Friday, 18 October 2013

Keeping romance alive with a rhyme

MANY romances fell by the wayside when men enlisted for war, but Nellie Jones was determined to keep hers going when her sweetheart Harry Poole, right, joined the Army Veterinary Corps.
Nellie sent him picture postcards which came with rhyming messages that were lighthearted - but still serious enough to get the point across.
'It seems a thousand years ago, the day you went away. I'm lonesome and I'd like to know, how long you're going to stay,' was the message on one of the first cards she sent Harry in March 1916 when he was stationed at the Army Veterinary Hospital at Round Green, Luton.
The following month another followed in similar vein: 'I'm truly glad that you have had this chance to be a rover. A trip is nice, but I'll be twice as glad when it's over.'
Harry's work involved looking after army horses and he was moved to bases all over southern England including Pitt Corner Camp at Winchester, the veterinary hospital at Bulford, Wiltshire, and the Remount Depot at Shirehampton, near Bristol. This is where 'war horses' that were shipped to Avonmouth from abroad recovered before being put to work.
As the months passed by Nellie appears to have grown used to separation although she still sent Harry the odd nudge if letters became infrequent: 'Here's a picture of a penny I will very gladly lend, if you'll promise to invest it in a postcard for your friend.'
And by the end of 1916 it was Nellie who was doing the apologising:'Oh, what's the use of an excuse, to send along to you! I owe a letter, I should do better, and send it when it's due!'
Harry remained at Shirehampton until demobilisation in1919 and then went to work in Staffordshire as a gamekeeper for Sir Geoffrey Congreve. He and Nellie were finally married in 1923.


The postcards have been passed down to the couple's grandaughter, Helen Frost, who also has some lovely informal photographs of Harry's friends in the Army Veterinary Corps, like the picture on the left.

However, she is puzzled by one piece of information which has recently come to light, that at some point in his career Harry was invalided out of  'the Blues' (the Royal Horse Guards) under a 'Sergeant Norman'. It's a shot in the dark, but if anyone knows how Helen could shed more light on Harry Poole's service in the Guards, do contact me at and I'll put you in touch.

Friday, 4 October 2013

A taste of things to come in my book ...

This month you can take a sneak preview of my book 'Letters from the Trenches' in the latest issue of Discover Your History magazine.

Among the articles is one in which I examine some of the themes most often found in letters written home by First World War soldiers - and surprisingly, perhaps, they're rather mundane.

The weather, the post and toothache were among the most common talking points, which just goes to show that for much of the time Tommies weren't living lives that could be described as exciting. On the contrary, they were often tedious, boring, dirty and cold, with few of the comforts we take for granted

Discover Your History is a new magazine - this is only the second edition - which is packed with fascinating features and colourful illustrations which will inspire anyone with an interest in social history.

This month you can read about the English secretary who became a French Resistance leader in the Second World War, the man who worked as a film set carpenter at the famous London Film Studios in the 1930s, and Henry Poole & Co, the company which founded Savile Row - the bespoke tailor patronised by royalty, statesmen and the aristocracy.

Discover Your History is on sale now, but you'll have to wait a little longer for Letters from the Trenches which will be out next year.