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Men of Worth - Letters from front reveal fate of first area fatality
Heartbreaking letters between a Keighley soldier and his wife have been revealed by the Men of Worth Project.
Private Arthur Hastings regularly corresponded with wife Alice as he journeyed to the front soon after the start of the First World War.
But as they wrote about routine matters during August 1914 neither knew that Arthur was to become the first born-and-bred Keighley man to die as a result of enemy action.
The letters were found by Men of Worth volunteers in an archive box at Keighley library, along with some of Arthur’s other personal effects.
Arthur served with the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment and was a member of the 80,000-strong British Expeditionary Force which travelled to the continent in 1914.
Surviving members of the Force, which helped delay the invading Germans, later became known as the Old Contemptibles.
Arthur posthumously became eligible for three more medals as well as the Clasp and Rose to signifying being an Old Contemptible.
In his first letter, from Portobello Barracks in Dublin, Arthur sent Alice a 12 shilling postal order so she could buy him handkerchiefs and soap.
In her first letter Alice wanted to know how much of Arthur’s pay she would receive each week, because her own work hours had been reduced to two days a week.
She added: “You must have a shilling or two for yourself as you don’t know what you will want.
“You must shoot all the Germans that you come across then we will have German sausage for breakfast, dinner and tea.”
In his next letter Arthur said he was under strict orders to tell nobody his location, but admitted to “leaving Dublin on water” the previous morning.
He added: “We don’t know where we are going until we land so hope for the best and don’t get downhearted. I have felt champion up to now.”
Three days later Arthur wrote again saying – like many other soldiers at the beginning of the war – that he would “probably be home before long”.
Then, another 12 days later, on August 31, he wrote a short letter to say that he was in hospital after being wounded “only in four places”.
Within days Alice received another letter, this time from the Army, to state that Arthur had died on the operating table.