From story
Humber Regiments on the Western Front
© North Lincolnshire Museum Service

War Stories: Arthur and Sydney Markham

Birdsong

Background music

Margaret Markham

Well there was my grandparents and they farmed at Roxby. They didn’t own the farm, they just rented it, and they had a family there. They were simple farm workers, yes. The whole family. They did all the wheat and the oats and the barley and all that, potatoes, sugar beet, that was when the war started.

 

In those days if you were farming or something important like that where you needed the manpower, you could be kept out providing you were backed up and you know, the owners or whatever decided that you were needed back home but he just wouldn’t sign it and so they got, the family were very upset and they had to go to war, they had no option which upset the whole of the family particularly their mother.

 

Arthur Markham (voiceover)

Dear Olive. I thought I’d drop you a line and let you know that I received your most welcome letter and box dated the fifth. We have another draft going out tomorrow night 500 strong, so you see they are shifting them out now with a rush. I’ve nearly forgot what a feather bed’s like and I haven’t seen a bit of fire in a grate since I left home.

 

Sydney Markham (voiceover)

Dear Mother, I received your letter and parcel this morning. Well about going out, I think it’ll be Monday. Some of our luggage goes tomorrow so that proves we shan’t be long. But there’s one thing that I want to tell you at home. I shall always write whenever I can. And don’t worry about me as I can take care of myself I think, as far as the army is concerned.

 

Margaret

I got most of it from Grandma because she lived with us, how upset she used to get, she couldn’t talk about it. And she had that, the big picture of them on the wall and she used to sit and watch it.

 

Arthur (voiceover)

Dear mother. Received your letter this morning. I’ve been thinking about what I should’ve been doing if I’d been at home Sunday morning. I should have some hot cakes by now. Of course there’s nothing like that out here, but I hope the time is not far away when we shall be having them again.

 

Margaret

She couldn’t accept that, you know, it shouldn’t have happened, it just shouldn’t have happened, and she was very very – she never was the same again.

 

Arthur (voiceover)

You will not have to worry if you don’t happen to get a letter from me for a bit as I don’t know when we shall be fixed for getting them away, but I will write whenever I get the chance.

 

Sydney (voiceover)

Dear mother, at last I have time to write a few lines. Sorry I couldn’t write before. I expect you will be wondering what has happened but I’m pleased to say that I’m all right and well.

 

Arthur (voiceover)

Dear Olive. Having a bit of time tonight I thought I’d just write you a few lines and let you know that I received the parcel this morning. Thanks very much for the cigarettes you fetched me up from Scunthorpe and sent me in the box.

 

Margaret

Because they were brothers they did try to see each other and I know what was said is they used to pass each other each day as they went out to the front and back again and they would stop and have a word or something and whatever.

 

Arthur (voiceover)

I wrote a letter to mother yesterday so you’ll have had it and got to know that I met Sydney the other night. He looks well. With love from your loving brother Arthur.

 

 

Margaret

Sydney was waiting for him – he didn’t come. And that was – it hit him hard. And there are letters about him writing home about it all.

 

Sydney (voiceover)

Dear Father. You will no doubt think it a surprise me writing to you. I received mother’s letter today and after reading it thought I must let you know a bit of the truth as regards Arthur. I’m afraid we shall never hear from him again. Mind you I have had no official news but I have been amongst the Staffs and I’m afraid he has gone under. Poor old boy.

 

Margaret

She wore black from the very day of the funeral and she wore black dresses right through until the day she died.

 

Dear mother. Just a line to say I am quite well. I have not been able to write much these last few days but I shall be able to do so more now as we have come out of the line. Will you ask Sam or somebody to buy me a decent razor and let me have it at once as I have lost nearly all my kit.

 

Margaret

And then within a short time he went the same way. Very sad.

 

Sydney (voiceover)

Dear mother. I am quite alright and nothing to worry about and please don’t look on the black side of things. Arthur is gone, poor lad, and no doubt he is better off, but I pray to God that I shall come out alright to cheer you all up. I really think that I shall be home soon to have a look at you as I think this the last do of the war. Will close now. With best love to all, your loving son Sydney.