Letters from Walter Lloyd Ferris - WW1 - killed 1st July 1916

Walter Lloyd Ferris, the only son of Albert Edward Ferris and Annie Albertina Keevil, was born in 1894 in Standlake,Oxford,

Walter Lloyd Ferris

He joined the 12th London Rifles (known as the Territorials) at the beginning of the First World War. He was Rifleman 4118.On the 1st July 1916 he was reported missing in action at the Somme - the first day of the famous battle. On the 24th January 1917 he was confirmed dead. Believed to be buried at Gommkart in France.

He is our Great Uncle

The letters that follow were written during World War one. They are presented as far as possible in date order - but some are undated and some have pages missing. They were mostly handwritten in pencil - the last one in crayon and one was typed.

109 Gladstone Road,

Friday 2-15 pm

(please excuse scribble)

Dear Dad,

Thanks very much for your nice letter. I accepted the job last Monday but thought I’d better ask them at the time if this Monday week would be soon enough for me to start as I didn’t get their letter and offer until too late to give notice last Sat’y. I wrote as I say , on Monday asking particulars as to hours so as to know whether I had to seek lodgings nearer London, and this morning when I had received no reply I wired. I have just received a “wire” in answer telling me that they expect me Monday week and that they are writing. As to salary I’ve accepted £1/-/- per week for 2 months and at the end of that time I take 25/-.

I offered them something for articles but of course a firm like they are want £250, and some of the bigger firms want £500. At any rate they suggested I should wait till months had gone and then they would see if they could give them to me . I of course told them the extent of my finances and that I could not expect any help in that direction from you. They said I’d better see if I liked the work and then we could discuss the articles. If I do take them of course I shall have to accept a lower salary for the next 5 years (the time I should be Pound down for) than if I went as an ordinary clerk. I’m sure ‘twas only by writing after my first interview offering them so much for articles that I obtained a second interview, because there were 16 of us, and a lot had London experience. it’s a case of “what good cometh out of Nazereth” with me. Devizes experience and Watford too for that matter counts for nothing in getting a job in the City. But whether I get the articles or no or if I have to accept a low salary for 6 or 9 months I shall have something at my back if I should want to change to another job in future. In a measure I have achieved an ambition - to obtain a job in a good London Office twill be an excellent experience and one good thing I shall be working for a gentleman…I like very much and he has apparently formed a favourable opinion of me. I shall try my best and no doubt in a year or so’s time shall be able to take a good position. I am quite well and am making many friends - not all male ones either.

In great haste and with love to all


I will write next week and say what I think of the job.

Don’t forget to buy in some coal.

(Headed) Y.M.C.A.)

On Active Service

With the British Expeditionary Force

22 November 1915

Dear Dad and Mother,

Many thanks for your kind letter and wishes. I cannot believe I’m 22. I certainly don’t look nearly that old. I am at last in France. The crossing this time being much better and not affecting me at all. I’m not allowed to say where I am of course but I am in a very nice camp on the sea shore. My address is Rangers 12th London Regt, A.PO S11, B.E.F. France.

I am afraid that I shan’t be able to give you much news at any time but will write as often as possible to let you know how I am. Of course I shall be glad to hear from you at any time and if I want any little thing I’ll let you know. I’m just turning in for the night so will say goodbye.

With love to all

Yrs affectionately


P.S. re coal and bag. This is still at SB I have the key, my bank book is inside I thought you might get it when you next to up or get Fred to send it to you.

Today’s papers have just come in to YMCA and am reading Northcliffe’s editions



For God, For King and For Country


H.M. Forces on Active Service


Saturday 1915

Dear Dad and Mother

No doubt you think I am in France ere this but this life is full of surprises. We set sail on Wednesday in a Glasgow boat and got 35 miles out. The weather was awful. We were as ill as anyone could be on a sea voyage. The boat is only a pleasure steamer from the Clyde but she’s made the trip dozens of times. We were thrown about and the captain said we should have gone down had we gone much farther. The water forced its way through the port holes, sides and anywhere, and the propellers were out of the water every 5 minutes and the waves rushed right over the lower deck. We eventually turned back and the turning was worse.

After I’d brought up everything I’d eaten, for some time I was better except for a slight dizzeness. They steamed back into the harbour and we slept on the boat in any place we could find till 6 am. We then went to a berth and we were put in a big storrage shed. The next night we tried again but we hadn’t been out more (than) half an hour when we had to turn back again. This time we were put into barracks in the dock for the night and have been here ever since, not attempting the journey last night. We weren’t allowed to send any letters or go out of the dock, each gate of which is guarded by 4 police and no one is allowed in except on special business, so that Dad wouldn’t be allowed to see me had he come down.

