Sometimes we only get a glimpse of the war experience of a soldier but are able to see it within the context of a life lived long afterwards. Such is the case with Harrison Fieldhouse of Baildon, part of whose life we have been able to piece together from records in Ancestry.Harrison was born on 9 April 1889 in Laurence, Massachusetts, USA, the son of William and Mary Fieldhouse. But by September he was in Baildon and baptised on 16th at Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.In both the 1891 and 1901 census he was living at 10 Oak Place, Baildon, with his grandparents, William and Martha, who had died by the time of the 1911 census. However, Harrison is still at the same address, living with his aunt, Sarah. Harrison is given as a carpenter.In 1916 he married Rhoda Royston of Baildon but it is unclear if he was in the army at this stage or not.On 14 September 1917, the Shipley Times & Express printed two of Harrison’s letters describing his experiences in Salonika.An interesting letter from which we have been permitted to take extracts has been sent home by Pte Harrison Fieldhouse, a Tong Park soldier, now in Salonika.Pte Fieldhouse gives an excellent description of the manners and customs of the natives.Before the war he was employed as a cabinet maker in Shipley. He writes:Queer countryThis is a queer country. All around where I am now are fields of maize and tobacco plants and most of the labour is done by women.They are out in the early morning and work until about 8.30 in the evening with only the meal hours rest.They use a hoe with a shaft about a yard long which means that they are bent over all day chipping up the weeds and earthing up the plants.
Fancy this is in the broiling sun. We could not stand it; we should soon be down with a temperature at about 105.They have been very busy with the harvest. They get two crops a year.DonkeyIt is a common sight to see a fat Turk coming home on his donkey, his toes just clear of the ground – the donkeys are very small – and his four or five wives walking in front carrying the water jugs and the reaping tools.The women do all the work and then walk home while their husband rides.You never see the faces of the women for they are veiled all the time. They work hard all the time but the men work at one speed and that is dead slow.We have had four or five days march over mountains and plains. We march during the night as it is much cooler or in the very early morning before the sun is too strong.Some of the scenery is very beautiful. There are flowers of every kind and colour in great abundance. All vegetation grows very rapidly here.I think we have the best of the enemy out here. We shall come out on top, never fear. Our men do at least play the game and don’t do the dirty like the Germans do. I mean they are straight fighters.In another letter Pte Fieldhouse says:If you could just see me now you would think I was not doing so bad. Our bivouac is between two mulberry trees and in an orchard of pear and plum trees.Over one of the mulberry trees climbs a big grape vine but the
grapes are only about the size of peas. But time will remedy that, you know, and then they will come in for some kind of treatment, as did the mulberries – that of satisfying the appetite of Tommy Atkins.I have not been in any of the large towns so I have not very much idea of the town life of this old fashioned, ancient race of people, but the country people are very backward in their ideas of agriculture and antique in their methods.The clothes of these people are very clean indeed. They mostly wear print dresses in the hot weather, the style of dress being long, slack trousers and overshirt.Faces coveredIn fact, from behind it is difficult to distinguish the women from the men except by the veil which the married women always wear, keeping their faces covered up except in their own homes, that is if any male person is about.The bird life is also very interesting. From where we are I can see a whitewashed church with a high tower on the top of which is a large nest, the home of a pair of storks while usually one of them stands sentinel on one of its long legs, the other bird searching for food or building materials.We were housed in an old cottage for about two weeks and a pair of house martins were nesting in the rafters about a yard above our heads.They flew in and out and fed their young just as if we were not there and would swing on a swing perch that one of our fellows had fixed up for them, just as any canary would do in a cage at home.
Most of the birds are very tame and the stork is looked upon as a kind of sacred bird. In some parts the grey carrion crow, the jackdaw and the magpie are very common.NightingalesI have seen a good deal of our British species, goldfinches and chaffinches. The nightingale lends it song to help to pass away the night to the sentry on guard while a small species of own calls with a sort of weird sound and is apt to ‘put the breeze up’ with the slightly nervous.There are lots of hares and scores of tortoise. I reckon we could have the proverbial race here providing both hare and tortoise were willing.Well, I hope all is going well in the old home and that the spuds are coming up well.I see you are as patriotic in that respect as in all others.Well the game out here isn’t exactly a gift, although Providence has been kind to me and I do not doubt but that my good fortune will carry me through without a scratch, as the saying goes.PeaceWell, I shall be having some brothers in the Army now. I see we have got Uncle Sam to take his whack (Pte Fieldhouse was born in the United States and has several brothers in that country). Let us hope it will be the means of bring us an earlier peace for that is what we are all wanting I reckon.Harrison survived the war and we find in the shipping records that on 9 June 1926 he and Rhoda sailed on the SS Devonian from Liverpool to Boston, Massachusetts, presumably to see family. He returned on the same vessel, arriving on 5 October of the same year. At that time their address was 16 Perseverance Street, Baildon, but by the time of the 1939 Register, they are living 11 Moorgate, Baildon, with Harrison described as a journeyman joiner.Rhoda died on 25 April 1967 and Harrison on 12 October 1972.