PAST EXHIBITION –
Lest we Forget: 20th February – 3rd March 2017
Our first exhibition, after the completed restoration works here at Bridge Cottage Heritage Centre, opened on Monday 20th February 2017. It offered hundreds of visitors a glimpse at life during both World Wars. Nicola Stewart and Maria Kirk, both Heritage Education Officers at Bridge Cottage were delighted to be able to share the fascinating material collated for this exhibition. Nicola said,
“We put out an appeal in the local community for people to come forward with any photographs or memoribilia from this period. We were very fortunate to have a good response and a local private collector came forward and share their collection of early 20th Century local postcards and some letters sent from the front during WW1. These letters give us a glimpse of life on the front and provide an emotive story of love and longing. The collection of letters were written by a local man named Jack Lloyd Pelham, who enlisted in Uckfield November 1914 with the Royal Engineers. We are excited to be able to share these previously unseen letters with the community during our ‘Lest we Forget’ exhibtion.”
JACK LLOYD PELHAM was aged 23 when he enlisted during November 1914 with the Royal Engineers. His father Charles Pelham was a local builder and the family business was at 117 High Street, Uckfield, pictured here on the right of the photo, at the end of the Old White Rails cottages. (Postcard from Michael Harker’s personal collection)
Bridge Cottage exhibited a number of letters Jack wrote from a dugout in Ypres to his fiancée Elizabeth (Betty) Douglas. The letters gave the reader a picture of life from the front and took our visitors to the exhibition on an emotive journey of a love story over 100 years old! In a full transcript we can read on 10th May 1915 Jack wrote to Betty, who was staying with Mrs May at 13 Church Street, Uckfield:
“Very many thanks, my darling, for all your letters, they have all been splendid and have cheered me up much more than I can possibly tell you until I come back and have you in my arms. You have no idea my love what it is like out here, and this morning it is awful and we are right in the thick of it all. How I would love to be with you again and tell you how much I love you and adore you.
It seems years since I last saw you. I am a little worried to know these soldiers in Uckfield speak to you so often darling. Don’t think little girl that I doubt you or anything like that, but it must be very annoying to you. I know sweetheart you are as true as steel to me and will always cherish my love and honour with your life as I do yours, darling.
You don’t say if you are comfy at Mrs May’s, are you ? Oh my Betty, you cannot think what your love means to me out here with all the terrifying experiences we have to undergo. Whenever I feel at all depressed my love the thought of you waiting at home to welcome me back dear always pulls me together. Darling mine, you will never regret marrying me as I will make you the best hubby in the world. I love and worship you with all my strength, heart and soul. Your love Betty is my life and it would not be worth anything to me if I didn’t know you were going to share it with me soon. You and I darling in a nice little home, always together night and day. Won’t it be splendid darling, and how I do long for the time. Years and years together dear, never to part.
Darling it won’t be long now before we are together for always. Our married life will be one long honeymoon and we must soon begin now Betty. I am writing this in a dugout dear as it is much too hot to be out on top. See my letter home dear for news in general as it is a censored one and as I am putting this in a green envelope dear I cannot say much about things out here you see, and besides I thought you would like me to tell you how much I love you. Tell me, darling, when you write if this has made you happy.
I haven’t quite finished the parcel yet dear Betty, your choice was fine and the apples, biscuits and chocolate in fact all went down fine. I am just going to finish the last of the chocolate. Now my love I must close. Write and tell me soon if this has made you very happy.
With my best love, dearest and every one of my kisses and God bless you, Betty.
Your ever-loving truly devoted and faithful Jack”
At the top of the letter he added a post-script:
“I wrote this on the 10th of the 8th dear but have not been able to post it until today. The rhubarb tarts were absolutely fine. Am going to have a bathe in a canal presently when the firing has died down.”
The couple were married at Hanwell parish church on August 11, 1917. Betty’s home was at 124 Elthorne Avenue, Hanwell, and her father was a nurseryman. The bridegroom’s father and the bride’s mother were witnesses. Jack was described in the marriage certificate as a surveyor, and his address was Expeditionary Force, France. He was commissioned into the Royal Garrison Artillery, survived the war, and in 1922 was elected to Associateship of the Institution of Civil Engineers. For his wartime service he was awarded the Victory, British and Star medals. He died in London in 1971, but his letter has survived as a token of his devotion to the girl he loved so dearly.