We’ve been brought back to the Rest Camp again but how long we shall be here I cant say. Of course here we are free to do as we like. I expect we shall try the trip again on Monday or Tuesday. I don’t mind the journey but shan’t mind when its finished. The Aquitania was in the dock here on Wednesday as a Red X ship but sailed for the Dardanelles the same night, the sea not affecting her. The Mauritania came in last night. She is also a hospital ship but although taking in stores she hasn’t sailed yet no do I know where she is going. I went along the quay where she was anchored. They are our 2 largest liners of course. They both draw 36 to 40ft of water and stand as high as the top of Lucas’s out of the water. Of course the funnels and masts are much higher still. I’ve seen some of our latest torpedo boat destroyers. They are driven by oil and aren’t and larger than a canal barge except being a little higher out of the water. I saw one estimated to be going at 30 miles an hour, turn in a little over twice her own length. We have 2 of them to escort us to Rouen.

I was pleased to get your respective letters. I received the mittens safely. They are very warm, they served us out with gloves (woollen) but the mittens are very acceptable. Re a scarf, I have a woollen arrangement to put over the head but if I find I should like a scarf I’ll let you know at once. We haven’t any blankets and have to sleep in our clothes. Of course we’ve got 3 each while we’re here but we don’t take any to France. I think I’ve exhausted all the news so I’ll close. This is a long letter but’twill be something to read tomorrow if it reaches you by then.

Goodbye and love to all

Yours affect. son


(A typed letter)

Saturday 1.1.16

My dear Mother,

I was very pleased to get your letter and acknowledgement of receipt of the P.O. I sent you. I am sending herewith a further 10/- as a Christmas present, although I know you won’t look upon it as such. I shall send as much as I can save and draw from time to time. I am very sorry to hear that *Bill is in hospital, no doubt he didn’t get my letter which I sent by a corporal in his regiment whom I met one day. If as you say **Aunty Harriet is sending me a parcel she will tell me all about him and perhaps give me his address.

I hope you aren’t worrying about the mildew spots on the pudding. They were almost invisible and had I received the parcel two or three days before I haven’t the slightest doubt that they would not have been there at all. At any rate they didn’t affect the pudding for it was lovely all the more so because its arrival was so unexpected.

As I think I told you in my last letter the parcel arrived about 8 o’clock p.m. on Xmas Eve and when I saw it I gave some war whoop. What a dickens of a lot of postage it costs to send. They ought to allow parcels to us out here to come at half price at the very most. Re your packing I think you always managed such things with a very practical hand. Certainly everything comes quite intact. As you say being in the Orderly Room I am the better able to keep things to myself but always give a little to the sergeant as he is a very nice man. His wife is confined to her bed unfortunately and of course he doesn’t get any parcels.

I have taken the place of a corporal here and this may mean promotion in time. Of course I may have to return to ordinary duty at any time, but don’t anticipate that for some time yet if at all. We are extremely busy sending men to different parts just now but of course I am not allowed to give you any definite news.

Sorry to hear of Fletcher’s loss. I may run across him some day, I expect if he sees any of my regiment he asks for me. I haven’t had any reply from Sumsion yet. I have been expecting a letter and haven’t thanked him for the cigarettes he sent me. A girl in Shepherds Bush sent me 50 yesterday with the promise of another 25 Abdullas this week.

(second page missing)

* William G F Baker

** Harriet Letitia (Ferris) Baker

Thursday 16/3/16

Dear Dad and Mother,

I have today returned to the Base. I’m not really better as I’ve still got a cold and slight neuralgia, but rheumatism is gone. I don’t know if I shall be here long, although I have been given 14 days light duty, as there is a draft here. I have been in the convalescent camp at Havre and went to a big picture palace yesterday. I haven’t had a letter lately but perhaps there’s one waiting for me at the regiment. I hope you haven’t sent a parcel along. I’ll let you know when you can send me anything. Trust you are all well and hope Mother isn’t working too hard. I’m looking forward to some leave but am afraid ‘twill be 3 or 4 months yet. Hope Dad wont join or have to, but the war should be over in 6 months time - hope so at any rate. Will close now but will write again.

With love to all


PS Enclose French calendar for ‘Pad o’Whisky’

Letter to Mother - last page only.

