I know this letter will upset you, but you must understand that I am resolved to do my duty and serve my country, Although I am not yet eighteen, I am able-bodied, willing and eager to put my all into the task that lies ahead. I would be the only fellow left in Cumberland if I did not go to fight in this great war. Have no fear, as I may not even get to the front before the end of the war. It will be a great adventure and I shall return before Christmas with many tales from France. Tell Grandmamma not to fret – and will you look after my rabbits while I am gone?
Your affectionate son, William September 16th At last I feel as if I am doing something that really counts- something for my country! Leaving with Corporal Bridey Saturday last will be the most wonderful thing I have ever done- I am sure of it. Mother will be awfully upset that I have gone against her wishes, but I cannot ignore my own country’s call. I have had butterflies in my stomach all week, but I am not affraid. My head is in ecstasy at present and I can feel my heart pounding even at the mere thought of returning victorious. The Bosch better watch out for us!
I still cannot quite believe I shall soon be out of Cumberland. Let alone abroad. Abroad! -It sends shivers down my spine. My fellow men seem to be nice enough. All of them are seeking the bubble reputation, even under the tough eye of the sergeant. I am feeling quite at home, ‘amongst me marras’! Tommy Brockbank and George Dodd from Hesket Newmarket, John Plunkett from Langwathby and I think I even saw Albert Patterdale, huntsman of the Blencathra. Tommy thinks that it will be over by Christmas. Hopefully we are not going to miss the war. That would be an immense shame. Catterick Camp
September 23rd Dearest Mamma, Early last week we arrived and began our training. Its hard work at times, but I am fitter than most, thanks to work on the farm, and am now a private soldier in the 2nd Battalion, the Border Regiment. You will never believe who is in the same company as me, Tommy Brockbank from Hesket Newmarket! I could not believe it myself when I saw him. He signed up at the beginning of September, and is showing me the ropes. We have learned so much in the past week, although some of it I cannot imagine will be useful at the front, particularly the square-bashing!
It will all be worthwhile though, when we surprise the Germans with our new skills. I hope you are having the same weather as we are, I cannot believe it has lasted this long! No complaints about the food. If it was not for all the ‘arduous’ training we are receiving, I would be as big as uncle John from all the plum duff we get! How are the twins? Is Auntie Doreen’s leg any better after her fall? I am sure George has got in the last of the harvest by now. Send my love to everyone. Your loving son, William Todhunter (Pvt. ) October 6th We are finally on the move!
It seems as if it has been months since I joined up. Time seems to crawl by when you are looking forward to something. What an adventure lies before us. We guess it will only be a few more days, until we are helping on the lines. Last night I could not sleep I was so exited about leaving. Camp 9, near Bruges, Belgium October 11th Dearest Mamma, Thank you for your last letter, it’s good to hear Gertie’s news about the new mare. She sounds splendid. Thank you for the socks. They helped wear in the boots and my feet are in much better shape now.
We are not told much, but there are rumours that we are being moved up to Flanders, where they are digging trenches to keep the Germans out of France. That should stop them! Anyway, apparently they are running short of food, and are said to be slaughtering and eating their horses. Can you imagine! Must go. Parade in five minutes. My love to everyone, Affectionately, William October 28th The Germans are attacking near the village of Ypres- we call it Wipers. I watched as a battalion of cavalry galloped past into the mist. Met by a storm of rifle and machine-gun fire.