I’ve spent the last few months sifting through all the family documents that have survived the last 150 years. Amongst the usual birth, marriage and death certificates, family photo’s and newspaper cuttings, I’ve come across a collection of 20 or so documents that Edward Fernley kept from the end of the First World War. I’ve not had the opportunity to read through them all yet, but I’ve already found one or two fascinating one’s.
My grandfather, Edward Fernley, was called up for service in the army towards the end of World War One, in July 1918. Although he’d technically attested (sworn), his willingness for service in 1915, his call-up was deferred, for some reason, for two and a half years.
Looking back he was one of the lucky one’s: called up too late to face hostilities. But he wouldn’t have known this at the time. Edward would have just been another name in the long list of the next wave of recruits to be sent to the trenches.
By the time his training was over the war was nearly at an end. Edward was posted overseas, and spent some time in Germany at the end of hostilities, but he didn’t have to fight. I suppose it was what would have been called ‘an easy war’.
I’m really pleased that this amazing collection of documents have survived. I’ll be writing about some of these in more detail later, but for now here’s a taster, of what’s to come.
Off to War
By the time Edward was called up, his tiny village of Charlesworth would have got used to seeing it’s young men march off to war. Edward would have just been one of many. Edward was called up into the 7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, as the certificate below shows. This is the only formal document I have of Edward’s war service, and it’s a lucky survivor. The vast majority of ordinary soldiers first world war records were destroyed in a fire in London in 1942, so it’s now surprisingly difficult to trace their military service.
This card was issued to my grandfather at the end of his army service. It shows he was attested (part of the process of joining the army) in 1915, but wasn’t actually called up for service until July 1918.
I can’t find my grandfather on this picture but, as it was in his possession, I guess these must have been some of his ‘pals’ from the Cheshire Regiment.
Keeping a Record
Amongst Edward’s collection of war memorabilia is a small battered notebook, with about 30 pages in it. This is the diary that Edward kept of his war service, and I’m genuinely excited about it. I think having a written first hand account is extremely rare. What makes it unusual too is that it’s a record of the last days of the war and it’s immediate aftermath. I can’t recall having seen many.
Here’s a tale to be told. I can’t wait to transcribe it.
Amongst Edward’s war papers are at least a dozen postcards. Some of these he wrote and sent home to his wife and father, some he just appeared to have collected for their own sake.
Most of the cards are of Germany, where he was stationed, but one or two are official Cheshire Regiment cards, presumably produced for the troops to send back home.
Here are two of them. I think the one home to his wife is quite sweet, in a corny sort of way.
This copy of a Cheshire Regiment New Year’s card is the one Edward Fernley sent home to my great grandfather, also named Edward. A short but sweet message.
Edward spent some of his army service in Germany. Bornheim is a suburb of Frankfurt. Clearly Edward is missing his wife, they were married just before he was called up for service.
Amongst the papers is a letter from one of Edwards fellow recruits. It was written after they’d both presumably finished their military service. I’ve no idea who J. Clarke is, but that’s something to look at in the future.
This letter, dated December 1919, is to ‘Ted’ (presumably my grandfather), from an old army comrade, J. Clark. The letter is reminiscing about their early service days. I think, by this time, Edward was out of the army.