Radcliffe on Trent WWI Letters

Charles Wightman Pike

Henry Pike, father of Charles, visiting Brielen
1923

Charles Samuel Wightman Pike was born in Radcliffe on Boxing Day 1882, the eldest of four boys and one girl. He was married to Agnes Foster and they had two children before 1914, Dick and Mary. When war broke out, he was a solicitor’s clerk and secretary of Radcliffe on Trent golf club. He was killed on 9th October 1917. His wife was sure he must have left a message for his family before he died. As she was unable to provide the children with that comfort,  the letters were carefully preserved for them. Agnes, a teacher at Radcliffe school, died in the flu epidemic in December 1918.

To read more about Charles Pike click here

Charles with his brothers Jack and Tom

Charles Pike’s letters from the Front to his family

The letter below was written a few days before Charles’s unit, the 232 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, was engaged in action at the Battle of Vimy Ridge, France.

3/4/17 My dear Mother Father Dolly & Grandad

I was delighted to receive Mother’s letter last evening and to hear that you are all well. No doubt you have now received the letter I sent to you about a fortnight ago. I write as often as I can but my time is pretty well occupied now that I am with the Guns. 24 hours on & 24 off. Of course we are not free the 24 hours off except from 9 to 2, the other time is occupied in carrying shells, digging or some other kind of work. It is heavy very heavy & I am not standing it too well. You ask if I want anything for the piles, well as a matter of fact I have got some stuff but I don’t think anything will do them good except an operation & I don’t want that if I can help it. The officer I was with is now in England suffering from Trench Fever. I hope I get a chance if another officer is posted to us as the work is much lighter and such as I can manage quite well. If of course I don’t get a chance I shall have to do the best I can.

When you mention little Mary and Dick it nearly breaks my heart & I hope & trust that the day is not far distant when I shall be with you all again. It is a pity that I should have to leave them at such an interesting age isn’t it; but I suppose I mustn’t grumble there are many thousands in the same position.

So Jack & Tom are coming home again. Don’t you think they are very lucky? & Fred too for the matter of that. I mean so far as being in England until now. Why doesn’t Fred apply for the similar assistance as Jack. I’m sure he would get it.

The weather here is vile & as I am writing this it is snowing terribly & the cold is intense but from what I can hear it is the same with you.

I don’t suppose Dad has been able to do a great deal in the garden yet. Things will be very backward this year won’t they?

I hear Harry Chamberlain is going this week & several other “men”?

I hope business is brisk with Dad but it must be very hard work being left without a single man. They might have left me out of the 19 (?) don’t you think so?

Shall have to close now, am going on Guard in a few minutes.

With love to you all from

Your loving Son

Charlie

Please let me have Fred’s address when you write again

Click on all original letters to enlarge

Charles wrote various letters to his family at the end of June and early July 1917 during a relatively quiet spell at the Front:

22/6/17My dear Dorothy,

I am enclosing you a five franc note for your birthday & wish you very many happy returns of the day. Your next birthday I should be able to spend with you thank goodness. I wish I had have been able to send you more but really to tell you the truth I haven’t got it but I couldn’t let the birthday of my only dear sister pass without recognising it. Anyway I think you will appreciate it as if it had been much more. I shall have to make it up another time shan’t I.

Did Mother receive my last three letters. I wondered because I have not heard from her. I hope she and Dad are in the best of health.

The weather today is much cooler and ever so much more pleasant getting about.

Things are very quiet indeed where I am in fact if it were not for seeing so many soldiers about one would think there was not a War on. We are exceedingly fortunate in being at such a place but we deserve a rest after the arduous work we have done. I hope to goodness the whole affair will finish shortly so that I can get back home again. Leave will be started in the Battery during the next week or so. I only hope I am lucky & draw a lucky number so that I shan’t be long before I am home.

Have you seen dear little Mary & Dick lately. I hope they come up as usual and that you take them out when you can. I am always worrying about them.

