1915 was where the War became real for many of the New Army soldiers. John Adams spent the first half of the year training in Ireland (including route marches around Co. Armagh), then transferred to Sussex for pre-deployment training before deploying to France in early October.
[postcard showing a group of 18 soldiers bathing/washing by a stream in a steep little valley. Large rocks (possibly haystacks) in the distance. It is not clear if John Adams is one of the 18 or is the photographer. If he is in the picture I think he is either 5th from left, leaning, or 3rd from right, in braces, standing.]
[Postmarked Holywood, 29 Jan 1915]
[to Mrs J Adams, Lisadian]
Just a line to say we will be home on Sat night. Tell J that we will be in Newry at about 5 o’clock. I got your letter alright many thanks. I think this is all until I see you all.
your loving son
[From 13971 Pte J Adams, 9th Batt RIF, D Coy, The Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co. Down
To Mrs J Adams, Lisadian]
Postmarked 02 Feb 1915
Just a line today we got back here alright. I was not down seeing J[eannie] yet nor will hardly see her tonight as we are for an night attack. But I will go down to se her before we leave on Thursday. It will be Sunday week before we are the length of Bessbrook, but I think we weill have time to go home on that day. I think this is all now.
Your loving son
You need not write again until you hear from me for I do not know when we will be shifted.
Just a line hoping it finds you all in good [sic] as this leaves me in the same at present. We are stopping at Portadown tonight and going on to Moy in the morning. We are getting a fine reception everywhere we go. It will be Sunday week before we are in Bessbrook. We are spending the weekend in Loughgall. This is all at present. I will send word when we get that length.
I remain your loving son,
“It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary (1).
Up to mighty London came an Irishman one day,
As the streets are paved with gold, sure ev’ry one was gay;
Singing songs of Piccadilly, Strand and Leicester Square,
Till Paddy got excited, then he shouted to them there:-“
A man (the “Paddy”?) leans on the entrance to a Bakerloo line underground station, while London life, red omnibuses and crowds passing along.
In early February 1915 Col Fitzgerald led a large party of 220 men of 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers through County Armagh on a recruiting march. John Adams was one of the men chosen for this trip. His personal notes have enabled us to trace the possible route of the march:
We have traced the route on Google Maps below. They covered a fair distance, we estimate approximately 115 miles in 2 weeks. It was probably a foretaste of the footslogging they were to do through France through the rest of the war.
(unfortunately Google maps only allows 10 layers, so we couldn’t show the last leg from Tandragee to Portadown!).
Entrained to Lurgan. Portadown (had mid day meal). Loughgall Road to Red Lion, Drimond [Diamond?], over Cock Hill to Birches (3). Stayed overnight with Widow showed boxes of L.O.L. and R.B.P. which sat there.
[Postcard showing Loughgall]
[Addressed to Miss A Adams, Lisadian]
[Postmarked 07 Feb 1915, Loughgall]
Just a line hoping it finds you in good health as this leaves me in the same here at present. I hope you will come to see us when we get to Bessbrook. This is part of Loughgall. Perhaps Mother would know it.
Your loving Bro
Afternoon marched to Richhill via Hamiltonsbawn. Stayed in Home of Wm. McNally.
[This is what Hamiltonsbawn looked like then. Strange to think that John Adams will have marched past two houses he later lived in after he moved to Hamiltonsbawn in 1926. I wonder if he ever thought about that route march when he was marching along the main street later in life?]
9 Batt R.I. Fusiliers
My Dear Mother
Just a line hoping it finds youse all in good health at home as this leave me in the same here at present. I received four letters and parcel alright. Many thanks for the shirt it is alright. I am glad that you have got some word about the money as it never will come out of time. You were kept a long while out of it. You need not be uneasy about me at all for I am fit to look after myself. You need not think because I said it was a bit rough that I had rued anything I had done. I have not indeed I would do the same thing tomorrow if I thought I would be any use. I see J. nearly every night. She is doing alright.
The weather is very wet but what can you expect at this time of the year. If it gets no worse we will be alright.
All the promotion Sam Moffatt has got yet is not much. He is only a waiter in the Segt Mess and that is not much. It is the first thing that will be his downfall for he will be too near the drink. I think this is all as the pen is very bad.
