WWI soldiers' writing book found in Cambridgeshire

A poem written into the book by Private Edward Wolstencroft
Image caption A poem written into the book by Private Edward Wolstencroft

A book containing inscriptions written by World War I soldiers at a military hospital more than 90 years ago has been discovered in Cambridgeshire.

Roy Chamberlain, 90, found the autograph book among old photographs at his home in Foxton.

He believes his mother, Mary, visited soldiers being treated at Shepreth village hall, which was turned into a temporary hospital in 1915.

They have written and sketched in the book and included names and dates.

A private known to have died during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 copied lines from Thomas Babington Macaulay's poem Horatius, which read: "And how can man die better, Than facing fearful odds..."

Somme attack

Mr Chamberlain said his mother was a cook at a manor house in Shepreth during the war.

"I think it was quite common in those days for young people to have autograph books," he said.

"Quite a few soldiers have written and drawn in the book and signed their names.

Image caption Shepreth village hall operated as a military hospital from 1915 to 1919

"My mother would have been in her 20s and single. I suppose she would have visited the soldiers. My grandmother worked as a nurse at the hospital."

Mr Chamberlain unearthed the book a month after workmen at Shepreth village hall found a 1915 postcard written to Private Edward Wolstencroft.

Private Wolstencroft, who came from Edmonton, Middlesex, died in his mid-20s on 7 July 1916 - a week after British troops began their fateful Somme attack on German lines.

He copied part of a verse from Horatius into the autograph book and copied a Mabel Lucie Attwell illustration, which may have featured on a postcard during the war.

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