Update August 2016
Click here to listen to a beautiful song composed in memory of Charles Kerr.
Update 22 April 2016
The story of how Edie looked after Private Charles Kerr has been added to the website of the 17th Batallion Manchester Regiment. You can see it here.
I have read this story dozens of times and we always tell it in our talks and every time it is just so moving. Thank you, Edie, for providing such loving care. You gave it to Charlie Kerr and to so many others as well.
Edie’s great nephew
Update 26 September 2015
See Visitor’s Book entry from Tim Bell, dated 26 September 2015, about Edie’s caring for Charlie Kerr.
Update 12 March 2013.
On Sunday 10 March we met again at the Imperial War Museum – North where Dick and Lisa were giving a presentation about the diaries. This was covered by the Manchester Evening News on Monday 11 and then by the Daily Mail the next day. You can read their accounts here:
Good to meet Nicola again, this time with other members of her family. Still looking for a photo of Charlie Kerr.
On 24 May 2012 we (Dick and Lisa Robinson) arranged to meet Charles Kerr’s great, great niece, Nicola Mortimer, at her home in Bury near Manchester.
I still find it quite strange – almost incomprehensible – to put the notion of the three of us sitting chatting so comfortably in Nicola’s garden on a lovely sunny day alongside the terrible and tragic situation in which our ancestors, Edie and Charlie, met almost 100 years ago. The story of how Edie cared for the dying Charlie, as she relates it below, is always the one which readers of the diaries pick out as being the most evocative and poignant.
Thank you for your hospitality Nicola and we look forward to your finding a named photograph of your great, great uncle – as we are sure you will do soon.
3 April 2012
I have had a contact from George Cogswell who maintains the Trafford War Dead website. This includes, as far as possible, all the Trafford War Dead from the First World War and Charles Kerr is included. George has sent more information about him and the individual page about Charles is here.
George has kindly also provided the following images and information:
14 March 2012
Last week I was contacted by Nicola Mortimer, the great, great niece of Private Charles Kerr of the Manchester Regiment, 17th Battalion. Charlie, as Edie calls him, was nursed by her from late February until his death on 12 March 1916.
Below is the unedited text of Edie’s diary account for the whole period during which she cared for him and it clearly shows how very attached to him she became.
We do not have an individual photograph of him – yet – but Nicola has sent me a photo of his platoon before they left for France. She has also sent a list of all the soldiers in that photograph but she does not know which man is Charles Kerr. How wonderful it would be to be able to identify which one is him in the photo. Can anyone help? Please email me (Dick Robinson) at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Nicola at NicolaMorti@aol.com. We do have both images in larger versions.
Nicola Mortimer writes about Charles Kerr:
“Charles was my great grandmother’s younger brother. He was my mum’s dad’s mother’s brother. Finding the extract from Edie’s diaries was very moving. It was touching to learn that he was lovingly cared for by Edie. I stumbled across your website by pure chance. I was ‘googling’ addresses that I have found on census records and WW1 records. When I searched for Cedar Street, which is where Charles lived, a WW1 forum [The Great War Forum link is here] came up with link to your website. I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw a reference to Charles. I double checked my notes, and the dates tallied, so it must be the same person. A fantastic find!
“Unfortunately I do not have a photo of Charles. I have a photograph of his platoon before they left for France, but I have no idea which soldier he is. I have attached a copy of the photo and the list of soldiers who are on the photograph [see photo and list above]. I have discovered that Charles served with the 2nd City Battalion, later designated the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. They were also known as the Manchester Pals.”
Dick Robinson adds:
“These contacts from descendants of those for whom Edie cared are immensely moving and powerful. To think that our relatives were in touch almost 100 years ago in the most tragic circumstances and now living connections are re-emerging so poignantly, through a combination of sharing remarkable Edie’s diaries and the wonders of modern technology. This is the fourth such contact since the website went live back in 2008 and now that the book is published I am confident there may be more”
[March] 6th 1916. Busy day – poor Kerr (Pneumonia etc – etc). I am afraid will not weather the storm, & poor old Sgt. Middleton is as bad as he can be & so is Rudman, poor dears – I do wish they could get better. Was off duty in afternoon – walked up cliff, caught in snow storm, back early – bathed – tea with Madame. Very tired – don’t know why?
[March] 7th. Slept through the first bell – & woke at the second – to find my room aglow with a beautiful pink light. The outside world was a foot deep under snow. Telephone wires looking like those fluffy bell pulls about 3 inches round in snow & all glittering in the early morning sunshine. Truly beautiful & unwarlike. Now I must quickly dress or I shall be late for breakfast, but by tonight – if the snow thaws – I may forget what the morning was like – as there is plenty every day to drive out all thoughts but patients – wards – etc lists, & Convoys.
