Douglas Eatock was already thirty-one years old when war broke out in 1914. Despite being married with five young children, he considered it his duty to fight for his country and joined the 3rd Reserve Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers in 1914.
From research carried out in the Bolton History Centre, we have discovered that Douglas was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Eatock and was born in Bury on 20 September 1882. He lived in Little Lever and married Mary Pilling at St Saviour’s Church, Ringley, on 1 January 1906. Prior to enlisting he worked as a labourer and a miner.
Douglas wrote this poem to Mary in 1915, although it is not known whether he wrote it while on leave or when he was fighting at the front. In it he expresses how he felt about those “faint hearted” men at home who did not join up and fight.
He writes of the horrors of the battlefield and about those he is fighting alongside. He talks of the young soldiers and how he feels for their mothers, and about the old soldiers who left wives and children at home, desolate and alone. He tells his wife he is glad she didn’t stop him going to war but wished him God speed. He finishes the poem saying he would be ashamed to stay at home as he felt it was necessary to do his duty: every man was needed.
Douglas Eatock survived the war, eventually returning to Little Lever and having another child with Mary.
He died in 1951 in Farnworth, aged 68.
I am writing to you my dearest from a land of grief and pain,
From the trenches on the battlefield midst the wounded and the slain.
We have fought, and still are fighting as our fathers fought before,
To prevent the German tyrants from landing on our shores.
It is sad to see the dying and sadder still the dead,
Who have given their all for freedom, their life’s blood nobly shed.
There are many who will miss them, these hero’s heave and hold,
Some were husbands, some were fathers and some not very old.
Many were but youngsters, not very long left school,
Where they learnt life’s noble lessons to follow the golden rule.
How could they die better than avenging fearful wrong,
Their names will live in history and their deeds be sung in song.
I feel for the many widows left desolate and lone,
I feel for the mothers whose sons from them were torn;
But oh I can assure you the thoughts that grieve me most,
Are those of the faint hearted who never left their post;
But sat and read their papers by their cosy fireside,
And saw the names of friends who for their country died.
There are those among them would come if wife’s agreed,
Thank God you did not hold me back but wished me God speed.
This is not the time for sentiment or idle lovers tales,
For every man is needed and true courage never fails.
I’m not sorry that I left you although I love you so,
I’d be ashamed to stay at home when duty bade me go.
Nob End, Little Lever
Image reference 1967.182.c.by (1967182cby), Bolton Archives and Local Studies Collection