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WW1 soldiers in a rush to get to the church on time


Published on 28 Oct 2013 12:38 : 10 comments : 8660 views

The loneliness felt amongst the men on the front line and the women left behind during WW1 encouraged relationships to start via letters, with many couples getting engaged despite never meeting face to face. 

 

Contemporary newspaper records from the period, which are available to search online at the family history website Genes Reunited, reveal that women were encouraged by local communities to form friendships with lonely soldiers by writing to them.

 

Newspapers also published lonely heart adverts from soldiers in columns titled “Matrimonial” where men would attempt to meet young girls with the view to marrying them. The correspondences between young girls and lonely soldiers were considered by many as having disastrous consequences with couples mistaking lust for love. 

 

In 1915 the Hull Daily Mail reported that through a local scheme, a housemaid named Mary was able to win the heart of a lonely soldier through sending cigarettes and a bottle of whisky concealed in a cake. The young soldier was so thrilled by her gesture that when on leave he paid Mary a visit and the pair got engaged within 72 hours of first meeting.

 

In 1915 Bishop Frodsham raised concern in the Cheltenham Chronicle about young girls being allowed to answer advertisements from ‘lonely officers’ without any supervision from wiser women. He described the outcome as often ‘disastrous’ with girls mistaking ‘lust for love’. “Is it wonderful to learn that some such hastily made wife has sought protection in a court of law against a relationship that became intolerable almost at once?”

 

In 1916, the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reported that a Miss Alice May Bishop attempted to sue a soldier named Edgar Johnson “for a breach of promise on his part to marry her.” Johnson had repeatedly promised to marry her in various letters until he decided to marry someone else.

 

Despite the moral outrage, women were still encouraged to write to lonely soldiers. In 1914 the Western Daily Press published an article titled “Friends wanted for lonely soldiers” in which they were calling out for friends for lonely soldiers on the front to come forward. “There are many lonely men, who have no friends able to send them small comforts in the shape of tobacco, cigarettes, socks, scarves, gloves.”

 

In 1915 the Manchester Evening News reported that many soldiers who longed for a companion to write to “communicated privately to any kind-hearted woman or girl who would make herself a godmother.” The willingness to have a male companion meant young women in their droves signed up to be a ‘godmother’. “In a very short time 90,000 godmothers have each adopted a lonely soldier, and the extravagant letters of gratitude with which they receive prove the comfort and joy they are able to give.”

 

Marriage was certainly a source of hope to the millions of men in the trenches. In 1916, a Clara E.D Moleyns commented in the Woman’s World Western Daily Press that, “In those blood stained trenches, dreams will come to those soldiers that whisper of love and marriage”

She felt that it was not anybody’s place to decide if these war weddings were right or wise because of the ‘abnormal times’.

 

Rhoda Breakell, Genes Reunited Brand Director said: “We have been doing lots of research into the lives of those left behind during WW1. The number of marriages that were founded on a simple letter correspondence fascinated us. It is very touching to read about the response from local communities and the lengths they went to, to find companions for those men left lonely on the front line, although these relationships were not agreed with by all”

 

Look through Genes Reunited's online newspaper collection from yesteryear, search the 515 million records, 780 million names and community boards to connect with family past and present. Why not see if you can find a long lost family member, unearth family secrets, discover who you get your looks from, or build your family tree. Visit http://www.genesreunited.co.uk

 

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by Patricia on 18 Nov 2013 19:38 :
My grandad Elijah waddilove married Elizabeth Bromley on Xmas eve 1914 .They had been sweethearts as seventeens years old .grandad was a soldier when they married and one of the first to go to France and was awarded the star medal . he was in the Loyal north regiment and was from preston lancashire . When the second war began he trained soldiers at Fulwood barracks and I have a photo of him in his uniform with grandma , They brought me up from childhood I remember a sword and a German soldiers hat in the house as a child . I wish I could have told him how proud I was him but he died when I was fourteen .
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by Jean on 18 Nov 2013 20:37 :
My gran was a munitions worker WW1 and sent a message in with some of her 'shells' to France, grandad responded and they were married 1918 in Croydon. Sadly he died of TB in 1925, but mum had been born in1921. I am lucky enough to have photos of the wedding and of gran in her munitions uniform.

Jean
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by Leslie on 18 Nov 2013 21:31 :
My gran Ellen gaskins nee Wiltshire born 1855 Hartbury lost her husband 1n 1914 ,her son was killed 1915 battle of loos ,her other son james was killed battle of the somme , her youngest son willie was killed 1940 when the ship he was on was blown up .
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by Carol on 18 Nov 2013 21:59 :
I have a postcard, sent by a relative to his wife, depicting a ruined French town during WW1. On the back he wrote "This is what the German shells have done. Thank goodness it will never happen in Brum". Unfortunately he was to be proved wrong - their house was bombed during the Blitz! Luckily they were unscathed.
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by Ronald on 19 Nov 2013 08:03 :
I have about 70 letters written by my father to my mother during World War One from the trenches of France and Belgium. Some of them are stained with mud and the first one contains an invitation for them to go out on their first "date" when he was next on leave. Ron :-)
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by Haitchdt on 19 Nov 2013 10:09 :
I have some letters written by my grandfather Thomas Jones serving in Mesopotamia with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, he left behind his wife and small son, also Thomas, who he called 'Sonny' Ethel sent a curl of hair she had snipped off to him. I also have a diary he kept, out and back.
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by on 19 Nov 2013 19:52 :
Touching stories. Good they are recorded & being shared.
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by Elizabeth on 20 Nov 2013 10:34 :
Touching life stories about people who lived and died for during that trebble war
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by margarety on 24 Nov 2013 18:24 :
I have letters written to my Mum from my Grandad when he was out in India, during the first W.W,. she would only have been about 3yrs old, so she must have had them read to her by my Grandmother, he talks about the animals that he had seen and of the poor little children that were running around begging for food etc... and of him being so sad to see this. It was something that must have been quite unusual to the soldiers as they probably had not seen people with dark skin before, as he talks about them being " different " to look at.. Even though i was lucky enough to have my Grandad survive the war,s i was not of an age to ask him about his time in the Army as i was only 11yrs when died, and i would have loved to have found out so much more of his experiences. but maybe he would not have liked telling them....REMEMBERING ALL THOSE POOR SERVICE MEN & WOMEN WHO NEVER RETURNED HOME................
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by cheryl on 3 Dec 2013 00:14 :
hi my great uncle Herbert May was in the first world war he was trying to help one of his men when he was terribly hurt both his legs were ripped off he was still conscious 4 days after but died the next day ,he is buried abroad my Mother kept a letter about him and his medals but sadly they are lost to me now ...just one of the millions wasted in war........................