In 1913 the area around Buckingham park was peaceful open farm land. Locals had no idea that this was about to change; Kitcheners army was soon to take over the entire area and things would be very different.
Following the declaration of war in August 1914 an army of soldiers would come to live in tents on this open grassland but unfortunately heavy rain began to fall in October 1914 turning the area into a mud bath.
A great improvement was made in the early months of 1915 when the accommodation huts, rapidly constructed during the winter of 1914-15 were deemed fit for habitation and a new temporary town was born. These pages give some idea of where the camp was located and what some of it looked like.
The tented camp was rapidly assembled during 1914. The conditions were so bad with heavy rain and mud that the troops were moved out of the tents in September so that a more permanent wooden hut camp could be constructed.
The following extracts of letters were written by three Goodchild brothers between 1914 and 1916. Henry Finch the nephew of the brothers has kindly allowed clips from the letters to be included here.
The first set was sent by 15103 Pte Arthur Goodchild, Suffolk Regt (date of birth 25 November 1896) to his mother from September 1914 (enlisted) to July 1916 (discharged?). AG enlisted in Kitchener’s New Army although under age and with defective hearing.
- Letter 1 — Probably written in Ipswich
- Letter 2 — From the tented camp in Shoreham
- Letter 3 — Talks about the construction of the hutment camp on Slonk Hill
- Letter 4 — Some talk about the rain
- Letter 5 — More talk of rain
- Letter 6 — Arthur has his photograph taken
- Letter 7 — More rain
- Letter 8 — Rain
- Letter 9
- Letter 10 — Sentry duty
The full collection of letters can be read at http://goodchilds.org/the-letters/
— Brian Drury
Letter 1 — Probably written in Ipswich
no date [c. 16 September 1914]
I am writing to tell you where I am, am in the Ranelagh Road school and I think I shall stop here all this week. I slept in a room with about fifteen more last night, and all they done till about 1 o’clock was laugh and talk. My pigs sold well as Ned told you, ask father to settle with Nunn, the bills are in that box on the drawers upstairs and 25s too. I think I owe Nunn about four guineas. I sent father’s watch by H.Foulger and told him to tell you I had enlisted, and could not get home last night. I passed the doctor quite easily, and I will come home on Saturday if I get chance.
Letter 2 — From the tented camp in Shoreham
no address (Shoreham)
no date (c. end September 1914)
I am writing to ask you if you will please send my watch. If I ask somebody the time they always tell me wrong. I was late on parade once. I am going to send my boots and a shirt they gave me at Ipswich home on Saturday. We moved our tents today from Slonk Hill to Buckingham Park about half a mile. I am quite alright and so is Ned. From your affectionate
Letter 3 — Talks about the construction of the hutment camp on Slonk Hill
A Coy, 9 Batt., Sffk Regt
Shoreham by Sea
no date [c. 1 October 1914]
I got my watch quite safe last night and I thank you for sending it. I am sending home my boots and a razor and shirt they gave me at Ipswich. Cecil can have the shirt if he pay the postage for my watch. They have given me an army shirt, it is a thick one and I shall not want my other vest for I shall send the one I have got home. The first week I was here I only got 4s but I shall get the other three at the end of the quarter. Last night I got 17s, 10s allowed for my clothes. Ned got his too. I am going to send my 10s home but I don’t know if Ned is going to send his. I have not got a coat yet but I think they will give me one tonight, they have given some out. I am not in the same tent as Ned nor in the same Company but his tent is not far off mine. They are half exsoldiers in my tent, all strangers to me but four of them enlisted the same day as I did, so I know a little about them. We are not forced to be inoculated but I am going to be done and so is Ned, Sutton and Stanley Clarke. We all caught colds the first night but mine is nearly better now. We are going to be in tents about another month and then we are going in huts they are now building They are building them on the hill we moved from on Tuesday. I don’t know if Ned told you but we’ve heard the Suffolk Regt is going to Yarmouth. I don’t know if it is right but I hope it is for I should be a little nearer home, for after all I wish I had not come into this. I feel sorry for you at home, you must be lonely but don’t worry about me for I can look after myself. We may get a short holiday at Xmas. If the war went on well for our side I feel sure we should. They are discharging some from here, but I do not think they will discharge me. I should not care if they did. H Broom told me he did not like it the first time he saw me but I don’t mind it and Ned say he like it but the war won’t last long, not more than four months. If H Broom could not manage to save no more than 19s at home he won’t save anything here, but I’ll try to save four shillings a week out of seven. I wrote this part of the letter before 9 o’clock. We had to fall in then to be inoculated, we went to another camp nearer the town and were done one after the other. In less than ten minutes three had fallen down but it has not had any effect on me, yet I will write and tell you how I get on with it. All this week we have been for a route march every morning before breakfast. I like that better than drilling. We have got some old rifles and are learning to handle them, but we are not going to shoot with them. We shall have new ones in about a month. There are regiments here from all over the country, but most of them are Notts and Derbys. They have all got blue uniforms and I expect we shall have blue uniforms too. There are nearly 20,000 soldiers here, and in the town last night there was the most people that ever I saw in my life. Every shop and pub was full and outside was just the same. I could not hardly move sometimes. I started from the camp with Ned and Sutton but I lost them as soon as I got into the town. We have been down to the beach to bathe twice, the first time was last Thursday week, it was a bit cold that day but on Wednesday it was hot and I stripped and went in. The beach here is not like Felixstowe, you can walk half a mile into the water before you are up to your neck. They are strict here, they don’t like us to smoke fags but they don’t mind pipes. I bought a pipe but I can’t stick to it, so am sending it home for father. I hope you are all as well as I am, from yours affectionately
Letter 4 — Some talk about the rain
A Coy 9 Sffk Regt
Shoreham by Sea
Sussex, 10 October 
