23rd February 1918
My dearest Rupert,
It is a cold and dreary Saturday here in Windsor. I know it’s not long since your father and I wrote you last and I have not even had time to receive your response, even if you’ve had time to write me back. I know you’re very busy in France at the moment.
I was struck by a horrible feeling at breakfast this morning and I felt like I simply had to write to you straight away. I was thinking about my last letter to you and how much page space I had dedicated to your Aunt Olive’s vegetable patch. I told you all about her carrots and potatoes and then yesterday, 3 families in town received their telegrams. I have been filled with horror since at the idea that if I were to have received a telegram at the same time, the last words you would’ve read from me would have been about carrots, of all things.
We have never been an effusive family and although I have told you in the past that I love you very much, I fear you may not know the depth of it. I could not bear it if you had even a moment of doubt.
I saw a photo last week in the newspaper that showed some soldiers laying on the ground on their stomachs with their guns in front of them. I know none in the picture were you but I had a powerful recollection of the first time you rolled over onto your belly as a baby. There were no guns around obviously so I know that the comparison is perhaps not clear to you but for me, the image of you lying on your front with a gun in uniform was very strongly overlaid with the image of you lying on your front as an infant. You and I were on the bed and your father was at work. You had only recently discovered the ability to chew your own feet and this was fascinating for you. I was watching you because watching you explore, discover and grow was and has always been the most absorbing thing for me. The rocking of your hips from side to side tipped you and as you struggled to right yourself, you wriggled so much that you were suddenly facing the bedding. You were most displeased to find yourself so as you hated being on your stomach but you were soon giggling away as I was so excited that I picked you up, spun you round and celebrated the moment with lots of loud cooing. I remember being filled with an overwhelming pride even though you had only accidentally rolled. I told you, as I was swaying and laughing with you, how much I loved you and how clever and special you were.
You have done so many things over the years that have made me feel the same way. Do you remember how excited you were to show me the first time you skipped a stone in the lake? You were seven. It probably is one of those memories fading in the back of your mind for you but for me, it’s one of a thousand moments that I recollect when I am afraid for you or feeling distant from you.
Sometimes I would look at you, sleeping with one hand curled around your ear as you used to when you were a baby, and I would be so filled with love that I thanked the good Lord over and over for giving you to me. I hope one day you have your own children so you can understand the hold they have over you. From the moment they handed you to me, it has felt like half my soul resides in you. I have become better at being separated from you over the years but I always feel incomplete when you are away.
I'm sure that you think this silly. After all, wars have always been fought and will always be fought. Soldiers return all the time and, indeed, the last time you were home on leave was a blessing. Accepting that danger might befall you has been one of the greatest challenges I have faced as your mother. From the first time you stumbled and grazed your knee to the letter I received detailing the lucky escape you had from the graze of the bullet last Spring, I have always feared the worst. Your tear-streaked face, smudged with dirt and blood still haunts me, though you were but a toddler and the injury was slight. I have always covered my near terror each time a minor disaster strikes you with bright and encouraging words so you must forgive your fool mother for finally revealing her weakness to you. You are, and always have been that for me. My pride, my life and my weakness.
I am sure that you will be deeply embarrassed by this letter and will tease me dreadfully about it when you come home next. I hope you do. I look forward to it, in fact. And you must forgive your mother her outpourings - it is terribly difficult to see your friends receive the news that we all fear. Something dies behind their eyes and I think it might be the half of their souls that they’ve lost.
I hope this letter hasn’t made you maudlin either. We are doing very well at home and, at the risk of going on about Aunt Olive’s carrots again, we are very well fed on some delicious homegrown vegetables at the moment!
I look forward to seeing you in two months when you have been promised some more leave. Until then, take good care of yourself and pass on my good regards to the boys in your regiment.
I love you, my dearest boy.
No. M.93 . Army Form 104 -- 83
HOUSEHOLD BATTALION Record Office
1st March 1918 191
It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has been received from the War Office notifying the death of: -
(No.) 1563 (Rank.) Corp
(Name.) Rupert Jones
(Regiment.) HOUSEHOLD BATTALION
Which occurred in the field of France
On the twenty-third of February in the morning
This report is to the effect that he was KILLED IN ACTION
By his Majesty’s command I am to forward the enclosed message of sympathy from Their Gracious Majesties the King and the Queen. I am at the same time to express the regret of the Army Council at the soldier’s death in his country’s service.
I am to add that any information that may be received as to the soldier’s burial will be communicated to you in due course. A separate leaflet detailing this more fully is enclosed.
Your Obedient Servant
K. Birkhart LIEUT COLONEL
Officer in charge of records