The war-time letters of Daniel Jones

Daniel Jones, from Coelbren House, was born in 1895 and was the third son of Daniel Jones and Anne Morgan.    He is recorded as a Coal Miner in the 1911 census, aged 15. He would have been about 20 when in 1915 he enlisted in the 19th Battalion, 38th Welsh Regiment.  


Much of Dan’s correspondence to his parents, brothers and sisters survives: from his initial posting to Winchester in the Autumn of 1915, prior to embarkation to France where he remained until invalided back to the Passmore Edwards hospital in Willesden, London, in March 1917.  His letters are typical of the millions sent backwards and forwards, to and from serving soldiers, with the positive encouragement of the military authorities who saw it as a morale-boosting force for both soldiers and the home population.  Letters were subject to censorship so there is little if any discussion of military operations and recurring motifs in Dan’s writing revolve around being “in the pink” and everything being “all right”.  There are allusions to the trenches, the weather and casualties, but these seem in Dan’s letters to be external, almost other-worldly events to his main preoccupation with assuring his family he was safe, followed by requests for cake (various types) and cigarettes.  Daniel’s letters are brave as they seek overall to reassure his family - and perhaps himself - with details of calmingly mundane domesticity in the face of what he undoubtedly witnessed as industrial slaughter - again, the authorities relied on what they knew to be the natural inclination of youth and enforced spirit to shrug off fear and protect their loved ones from any inclination of distress.   In terms of style, Daniel was also here subject to the censor as he was forced to write in English and not his first language of Welsh; we can discern some oddities of expression and syntax.  On the other hand, on the 22nd of January 1916, he wrote to his father saying “I am very sorry I told you in the beginning that you are unable to write Welsh letters, you can do so I made a mistake.”  It was only towards the end of the war that Welsh speaking officers were employed as censors, thus allowing soldiers to write in Welsh as well (Phillips, 1993, p101).

From Dan’s letters, about 50 written in English survive along with about 10 in Welsh.  Only the English ones are considered here.

1 October 1915, from Winchester, to his parents:

Well Mother, we have had a move to the huts [presumably from tents]…there is a great difference in the food now they got the proper cook-house…now we do have bacon and sausages for breakfast and for dinner we do have roast beef and potatoes pease or beans every other day and for tea we do have salmon or jam or tin fruit…you can imagine it is not so bad but the home cake beats the lot.

Dan mentions that an unspecified problem with his wrist is preventing him from full duties: 

my wrist is a great deal better now I can I do a bit of light duty which I am very lucky, I don’t [do] nothing all day long but it will be duty in a day or two which I will do with pleasure not for the King but for the dear old home and country.

And this telling last pronouncement in his letter perhaps situates Daniel Jones amongst many of his peers who at this time went against a perceived grain: that young Welshmen of predominantly socialist and non-conformist background did not join the British Army, for sometimes separate but often conjoined reasons.  As Phillips (1993, p94) notes, “in the years before the war, the recruiting officer’s leanest recruiting ground had been Wales…for the respectable wage-earning working class to lose a son to the army was a crushing disgrace…and the chapels held soldiering to be sinful…and the chapels had the last word."

Lloyd George’s recruitment drive of September 1914 had “oratory designed to awake ‘the old martial ardour and patriotism of the Cymry’…and “appealed to a growing national consciousness…[playing on] liberal sentiment, emphasising that this was the war of ‘the little five foot five nations against the tyranny of the ‘six foot two nations’ and that voluntary enlistment would stave off that national bugbear, conscription.” (Phillips, p102)

The socialist’s antipathy to his employer, the non-conformist’s independence from the whims of the establishment were forgotten as the war was made their war, as their struggles were identified with the struggle against Germany.” (Phillips, p102)

Both at and away from the front line, the life of the soldier was jerky and spasmodic: long periods of inactivity and boredom - allowing much letter-writing - interspersed with short bursts of frantic activity.  Below, what starts to appear as an innocent enquiry about neighbours (a Grice family lived next door to Colbren House) ends in hinting at something more sinister:

Have you heard anything about Jack Grice and George Lewis. You remember George came back but he went away after he had [h]is pay Friday night and that is about a month ago and we haven’t heard nothing of them since so they will be caught someday


We met Dick Morgan Saturday night and we were very glad to see him and we shall meet again next Saturday by the King Alfred’s monument which is a very old thing.

