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November 20, 2005

Thirty-Odd Feet Below Belgium

This summary of a newly-published collection of letters from WWI looks interesting. You can buy it direct from the publishers, Parapress Ltd., for $16 or £8.99.

As a boy, he said that his mother Edith took him to Stratford-upon-Avon several times to visit an old lady friend. The young Arthur would generally go outside to play. But one time, in the living room, he noticed a black metal plaque issued by the War Office. Such plaques commemorated a World War I soldier whose life was lost in action.

The memory of these visits naturally paled over the decades, but it was given a jolt in 1990, a full seven years after his mother's death, when Arthur returned to the family home to deal with the many belongings left there. Among them was a large wooden chest. In it he found a packet of old letters bound with string. The letters were dated 1915 and 1916, and they were sent between his mother, who was then 17, and a 20-year-old soldier named Geoffrey Boothby. They were letters exchanged between a young man and woman who knew each other for a bare four days, but whose affection and love for each other grew with every letter.

Geoffrey Boothby was killed on April 28, 1916, buried in a tunnel 10 meters below the ground at Ypres in Flanders. Arthur's mother, Edith, was never to see him again. Yet she married, had a child and lived a happy and productive life until her death at age 86. Long after World War I was over, she continued to visit Geoffrey's bereaved mother in Stratford-upon-Avon.

November 20, 2005 at 10:35 PM | Permalink

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