I have got over the first inoculation. I had letter from George yesterday, he say the second time is worse than the first. I hope it is not much worse for the first was bad enough. My arm was useless for two days. I could not even get it in my pocket., but it’s all right now and I feel as well as ever I did. I am sending 3/6 home and I think I will send the same every week. If I kept it here it would not be safe and perhaps I should spend some of it. I shall still have 3[?5]/6 to spend. George say he don’t save much, there’s a lot of amusement and he go out too often. Has Ned sent any money home yet, I don’t expect he has. I’ve not asked him. We have to practise our eyesight and hearing the same as George did in the dark. We had an hour of it last night and are going to have four hours next week. We drill by signals now instead of speaking to us. They blow a low whistle and we look round and they signal by the arm. We still go for a route march every morn before breakfast. They must have had more rain down here during the summer than we had in Sffk for the beet here are the biggest I’ve ever seen. There are market garden farms about here, and cows and sheep on the hills. There are no hedges about the hills, only a few wire fences. Men and dogs strand and keep the sheep and cows. When we go for a route march they let us sing and play mouth organs, smoke pipes but not cigarettes. They say that the paper poison us. I smoke fags when I am off parade. I wrote this part of the letter before dinner. I have since had my uniform, it’s a blue one with black buttons and a red stripe on the cap. I will have my photo taken and send you one and then you will see what I look like. Perhaps I will send my clothes home on Monday, they will only be in the way in the tent. I sleep warmer of a night now. I used to lay one of my blankets down and cover myself up with the other, and I used to wake up as cold as ice. But now three of us put our blankets together, lay two down and cover ourselves up with four, and it’s just as warm as a bed then. We have all we can eat. There’s 14 in our tent now and we have 7 loaves of bread a day, plenty of cheese, butter and jam. We have hot sausages for breakfast, sometimes bacon. We have hot beef and potatoes for dinner. We have not had a cold dinner only once, and that was when we come from Ipswich. We had some good cake last Sunday for tea, and I always have all the tea I can drink. I eat more here than I did at home. The men in our tent say I am a good eater. I eat as much as two of the others sometimes. I never buy no food in the town of a night, but I have some before I go to bed and when I wake up too. The corporals used to be all in one tent, but now they are with the privates. In some tents they used to use bad language at night (but not our tent) so the corporals were put there to keep them quiet. There’s one corporal in our tent. Ned got his kitbag yesterday, but I’ve not got mine yet. Has he wrote home this weekend and has he sent his boots home. I’ve no more to say now, hope Hilda is alright, and all of you, as I am
Avery’s card This is what I weighed tonight: 11st 1lb 8 oz
Tell me if you get the PO safe
Letter 5 — More talk of rain
A Coy 9th Sffk Regt,
Shoreham by Sea, Sussex
no date [c. 15 October 1914]
I weigh 1 stone more than Ned, and S Clarke weigh 3lb more than me
I received your letter Tuesday dinnertime and am glad you got PO [Postal Order] safe. I shall not be able to send any money home this week for there are a few little things I want to get. I want a clothes brush and boot brushes and I want to go to Brighton on Sunday. It is six miles from here, too far to walk so I shall go by train. I have been once. But I will send half my money next week. I meant to have told in my first letter that I get on quite well about hearing for I knew you would wonder about me. They have noticed me in my tent, but they say the same as Peter Harris did, they say I hear when I like. They took me to be stupid at first, but after a week they said my old head was screwed on right and so it is. They have not noticed me in the ranks for they all speak plain. I have had several messages whispered to me to pass along and have heard them the first time, so I know I shall get on alright about that so don’t worry. In my company we have all got three good blankets each and a good overcoat each. Mine is an extra good one, it is thick and warm. I don’t think Ned has got his overcoat yet, they were too big for him, but he has got his uniform. It’s the same make as mine, and he has got his kitbag too, but I’ve not got mine. I expect it every day. I have had my photo taken, but I don’t think it’s come out very well, I look rather too serious and the glass of the camera must have been a bit dirty one side. I will be taken again full size at Brighton on Sunday by daylight. This one was taken at night by gaslight and I think they were ready too soon. They didn’t give them time to set properly, they were ready in twenty four hours.
I will not volunteer for any service abroad or anything of the kind. I don’t intend to go out of England, but I may be forced, for I can see a very serious time coming for our country. I have not seen any Belgian refugees but I’ve heard there are some at Folkestone and Brighton. I feel sorry for the poor people, their country is ruined sure enough. I didn’t come here with the intention of liking the drill, but it’s better than hard work. The way to get on is to do what you are told, they don’t find fault with me but some of the others are very awkward and stupid. Some don’t try, they have discharged some of the extra awkward ones. The officers do have a lot to think about, I shouldn’t like to be one. There was a young Cobbold here (an officer), one of the brewer’s sons, but he went away this week, I don’t know where to. We have had a change of the weather this week, we hadn’t had a drop of rain for three weeks, it’s rained a little every day since Monday. Where there used to be five inches of dust there is half a foot of mud now, but it will soon dry up if we get a fine day or two. I should have liked to have seen Cecil with the lantern, I reckon that scared him for a little while, but I dare say you all laughed about it afterwards. We still have plenty to eat and to spare and I hope it will keep so. This week there have been children with bags round after spare bread. They gave them two whole loaves of good bread out of our tent one night, but I don’t think they ought, for I think if it goes on long they will give us a shorter supply and perhaps we shall have to go short. The streets of Shoreham are not quite so crowded as they used to be, we can get in shops a lot easier. A lot of the soldiers go to Southwick, Portslade, Kingston, Dyke, or Wortham, but I never go anywhere only Shoreham. I can get all I want there. There is no amusement here of any sort, not even a fair. There is a big tent for the Sffk Regt alone to read and write in (that’s where I write this letter), play all kinds of games, and it’s open all day until nine at night. And there is the YMCA and Salvation Army tent. We deserve to be treated well, we have given up good homes for our country. I often go to Ned’s tent and talk to him, he never grumble, we are both as happy as the days are long. I have no more to say this time, write as often as you can, I like your letters, I read them through and through. I’ve read the last one at least 8 times. It must cost several pence for stamps, take a 1s or 2s of my money for stamps if you like. I must close now with love to all from your affectionate
What kind of a hand am I at writing letters, I have not been used to it
I wrote this letter yesterday (Thursday). There is always something I forget to tell you. I meant to have told you about my washing. I put it with the others and it’s taken away, I don’t know where to, I have to pay 3½d a week for it. I take everything off at night now except shirt and pants for now we have plenty of blankets. The men make me laugh at night in my tent, the most I’ve laughed in my life, sometimes we don’t go to sleep before 11 o’clock but we have to be up at 5.30. It’s dark now so we have a candle.