9 Batt R. I. Fusiliers
My Dear Mother
I am sorry that I was so long in writing but I had not time until now. We got back here on Thursday evening from Portadown. We had a fine time from we left Bessbrook. I suppose Annie and Jimmie got home alright. What did they think of the RIF? We got our dinner at Major Close’s house that day.
But the best day of all was spent in Tandragee. It was the best night I ever spent. I was stopping in the house where Eva McElney is Dressmaker and she made a great deal of me more than any girl I have met on the march. When I was leaving she gave to silk handkerchief and she has since sent me 2/6 worth of fegs [sic]. I think it was very nice of a strange girl that I may never meet again in this world. For we meet so many in this world in which we live that it is very hard for one to mind them all.
We are starting again on Thursday morning for Co Monaghan for a week there. It will hardly be as good as the one we are just off. I think this is all now. Jenny is well and will write later on. I will write from Cavan to you.
Just a line to say we have got back here again. We had not as good a time as the last but it was very good. I will write you a long letter when I get settled down. You might write and let me know how youse are all getting on. We are shifted to Newtownards now.
Your loving son
D Company 9 Batt RIF
Postcard shows Church Square, Monaghan. The large Dawson Obelisk stands on the left foreground. A cannon stands in front of it. The church, with a tall spire, stands at the right background. A number of figures are milling about near the cannon, and two horse drawn carts travel along the road.
9 Batt R I Fusiliers
My Dear Mother
Just a line hoping it finds you in good health as this leaves me the same at present. I thought I would have had a letter from you before this. But I hope youse are all well. We had a very good time on the march. We trained it to Clones and stopped one night there. And I saw the place where [they] killed Flaughan. It is locked up since. We then trained it to Ball[y]bay and march Coot[e]hill and then to Monaghan where we stopped for 2 days and then to Castleblany and from that back here.
This is a wonderful place. I saw the place where that young fellow was killed. I think the step father will be hung. And I think he is guilty too.
I think this is all that I have time for now. Remember me to all at home.
Just a few lines to say I received your parcel this morning and what was inside. I thank you very much for it. The drawers is alright. I hope I may never worse [?]
The weather is greatly changed this last day. It is simply lovely now like the summer time. It does not be long in changing. I suppose the people are busy at their crops now. They have nearly all in about here now. It is a very early country about here. The ground is very sandy.
Tell Jimmy that I will write to him later and tell him all the news but I have not time now. He might write to me sometimes and tell me how he is getting on. Does ever he be at the Manse working now? I suppose he will put in the garden for Mr Jorrie this year. There’s many a change since last year this time but I hope they are all for the best. I hope the weather will keep like this for us going home. We don’t often get good weather for going home.
I think this is all now. I thank you again for your present.
I hope you are better, we are all as usual for so far. Isn’t it lovely weather. I would just love to go home for Easter. It’s well for J getting, but I might get later on. Tell Annie I will write to her soon if I have time. Write soon and tell me how you are. Is J [illegible] well? With best love,
Postcard showing: “Kenworthy’s Hydropathic Establishment, Southport”, a grand house.
9 Batt R. I. Fusiliers
My Dear Mother
Just a line to say that I received your letter this morning. I am sorry that you are not getting better but maybe when the good weather you will be alright. I said when I wrote to Annie that we were going to be confined to camp, but I think that will not be to after Easter. And I am not giving it for truth but I think that we will be home from Friday to Monday but you need not be too much made up for we might not be home at all. But you may be sure that if we can get we will be home. I think that I will have as much £ and d as will bring me home.
I will write to you again before that and tell you wither I can get home or not. I think this is all now. We are having lovely weather now. I hope it will continue until after Easter.
Just a line today. I got your parcel this morning and was very thankful to you for what you sent. We are still confined to camp. I was just out once since we came back. There is nothing else that I want just now except if you could get me a box of [Zach Buk??] sometime Jimmy would be in Newry.
I hope you are keeping in good health as the weather is getting good again. We are all getting our photos take in Batt tomorrow. If I can I will get one for you though I may not be seen in it you will know that I am in it somewhere. Did Jimmy get the photos out of Newry yet where we were taken together? There is one for you, one for Mrs Moffatt and Mrs Crozier and there was to be one each sent to us.
