Letters of the First World War: Stephen Brown, 17

Stephen Brown 1st letter

Stephen Brown’s first letter home from the army. Image © IWM (Documents.145); Text © Brown family c/o IWM

Stephen Brown joined the army in July 1914, a month before the First World War broke out. He was 17 years old.

This is the first in a series of letters Stephen sent his family. We’ll be blogging the letters that tell Stephen’s First World War story every Wednesday in our ‘Letters of the First World War’ blog category.

A transcript is given below.

Joining the army

Stephen’s service record shows that he enlisted on 3 July 1914 in the Special Reserve of the King’s Royal Rifles (war was officially declared in August).

I am very sorry for what I done at home

Writing his first letter home from Winchester, Stephen seems more concerned about a family matter than the possibility of war. Perhaps he did not even fully appreciate the likelihood of the war’s outbreak. The letter is undated, but was clearly written very soon after he enlisted.

It seems he has done something to upset his mother before joining the army. Perhaps  he has gotten himself into debt – he mentions ‘paying her back’ out of his army pay.

His handwriting is large and quite childlike, and the entire letter is one sentence, perhaps dashed off during a break.

Transcript of Stephen’s first letter

“Dear Mother

Just a line to let you know that I am getting on all right in the army. I hope that you are all well as I am myself I am very sorry for what I done when I was at home and will pay you back when I get some more pay I like the army very well for I am going to join the Regulars when I have done my time in the reserve then I shall be able to pay you back for I get 30 /- as a bounty I hope you and Dad will forgive me for what I done when at home I cannot write no more at present for I have to do some more work trusting you will forgive me

I remain your Son

Stephen Brown

Uncovering stories through letters

On page 2, Stephen repeats his address, and adds as a postscript: “I hope you will write me an answer”.

When Lives of the First World War launches, we will be inviting you to upload digital scanned copies of mementoes such as letters, documents and diaries.

If you have any letters in your family collection, we would love to see these added to Lives of the First World War when we launch the platform this summer.

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5 Responses to Letters of the First World War: Stephen Brown, 17

  1. Is this Rifleman 5/4801Stephen Ernest Brown?

    • Miranda Brennan says:

      Hi Josie,

      Yes, that’s the right Stephen Brown. His Life Story on Lives of the First World War, when it launches, will have all these letters connected to it as sources of evidence about him.

      – Miranda

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