A Cheery Letter Home with News from France

Corporal William Horne, Royal Field Artillery (1889-1953)

William Horne was born in Broadway in 1889 when his parents, Francis and Elizabeth Horne were living in Bell Yard just off the High Street (Main Street) in the village. By 1901 he had moved with his widowed mother and younger brother, Percy, to the Silk Mill thatched cottages along the Snowshill Road. William later found work locally as a Railway Platelayer and at the time of the 1911 Census he had married Agnes Maud Turner (from Snowshill) and had one daughter, Eva, who was a week old.

William’s Cheery Letter Home with News from France

William enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War. Whilst in France he wrote the following letter home to Agnes in June 1916:

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still in the land of the living. How is Tom getting on? I wonder if he can speak French yet? I can manage it all right till it comes to the words and then I have finished. I expect David2 has had a few tongue twisters by now. I was in a house one day, and a mate of mine came in and wanted some bread. In the phrase book it is ‘Ler Pang’ and would you believe it for the life of him he could not mouth it, but he said ‘Japan’ and it did just as well, for he got the bread. We are going on very well: get a few Taubes1 over now and then, but we soon get over small troubles like that. We just wait till one gets over us, and then make a noise like an anti-aircraft gun and its soon out of the way.

Last Autumn we were bothered a bit by mice; now it’s cats. Mother sent me a nice cake yesterday, and they must have got wind of it, for after I had been asleep half an hour something woke me up I saw two cats dragging the cake box towards the door. As luck would have it I had put the remains of the cake in my haversack, and only left a biscuit in the cake box. I just spoke, and they went out to try the next villa, we have now got a nice little place to live in; it’s not what you would call a palace, but it’s all right. It was all right anyway until last night some of us played a game on our next door neighbours. For a roof we had a wagon sheet, and after our game was up they let us get in bed and put the light out, and then cut the sheet just over where one chap was sleeping, and poured half a pail of water over his face. We all went into spasms laughing. He jumped up but could not find any matches. He knows a good bit of English and he didn’t slip it out, for he’s got a pretty good flow of language at any time.

It’s nice out here now. I mean the weather of course. I was up at a ‘certain place’ the other night, and got into conversation with two infantry chaps. One asked the other what he enlisted for, and he replied twelve years. The other said ‘Lucky chap; I’m in for the duration of the war!’ So he evidently did not think it was going to be a short one.

I must now draw to a conclusion or I shall be too late for the pictures.

William returned home to Broadway at the end of the war and died, aged 63 in 1953. At the time of his death he was living at 1 Mill Avenue in the village.

 

Debbie Williamson
Broadway Remembers

Notes:

  1. A taube was a German monoplane aircraft.
  2. David Francis Horne (1875-1935), William’s older brother.
Advertisements