H07181 — Fawssett Group of 10 men in bed, October 1914

Box 41


‘Letter from Iris’ — Kathryn Tollervey, Digital Archivist, Edward Reeves Archive.

Audio transcript at bottom of page


Ten recruits billeted at the home of Cecil Fawsett, 83 High Street. The Sussex Express commented “the majority of recruits are still without uniform, but military shirts, boots, socks etc have been served out to many of them. The scarcity of khaki has presented a difficulty…”. Room in the beds was scarce too!


Iris Hotblack, a 20 year old living in Lewes, was good friends with Cecil Fawsett’s son also called Cecil. In her letters to her future husband Alan Morton, she describes the “two week invasion” of Lewes in the summer of 1914 when 10,000 men were sent to Lewes for training. Of these, around half were to be billeted in private homes and the rest in every available public and private building including 850 to the Town Hall and County Hall, 1000 to the Old Naval Prison, 250 to the Ragged School, 240 to the Tabernacle School Hall, and so on. 600-1000 men of the Cardiff Commercials were supposed to go to the old Workhouse that had been empty for three years, but conditions were so bad that many of those Welsh men were put up in private homes, including 8 to Iris’s home, until they marched off to Eastbourne and Seaford.


Iris Hotblack’s letters are in the Liddle Collection, Leeds University Library


Related story: Lightbox 42


“Lewes objected to having her population doubled at such short notice! I don’t think we could have kept it up for long. I was making beds, washing up and cooking from 6.00am to 8.00pm. I liked it most awfully. We had more jolly little concerts and they were very sorry to go.


Our officers were very young and very shy. One of them I gave up as quite hopeless and I’m sure I’m not at all a difficult person to get on with. However, there were some very nice officers roundabout. I got to know most of them and they came around in the evening. One was a nice Irish boy attached to the Cheshires. We have promised to go over and see them at Seaford. We hear there are 32,000 there.”