There is something else I meant to tell you but forgot it now.
I thought of what I meant to tell you at last, I have not sent my clothes home yet. I will send them by rail to Woodbridge for they will take soldiers things free of charge.
You can get T Dye to call for them. I will send a card when I send them.
Letter 6 — Arthur has his photograph taken
A Coy, 9th Sffk Tegt,
Shoreham by Sea, Sussex
19 October 1914 [postmark]
Ned, me and Sutton went to Brighton yesterday and had our photos taken. We all come out well I think. We are all inclined to laugh. There was an old man standing at the side of camera, he made us laugh. I thought I should get on alright about hearing but they have noticed this last week. They were calling out names for kitbags on Saturday and I didn’t hear mine the first time, they called it the second and then the sergeant asked me if I was deaf and I told him no. I should have heard only I was looking round the other way with my right ear to him. They have noticed me more in my tent too. I believe I shall get my discharge but I am not sure. I shall not mind if I do and I don’t expect you will either. Write and tell me if you like me to or not. Is there plenty of work at home, I mean I don’t want to come home and be out of work. Did you get my last letter. I hope you are all as well as I am, with love to you all, from your affectionate
The following image is the photo that Arthur is describing.
From left to right:
Arthur Goodchild – Arthur survived the war
Sutton Smith – Sutton was killed in March 1917
Ned Goodchild. – Ed was killed on 19 Dec 1915
Letter 7 — More rain
A Coy, 9th Sffk Regt,
Shoreham by Sea, Sussex
no date [c. 24 October 1914]
I have not sent my waistcoat, I am wearing that
I received your letter and postcards this week . I am glad you got my clothes safe. They were not long getting home were they, for I got your postcard in less than 48 hours. I am sending two pairs of socks, for I have got my army socks, and am sending some sweets for Hilda. Tell Hilda Santa Claus is not at the war, he is going to stop at home. That wouldn’t do to get him killed, she wouldn’t have anything for Christmas. I don’t think I shall get discharged after all. I never ought to have told you anything about it. I should not have told anything if it had not been for a chap in our own tent, he told me that Corporal Butley told him I was going to get my discharge.
I had seen him talking to him so I believed it, but the next day he told me he was only laughing, Corporal Butley never told him no such thing. They have only noticed me in my tent, but as I told you before, the Sergt Major noticed me on Saturday (last) when he called my name out for my kitbag. He asked me if I was deaf but I told no, and he didn’t take any more notice. The day after I got your postcard, saying you would like me to come home, I went to the orderly Corporal of A Company and told him I was a little deaf, so I had to go to the doctor’s tent. They syringed my right ear and tested my hearing with a watch, but the syringing didn’t do any good, and they asked me if ever I had been sent off parade. I hadn’t, so I had to tell them no. When I came out they gave me a paper, it said on it (Medical Duty) that meant if I didn’t get any worse I was fit for the service. I asked the Corporal in our tent if he thought I would get discharged, he said no, they won’t discharge such a chap as you. You are sound everywhere except your hearing, and you are only slightly deaf. They are more particular about eyesight and our feet and legs. There has been nearly 20 discharged in A Company for that. I know one way how I could get out of it, by playing the fool, but I shan’t do that for I should have to go through a lot of trouble and then get a bad character. I suppose I shall have to stick to it, and make the best of it, same as I always have done. You mustn’t mind, for I don’t think it will be for long. The papers have had better reports in them lately. They didn’t look very well a little while back.
We had a rough day or two this week, it has been windy and stormy. On Thursday night as soon as it was dark it rained pouring for half an hour or more. The water ran in our tents and we thought we were in for a rough night. It was a lucky thing for us it didn’t rain like that long. We made holes in the ground with tent pegs and a mallett and let the water in.. Ned, Sutton and S Clarke slept in the recreation tent and so did a lot more. That’s where we had a good mind to go but it was so muddy outside so we kept where we were. The huts they are building for us will soon be ready. Some will be ready in a week but some won’t be ready for a month. They have carted nearly all the timber. There were 9 or 10 traction engines going for nearly a fortnight, Sundays and all, so were the carpenters at work on Sunday, there are fifty or sixty horses still carting wood and about 300 men employed on the building. It’s being done by a contractor from London. These huts are built of all wood roofs and all, so if they were to catch fire they would very soon be down. I don’t think we shall ever go in these huts (I mean the Sffk Regt). I think when the weather gets worse so we can’t be in tents we shall either come to Suffolk or Essex. We hear all kinds of rumours about going away but I shan’t believe anything till they tell me to pack up. I shall believe then. They have sent all the old soldiers from here to Felixstowe. Some went today, 4 out of our tent, and I expect we shall be that way before long. I shall come home for the weekend if I can then. They used to allow passes here from 9 am on Saturday to 12 pm on Sunday, but they don’t allow them so long now, only for 24 hours. It’s too far for me to come home from here isn’t it, and it would cost a lot. I will write at least once a week and I hope you’ll do the same. I shan’t be able to send any money home this week. We didn’t have only 6s, just about enough to amuse ourselves with. I can’t write any more now, it makes my fingers ache. I haven’t been used to it. I hope you are all as well as I am, with love to you all, from your affectionate
I promised Hilda I would send her something, I expect she told you so
Letter 8 — Rain
A Coy, 9th Suffolk Regt, Shoreham by Sea, Sussex
28 October 1914
Ned got your letter tonight and he let me read it, glad you got the little parcel, father can have the socks, did Hilda like the sweets, I will send her some better ones in a week or two. So George come home on Saturday, how long did he stop, not many hours I don’t expect for it’s such a long way to go and they won’t allow long passes. Does he look well, he can’t look much better than what Ned and me do. I feel strong and well, the army is making a man of me. I have learnt what rough life is, I shan’t know how to feel when I sleep in a bed again and have my meals off a table, after sleeping on the floor and having my blankets for a chair and my knees or the floor for a table. You would laugh to see us sitting round the tent, laughing and talking, all as happy as can be. I have got used to the men in our tent, they seem like old friends now, three of them (old soldiers) went to Felixstowe last Saturday, but we have got three more in their places. One of them is a rare tall fellow, he stand 6ft 3¾ in his socks, he take up a lot of room in the tent, nearly as much as two of the others. We have had a lot of rain lately and it’s made it bad for getting about. It’s funny soil about here, very greasy, just like walking on a lot of soap. We can’t hardly keep our feet sometimes. W didn’t take any harm last Sunday although it rained all the afternoon and until about ten at night. The water ran in our tents but it didn’t wet our clothes. Some of us were afraid it might rain again so we carried our blankets and slept in the recreation tent, it was dry in there. The next day we had boards to put in our tents and they gave us half a day to put them in. It was an easy job for the boards were in four pieces and we had only to