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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

30th May 1914

Fred: Another steam ship disaster, Walt. First the Titanic, then the Columbian, now the Empress of Ireland. A lot of the crew were saved this time but they’re saying more passengers died than what was on the Titanic… You can bet I’m glad we works on the railways not the ships. If I ever leave England, I’m going in an aeroplane.

John: Good job you’re not with us in the Navy! Aeroplanes are far worse – Hamel the aviator’s still missing isn’t he?

28th May 1914

Walter: Well what bad luck with the Derby. Hardly anyone had heard of the horses what finished first, second and third… One of them was 100 to 1! Whoever put money on that’s a lucky chap. Kennymore was nowhere after delaying the start and then getting away badly. Don’t worry, Ma, Lil, I didn’t put too much on.

Mary: That’ll teach you to listen to your brother.

Fred: It’s alright, didn’t Hopkins take a wild bet on Durbar II at 20-1? We won’t let him forget it if he did. Drinks on Hopkins at the Terrier social tomorrow night boys

27th May 1914

Walter: The ice is melting for Derby Day today (it was colder than Norway yesterday – couldn’t get warm at training)! I hope the King’s horse gets through this year with no suffragettes getting in the way. Fred says they’ve put up extra barriers and there’s policemen around the course, so it should all go off well. Kennymore’s the favourite - I’m thinking of putting a little on him to see if my luck from the Grand National holds out. What do you think, Ed?

Ed: Hard to tell, but Kennymore looks a good bet – did well at Newmarket. Quite young.

Mary: Go careful with your money, Walter. Now that Lily has her own job she won’t want to be seen with a fellow on the doss...

Walter: I’m lucky, Ma. I wouldn’t back it if I didn’t think it was a winner.

To find out more about Emily Davison visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Davison

25th May 1914

Walter: Home Rule’s been passed! Ireland are going to get their own parliament. Couldn’t make much sense of the news in the papers but I think it ain’t over yet, and they might let Ulster stay part of Britain for 6 years as a test.

Rose: Pa says the House of Commons agreed but it’s happened twice before and it never gets through the House of Lords. I suppose we’ll see what happens – the Lords can’t do much now anyway.

To find out more about home rule go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government_of_Ireland_Act_1914 or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parliament_Act_1911

22nd May 1914

Walter: Well Lily, ain’t you glad I told you not to go on that suffragette march now?

Lily: I know, I’m sorry I was cross with you. Mabel came into work this morning looking very tired and when she showed me her arms they was black and blue. She was trying to get past the policemen near Buckingham Palace but they had truncheons and beat her on her shoulders. She said Mrs Pankhurst nearly got to the Palace with her petition for the King but she got carried off. I think she must’ve been arrested.

Ed: The papers are right about them wild women. Don’t get caught up with them Lil.

Mabel: I’ll keep saying it, if we can’t vote then we have to find other ways. It’s not ‘wild’ or ‘disgraceful’ or whatever else the Express says, it’s just necessary. #deedsnotwords

Charles: For once in my life, I think I’m with Ed on this. I don’t see how these women think they’re going to get anywhere by behaving like fiends. ‘Votes for Women’, that’s one thing, but violence in women just ain’t right. Don’t put yourself in danger, Lily.

Lily: I don’t know what to think. I shouldn’t like to be beaten, but I don’t think it’s fair that we can’t vote.

Walter: I’m just glad you ain’t hurt darling. Keep out of trouble and things will work out sooner or later I’m sure.

May 23rd 1914

Lily: More news today: a woman tried to give a speech to the King at His Majesty’s Theatre. The Express article did make me feel unsettled, it kept calling her ‘It’ instead of ‘she’.

To find out more about the Suffragette movement go to http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/item126865.html

20th May 1914

Mary: Your father read that a railwayman in Tamworth saved a baby from a train – Annie asked if it was you, Fred! I explained it would take you a fair time to walk to Tamworth for work. They say the baby crawled onto the tracks and he scooped it up just as a train came by.

Fred: That’s the nature of a railwayman, Mrs Carter. Heroic to the last. Funny she thought it was me, not you Walt…

Walt: He’s cheeking me, Ma… Put us to the test and we’ll see who’s a hero.

