1917 – Fred’s war at a glance

January 1917
Fred ended 1916 with mention of a stay in hospital, saying the cause was due to him being “wet through”. As 1917 begins, nothing else is said about a hospital stay, but he does complain of a heavy cold which he feels he won’t get rid of "while I am out here”. Fred’s spirits seem low, as seen in his letter of 8th January in which he says: "I don't expect I shall get home this winter unless Fritz has got one with my name marked on it."


February 1917
A single letter survives from Fred for this month. The weather is very cold, the "Front does not give very much", and Fred hopes "the Huns will get their backbone broken this summer”.


March 1917
Again, just one letter survives. Fred says “things are going a little better out here now”, and he is optimistic that it will be all over by the summer and will be home in time to enjoy his father’s crop of potatoes,


April 1917
There are no surviving letters for April, but Fred did send three Field Service Postcards, saying he was “quite well” and "Letter follows at first opportunity”. The last of these cards was sent by Fred on 24th April.

Fred’s battalion (7th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment) was at the Battle of Arrasfought between 9th April and 16th May, near the French city of Arras. Fred was in action, and no doubt had little time to write letters or, if he did write, there’s no evidence of them reaching home.


May 1917
There are no letters from Fred for May. But, in a letter written on 4th August 1917, he says: “It was three months yesterday since I was wounded”. The same letter reveals that the wound is to his hand. From this evidence it’s possible to say Fred was wounded in action at the the Battle of Arras, on 3rd May. Five days later, on 8th May, Fred returned home, as recorded in his military service record. He was admitted to a military hospital for treatment.


June 1917
There are no letters from Fred for June, but it’s reasonable to assume he was hospitalised in the UK, receiving treatment for the wound to his hand.


July 1917
Fred’s letters resume in July, written from Whitecross Military Hospital, Warrington. The wound to his hand is healing, and he’s waiting for an operation on it. He’s well looked after by the nurses, is allowed out of the hospital, and hopes to see the family in August.


August 1917
Fred remains at Whitecross Military Hospital throughout August. He learns of the death of his friend Pte Frank “Cherry" Cloughton of the Essex Regiment, killed in action 13th July 1917. Pte Cloughton was from the village of Witham, close to Fred’s family home in Hatfield Peverel. Fred now thinks he will be home in early September, as the hospital is getting full, "so of course some of us have got to go". 


September 1917
A final letter from Whitecross Military Hospital on 3rd September confirms that Fred will indeed be home within the next few days. He says: “I wish for goodness I was getting my ticket” – military slang meaning he hopes for an official discharge from the Army for medical reasons. But, he feels there will be little chance of that, saying: "I suppose I shall have to go out and have another taste of it.”

At some point in September 1917, Fred was transferred to Eastern Command Depot, Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, where he received massage and electric treatment to his hand. 

A Command Depot was a military convalescent camp, and Shoreham Camp had accommodation for 5,000 men. 


October 1917
Fred’s letters from Shoreham Camp begin in early October. He uses the phrase “swinging the lead” – military slang for malingering or evading duty. While malingerers were universally disliked, those that managed to “swing it” on experts, particularly doctors, received admiration from their comrades, as would have been the case with Fred. But, Fred knows his stay at Shoreham can’t last indefinitely and, as he says on 11th October,  the doctors "will rumble me in the end and mark me A1”.


November–December  1917

There are no letters from Fred for November–December.


Letters and postcards written by Fred in 1917,
all of which have survived
Month
No. of letters
No. of Field Service Postcards
January
1 + 1PC
2
February
1
2
March
2
2
April
0
3
May
0
0
June
0
0
July
2
0
August
2
0
September
1
0
October
4
0
November
0
0
December
0
0
Year total
14
9


Letters written to Fred in 1917,
none of which have survived – indicated on his Field Service Postcards and in his letters
Month
Sent by
January
Mother
Arthur
February
Mother
March
Mother
April
Mother
May
June
July
Mother
August
Mother
Arthur
September
Mother
Dorothy
Annie
October
Mother
Dorothy
Mercy
November
December



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