Fred Firth's World War 1 letters

The birth of Frederick Cooper Firth was registered at Huddersfield between April and June 1895 (Vol. 9a, p. 255). In 1901, aged 6, he was living at Upper Gatehead with his family. His father Thomas Firth (born October 2nd, 1864) was a plumber, married to Clara Alberta. Also in the family were his sister Mary aged 4, and his brothers Norman Garside and Thomas aged 3 and 1. Another brother, Joseph Cooper was born in 1908. In 1911 the family were living at 19 Peel Street; Fred's father was a "plumber and glazier", and Fred, aged 16, was his assistant in the business, while Mary was a dressmaker's assistant.

Fred_1930s.jpgFred's father Thomas was well connected. He was one of the sons of Thomas Firth who, in the censuses, is shown in 1871 as a woollen clothier at Gatehead, and in 1881, still at Gatehead, as a "farmer of 15 acres and woollen waste merchant employing 12 hands".

Thomas's elder brother Samuel founded the woollen firm of Fisher, Firth & Co at Cellars Clough Mills and, with another brother Cooper, founded S. & C. Firth at Holme Mills. Two more brothers, Herbert and Fred Firth, ran Firth Brothers, Shepley, while the eldest brother David Firth, according to Ernest Lockwood in Colne Valley Folk, "remained in the old homestead at Gatehead, as a farmer". In addition, Thomas Firth senior had four daughters; Jane, Elizabeth, Annie and Ellen.

According to his WWI Medal Index card (online record), Frederick Cooper Firth enlisted in the West Riding Regiment (Reg. No 204732) as private on 23rd February 1916, at the age of 20. Addresses on envelopes show that he began his service in the 3/5th Battalion, which (with others) formed as depot/training units at home stations in March 1915, and on 8th April 1916 became reserve battalions and moved to Clipstone Camp.

The letters which follow were donated to the Marsden History Group by Norman Wrigley, whose sister Marjorie was the wife of Fred’s only son David. The family are happy for Marsden History Group to publish the letters here. Most of them were written to Fred in 1916 by his family and friends. They provide a moving picture of the anxieties faced by those whose young men had gone to war, as well as the way that everyday life continued, albeit with difficulties caused by the shortage of men as workers, bandsmen and Sunday School teachers.

If anyone has any additional information about the writers of the letters or of the people and places mentioned in them, please do contact Marsden History Group.

N.B. In the transcription below, words which were "inserted above the line" have been placed in square brackets. Words which are unclear have been put in italics. Those still to be checked against original are in red.