I think that is all now. [Praying] we will all be spared to meet again.
Your loving son
I thank you again for what you sent me. Perhaps you will hardly know now this is. I am sending you this little book.
Tell Annie to write to me now and again. It does one good to hear from home.
Just a line to say that I received your letter aright. I am sorry that I was so long in writing but we have been very busy this last few days. I expect it will be a very big day in Belfast tomorrow. We are leaving here at 6 am in the morning. I hope it does not be too warm.
I am glad you like the photo. It is not too well taken. You can see the Captain standing in front of me but I will show you them all when I go home. I will get you the other one too.
We intend going home on tomorrow week if we get and indeed to tell you the truth I would like if you would send me a few shillings before as we might be paid short on that day and the 3 shilling would not take me home. I am sorry to take it off you but if I was not going home I would not need it and it might be a good while [bef]or[e] we get home again and I will not may get the chance of getting any more photos of the Company and I would like to have them if we […] it would keep me in mind of the times we spent together. And if anything would happen to us you would have them to show. Jimmy might just be as well at home for there is going to be a very big crowd. I really wish it was over. It will be none [sic] pleasure for us.
I will write again before I go home. Excuse this writing as I am in a hurry. We are packing up for tomorrow. I think this is all now. I send my best love to all at home.
Your loving son
Tell Jimmy I will write to him after Sat. I wish you would keep […] Belfast [Telegraph?] for me to I go home […] tomorrow’s parade will all be in it. I will take the other photo home with me as it might get broken sending it by post.
There was a major parade of the 36th Ulster Division through Belfast on 8 May 1915. More details from the Ulster Somme Association.
Just a line to say that we have got back alright on Tuesday night. I hope Annie and Jimmy got back home safe. I am sorry that I was so long in writing but I had not time until now. This is all now. Will write later.
Your loving son,
“Grey Abbey”: an image of a large set of ruins. See on Google Maps.
D Coy, 9th R. I. Fus, N. T. Ards
[undated letter, messier than the others, apparently pre-deployment, possibly 19 June 1915 based on references in the letter]
Just a line hoping it still finds youse all enjoying good health, as this leaves me in the same here at present. I hope Annie and Jimmy got home all right from Newry. There was not a big crowd at the station this time. We are confined to camp since we came back on the Flying Galamm [?!] and I suppose will until we are shifted from here. And I don’t think that will be long now as far as I hear Sunday week at the latest. It may be a good while until we are all at home again and we may all expect changes for they are bound to come. None of us knows what the future holds for us. But let us all hope for the best. There will be no chance of seeing Jennie again before we move and there would be no use of her coming over here again for it would do none of us any good. I will write and tell Jimmy if we go by the main line if I get any word about it. I think this is all now.
Hoping to hear from you soon.
Your Loving Son
Excuse this scribble as I am in a hurry.
You might tell Jimmy to write now and again to tell us how he is getting on.
This is all now. It is well it was not away.
Just a line to say that I am still here. But by the time that you get this we will be on the road from here. We are going by the main line but we will hardly stop at any of the stations. There is 60 of us going on the Advance Party. The rest of the Batt. will not shift until Weds or Thursday. I hope youse are all keeping in good health as this leaves me in the same here at present. I will write to you as soon as I get settling down. I think this is all now as we are still packing up. I remain your loving son. With best love to all at home. J. Adams.
Seaford Camp, Sussex
[undated, but probably 12 July 1915]
By the time this reaches home you will have both days over you and I hope from my heart that they were good days for you. All the bands in Camp turned out this morning and it would have done you good to think that though we are here we have not forgot the days that are past. There is to be a meeting in the YMCA tonight at 6.30. They are expecting 10-000 Orangemen[?unclear] to be present. You might write me a line after all is over and let me know everything passed off.
9th Batt. R. Ir. Fus.
Dear Mrs Adams
Just a line to let you know I received your letter alright, thanks very much for the same. You need not be expecting a letter from Johnie [sic] for a few days as he has strained his thumb and will not be able to write for some time until the swelling goes down. But he is in the best of health only for that.
We had a big inspection by Lord Kitchener on Tuesday and he was very pleased with the Division. He says if we had our ball-firing over we would be fit to go any place.
