5th April 2016
One of the great pleasures of this project has been getting to delve into archives and collections, and the opportunity to read wonderful letters, diaries and journals. As someone who keeps a journal and also loves writing letters nothing gives me more joy. It has been great to see the students at Frome College History Club, and also our team of wider volunteers, feel the same.
But reading letters and journals written a hundred years ago or more has it’s challenges. At a glance the handwriting is beautiful to look at but it can also be difficult to understand. So we’ve all been enjoying the task of transcribing; an activity not unlike being an undercover detective!
At the Horner/Asquith archive in Mells – which has been the main focus of our research – much of the material has already been transcribed by the family and visiting scholars for books and press articles, particularly on Raymond Asquith and Edward Horner. Their voices sound out from the daily letters to loved one’s, so much so that you feel you know them personally.
This is not so much the case with the other men from the village, whose names are carved into the village memorial, alongside those of Edward and Raymond. Men like Lance Corporal Edgar Chamberlain whose family lived on Rashwood Lane in Mells. It’s wonderful to be able to hear his voice in one letter in the archive, written on December 4th 1915, to Lady Frances Horner to thank her for the parcel he had received.
Only the first page has survived but he tells her,
“The weather is very wet and the roads are very muddy but I am in the best of health at present getting quite used to the life now, it has it’s humour as well as its hardships and there is not the least doubt that we shall win in the end.”
The humour no doubt helped by the fact that he had his brother-in-law with him, “a village chum”, who he could talk over old times with.
Edgar Chamberlain was killed in action on the 22nd August 1917, in what became known as the Paschendaele Offensive, two years after writing this letter. One wonders if he managed to keep the same cheery disposition throughout this time, the disposition that enabled him to write, “the enemy very often gives us a warm 1/2 hours shelling”. It’s not unlike the humour one finds in letters written by Raymond Asquith and Edward Horner, but with no letters by William Chamberlain to his family surviving – that we know of – we will never know.Back to Blog Home