Lieutenant Colonel S W W Blacker DSO commanded the 9th (Service) Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) (County Armagh) from its formation in September 1914 until March 1917. While he was serving in France and Flanders, Stewart Blacker wrote to his wife, Eva, almost every day. The letters were relatively uncensored and provide a fascinating insight into the life of a commanding officer in the front line and of the actions of his battalion. They also provide some commentary on events in Ireland at that time.
The letters first appeared in the Seagoe Parish Magazine from June 1921 to June 1924 in chapters titled ‘With The ‘Ninth’ In France’. They will be published 100 years after they were first written, with added explanatory footnotes and illustrations. The first letter was published on 3 October 2015 and the last on 13 March 2017.
In order to assist the modern reader, some alterations have been made to the original letters, such as minor changes to formatting, capitalisation of words, punctuation, the expansion of abbreviations, and the correction of obvious misprints or spelling mistakes. Some of the comments made by Blacker are in response to questions posed by his wife in her letters—although they are somewhat incongruous, they have been left in place. Throughout this project, comments thus [italics] are by the Editor. Hovering the cursor over highlighted text will reveal a footnote that identifies people or explains events. The letters appear on each page in chronological order, so that they may be read logically from first to last in each month, from top to bottom.
Nick Metcalfe is the author of Blacker’s Boys, the First World War history of the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers and For Exemplary Bravery, the story of the Queen’s Gallantry Medal.
The letters were transcribed by Margaret Marshall.
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