I suppose all is going on as usual over there and some people getting married and people dying and all the people working on as usual.
Y here there is not much strange going on here at present we are just fooling about at the same old thing as when we were in Ireland. I have no news to tell you at present but may-be I will have more the next time.
I think I will close for the present. Tell Annie and Jimmie I will send them p-c’s later as I have not time to write them now.
With best love to all
Your sincere friend
Date evidence: Lord Kitchener inspected the 36th Ulster Division on Tuesday 27 July 1915. This letter was presumably written a few days afterwards.
Just a PC to let you know that I received your parcel alright. Many thanks for them. We are getting on alright. Lord Kitchener was down inspecting us on Tuesday asn is well pleased with the Ulster Division. I do not think we will be long here. We will be going up to Aldershot shortly. I also got the paper. There was a Belfast W. News came to us. I did not see the Markethill meeting in it. I am sending Jimmy this cutting from the Lurgan Mail. He may like to see it. This is all now. I have not time to write a letter. Excuse scribble.
“For “King, Queen and Country.” A Soldier’s Letter.”
Photographs of King George V and Queen Mary.
“To My Truest of Pals.
A poem set at Seaford Camp, and signed from “John”.
Postmark: Chyngton Camp B.O., Seaford, date unclear, 1915
[estimated date based on a hunch]
Just a pc hoping it finds youse all in good health. As it leaves me in the same here at present. I had a letter from Tommie [?] today. He seems to be all right. I am sorry this is all I have time for. Will write later on, and tell youse all the news. We are having fine warm weather now. Hoping it continues. […unclear sentence…]
Postcard shows: “My thoughts are with the dear ones at home”: A greatcoated soldier at camp, sitting on a box, smoking his pipe, is thinking of his wife and young baby at home.
Postmark:Chyngton Camp B.O., Seaford, 16 August 1915
[There is an additional mark on the front of the card, showing “11 AM 17 AU”, but the location is not visible].
I received your letter this morning. There is nothing strange here, but I will write later on. Hoping you will have a good time at home. This is all I have time for now.
Postcard shows: “The Esplanade, looking east, Seaford” Pedestrians in Edwardian dress promenade along the front, while some rest on the adjacent benches. A shingle beach, scattered with small boats, fills the right hand side, and a terrace of houses lines the road on the left. In the distance are the headlands and white cliffs of Seaford Head.
[For God, King & For Country]
[HM Forces on Active Service]
Just a line to say I received your letter alright. Hoping this will find youse all in good health as it leaves me in the same at present. I am sorry that I was so long in writing but indeed I thought I had written. I hope Jennie will have a good time at home and get good weather. I am sure she has need of a rest. You can tell her I will write to her as soon as I get time perhaps tomorrow. Well Dear Mother I need not buoy you up with false hope, but if every thing goes well you may have a chance of seeing us again before we leave England. Some of the U. D. [Ulster Division?] has got it already. 7 days leaves. But when our turn comes I do not know. It may not for a month yet but it would mean 4 clear days at home. Of course you need not depend on it for so many things can happen. Well I got my photos taken but they were that much changed that you do not know me from someone else. So I will not get them taken until we go home and then get them taken right. For these got the five [?]
I got the stamps many thanks for them. I am sorry to hear of you been sick but I hope you are better by this time. I was up in Brighton on Saturday. It surely is a lovely place. They Promenade is 5 miles from one end to the other. The lights goes out there at 8 o’clock and the place is in total darkness afterwards.
Tell Annie and Jimmy that I will write to them all. Jimmy might write to me some times. This is a photo for Jimmy of all the units in the 36th Division represented. I think this is all now.
Your loving son
Excuse this scribble in haste.
This little brooch is for Annie. I will get you something later on.
I will be going on two train[s] leaving Crumlin. I think I will get the train that arrives in Newry about four. You might meet me at Gorawood [sic] for I have some things to carry which will be heavy. I will be going on Friday.
Postcard shows: “The Sun Dial, Langford Lodge, Crumlin”. A view across some formal gardens. A sun dial, supported by cherubs, stands in the foreground.
