Maree Batstone’s diary entry for 23rd March 1916 begins: “Very cold, wet day, snow fell often”, and continues on to record various domestic concerns and the health of her two daughters. Her husband Walter came home at “8.30, he had been enquiring about joining a regiment, he will probably be called up on Sat or Mon and will then not be able perhaps to choose a regiment, so he had been to Scotland Yd recruiting office and another, heard that Royal Garrison Artillery men are beasts, went to Kingston to be medically ex’d but too late, talked to a sergeant there. Wonders if he will join Queen’s Westminster or London Rifle Brigade”.
Maree and Walter were living in Croydon at the time, but Walter grew up in Baskerville Road, Wandsworth Common, and the family later moved back there, which is why they’re featured this week. The couple married in 1907, after a four year engagement, when Maree was 23 and Walter 26. By 1916 Walter was 35, Maree was 32 and they had two daughters, Frances and Mollie, born in 1909 and 1915. Walter was a chartered surveyor in the family firm, Batstone Bros, based in the City.
In many ways, the Batstones are an ordinary family, but from the point of view of our blog they are of huge interest as they kept all their letters and diaries. Wandsworth Heritage Service has family letters for their parents, aunts, uncles and children, from the 1840s to the 1960s, including most of the letters written between Walter and Maree – first during their engagement and then whilst Walter was training and subsequently in the trenches in France.
Walter went to Oxford on 31st March with the 29th Royal Fusiliers, writing: “There are 6 of us here and so far they seem very nice men. We are I believe all te tees one I imagine is a married man but am not sure. I have got bad news – we are supposed to be moving from here to Edinborough in a few days time”. In his later letters, he goes to talk more about his fellow soldiers (and to spell his location correctly), and we’ll be coming back to those and to Maree’s letters to him in future weeks.
Maree Batstone’s diary, 1916, ref: D211/1812/14
Walter’s letters to Maree, 1916, ref: D211/2/1/16