In his hitherto short life, Dan is unlikely to travelled far from Coelbren - which boasted nothing in the way of civic or historical monument and apart from old farm cottages, had nothing “old” at all apart from the church.   Dick [Richard] Morgan was his cousin, originally from Coelbren  but an early orphan, and was living with his sister at the Miners’ Arms, Ystradgynlais prior to joining the “Swansea Pals” (the 14th Service Battalion).  Dan was in the 19th Battalion (“Glamorgan Pioneers”), both part of the 38th (Welsh) Division.  They may well have sailed together from nearby Southampton to Le Havre in December 1915, as both battalions are known to have embarked to France in the context of the general mobilisation of the 38th Welsh.

Dan had joined the “Glamorgan Pioneers”, a single and specialised battalion within the division which took the lead in infrastructural needs: trench formation, path and road laying and the all-important tunnelling operations for which miners like Dan may well have been recruited.  Pioneer battalions were thus composed of skilled labourers and tradesmen with transferable skills.  The intention was that this skills-based battalion would relieve the regular infantry battalions in the division from “non-combatant” duties although inevitably there was much cross-over and the Pioneer Battalions was certainly expected to fight as well.  Due to censorship, but unfortunately for us now, Dan gives absolutely no information about his actual duties, although perhaps tellingly there is a long gap in his letters in the summer of 1916: when the 38th Welsh Division led their principal and famous attack on Mametz Wood as part of the first Battle of the Somme.  The division suffered heavy loss of life and injury and Dan seems extremely fortunate to have escaped either.

October 1915: to his sister Maggie (c.10 years old)

I am very sorry that I haven’t written you at time sooner the reason I couldn’t find you post card worth sending which I enclose in the letter…again will you please forward me the little scissors that you promised by return of post which will be very handy.


October 1915: to his mother

I did enjoy my birthday alright and the cake was beautiful which was very precious to me, when you will be sending another parcel kindly some bakestone cake which I will be very pleased if you will do so.

Well Mother I have had a nice weak of it 7 days spell only eating food but I will be returning duty Monday which I will do with pleasure.

Well Mother I am sending a broach in this letter kindly look at it before using it for the pin is not very fast but you can have it done for 1d or 2d to have it fastened.  I have bought a pair of boots which cost me 6/- but never mind I had enough to pay for them.

7 October 1915, from Winchester, to his brother:

You seen our Major at Swansea I am very sorry to tell you he as left us he is raising another battalion at Porthcawl he have had a commission he is a Colonel now he was very near crying when he left us on Monday and he told us that he was very sorry that he had to leave us so Loyd George is in command of us now.

“We are about 2 miles of the town but there is a YMCA close to our camp where they do hold concerts.  I enclose in this letter a Welsh leaflet which was the first Welsh meeting that was held in Winchester and there are the songs that we sung on it so it will be worth keeping in remembrance.

“If you will go down Neath sometime if you will drop on them little cases which contain a glass and a comb because I been looking all over Winchester there isn’t one to be had or else I wouldn’t trouble you.

“We have found Dick Morgan at last and he is quite at home up here.”

“No more news but I hope the new place at the Banwen will be so as the last one we had up there

His last reference is maybe to Banwen colliery - colliers were allocated particular “places" every so often, as coal cutting moved along, and we can perhaps infer from Dan’s comment that he thought he’d be back home at work in the mine quite soon.

13 October 1915, from Winchester, to his sister, Olwen:

I daresay you ought to come up here to Winchester to hear some singing there is something on every night in the YMCA so we do spend joyful evenings there so good as in Shop Mari and Shop Marged, what is the matter with Marged she haven’t answered my letter whether it’s gone lost I don’t know.

I was very glad to hear that Maggie was pleased with her PC hoping that she is in the same humour as I left her singing before going to bed every night.


(undated) 1915, from Winchester, to his brother, Dick:

We do have good weather for this is the place to see the aeroplanes we seen seven yesterday because they had a suspicion on a Zeppelin raid on London and it came true so they guarded all night Wednesday

Have you heard anything of George and Jack Grice there is no signs of them coming back anyhow but they will come someday and they will [k]now it to[o].