…………I have changed for a chap and shall be glad to hear that you have received them safely. The “Aunties” wrote a few days ago and sent a magazine, also told me bits of news re Cecily. I hear she’s hooked another one for a few weeks. I shall have been out here six months next week, but see no prospect of leave for some time to come.

Well Mother dear, I’ll close now with love to all

Yrs affect’ly


13th Platoon D Coy


Dear Dad and Mother,

I haven’t heard from you for such a long time that I’m beginnings to wonder if anything is the matter. I hope you are all well. When I came back from hospital I heard that there had been a letter for me but it had been returned to hospital. I am now within a couple of miles of the firing line and we go up each night digging trenches etc. It is getting exciting here. A dozen shells have just burst less than 300 yds away and I can see the black smoke still. We are going back about 12 miles soon I hear, so shan’t be killed just yet.

We are having beautiful weather, and do nothing all day except sleep. We see several aeroplanes being shelled and can hear the rifle fire in the trenches very distantly. I should be glad of a newspaper now and then, and if you send a parcel only send a very small one. I shall have been out here six months in a months time and I’m looking forward to the completion of that month because I shall then be entitled to get it immediately but shall know that every week brings me nearer to my turn. I’m just getting ready now to go out to work again so must close soon, please forgive the scribble as I’m standing in a doorway writing this. I can give you very little news. I am quite well and am quite fat I’m told. I shall close now with a hope that I shall hear from you soon.

With love to all

Yours affectionately


PS. I wonder if Dad could put a packet of cigarettes in the envelope when he writes


Wednesday 19/4/16

Dear Dad and Mother,

I have just received Dad’s letter with Edy’s enclosed for which I must thank you. I was very pleased to get the parcel which arrived quite safely on Sunday. The cake was lovely and very opportune in arrival. I received a magazine from Miss Parsons also a letter a few days ago. We are having very wet weather here but as we are all provided with waterproof capes reaching from shoulders to ankles we manage to keep dry.

Re Fred’s letters I see what I’ve thought would happen sooner or later. I wish my bag were home. If I go to London when on leave I shall of course fetch it. I have a fortnight to go till the time when I shall be entitled to leave but if a big offensive takes place I may not get it. Should Dad go up at any time I know he’ll try to take it back but I don’t suppose he will be going now. At any rate I expect it’s safe with Fred, I shall write him at the first opportunity. I wrote to my guvnor in London a few days ago. If he hasn’t got a commission yet I may hear from him in the shape of a parcel and for that reason I delayed my letter until now.

I was pleased to get the “Yes or No’s” also cigarettes. Our regiment has opened a reading room and a canteen so things will be brighter for a week or so to come. I have about 80 francs in credit now so when I come home on leave I shall be able to draw a couple of pounds or so. I believe mother has a birthday this month - the 29th I think. At any rate I’ll try and send a card for that date and in case I am wrong as to the date I take this opportunity of wishing her many happy returns of same.

I see by tonight’s “Paris Daily Mail” that the Russians have taken Ieybijond? It wont have much effect on us but every little counts. I wish Gen. Townsend’s men could be relieved, and hope they’ll be able to hold out. I am learning signalling now and Morse code as used in Post Offices, it’s a long job before one is at all proficient but I may be glad of it some day.

I’ll write Edy shortly also Gladys and Netty. I’ll say goodbye now with love to all and trusting all are well.

Yours affect.


PS. Kindest regards to Will should you still see him. I have not yet heard from Cricklade and hope all are well



Dear Dad and Mother,

I received Dad’s letter of the 31st also I have also to thank you for the socks etc. I was sorry to hear *G’mother at Salisbury has gone for I know Mother will feel it, but it was bound to come eventually.

I am now in the trenches and we have had some hot strafing by the Germhuns for several nights past. I believe we’re in till the 20th. A few of our chaps have had slight accidents but I’ve managed to dodge ‘em as yet. We’ve had heavy rain lately and can almost swim about but are hoping for better weather. I’d forgotten about dividends. That’s another 18/- for me I suppose. With regard to 36/- sent, I really think Mother ought to have some of it for all the parcels sent. Postage etc. you know. If I ever come home on leave (sounds hopeful doesn’t it) I can draw £2 in London. I’m alright for socks now as long as I’ve an old pair I can always get a new pair for them. I don’t like worrying you but I can do with something in the food line at any time , no dainties but something plain and substantial.