Well Dorothy give my love to Mother, Father & Grandad & accept the same yourself

Your ever loving Brother,

Charlie

24/6/17My dear Mother Father & all

I was pleased to receive your letter which arrived last night & to hear that you had a good time whilst at Wappenbury & Burbage. I am sorry to hear that Dad is not so well. If I were you I would be Master and not let him work so hard. I’m sure he has done enough work in his time hasn’t he? Can’t you get him to shut up the shop for a week and have an entire change – Matlock or St Anne’s would suit him & you too down to the ground. St Anne’s particularly.

I think I told you I’ve had a letter from Elsie & have written today.

Fancy Tom being home for a few hours but I don’t blame him. I wish I could get home if only for an hour I shouldn’t mind. And Kate has gone to Jack has she. What a lucky lot of fellows they are aren’t they but still I won’t grumble. I’m pleased they manage to keep out of coming here. When you come to look at it it’s not like soldiering is it?

I am glad Dolly took dear little Mary to church & hope she will often do so. Aggie said Mary was quite proud of herself because she had been to church with Aunty Dolly. Poor little kiddies they must miss me.

I had a letter from Sid Foulds during the week together with a parcel of home made cake and bread & cigarettes. It was very good of him wasn’t it but he is not a bad sort.

So Grandad is himself again. I do hope he will live to see us all back home again.

The weather today is much cooler but I am glad of this as we have had such terribly hot weather lately.

By the way did Tom leave any old pants at home if so & he has done with them I would be glad if you would send me two pairs or I would send him something for them. Don’t tell Aggie I have asked for them as she would no doubt resent my begging as she would call it. If he hasn’t any don’t bother I will manage a bit longer with what I have got. I really expect leave will start very shortly. I only hope I am one of the lucky ones and draw a small number so that I can get home whilst the nights are long.

I expect you had the alarm the other day when the Zepps were over. I think this is their last gasp. They are trying to make things as bad as they can. We have them beaten in all other directions.

Well dear Mother I shall have to bring this to a close so with love to you all at home

Your loving Son

Charlie

30 -6-17 My dear Dad

A friend of mine in the battery (a Nottingham chap) yesterday received a parcel from The Mayor of Nottingham’s Comforts for Troops Fund. It was a beauty and contained some very very useful things. I am sure such parcels are appreciated to the full by all who receive them. I wondered if you could see Seely Whitby and get him to send one out to me. I know you have subscribed to the fund a good many times so that you should be able to get one. It was through Seely Whitby that this chap got his. It is only for men on active service. Of course living at Radcliffe might be a bar to my getting one but if you remember I gave my address as your shop so that I could enlist at Nottingham so that should entitle me to one. I know you will do what you can. I do hope you are better and if I were you I should not worry about work. All will come well in the end (which I honestly believe is not far off). I had a letter from both Jack and Tom the other day and wrote them in reply yesterday.

I heard today that young D(?) was killed a mile or so away from where I am. This of course gives no information as I am not allowed to state the place.

The weather here today is shocking raining in torrents. Night before last I was in a pickle. We had a terrible thunderstorm and the dugout I am in was like a well. The wall fell in on the bed and the blankets were saturated and we have to put up with these sort of things.

I had a letter from Fred some time ago but can’t remember whether I wrote him in return. Is he still at Eastbourne? Harry Packwood wrote me the other day and said that Tommy was going there. I thought if he could come across Fred it would be nice for both of them.

Well I shall have to close now as I am up to the neck in it.

So with love to Mother, Dolly, Grandad and yourself

Your ever loving son

Charlie

10/7/17
The weather has again changed. Yesterday it was miserably raining all day long. Today it is fine but very cold. With regard to the War I see the Russians are still maintaining the lead & if they hold it, in my opinion, will see it through. Thank God if it does.

I am more than pleased that dear little Mary goes to Church with you & I want you to make it a practice to take her every Sunday (of course I mean when it is fit) until such time as I come back & am able to take both her & Dick. Dear little soul I look at both their photos every night & really it makes the tears come to my eyes when I look at them & think I am so far away.

8/8/17
I believe I told you in my last letter that I had received the parcel from the Mayor’s Fund & that I had written thanking them. Tell Dad thank Seely Whitby for it too please.

