A-Z of The Great War: War letter that was never sent

Nellie Norcross, Eva's sister, with her son Kenneth at Fred Booth's grave.
Nellie Norcross, Eva's sister, with her son Kenneth at Fred Booth's grave.

In our weekly A-Z of World War One, B is for Booth – namely Lance Corporal Fred Booth and the touching letter his sister never got to send him.

On July 27 1917, young Eva Booth wrote a letter to her beloved brother Fred, who was fighting for King and country on the Western Front in Belgium.

“I’m glad to hear you are in the best of health and keeping your spirits up,” she wrote. “I only wish the war was over.”

Eva, 15, never sent the letter. Four days later, Fred was shot in the throat in a Belgian shell-hole and killed. He was 21.

Geoff Oakley from Morecambe, Eva’s son, was sent the letter by his brother in Australia, many years later after his mother’s death.

Fred was one of an estimated 244,847 British soldiers killed during the Battle of Passchendaele, a fight for control of the ridges south and east of the Belgian city of Ypres in West Flanders, described by former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George as “a senseless campaign”.

Fred was buried in Tyne Cot cemetery, Belgium.

Eva and her husband Arthur moved to Morecambe from Oldham during the Second World War. She ran a guest house on Marlborough Road with her sister Nellie Norcross. Eva passed away in 1968 and never forgot her brother.

“She absolutely doted on him,” said Geoff.

“The day before she died, she said to me ‘I’ll soon be seeing our Fred’.”