Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Messages from the Royal Herbert to Nelson in Lancashire

Now this photograph of the Royal Herbert will be familiar to many and it is one that I have featured countless times.

But what makes this one unique is the message on the back which was sent to a Mrs Durson in Nelson, Lancashire and takes us back to the Great War.

It was written by Bert who was recovering in the hospital to his sister and is dated May 1st 1916 and begins with apologies for not writing and goes on to report that “I am making good progress and I  am being allowed up for an hour this afternoon.”

All of which you might expect from a letter home from a soldier in hospital, but what is more revealing is its reference to conscription.

So having commented on his own health and the weather Bert went on to ask about Frank and expressed the “hope they haven’t taken him away from you yet, but you know it’s only a matter of time for all eligible men now. 

 Our Bob will be 18 next month and that will be another of us in the army.”

In all the letters and postcards I have read from the Great War this is the first I have come across where someone directly comments on the impact of conscription on his own family.

And it also points to the sacrifice almost every family was making for the war which in this case amounted to three from the same family.

Of course if any of us track our own families the chances are there will be a similar story.

We can count a great grandfather, one of our grandfather’s two great uncles and two uncles who joined or rejoined the Colours from 1914-18.

Ours all came through but as yet I have no idea about Bert, Frank of the youngest lad.

Location Woolwich, Nelson

Pictures; from a postcard of the Royal Herbert, 1916 from the collection of David Harrop

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