In April 2009 Piers Stainforth (great nephew of Edie) was rummaging through family archives and found three early letters from Edie to her mother. These three, which were all in one envelope, are a wonderful addition to the diaries and fill some of the gap between the time that she first set off for Belgium and France in October 1914 and Volume 1 of the diaries.
The envelope – Piers notes:
“I found three letters in an envelope among papers left by my father. The envelope is informed in a hand unknown to me, “Letters from the front. Edith Appleton”. Too bad it contained only three! Two of the letters are typed transcriptions which were, I suppose, done some time after the event. One of the two transcriptions (11.10.1914) is a carbon copy, includes a title page and is pinned together by a neat brass tack at the corner.
“The other (9.12.1914) appears to be an original typescript, including a couple of postscripts, at least one of which was apparently added later as the quality of the ribbon and the alignment of the text differs significantly from the rest of the text. All of the work we’ve seen from Edie was hand written and I think it unlikely that she had access to a typewriter usually — though this letter is from a “Stationary Hospital” which may have included such things — or that she would seek one out instead of writing by hand as usual. Anyway, want of access to typewriters and Edie’s more typical use of pens to write and draw, and the concern she expressed in a diary when a pen was lost, suggest to me that these typescripts were done some time later, perhaps at the time that someone began to transcribe the diaries (Volumes 2-4 remained as handwritten by Edie) by typewriter.”
Letter no. 1. Dated 11 October 1914
The letter, which comprises four typed pages plus a covering page entitled ‘A LETTER FROM FOREIGN WATERS. Written by Edith E. Appleton’, details the journey she made by ship from Southampton via various other ports (Dungeness, Dover, Ostende and Dunkirk) and ending in Boulogne.
Letter no. 2. Dated 9 December 1914
This letter is sent from No 10 Stationary Hospital which was based at St Omer from October 1914 until May 1918. The letter starts by saying that a recent letter from Edie’s mother had taken longer to arrive as it had been addressed to her at No. 14 Stationary Hospital which records show (http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals.htm) was based at Wimereux between October 1914 and April 1919. This suggests that Edie had recently moved from No. 14 to No. 10 Stationary Hospital so, together with the information in the first letter above, this all makes her service record details look a bit minimal.
Update 6 February 2012: an email from Bern in Australia has included some very useful links concerning No. 10 Stationary Hospital in St Omer. He says: “the building that houses 10 S.H. (although there were also wards in the adjoining church/chapel and it’s possible other buildings in that street were used too) can be seen at http://throughtheselines.com.au/research/saint-omer#10SH. Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thrutheselines/sets/72157629165440251/detail/. Thanks Bern.
For family members (see the family tree here), one of the delights of this letter is its mention of several of Edie’s relatives and a close friend:
- Amy was married to Edie’s older brother, Edward (Ted), and Olive and Dorothy, who were aged 14 and 6 respectively, were their daughters. Amy is also mentioned on 10 June 1916 in Volume 3 of the diaries.
- Fred and Bud (Walter) were two more of Edie’s brothers.
- Also mentioned was Hilda (Gibb) – a close friend of Edie’s about whom she writes several times in the diaries. On 11 June 1916 (in Volume 3 of the diaries), for example, Edie writes of her friend: “Many happy returns to Hilda! dear me she is 36 – & not married yet!”. Since Edie had turned 37 just two days earlier and was herself unmarried, one can imagine her smiling as she wrote that.
Here is a picture, dated 1910 so taken just 4 years before Edie’s letter, of Amy Adelaide Victoria Appleton (née White) and her three children, Olive (10), Dorothy (2) and their brother Edward Rowland (8).
If the photos was taken in 1910 those ages should be about right although I would say the children all look a bit older.
Many thanks to the family of Dorothy for the photo.
…and here is a photo of Dorothy West (née Appleton), who celebrated her 101st birthday in January 2009. This photo was taken in early May 2009 when I visited Dorothy at Westall House, Horsted Keynes.
Sadly, Dorothy died on 12 September 2009. Since I first made contact with her in 1996 she has been a wonderful source of stories and information about the Appleton family in the first half of the 20th century. Thank you, Dorothy.
Letter no. 3. Dated 23 February 1915
By this time Edie was at No 3 Casualty Clearing Station.
This CCS, the records show, began at Hazebrouck in August 1914, moved to Poperinghe in April 1915 and, a month later under fire, moved to Bailleul.
This move is dramatically described in Volume 1 of Edie’s diaries.
So……where exactly was Edie – and when – in 1914 and 1915?
Taking together all the references to locations in these letters and some in the later diaries, it seems that we need to revise or, at least, expand the sketchy information in Edie’s service record. Here it is:
The Service Record shows no date of joining up and the note ‘To 3 CCS’ is undated. The first date mentioned is 20 November 1915 to No. 1 General Hospital but, with the help of the new information in these letters as well as information received from Sue Light (expert on the role of nurses in WW1 – see (http://scarletfinders.co.uk/), we can state the following:
- She signed her initial contract with ‘His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department’ on 27 August 1914.
- She joined at Fort Pitt, Chatham on 16 September 1914 and her total period of service was from 15 September 1914 to demobilisation on 22 December 1919.
- On Friday 9 October 1914, we now learn from the first letter, Edie left Southampton and travelled, via Dungeness and Dover, arriving at Ostende at 3am on Sunday 10 October 1914. After a day or two in Ostende she sailed, she thought bound for Dover, but after anchoring off Dunkirk she arrived in Boulogne where, it seems, she stayed.
- On 9 December 1914 she wrote from No 10 Stationary Hospital which, records show (http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals.htm), was at St Omer from October 1914. This letter mentions a College (with a Chapel attached), which may have been the base for No 10 Stationary. She also writes of the “Garrison Church” there. This letter also refers to a letter from her mother having been redirected from No. 14 Stationary Hospital with the implication that Edie had worked there prior to No. 10. Records show (see http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals.htm) that No 14 was at Wimereux between October 1914 and June 1919.
- The third letter (23 February 1915) is from No 3 CCS (Casualty Clearing Station) which, according to recorded history, was at Hazebrouck at that time. However, Edie not only refers back to St Omer (presumably a reference to her time at No. 10 Stationary Hospital) but also back to Hazebrouck.
- As mentioned above, No. 3 CCS was forced to move under fire in late April 1915 and the run up to this and subsequent moves are told day by day in Edie’s diary, Volume 1. It is also interesting to read another perspective on these events – that of Miss Maud McCarthy, Matron-in-Chief with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders. Her diaries for April 1915 can be seen here: http://scarletfinders.co.uk/33.html. Start with her entry for 27 April.