I should like to go to Callwen thanksgiving this time again because I enjoyed myself that night in the pink but we had a thanksgiving in the YMCA one Sunday night and there are good preachers up here too.


Jan 6, 1916, from France, to his brother, Dick:

The 38th Welsh Division, of which Dan’s 19th battalion formed part, embarked for Le Havre from Southampton in December 1915.  They were positioned first in the Neuve Chappelle area of north-east France.

A line in his first letter to his brother from France in January 1916 perhaps escaped the censor:

 “Well Dick, France is an awful place, the country is all in ruins, it is a place that is full of crusifix and everywhere we have been the old buildings are down but the crusifix is standing as it was built.  We enjoyed a good game of football last Monday between No. 9 platoon and No. 12 the latter won by a goal 5 to 4.  I am sorry to tell you about Will Francis he died in a hospital after being operated on, he had the pleurisy.  I was glad to hear you enjoyed yourself in the concert and we are happy enough in the booming of the guns but I daresay it will finish some day…tell Mother to send some soap in the next parcel for the things are awful dear out here for we can’t afford to buy much out here. The reason is that we are having 5 franks a week that is 4/-0 no more.

The rather surreal juxtaposition of the comfortable and familiar and the outlandish environment in which these men found themselves is a leitmotif of these letters from the front.

When you be writing the next letter give some news for it is quite welcome out here…how are things going at Colbren now…is Even Idris [carrying?] going down at Abercrave now for we have heard that he had the [poke] from [Marie?].  I do have the news that you are keeping the girls on [fit?] down at Abercrave

This exchange of gossip and teasing between brothers - and the use of “we” - hints at a collective experience shared by local soldiers in the Battalion, with the same sort of more-or-less shared ribald gossip that would take place amongst the same young men back in the colliery.

Jan 8, 1916, from France, to his mother:

I just seen Dick Morgan and he just mentioned that he had a nice parcel off you.  I haven’t sent to Coelbren Farm  yet for their kindness...

As seen above, Dick [Richard] Morgan was an orphan and would have relied more than others on the support of his extended family - here his aunt, Dan’s mother.  The Lewis family lived at Coelbren Farm and were close friends of the  Morgan/Jones families.  Dan’s cousin, Gwenllian Jones, had married David  Lewis.   Dan is also now alternating the two spelling variants for his home village, in this and his previous letter.

Jan 9, 1916, from France, to his parents:

Well father we have been in the trenches for three weeks there are plenty of shells and bullets but my thought is that you are quite safe only look after yourself…we have back now for a few days rest.  We were stopping in the same place as Jack Davies you know John twenty minutes….

Tell Dick to send me the answers and the Public Opinion if you don’t mind.  I thank Mother very much for the socks and stocking, Jack had a box of Players off Mr Thomas the schoolmaster and I had cake off Mrs Thomas but don’t say anything they are nice people...

I sent for a flashlight in Olwen’s letter hoping that you will send it as quick as possible for it is all in darkness out here.

Jonny “ Bach” Thomas was the headmaster of Colbren School from 1910-20 (Davies, 1994).

Jan 12, 1916, from France, to his brother

We have been very lucky so far as only 1 wounded and 1 killed so you can see that the Pioneers are very lucky.

Well Dick you was saying about joining the Colours never join an Infantry battalion join an Army Services Corps or the Army Ordnance Corps or the RFA [Royal Field Artillery] for you shall have something to carry on in either one of them regiments.

Well Dick we enjoyed our dinner last Sunday so good as you enjoyed Christmas dinner for Jack had a fowl sent from home it was beautiful.

We are back from the trenches for a few days rest now.

PS tell Mother not to send more of the Welsh Cakes [….] or the same you sent me last time it was beautiful.

It caused me some initial difficulty to think people from Coelbren were sending poultry - dead or alive - to their young men at the front.  In any case, they seemed well-provisioned:

Jan 15, 1916, from France, to his mother:

I would rather the caraway cake than the Welsh cakes for we have had too much of them lately.

Jan 19, 1916, from France, to his brother:

I received the parcel quite safe the flashlight is a good one and the watch is going alright now.  We have been back for a few days rest but we will be going on some where in a day or two.  This place that we are in is better than I thought so we have had 6 baths since we have been out here for you can see that we can keep ourselves clean and we do have a change of clothes every time we do have a bath….

