Letter from the Front – 1918
This remarkable letter was written by 2nd Lt. William Dowson to his father Robert in May 1918.
He was writing from the rehabilitation hospital where he was recovering after being wounded in the 2nd Battle of Villers-Brettoneux. This battle marked the end of the successes achieved by the German Army since the opening of their ‘Kaiserschlacht’ offensive of 21 March 1918.
We have reproduced the pages of the document as they were given to us…
Before the war William was an assistant Weights and Measures clerk with what was then Middlesbrough Corporation. He resigned this position in 1914 to enlist in the Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards). He lived with his family at Lax Terrace, Norton – which is now part of Norton Road – and before that at Norton Junction cottages. He married in 1917 but, having survived four years of war, he was to die in 1920 due to complications with appendicitis.
He is pictured here in the uniform of the Green Howards with his brother, James, who was a corporal in what looks like the Northumberland Fusiliers. James has the ‘Skill at Arms’ crossed rifles patch on his left sleeve indicating he was something of a marksmen. Both men appear to have a number of ‘Overseas’ stripes on their right forearms.
This may suggest the photograph was taken in 1918 when these stripes were first awarded, one for each year a soldier had served abroad during the Great War…
We are indebted to William’s great grandson, Gary Nolan, who kindly sent us a copy of the letter and the accompanying photograph.