In his second letter home, 17-year-old Stephen Brown settles into the army as war breaks out.
After his emotional first letter home, which we posted last Wednesday, it seems Stephen Brown’s mother forgave him whatever he did to upset her.
His next letter home the following month later, is thought to have been written in August 1914, in the days immediately following the declaration of war.
In it, he describes how all soldiers on leave or in reserve troops are to be ‘called up’ for active service. Stephen also wonders whether his ‘Uncle Bob’ – presumably also a soldier –has been called up yet.
The letter was sent from Winchester, where his barracks were. At such an early stage of proceedings, he seems unaware of any details on where overseas he may be sent.
You can read a transcript below.
“I am getting on alright”
[No date, 4th – 9th August 1914]
Just a line to let you know that I am getting on alright I hope [you] are the same I am sorry I did not write before we are so busy that I have had know [sic] time.
thank you for forgiving me I know I don’t deserve it
We are confined to barracks so I can not [sic] get a stamp but I will send a shilling home next week as it is settling up week that is they keep so much back each week out of our money and give it back the first week in every month I hope Tommy and arche [Archie?] Hammond are all right give my love to Kitty, Lillie, Maggie, Freddy and Ted I hope Dad is quite well.
My money is 4/6. But I get 3/- a week and [the] rest on settling up week give my love to Mrs Hammond. I thank you for forgiving me I know I don’t deserve it tell auntie Tot and uncle bob that I am getting on fine is Uncle Bob been called up we are calling all our Reservists up and those on leave this is all at present
I remain your
A second page of kisses
Stephen devoted the remaining page to postscripts, mostly of kisses for different family members. He then added a third page, also filled with kisses.
“XXXXXXX for Mother
XXXXXXXXXX for Lillie
we are calling all our Reservists up and those on leave
XXXXXXXXXXXXX for Kitty
with love to all
Love to Aunt Tot Uncle bob aunt kitty and Freddy Johnson
Hoping you will send an answer […] Will send a few toys next week”
Page three: “With love to Lillie from Steve”
Was ‘Lillie’ a sister Stephen was particularly close to, perhaps? She gets a second mention on the third page, and more kisses as he finally signs off:
“With love to Lillie from Steve XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
give these to Lillie for me
hoping to Be home for a weekend soon Goodbye with love”
Revealing more of Stephen’s story
Each Wednesday we’ll be blogging Stephen’s sequence of letters home as part of our Letters of the First World War series.
When Lives of the First World War launches this summer, Stephen’s Life Story page will showcase all these letters, and you will be invited to contribute anything else you know about him, along with any other sources of evidence.
The same goes for anyone else you are looking to commemorate who served in uniform or worked on the home front during the First World War.
Look out for Stephen’s next letter home – we’ll publish scanned images of the next part of his story next Wednesday.