How is the grouping system getting on at Colbren have Dick or Dewi or Mr Thomas the schoolmaster been called up yet.

Well Dick Jack and Tom have had a fowl each sent to them from home tell mother I should like to have one if there is any chance.

It thus seemed that more chickens were being sent from Coelbren.

Jan 19, 1916, from France, to his father:

I am taking the privilege of writing you these few lines once again. I am very glad to tell you that the boys of Coelbren are enjoying the best of health…we are back for few days rest I don’t know how long but I daresay that we will be in the trenches before long again…

We have met some fellows which we know…you remember Frank Wincot and Harry Flew that use[d] to work with you at Banwen we have met Frank’s brother out here that got the DCM and he is recommended for the Legion of Honour.

Jan 25, 1916, from France, to his brother:

Well Dick Jack have received the fags from the firm when you will be sending to the firm tell them only Woodbines I do want, we are back once again in the trenches hoping that we will have the best of luck then I don’t mind.  We have had two good concerts out here, hoping that the concert you were preparing for will be all right.

Tobacco companies, especially American ones, are known to have supplied large amounts of cigarettes to troops, but here Dan may be suggesting that perhaps the local colliery company was contributing to the war effort in this way.

Jan 26, 1916, from France, to his mother:

We had a fortnight rest and we are back in trenches….they are trying their best to make some comfort to us…Jack and Tom went for a walk today Tuesday and they met Dick Morgan he is all right.

Jan 29, 1916, from France, to his mother

I received the parcels quite safe and the fowl was a treat…it was beautiful that’s the sort of cake I want it was grand.  

I received the parcel from Will [Dan’s eldest brother] too the pickles were a treat for it was a change for us, you can tell Dick that Jack have received the fags from the firm but they only come once a fortnight…will you send a box of Woodbines because we can’t have any English fags out here.

How is Jack and Jestyn and Maggie, is Maggie going to sing in the concert..How is Gwennie and Olwen, tell Olwen to answer my letter

[These were Dan’s siblings]

Here Dan solves for us perhaps the mystery of the “fowl”. Clearly now, Dan is not referring to poultry but the exact sort of cake is mysterious.  A “Fowl Cake”, rather like a potted terrine, is mentioned as an old recipe in the “Magazine of Domestic Economy” but it again seems strange to be sending this sort of thing through the post to soldiers. Also, poultry was expensive in those days and not the ubiquitous staple it is today.   Finally, I am grateful to Althea John, via the Powys-L Rootsweb Mailing List for the following explanation.

"Fawl is praise, is it a cake that they used to make for special occasions that the family called a praise cake... [or]...there is a cake they call the "faith" cake they put all the ingredients in together and it comes out with everything in the right place.”  A recipe for a more modern interpretation is shown in the sidebar.

Jan 31, 1916, from France, to his brother:

We are having it better now than the other place we only work now 5 hour at the most so you can see it is not so bad…I was talking to Dick Morgan today he is in the pink of condition and we are just the same.

I haven’t received anything from Glyneath yet perhaps it will come by and by.

Well Dick I am very sorry to tell you that  we have heard Will Francis is dead…I don’t know for sure if it is true or not…I will let you know later on.  Will you send me a refilled for the flashlight for it is very handy.

The Mayor of Swansea was in the trenches today. 

I had a bath yesterday we do have a bath every week or a fortnight and a clean change very time.

A William Francis, Private 31749, of the 19th battalion, Welsh regiment, is recorded as dying of pneumonia on the 25th of January 1916 at a casualty clearing station in France. His widow is recorded as Margaret, possibly Margaret O’Sullivan, as recorded in a marriage record for early 1915.

Feb 2, 1916, from France, to his father:

We met Dick Morgan he is in the pink of condition…I am very sorry to tell you that it is true about Bill Francis he was took bad one night and he was sent to a hospital net morning he went with pleurisy and he died last Wednesday.

Feb 11, 1916, from France, to his sister:

Dear Olwen,

Just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter which I received yesterday Thursday…I was very glad to have an answer for I was longing for a line but I am very glad to tell you we are enjoying the best of health hoping that you are the same at home.  I am  sending a letter for Gwen Lewis to thank her for her kindness the same time…Well Olwen I am very glad to hear that you are preparing for St David’s day I should like to be with you but never mind we are quite happy where we are.  I haven’t got much news to tell you but good luck to you till we meet again.

