This letter is the very first letter in the collection and in the past I have never included it in the story, but I think it is fascinating as it tells us about his life at home before he left for America.
At the time he was preparing to take his army exams at a private Military Crammer in Felixstowe. This was a common practice in those days as there was so much academic work to do: they had to take exams in maths, algebra, French, English history, chemistry, geometry, geography, freehand drawing, fortification, military administration and military history. It was an incredibly well-rounded education and if he passed, he would go to Sandhurst Military Academy.
And it is so full of details: that he had ferrets (and these might be susceptible to the rot), that the groom's name was Hayward, and Hugh rode two horses: Brit and Flirt, that shooting the coverts was a big thing, that he likes his Father to write (though why doesn't he mention his Mother?), that football was a common pastime in those days, that his room at home has had a new lick of paint and everything cleaned and the floor polished to look smart and welcoming for when he returned home.
I have learnt that all the siblings had nicknames: Hugh's older brother was Bryan was Bob, Hugh was Billie, his sister Helena was Jim (which says something about her character that she had a boy's nickname) and the youngest sister Gwendoline, who was just seven at the time, was affectionately called 'The Brat.'
Here is the letter:
Trinity Road, Folkestone
My dear Helen,
Thanks for your letter. I shall come home about 11 December soon after my exam which commences on Monday fortnight.
I suppose they are shooting the coverts. Write and tell me what they kill and all about it, and also ask Father to write to me again. I have not had a letter from anyone for an age and I don't get any news about things at home.
Bob has not written to me for an age though he has nothing on earth to do, has plenty of time to go out shooting and that sort of thing. I have only had one day to myself since I left home - not even Sunday. I am going to get a game of football today by way of exercise.
Tell Hayward to get Brit into good trim by the time I come home, and also Flirt, tell him to give her a good dose of medicine.
How are the ferrets? I hope they have not got the rot, write and tell me how they are.
I'm glad to hear my room has been done up. It wanted it very badly.
What sort of weather have you been having? It is awfully warm down here and no wind. I have no more time so I must end now, write again soon.
Best love to all
Your affectionate brother
W H Cooke