Fifteen years on from my father-in-law's death, Mags and I uncovered a box of his assorted documents and personal effects, in a cluttered cupboard. Along with identity cards, apprenticeship papers and various invoices, was a postcard, tucked into a rather ragged envelope. On the front, a fairly plain photograph of a Hampshire pub, the New Inn, Hounsdown. It's still there and, after a spell as The Red Deer, it trades under its original name these days.
Given that my father-in-law grew up in Hounsdown, it seemed reasonable to assume that he had held on to this as a kind of keepsake. Only when I turned the card over, did I feel the weight of personal history associated with it.
It had been sent to a twentysomething soldier, serving in the 11th Hampshire Regiment. The 'F' in Dear F was Frederick Maidment, the first husband of Mags' grandmother, Bertha. The message had a simple familiarity to it, 'Dear F received letter safe. Hope you well. I am sending pc, I hope you will like it. Hope to see you on Saturday. Love B.' The two of them had been married since 1909, and had two small children, Reginald and Ivy. Now Frederick was caught up in one of the most catastrophic episodes in history, World War One.
Young Bertha's writing is full of hope. No one will know how many prayers she offered up, but we might accurately guess how many sleepless nights and dreaded days she endured.
The card was most likely sent to Frederick when he was training, ahead of playing his part for King and country in France and Flanders. I couldn't say with any certainty.
What is certain, is that Frederick survived the horrors until 28th March, 1918. He fell in France, aged 29 years.
A decade after Bertha had married her beloved Frederick, she married again, in 1919. She married Frederick's younger brother, George. Bertha had two more children, Albert (my father-in-law) and Maurice (who sadly passed away, only last month).
If you're interested, you can read a little more about Bertha and the brothers, HERE. And, I posted a short piece about Albert, HERE.