16th May 1914

Walter: We have had a fine day. Packed up work at noon, same as any other Saturday. Then the whole company in best suits set off to see the Royal Naval and Military Tournament at Olympia. I’d say it’s better than any show I ever seen, most particularly the galloping of the guns and the rough-riding by the Artillery men. Made me proud to be a military man and I should think any enemy seeing that would turn right around and go home. Big show about ‘The Romans in Britain’ too, with chariots and spears and arrows. Funny to think that’s how people used to fight.

John: I should like to see that – the boys in the Navy say the gun drill’s very good.

Fred: See if you can get along, John. It’ll make you proud alright.

To find out more about the Royal Tournament visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Tournament

12th May 1914

Walter: Enjoyed ourselves very much at training tonight. Band was practising in the hall so all quite cheerful. Boots are wearing out a bit though.

Fred: Says the juggins who wears his uniform boots to work…

Walter: I ain’t got no others! Except me walking-out ones, and I keeps them for best. You remember when you said I should join and you told me about the “free boots”? Well, that’s what did it Fred. I’m getting as much wear out of these boots as I can.

10th May 1914

Walter: Happy birthday from the whole family, Charles! Don’t know what you do in Ireland for a birthday, but have a nice day.

Mary: Happy birthday son. We all miss you and look forward to when we can have the whole family together again. Your father sends his regards.

Charles: Thanks everyone. As ever, it’s a strange thing to have my birthday and not be at Sabine Road. I daren’t think about the puddings you used to make for me Ma, they make me want to pack up and get on a boat home!

9th May 1914

Walter: Rose, Lily says they had a smart doctor in the shop today and he was on about making a cure for cancer – thought you might know something about it, being a nurse.

Rose: Yes, it happened at Lambeth Lily, where I work. The cancer was in the girl’s neck but it went down when they put radium on it. It’s a big discovery – don’t know if it will work for everyone mind. The best thing would be a cure for consumption, most of the cases we gets from the workhouse next door has that.

Lily: Do you see a lot from the workhouse?

Rose: Oh most of them! The workhouse may as well be an infirmary what with all the sick people there. A lot gets sick from living in damp and dirty lodgings or on the street before they come in. That’s London for you – too many people and not enough healthy places to live in. Lambeth’s the worst of it… I hope I get moved to St Thomas’. Glad I’m not a trainee nurse no more though, having to give all them soft soap enemas…

Mary: Rose! We don’t want to hear about it. I’ll never forget when you was talking about bed baths out in the garden and I could just feel Mrs Wiggins listening next door.

To find out more about this breakthrough visit http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/curie_marie.shtml

7th May 1914

Walter: Seems the Votes for Women Bill got a ‘no’ in the House of Lords. I’m sorry, Lily. You’ve still got my vote.

Lily: Hardly anyone thinks our wages would get better even if we did have a vote, so I suppose we’ve still got a long way to go. They’d never open it to an 18 year old woman anyway.

5th May 1914

Walter: Got worried reading about the ‘Super-Tax’ in the papers – they says it’s ‘War Taxes in Peace Time’.

Walter (later): Talked to the lads about it at training tonight – we reckon we’ll still be paying 9d. in the pound on a £60 salary. If I ever earn more than £3,000 a year I’ll have to pay the Super Tax (1s 9d or more!)… How about that, Fred?

Fred: Not likely! Like I said, if we ever earn that sort of money I’m buying meself a motor.

1st May 1914

Walter: Well, what a change… I ain’t seen a single person this morning who ain’t said how cold it is. And May Day’s meant to be the start of the good weather! Remember when we went to the Horse Parade in the park when we was children, Rose? Maybe it’s just my memory but I’m sure it was always sunny then.

Mary: Annie says she’s going to be May Queen one day, and that you can bet the sun will come out then. It breaks my heart to think how she’ll never be able to dance around a maypole.

Rose: Just tell her she’ll make a beautiful May Queen one day and to work hard on her walking, poor little’un. Yes, Walt, I remember! You was only four and hid behind me because you was scared of the horses…

Walter: I think you’re remembering it wrong.

To find out more about May Day Parades go to http://transpont.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/may-day-horse-parades.html

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Now available as a Paperback and on Kindle
Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale