Wilfrid Edwards wrote a series of letters to a young Wolverhampton lady, Lilian Wiggall, while he was posted abroad. Although it appears that not all of the letters have survived (earlier non-extant letters are referred to), the surviving letters date between 8 November 1916 and 5 November 1917, giving a fascinating view of life at the Front, as well as an insight into two people’s relationship.
Scans and full transcriptions of all the letters are available on Flickr, but some of the highlights include “I often think that if I had of a stopped in Wolverhampton we should of a perhaps become…more than mere friends of course you may think different.” Whilst we do not have Lilian’s responses, the fact that she clearly kept sending letters, postcards and parcels indicates that the feelings were mutual. The fact that the letters have survived to this day is also an indication that they must have held cherished memories for Lilian.
As well as asking Lilian about herself, Edwards also gives details about his daily life, such as “I dont no what you would say if you were to see me like I am dressed now. We do not look like soldiers, look more like rag time rag pickers.” He also clearly misses Wolverhampton, as he asks questions such as (at Christmas 1916) “what is the Panto at the grand this time” (obviously referring to the Grand Theatre).
The National Archives have got Edwards’s World War One Pension records, so we may feature him again on a future blog. In the meantime, we have some background information on him. He was born in Wolverhampton on 18 December 1888. By the 1911 census, he is a 22-year old boarder at No 2 Pittsburgh Place, Beach Street, Birmingham, living with hairdresser Richard Gair, his wife Lucy, and son William Richard Gair (an office boy). He is an iron moulder.
Having enlisted on the 15 December 1915, Edwards was a member of the 5th Platoon, B company, 1st Gloucesters, and was stationed with the British Expeditionary Force in France. When he terminated his service, his home address was given as 52 Ewins Street, Wolverhampton.
In the last surviving letter, dated 5 November 1917, Edwards speaks of his forthcoming leave, and makes plans to visit Lilian, saying “dont think I want to monoplise [sic] you [sic] time.” He suggests meeting her at Snow Hill or New Street station in Birmingham.
Unfortunately, whilst we do not know what occurred at this meeting, or even if it actually took place, the fact that no further letters exist is not a sign that things went well. In addition, although Edwards survived the war, he did not marry Lilian. A Lilian A. M. Wiggall married a George Pike in 1920. If this is the lady in the letters, she had obviously met somebody else. So far, finding any marriage or death record of Edwards has proved fruitless, so the research will continue…