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Letters from  William Joseph Dibdin 
1850 - 1925

to Lionel Dibdin during World War I

Date: 28/11/1916 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

He has to resend the first letter because of Army error and would not like Lionel to think that his father had not written after the station confusion.

He had attended a meeting and it seems that he will have to be secretary as the last available man.

Tine is planning to give up the school as there are Landlord problems.

Marian is at the nursing home next door slowly getting better but the Colitis is a problem.

Marg is working 12 hours a day at the bank leaving home at 8 and returning at 10.00.


Details: From William Joseph Dibdin

Chelton House Burdon Lane Belmont Sutton

Date: 30/09/1916 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

WJD apologies for not having seen Lionel off because of his confusion over Victoria and Waterloo Station.

He stated that he has heard from some of the family and that Paul's (Montford) work in Glasgow is settled and that Mother ( Marian ) keeps on doing to stop her from worrying.

Comment: William Joseph Dibdin was 66 at this time

Details: From William Joseph Dibdin

Chelton House Burdon Lane Belmont Sutton

Date: 11/02/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

Not much news but Marian (daughter & wife of Paul Montford) is still ill. The nurse and Marian think it will be till March.

Joe is still in hospital after two months but she is grateful that she has only one son on the front line now.

Fathers cough and cold still troublesome - still going up to town as usual but a long day 8 am - 8pm.

They hope to get the house on the corner of Cheam Road - good room for laboratory. She does not mind the move as it will be less dreary than here.

Cecily and her have been in touch - Peter is well.


Details: From Marian Dibdin - wife of WJD

Chelton House Burdon Lane Belmont Sutton

Date: 02/04/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

Father has acute pneumonia and very poorly. Heart struggling. He is worried as there is some important work to be done. He does not like missing time at the office (he has lost three week pay already) where he is working for the Ministry of Munitions with Col. Selby (Engineer) who values him highly. This second chill is worse than the first - he had rigor on Thursday night. Rex has been to see if he can help.

They are planning to move to Tulse Hill ( this would be 31 Idmiston Rd) as the Sutton house fell through - the Landlord would not accept her clauses in the agreement. Tulse hill is better for the train to London and has room for his laboratory. Doctor says move as soon as possible.

Marian and family went back to Wandsworth Common on Thursday just before Father was taken ill. She has a good nurse for Father.

Joe is back with the 2nd Brigade Machine Gun Corps.


Details: From Marian Dibdin wife of WJD

Chelton House Burdon Lane Belmont Sutton

Date: 30/07/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

My Darling Lionel

We all send fond love hoping you are keeping well – and not running any undue risks. You see we know how daring you are.

You will be glad to hear that Joe is home in England – preparing for staff instructorship at Grantham.

He was in that awful time on the Yser – the wrong side of the River with his guns. He swam across the river after the bridge was blown away and nearly all his men and guns gone. He tried to save one guns by carrying it across the river but had to drop it also all else he could get rid of.

However he is safe. He and four other officers – (out of 45) got across the river. Soon after his order came for him to go to Grantham. After 32 months in France 29 months on the front line. He was greeted most cordially at Grantham One Cl. Writing to another said"he is the most gallant fellow in the corps". His reputation went in front of him.

You will soon be coming home on leave. I think it is due surely. If we could manage it I should like to get you, Joe, Rex and the two Dibdins from Australia together for an evening. Ned ( Edward John) and Arthur are fine fellows – at present in Salisbury. Ned has been in France, but broke his ankle & was sent to England to get well. Has been staying with Aunt Fanny.

Father has been in Manchester for more than a fortnight, and expects to be there another week ! On Ministry of Munitions work.

Lettie is touring with a Concert Party before joining her Co. for a long winter tour. She goes this time on a better footing with better pay and regular parts to take. – as well as playing the organ, conducting at the back and coaching the soloists in their parts. She is so much thinner. We all are!

Christine is now engaged on Dr. Filon's section at the Air Board – a sort of confidential – shorthand – typist – clerk - & secretary. She was in a good firm, but Filon would have her !! So she thought the Air Board ought to tale precedence.

Margaret is still at the Bank. Rex still at his but not at all well, & very weary on that work – or rather the surroundings. He looks ill & is at home for a few days. Elsie is engaged in the bank too.

I think that is all my news. I have a busy time though quiet – no helper in the house, only "Daily" I am quite alone often as the girls come home late.

Marian is fairly well & the children too. The baby is a pretty fair, very fair child. They ae affected by war-time. Paul’s work not coming in as it used – As Cecily sees the Sutton friends more often than I do, she will give you news of them.

