28th November 2019
The Chocolate Letters: York Men and the Great War
Dick Hunter writes:
We are pleased to hear of a new publication that indirectly emerges from one of our own World War 1 events in 2016. Dr Rosemary Anderson came to our day school in December 2016, on Responses to WW1 Conscription, when York Explore archivist Laura Yeoman spoke about the Chocolate Letters.
At Christmas 1914 the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York sent decorated gift tins containing Rowntree’s chocolate to all the city men serving in the armed forces. 255 messages of thanks, written during the first months of 1915, have survived and are now called the Chocolate Letters. The original documents form part of the City of York Council archives at York Explore Library. Within the set are illustrated postcards, notes written by officers on headed paper, letters scribbled in pencil from men on the front line and brief poignant messages from prisoners of war.
Laura asked if anyone in the audience would volunteer to discover how many men who wrote the letters died as a result of their war service. Rosemary came forward, and decided to transcribe the letters and research the lives of the men. The outcome is The Chocolate Letters: York Men and the Great War, available for £12 from York Explore, shops and other heritage retail outlets in York. (Also via York Publishing Services online bookshop which has a portal on Amazon Marketplace).
The book has colour reproductions of seventy-one Chocolate Letters and other illustrations. It offers fascinating insights into the social history of the Great War and uncovers biographies of many of the York men who wrote them, including twenty who lost their lives as a result of the conflict.