By Helen Cleary
Last updated 2011-03-10
Private Jack Mudd (2/4th Battalion, London Regiment, Royal Fusiliers) and his wife Lizzie
Jack and Lizzie corresponded during the first years of the war, exchanging news and offering each other as much love and support as they could get on the page.
John William Mudd - better known as Jack - was a cockney from Bow in London's East end. In his absence his wife Lizzie held the fort, raising their children - a situation of which Jack was all too painfully aware: 'I often take your Photo out of my pocket and look at your dear face and think of the times we have had together, some lovely days eh love, and when I think again of some of the worry I have caused you it makes me only the more eager to get home to you to atone for all the worry and anxious moments you have had to put up with.' These words are taken from a heartfelt letter written home just four days before Jack's death.
He died aged 31 during the latter stages of the Third Battle of Ypres generally known as Passchendaele after the village and ridge which marked the high tide of the British advance - a place where thousands of British soldiers lost their lives. Ground conditions on that day, 26th October 1917, were very bad and many men were up to their knees in slime. It was reported that the mud made it impossible to bring in the dead and the wounded - one of whom was Jack. His body was never recovered and by the end of November Lizzie had received a copy of Army Form B. 104-83 telling her that Jack had been posted as missing.
Early in December Lizzie received another form stating that the army had been 'regretfully constrained to conclude' that he was dead. His name is on the Memorial to the Missing at Tyne Cot Cemetery Belgium standing beneath the Passchendaele ridge.
We know that Lizzie married again, to a friend of Jack's who also served in the 2/4th Battalion and who was badly wounded. But she preserved Jack's last letter as loving testimony to their happiness and it was given to the Imperial War Museum, London, by Lizzie's daughter.
Jack worked hard to reassure Lizzie about her plight as well as his own: 'I guess you have been worried with the air raids. You know dear it's hard to be out here fighting and yet your wife and children can't be safe. Still dearest don't worry, you have a 20,000 to 1 chance and God will watch over you as he has been with me ever since I've been out here.' But his cheerfulness did not completely mask his vulnerability; he asked for his family's prayers: '...so dearest pray hard for me and ask Marie for God will not refuse her prayers, she doesn't know the wickedness of this world'.
Jack also gave a revealing and sensitive description of the importance of friendship in the trenches: 'Out here dear we're all pals, what one hasn't got the other has, we try to share each others troubles get each other out of danger. You wouldn't believe the Humanity between men... It's a lovely thing is friendship out here.'
The overriding message of Jack's letter is his desire to get home to his wife and children and to give them all the love that they had missed: 'Please God it won't be long before this war is over, we are pushing old Fritz back, I don't think he will stand the British boys much longer and then we will try and keep a nice home. I will know the value of one now. Goodnight love God bless you and my children and may he soon send me back to those I love is the wish of your Faithful Husband xxxxxxxxx Jack'.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.