[March] 8th. I want to write to you today – but whether I shall or not is a different matter. We have a big Convoy to get off to England – & another arriving – supposed at 10 a.m. so we shall not be slack – but – the difference – here we have about 12 hrs. notice of a Convoy coming – & up the line they just tumbled in at all hours of the day & night. My heart is very sore for one poor boy, or for his Mother – We have had him 10 days – & he is no better & is in a state to die at any moment. I am writing to his Mother & telling her so, she is evidently a refined old lady – writes back to say she is “so glad to hear Charlie is with us – the rest & good food will do him good”. Have my letters not reached her? Or won’t she understand that the boy is dying. I think he must have been gassed – he is purple & just like a gas patient.
Étretat is beautiful – this is Ash Wednesday – & I ought to be at the 6:45 service but some horrid crank always takes me in Lent. I miss more services & eat more nice things & smoke more than any time of the year. Étretat is really beautiful now. Yesterday’s snow, thawed a little in the sunshine, but is still deep & frozen again with the night’s frost. My Western horizon is just tinged with pale pink which suits the soft clouds & pale blue sea to distraction & the cliffs are a picture in themselves all snow covered & rugged – No letters from England last night. Now I must get up! If only I could sketch I would make the most lovely little pictures in this diary.
[March] 9th. I was to have been called at 2 a.m. to help in with a heavy convoy, so went to bed & to sleep at 9 p.m. & the next thing I knew it was 1/4 past 6 – broad daylight – & no one had called me & even now – here I sit in my night attire – 7 a.m. trusting it is all right & that the convoy has been held up somewhere & that we are to go to second breakfast as usual.
The morning is as yesterday, the sea perhaps a trifle calmer & more shimmering – tide further off, & the brown rocks glowing red in the light of the rising sun. Yesterday was a delightful day of calm between the storms, of despatching a large convoy & receiving the one that didn’t come. My pneumonia boy benefited from the quiet & perhaps… the creature has a chance, & feel he must get better – for his Mother, poor thing, she wrote to me – & said she was heartbroken – however, it was no good for me to pretend he was not dangerously ill. He was – & is. I must get up now, for Matron Miss E. M. Denne – had sudden orders to go to Havre to relieve Miss Steen invalided home. She was sorry to go – & we to lose her, although it is a great promotion. She will be Principal Matron of the Havre district soon. Get up.
[March] 10th. Very big day Convoy arrived 7.40 – 590 men chiefly sick – only about 30 badly wounded. I had in a few wounded – but the greater part – fully all my beds – & extra mattresses on the floor were such things as trench foot. 1 CT & one advanced Ø. The day was very busy & poor Kerr worse – I am sure that boy has been gassed & will die. Shouldn’t be surprised to find his cot empty when I go on duty. Poor Mother – how will she take it? No letters – no off duty – weather – I hardly remember – not so cold – I think.
[March] 12th. Too much sadness to write about, besides being dead beat.
[March] 13th. My poor little boy Kerr died yesterday, he had been in 15 days suffering from gas – pneumonia, bronchitis & has been extremely & dangerously ill all the time, but only the day before yesterday he realized that he was not going to get well. [See Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Register for details.] I am glad to say we never left him night or day & he was fond of us all.
Yesterday was a difficult day to be “Sister” – He kept whispering all sorts of messages for home & his fiancée – then he would call “Sister” & when I bent down to hear – “I do love you” “when I’m gone, will you kiss me?” – & all the time heads would be popping in “Sister – 20 No – so & so – to – – – -.” “The S. Sgt wants to know if you can lend him a couple of men to…” This & that – but in spite of all – I did kiss the boy first for his Mother & then for myself – which pleased him – then he whispered “but you still will when I’m gone.” The night before he asked me what dying would be like – & said it seemed so unsatisfactory – he felt too young to die – & not even wounded – only of bronchitis. Then another time he said, “They wouldn’t let me go sick every time they said it was rheumatism & would wear off – & marching with full pack & dodging the shells was dreadful. Thank Goodness – what I told him dying would be like happened – exactly – a clear gift of Providence. I told him it would be – that little by little his breatheing would get easier – & he would feel tired & like going to sleep – & then he would just sleep – & with no morphia – that is exactly what did happen – without a struggle. He was quite conscious up to 20 minutes before he died. I just asked him now & then if he knew I was still with him. “Yes” – & you’re quite happy – aren’t you? & he distinctly said “Yes, quite”.
Then the last & very trying part for the Sister was to walk along to the other end of the village – beside the poor dead thing – to see him decently put – in the mortuary. With hundreds of French eyes turned “full on”. Our own people always clear out of the way when they see it coming. We sent 13 to England yesterday & are getting a new convoy in today, so I must dress quickly. This is really the only time I have for my own writing, every day is busy – & at night I am too tired – now I must get up.
[April] 18th. Maxey, Constable & I had half days – weather very heavy. Blowing 1/2 a gale with occasional gusts of rain or hail – We walked to Benouville – dug up a basket full of primrose roots – then went to the Inn for our usual boiled eggs & bread & butter tea – then went home – to the Cemetery – & tidied up 9 graves – took away all the dead flowers – & planted primroses – Col. Thackery, Capt Hammond – Kerr – & Sawden – came under my special care. If everybody does a few we may have them all tidy for Easter – the Cemetery is very beautifully kept.