lay them down. We can keep our clothes and blankets cleaner, and if it rain a lot the water can run under the boards so we shan’t take any harm. Last Friday the whole Sffk Batt went for a route march, we went towards Chichester about eleven miles there and back. I like route marches for we see about the country and it’s a nice change for us, they tell us to sing and they like them to play mouth organs. We sing all kinds of songs but “Tipperary” is the favourite. The people cheer us when they pass and the women come out to the gates to look at us. I expect the people at Shoreham and round about feel as safe as can be, for the Sffk Batt alone is nearly ¾ of a mile long, four deep. I expect they think Germany could never conquer England, well, we know they can’t, but there will be a rare hard struggle and a lot of lives lost, for Germany won’t give up yet. They have got it into their heads that they can crush England, but they will never do that, well, at least we hope not, we must all do our best for the honour of country. I wish I had never said anything to you about my discharge. I was very silly to do such a thing, you must have been disappointed when I wrote and told you I couldn’t get it, but pray don’t worry about me for I can look after myself. I am sure I shan’t take a bit of harm. I have got good clothes and boots. I will write at least once a week, and I have made up my mind to save 2/6 a week starting on Friday so will send postal order home every Friday night or Saturday. I hope you are all as well as I am.
With love to you all from your loving
write as often as you can for I like your letters and I expect you like mine, don’t stand for paying for stamps, take a 1s or 2s of my money
I will write to you often and then you won’t feel quite so lonely
A Coy 9th Batt Sffk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
31 October 1914
Did you get the last letter I sent, and have you sent me a letter this week, if you have I have not received it. [It] must have been lost, it’s now 2 o’clock on Saturday, I may get a letter at 5 o’clock tonight from you. I am sending 2/6 home so write and tell me if you get [it]. We have got half a day off today, and yesterday. I never done anything after 10 o’clock, we have an easy time of it, it’s much better than work. I write this in the YMCA, they give us this writing paper and envelopes. I hadn’t been in here for a month or more, because it’s several 100 yards of[f] our tent and it’s so bad to get about. We have had such a lot of rain lately, but the floors of our tents are boarded now, the boards are thick, so I shan’t take any harm. I won’t write more now, I will write another letter when you have answered my others. I hope you are all as well as I am, with love from your affectionate son
Letter 10 — Sentry duty
A Coy 9 Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
3 November 
My Dear Mother,
I received your nice letter first post this morning (Tuesday) and am glad you got my letter and PO safe. This last letter is just the sort of letter I like. I read it through 3 or 4 times as soon as I got it and I hope you will write me like it every week. I was on sentry duty last Sunday and Sunday night, from 10 am to 11 am on Monday. There was 9 of us altogether and 3 posts to guard, so we had 2 hours on sentry and 4 hours off. The different battalions take [it] in turn. It was the Sffks turn on Sunday and the Nffks on Monday. It came my turn to go on sentry at 12 o’clock at night till 2. It rained pouring at 1 o’clock until about half past 2 but I did not get wet for I have a good coat and we have a sentry box each. We had to halt everyone we saw after 10 pm. I never saw anyone only the sergeant, he came up to me about half past one. I halted him as soon as I saw him, it was moonlight. We were not allowed to go to sleep in our 4 hours rest, we had to be ready any moment. It was a rare job for me to keep awake between 2 am and 6. I layed down flat once and the old sergeant told me if I went to sleep he would make me stand up all night. The other chaps were just as bad as me, they couldn’t hardly keep their eyes open. We were relieved at 10 am but had to go to the orderly room to be inspected so we didn’t get off much before 11. There was just time to wash and change our shirts and pants and socks before dinner, and in the afternoon we had to go on parade again at six o’clock but I slipped away, but I didn’t let anyone know though. I felt very sleepy, I went to the recreation tent and started reading a book but fell asleep. I woke again about 8.30 and then went to my tent and you may be sure I had a good night’s rest. It was the first time in my life that I had been up all night. I can’t say I liked that sentry job, I may not get it at Shoreham again, well, I hope I shan’t, but a soldier must do as he’s told. There’s one chap here who’s got himself into trouble. He said he didn’t care about anyone in the whole British Army, and he would not do as he was told. He done anything wrong he could think of. He told an officer that he didn’t care if he was shot. They put him [in] a tent and it’s guarded night and day and he has got a lot of punishment to go through. He is tied down for 4 hours a day, and if he doesn’t soon alter they are going to flog him. I expect he wish he had behaved himself now, he has soon found his master. It’s the same here as George say, you are soon in the wrong, you have to be very careful what you say or do. I soon found that out the first week I was here. I done something wrong (I won’t tell you what it was) and I got 5 nights [?C.B.], that is, I had to go to the police tent and answer my name 5 times every night at 6,7,8,9 and 10. I was not allowed to leave the camp. I was glad when that was over. I have been very careful since. I don’t know how much longer I am going to be at Shoreham, some say they are building huts for us at Colchester. I don’t know if it is right, I hope it is, and then I should not have so far to come home for a weekend. It’s such a long way from here, it’s 140 miles at least, and they don’t allow long passes here, only 41 hours, from 4 pm on Saturday until 9 am on Monday. There is just time to go there and back and stop only a few hours. But all the same, if you’d like me to come I would. There is another chap in our tent, he talk about getting a pass in a week or two, he live at Ipswich, so tell me in your next letter if you would like me to come on Saturday week or wait till Xmas. I should get a week or two then. I would rather wait till Xmas, it would be such a rush now for me, and it would not be exactly safe, for you know I have not travelled much by rail. We have not started firing yet, we [have] not got our new rifles. There is no range at Shoreham but there’s one at Portslade about 2 miles off, we shall start in a week or two. We have learnt to stand and fire, and lay and fire, and kneel and fire, and we learn something fresh every day. Yesterday we were told how to clean our new rifles when we get them. Young Cobbold is my officer, he is over number 2 platoon, that’s the platoon I am in. He is a nice chap in one way but he’s very strict. He come round the ranks to see that our clothes are clean and that we have shaved. He told me I hadn’t shaved this morning, he asked me the reason why. I told him that I never knew I wanted it, he told me to shave before I came on the next parade at 2 o’clock, and they are very particular about long hair. I don’t send my washing to the place where the others do now, nor don’t anybody in our tent, for one week when it came back it was not more than half done. I don’t believe the socks had been washed at all. The pair I sent home were supposed to have been washed. But I shall still have to pay at the other place, for they take it out of our wages but I shan’t mind that as long as my washing is done clean. So Hilda cheek your lodger, I expect she think, though his name is Arthur, he does not take the place of me. It is dangerous about the roads now.