When we get out on rest I can buy eggs, butter and bread but must rely now on present circs. On the rations if, as before, I come home some time I’ll make you stare at meals; I know I shall frighten Mother. Awful this naval battle, I mean the lives which must have been lost, but as regards ships I suppose if they hadn’t lost any we could still eat ‘em in a fight. Please thank Gladys for her last letter , very pleased to get it.

Well I must close now as I want to snatch a few hours rest.

With love to all and my very sincere sympathies with Mother.

Yours affectionately


* Albatina (Hunt) Keevil d. 22 May 1916


Dear Dad,

Just received your letter and am very pleased to get it. I also received parcel safely a few days ago, very acceptable. We have just come out of the trenches for a few days rest and are alright for few meanwhile. We’ve had a hot time just lately, five officers killed in as many days. I’m still alive and kicking.

For 2 nights running I’ve been on a party covering the rest of the company whilst wiring, laid within 50 yards of the Germhun trenches for 4 ½ hours each night with trench mortars every now and then and their machine guns simply sweeping the ground. The Lt. G B Meo in ‘killed’ in “News of the World” is my platoon officer. He was killed in a trench and was standing next to me. I volunteered to help carry him across the open (at night) some job I can assure you. He was the first dead man I had seen. I suppose we shall be at it hot and strong shortly.

Glad to hear you got insurance money. Should love to get some more leave but see no prospects, I think the war’ll end before I get it. Still I don’t mind that as long as I get home alright. I don’t know about my job in London, Slaler himself has a commission. I daresay theyre plety of work to put me on but if you’ve something in mind and I’m back alright I’d like to help you. Don’t mind any amount of work after this game. Weather has turned suddenly and is now very hot. We’ve advanced the time by 1 hour, quite light at 3 o’clock an now.

Russians are encouraging hope the steamroller doesn’t put the reverse in. The reverse gear on a car is the smallest of the lot but Russia’s last year seemed equal to top speed. Anyhow I think they are all here now though.

Very bad of mother refusing to play cards. If I get home you and I’ll be partners at Solo against her and Edy or Gladys. Glad to hear Netty is 8th in form; hope she’ll keep it up. I’ll write her soon (enclosed).

Well I must close now. I‘m quite well and am looking forward to seeing you all. I may be wounded and get home that way. Give my kind regards to Will and say I should like to hear from him. I’ve never heard from Cricklade.

Well I must say goodbye now as I want to write to Netty.

With love to all

Yours affectionately


(Written in blue crayon)

Thursday Evening (last letter?)

Dear Mother,

Many thanks for the parcel just received also papers. I am still well and will write you a long letter later on but can’t do so now as we’re moving tomorrow morning early, and we have a lot to pack up in the Orderly Room, in fact there’ll be no bed for us tonight as we have breakfast at 3.30am -in the dark.

Please don’t send anything else yet as I don’t know where I shall be for the next few days. If you write don’t put in the “A PO S11” but just B E France. I haven’t heard from Aunty Harriett yet but am glad Will is better. I’ll write you as soon as I can and give you my new address in full.

In great haste

And with love to all

From yours Affect.


War Office London SW

8 January, 1917



In further reply to your letter concerning 4118 Rifleman W.L. Ferris, 18th Battalion, The London Regiment, I am directed to inform you that 4121 Rifleman R.W. Cooper of the same Regiment, has been examined, and it is feared that his statement with regard to this soldier is correct.

The matter is being referred to the Base with a view to the acceptance of this report for official purposes.

A further communication will be addressed to the next-of-kin through

the Territorial Force Record Office, London, when the question is decided.

I am to express the sympathy of the Army Council with the relatives of Rifleman W.L. Ferris.

I am,


Your obedient Servant.

R C Fowler (stamped 100 Westcott Place, Swindon)

Mrs Ferris

11, Maryport Street,


Filled Form. Army Form B.104 -82

Previously reported missing.


It is my painful duty to inform you that a report has this day been received from the War Office notifying the death of

No: 4118

Rank: Rfm.

Name: W.L.Ferris

Regiment: 12th London Regiment

Which occurred in the Field on the first of July 1916, and I am to express to you the sympathy and regret of the Army Council at your loss. The cause of death was “Killed in Action”.

If any articles of private property left by the deceased are found, they will be forwarded to this office, but some time will probably elapse before their receipt, and when received they cannot be disposed of until authority is received from the War office.

Application regarding the disposal of any such personal effects, or of any amount that may eventually be found to be due to the late soldier’s estate, should be addressed to “The Secretary, War Office, Park Bdgs, St.James Pk, London SW” , and marked outside “Effects.”