I received your parcel allright. Many thanks. But indeed I did not expect what you sent, and I am sorry that I passed the remark that I had no stamps, for I think that you wanted and has need of all the money that you get. And my saying that I had no stamps did not mean taht I wanted you to send me any money. But indeed I never thought of the likes: so you might not have thought that I would be angry at you for sending me any more. So you know your self that I would not be angry no matter how little you would send. All I was angry at was you sending any at all. I got the paper it must have been sudden about old John MacCormick was he long sick? But he was an old man. I had a letter from Jenney this morning she says that she has been very busy since she went away from home. I am writing to her also today.
Well dear Mother I may as well tell you the truth: all leave is cancelled, so there is no chance of us getting home again before going out. Which I think will not be long now about the 20th of the month. But I hope this will not make you any worse than what you all. You knew it would come to it sooner or later. So it need not come as a surprise to you any more. And if I do not have the Good Fortune to come back again, let us all pray that we may all meet in a happier place when all wars will have ceased, and there shall be no more trouble or sorrow.
But let me get away from this as it will do none of us any good. And what ever happens let us hope it may be for the best as we are all in a Good Man’s Hand and he knows all our hopes and fears. But thank God if I do not come back all belonging to me can hold their heads up for I have done my duty and shall do so no matter what it may cost me so youse will have nothing to be ashamed of.
This is a lovely part of the country and is great for Route Marching. You would never feel tired on the road.
There is about 20 shops in the village of Bordon which is about 5 minutes from camp and a Picture House. Of course there are all the camp stores built for the men in camp here. The range here was made by German prisoners. And this camp was opened by the Kaiser[?] but I think I told you that before.
I must draw to a close as I am going on duty tonight.
Good bye and may God Bless and take care of youse all
Your Loving Son
P.S. You might send me Lizzies address as I would like to write to her.
We have arrived here safe but tired. I would not do the same journey again for any money. We arrived her at 5.30 on Thursday. Hoping youse are all keeping in good health. Will write later on, excuse this in haste.
Postcard shows High Street, Bordon. A row of shops on the right, with a hairdressers in the foreground. Trees stand on the left of the road, on which a number of men loiter.
No date or postmark. Presumably included in a letter, or posted in an envelope. The inspection by the King mentioned in the cards took place on 30 Sept 1915, a Thursday, so this puts the date of this probably at the beginning of that week, perhaps Monday 27 September 1915, and his location at Bordon, Hampshire. He landed in France, as indicated in the cards, on Monday 04 Oct 1915.
Card 1: “Good-bye, Mother Darling”
Just a PC in answer to your letter and card which I received alright. I am sorry this is all I have time for now. We are just in from a rehearsal of the march past which is to take place on Thurs before the King, when he is going to inspect us. The place we have to go to is about 9 miles from here and it rained the whole way home on us, so you may expect we were wet. But we may be worse off before long so we need not complain. Well I got back alright but it was an awful journey. But I sent you a P Card the night we came across. I do not know how it was you did not get it. But I did not post it myself, so that may account for it.
Card 2: “Good-bye, Mother Darling”
I also wrote to Jennie, but she may not have got it either. I hope Jimmy got back alright from the main line. There was a lot of people there that night. There will hardly be as many to see us off to France the day we go away. But then we are leaving England and not Ireland. I will write to you after Thursday but I have not time now as we are gearing up for the Review. I want Jimmy to get them photos as soon as he can as I would like to have them before we leave here. I expect we will be clear of this place on Monday. But I do not [sic] if it is the [Tuesday?]. I think this is all now.
I remain, loving son [sic]
Postcard 1 shows:
“Good-bye, Mother Darling (1)
Mother Darling, I must leave you, there’s a duty to be done;
At the front the battle’s raging, won’t you spare your only son?
From your eye a tear is falling, Mother, have you nought to say?
Bus she bowed her head in silence – ‘twas the price she had to pay.”
A young man, in a civilian suit, bids farewell to his aging mother as he goes to join up.
Postcard 2 shows:
“Good-bye, Mother Darling (4)
Good-bye, Mother darling, good-bye, you make it hard to part;
Battles may rage in the days to come, one takes place now in your heart
Twixt your love and duty, for England is calling your son.
There’s a parting at a cottage door, a battle now is fought and won. “
Mother and son embrace outside the cottage door as he, now in uniform, leaves for war.