This post has been contributed by one of our volunteers, Lisa Gibbons.
Charles Daniel Wedge was born in Ettingshall Bilston around 1898. His parents Charles Richard Wedge and Zillah Lippett had married at St Matthew’s Church on 9th June 1899. Charles Richard (known as Richard) was relatively local, having been born and raised at Gospel End, near Sedgley. His mother Zillah was born in Felton, Herefordshire and had been in service to a family in Kidderminster prior to moving to Ettingshall.
Charles Daniel, known as Daniel, was the only son of Richard and Zillah, can be found living with his parents and sisters Evelyn, Zillah, and Mary Jane in the 1901 Census at 10 Westley Street. Daniel was only two years old – his parents would add a further daughter, Fanny, to their brood in March 1902.
There are no records of attestation paperwork for Daniel. His war medal record sheet shows that he fought in the Machine Gun Corps (60008) and the Royal Field Artillery (295299).
The other interesting point is that Charles Daniel Wedge was taken Prisoner of War on 27th May 1918.
The following letter and cards were sent to his father, Charles, and sisters during his imprisonment. They were found in the 1980s in the box of photographs and cards belonging to his sister Mary Jane Wedge (who married James Maddocks).
Captured soldiers had the right to send two letters (of no more than four pages, though officers could write up to six pages) and four postcards per month. The stationary had to be purchased at the camp – and though these were the regulations the pressure of this mail caused the German captors to regularly withhold the sending and receiving of mail.
How different this is from today’s instant communication. The postcards that follow are just a little longer than a Twitter maximum length. How would today’s twenty years olds feel if they could only send four text or twitter messages a month?
The first card is undated by the Prison Camp and Daniel however there is a London postmark “July 6 18”. (Daniel had been captured on 27th May 1918)
Dear Dad and Sisters
Just a line to let you know I am feeling quite well and I don’t want you to take it hard over me being here for I shall take of myself. Will you let Nell know as soon as possible where I am for we can only send a card now and again and when you write can you put a fag or two in the letter for they are very hard to get. I am quite well…… (unreadable, obscured and feint) Will close now…..From your son Daniel.
This card was sent from Langensalza Camp. It is documented that this was not the best place to be, with records of British soldiers being shot after 11th November 1918. From subsequent cards it would appear that, fortunately, Daniel was moved.
From subsequent communications it would seem that the cards could take over a month (from writing) to be stamped in London, it would take several days, possible over a week to reach Bilston. The delay in communication must have been a source of frustration when a family knew that their loved one was alive and were desperate for news.
Daniel’s first card was dated 4th August 1918, in it he tells his Dad that a letter will follow, he writes,
Just a line to let you know I am quite well hope you are in the best of health
Letter will follow later I have wrote to Nell and told her to tell you how things are going on, from your loving son Daniel
The following letter is dated 18th August 1918, the camp postmark is 30th August 1918 and the London postmark is 21st September 1918.
Addressed to Mr C. Wedge,
10 Westley Street,
Off Bilston Road,
My Dear Dad and Sisters,
Just a line hoping to find you in the best of health as it leaves me at present.
Well Dad I would be very pleased if you would send me a few fags and I shall get them if you will send the money to W.D and H. O. Wills and they will make a parcel of them and send to me.
……………………………………….them as possible. I hope Jim is quite well I sent him a letter just before I got captured. I hope he knows were (sic) I am. I daresay Mary has wrote to him & let him know. I sent a line to Zill and Eva but I have not had any answer from them yet. I can tell you it seems a bit strange not getting a line from home for 3 months. You need not worry to yourself how I am getting on for we shall be getting a parcel sent to us from the prisoner of war fund so you can see we shall be quite alright when they come. Trusting this letter will find you all well at home I will draw my letter to a close from you ever loving son, Daniel.
Postmark London 12 September 1918
Notes: Of course W.D. & H.O. Wills were the tobacco merchants who made “Wild Woodbine” cigarettes and as Daniel cheekily points out the company would surely make a packet and send them to him if only his dad would buy them!
Jim is James Maddocks, his brother-in-law, (married to Mary Jane) and by the time this letter was written would have returned to the front line after suffering the effects of a gas attack (he served with 1/6th Staffords) which caused him to be sent away from the front for a short while.
Zill (Zillah) his sister was married by this time and lived in Wolverhampton.
Eva (Evelyn) was his oldest sister; she was married with four children, the youngest son being named Daniel, presumably after his uncle. She lived in Smethwick.
The kisses at the bottom of the page are for his nephew Jimmy (James Maddocks junior).
Several words have been faded (they were written in pencil) where they fall on creases and folds.
The story of Charles Wedge will be continued in a blog post next week…