Some days I feel a little sad to know these letters have been waiting decades to be re-discovered. Some days I am overwhelmed with joy when clues are revealed and details cascade from them. Other days I get angry when I realize some of the senders were alive in my lifetime and I never met them, or even heard about them until my genealogy adventure began.
So many people I just missed by a dozen years or so. So many people I could have met with face to face, spoken to, asked questions, gotten to know who they were and not just guessed at their lives from a handful of letters and public documents. An ocean, technology, my youth, time - so many factors kept us apart. But we are together now and every day, I am grateful.
This is the only letter I have found from it's author, Charles (Charlie) Percival Vince. He was my 1st cousin 2x removed, son of my Great Grandmother Alice's brother William. He was sixteen years old when he sent it to Alice.
As always, I try to stay true to the grammar & punctuation the sender used and add paragraph breaks at page turns, as the older letters rarely have breaks. I think it's cheating to edit these letters as it changes the reality of the times. So, be patient if sentences feel long, words awkward or inaccurate. They are true to the author and therefore, correct.
52 Old Gravel Lane Wapping England
June 27 1917
Dear Aunt Alice and Uncle Fred, Hope you and all at home are quite well as it leaves me at present, I am writing these few lines to know how you are all getting on, Mother, Father and all at home are quite well Annie has not gone away yet; father bought her a coffee shop, she is earning a living out of it thats all she wants. Willie is in the Army and stationed at Winchester, he has been in it about five months he is now waiting to go away his wife and baby are getting on grand. Jack has got wounded in the arm and leg, his leg is better but his arm will be a long while before that is better, then he don't think he
will ever get the use of it again he is now at a VA hospital in Yorkshire, father and I went to see and he looked quite well and he is well looked after, i will give you his address in case you would like to write to him it would cheer him up. I will give you his address in this letter. Percy is in the Royal Flying. C. Kent, I had a letter from Uncle Walter, and he said things are very bad in Newmarket their food is all rationed out and what with racing be stopped it has made things very bad for them and he has not been well but he is better now he said what they do get to eat is enough to starve them. Aunt Emma is quite well and the girls are the same I hop you will write to them.
I was very sorry to hear that my cousin John was ill but I hope he is quite well now. the last time we saw Aunt Peggy she was quite well but we have not seen her for some time now. Annie's baby is getting on fine. I hope the war is not affecting you like it is Uncle Walter, well I suppose we have got to make the best of it, it will be over some day, we had a Daylight Raid Wednesday fortnight. Father and I did not know anything about it because we were in York on that dad, there were many lives lost, they wasn't half a mile from us, but we escaped lucky without
any damage. Let's hope you don't have that kind of thing in Americas. I have just this minute heard that Annie's husband has sent her 5 pound to go over to Denmark I don't know whether she will go or not I suppose she will. She won't have anyone to run to with her troubles there, she will have to put up with it if she won't be bold. This is Jack's address
231592 Pt. H.J. Vince V.A.D Hospital 3/2 Battalion Royal Fusiliers Pink Ward Clifford St. York
I must now bring my letter to a close with love from all at home. I remain your Loving Nephew Charlie.
Kisses from all xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Charles Percival Vince (aka Charlie aka Percy) was born 25 Sep 1900 at 29 Watney Street in Saint Georges North, London England to William Vince (1865-1922) & Elizabeth Betsy "Lizzie" Thomas (1870-1953). He is my 1st cousin 2x removed. He married Rose Catherine Taylor (1901-1953) in 1922 and they had two sons, Ronald & Eric.
According to the 1939 Register on FindMyPast, in 1939, Charlie was a Master Butcher (like his father) and his wife was a Butcher Assistant. They resided at 82 Timothy Road, Stepney, London, England.
I searched Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, FindMyPast, Google Books, Newspapers.com and the massive world wide web, but that's all I know about Charlie. As with all these letters, I hope over time more stories will emerge.
So Many Goodies, So Little Time
This was such a delicious letter to read. Simply chock-ful of nuggets that led to other nuggets about my ancestor's lives. It's amazing how much one letter can fill in the gaps. Here's a quick breakdown on the people mentioned:
Annie - "has not gone away," "father bought her a coffee shop" "Annie's baby is getting on fine" "Annie's husband sent her 5 pounds to go over to Denmark" - I suspect all references are to Annie Vince, Charlie's sister. I am not sure why her father bought her a coffee shop, or for that matter what a "coffee shop" was in those day. Perhaps just a cart?