Take care of Hilda for I shouldn’t like to hear that she was hurt. She is the one I miss most of all of you, I long to see her again and hear her voice. I miss her pretty little face. I will send her some more sweets in about a week and some tobacco for father. Tell him I take good care of my watch and am very glad of it. They depend on me for the time in my tent, and I’ve not been late on parade since I have had it. It still keep splendid time, it goes exact. What regiment were they who came to Grundisburgh on Sunday, they were a lively lot of fellows. I advise you the same as George not to have any soldiers in your house until you are forced, they would be too rough. There are some rough fellows but they won’t scare me. As you know, my left big toe nail grew in. One Sunday morning before 7 o’clock I was going to clip it out, so I lit the candle for it was not quite light, one man (an old soldier) blew it out, he said I didn’t want to burn the candle when it was daylight. I got a piece of my own out of my pocket and lit that, another chap threw a towel over it and put it out. I picked the candle up and threw it at his head and hit him. He got up to strike me but I was ready for him and struck him and knocked him to the other side of the tent. The bottom of the tent was rolled up so when he got up he was outside. He walked round slowly to [the] opening and never said another word, but during the day I noticed him cast several dark looks at me. It was that wet Sunday night and I went to sleep in the recreation tent. He came too and asked me if I would share my blankets with him. I said yes so we slept together that night and he’s alright to me now. We go out together sometimes now, that’s the only row I have had with anyone up till now. I go to Portslade sometimes now, it is a bigger place than Shoreham, and sometimes I go to Southwick, that’s a smaller place than Shoreham. We have Jim Nastic’s [gymnastics] drill every morning for an hour, there is an instructor in every battalion, it will do us all good. I like it, we have had it for a week now and we have it a little different now. This morning we had to jump over some poles laid 7 feet apart and we have to run and walk as quick as we can, walk on our toes and do all sorts of physical things. If anyone was not strong they wouldn’t be able to do it. We live better than we used to, we always have plenty of good cake for Sunday and sometimes during the week. We have salmon, baked [?roast] beef, kippers, fried fish, bacon, plenty of butter, cheese, jam and bread. We have all we like to eat. We have got 8 or 9 loaves of bread in our tent and will have 6 more on the morning. I must close now, I have wrote a long letter and it’s later than I thought. I will send 2/6 and a short letter on Saturday, and will expect a letter from you Tuesday. I am quite well and I hope you are all the same. With love to you all from your affectionate
[of 33 with the surname Cobbold killed 1914-18, 11 were in the Suffolk Regt]
Letter 11 — Aeroplanes
A Coy 9 Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
6 November 
I will write just a few lines, as there is just time before tea. We are off parade a little earlier. I am sending 2/6, we got 7/- this week, we have only been having 6s [?] lately until this week. I expect we shall have to go on parade tonight, we have been going on three times a week, and a rare job that is too, everywhere as slippery as ice. I slipped down three times last Wednesday night and some of the others fell down a dozen times or more. It’s impossible to keep up sometimes, we were not on long Wednesday night [be]fore it began to rain as usual. We sheltered behind some stacks for a little while and then went home, there was six absent on Wednesday, they happened to be numbered in the afternoon so they were missed. I was glad they were there that night, for I have been absent sometimes but didn’t happen to get found out. Two of the absent ones were out of my tent, they got three nights each, that is as I told you I had to do, answer their names 5 times a night and parade at ten o’clock and not allowed to leave the camp. We have to be extra careful what you do. The aeroplanes hadn’t been up lately until today, the weather hadn’t been good enough, but this afternoon they have been going up into the clouds, out of sight. We could hear them, they make a lot of noise just like a motor. I forget if I told you I had been close to them when they start and helped to pull them out of the shed. They are not at all heavy, they are made of wire, thin splines of wood and canvas, and the engine is at the front. The men are not strapped in them as I thought but sit in a long tin box with just their heads out. Sometimes two go up at a time. It’s a funny thing when they start, they nearly blow you down. They move a crowd of people back a yard. I know it’s right because I have stood by the side of them myself. When they start they run along the ground for about a 100 yards at about 80 miles an hour and then begin to rise as steady as a bird. They are wonderful things if one come to think about them. The ones who fly these are brothers, there’s two of them but 15 aeroplanes. This aerodrome here belong to Brighton and Shoreham, it’s Britain’s Flying Centre. I will close now, write again as soon as you can. Hope you are as well as I am. With love to all, from your affectionate
I wrote this in a hurry, will send Hilda some sweets at the end of next week, hope she is quite well.
