Transcripts of Helen Fowlds' World War I Letters

Index of transcripts

Pre-Service (2 letters)

1. Helen to her Mother, December [191?], Canada

2. Helen to her Mother, April 1 [191?], Canada, fragment

 

1915 (53 letters)

"We all feel pretty blue and worried..."

By 1915, heavy fighting and trench warfare were being waged in the European war theatre. On April 22, 1915, Canadian troops holding the line on the right of French soldiers in Belgium territory saw, for the first time, clouds of yellow chlorine gas drifting over the French troops. On the 24th there was a second German gas attack and the Canadians improvised gas masks from pieces of cloth and continued fighting the battle known as the Second Battle of Ypres. On April 28, Helen Fowlds related the valour of the Canadians and tried to reassure her parents that her brother Eric was safe. In a letter of May 18, she notes that men who had been through the Battle of Mons in 1914 said that this 2nd Ypres was infinitely worse. On May 9 she wrote about the sinking of the Lusitania, embarrassed that the nurses worried that mail was lost. It was later this summer that Helen was transferred to the island of Lemnos to provide medical relief to Australian, New Zealand, French and British soldiers who had been fighting the Turkish army at Gallipoli. Throughout the fall of 1915 Helen tells of the soldiers fighting in the Dardanelles suffering from frost bite and dysentery and drowning in muddy trenches. The evacuation of Suvla and Anzac took place this year.

1. Helen to her Mother, February, train to London and London, England (Contains 4 images)

2. Helen to her Mother, February 24, London, England

3. Helen to her Mother, February 27, London, England

4. Helen to her Mother, March 2, London, England

5. Helen to her Mother, March 4, London, England

6. Helen to her Mother, March 7, London, England

7. Helen to her Mother, March 10, London, England

8. Helen to her Mother, March 13, London, England

9. Helen to her Mother, March 16, London, England

10. Helen to her Mother, March 18, Folkestone, England

11. Helen to her Mother, March 25, Boulogne-sur-Mer/Wimereux, France

12. Helen to her Mother, March 30, Boulogne-sur-Mer/Wimereux, France

13. Helen to her Mother, April 5, Boulogne-sur-Mer/Wimereux, France

14. Helen to her Mother, April 9, Boulogne-sur-Mer/Wimereux, France

15. Helen to her Mother, April 24, Wimereux, France

16. Helen to her Mother, April 28, Wimereux, France

17. Helen to her Mother, May 9, Wimereux, France, fragment

18. Helen to her Mother, May 11, Wimereux, France

19. Helen to her Mother, May 15, Wimereux, France

20. Helen to her Mother, May 18, Wimereux, France

21. Helen to her other, May 27, Wimereux, France

22. Helen to her Mother, June 3, Wimereux, France

23. Helen to her Mother, June 9, Wimereux, France

24. Helen to her Mother, June 16, Wimereux, France

25. Helen to her Mother, June 21, Wimereux, France

26. Helen to her Mother, June 29, Wimereux, France

27. Helen to her Mother, July 7, Wimereux, France

28. Helen to her Mother, July 15, Wimereux, France

29. Helen to her Mother, July 24, Glasgow, Scotland

30. Helen to her Mother, late July, London, England

31. Helen to her Mother, July 31, Folkestone, England

32. Helen to her Aunt Teddy, August 11, on board the Asturias in Alexandria Harbour, Egypt

33. Helen to her Mother, August 13, on board the Delta in Alexandria Harbour, Egypt

34. Helen to her Mother, August 16, Lemnos, Greece

35. Helen to her Mother, September 11, Lemnos, Greece

36. Helen to her Father and Mother, September 13, Lemnos, Greece

37. Helen to her Mother and Father, September 19, Lemnos, Greece

38. Helen to her Mother, September 23, Lemnos, Greece

39. Helen to her Mother, September 27, Lemnos, Greece

40. Helen to her Mother, October 11, Lemnos, Greece

41. Helen to her Mother and Father, October 28, Lemnos, Greece

42. Helen to her brother Don, November 4, Lemnos, Greece

43. Helen to her Mother, December 4, Lemnos, Greece

44. Helen to her Mother and Father, December 11, Lemnos, Greece

45. Helen to her Mother and Father, December 13, Lemnos, Greece

46. Helen to her Mother and Father, December 18, Lemnos, Greece (Contains 1 image)

47. Helen to her family, December 25, Lemnos, Greece, fragment (Contains 3 images)

48. Helen to her Mother, December 28, Lemnos, Greece

49. Helen to [her Mother], ca. May-June, Wimereux, France, fragment

50. Helen to [her Mother], ca. February-March, London, England, fragment

51. Helen to her Mother, ca. February-March, London, England

52. Helen to [her Mother], ca. March, Le Trťport, France, postcards

53. Helen to [her Mother], ca. May-June, Wimereux, France, fragment

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1916 (21 letters)

"As you say the position of the Allies here is practically impregnable but everyone seems to think that there will be a big advance made on Bulgaria very soon. Serbia is entirely in the hands of the enemy and I suppose they feel they must recover it."

