Love letters from the front line

12 May 2015

By Pan Macmillan

Wilfrid Cove enlisted in 1916, leaving behind his wife and two young daughters in the family home in Harrow in Middlesex. That they were a loving family is very apparent from the collection of letters left behind. Alongside Wilfrid’s letters to Ethel are preserved those he wrote to his eldest daughter, Marjorie, and hers to him in return, which she had decorated with drawings of fairies. In the letter to Ethel in the link below, he tries to convey something of his experiences to her; he really wants her to see what he can see. His description of the battlefield is intricate and affecting – and then, in one great leap, he rounds off his letter with a lightness of touch and a word of thanks for the ‘excellent sausage rolls’. The contrast seems strange and a little amusing perhaps, but how else is he to cope with what is happening to him if not to attempt a return to normality once in a while?

-Mandy Kirkby

Read Gunner Wilfrid Cove's letters

Copyright Liddle Collection. Reproduced with the permission of Leeds University Library.
 

Cove daughters. Liddle Collection. Reproduced with the permission of Leeds University Library

Wilfrid kept this photograph of his daughters, along with the letter from Marjorie included in the extract, close to his heart. They were both found in his breast pocket when he was killed in 1917.
 
Cove drawing. Liddle Collection. Reproduced with the permission of Leeds University Library
 
One of Marjorie’s pretty letters.
 

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