Was that last letter unsealed, I never noticed it until I was going to put in in the box, it was a bad envelope. I slipped it in a box at Southwick before breakfast time, we were on a march
Letter 12 — Huts are condemned
A Coy 9 Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
10 November 1914
I received your letter this morning (Tuesday) and your note came on Sunday and the PO yesterday. We have not heard anything about that new government order, but I expect we shall on Friday when they ask me. I shall let them have 6d a day and they can add the other to it and send it home for me (if that’s what you mean). I can spare 6d a day alright for that will leave me 3/6 a week. I can manage with that alright as I’ve been sending 2/6 a week home. So you still have the soldiers at Grundisburgh. They must be a rough lot. I don’t expect they care whose hurdles and wood they burn as long as they have a fire. Do you think they are fortifying Grundisburgh, I don’t think they are, they are only practising trench digging. They will be off to the front in a month or two. They will fill the trenches up before they go (if they are not recruits). I am orderly today, so am writing this this afternoon. We had to take our boards up from the bottom of our tents today to air them, they were mouldy underneath. B,C and D [Coys] had to take their tents down too, besides taking up the boards. The latest news about us going away from here is that the huts they have built are condemned and so are the tents, and that we are going away in 10 days time, but I cannot say that’s right. We have heard so many rumours lately and they have turned out to be lies, but we shall soon go out of tents. It’s not fit for men to be under canvas in November, but the weather has been a little better lately, the mud have dried up in most places. It’s very good of you to think about my birthday. I have got two good towels, they will last a long while. Don’t spend a lot about anything for me. You won’t want to send any fruit for I can buy plenty if I want. You can send two pocket handkerchiefs, coloured ones like George used to wear around his neck, and another small thing or two if you like, but don’t send any plum pudding, it is heavy and would cost a lot for carriage. I shall not take any harm here for I have got a good overcoat and a good suit of clothes and two good pairs of boots. I had the second pair this morning, they are brown and I shall be glad of them for Sunday and my others want heel irons on. I am sending a postcard, it’s D Company, it was taken at Southwick. How I came with this card was, as I was going through Southwick last Sunday I saw it in the window and I knew Albert Last and that chap on this end of the rear rank. AL is the fifth on the front rank with a white collar and a wool cap and no rifle. Frank Reach is in D Com but doesn’t show on this card. That chap on the end of the rear rank come from Playford and I know nearly all of them by sight. Take care of it for it’s a good photo. Has there been any enlisted out of Grundisburgh since I came? There is a chap here by the name of Cullingford, ever since I first saw him I wondered if he was brother to Miss Cullingford at Burch’s [Grundisburgh butcher’s shop]. I could see a likeness between them, I didn’t like to ask him, but this morning we were laughing and talking so I asked him and he said he was her brother, and he told me that she wrote and told him Tom Nunn was here, but I told him she must have made a mistake. I will write again Friday, so will close now. Hope you are all as well as I am, with love to all from your affectionate Arthur
Letter 13 — Digging trenches
A Coy 9th Sffk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
13 November 1914
My Dear Mother,
Did you get my last letter what I posted last Tuesday night, I am sending 2/6 and some “baccer” for father and (if I can get them in the canteen) some sweets for Hilda. The weather had been better this week until today but it’s raining now and is getting slippery again. We are going out of tents before the 26th of this month, but I don’t know where we are going to, our Sgt Major told us yesterday that he thought we would soon be near Colchester, but there’s nobody know for certain. We are getting forward with our drill now but have not started firing yet because our new rifles are not ready and there is no range at Shoreham but there is one at Portslade about 9 miles off and there is a lot of soldiers at Portslade of the R.F.A. [Royal Field Artillery] and Royal Engineers, so I don’t think there would be room for us at that range. We have not been for a Battalion route march lately, but go for a short march every morning before breakfast, and back again before it’s properly light. We always have to be on parade at 6.30 and sometimes before. We are called at 5.30 and should have our blankets rolled up by 6 o’clock and we must not be a minute late on parade. I have not been late since I have had my watch. They have given us two blacking brushes and a tin of dubbin each. We have to keep our boots clean and keep our clothes clean and our tents have to be kept perfectly clean. There must not be a piece of paper laying about and the boards of our tents have to be washed every morning. We take in turns to be orderly, the orderly has to wash up the breakfast dinner and tea things and fetch all the food away from the cookhouse and keep the tent tidy. Our tents are inspected twice a week. We have all we like to eat and we have good food too, we have tinned herring, pickles, pineapples, sardines, kippers, tinned beef and greens for dinner, and plum pudding and cake three times a week. We have jam, golden syrup, cheese, butter and biscuits and tea before we go on parade in the morning, and I think we are going to have half a day on Saturdays now. Lord Kitchener say he want his new army to have it, and it will only be fair to us, won’t it? We went trench digging last Wednesday and have been again this morning. It take a long time to dig a trench here, for when we get down a foot we come to solid chalk, and we have to pick it up. We go about three miles inland to dig the trenches, and when we got there this morning it rained pouring. We worked for half an hour and then started back but we didn’t take any harm for most of us had brought our coats. I had got mine. There are more sheep further inland and they are quite tame. They are the same breed Colonel Thomson had last year, and some of them have got bells on. That chap I told you about who stand 6ft 4inches hurt himself yesterday. We have to make short rushes about the hills with our rifles and we were running down one of the steep slopes and he stumbled and fell and hurt his thigh and he is in the hospital now. I think the war is going on very well for our side, but it won’t be over yet, they still want more recruits, and if the men won’t enlist they will make it compulsory. I dare say some of the Quintons and Thorpes will have to go. If they won’t go on their own they ought to be forced, the country want them. I will close now. I hope you are all as well as I am, with love to you all, from your affectionate
You made a mistake last time, you put C instead [of] A Com. on my letter
Letter 14 — Nine weeks at Shoreham
A Coy, 9th Batt Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea Sussex
17 November 1914
My Dear Mother,
