How a mother received sad news in 1918
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