Needless to say how happy we shall be when you get home safe & sound. How long will this awful state of war have to go ! Three years now – and we seem still as hard pressed . IT is difficult to have patience – When you wrote saying you were about 20 miles from Joe, he was being moved up North. The first time he has up there. A narrow escape for him, he says he has had so many – he can hardly count them – it has been like a charmed life. You can imagine how I feel at having him in England safe & sound. Now we wait for you to come – and I hope it will not be long before hostilities are over. – even if the troops have to remain abroad. What a state Russia is in!! I never did believe that they would "endure to the end". America took three years to make up her mind as to who was in the right. Her dollars in the shape of her cargoes had to be lost through U boats before she would take part. – Not much to be thankful as far as she is concerned but I suppose "better late than never"

Well, dear Lionel – we all wish you the best of luck – longing to see your dear old face again –

I am always you loving Mother –

whose thoughts and prayers are ever for your welfare & safety – God Bless you dear.


4th August 1917 Lionel was gassed

Was Aunt Fanny at 47 Redington Road.

The River Yser is near Ypres


Details: From Marian Dibdin 31 Idiminston Road

Date: 06/08/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

Return from Manchester to find bad news of Lionel ( Gasses). He is proud that "our boys" can put up the truggle to protect England.

He is pleased that his work for the Cleaning house is worthwhile and appreciated.

Reference to news of Joe - "isn't he a brick"

He returns to Manchester and for a couple of week and then maybe to Belfast.

Marg is visiting Lettie, on tour, in Southsea.


Details: From William J Dibdin 31 Idiminston Road

Date: 24/08/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

He has returned from Manchester but is now laid up with Rheumatism particularly in the right knee cap caused by working 10 hours a day in a damp room during wet cold and stormy weather.

He is writing for Mother as she gets little time because of all the housework.

Tine is getting on well at "Hotel Cecil2 - the Air Board and seem to like the work.

Marg is making a name for good work at the bank. She gets a day off in the week for Sunday work and has gone to see Windsor Castle. Rex not bben well.

Joe is pushing ahead at Grantham and has got through his exams.

Paul and Marian are well as are the two little ones.

From Mother

She has suffered much worrying about Lionel and asks that he rests as she knows that his will is stronger than his body. "There seems to be great doings at the Front now". She is worried that Father has had a lot of ill-health lately.


Details: From William J Dibdin 31 Idiminston Road

Date: 15/04/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

They plan on Thursday to move to their new home in Norwood. A corner house. It has a garden back and front a 27ft x 9ft heated conservatory entered from a dining room 20ft long which will be his study.

He mentions that Lord Knutsford has been complaining about his (sewage) beds. A tree was found to have fallen across them. And a plumber did some repair work. He refers to slated being delivered to Basingstoke.

Because of the Slacknees of work he has joined the Ministry of Munitions - Cleaning House.

Working 9.30-6.30 daily on statistical and appraising work as area superintendant.

He has recently been ill twice with broncitis, once with pnuemonia. He works with a wounded Leuitenant Hampson who insists on keeping the window open all day. Rex went into the work to say William was ill and gave the fellow a slating.

They have had a lot of turmoil with illness in the family and the breaking up of the school.

Cecily and Stan came - his is doing instructions at Chatham and expect to be back at the front soon.

Letty is well and at Birkenhead, she came to visit when he was ill in February.He presence in the house actslike a charm. She has her Certificate of Motoring.

When on the phone with Lord Knutsford he asked "how is thay nice son of yours getting on?"

Joe is back with his Company.


Lord Knutford, Mr Sidney Holland was Chairman of London Hospital, and was to take over the proposed State Registration of Nurses an issue in which he was much involved since 1914 and over which there was a lot of argument. Died 1931.

The move must have been the time that Christine's School was closed down - the move was partly because of Landlord problems regarding the school.

This work the Ministry of Munitions - Cleaning House entailed going to Manchester for some weeks where there was a "Railway Cleaning House" - but the connection is incertain.

Comment: On Thursday 19th April 1917 they were to move to Norwood

Details: From William J Dibdin Chelton House Burdon Lane

Date: 08/07/1917 From: WJD&M To: Lionel

He was glad to hear Lionel ok

They had an Air Raid, about 20 Flying Machines. A clear view of them as they passed Dulwich College and then seen by Rex in the City and Christine had a bomb drop near her office and today is feeling the effects of the explosions.

Lady Knutsford with her sewage system and says it smells from the north and Lord Knutsford can't smell at all. They have consulted Vaux Craleau ? The problem seems to be that the system is too near the house and the automatic gear is not reliable. The problem will be solved.

All aree well except Paul knocked himself senselees falling over in the middle of the night chasing a moth in the bedroom. Marg and William had gone to Putney but found Rex ??? Out they have gone to Strawbery Hill to see Monty who was on leave.- His is well with a severe Lieut - Major look in his face and at training for his commission. He does not know which Regiment he will go to.

Ernest is at Hull and is thoroughly recovered.

William reports that Edward Moors brother Arthur has come over from Brazil to join up having been rejected for the army 17 years ago for poor eyesight.

Lettie has another engagement until her tour in September.

William has been getting the lab in order after the move. The accomodation here is fine - room for 3 or 4 assistants.


Details: From William J Dibdin 31 Idiminston Road