Tuesday, November 23, 2010

June 1914 and a rainy day

I thought I'd start posting some of the wartime 'funnies' as we get closer to the time Rothwell was enlisted. There is a wonderful collection of very non politically correct cards in Grandmother's postcard album- this is the mildest.

Meanwhile we find Rothwell a little melancholy...it must be the weather, or being away from his dearest Dadie.

18 Broadway, Kettering
June 11th .14

Ma bien aimee,
At this moment I feel tired languid and sad: the weather is enough to make anyone melancholy. It was a glorious morning but now it is raining again. I have no news Dadie Darling. Since I wrote, nothing has happened. I got off at 1.340 today; I had thought of going to Northampton this afternoon to hear the Coldstream Guards full Band, but did not get out in time. I’m glad I did not go now. I wonder where you are at this moment Dadie. I do hope it is not raining at Barnet too, so that you have to stay in, for you don’t get much chance of fresh air & freedom. I hope you enjoy your day in Town on Saturday. Remember me to Auntie. They must have named this village after me. I have not been there yet: it is 4 miles from here. The crypt of the church is stacked with human bones. I shall cycle out sometime. I have 6 cards to send you yet- of Wookton Church, and the remaining 5, of wonderful monuments of the Montague family which are in there. Tea is ready. Goodbye my angel.
Love etc from yr own Rothwell.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

June 4th-9th 1914

It's been more than a month since I posted; I've been busy doing other things- I sound like Rothwell now- will he ever get around to finishing a proper letter for Dadie? Warning, these postcards contain harsh words for a snooping landlady...


18 Broadway, Kittering
June 4th 1914

Nz pxo (my own) efbs Ebsmjoh (dear Darling), nz Usfbtusf, (my treasure)
Again it is only a mere P.C that I am sending you! Still dear Dadie, please be patient, for I have really had no time. As yet, have only sent a P.C home since my arrival. Was intending to start your letter this evening, but I unpacked instead. Am not straight yet even. Got off at 2 o/c today. Cycled to Wellingboro’ & back this afternoon- Went to Northants Agricultural Show. It was a nice change but I wish I could have had you with me. Do write a nice long letter soon, my angle. Have not heard a word from a soul yet. Heaps of love etc. Votre Rothwell.

18 Broadway, Kittering
June 9th 1914

Nz pxo Mpwf (my own Love)
Nz Ebsmjoh (My Darling)

I am still on the P.C game- there are 8 more to come yet- the best ones too. Have not had time to get letter off; it is half-written at present, and I shall continue it tonight & probably post it tomorrow night. Have just written to Earnest – I must write home soon. This morning I printed photos- also got my things straight for the first time. Now…

(next postcard)

...perhaps I shall have time for writing to my little Dadie. It is about 4.30, & I have not been out today yet. I don’t think I will go to church tonight, but go for a walk instead & get on with your letter too.
I do wish there was some prospect of seeing you Dadie- if only you could get out on Sundays! (I hope Mrs. P reads this- how shocked she would be! But perhaps in future she would not meddle with other people’s private correspondence- just like a kid on b who knows no better) Must get to post now Darling. Heaps of love etc from votre Rothwell

and I'd love to know what a kid on 'b' is!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wesley House, Bury St E.
April 11th 1914

Nz Pxo (own) Bohfm (Angel),

Nz (My) Txffu (sweet) mjuumf (little) Dadie,
Arrived here safely at about 9pm- found that Percy had been on my train from Combs. Grace met us. Gordon & Jack are here- & Bertha from Bps Stortford- Have announced my firm decision to be back at Baldock by 8.10pm Monday. I do wish you were here my Dearie: I should be satisfied then. It is just striking midnight. This bridge is very old, part of the monastery. It is nice to be home again, but I am lonely. Goodnight Dearest. Ifbqt & Ifbqt (lots & lots) of mpwf (love) & hjttft (kisses) from your own Rothwell.

and then two sent seperately to join together:
Baldock April 6th 1914

Nz Pxo (own) Ebsmjoh (Darling) Bohfm (Angel),
Efbsftu (Dearest) Hilda,
You will rec. these two P.C’s tomorrow evening: Take care of them as they are two of your 60. How excited you will be now Dearie!!! I have been down at Masons’ from 6.30- 9. o/c  
this evening- so am pleased have not had the chance of brooding on the slowness of time: the remaining 2 days…

next postcard

… will pass very quickly now, my love. I will meet you as arranged 9.19pm; am longing for that hour to arrive. Mind you get a mhbd (nice) gzs (hat), one that I shall like.
Dearest, please do be dbsfgvm (careful) jo (in) London- both of the traffic, and of people! I am always worrying the whole ujmf (time) xijmtu (whilst) you are usbwfmmjoh (travelling) alone and am always glad to see you safe home.
Efbsftu (Dearest) of Bohfmt (Angels), I am terribly excited. Good night, Darling- Heaps & heaps of love & kisses
From Your own Rothwell.

