‘Yours for Eternity’, the wartime story of a doomed romance

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THE story of a wartime romance between two Yorkshire sweethearts is being told for the first time after the discovery of 150 letters and postcards hidden in a tin box for almost a century.

Henry Coulter wrote dozens of love letters to girlfriend Lucy Townend, signing them ‘Yours for Eternity, Henry’.

The young soldier, who was less than 5ft 3 tall, had to wait for the formation of a ‘Bantams’ Battalion for men of short stature before he could sign up in the spring of 1915.

During training with the 17th (Leeds) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, he wrote regularly to ‘Lu’, who lived in Birkby, Huddersfeld.

In one letter, Henry tells Lucy: “Whenever I think of home or you, it always makes tears come into my eyes and I am not the only one here by a long way.

“You would be surprised to see some of our most toughest of fellows break down when we talk about home.

“But there, this is to be a cheerful letter not a funeral.”

In another letter, young Henry enclosed a brooch, telling Lucy: “I hope you will like it and wear it for me my darling.

“It will be a constant reminder that someone whom you love very dearly is trying his level best to do his best for King and Country.”

Sadly, like tens of thousands of blossoming romances up and down the land, it was snuffed out in an instant.

By October 1916, Henry was 24 years old and had been promoted to Corporal and was fighting the Germans in France.

He was wounded in a shell blast on October 10 and died of his wounds a few days later.

Lucy’s final letter to him was returned unopened.

It was one of 150 that she kept hidden away in an attic for decades until her death in 1982.

She had got married in 1924 and had two children but it is apparent that she never forgot about her first love.

The letters were found in a box in an attic in Huddersfield and passed to local historian John Rumsby.

The poignant story will be told in a book due to be published later this year by the Huddersfield Local History Society to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.

Mr Rumsby, a former museum curator, said the story was that of the courtship of two typical working class people.

“They seem to have gone to the same church together - Gledholt Methodist - and enjoyed going to the Pictures and had their favourite stars like Gladys Cooper and Charlie Chaplin, which they talked about in the letters.”

Henry had worked as a clerk in the tramways department and Lucy worked in a shoe shop in Huddersfield town centre.

“Up until August 1914, Henry would not have had a clue about the possibility of becoming a soldier - he was probably thinking of a life with Lucy.

“All of a sudden people were joining up and I think he had difficulty joining up because he was rather short. You had to be at least 5ft 3 to join the Army, so he didn’t join until the spring of 1915 when he got in a Leeds Bantams battalion after they relaxed the height restrictions.”

In one letter, Henry makes a joke about his height in one of several comic monologues he penned himself.

“There are several monologues which are quite witty. There are also some quite funny little jokes. He also teases his girlfriend and she teases him back about her becoming a conductor on the trams.”

Her final letter to Henry was returned with a note on the envelope which said ‘died in hospital before letter received.’

“One hopes that she had already heard from Henry’s father before she received that,” says Mr Rumsby.

It is thought that Henry had hoped to marry his sweetheart on his return from France.

He had sent her a ring gauge so she could tell him her wedding finger measurement.

Henry was sent to France in April 1916 and died in the October of that year.

His death was reported among other local men in the Huddersfield Examiner in 1916. The cutting was among the keepsakes in the box.

“It’s sad, knowing what happened, to read about the joy of two young people enjoying life.

“The letters end in 1916 and they were wrapped in a newspaper reporting his death.

“The story is typical of hundreds of other men who went to war. Of the 33 who went to war from Gledholt Methodist Church, 10 were killed.”

* The story of Henry and Lucy is featured on Radio Leeds at 8.15am today and on Look North at 6.30pm. www.bbc.co.uk/ww1