weekending 12th March 1916

My Name is Lily Galbraith and this is my first blog

My Name is Lily Galbraith and I live with my parents in Abernathy near Perth. I have known William Shaw since our school days and when he returns from the war in France we walk out together. We exchange letters when he is at the front. This is my first entry in this blog…

Lily Galbraith 1914

Miss Lily Galbraith.

I happened to meet Mrs Shaw today, walking down the High Street. She seems to have aged so much in the few months since we last spoke, but, of course, I didn’t tell her so. I asked after William, and his brother George, and she told me how well they seemed to be doing, but it was easy to see that she is pained at their absence.

I am careful to watch what I ask of people these days; it is so easy to stir up emotions, or worse, to be given bad news in the innocent asking. But I knew William was well, and George, because I received a letter from William just three days ago. I was torn between telling Mrs Shaw about the letter or not – it would be beastly for her to be finding out that he’s writing to me if he isn’t keeping up with his family as much. I’m not sure why, but I kept the news of my letter from her.

Mrs Shaw asked if I’d seen the motto in the newspaper that day. When I replied that I hadn’t, she read it to me. It said, It Costs More to Live Now Than Ever Before – But Isn’t it Worth it? What can you say to that? It does certainly cost more and more for things, but if it’s going to the war effort how can anyone naysay that? I don’t think there is a person in the land who would think that it is not a price worth paying, but the problem we all have is that there seems no end to this dreadful conflict.

The newspapers are a constant source of information, but they often carry worrying news. Just this week there was a report of a German seaplane raid in England which killed two men and a boy. It is troubling that aeroplanes can wreak such havoc, and it must be concerning for others in the same area that the war is now on their doorsteps. Of course, I don’t mention that, or indeed any other negative news to Mrs Shaw, or others you know who have men in the war. So we speak about brighter news, like the excellent word of a proposal to extend the shipbuilding industry in Dundee. Not that I’m over there all that often nowadays – working at the farm takes up so much time – but it is easy to see that the town needs work. Hardship can be seen all over this part of our land, but it seems very concentrated in Dundee.

It is strange being a teenage girl in this time. We are doing more and more jobs that used to be done by the young men, though we are happy to take these on. If we can’t be occupied in the war, then at least we do all we can for the war effort in a cheerful and diligent fashion, even if it’s painful or tiring. We do miss having men of our own age around though – you really appreciate what a nice bunch they are when they’re not around. Mind you, doing more work around the farms seems quite ordinary when you compare it to working in the munition factories, where my old friend Lilias and her mother are in occupation. They moved to Thornhill last year, her mother’s parents live there, and now she’s working in a factory in which she is making munitions. We keep in touch by letter, but she never goes into detail about what it is they are doing, though I’m not sure I’d want to know anyway. It is vital work though, and she must feel a more direct sense of helping the war effort than I sometimes do.

Last week my father left his Courier lying on the table when he went to bed. He hasn’t been keeping too well of late because of the swellings in his joints. Normally we files the paper away after he’s read it – he’s been keeping copies since the war started and they are kept flat under a table in the bedroom. My mother grumbled a bit at first, but now she encourages him to keep them. So when he left the one on the table I had a thorough read through it, and it is impossible not to be drawn into events. To read about our men missing and presumed killed brings it very close to home. Of course, each and every one will have a family and friends back home and so each becomes almost a personal tragedy for the reader. There was one report from action around Pilkem which stated that eleven British soldiers were missing after chasing attacking Germans back to their trenches, and it was believed eight of the eleven had been killed. Of course we understand that news from the Front is necessarily vague, but to quote eight as being killed seems to have an air of certainty.

On the same page is a Casualty List from Mesopatamia. It makes dreadful reading, and the Black Watch seem to be suffering a lot. You look at the names of the dead, and of the wounded, and of those reported missing, and though you don’t recognise any of the names still it fills you with dread. I miss William, more and more each day. His letters are so welcome, and yet I feel a sadness that he has to be there, along with his brother and so many other men from our area and our country. I wonder how it will be when he gets back. And when it will be.

I’ve resolved to tell Mrs Shaw that William has started writing me, and that I write back to him. Maybe it will help her, knowing that his letters are cheering me. Maybe it will let her share her thoughts with me, as we are both missing the same young man. I would like that to be the case. I would like her to know that I am so proud to know her son. I hope it helps. Tomorrow I start work at 6.30, and I’ll do my best, but my mind, like everyone around me, will be on our servicemen and what this day might bring to them.