The following text is the letter written by ALL, referred to in the diary entry for 21 November 1917 and published in “Everyman”, November 1917. This letter, over the pseudonym B.E.F. (presumably for British Expeditionary Force), which is preserved in a correspondence book of ALL’s, was written on 31 October in Folkestone while ALL was waiting there to be taken across the Channel on his return to France from home leave.
SIR. – I have been very much amused and occasionally just a little annoyed by the neat little gibes which “Roderick Random” so often makes at teetotalers. In the last copy which I had the pleasure of reading he said something (I haven’t EVERYMAN by me) about “before men grew teetotal and flabby.” Permit me, modestly and with cap in hand, to state my own case. I am one of a third generation of most bigoted teetotalers, and neither I nor my fathers are – or were – particularly flabby. We can boast fairly healthy carcases, tolerably clear minds, and maybe a seasoning of humour. In the realm of hard knocks we hold our own whether they be the playful little taps of circumstance or the more energetic blows given by fragments of high-explosive shell. I am just winding up ten days’ leave after twenty months’ active service, and have had the honour – scarcely a pleasure – of being in every stunt in that period with the exception of Vimy Ridge – and never condescended to indulge in a rum ration. I am not by any means the only total abstainer on active service. They are as plentiful as German whizzbangs and as hard as Army biscuits. I venture to assert that you will find more flabbiness of body and mind amongst topers than amongst abstainers.
Pardon scrawl and a hastily written letter. I am at rest camp waiting for the cross-Channel boat. In a few more hours I shall be wending my way to the battle-line and will face Fritz – without a rum ration.
WHITTAKER – – Killed in action October 22nd1, 1917 aged 22 years, 2nd-Lieut, William Gaylard Whittaker2, Northumberland Fusiliers, dearly loved son of William and Agnes Whittaker.
See ALL’s retrospective note of W’s death on 22 October – coincidentally, the news actually reached ALL on 8 November, the same day that W’s name appeared in this Roll of Honour in the Sunderland Daily Echo. ↩
Mrs E. W. Linfoot1, of 16, Nelson Street, has received a letter from her husband, Bomb. Linfoot, R.G.A., intimating that he has been awarded the Military Medal for bravery and devotion to duty on October 4th. Bomb Linfoot was an assistant with Messrs Hills and Co., stationers, Fawcett Street, prior to joining the Colours in May, 1916, and has been six months in France.
“Mrs E. W. Linfoot” refers, of course, to Hilda Linfoot (née Tulip), wife of Mr E. W. Linfoot, ALL’s brother Ernie. See also Family page, and Hilda.↩
The funeral of the late Mr James Mullens, commercial traveller, who died while travelling by train on Sunday to fulfil a preaching engagement, took place at noon to-day. The coffin was of polished fumed oak with brass mountings, the shield bearing the inscription : “James Mullens, died May 20, 1917, aged 73 years.” The officiating minister was the Rev. Edward Eaves, and the interment was made in the family burial ground in Sunderland Cemetery, Ryhope Road. The mourners included Mrs F. W. Waggott (sister), Mr G. P. Mullens, Mr H. R. Mullens (sons), Mr and Mrs Arthur Mullins (son and daughter-in-law), Mr F. Waggott (son-in-law), Mr E. Stokes (brother-in-law), Mr J. H. Waggott, Sister Annie, Mr. E. Potts, Miss Hammond, Mr J. W. Gant, Mr R. P. Hann, Mr R. Bailes, Mr Eaves, and Mr J. Hine. There were no flowers, by request. Messrs Crofton and Sons had charge of the funeral arrangements.
The death occurred with painful suddenness yesterday morning of Mr James Mullens, 17, Athol Park. Mr Mullens, who was 701, was a well-known local preacher, and yesterday had an engagement to preach at Shiney Row. When he left the house to catch his train he knew that he was rather pressed for time ,and in consequence he hurried to the station. After getting into the train he was taken ill and died before he reached Millfield Station. Dr Gray was then called and saw the body, and stated that death had taken place. The deceased was removed to the mortuary and afterwards to his residence. Mr Mullens was a commercial traveller.
James Mullens was actually 73 years of age at the time of his death. ↩
Mr Charles Percy held an inquiry at Alnwick yesterday, into the circumstances attending the death of Thomas Bell (32), a private on the motor transport of the Army Service Corps, though holding the local rank of sergeant while stationed at Alnwick. His death was the result of injuries received while driving a motor van in the direction of Alnwick, on Wednesday night.
Colonel P. Broome Giles, C.B., commandant of the convalescent camp at Alnwick, stated that the deceased had taken charge of the car1 entirely at his own initiative, and without orders.
Ernest Ball, a private in the motor transport of the Army Service Corps at Alnwick, stated that just before ten o’clock on Wednesday night he got an order to drive the motor ambulance car2 to Titlington with Mr G. Sordy and his wife, who had been attending the military concert in the Y.M.C.A. hut at the encampment. They got to Titlington, a distance of about ten miles, just after eleven o’clock. A gale of wind was blowing. They stayed at Titlington about half an hour, during which time he had one and a half glasses of whisky, and the deceased had two ordinary glasses of whisky. The deceased took the wheel of the car on the return to Alnwick. Continue reading Newcastle Daily Journal 15 January 1916→
Interestingly, “car” is used here in the same way as ALL himself often used it, to mean a generic motorised transport. ↩
Here, “car” is qualified as “motor ambulance car”. Evidently “ambulance” on its own was not yet generally understood to mean a motorised patient transport. ↩