Gwen Lewis (Jones) was Dan’s first cousin, on his father’s side.

Feb 12, 1916, from France, to his father:

Well Father we have been out here ten weeks now and we have been very lucky I fancy only 1 killed and 1 wounded…including Will Francis and the other one from Manchester but we do see some poor comrades very near every day either dead or wounded it is a place...

Feb 16, 1916, from France, to his brother:

Well Will we have seen something since we are about in France for we are moving about so much but don’t mind, only for us to have the best of luck then we won’t trouble much…

I had a letter from Dai John Temperance and Jack Mellor, they are stationed at Malta and they are having good weather there too, a bit different to us as it is very cold here at present and we have had some snow last few days, but we can’t grumble …

.

Feb 20 1916, from France, to his mother:

We have been in France for eleven weeks next Sunday and I am glad to tell you I haven’t had a day’s illness.

I received the parcel with the fruit and it was grand..will you kindly send a box of salmon in the next parcel or a bottle of pickles for it will be a change for us, as you know I am not a great lover of meat.  Coelbren will miss Dick Penygraig [possibly a reference to Richard Jeffreys, b1887] for he was such a nice chap but never mind we will see one another again before long, you can tell him that the boys wish him the best of luck.  Please send me a box of Cadbury’s Cocoa and some sugar.

Feb 21 1916, from France, to his brother:

Well Dick, why didn’t you do what I told you before to join the [illegible] I told you before for they can send you where they like but the best of luck to you and the rest of the boys

[this relates to Dan’s previous advice to his brother not to join an Infantry regiment.]

How are things going when you are inspected and when he asking you to cough…I daresay that was the reason you had a good laugh.  We have had a good time of it since we have been in France, remember there is a difference between us and the Infantry Battalion. We have had a cozy time of it, the last we were working 6 hours a day but the place aint up to much, it is a dear place to buy anything.  Please send a box of salmon or a bottle of pickles or a tin of Cadbury’s cocoa and sugar for we can make some cocoa ourself.  How does the allotment money now, is mother having them alright?

I have had two parcels from Glynneath, from Jennet Bryant of Addoldy and the 2nd from Mary Ellen Thorborn [name indistinct], Silica [name indistinct] House.  Please let me know who they are for I don’t know.

Feb 24 1916, from France, to his father:

Well dear father I think I shall see you some time next month for they are going to start furlough but say nothing but I shall let you know when we will be coming in plenty of time


Feb 29 1916, from France, to his father:

I am very glad to tell you that the boys of Coelbren are the same.  You can tell Mother that I received the two parcels quite safe against teatime Monday.

 Well father we dropped across another comrade from Coelbren he was Tom Lloyd commonly called Radnor, he is in the pink of condition and he was very glad to meet us for we were the first he saw from Coelbren and I received a letter from Malta last week from Dai John and Jack Millar, they are allright.  No more news but hoping that drama will be successful and you will enjoy St David’s.


Feb 29 1916, from France, to his brother:

I am very sorry to tell you that our furlough is stopped for a short while. I don’t know whether there are a lot of soldiers coming from England, that’s what they say out here but I hope that we shall come home before you shall be called up or else Coelbren will be very lonely.

But never mind you done right for rather [indistinct] yourself than a conscript isn’t it.

We had a lot of snow these last few days…it is awful cold here though but don’t mind the Welsh trio is sticking it allright as long as we [indistinct]  healthy and a bit of luck we don’t trouble.

 Have you wrote to the firm yet for the fags yet, they are a long time coming.


March 4 1916, from France, to his mother:


I was very glad to hear that you enjoyed the Drama allright, and I am very glad to tell you that we enjoyed St David’s Day allright and I am very glad to tell you that we showed we that we were Welshmen…and we enjoyed a good concert too, one of the best I ever been to and some good singing going on too.  Please send me one of the writing pads the same as you sent before.

 

The boys were very sad to hear about cousin Dick for he was quite happy every time I met him.

There is now a gap in the letters and we do not know the reason.

