Thursday February 7th, 1918
Gas Parade 8:30. Night work very rough & Johnny gets busy & very near. Good news – two letters from home, date Jan 1st and 8th. What a great relief, thanks be to God for home mercies.
Letters from Home
Frank seems very sanguine about the ‘Gas Parade’ first thing in the morning. Presumably it went off with no incident. I wonder if the chamber was like the one we reported on in the post a couple of days ago. Even going out on night work being pestered by Johnny doesn’t seem to register. All this, because after two long months, Frank has received two letters from home and all is well. ‘What a great relief, thanks be to God for home mercies.‘
Sarah Elizabeth had gone to stay with her sister-in-law and work at the Lily Mill while Frank and her brother, Abram, were in the Army. Olive, their daughter, went to live with her grandmother Mary Ann Sutton and great-aunt Rhoda. You can read more about Mary Ann and Rhoda in this article, however suffice to say, they were both very interesting women.
Hyssop & Salvation
Olive was the great raconteur of the family and wrote down some memories from her early life. This short extract gives you a flavour of life for the young Olive and shares one of Frank’s foibles:
‘As I was the only one (Grandma) had to save at the time, both she and Aunt Rhoda guided my infant footsteps along “the Right Way” so that I could not only become an angel but have many “stars in my crown” as well for my good deeds. So I learned early from her “Stone Tablet” of rules.
The first thing I remember being able to read was the motto over my little bed. It was on a green card and in silver print – One large staring eye in the middle and over it “THOU GOD”, underneath “SEEST ME”. I used to hide under the bedclothes where I felt the one eyed “Thou God” could not see me nor the four angels which my nightly prayers said were at the four corners of my bed “One to watch and One to pray and Two to carry my soul away, If I should die before I wake”! Typical Victorianism.
Before I was put to bed I had to be scrubbed and Aunt Rhoda used to chant “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me and I shall be whiter than snow”². I had to have my hyssop³ every night and I am sure it did me good. Then they put my ‘curl rags’ in, I had blonde straight hair as a child, but they decided on ringlets and I had ringlets. I still remember the pain.
God didn’t like children who were disobedient, cheeky, untruthful, noisy, clumsy, spilt food, spoke when they had not been spoken to, spoke with their mouths full, got their clothes dirty when playing out, did not keep the Sabbath day. Now the Sabbath day keeping was most important as this was Satan’s favourite gathering day. There were some things you just got “your face in the moon for”. This must have been old folk lore and it happened if you used a sharp implement like scissors or knives or axes on a Sunday. And to cut hair or nails on Sunday (I still never do this) was to get into the clutches of witches. As my Father believed this as well, even to the extent that on any day, hair and nail clippings must be burned, and never dare on Sundays, it must be something to do with Black Magic which I am sure was well mixed in with their religious beliefs.’¹
It is interesting to note, that Olive must have stayed with her Grandmother and Great Aunt until late 1919 or early 1920. They remained a close family for the rest of their lives.
Unbeknownst to Frank, the Battalion is days away from moving to the front line.
13th (Service) Battalion War Diary – 7th February 1918 – Vladaja Camp
Operation Order No 32 (Appendix No 1) issued at 19:00 hrs. The battalion will relieve the 9th Battalion South Lancs in No 1 Sector on the night of the 10th & 11th inst. 1 OR compulsorily transferred from the 8th Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers with effect from 5-2-18. 5 OR having rejoined are again taken on from 6-2-18. 4 OR are struck off effective strength under GRO No 1011 with effect from 7-2-18 and 2 OR from 8-2-18. 2 OR having resolved are again taken on from 7-2-18.
References & Further Reading
¹ ‘Thoughts and Memories’ by Olive SD Potter (neé Whitehead) (1916 – 1993)
² Psalm 51.7
³ A herb native to Southern Europe. Good for digestive problems, coughs and colds.