Journal Volume 6 2010
Letters to Stillorgan from the Western Front (continued/2)
The men passed the time by playing a guessing game about when the war would end and Edward’s guess was 5 May 1916. One of his letters ended on a sombre and affectionate note: ‘Goodbye if you don’t hear from me again. With best wishes xxxxxxxxxxxx’. Cigarettes were vitally important to morale – ‘the cigarettes is the most welcomest gift we can receive out here and it is the only thing that helps to cheer us up’. Other items which were appreciated by Edward were a lamp for use in the trenches at night, a pocket knife, a razor, and as Christmas 1915 approached, he thanked Miss Roberts for the cake, crackers, cards and snakes-and-ladders. Around this time, he was sent on a two week course in bomb-throwing, which gave him a break from the trenches, and in January 1916 he declared that he was ‘a 1st class bomb thrower’. He wrote that ‘leather gloves would be usefull when I go on patrol at night with a few bombs to share among the Huns’. (In a letter to the Irish Times in the same month, Monica appealed for funds and goods, and specifically mentions that old gloves would be very useful to bomb-throwers. It is quite amazing to be able to track this handwritten request from the trenches in 1916 to the digital archive of the Irish Times in 2007. Such is modern research.)
Edward Mordaunt was back in Dublin on leave in May-June 1916. He visited Kelston, and was disappointed not to meet Monica, who was not at home. His only reference to the Rising was: ‘I had a look around the city and I must say it is a very sorrowfull sight’. He was in a defiant mood again in late June 1916, back at the front and anticipating close contact with the enemy, but also revealing his frustration with ‘this sort of work’:
We expect to beat the Germans out of their trenches very shortly and if we once get them on the run we wont stop until we go straight through Berlin and put Kazior Bill out of his thrown and drown him in the Liffey and rain victorious in Germany and get finished with this sort of work forever.
Edward did finish with this work soon after, as the next letter (dated 16 November 1916) was from Grayling War Hospital, Chichester, Sussex. He was wounded in the right arm and was writing with his left hand. His requests to Miss Roberts now are different: he asks for a wristwatch and a wallet. He requested a transfer to Dublin and wrote from the Red Cross Hospital, Picture Gallery, Dublin Castle in June 1917, where he was having a series of operations on his arm. He visited Kelston several times and thanked Monica for the two days he spent there in July 1917. On another occasion he apologised for not arriving – he had no money for the train fare and went to borrow from his pal, ‘but it turned out that he was stoney as well’. Clearly, the generosity of Monica and her family extended beyond the distant support of letters and parcels, and if Edward was welcomed at Kelston it seems likely that other soldiers on leave visited also.
A major change occurred in Edward’s life at his time as shown in the next letter, from 18 Windsor Terrace, South Circular Road, Portobello. He was no longer in the army, and this letter is signed ‘Mr. and Mrs. E. Mordaunt’. There was a subtle change of tone also, as befitted his new station in life:
Just a few lines to let you know I am still alive, also to let you see I have not quiet forgotten your kindness to me.
My arm is still about the same I cannot use it very much I have not got any employment yet, but still living in hope.
The final letter in the archive shows that his new life presented another set of problems for Edward Mordaunt:
In regards to me being plucky in looking for employment so soon, I need not tell you it is a case of having to as I have got no place of my own just yet and am staying in furnished apartments and have to pay 6/- a week for it and now that my pension is down to 16/6 a week I can assure you we are mearly existing on that money.
Theres no mistake about it I have an excellent good character, only it must be light employment such as caretaker or overseer that I have been recommended for, and I would be very thankfull to you if you should let me know anyone with such posts vacant for I can assure you I will do my best to please them in every respect.
This is the last information available on Edward Mordaunt, and it is not known how he fared in later times. In the Dublin telephone directory there are seven listings under the surname, and I have made contact with them. None appears to be related to Edward.