On 17 July 1915, Winston Churchill felt the need to sit and write the following letter, which was then sealed in an envelope marked: To be sent to Mrs Churchill in the event of my death.
Do not grieve for me too much. I am a spirit confident of my rights. Death is only an incident & not the most important which happens to us in this state of being. On the whole, especially since I net you my darling I have been happy, & you have taught me how noble a woman’s heart can be. If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you.
Winston was lucky, his letter never had to be delivered. John Coull’s luck, unfortunately, ran out on 30 September 1918. His family received this, which he’d penned almost eighteen months earlier.
My dear boy Fred,
This is a letter you will never see unless your daddy falls in the field. It is his farewell words to you in case anything happens. My boy I love you dearly and would have greatly liked to get leave for a few days to kiss you and shake hands again, after a few months separation, but as this seems at the moment unlikely, I drop you these few lines to say ‘God bless you’ and keep you in the true brave manly upright course which I would like to see you follow.
You will understand better as you get older that your daddy came out to France for your sakes and for your Empire’s sake. If he died it was in a good cause and all I would ask of you, dear boy, if that you will keep this note in memory of me, and throughout your life may all that is good attend you and influence you. May you be strong to withstand the temptations of life and when you come to the evening of your days you are able to say with St Paul, ‘I have fought the good fight.’
Goodbye dear boy and if it is that we are not to meet again in this life, may it be certain that we shall meet in another life to come, which faith I trust you will hold on to and live up to.
I remain ever
Your loving Daddy
J. F. Coull
Both letters taken from “Love Letters of the Great War” edited by Mandy Kirkby. No copyright infringement intended.