Regt

Officers Instructional School

2nd Division

France

19-6-16

My Dear Nell

Have received your loving and most welcome letter with much pleasure on the 18th inst. Am very pleased that Aunt & Uncle are keeping well. I hope you are too, also Nan and all at home.

How is young Jack doing, has heard anything of going away yet. Well Nellie dear, my address is changed until the end of the month. I am on an officers course, two of us Sergeants have been selected from the Bttn more or less a fortnights rest (tres bien).

With regard to my former question Nellie if you wish me to answer it myself I say "yes, most decidedly". But we shall have to let matters remain as they stand for the present at least, until I get back to my rgt and arrange things.

You ask what F.E. means, well, well look again and ask yourself (Mon cher). Nick is at present on leave Nell, he should return tomorrow the 20th. You say at home they are expecting peaqce to be proclaimed by August, some people here say the same too, but I –er-well-er-it may be so. We have just had our time altered the same as you have, here I am trying to kid myself that it is 2.5 am and it is only 1.5 am. But anyway we have got to work by it so I think I’ll try to get a couple of hours unconsciousness. Please remember me to all at home. I sincerely hope that you continue to keep well in health Nellie Darling at present I am in the pink of condition and besat of spirits, hoping to hear from you soon.

I remain

Your loving

Sweetheart

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Service Post Card

Nothing to be written on this side except the date and signature of the sender. Sentences not required to be erased. If any thing else is added the post card will be destroyed

I am quite well

I have received no reply from you lately

F Neal Sergt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st the King’s Regt

2nd Division

B-E-F

5-6-16

Dearest Nellie,

Have received your lwetter with much pleasure, also the parcel with many thanks. You must not

Blame me dear for not writing more often, if you get the daily paper, they explain my lack of correspondence.(1) Nellie darling I must thank you again for your gift. I had been in the trenches, the firing line, not more than 30 yards from them, three days without a cigarette of my own when your parcel came. Have received Aunts PC. She suggested that I had been in the sun, what do you say (Moiselle au petit fille)

I am very pleased to know that Uncle got H.S. in fact I said that it was up to him to do so, months ago. Let me know Sweetheart when you are thinking about getting married, I am simply longing to see you again, so not laugh at this request Nell. I am quite serious. I conclude for the present with love hoping nto hear from you soon. Please remember me to all

I remain

Your F.E.

Frank

Xxxxxxxxxx

  1. The King’s part in Vimy Ridge.

War diary. 1 June, Quiet morning, heavy shelling all afternoon increasing in violence until it died away about midnight after the attack. After a bombardment of the enemy line, which left the section to be attacked very much as it was before, three bombing parties attacked up the Ersatz Alley, Boyau hartung and Boyau Gobron. The intention was that rgese three parties should establish themselves in the enemy line and each bomb to the left. After they had cleared the trench and got in touch with each other they were to dig in and consolidate. In the event of their being successful a fourth party was ready at the top of B Tanchot to get into communication with them at MomReserve parties were ready to support the attack and advanced dumps of bombs and RE stores wwere established. The party on the right under Lt Jamieson came under a shell barrage on their way up the communications trench and were wiped out without being able to close with the enemy. Their supporting party had no better luck. The centre party under Lt head effected an entrance into the hostile trench and though subjected to a severe fire remained there for about three quarters of an hour, Finally they were ordered to withdraw as the two parties on their flanks had been unsuccessful. This they did slowly and in good order. The left party under 2/lt Hewson found themselves enfiladed by machine gun fire. They made several attempts and lost heavily and finally were ordered to abandon their enterprise. There were about 80 casaulties

2nd June very quiet day

3rd June Camouflet blown by Germans near kennedy Crater. Lt Wilson killed by gas in endeavouring to effect rescue of two miners caught in the fallen gallery. Several NCOs and men also went down suffering from gas poisoning. Shelling in morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walsall 24/6/16

My Dear Frank

Your letter to hand on the 23/6/16. I am pleased to hear you are keeping well. Fancy you going in for an officers course. I suppose ther is promotion in view.

Frank before you make any arrangements you must inform your mother.

I am pleased to hear old Nick has had his leave. I hope he had a good time.

All at home are in the pink, as you say and also myself, must conclude now with love hoping to hear from you soon.

