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Alex Honeyman was born on 15th May 1899 and joined the army when he was eighteen.
He wrote many letters throughout his time as a soldier in World War One to his sister’s best friend, Bessie Whatmough, who was born on 5th February 1901. She lived in Wardle with her aunt and worked with her in her bakery on Ramsden Road. His first letter is dated 1st July 1917 when he had just enlisted and for the first few months there are just friendly letters telling Bessie about his life in the army. He addressed her as Dear Bessie until after a visit home in March 1918, when she became “Dearest Bessie” and he signed off as Your ever loving Sweetheart.

Alex moved around England from camp to camp and ended up in hospital a couple of times. He wasn’t sent overseas until 1919. His first letters are from Italy where he was stationed at Taranto, waiting to be sent to Egypt. The next few are sent from Egypt until December 1919, when he arrives back in England to await his demob.

His final letters show great frustration that he is being kept from home and it appears that he was one of the last to be demobbed. In his last letter, dated January 1920, he writes to tell Bessie that he will finally be home within the next week.

We have only eighteen letters from Bessie (many more from Alex), but this is understandable as she was living in the same house in Wardle all the time, but he was moving regularly from camp to camp in England and then was sent abroad. The first letter is dated 1918. She was often worried when she didn’t receive a letter from him because she didn’t know if he’d been sent abroad or was ill. She gives him her news from Wardle but often there isn’t much to tell...

On 1st July 1919, Bessie writes to Alex to say how it is almost impossible to believe that the war is over and how wonderful this is, but she has no knowledge of how long it will be before he returns home. Bessie’s last letter is dated November 1919, when she says she is sending him a parcel for Christmas. She also remarks on the soldiers who are back in Wardle, having already been demobbed.

The couple were finally reunited in January 1920 and married on 2nd November of that year. They had four daughters, including Margaret, who has donated the letters. Bessie’s aunt died some time after the war and the shop was closed, but during the Second World War, when there was a shortage of food, the family moved back to the property and opened it again as a bakery and shop under the name Honeyman.