Author of Letter: Noah C Draper, 29 yrs old
Dated: Jan. 21. 1917.
Mailed from: Hassocks, England
Attached to: HMS Pembroke
Profession: Farmer, Temporary Sailor
Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Addressed to: Mrs. N.C. Draper, Keswick, Ont.
Writing instrument: Fountain Pen with Black Ink
Writing Paper: 10" x 6.5" medium weight, semi-rough, folded into booklet form, but with the inside page written across the short width and all the way down the length like foolscap. The pages are not numbered.
People mentioned in this letter:
Ethel* - Noah's wife of 5 yrs, Ethel Isabel Nelson Draper
- Mildred* aka Midge, 3 yrs old
- James David* aka Jay, 6 months (later called JD)
Places/things mentioned in this letter:
- Keswick - where Noah's family lives (the ones who didn't move west)
- Chatham - Royal Naval Barracks in Chatham, England
- London - Capital city of England
- Hassocks - 43 1/2 miles south of London
- Clayton - village south of Hassocks (little over a mile)
Word or Phrase Use:
Noah always spells the following as:
- no apostrophe for contractions - dont, wont, isnt, havent...
- Saturaday vs Saturday
- untill vs until
* Look under the Categories/Labels in the right side column for more posts on this
person/place/thing, or use the search box in the header at the top of this page
** see History Notes below
Jan. 21. 1917
Mrs. N.C. Draper,
Dear Ethel; -
Well I am having a weeks
leave left Chatham Friday
at 4 p.m. & have to be back
Sat. Jan. 27 by 8.30 a.m. am
about 30 miles South of
London. came through but
did not stop off as I had a
bad cold & thot. I would get
out on a farm and see if
I could not get rid of it. I
was nearly all right in barracks
but theyput me messanger for
the baths, so I got it freshagain
I do not think I could have gone to a
better place than this for they are
very kind & I think I will be all
right in two or three days. hope so as
the proprietor has invited me to go
on a big shoot Thursday. eh.
There was a big munitions factory
blew up night before last about 7 miles
out from London caused by a fire it
knocked the buildings down for
3/4 of a mile all around. they donot
know howmany were killed &
Injured but it will be a great
many I am afraid.
Well we were down to the dockyards
Thursday they take us down & explain
the working of a ship. & I saw what
I considered to be the very last word
in modern warships, but the Petty
officer who was with us said that it
was a first class ship at the beginning
of the war but at the present time
is not to be compared with the new
battle ships so you can imagine
the wonderful inventive and
constructive minds of the
British people. say Ethel if courage
and sacrifice alone could win this
the British people are sure
of victory. at the Pub. where
I am staying there is a man
& wife & two of her sisters
the man has been up for
examination 13 times & turned
down.each time he has
two brothers at the front &
1 killed his wife has 2 brothers
her father & two uncles at
the front 1 uncle killed &
so it goes all over England.
You hear no complaint
they are all cheerfully doing
their bit for their King and
country & one can not help
but admire the British
Bull dog grit shown all
through the land.
History Note 1 - Hassocks, Sussex
In this letter Noah is in Hassocks, Sussex enjoying the country air while he recovers from a bad cold and regains his strength. He doesn't say how he decided on the village of Hassocks, but I'm guessing it was on the advice of others since it lies at the foot of the South Downs,"...a range of chalk hills that cover about 260 square miles across the south-eastern coastal counties of England..." (wikipedia) And yes, it encompasses the infamous white cliffs of Dover.
To get to Hassocks, Noah would have taken a train on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) and then transferred in London onto the Brighton Railway, (officially the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway(LB&SCR) 1846-1922).
Noah would have arrived at the Hassocks Railway Station that you see in the image at the top of this post.
We don't know which pub he stayed at, but there's a very good chance he stayed at the Friar's Oak which had been there since medieval times. The Friar's Oak Hotel was a coaching station where spent horses were exchanged for fresh ones.
The www.keymerclaytonwarmemorials.files.wordpress.com site relates the history of, and pays tribute to, the 54 men of Keymer and Clayton (village south of Hassocks) who gave their lives while defending their country. The following image is from their site, one of many which show the area and the lives of the brave men who are honoured here.
From Hassocks, our prairie farmer Noah, would have been able to see the escarpment which delineates the start of South Downs. It's called Wolsonbury Hill and has many fine walking trails even today. He would also have seen the twin Clayton windmills, affectionately called, Jack and Jill.
This is a modern image of the spot he would have seen if he were standing about a mile south of the pub where he was staying. Perhaps not as bushy though as I've read that scrub is encroaching on the fields. The Clayton windmills are near the top right of this image.
Since Noah visits castles and other historic sites in future letters, perhaps he climbed Wolstonbury Hill to check out the remains of a Bronze Age fort. The view would have been marvelous as the guide book says you can see across South Downs on one side, and to infinity as you look to the north. What a memory for Noah to think on when he returns to our flat Saskatchewan prairie.
On the second page of this letter, Noah mentions the explosion of a munitions factory outside of London. This was a horrific event where 73 people died and more than 400 were wounded. Instead of relaying all the information here, I'm posting a YouTube video courtesy of the BBC which relays the facts with personal accounts and images. It also shows videos of women and men making munitions.
If you don't see the video here, go to https://youtu.be/BMI4A3Pzdas
I'll end this post with a graphic I made with a quote from the letter featured on this post...