I hope Hilda got a very nice chapeau for this much anticipated meeting!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

March 1914

Baldock Mar 10th ‘14

My Efbsftu, (Darling)
It has since occurred to me that I should much prefer blue, to match your scarf, but please yourself of course. I should like you to get a blue one though, Dadie. Am going to Westell’s nature lecture at P.O at Letchworth tomorrow. Bailey’s have taken a box for it.
Mpwf & ljttft (love & kisses) from Your own Rothwell

No pressure for the blue Hilda...
I realised I missed the one below so have included it before we get to far into 1914!

Baldock Dec 16th 1913

Lx Cdzqcrs (My Dearest) ‘Hildear’,
Am very sorry that I shall be unable to meet you on Friday (if you are returning then) So you ask Auntie to send down for you; you must not walk unless you are obliged to Ebejf (Dadie).
Will cycle up on Friday as soon as I can. Your P.C is awaited. Be a good girl; you will be very excited now I know. Goodbye Ifbqt & Ifbqt of hjttft (heaps & heaps of kisses) & love from Votre (your) Rothwell

I love that Rothwell is so certain that Hilda is barely able to contain herself at the thought of his arrival. What a confident 19 year old he was!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

February 25th 1914

Now their code gets trickier- they swap some letters about so that Efbsftu and Cdzqdrs both spell ‘Dearest’ which can best be seen if you lay two alphabets together and offset them by a letter. At this point in time, they are just having fun with the code because there are clearly no state secrets hiding there (or naughtiness!)

Baldock: Feb 25th 1914

Ma bien aimée : (my good love) I am afraid I shall not be able to get a letter off until Friday: I have not had a chance to start yet, but am going to tonight. Udqx nboz sgzmjr gps (very many thanks for) yours of Thursday last- Saturday. It was such a sweet one Dadie!!! You never told me you are on duty this week- Good Luck Dearest!!! You need not post me a letter on Sat. as I shall be away- so that you will have more time on Sunday & I am sure you have not much time this week. I should write to Trumans now, I think so that you can get their form filled in & send it back to them by next week. Good-bye, Heaps of kisses & usual love from Yr. Rothwell

Baldock March 2 1914 11.50pm

Cdzqdrs ne Bohfmt, (Dearest of -1 dozen- angels) ma bien aimée, (my good love) Dadie,
Thank you very much for your very nice letter of yesterday. I promised I would start writing you tonight, but I have not been able to get going. I ibwf tfou gps zpvs (have sent for your Easter present) this evening, Dadie, my Darling. I know you will like it. Our Inspector cleared on Saturday. I enjoyed the weekend immensely & I think I have a lot of news for you. Le sera demain le trios (will it be three tomorrow) in 3 week’s time- how lovely!!! Am quite impatient. I shall be disappointed if I am moved before Easter- Will write a soon as I possibly can. Mpwf & Ljtt gspn (love & kiss from) Your own Rothwell.

wow...his three grandsons could do with using 'Dearest of 1 dozen angels' from time to time (just speaking on behalf of the wives here...). I'm wondering if I will find a message in code tucked under my coffee cup;  epou gpshfu up qvu uif opnqptu pvu my love...

Monday, April 5, 2010

This is the first time in the correspondance that Rothwell has called Hilda 'Dadie'. The cards seem to be an in-between-letter arrangement to let her know a longer epistle is on it's way, though he is full of apologies at his tardiness. Quite like sending a text to say a longer e-mail is coming...

Wesley House, Bury St Edmunds 2/2/14

My pxo (own) Dadie, Efbsftu (Dearest), in all le monde,-etc,etc- Have had a most enjoyable, tho’ quiet week end. I wonder how you are getting on, Dadie: it seems ages since I heard and ages since I wrote. Expect there is one waiting at Baldock. I’m leaving in an hour’s time.
Mpuf & ljttft (love & kisses) in abundance yr own R

Baldock Feb 15th 1914

My Efbsftu (Dearest) Dadie,
Very many thanks for yours recd today. I will just drop P.C to say I have the matter of answering it in hand. It is 6.20pm. Must get to church. Ifbqt of ljttft (heaps of kisses) & the greatest share of love from : Votre bien aimé – Rothwell

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sept- Nov 1913

Here are the first of the cards written in code. I have worked out the following: Efbsftu is Dearest and Ebsmjoh is Darling. Those code crackers amongst you can probably get cracking! I will put them up on the 'Lover's Code' page. If you'd like to decipher any of the messages, leave a comment with your translations.

