Soldier’s First World War letters to be sold at auction

Soldier’s First World War letters to be sold at auction

By Sam Russell, Press Association
Page 1: 11:48

An English soldier’s letters to his family sent during the First World War, including one written the day after peace broke out, will be sold at auction.

Bombardier Frank Cooling from Hopton in Suffolk, where his family ran a grocery shop, wrote from France and Belgium on the Western Front.

In one poignant letter penned from France on November 12 1918, the day after the armistice that brought an end to the war, he wrote: “The French people here seem awfully excited over the news [of the Armistice]”.

He has no known surviving family according to Keys Fine Art Auctioneers in Aylsham, Norfolk, where the letters will be sold.

The letters, of which there are hundreds, are being sold by an anonymous private vendor and have a pre-sale estimate of £1,000 to £1,200.

Bombardier Cooling, who had a long military career, first served in the second Boer War which broke out in 1899 and later served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

He joined the 10th Norwich City Battalion of the Home Guard in 1940 and remained a member until it was disbanded in December 1944.

His constant stream of correspondence during the First World War ranged from heavily-censored “I am quite well” postcards to pages-long handwritten letters.

“This is an amazing record of one soldier’s war, right from the very start through to the Armistice,” said Andrew Lindsay-Bullock of Keys Fine Art Auctioneers, who catalogued the collection. “I’m always pleased when I find out I have got a survivor – more soldiers lived through the whole war than most people realise.

“In any war mail gets censored so that it doesn’t reveal anything of military interest, and Cooling’s letters would have been vetted in this way.

“Interestingly, in World War One officers censored their own mail, so you will often find material in their letters which would have led to a court martial if it had been included in the correspondence of an ordinary soldier.”

Other items from his military service, including medals, uniforms, photographs and documents, will also be auctioned on Wednesday November 28 as part of the three-day Winter Fine Sale.

Items owned by Frank Cooling’s son Norman Cooling, who served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, will also be auctioned.

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