A poem described hard training for frontline

A proud keeper of his family’s history has shared a series of emotional letters and postcards which were exchanged between his grandfather-in-law and other relatives during World War One.

Monday, 2nd June 2014, 11:00 am
Chesterfield WW1 feature John Cuttriss

John Cuttriss, of Newbold, Chesterfield, takes pride in his grandfather-in-law James William Berresford’s time during The Great War as the nation now prepares for the centenary of the start of the conflict in August.

Mr Cuttriss said: “I have managed to paint a picture of family life during the war from a collection of photographs, mementoes, messages and postcards and letters sent back and forth from the front line and I have become an unofficial keeper of the family’s war history.”

James was born on January 27, 1886, and was married to Ada and had a daughter Edna. He lived in Brampton and worked as a miner and later worked at Robinsons’ packaging, in Chesterfield, before he was called up for service during the First World War in January, 1917.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Among correspondence is a postcard and poems from Rugeley training camp where they endured terrible conditions to prepare them for the frontline in Belgium and France.

The poem states all you hear is “Stand at Ease”, “Slope Arms”, “Quick March”, “Attention”, “It’s miles from anywhere, by God it’s a rum ‘un”.

James posted a marvellous postcard to Edna which names all the battles which were fought so bravely by his regiment with a message that read, “Dear little Edna”, “From your Old Dad”. Another card from Ada to James depicts two soldier’s boots and she states, “Dear Old Lad, I should just like to hear these at 2 in the morning (if they was yours)”.

James embarked at Folkestone on May 3, 1917, and disembarked at Boulagne/Etaples, France, the following day and saw active service at the front with the 11th Battalion the Cheshire Regiment.

In March, 1918, he was granted leave to see his daughter who had contracted measles and he was not allowed to return to the frontline until the house was no longer considered infectious.

His record shows James sustained a gunshot wound to his right leg in 1917 which turned septic and in April 1918 he was also gassed and he had various spells in and out of hospitals at Etaples, Boulogne and Rouen.

He received a letter from daughter Edna reflecting the sentiments of so many children during the war. It stated, “We go to the pictures Dad and we like them but we shall like them better when you are at home to take us”.