Poignant wartime letters written to the Mayor of Bath have been uncovered during a major cataloguing project carried out by Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Archive Service.
This 18-month project, funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, catalogued Bath city records from the 12th to the 21st centuries and was carried out by a team of 25 volunteers working with the Council’s Archive Service.
Councillor Patrick Anketell-Jones (Conservative, Lansdown), Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “This has been a fascinating project and the Council is very grateful to the many volunteers who gave their time and skills, as well as to the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives for funding this.”
The project uncovered Mayor’s office files from the First World War (1914-1918) which illustrate how people’s lives were touched by the war.
One very moving letter from Mrs Higgins, a widow of Trinity Square in Walcot Street, asks the Mayor to intervene on her behalf. All six of her sons had enlisted, and one was hospitalised in a distant military hospital which she couldn’t afford the train fare to visit.
In her letter, she asks the Mayor to arrange for her son to be transferred to a Bath Hospital. She explains that he is suffering from a diseased heart and rheumatism, and has spent over three years in France with only one spell of leave.
In her letter she talks about her other five sons; one was killed in action in 1917, two others are in hospital in other parts of England, one is serving in Baghdad, and the youngest, just 18, has recently joined up.
The letter is written in September 1918, only weeks before war ended, but sadly not all of her five remaining sons returned home. The son who Mrs Higgins could not visit died in hospital the following year.
The files also contain many requests for fundraising events, from street-collections to concerts. To limit the demands on public generosity the Mayor restricted street-collections to one a month.
The mayor’s files are all available to view in Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Record Office at The Guildhall. The list of Mayor’s files can be viewed on the Archive Service website http://www.batharchives.co.uk/our-collections