I received your letter and father’s this morning (Tuesday) and was pleased with both. I thought father hadn’t wrote a letter lately, but I like it because it came from him. I like everything that come from my home. I am very sorry but I don’t think we are going to move away from Shoreham yet, so [I] will get a pass and come home for this weekend. They allow longer passes than I thought. If we give our names in on Thursday we can get a pass from 1 o’clock on Saturday until 12 midnight on Monday. I didn’t know that till Sunday or would have come before. Two chaps went from my tent last week, I will try to get one to come with me this week, I can happen on to someone I think, so will you send 15s please as soon as you can. I shall be pleased to come, it will be a nice little change and I expect you will all be pleased to see me. I won’t write any more now for shall be able to talk to you all better. I have been at Shoreham just over nine weeks. Ned is quite well, I saw him last on Sunday, and so am I, and I hope all of you are the same. Will close now, with love to all from your affectionate
Have George sent anything to Hilda or father? I told Ned I sent some sweets for Hilda and Tobacco for father, he says he will send some too now, we all ought to send something, will bring some little things home on Saturday night, don’t expect me before 7 o’clock Arthur
[just over 9 weeks would have him arrive probably during 11-14 September]
Letter 15 — Talk of huts
A Coy, 9th Batt. Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea, Sussex
27 November 1914
I received your parcel first post yesterday (Thursday) and was very pleased with it, everything was nice, you couldn’t have sent a better one, yours and Hilda’s photo came out well, it was the first photo that I had ever seen of you. I shew it to the men in my tent, they said what a pretty little girl Hilda was, and that you didn’t look very old. I give one card to Ned, I dare say that’s what you meant me to do, and he shew it to the chaps in his tent. I am sending the jersey back again, I should have sent the one they gave me, only I am not allowed to, it has got my Regtl No stamped on. The one you sent is all wool but my other is cotton I believe, but is thick and warm. That tall chap in my tent who hurt himself is better again, and so is that chap who we carried away on a stretcher. We have heard nothing about shifting yet. I doubt whether we shall get in the huts before December, they are not quite ready yet, the stoves are not fixed. They would have been ready weeks ago, only the carpenters went on strike. They started again this week and they are making roads round the huts, a lot of engines and horses carting stones and clinkers. They are making the roads in Shoreham and round about in a rare state. There are holes about a foot deep in some places, the weather is rather wet and rough too, and plenty of slush about. We are learning bayonet fighting, I dare say that come awkward for George because he is left-handed. They have got a lot of left-handed ones about here, they was too many to try to alter so they have put them all in one squad. We have been past them cement works again, they are all in a chalk pit in Steyning. I am sending 7/6 and my two old handkerchiefs. I had to wait half an hour in Ipswich and ¾ of an hour in London. I had to pay ? more because the ticket I got at Shoreham was no use after the 22 Nov, it cost me 9/8 there and back. I thought it would have cost more. I have not got to lose a day’s pay for being absent now, the Captain looked at the timetables and found that no train ran from Bealings on Sunday afternoon so I couldn’t get back, but I didn’t know nothing about the trains on Sunday, and didn’t care did I? It was my first offence of being absent. The Corporal in my tent is made Sergt now, and my platoon commander has only been in army 3 weeks longer than me. He has worked himself up well. He is only 25 and looks younger, his name is Norton, his home is at Beccles. They are soon going to start the Xmas holidays, we shall get 6 or 8 days. It may be New Year’s before I come home or it may be before Christmas. We are going sham fighting next week. The Bedfords were sham fighting last night about Southwick and Portslade. I have not seen Ned today but will see him tonight. I have not heard from George lately so will write to him next week. We don’t go on night parade now I am glad to say, but have lectures about it. We have been trench digging this morning. I don’t mind that, it’s a change. I think this is all for this time so will close now. Hope you are all well as I am, with love to you all from your affectionate
Thank you for offering to send gloves, but we are going to have some served out to us so you won’t want to send any. I did not post this before Saturday night, thank you ever so much for the parcel. The ointment you sent is extra good, it’s cured my pimples andthe brown sweets a[re] good too for a cold. I have not touched the pills in the bottle yet. We are going in the huts next week and we are going to Brighton again today.
Letter 16 — Into the huts
A Coy, 9th Suff Regt
Shoreham by Sea,
3 December 1914
My Dear Mother,
I received your letter last night (Tuesday) and your postcard this morning. I began to wonder about that parcel, I was glad when I got your card to say you had received it. I posted that Saturday night, I won’t post anything on Saturday nights no more, they are always a long time getting home if I do. I am very pleased to say we are out of the rotten tents and into the huts, they are a lot better. There’s plenty of room in them and they are dry and clean. They are 20 yards long and 7 yds wide. There is supposed to be 40 men in each but there are 36 in mine. We have 3 boards of two stands each so we are about 5 inches off the floor, and we are going to have straw mattresses and table in a day or two. We have got seats, we had to go and fetch them ourselves today and I expect we shall get the tables tomorrow. It’s a treat to be in these huts after what we have been used to, it’s just as good as being in a house, well, rather better because we are more to ourselves and have more room and we don’t have to be quite so particular as we would in a house. There are a lot of recruits coming here daily but they don’t come with us, they are billeted about different houses in the town. There is a stove in each hut, so we shall be warm when the weather gets colder, but we shan’t want fires yet for the weather is not very cold at present. We have not done any particular drill since Friday for it rained all Saturday afternoon and part of the night, and all Sunday night, all day Monday and half the night, and part of Tuesday, and the slush and water I never saw so much slush before in my life. I thought it was bad enough in a sheep fold, but no sheep fold can touch Shoreham. On Monday night the water ran through the Recreation and Salvation tents, and it ran over some of the boards in the Notts & Derbys tents. Some went and slept in the huts, but it was pretty dry in my tent so I didn’t take any harm. I wrote a letter to George Sunday but he hasn’t wrote back yet. We are going to have field training this month. It will be more messing about at night I reckon. We have not had much of that lately and don’t want. I have wrote this in Southwick Town Hall, it is open to all soldiers as a reading and writing and recreation room, and there is a concert in here every night. Young women come and sing to us and there is a good gramophone too, it’s been playing nearly all the time I have been writing, but I don’t think I have made many mistakes. I will write again and send my washing Friday night. Will close now, hope you are all as well as I am. With love to you all from your affectionate
They give us this writing paper in here and they gave us tea and cake last Sunday but week days we have to pay for it if we want any
9th Batt. Suffolk Regt. A Coy.