The Battle of Verdun began on February 21, 1916. French forces were pitted against Germans in one of the worst episodes of the war. There were over 1 million casualties. On July 1, French and British troops tried to relieve the French army at Verdun by striking near the Somme. Heavy bombardment was followed by soldiers rising up out of trenches and advancing on the enemy across no-manís-land. Casualties at the Somme are also estimated to be over 1 million. In June, 1916, Helenís second brother Don enlisted and Helen wrote her parents urging them in no uncertain terms to make sure they helped Don get a commission before he came over to Europe. Helenís letters this year come from Cairo, Salonika and Malta. She was sent back to London on medical leave and arrived there in the fall of 1916.

1. Helen to her Mother, January 4, Lemnos, Greece

2. Helen to her Mother, January 5, Lemnos, Greece

3. Helen to her Mother, February 13, Cairo

4. Helen to her Mother, February 15, Cairo

5. Helen to her Mother, February 18, Cairo (Contains 1 image)

6. Helen to her Mother, February 27, Cairo

7. Helen to her Mother, March 11, Salonica (Contains 2 images)

8. Helen to her Mother, April 22, [S-]

9. Helen to [her Mother], [May 10], pages missing

10. Helen to her Mother, May 19, [1916], Salonica

11. Helen to her Mother, [late May-early June], Salonica

12. Helen to her Mother, September 1

13. Helen to her Mother, October 1, Villa Portelli, Malta

14. Helen to her Mother, October 9, Malta

15. Helen to her Mother, November 2, 13 Cheyne Place

16. Helen to [?], November 12, Downe Hall, pages missing

17. Helen to [?], November 23, Hotel Curzon, London W., pages missing

18. Helen to her Mother, December 21, Teddington, Midds[on]

19. Helen to her Mother, December 28, Teddington

20. Helen to her Mother, [no date], letter incomplete

21. Helen to her Mother, [no date]

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1917
(9 letters)

"The war looks pretty bad but they say we will pull off something big soon."

More casualties on both sides were suffered in 1917 than in any other year of World War I. Bloody and catastrophic war was waged at Vimy Ridge April 9, 1917; at Cambrai November 20. For Canadian troops, the worst of all was Third Ypres, November 1917. On the morning of November 6 at six a.m. the First and Second Divisions of the Canadian Corps launched an attack near Passchendaele which resulted in another million casualties, some slaughtered in bloody battle, others drowned in Flanders mud. On April 19, Helen wrote home to her parents to say that her brother Eric was safe after Vimy. Helen was in England for most of 1917 suffering from a chronic lung problem. She wrote home on February 25 to say she was going to attend an Investiture at Buckingham Palace where Queen Alexandra would present her with the Royal Red Cross medal.

1. Helen to her Mother, February 6, 27 B.P.G.

2. Helen to her Mother, February 25 (Contains 2 images)

3. Helen to her Mother, [March], letter incomplete

4. Helen to her Mother, April 15

5. Helen to her Mother, April 19

6. Helen to her Mother, [late April] (Contains 2 images)

7. Helen to her Mother, May 31, Rothampton, Surrey

8. Helen to her Mother, June 10

9. Helen to her Mother, October 17

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1918
(11 letters)

"I opened the letter and it seemed as if the world was ended..."

Helen was working in England at the Canadian Officers Hospital in Bath in 1918. A second battle on the Somme was fought by Canadian and Australian forces in July 1918. Another (the 4th) major battle was waged for control of the Ypres area in October 1918. Securing this area cost 1,700,000 military casualties and an unknown number of civilians over the 4 years of the war. This year, also, the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle was torpedoed and sunk. Fourteen nurses were drowned and Helen wrote to her mother on July 8 to say that she had known many of the women. On October 22, Helen had to write her father to confirm that her brother Don had been killed in battle. Her letters throughout October and November are full of grief for Don. She notes in letters during this period that Spanish influenza is rampant. She expresses increasing bitterness towards those who did not do military service.

1. Helen to Fowlds [her Parents], April 8, Cablegram (Contains 2 images)

2. Helen to her Mother, April 12, Lancaster Gate, W.

3. Helen to her Mother, April 18, Matlock Bath, D[ ]

4. Helen to her Mother, April 26, Matlock Bath.

5. Helen to her Mother, June 13

6. Helen to her Mother, July 1

7. Helen to her Mother, July 8

8. Helen to her Father, October 22, Matlock Bath

9. Helen to her Father, October 24

10. Helen to her Mother, October 30

11. Helen to her Mother, November 29

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1919
(4 letters)

"In Zonnebeeke not one stone remained on another and the same at Passchendaele and between them the most appalling chaos."

Helenís first letter in 1919 was written from the Canadian Forestry Hospital. She wrote on January 20 to her father to say that Don was buried 15 miles S.E. of Calais. By March she was at #8 Canadian Stationary Hospital and preparing to make a trip through France and Germany visiting battlefields including Ypres, Passchendaele and Zonnebeke. She has no idea when she will be demobilised home to Canada.

1. Helen to her Father, January 20 (Contains 1 image)

2. Helen to her Mother, February 7, Charleroi

3. Helen to her Mother, March 12, Dunkirk, France

4. Helen to her Mother, March 21, Dunkirk

 

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Undated
(4 letters)

1. Helen to her Mother, April 11

2. Helen to her Mother, February 16

3. Helen to her Mother, November 24

4. Helen to her Mother

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