AN exhibition about Henley during the First World War will open at the River and Rowing Museum next month.
One family whose story will be told is the Greens. Tom G W Green was a boatbuilder and waterman. He used his winnings from the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race in 1872 to purchase his boathouse, which was described as a “rat-infested shack”. Here, he built boats which he hired to local rowing clubs.
When the war came, business changed very little but Tom lost a son, Harold, who was killed in action in 1918.
Harold’s letters home were preserved and will be displayed at the museum, providing an invaluable insight into life in the trenches.
In his first letter, dated June 29, 1917, he thanks his mother for a parcel of writing material and informs her that he has been so unwell that he may have to miss an forthcoming march. He asks for very little, just some eggs or something else to strengthen him so that he may continue with his duties.
He confides in his mother that he finds the trenches horrible and that he cannot wait for the end of this war.
In another letter, dated July 2, 1918 he appears to be doing much better. Harold thanks his mother for a parcel and tells her information which he has received from other acquaintances.
He discusses his father’s ill health, saying he hopes he will make a swift recovery. It is clear that he wants leave to visit his father but says “there don’t look much hopes yet awhile”.
He writes calmly about a situation which was anything but, conveying something of the human ability to maintain a positive attitude, at least outwardly, when events are bleak.
Home Front Henley opens on September 6. If you have a story from the First World War you would like to share with the museum, call Eloise Chapman on (01491) 415637 or email firstname.lastname@example.org