A collection of Boer War and WWI letters up for sale at Sworders auction.
The September 10-11 sale at Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchet will include a group of letters sent during the Boer War and World War I to Hilda Prestwich (nee Waddington), the vendor’s great aunt. The 14 Boer War letters are mostly dated 1900 and are from her future husband, Carl Prestwich.
Most poignant are those penned from the trenches by Arnold, 28th County of London Battalion, Artists Rifles, British Expeditionary Force, France, to Hilda. In a six-page letter dated 4 January, 1915, he wrote: ‘I was sent out with a party to get rid of the water (in the trenches). All the time bullets were whistling down the stream and over our heads. That was the way we saw my birthday in. We have been very lucky as to casualties to date: seven killed, four wounded and one missing. Our men at this point of the line forgathered with their Saxon opponents between the trenches and exchanged cigarettes and arranged not to fire for the remainder of the day. Another sportsman asked his officer permission to arrange a football match with the enemy but he drew the line at that. The trenches at this point vary from 75 to 220 yards apart, they are shallow and half full of water. It is impossible to deepen them because the soil is waterlogged, and the dead are buried all over the place.’ The estimate for the group is £1,000-£2,000.
The Boer War letters are mostly dated 1900, from WC Prestwich (Carl) to Hilda (Waddington), who were married in 1905. There is also a small collection of photographs ofKenya, skiing, shooting, etc. The letters are loose and inserted into two protective folders. Interestingly, this Prestwich family are descendants from Sir John Prestwich, who was supposed to have designed the USA Great Seal.
The letters will be on view at Sworders’ London gallery from Wednesday 21 August-2 September and then on view in Stansted from Friday September 6.
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