Letter from a Harry Longridge to Arthur Powell

Scope and Content

The following letter is a long and detailed piece of correspondence written by a friend, 'Harry Longridge' who enlisted at the same time as Arthur; Harry is now back in England after being demobbed, on grounds of being 'unfit' for active service. In Harry's letter to Arthur, it appears that Arthur has been convalescing from a dose of trench fever, however he wishes him well and jokingly remarks that he is glad to hear that Arthur is; 'still alive and apparently quite cheery'. It is not clear from the letter whether Arthur was removed to a hospital or other rest camp. The letter contains details about the country's economy, its state of affairs and the general mode of thinking amongst the people. There is also a touching and detailed list of those friends who have fallen in battle or been wounded. Harry's letter is written from the offices of 'The British Engine Insurance Company' on 24, Fennel Street Manchester and gives detailed accounts of the business's comings and goings. Harry replies retrospectively to a question posed by Arthur in a letter to him; 'You are quite right as to the "British" of today being vastly different now from what it was in 1914'. Harry reflects on the dramatic changes to the organisation and business affairs of the company since the advent of war; 'Apart from the old Lancs, [...], the rest of the staff is in khaki' The girls have gone off to be nurses, one since the beginning of the war, this is reflected in the wages paid to the staff and those receiving 'War Bonuses' which is on top of the £3,600 paid to the OAMS staff . It makes a large hole in the company's profits. Harry bemoans this state of affairs, especially too, when the repair costs to boilers is anything from 25% to a 100% than what it was before the outbreak of war. Harry remarks that income tax is now 5/- in the £1, but business has been growing rapidly, and if the profits are down Harry feels sure that when the soldiers return both profit and business will shoot up. There have been many changes at the head office, not least the men going off to war, but the arrival of new girls working at the office. Harry will be relieved when the war is over and the company can return to regular and full staff again. Harry lists the names of those members of staff who have been wounded or killed in action; a Mr Forsyth dying of his wounds, a Mr Wickman killed by a shell. A Mr Colinson is reported wounded and missing in action, no one has heard anything of his whereabouts for four weeks. A young employee, a Mr Turnbill, has had his leg amputated from above the knee as well as receiving other wounds, but which he is now making an encouraging recovery. A Mr Ellis is out in German East Africa with the Machine Gun Corps, and unfortunately had a bad dose of malaria, but he is now better and out in his armoured car again. A Peter Hitchin is doing clerical work at Brigade HQ Salonika after doing his fair share in the trenches. A Mr Wallace, 'although in khaki', is a lead singer in a concert band which is touring the soldiers rest camps. A 'Rodgers' and 'Hoare' who were both in a medical corps are now respectively, one a clerk in a recruiting office and the other a draughtsman in the RFC (The Royal Flying Corps). An 'Emmet', who had been rejected three times by the recruiting offices, has now been finally drafted in to C1; which incidentally, was one of two submarines involved in the raid on Zeebrugge on the 23rd April 1918 to prevent German ships getting into the Channel. A girl called 'Rose' is now a motor transport driver, a 'Littlewood a switchboard operator in the RE (Royal Engineers). A 'Wesley' 3rd class [waiter]? in the navy, a 'George Booth a signaller on a destroyer in the Channel' , a Mr George Hitchin commandeered by the Home Service as a mess waiter. Harry then goes on to list the agents for the company: Wood from Sheffield - becomes a storekeeper in Rugeley because of heart trouble; Carr from Cardiff, a captain in the Royal Flying Corps in charge of anti-aircraft guns in Norfolk; Platt from Bradford, a Bombardier in the RGA [Royal Garrison Artillery]. Harry concludes by saying that is all of the staff to date, of whom Arthur will know of who and have gone off as part of the war effort. He mentions lastly - and quite poignantly - an Arthur Berry, who after fighting in the trenches broke down and was unable to return, he was then found a post looking after 'Boche' prisoners of war. Harry commends Arthur who has one of the hardest tasks; that of fighting in close combat on the front line: 'Like yourself, in the hardest working bunch of the lot - the infantry'. He wishes him continued health and good spirits, and of course a safe return. Remarkably Harry writes to all those past employees who are now away serving with the British Forces.

Dated at: Manchester, England.