Thursday, May 19, 2016

Finding Harry (Part III)

A second letter from the Infirmary

In previous blog posts (Finding Harry) I discussed following the trail that Harry Augustus Chinery left for us. 

101 years ago today, little Harry Chinery wrote another letter to his mother from the infirmary.[1]  It is a relatively short yet eloquent note updating her that he hasn’t gotten “any worse but a little better.”  Up to this point there has been no indication as to what exactly has made Harry ill.
I find his letters to sound as if someone older than an 11-year-old has written them.  It is sad to think at this time, a child of 11, is in the hospital and going days to perhaps a weeks without seeing family.

Letter from Harry Chinery to Lydia Chinery,
19 May 1915, p1 of 3
May 19th 1915
The Balcony
Union Infirmary
Dear Mother
Just a few lines to let you know I am not any worse but a little better.  I had a letter from Gladys she wrote it last Friday and I did not get it till Monday dinner time.  I shant expect a letter from Aunt May now as she has another babe and I Expect she got a shock from the Explosion  you will see about it in (her) letter.  I dont wish you [?or] Gladys bring me any more biscuits nor any more shortcake  thanks but would like you to bring a few plain buns instead  Also Mr Titmun wants a day pipe if you please  i expect you know who I mean  I am getting on fine with the book you brought me.  Dear Mother I remember something you promised you would bring and show me that was Dadas ship on a pos[t]card but you have so much to think about that you can’t think about that you can’t think of everything.  Hope Ethel is better or a little better.  last Saturday mother a man came on the ward and said their was not any visiting going to be al[l]owed and we all thought was right but it was a only a joke.  The ward is rather full up now we have another bed on and another man  I dont think I have any more to say this time  Hoping I shall see you next Saturday if you can  anyhow spare time much love from Sonie xxxxxx

He again leaves clues to current events that I still need to research.   I especially would love to know what ship was “Dadas”.    I have clues that his father, my great grandfather William Henry Chinery, had just left for military service not even a month before this letter was written.   In the collection for British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, it records his medals and states his “date of entry” was 24 Apr 1915.[2]   It was his letter that helped lead me to search for WWI records for my great grandfather.   Otherwise, I had not any clues that he had served.   He would have been in his mid-40’s by the time the war broke out.  I now know he served in Egypt during this time. 
Harry also mentions an explosion that “Aunt May” experiences.  I suspect it may be in relation to the Bury Bombing (blog post "Finding Harry (Part II)").  A search of the birth location of Aunt May’s children during this time should provide context.

Harry may have been just 11 years old, but I still have more to share in future posts.

[1] Norman, Ethel May (Flack). Private Collection. 1952 – 1997, “Sonie” [Harry Augustus Chinery] to “Dear Mother” [Lydia Matilda (Boreham) (Flack) Chinery], Letter, 19 May 1915.

[2] British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, (online database)., referencing W. H. Chinery; citing Army Medal Office, WWI Medal Index Cards, In the care of The Western Front Association Website.


  1. I am really enjoying this 'story' as it unfolds. I love that little Harry wrote 'the balcony' on his letter. He mentions a Mr. Titmun and another man. I wonder if it was just a ward for males and he was with grownups, too? Quite a few clues that make you want to know more!

    1. As I write this blog series, I find more and more information that are clues to research paths. It is almost overwhelming. I have done some research trying to find information regarding the infirmary, and funny you picked it up, "The Balcony". I haven't found references yet to the balcony, but I have combed pictures wondering if a balcony would be prominent in any of them. I really want to figure out what the ship was mentioned in the 2nd letter.