Shoreham by Sea,
5 Dec 
I suppose you received my last letter what I sent on Wednesday, I am sending you my washing & 2/6, that shirt is not big enough, perhaps you have got another one that you can send instead, the socks want mending you will see, and the pants want buttons on, and can you send two pairs of socks back for one pair will make my feet sore if I wear them a fortnight. I have had a letter back from George, he is alright and he knows that chap who rode with me from Liverpool St to Ipswich. The weather has been better until today (Friday) but it’s been raining and snowing this afternoon. We have not been on parade, only take our pay (I like that parade best of all). There isn’t any mud round our huts for they are up higher than our tents were, it’s very low and level in that part so one couldn’t wonder at it being slushy, the water couldn’t get away. I like the huts much better than tents, it’s a treat after what we have been used to and no mistake, its cleaner and dryer and more room and we can get our meals better, we can see out of the windows right across the sea, there are six windows in each and two doors. Ned is alright, I saw him this morning, he is on guard today. It will soon be teatime so I will close now.
Hope you are all as well as I am
With love to all from
Letter 18 — Mum does the washing
A Coy, 9th Suffolk Regt,
Shoreham by Sea
14 Dec 1914
I received my washing this Saturday morn and was glad to get the socks, for I had worn this last pair a fortnight and they are very dirty. I thank you very much for doing my washing, everything was the cleanest they have been since I have been in the army. I will always send it every fortnight, then it won’t cost so much for post as it would every week. How much did it cost you to send it back, I couldn’t see the stamp, it cost me 6d to send it home. I daresay Ned got home alright, he went away from here at 9 o’clock yesterday morn, he ought to have been home by 3 at the latest. I saw him last Thursday dinner-time, he said he would come again before he went but I don’t expect he had time. I had another shirt Wednesday, I would have sent a card and told you, so you wouldn’t send another back but I was expecting your parcel every day and thought it was too late, but it doesn’t matter. I am not quite sure when I am coming home but I know it’s not before the 23rd but I think we are coming after Xmas now, there was a fresh order yesterday. We have had rotten weather lately, raining nearly every day and it’s very bad getting about. I expect Ned will tell you what it’s like, but it’s a better morning today, there was a storm before breakfast but the sun is shining brightly now and it’s now 11 o’clock. I am not on parade and we shall get half a day this afternoon. We have an easy time of it as Ned will tell you. I am sending 2/6 as usual and will send a card as soon as the time is fixed for us to come home. I hope to see George before long. I think this is all for this time, they are now coming to inspect our huts to see if we have cleaned them properly. Will close now and I hope you are all as well as I am.
With love to you all from you affectionate
Let me know when George is coming, but it doesn’t matter though, will send him a card myself and then he will let me know as soon as he can
Letter 19 — Billeted in Brighton
A Coy 9th Suffolk Regt
Shoreham by Sea
16 December 1914
I received you letter yesterday morn and Ned’s card Monday morn. We have heard today that we are to be billeted out at Kemp Town (the other side of Brighton) by Saturday. I don’t know if that’s right but I think it is. We don’t know what to believe, we have heard so many tales and they have turned out to be lies, but will send a card if we do move. Tell Ned they have put me back with recruits because I didn’t march properly last Friday. Our officer got riled and doubled us about for nearly half an hour. I didn’t care how I marched then. I have an easy time of it with the recruits, they don’t parade only four hours a day, so that don’t worry me about going backwards. Have you seen today’s paper? In one paper I saw that the Germans have been shelling Hartlepool and Scarborough this morning, and that a big naval battle was expected. Our fleet have been doing well lately haven’t they? But our people will do the Germans on the water, their navy can’t touch ours. I have seen several big ships go along the Channel today but we couldn’t see what they were for they were a long way out. We have had a lot more rain but it hasn’t rained today yet, but it’s very cold, cold enough for snow. I have not heard for certain when I am coming home for things are so unsettled now. Measles or some complaint has broken out, will let you know as soon as possible, our country is in a very unsettled state from the biggest town down to the smallest village. How does Ned like his holiday, he is enjoying himself I expect. He is coming back on Friday I think isn’t he, I will not send a letter on Friday but will wait till I get you letter next Tuesday. I don’t know that there is anything I want back by Ned without that be a pair of gloves you don’t want without holes in them. I think this all for this time so will close now, hope you are as well as I am, with love to all From your affectionate
I wrote this letter this afternoon, we have had the order tonight to pack our things in the morn because we are going to be billeted tomorrow
Letter 20 — Hut refurbishment
A Coy 9th Sffk Regt
no date [Friday 18 – Saturday 19 December 1914]
My Dear Mother,
Did you get my last letter saying we were going to Kemp Town Thursday, we didn’t go, the order was cancelled, but we are going tomorrow. I am sure it’s right, but I am not quite sure whether we shall go to Brighton or Kemp Town, will let you have my address as soon as possible, so don’t write till you hear from me again. I am sending my washing but no money, I can’t spare it this week. The reason why we are to be billeted is because the huts are draughty and the rain come in at the windows and under the doors. They are going to put match boarding inside our huts while we are away and finish them altogether so I expect we shall be out of them about a month. What do you think of those German ships bombarding Scarborough and Hartlepool and Whitby. I think it was a foolish and cowardly thing, killing innocent women and others, and as soon as they caught sight of our ships slipped off. They are afraid to fight our navy fair but I don’t think they will get so close to our coast any more, our ships will be more on the alert. They don’t seem to be getting on very fast with the war. It looks like lasting a long time. Our people have gained ground in places and lost it in others. They don’t seem to me to be any forwarder than they were four months ago, but I hope there will soon be a change for the better. I don’t think Italy and USA will be able to remain neutral no longer than February, and I saw in a paper that Norway Sweden and Denmark are going to have their Ministers of War meet on the 21st of this month. I am back with my platoon again away from the recruits, but am prisoner in my hut today for being absent, so shan’t be able to post my washing tonight. I think this is all for this time so will close, with love to you all, from your affectionate
I told you I wouldn’t write before I heard from you again, I forgot about my washing then.
I wrote the letter yesterday (Friday) but couldn’t go out to post it. We have moved to Brighton, we came by train from Shoreham, Ned is here too, he got back last night quite safe. I am not sure about my address so don’t write till you hear from me again.
[the bombardment of Scarborough Whitby and Hartlepool occurred on 16 December 1914, and the three Nordic countries met in December 1914 in Malmo]