Yours

Affect

Nell xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postcard from frank addressed to Mr G Neal No 20 Hall St Walsall Staffs

Dear Uncle

I write these few lines to you hopingto find you in the best of health, and am quite well at present. I am getting on fine and I like it a treat. Please drop me a line. Frank

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carte Postale of Bethune, le Beffroi de la Cathedrale

Dearest Nell,

Hope you received my last letter. It seems quite a long time since I last heard from you and I hope you and all at home are well. I am at present studying bombs but have almost finished now, hoping to see you soon. Frank xxx

(PS) I expect a couple of letters from you are awaiting me with my Regt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cpl H Ledbury

1st Batt Kings Liverpool Regt

2nd Division

B.E.F.

France

2/7/16

DEAR Miss Bentley,

It is with pain I address these few lines to you on behalf of my pal Sergt Neal to let you know that he is wounded (1) but don’t upset yourself, it is not very bad but still it isn’t all that good but he is on his way to England now. I hope he will soon recover and be with you all soon. Would you be so kind and oblige me by letting his mother and father know about it. I would write if I had time but really I have not but I would esteem it a great favour if you will let them know.

I have been with him all the time and I assure you I shall miss him because we were together every hour we had to spare and I think he sent you a photo of myself and him but |I don’t know what you thought about it (2), but I hope we are both spared to have them taken again. I have got his notebook with your photo in and another little thing, but I shall post them to you first chance I get so I shall take care of them till such time as I can post them, so I must close now with kind remembrance to his Mother, father, Sister, Brother, yourself and I will wish him every success for a speedy recovery

I remain

His old chum

Corpl H Ledbury

(1) Could Frank have been wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme? The Somme attack started 1/7/1916 at 7.30am with the detonation of 17 mines, the first one actually going off at 7.20

  1. I presume this is the photo we have of Frank with a fellow soldier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice of Non-Delivery of Telegram from Walsall Post Office July 12th 1916

Addressed to Bentley Cliff & Co

I beg leave to inform you that your telegram handed in at the Walsall Post Office on the 11th July addressed to Matron 5th Casaulty Charing Cross Station has not be delivered for the reason indicated below

Uncleid [?] unknown at stn or hospital

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[?]

[?} 1st Kings Liverpool Regt

B.E.F.

27/8/16

Dear Miss Bentley,

It gives me great pain in answering your letter which I received the other day informing me of the death of my dear old chum Frank. I assure you it was a very big surprise and shock to me, because I do think he would pull through because of his brave pluck that he had when he was wounded. Everyone thought he would recover. But I see he has not but all that I can say is that I hope he is safe in heaven and I assure you you have my deepest sympathy in your sad bereavement, also Mr & Mrs Neal and family, and I will miss him more than anyone out here because we were such big chums and we were always talking about Walsall or Wyrley but I can safely say he was a celan? And one of the bravest soldiers anyone could wish to see, and he will be greatly missed by all his pals of the regiment.

You ask me about his ring, well he had it on the last time I saw him, but you will find everything will be sent on to you, but I have one more thing that belongs to him, and I have only just got it off one of the sergeants and that is his cap badge he worm the last time he had his cap on, but I am really afraid to send it by post in case it would get lost and I would like to give it to his Mother or father but I am very glad you got the beads safe (1). Miss Bentley thanks very much for delivering that message to Mrs Carter it was very kind of you indeed, well I cannot write anymore tonight as I am feeling none too well, but I hope and trust that I shall see you all before long and then I can talk things over.

I beg to remain

Yours respectfully

Corpl H Ledbury

P.S. I will do my upmost to find out what became of his ring and I would very much like a letter from his Mother or Father, please ask them to drop me a line or two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RAMC

Batt 1st Kings Liverpool Regt

2nd Division

BEF

30/10/16

Dear Miss Bentley.

It gives me great pleasure in addressing these first few lines to you hoping they will find you in the best of health, as it leaves me with a very bad cold at present hoping to be well again soon.

This is the third letter I have sent you but have not received an answer, but my commanding officer has just been telling me about not writing, well you know I always wrote since Frank died, and moreover I was coming to see you the Sunday before I came back, only Mrs Neil and Frank’s brother came down to our house, and of course I gave them the cap badge also the card that Frank put his address on, but I expect you know all about that by now, but I promise you any time I receive a letter from you I shall be only too pleased to answer it by return and trusting you will not think that I have neglected writing, but I hope to hear from you soon. Give kindest wishes to Mrs Neil and family, also yourself

I am yours

Obedient Cpl H Ledbury

P.S. Don’t delay in writing

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