WW1 Letters & Diairies
Pte.Edward Spinks sent over thirty letters home to his sister and family, tracking his journey from Ipswich to the western front. They tell a tale of his worries and fears for his family at home and his life in the trenches in 1915 serving in the 4th Battalion the Suffolk regiment.
Pte.Rowland Woodard kept an extensive diary and scrap book of his journey from England to Mesopotamia, sending many letters home which we have included
in the timeline. The diary is of his thoughts and feelings of Army life with an insight into life around the world in 1917.
I suppose by now you have heard the bad news about your husband and I am writing to tell you the few details there are to tell and to ask you to accept the deepest sympathy of myself and the other officers in your great affliction.
The Battery was shelled from about half past seven to half past eight on the morning of the 24th May and was again shelled from 9 nine o’clock on. The sergeants had gone to breakfast in the interval when the first shell of the second lot burst on their mess, smashing in the roof on them. Sergeant Dubery, whom you may know as a friend of your husband’s, was the only one saved: he was wounded; we went in to see to the others at once but they had died instantly and clearly without any pain. They were buried in the military cemetery some way behind on the same night. The general and colonel were to have attended the funeral but, as things were still a little upset, they had to send officers both who had known the battery and known your husband and the others, and I, and those NCOs who could be spared, went to pay our last respects.
Your husband’s effects have been sent to the Base and should reach you promptly. The grave has had a cross put up with the names on and we are going to send over some flowers. A few letters have arrived since addressed to your husband. I propose to destroy these if you agree.
I can only tell you a little in this letter of how very great the loss has been to us and ask you to feel how deeply our sympathy goes out to you. It may be a consolation to you, as it was a relief to me , to know certainly that death was immediate and painless and we who saw them buried were able give evidence that their spirits went away without stain and blemish to another life.
Your husband was one of the very best in the battery who helped make it a good fighting unit as it is and I am proud to have had such men under my command. Whether it was mending a gun or building a battery position or any of the other manifold duties entrusted to him he worked keenly and energetically and always successfully. I do not know where his equal for his job could be found.
He was liked and admired by all the men and could be trusted to command them as well as do his own technical work. At the time I was short of officers and he had almost charge of the Battery when I was observing.
How can I do anything for you more than the sympathy which I hope you will accept as from a friend if so, let me know to C236 Battery 236 Brigade RFA BEF France.
One or two letters have come since, addressed to him and unless you object I propose to destroy them
Percy J Clifton, Major
Spencer Freeman Squirrell
Great War Diary 1914 – 1918
Spencer returned to England from Australia in 1938 and lived in London during the second world war serving as an ARP warden. He died in September 1969 Cambridge, Cambridgeshire England.
His War diaries had been in safe keeping all this time. His nephew Peter transcribed them in 2014. Many names and places were hard to transcribe. Pages not opened since the days they had been written. Sand and mud left between the pages from 100+ years ago, but the diary gives a good idea of army life with day to day duties in the trenches, as well as descriptions of major battles.
EADT article on Spencer.