Letter with first-hand account of life at the front.
A letter from OC (Oswald) Blencowe on active service with 13th Royal Fusileers, to his mother. The letter is dated 26th January 1916. The letter is beautifully written and demonstrates well how the writer was unable to say too much about what was happening, for fear of falling foul of the censor. It still manages to convey a wistfullness through an otherwise stoical outward approach. According to the author's brother, Oswald was killed shortly after the letter was written.
In the mid 1980s I worked as an auctioneer and valuer for a small firm in Banbury, Oxfordshire. On one particular day I was asked to go to a house in Marston St Lawrence, between Banbury and Brackley to catalogue items from a recently deceased estate for a forthcoming sale. I was to meet a Mr Blencowe who would instruct me further. On arrival at the very attractive cottage, I was greeted by Mr Blencowe, then in his 90s and was told that the family had originally lived in The Vicarage in Marston St Lawrence. The cottage being bought by the parents on their retirement. Mr Blencowe had had one brother Oswald but he had been killed in the Great War and, I think a sister and it was this sister who had recently died. Mr Blencowe was moving into sheltered housing and couldn't keep much in the way of possessions. The house was a veritable treasure trove of late 19th and early 20th century artifacts as well as some older antiques. Much of it sentimental family items alluding to a busy, happy and tragic past. Among these items were three letters in a very battered and broken leather case. Dated 1916 and "On Active Service" boldly printed on the enveloped I couldn't help but have a closer look at them. They were all from Mr Blencowe's brother Oswald to his mother and were extraordinarily moving. I read and reread them before mentioning that I had found them and how moving they were. With a weak smile Mr Blencowe explained that they were from his brother who had been killed shortly after the last one was sent. He said he wanted to take two of them with him but that he would very much like me to have the other. I have treasured it ever since.