Voices from the past

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have been following this blog which comprises letters written by a soldier in the First World War, William Lamine. Inspired by this, I thought I’d share some letters from my family. These were written By Jack and Sidney Lyon to various relatives.

Jack Lyon

Jack Lyon

4011 Corporal JJ Lyon
4 Company 3rd Coldstream Guards
4th Guards’ Brigade
2nd Division
British Expeditionary Force


Dear Jimmy

A few lines in answer to yours in hand that I received this morning Sunday hoping that this will find you and all at home in the best of health as this leaves me at the moment. I find the [nights] very warm. I have wrote to Sid but have had no reply yet he will soon get used to the climate out there so Mother has not much to be afraid of as he will be alright. Things are very quiet about here, only now and then our fellows and the French have a good smack at the Germans. They gave them gee up this last week by reports that have reached us so we shall probably have to make the best of it this xmas. A merry one to you and all at home. I hope I have a [undecipherable]

From Muriel’s Mysteries & [undecipherable]

Will write again tomorrow

Your loving brother



4011 Corporal JJ Lyon
4 Company 3rd Coldstream Guards
4th Guards’ Brigade
2nd Division


Dear Jimmy

Just a line to thank you for the parcel which I was pleased to receive. We have had a bit of rough weather since I wrote to Father last Sunday. We got wet through and then had to sleep in the rain. As we gradually got dry it began to freeze and now everything is covered in snow. It is very cold I never thought there was so many hardships in a week that we have experienced this last one. We are now having a rest for a week or so as our Brigade had a very hard time of it, since the war started we have been in the thickest of some of the fighting, and the frenchies have relieved us as it was a very trying time to have to keep in the firing line all the time and stick all weathers and scarcely any sleep. I went to mass this morning at a church that is in the town we are in at present so you see I am a good boy for once. How is Sidney going on? I don’t suppose that he landed much before today Sunday 22nd as it is 21 days sail so you will just about a line from him by xmas so tell Mother that if she sends anything to Sid for xmas, send it as soon as possible as he will be able to have something then by xmas day. I expect I shall be home by then as this war looks like coming to a sudden stop. Remember me to all at home so give my love to Father and Mother, sisters and brother. Ask what about his wedding cake?

Your Loving brother



Jack to his Sister, January 1915

40 11 Corporal JJ Lyon
4 Company 3rd Coldstream Guards
4th Guards’ Brigade
2nd Division


My dear sister just a few lines in answer to your kind and welcome letter which I was pleased to receive. Also the photos of the boys touts etes tres jolie. It is the only one that I have got of anyone at home except my wife and dear children. You wish me a merry xmas, well we did have one of a sort in the trenches and knee deep in water at that, it is terrible here. I know if you told people at home the hardships that we have gone through they would think a man was telling lies but read this little speech of our Brigaders and see it explains what was in the letter that I wrote to your father a little while ago. How is Sidney going on? You never said in your letter. I don’t know many Coldstreamers that come from Chorley only 1, he is a policeman named Addison from Rivington Pike way, but there is a lot from Blackburn and another from Standish so we have plenty of chums, but there is a lot of room for more others so you had better start recruiting for the Coldstream Guards

Give my regards to mother dear God Bless and guard her till my return I often wonder what she is doing also father and sisters so I close wishing you all a Happy New Year.

Your loving brother


J’espère avoir le bluivoir de vous revoir


Sid in India

Sid in India

Sidney Lyon (in India)to his cousin Jessie, December 1914

Fort William

Wednesday Dec 9th 14

Dear Cousin Jessie

I must thank you very much for your letter which was all the more welcome and interesting as being the first received in India. It arrived Sunday Dec 6th – twenty-six days after being written.

Now I will tell you of my adventures since leaving England, hoping they will interest you. We left Southampton on Thursday midnight Oct 29th. Now here is a very curious coincidence – there were 800 of us and we sailed on the Canadian Northern Line the “Royal George”. Have you read Cowper’s poem “The loss of the Royal George”? If not, do so.

We arrived at the following places at these times:-

Gibraltar – Passed the Rock on Tues Nov 3 at 4.30 pm

Malta – passed on Friday Nov 6th between 8-10 am

Port Said – arrived on Sunday Nov 8th at 9pm & stayed till 9pm the following day to coal [refuel]

Suez – arrived at noon Tuesday Nov 10th and stayed till Tuesday Nov 17th

Aden – arrived at noon Monday Nov 23rd stayed till Thursday Nov 26th

Bombay – arrived Tuesday Dec 1st at 4 am

Calcutta – Friday 7.30 pm

In all there were ten troopships left Southampton together with an escort of two or three cruisers. On the Sunday we had a rough time in the Bay of Biscay. After a good shaking up in the bunk on the previous night I was seasick like the majority. Anyhow from that time I thoroughly enjoyed the voyage, being quite fit.

From Gib to Pt Said we sailed alone as ours was a very speedy ship & there was little danger. We were at Pt Said when war was declared with Turkey & quite expected to have to stay to look after the Turks in Egypt.