The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916.  Most of the Welsh 38th division was spared the horrors of the first day.  However, the 19th Service Battalion, as Pioneers, was involved from 6-8 July 1916 in preparatory engineering and infrastructural work for the attack on Mametz Wood on 11th July, in which attack they also participated directly.  The 38th Welsh lost over 4000 men in this five-day offensive.


(undated) August 1916, from France, to his father:

I am very sorry for not dropping you a line sooner for I will tell you the reason, I was sent to hospital on the 3rd of August till the 10th.  I had influenza but I am quite allright once again. 

 

I am still down at the base but I think that I won’t be long before being sent up to Jack [indistinct].

 

Well father I am very sorry to inform you that Tommy Price is killed in July 12th but say nothing to his Mother for the Captain will send a word to his Mother for fear it aint right. 

August 14  1916, from France, to his mother:

I am very sorry for keeping you so long without a word. I am very glad to tell you that I am in the best of health at present….I daresay that there is some letters missing for I only received one from father and the other from Jack but I will have them sometime.

 

Please tell Dick not to send any more money to the firm for I haven’t received a single parcel of fags since I am down at the base.

.


There is a further gap in correspondence (at least, that available) until December 1916.    


December 14 1916, to his brother

What is the matter at Coelbren now that all the young people are getting spliced.  I thought Dick I would pay you a visit before Christmas but there is no hope, but I don’t trouble as long as I am allright, that is the main point.

 

Well Dick we are far enough now behind the trenches I think we are here till after Christmas.  I hope so for we are stopping in a nice little village.

 

I received the parcel Tuesday.  Thanks very much but as I told you before I would rather you not to send any food out to me as I am having the best of food now in fact better than what we were having in Winchester, but you carry on with the cigarettes and the chocolate if you like and if I want anything else I shall let you know.

 

As you mentioned in your letter about Howell’s rapid promotion in fact his stripe is not much good but you got to start.

 

Here, Dan is referring to his cousin Howell Jeffreys (1884-1973).


December 16 1916, to his sister

I should fancy by the letters that I having from home that the young chaps of Coelbren are swanking now getting spliced by [the] dozen.

December (undated) 1916, to his father

Will you send some fags because the French fags are not fit to smoke and I enclose a Christmas card for Grandmother which I had in the YM [CA] but in Winchester. 


December 16 1916, to his mother

Well dear Mother I enjoyed my Christmas very good considering where we be, I received your parcel quite safe a day before Christmas and Will’s parcel I received just in time as I was settling down for my Christmas dinner.  Thanks very much for the PO [Postal Order] it is better for me than any Christmas card.



December 29 1916, to his father

I am very glad to tell you that I and Jack are quite healthy and happy, hoping that you as a family are the same when these few lines will reach you.  We are still back on rest in a nice little village and it is allright to be out of the sounds of the guns.

 

I was very glad to hear that the concert that the school children gave turn out successfully and I bet that Johnnie Bach was swanking over it [possibly Dan’s nephew, son of brother Will], we had a concert too Christmas night but it wasn’t so good as what we have been having.

 

I haven’t received a letter from home these last three mornings but I daresay they are delayed somewhere.  Did you receive all the Christmas cards I sent?


January 4 1917 to his sister, Olwen

Tell Dick to ask Dewi how do he manage to have cigarettes from the firm and it will be cheaper for him to do so they will come to their destination allright.  I was pleased to hear that the Christmas Cards were satisfactory, when you be sending a parcel send me a cake and not so much of the Bakestone cake if you please.


January 6 1917 to his brother

I was very sorry when reading you letter to hear about Rice [cousin, Rice Jeffreys], that is how it is in the horrible war, some are lucky to get through it and others are unlucky and I am glad to tell you that I and Jack are the lucky ones so far.  Well Dick we have moved from the village that we were at over Christmas to another village about 8 miles away but far enough from the firing line.


January 11 1917 to his sister


What is the matter with the young chaps at Coelbren now, they rather get married than do a little bit for their country, cowards as they are.


February 3 1917 to his sister

I am very glad to tell you that I am quite healthy and happy but I am still in hospital with my hand and it is coming on allright now.  I received the two parcels which Mother sent me.


