The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The disadvantage of the uniform

I am currently reading Lyn Macdonald's 1914 and came across a passage a couple of days ago about how the men changed out of their uniforms to meet friends, go to pubs, etc., because a regular soldier was thought of as a bad sort. Walter wrote about this in one of his letters:

When I was in Aden, Charles Bissell wrote to me and told me of his marriage with Annie, and he was settled down in a cottage near Richmond Hospital in Old Deer Park Gardens. It was at this address I got to know my future wife, who was Charles’ sister May. I used to escort her back to Kew Gardens to her place of work, and during my nine weeks’ leave from Portsmouth, I got friendly with her. I sued to go and visit her parents in Richmond, but she didn’t like me going there in my scarlet tunic, as she said it would be detrimental to her business as a boarding house. So May asked me to buy some civilian clothes. (Soldiers those days, Mary, were looked down upon as no good, as it was so until the Great War of 1914 broke out – then it was a different story. “When war is on, and danger nigh, God and the Soldier is all the cry, but when War is over and all things righted, God and the soldier is always slighted.” – Rudyard Kipling.) I returned to Portsmouth to my regiment (this is now 1913 January).

With such general disrespect for the uniform pre-World War I, I find it interesting that Walter would wear the scarlet tunic to have his picture made with May a couple of years before they married.
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posted by MaryB @ 9:32 AM  


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