Sept 16th 1913: 30 High St;

My Dearest,
J. tfou ufmfhsbn this evening. Hope it is to hand.
Efbsftu, J bn ufssjcmz mpofmz apx, Cvu xf tibm hfu pwfs ju.
Diffs vq Ebsmjoh. J tbx uif cbdl pg zpo hpjoh gopn the cpupn of Pesthouse have up uif Tubuijpo. Rang my bell hard but xnt heard nothing. Love& kisses, Yr own Rothwell

Nov 24th  1613: Baldock (in great haste)

My Efbsftu,
Many thanks for letter recd today. You may expect letter rather late, Edbs this week as I am going to full dress rehearsal at Hitchin tonight & one or two other events, so am full up with no time to write. I hope you are better, My Ebsmjoh, mpwd & ljttft, your own Rothwell

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

July 1913

Baldock July 25th 1913

My Dearest,
I really cannot make up any news. Everything goes on much the same as ever, except that the days insist on going infernally slowly. I hope that everything is going on favourably Darling, with you. I saw Doris R. just now. I suppose she came back today. Thank you very much, love, for your letter with the somewhat strange beginning. On Tuesday evening, come & meet me at about 6.30 at the junction of the Chalk Pit Rd and the path over the fields. I shall walk by the latter. Be patient my angel: it is not long now. Love and kisses from
Your very own – Rothwell-

I wonder what the strange beginning was? Then he must have got snarled at a wee bit ....

Baldock 30th July 1913
Sunday 11.15pm

My own Darling,
V. Many thanks for your really glorious letter rec’d this morning. Please note my change of address after Saturday next (July 5th) to – 30 High St (Fred Farr’s). I will write & give particulars sometime Darling. I hope you get on very well this week. Please don’t get the pip, Sweetheart, this time. I have just come from Baileys. I have been to supper, and have had a very nice time. We are getting on very well as regards “Balance” and are more forward than we have ever been before, but Dearest, you can understand that I am too busy to write really, but will send PC’s and will write longest possible letter end of week. Good night my sweet angel. Love and Kisses from Yr own loving Rothwell.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Baldock: September 22nd 1913

My Dearest,
You will find here some rather indistinct views of Bury: I have been out to have a much needed shave. It took ½ hour to find a hairdressers. Of course they did not return until 8.15 last night after I had rushed to finish your letter. I wonder what you are doing now dear (12.35 noon). Cannot say much here as I am not using code but can send you much love & kisses I think.
From your own Rothwell.

Hairdressers- always had to get an appointment when you most need it! This is the first time he mentions 'the code'...more will follow.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Baldock June 9th 1913

My Dearest
Very many thanks for your lovely long letter which I received yesterday. At last it is almost half term! I am writing to you so you may expect a budget by Sunday or Monday next- or even before. I do hope you get on alright this week Dear. Baldock is about the same. Poor old Egan died at 2 o’clock on Saturday afternoon; I was up at C. to supper last night. I am not so busy now as I was thank goodness. Will start writing tonight. 
Much love from yr own Rothwell.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Rothwell was an 18 year old bank clerk in Baldock when the first of these postcards were sent to his girlfriend Hilda in Dorset. By 1918 he was 23, had suffered ‘malaria’ (more on that later) and was serving in Egypt and Palestine; he died aged 36. The impossible neatness of his handwriting, the courtly endearments and turn of phrase seem a different world entirely from the lives of his great grandsons. But then they have never had to grow up in such a hurry; these letters are from a time before teenagers.

Baldock June 8th 1913

My Dearest,
Thankyou very very much for your lovely long letter: it came on Sunday morning & took me quite by surprise. I have been very busy for the last 10 days & I must confess I have been a bit lazy. This evening I have been all around Clothall district and have just locked up here. I will try and write more tomorrow Dear- at least I will start: I am sending the other ones for you to read. Goodbye Darling.
Love from Your own Rothwell.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Love in the First World War

My husband's bachelor uncle, Peter, died in 2002 when we were living for a time in Bristol. As representatives of the family, we helped pack up some items of interest for the family back in New Zealand. There was a postcard album that belonged to 'Mother' stuffed full of vintage images from 1913-18. We flicked casually through them and then thought to look on the backs. On most were letters written from Rothwell, my husband's grandfather to his girlfriend (and later,wife) Hilda. What amazed us was what a romantic old thing he had been. He addressed her often as 'Dearest Dadie' and used a secret code to tell her things he obviously didn't want her parents, or the war office reading. The album has been sitting about for the last 8 years gathering dust, but as a way of sharing it with the family and maybe cracking the code, I have decided to scan the postcards, transcribe the handwriting and share it with the world as an enduring testament to an ordinary but devoted relationship in times of adversity. And that is what we all strive for.

I will post as often as I can amongst my other work, so if you follow with an RSS feed or other, you'll get the updates as soon as I put them up.