The sail down the Suez Canal was a treat especially during the day it took us about 14 hours. The stay at Suez was quite nice but too long & became monotonous. We only went on shore for about two hours during the whole seven days.

The chief thing of interest at Aden was the [Australian] cruiser “Sydney” which sunk the [German light cruiser SMS] “Emden” & she received hearty cheers too when sailing quite close to the Royal George. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMAS_Sydney_%281912%29)

The voyage finished at Bombay after 32 days on the water you can imagine we were exceedingly glad to get on dry land again.

The last part of the trip was a three days train ride & this was still more enjoyable. Since you are interested in the geography of India now, I will give you a few names of places we stopped for meals


Breakfast Mammand )
Dinner Bhusaval )– Great Indian Peninsular Railway
Tea Akola )

Thursday Nagpur – at night

Breakfast Gondia )
Dinner Raipur )– Bengal Nagpur Railway
Tea Bilaspur )

Friday ) – Bengal Nagpur Railway
Breakfast Chakadharpur )
Dinner Khargpur )

Fort William is a huge place in the middle of Calcutta on the bank of the Ganges. We are stationed in Dalhousie Barracks. There is every facility for games – billiards, football, swimming & besides a good library. Little work can be done owing to the intense heat – and yet it is winter time! – two parades per day, 6.30 to 7.30 am & 9 to 10 am. The rest of the day is our own & we are allowed out of the fort from 4.30 pm till 9.30 pm.

Our stay in Fort William was very short I am in a detachment of 216 men who left yesterday for training at a small fort called Chingri Khal 40 miles again nearer the sea. It is a fine place for outdoor country life. We shall be here for about six weeks & then return to Calcutta making room for another party.

I really expect we shall return & go to the front in a few months time. At any rate we are regular soldiers under active service conditions now. Can you imagine me with a moustache? We have to grow one. Mine is quite a respectable one now.

I really cannot imagine spending xmas out in the wilds but it is absolutely unlike xmas here so we shall not miss it the same.

Well Jessie, I hope to have the pleasure of more of your nice letters as well as more from Ada & Lucy. Please give my best love to them & to Aunt Lizzie & Grandpa whom I hope are in the best of health.

My address is the same as before as the letters will be sent on to us.

Your Loving Cousin,



~ by @mmonyte on January 28, 2008.

11 Responses to “Voices from the past”

  1. I love that these letters were written by ordinary men. The drama of the war both in the foreground and background as they wrote to their family members was fascinating, and evocative. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. Interesting stuff, can I point you towards a website I finished for a friend this week http://www.w-n-hodgson.info

  3. Surprise site! I am the grandson of JJ Lyon 4011 Coldstream Guards, who was KIA on October 15 1915, in the Battle of Loo. My Mother was his daughter, Kathleen Lucy Margaret Lyon who was born in February, 1914, just nefpre the start of WWI. I have all his medals and and records. Send me an email and I will send you photos of his shadowbox.

  4. Hi there!
    I am Sid Lyon’s granddaughter. Your mother is my mother’s cousin and she sent me the link. Lovely to see the old photos on here.

  5. My husband’s grandfather also served in india with the 1/10 Middlesex and sailed on the royal George. He wrote an account of the voyage to india but Sidney’s gives really good detail of the dates of ports of call. do you have any further detail of Sidney’s experiences please as we could swap stories ? what did he do before and after the war as Cecil Eric Irving was a teacher both before and after his service and enlisted with St Mark’s company. Were they together in their service I wonder…

  6. Hello Maggie, my knowledge of Sid is rather vague, beyond that he was a good footballer (goalkeeper) and lost an eye playing it (most people assumed he had lost his eye in combat).

    Anna Rispin may have more information as she is descended directly from Sid. If you two ladies are happy I can put you in touch with each other.

  7. Hello Maggie
    Coincidently Sid Lyon was also a teacher. He was Head Master at Wrea Green CoE school in Lancashire until his retirement.

  8. Hello Anna,
    Cecil Eric Irving taught netalwork and technical drawing at Stenley Street School, SE London, was evacuated with his school to Hastings and then to Llanddewi, Pembrokeshire for WW2 – where he took over the village took over the local smithy, did the shoeing, held exhibitions of metalwork and made spares for the local farmers. Cecil’s daughter Cecily had the account in her belinging’s when she died and I am using it, courtisy of my husband who is Cecil’s grandson, for my dissertation at University.
    Any further information you have about India and their service there would be most helpfull. Magggie andya13349@aol.com

  9. It is Barry Forster, the grandson of JJ Lyon 4011 Coldstream Guards as the son of his only daughter Kathleen and I would like to get full size jpegs of the actual letters shown above that my grandfather JJ Lyon wrote. Many thanks. My email address is barbets@comcast.net

  10. “Jimmy” is actually Ginny, short for Eugenie, who was my Grandmother.

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