Monday, 15 September 2014

Will Sidney's War - June 1917 - Thoughts of Ethel

In addition to Will's account of his first week at Etaples shown in my previous post, there are a number of 'memoranda' pages at the beginning of his 1917 diary.

Between 11 & 29 June, just after landing at Etaples, Will has written his most private thoughts of Ethel.  Reading these very first pages of Will's diaries really touched our hearts and it was this that inspired us to find out more about Will and to tell his story.  His words were so full of emotion and completely unexpected that we really needed to find out more.








The above picture is of Ethel.  We are not certain when it was taken but think it is likely that it was at about this time, as it is very similar to this photo of Will taken on 27 April, on his last leave.

Will's thoughts cover a number of pages in the diary, which I have scanned in below.  Again, as the writing is very small and quite difficult to read, I have also included a transcript.

"June 11th 1917, Monday - We have had nothing to eat since leaving Folkstone to getting to St Martin’s Camp. 498 men & 7 officers. left Sund’d (Sunderland). 8 or 9 jump the train @ Doni (Doncaster). 
Was very glad to see Ethel but left her very downhearted. I had to have a good cry for I love her more & more every day. She understands me & knows my ways. She is the one girl in the world for me & she is the only girl that has ever made me shed a tear for I do wish I ....
Could this post card be of Will's the mess tent at St Martin's Camp?

Will writes on the reverse "You will see me on here with a piece of bread against my mouth.  This is the first good meal I have had with the boys since I have been here.  My other photos aren't done yet for I have not seen the chap yet."  Will can be seen just to the left of centre of the photograph wearing a waistcoat.


...... had married her when I was on 10 days leave, but better late than never.
I shall marry her on my next leave whether it offends or pleases & I am sure she doesn’t care. I am fighting for her & would willingly go through anything for her.
I had plenty of chances of going out with girls & have had two or three offers of marriages, but I have refused them for Ethel is the one & only girl for me & if I can’t have her I will never marry but hope & trust that the person she does marry makes her life very happy & if he does not and I ever get to know, well all as I can say is God help him for I shall have no pity."
"June 12th - Reveille 4.30 a little bit too early. Breakfast 6.00. 1 slice of B and a bit of bacon. Cleaned up & parade for inspection by Colonel. Went to draw rifle & bayonet. After that we went to the 32nd IBD after 11 o’clock. Rest until further orders. 
Wish darling Ethel was here now for I would show her what a soldier has to go through. May her & them @ home never know what we go through for their sakes. Being bullied & kicked about by conscript Sergts & called up dogs. But we all grin & bear it for the ones we love @ home & I dare say that if we were told to do more I am sure they would but only for those @ home. 
After we had been inspected by the Colonel we had the rest of the day to ourselves & I fell asleep & got burnt & I am as sore as anything.  Wondering what Ethel is doing. I do wish I ......
...... could have had a few more mins with her for I simply worship her. Oh, I would have given anything for to have called her mine before I came out. But I trust in God above to help me & bring me back safe & sound so as I can make her a happy wife for she is worthy of a decent & respected man’s love.
Still thinking of Darling Ethel. How I wish I was @ her side. It is a true saying that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Of all the others she is the best of all. I have nearly kissed the photo in half. I have look at it & talked to it but afterwards I have had to cry. I know she is true for her love for me & my love & trust for her makes me trust her more & more. It makes me cry to think of her. I am just going to have a jolly good cry to see if it will do me any good for sweet heart Ethel has been in my thoughts ever since I got into France.

Picturing Ethel sat on the little chair thinking of her loved one who is far away. I dreamt I was by her side in the theatre with the jealous eyes of a young soldier looking @ us & she borrowed my ring to bluff him. How happy I was until I woke & then my eyes were filled with tears for I am now picturing her crying on my arm before I went back to York.

It nearly breaks my heart to see her cry. I have always told her that I am not worthy of her love but she seems to be insulted with it all the same. I do & always will do & that is I admire & respect her for it. She has saved me from being a human ruined & I shall never repay that debt off. It shows how much pain & endurance she has had to go through for my sake but never mind all will come right in the end & then we shall have only our too selves to blame if there is anything wrong (of which I trust & hope nothing will be) for her sake.

Anxiously waiting for a letter from Darling Ethel. My thoughts are hers & also myself. I worship the ground she walks on. If Ethel could only see me now I am absolutely wet through. It has .....
  ...... been the hottest day I have ever known & Feb 2nd was the coldest. My mind is always concentrated on Ethel for all day I have done nothing but see her & think about her. How Ethel would laugh to see me washing my shirt & pants. I can picture her laughing like anything. Bless her, I wish she could see me now. She would say I had been dying myself brown.
I have met a lot of Doni chaps here out of the KOYR.
Burnt inoculated & am feeling rotten. Wish Ethel was here to comfort me. Expecting a letter from Ethel anytime, very downhearted because one hasn’t come up to now. (June 18th)
I am nearly brokenhearted because I haven't had a line from anywhere.
I am happy as anything because I have had a letter from my own dearest and sweetest sweetheart.
I am happy as anything because I have had two letters from Ethel.  I have already read her letters 3 or 4 times over.  I do wish she had told me her troubles instead of stopping half way.  I should not have worried so much.  I do wish she wouldn't worry so much for I am sure she will make herself ill (June 25th).
I wonder what I have done wrong @ home.  Got a letter from home (June 29th)"
As in Will's previous diary entries, it is clear how important it was for Will to receive news from home and how worrying it was when none came, leaving thoughts of wondering whether or not he had done anything wrong.  As if he didn't have enough to worry about ......

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