Friday, 23 December 2016

The ANZAC Book and letters. When & how did Dar and Birdie meet?

We know from previous stories that Dar (George Kirby McArthur) transferred to a Mechanical Transport unit at the beginning of 1916 to then see service on the Western Front for the remainder of the war.

We have also worked out from a tiny postcard that we have, that Dar was definitely in Bath at some point – we presume it was at the beginning of 1916 (see previous story).

But, what other information do we have to work out further details?

The Bath Chronicle had articles on happenings during the Great War. Various articles indicated that, not only were the troops training in Bath for the Mechanical Transport units, but they were billeted in the Twerton area of Bath and the local Methodist Church held dances and other social functions where the troops could mix with the locals in a relaxed atmosphere.

Birdie and her parents, Oliver and Harriet Butt, lived at 14 Vernon Terrace, Lower Bristol Road, Twerton, Bath.

We are lucky to have an original of The ANZAC Book. It has deteriorated somewhat with bookworm activity over the past 100 years. There is an inscription on the inside front cover which reads:
“To Birdie, with much love from George”
There is a date of 1916, but there is no actual day or month due to the bookworm activity.

This is a significant piece of information as it confirms that Dar and Birdie met at some point prior to the end of 1916.

Another piece of the puzzle is a set of letters we have from The Boots Company to Birdie. The first letter confirms that Birdie was offered a job in September 1916 in the Silver Department, Wine Street, Bristol. The letter states that she had written to Boots on 9th September 1916, requesting a position with them. She was to start work at Bristol on 9th October 1916. There are another two letters from the company giving permission for Birdie to take time off “as your fiancĂ© may arrive home from the Front”. Those letters were dated 24th January 1917 and 2nd January 1918.

So to summarise - in June 1916 Dar was in England and, as he had transferred into a Mechanical Transport Company, he was training in Bath. The Recreation Club on Great Pulteney Road in Bath is about 2km from where Birdie lived in Twerton. And of course The Anzac Book and the personal letters.

My guess is that they met in one of the following ways:
·      *  Birdie was volunteering at the Recreation Club as her “bit for the War”, or
·      *  At the local Twerton Methodist Church at one of the social functions – Birdie’s family were very involved in the Methodist Church, or
·      *  George could have been billeted at Birdie’s home as they had a spare room because their two sons had migrated to Canada by the time of the War.

As confirmed by both the Anzac Book and the letters from Boots, they certainly met before September 1916 and obviously fell in love as they were apparently engaged. My assumption is that Birdie applied for a job in September 1916 so she could save some money to be able to migrate at some point to join George in Australia at the end of the War.

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