I am,


Your obedient Servant

G F Barttalot??.Major

For Officer in charge of Records

Mr. A.E. Ferris

3 Park Dale Villas

Bath Rd


Coat of Arms (Red)

Buckingham Palace

(I think this accompanied the ‘King’s Penny’)

I join with my grateful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in the Great War.

George R I

Coat of Arms (Black)

The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and The Queen in your sorrow.


Secretary of State for War.

Letter postage to Belgium 2 1/2 d. 1 oz.,

25, Avenue de Woluwe
Brussels- Woluwe

Oct 1 1920

Dear Mr and Mrs Ferris,

I received your letter of the 12th Sept through th war graves commission in London a few days ago and am glad to see that my few lines of last May relieved you of your anxiety, although I fear it was only a PART of your great sorrow. It was a great pleasure for me to be of this little service to you. As an Englishman, brother of a "Ranger" - a brother whom I held very dear - and an ex-serviceman myself (Field Red Cross) I considered this my duty. I should have written to you direct much earlier but did not know, of course, your address at the time, so had to write to you through the Graves Committee. I am only very sorry I could not give you more details. I had not seen my brother George for several years and was to have gone over to England for a holiday the beginning of August 1914 to see all my family, but on the outbreak of war I was ,and am still, in Belgium working in the agricultural machinery business. When the Germans invaded Belgium we were all locked in. Business in my line fell off, like all other businesses, and I then began to help in connection with Nurse Cavell's work here, getting British women and children out of Belgium by some means or other, safely through to England via Holland.

Before the war there were many thousands of English families here in Belgium. But like the cobbler who looks after other people's needs and forgets his own family's boots, I failed to escape myself from Belgium. In fact, I did not wish to escape, believing that I could do more good for the Allied cause by staying on, and after being tracked down by the German fiends like a criminal for 4 months I was finally arrested by the Huns and only missed being shot by a miracle. I was under a full guard of hellish Hun soldiers in a cell here for 3 weeks and then they carted me off to Ruhleben internment camp near Berlin. Many other hundreds of Englishment out here were caught with me at the same time or rather on different occasions.

the story of my life is told in a little book called "A Peaceful Life" , written by me in January 1916, 1 month after I got released from Ruhleben. when I pulled my health properly round in London, I went over to France and was roughly 200 miles down the line when the 12th London made their big push on July 1 1916. All being well I intend going again to Gommecourt next Easter, this time to take two of my sisters to see my brother's grave which they are very anxious to see. I know the lingos and the country well, and if you would like any further details in connection with the cemetery which I may have overlooked to give you last time I wrote, I shall only be too delighted to give them to you at that time.

Enclosed I am sending you an account copies from a very comprehensive book published in London on the Somme Offensive. I thought it might interest you, as it does me and my family. It deals solely with the never-to-be-forgoten Ist of July day 1916 and, is in my opinion the most truthful and most complete report I have ever read as yet. While it shows the splendid heroism and successes of Britain's bravest fellows, it also shows the terrible price they paid and which we all unfortunately know. It mentions only a few regiments who took part in the push; many others notably the Londoners were of course formed into some of the other regiments or into Divisions so as to fog the enemy as to the actual strength of our front at the time and which the writer of the report was forbidden by the sensor to mention at that moment.

Very likely you have already seen this account of the battle, as it is copied from a book which had a wide circulation in England. I had a few copies made for my relatives and thought you would like a copy also. I sincerely trust it will not open up your sorrow, for there is another side which should make our hearts glow with pride, as Mr. Balfour said, when we think of our loved ones. They died, Mr. Balfour said, in the performance of their duty. " They went out to battle in no arrogant spirit, but with the clear and calm determination to serve England and we who mourn their end feel a glow of satisfaction in thinking that they died a glorious death, like men never died before, men who have aided glory to England, security at home and freedom to the World".

My crippled mother feels it keenly, I can assure you, Mr. & Mrs. Ferris, but if your boy died like my brother I have every reason to believe they did not suffer a moment but died facing and fighting the enemy most probably from small shot. Had they been hit by shell they would probably never have found their bodies and would not now be lying amongst the 1,000 or so heroes at the pretty little Gommecourt cemetery under the protection of the British Flag.

Yours sincerely

James A Ashley.

PS. I’m sending you a copy of my book. If you would like any other copies for friends, my brother Harry (H.Ashley) 96 Broke Road, Dalston, London, E.8 will be pleased to…..