I had a letter from Harry Packwood the other day. He is alright expecting leave any day now.   It is over 12 months since he came out so that it is time he had one isn’t it? When mine will be I can’t say but if the War is going to finish this Autumn (which I think it will) I would rather stop here until the finish than come on leave & have to come out again, don’t you think it would be better.

I am delighted you took little Mary to Church the other Sunday evening. I hope she will go regularly with you or Dolly every Sunday. As you say I am certain she likes to be with you and she is such good company for such a young child. She will be a very good substitute for me won’t she. I am glad too that Aggie has finished School. 

I met a chap too that knows Harry Hallam, had known him some years.

The following letters from Charles to his brother Tom and his parents show that he was still in France at this stage of the war. He was at Rest Camp until August 24th 1917.

14/8/17My dear Tom

Thanks very much indeed for your letter received yesterday.   The reason of the delay is that I am at a Rest Camp until the 24th & the letters have to be sent on from the Battery to where I am. The place I am in is a very small village with one pub only & the ale is putrid. As a matter of fact all the French ale is. Rest Camp indeed parade at 10 until 12.30 again at 2 until 4.30 some Rest isn’t it!

I expect you are fed up the same as I am but you are infinitely better off than I am. You can get home every other week end & I can’t & God only knows when I shall be able to, that is unless the War finishes this Autumn as the general view of men out here think it will. Do you hear anything about it? What is the opinion over there?

Yes, Mother writes me fairly often, Dad doesn’t but I don’t expect him for he did write once but you know it is an effort for him to sit down & write & it is just the same Mother writing. I had a letter from Aggie today, she tells me that Dr Campbell is leaving Radcliffe very shortly & going to Scotland. I was surprised.

The weather is very nice just now but it varies so. Even if fine I don’t appreciate it at all & never shall do in this belated? place. If you can keep from coming here do so by all means.

I had a letter from Fred the other day. I wrote him for his birthday. It seems as though Harriett & the kiddies are with him. I note Cath has started School? I hope he stops where he is until the war is over. I wonder if Dad gets any rent from him. It’s hard lines if he doesn’t.

I don’t think I have any more news just now so will close. Give my fondest regards to Jack & tell him to ‘Cheers’
Your loving Brother
Charlie

Will Cope has had to join up

19/8/17

My dear Mother, Father, Dolly & Grandad

Just a few lines to let you know I am quite alright. I am still at the Rest Camp and shall be until next Friday 24th & then we return to the Battery. I shan’t be sorry as I shall be amongst my pals and the food up there is far better than where we are now. Of course it’s all only right men up the line should fare better than men who are nowhere near the fighting line isn’t it. I have met a chap here who is in the same Battery as both the Elwin’s lads. They are not so very far away from where I am so that if possible I shall slip over to see them. There is another man here in the same Battery as Wally Dawson & he is not so very far from me so that I shall try & see him. I don’t know whether I shall manage it but shall try.

I had a letter from both Tom & Jack the other day. Tom seems very keen on going in for a commission in the Flying Corps but I have advised him to stop where he is. I have seen something since I came to this bleak hole & wouldn’t upon any consideration dream of taking one. I thought I would at first but not now.

The weather here is grand and the harvest is in full swing. How is it with you, I hope good. Are you going away this summer. If I were you I should go down to St Annes’s near Blackpool for a few days. You would enjoy it immensely I’m sure. It is one of the nicest places I have ever been to especially this time of the year.

How are you getting on? I hope you are in the best of health.

How are the gardens looking? The potatoes here are not very good. Some kind of blight with them. I hope yours are not the same.

I had a letter from Aggie yesterday & she says the weather is very good & that the kiddies are having a fine time. She said there were about 2000 soldiers in the place & that dear little Mary walks up to every one she sees and says “Do you know my Daddy?” I was nearly heartbroken when I read it. I know she feels my absence as much as possible & I feel the separation more than I can tell. At times I think I shall go mad but I then buck myself up in the hope that it won’t be long before I am home.

I really think it won’t be long before it is over. What do you think?