Annie's son at the time was Noel Kaehne born 1915. She was married to Hans Karl Kaehne and she did eventually move to Denmark to be with him. Where he was while she was in London, and why Charlie felt she had "no one in Denmark to run to," implies that Hans must have been away at war somewhere, or perhaps a school or even prison, though doubtful. Or so I thought until moments ago I read a letter that he spent 6 months in jail then ran off to Copenhagen. Time to research Hans, and read through all of Annie's letters to Hilda to find out more. (Previous post with a 1953 letter from Annie is here.)
Willie - "is in the army stationed at Winchester, he has been in it about 5 months he is now waiting to go away his wife and baby are getting on grand" - Willie is William Frederick Vince born 1849, brother of Charlie. Willie married Daisy Elizabeth Bentley on 27 Feb 1916 in All Saints Poplar at the Parish Church in the County of London, their son was born 3 Oct 1916. Sadly, Private William Vince died 26 Oct 1917
On a side note - I've realized it's possible that Willie was stationed with his Aunt Annie's husband Frederick Frankland who died in France & Flounders in September 1917. Will look into that later.
Jack - "got wounded in the arm & leg, his leg is better but his arm will be a long while". Henry John Vince (aka Jack 1896-1950) I can't wait to discover more about Jack. From what I can tell, he was discharged 24 Sep 1917 due to his injuries and received a British War Medal and Victory Medal. He served in the 2nd (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers).
Percy - "in the Royal Flying C Kent" Percy William Vince (1891-1988). Percy has been another difficult fellow to find personal details on. I believe he enlisted 1 Apr 1917, and I know he married May Milner in 1922, and that they had a son, and he was possibly estranged from his father Walter in later years. I did discover he was 5ft 4.5 inches tall with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion in the British RAF service records located on FindMyPast. More research to be done as my cousin just sent me a few letters from him.
Uncle Walter - "things very bad in Newmarket...racing stopped" Walter Vince (1861-1928) According to the 1911 UK Census, Walter was a saddler. I suspect with the war and decline in horse racing, he had a hard time making ends meet. I previously posted about him here. More to come on Walter.
Aunt Emma - "well and girls the same". Emma Richardson Vince (1862-1921) Uncle Walter's wife. The girls are Ivy and Ethel Rose
Cousin John - "sorry to hear that my cousin John was ill". Referring to Alice's son John Pinborough (1904-1984). I have not found details on the illness he had in 1917.
Aunt Peggy - Alice's sister. Margaret "Peggy" Gillard. I've had a hard time learning much about Margaret but this letter led me to a clue I missed earlier. In Charlie's letter, after his reference to Peggy being "quite well" he crossed out: very sorry I cannot tell you anything about Gillard - I found this puzzling as he had just mentioned her, so I thought perhaps he meant her ex-husband or an unknown child. I went on a little recon and found a handful of pages after the divorce decree that provided far more details on the divorce and claims of Margaret as an adulterer and alleged prostitute. She was also mentioned as "an inmate of a Home for Fallen Women." Wow. Jaw drop. Lesson learned to ALWAYS look at the pages before and after a record to see what other details might lay in wait. Nothing on a child. I'll be digging into her story another day and will share the results once research is complete.
Daylight Raid - The daylight raid Charlie refers to was 13 June 1917 and was part of what is referred to as Operation Turkenkreuz - The Gotha Raids. It was the first daylight raid on London and caused 162 deaths and 432 injuries. One of the bombs fell on a primary school in Poplar killing 18 children, only 7 miles from Charlie's home. It's believed that the high number of casualties was because people did not realize the threat of a daylight bombardment. According to Lt. Charles Chabot, A Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot on leave, "...Raids hadn't become a very serious think and everybody crowded out into the street to watch. They didn't take cover or dodge." You can read more about this on the WorldLibrary.org website here.
I realize that "quick breakdown" wasn't so quick after all. It's just all so fascinating! I find it very challenging to stop myself from researching every micro detail of these letters and all the other micro bits I discover in that pursuit.
Until next time,
Happy Genealogy Hunting!
p.s. Hot Genealogy Tip - Over 1.3 Million Irish Quaker Records were just added to including congregational records and school records. Plus, over 900,000 Royal Navy and Royal Marine service and pension records spanning 215 years of British naval history. I'm so amazed how every day, there are more and more tools to research and discover your family stories. What are you waiting for!