How a mother re­ceived sad news in 1918

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By DAN SHAW

IN the First World War the United King­dom suf­fered an es­ti­mated 744,000 ser­vice­men killed or miss­ing in ac­tion, the vast ma­jor­ity from the army.

In the heat of bat­tle it was dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine what hap­pened to each in­di­vid­ual and the Great War saw bat­tles fought on such an un­prece­dented scale that tens of thou­sands of men were left un­ac­counted for.

Count­less fam­i­lies were left des­per­ate for news as the mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties sought con­fir­ma­tion of ca­su­al­ties, lead­ing to many months, even years, of anx­ious wait­ing for those who feared the worst for their loved ones.

The hospi­tal char­i­ties the Red Cross and the Or­der of St John played their part in gath­er­ing news, in­ter­view­ing sol­diers in hospi­tal for news of their miss­ing com­rades. Fam­i­lies could ap­peal to them for in­for­ma­tion. This 100 year old let­ter has been brought to us by Betty Daven­port and it re­lates to a young sol­dier, Wil­liam Con­way of Nether­ton, a rel­a­tive of her hus­band’s fam­ily. The let­ter came to light when an el­derly aunt passed away.

Pte Con­way served with the 2/7 Worces­ter­shire Bat­tal­ion and was miss­ing in ac­tion. Sadly, the Red Cross had un­cov­ered bad news about him, and they broke it to his mother in this let­ter.

Wil­liam Con­way’s re­mains have never been found. Betty tells us that his name is not listed on any lo­cal me­mo­rial but his name is recorded on the Ar­ras Me­mo­rial, where 34,785 Com­mon­wealth sol­diers killed be­tween spring 1916 and Au­gust 1917 but with no known grave are com­mem­o­rated.

Let­ter sent in WWI with bad news about a miss­ing sol­dier

The Ar­ras me­mo­rial to the miss­ing

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