I have not heard from Mr Browne yet although he promised (as Dolly said) to write me some time ago. No doubt he has forgotten. Just nudge his memory when you see him please. How is Dolly getting on? Has she been promoted yet? I suppose Grandad gets about as usual.

I hear Fred Thraves has been seriously wounded. I was sorry to hear of it. Have you heard any news concerning him?

Well I don’t think I have any more news just now so will close. Shall be glad to have a letter when you have time.

With love to you all

Your ever loving Son

Charlie

Charles Wightman Pike’s death

Charles died of wounds in Belgium during the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). It is not known when the news arrived regarding Charles death but a letter was sent to his widow from Major W. Blythe dated Thursday 11th October. The telegram below, marked ‘Confirmation’, was sent from the War Office Department dealing with battle casualties’ (Proelicas) to the Royal Artillery in Dover.

Letter from Charles’s C.O. Major W.A.Blythe

Letter from Charles’s brother Tom to his parents concerning his death

R.N.A. AIR STATION
KILLINGHOLME
NR GRIMSBY
Monday night
My Dearest Mother & Father,
How can I start this letter under such circumstances. I really don’t know what to say but I felt I must write. I never had such a shock in all my life, to think I shall never see poor dear Charlie again, isn’t it awful. I really thought I should have died for the time. Of course I tried to get home as soon as I heard but they told me to find out where Charlie was, that is why I sent the wire, but then Dolly said don’t come, you don’t know what it is to be here, & know that you are all in such deep trouble as you are, to think I am yet to sleep in a hammock I am sure I shall never close my eyes. I would much rather it have been me, poor little Dickie & Mary & poor Aggie too, but we know he will go to heaven if anyone does, the best of the best, & to think he is taken from us, I can’t realise it, I am simply dying to see you all and to know all the particulars.

Please dear Mother do not make yourself ill if you can help it for our sakes. I am sure you will worry but do please try & bear it as well as you can & remember it was God’s will, Mother, and He is alive, everybody & everything.

I don’t know what to do, it is unbearable. I don’t think anyone can own two such miserable objects in all my life as Jack & I, poor Jack he does not say much but he looked like death when he sent the wire. I really can’t think what Dolly put “don’t come” for I am sure, when I should have thought she would know how we should be to be stuck here with such trouble on us, I don’t suppose we shall get home now until our weekend although I shall try & come as soon as I can.

Closing with my very best love to you all & do please Mother try & be brave & trust in God who is above all things.

From your ever loving son
Tom
God bless you all

Letters from Major W.A. Blythe and Corporal W. H. Taylor to Agnes Pike who had requested further information

B E F

16.11.17

Dear Mrs Pike

I am very sorry to keep you so long without a reply to your letter, but I had not the information concerning poor Charlie’s death.

I was very pleased to know Major Blythe also Mr Dennis had wrote you. We were all under the impression he had died at the 14th C.C.S. but on making enquiries I found such was not the case, Charlie had died at the Main Dressing Station which is near Elverdinge. I know this for I have seen his grave.

I am sorry to say I cannot find out whether he had left any message as the staff in charge when he died have been replaced, but I was fortunate enough to meet one young fellow who had laid him to rest and he has promised me to write you, but you can rest assured that if he was conscious and left any message for you it will be sent on by the Chaplain who was in charge. He was certainly conscious when he left the Battery but how long he remained so I could not say as I was not on duty at the time.

The wound that proved fatal was in the head as the War Office reports. I have enclosed card giving full details as to where he is buried.

I am also returning the letter you sent me to deliver to the Sister in charge of the 14th CCS and must apologise for the state of the envelope as it has got worn with carrying about in my pocket.

Dear Mrs Pike I cannot express in words how grieved we are at poor Charlie’s death as we were the best of pals and he was always cheerful and if there is anything else I can do for you believe me I will only be too pleased to do it, so close praying that God will help and comfort you in your great loss

Yours sincerely

Cpl W H Taylor

The reply to Agnes, along with other letters, makes clear the desperation with which she sought information.

The children were told that their father had been taken to the Dressing Station, found himself alongside another Radcliffe man who had recovered and relayed his message to them. From the evidence this appears to be unlikely.