February 14 1917 to his mother

Just a few lines in answer to your most welcome letter which I received today Tuesday which has been on the road since Feb. 4th…I am very sorry for keeping you so long without a letter but it aint my fault, I have been shifted about so much, this is the fifth place I have been to, but I think I shall be back with the Battalion in week’s time, my hand has come allright but I have got a severe cold, that’s the reason I haven’t gone back to the Battalion.


February 17 1917 to his brother

I am still in the hospital Dick, I was ready to go back to the Battalion but I was taken bad Sunday night but I am very glad to tell you not very serious but I have been keeping in bed for a few days but I am great deal better by now, I shall be allright in a course of a day or two.

You mentioned in your letter if we do have a game of football out here, yes and another thing Dick it is out here I have seen the best match of rugby played, it was between the New Zealanders and the Welsh, it was a treat.

February 22 1917 to his sister

Just a few lines to let you know that I am coming on allright, I am still at hospital.  I don’t [know] what’s the matter I haven’t received a single letter from home the last week.


March 2 1917 to his sister

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still at hospital but I am very glad to tell you that I am a great deal better, I have been sent down the Base and I have been marked England so I shall be on the way to England tomorrow so it’s no for you to send anything out here for I shall I drop you a line when I shall reach the other side.


March 4 1917 to his brother, from London



Just a few lines to let you know where I am and I am coming on allright, I never thought I would be sent to England.  Dick tell Mother that I am all right, tell her not to vex for there is one thing I am certain of my 10 days leave now which you have been longing for.  Will you please send me a book of stamps up for we got to put a stamp on now.

 

Well Dick it is a great change to be in England commonly called in the trenches Blighty, it is a treat to be in hospital I can assure you.  What do you think, I have seen a lot of the world since I have joined the army.  We came on a hospital ship from Boulogne to Dover and from Dover to London on a hospital train.


March 11 1917 to his brother, from London

I am very glad to tell you that I am coming on allright, we had a good concert in one of the wards last night.  I received the parcel which contain the fags last night, thanks very much.  Don’t send any more fags for me, for if I want some I will let you know.

You mentioned in your letter that I was afraid one of you would come up, it wasn’t that at all, it was the waste of money I was looking at.  You don’t want to trouble about me I am allright for we get the best of everything while we are in hospital.

What has happened to the swanks of Coelbren, I seen the names of two of them in the Llais which took part in the concert.



March 11 1917 to his sister, from London

Olwen, we are stationed in a private hospital but they do take soldiers in…and it is out on the outskirts of London but when you are allowed to go down the town we do get a motor car to take us but I haven’t been out yet. I daresay I will go out in a day or two.  I am not in a hurry to get home for I am trying to work my cards to be home over Easter.


March 15 1917 to his father, from London

I am not in a hurry to get home father for I am try to work it for me to be at home Easter time, it will be allright won’t it.  We had a lovely concert here last night, two women were taking part in it, one was singing and the other was playing the violin, it was the best soprano I ever heard and the best violin player I ever heard in my life, they were two refugees, Belgians, and we had another concert last night…so you can see that we get plenty of singing up here.



March 19 1917 to his brother, from London


I am very glad to tell you that I feel allright, I haven’t been out of hospital yet but I think I shall be going out some days this week, it will be allright to have a look round on the sights of London, what do you say Dick.

You mentioned about joining the army, I advise not to for I shall tell why when I will come home on furlough.


(undated) 1917 (fragment)


... at home father for I daresay I will be home shortly myself, it seems to me that Mother is vexing but I can tell you there is no need for I am allright, I am in the pink of condition only suffering from a little cough.

PS I would you rather you all to stop at home.  I am allright. 


March 26 1917 to his mother, from London


You wanted me to give you some news about London, we went to White Hall one day there we seen the Horse Guards, I have been to Leicester Square and Piccadilly, Marble Arch and we have been to see Nelson’s monument.  Perhaps Will know about these places, it is worth seeing too, but the main thing that took my eye was looking at the women keeping their turn to buy potatoes and there was such a rush they had policemen there keeping them back.

 

Thanks very much for the 10/-, tell Granny that I thank her very much for the 2/-.

 

I think Mother that I shall be home for next Sunday if not next Sunday the following Sunday for sure but I shall let you know for certain later.


Indeed, the Llais Lafur reported Dan’s return home in April 1917.

Below, a summary of Daniel’s war-record.


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© (the written content and authorial photographs) Gareth Jones 2015-19