Soldier’s 1915-19 notes home spark appeal for relatives to come forward

Shaun, Catherine and Joseph Toehill, of Clayton, with the letters

The letters in close-up

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

More than 40 letters written by a Bradford soldier during World War One have been re-discovered by a family in Clayton, sparking an appeal for any relatives to come forward to claim them.

The notes, written by Edward Cooke, a gunner with the service number 796514, date from 1915 to 1919 and were originally sent to his wife Louie, nee Holmes, at an address at Hampton Place, Idle.

Father and son Joseph and Shaun Toehill found the letters in an old suitcase when bottle-hunting on Dowley Gap tip in Bingley during the 1980s, and kept them in storage in their loft for safe-keeping.

They remained there until this year when Joseph’s wife, Catherine, was reminded of the find by coverage of World War One centenary events.

“They were in my loft and I’d forgotten all about them,” she said.

“I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away after my husband and son found them as they are beautifully written and so poignant.

“Whether or not they were thrown away by mistake I don’t know, but there must be relatives of this man left in Bradford.

“It’s real family history, and if this were my granddad or great-grandad, I’d love to have them.”

Mrs Toehill said that Edward must have survived the war, as there is a letter dated March 1919, sent from Germany after the conflict ended. He and Louie had been married in 1915, and had a son, Teddy, born in 1917.

One letter, dating from 1916, was sent from an army hospital where Gunner Cooke appears to have been wounded, but further letters were sent from France up to 1918, suggesting he was sent back to serve at the front.

“It’s amazing to think that some of these letters are nearly 100 years old, but you can feel the love there,” said Mrs Toehill.

“It’s obviously a very emotive subject, but the letters really do tear at your heartstrings. They are so personal, but so beautifully written.

“I’ve read them all, and they’ve had me in tears.

“ There is one where he talks about the birth of the baby and says he’d give five years of his life to be there pushing the pram with Louie and little Teddy.”

Mrs Toehill is making an appeal to any relatives of Gunner Cooke to contact the Telegraph & Argus so they can be reunited with a precious piece of family history.

“The family may not even know that these letters exist, but there may be someone out there who’d be ecstatic to have them,” she said.

Anyone who thinks they have a legitimate claim to the letters should contact the T&A newsdesk in writing via newsdesk@telegraphandargus.co.uk.

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