From the day they enlisted as volunteer soldiers in August-September 1914 until their service ended in death, discharge on medical grounds, or restricted to home service due to injury, the three brothers wrote frequently to their mother at The Fens, Grundisburgh. Reluctant to throw them away, Etta shoved letters and envelopes in a box where they remained, unsorted but undisturbed, until they passed to me a few years ago on the death of my mother Hilda.
To make the collection usable, and to bring them to a wider readership, the first task was to transcribe the letters and order them by author and date. In doing so I corrected a few spellings and introduced some punctuation, especially to break up long sentences, where I felt this would aid understanding without detracting from the authenticity of the authors’ voices. All three are very clearly young men from Suffolk, but this is most evident in Ned’s case. He wrote as he spoke, and no amount of editing could (or would wish to) disguise the upbringing in rural Suffolk he had shared with his brothers.
The originals of George’s and Arthur’s letters are now with their families. The originals of Ned’s letters are with the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds, reference number GB554/Y1/567. His personal effects returned to his parents Joe and Etta after his death have been deposited with the Suffolk Regiment Museum which is housed in The Keep of the Gibraltar Barracks in Bury St Edmunds, where a number of the items are on display.
Each of the three collections is a Word document and thus searchable.
Edmund Leonard (Ned)’s letters (.doc)
(NB: Ned’s letter dated 6 October 1915 is probably in error for 6 November 1915 — Jack Smith was killed on 27 October.)