Letters from The Great War
Introduction to The Archive
Welcome to the Cecil Slack section of the site where you will find a large collection of letters written and received by Cecil Moorhouse Slack, during the Great War of 1914 to 1918.
Cecil's daughter-in-law, Lady Joan Slack, has put this collection into the public domain.
These letters are a valuable source of information about the life of an infantry officer in the East Yorkshire Regiment in the 1914-1918 war, and about his fiancée, and their other friends and relations in Great Britain and Australia.
On this site, you will also find activities for teachers and students, following National Curriculum Programmes of Study for Key Stages 2 and 3.
About This Site
This site began life as an offshoot of literacy work done by children in East Riding schools.
I was asked if it would be possible to put some of the letters online.
Having started, I felt that all of the letters should be made available in this way.
I did not see at this time quite what a huge task this would be.
But thanks to Joan Slack's efforts in turning all the letters into document files, this was a manageable task.
The whole collection of letters appeared on the first version of this site shortly before Christmas 2000.
The Letters in Schools
In the late 1990s, Jill Stubbs began to use the letters to teach young people about the Great War as part of her work as a literacy consultant for East Riding schools.
Most of Jill's teaching materials are to be found in electronic form on this site.
If you have ideas or suggestions for teaching resources, please send them to us.
Two edited selections of the archive have appeared in print.
In 1977, Cecil Slack edited a collection of the letters, with additional historical information and what he called Postwar notes.
This was published as Grandfather's Adventures in the Great War, 1914-1918 (Arthur Stockwell, Ilfracombe; ISBN 0-7223-0970-8; now out of print).
This collection includes letters to Cecil from many correspondents but none from Dora, though there are more to her than to other recipients.
Thank God I'm Not a Boy
In 1997, nine years after Cecil's death, Alan Wilkinson produced a fresh selection, under the title 'Thank God I'm not a boy!'
The letters of Dora Willatt, Daughter, Sweetheart and Nurse, 1915-18 (Lampada Press, Hull; ISBN 1-873811-05-5).
Mr. Wilkinson sets out to redress an imbalance in Cecil's selection, which he explains thus:
'In the main he (Cecil Slack) omitted material which he...considered too personal in its nature.
In essence, this comprised the hundreds of letters he received from Dora...the girl he had admired since childhood and whom he courted through the latter part of the war.'
Alan Wilkinson's title is perhaps a little misleading, as he includes many of Cecil's letters, and thereby gives an alternating viewpoint.
But both editors have been forced by the economics of print into what Mr. Wilkinson calls 'editing this collection of letters down to manageable proportions' (Introduction, p6).
There is no such problem with the World Wide Web, which has enabled me to make the whole archive available to historians and students.
Both Cecil and Alan Wilkinson edit individual letters radically and without any indication to the reader that they have done so.
This may be simply a matter of omission of material they think less important.
In places it appears as a rewriting of some passages to conceal such omissions or to join together what were separate passages.
The Complete Archive
In turning the archive into a readable and enjoyable book, they may be pardoned for this - and these were, after all, Cecil's own letters.
But it is less helpful to the academic historian, who should not decide, in advance of studying the evidence, which are the important bits.
In publishing the complete surviving collection I have attempted to restore what Lady Joan Slack has characterized as a full portrayal of the experience of war, as it occurred to Cecil, Dora and others, at the time when it was happening.
For this reason, the educational resources on this site are kept clearly apart from the original historical sources.
Andrew Moore, Editor.
Except where otherwise stated, the copyright in all of the archives and letters on this site is held by Sir William
Willatt Slack and the Slack family. Copyright in teaching resources and materials on this site belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire
Council. Please acknowledge intellectual property rights by giving the URL of any pages you use, and/or include the
© copyright symbol. Thank you.
EAST RIDING of YORKSHIRE COUNCIL School Improvement Service, County Hall, Beverley, East Yorks. HU17 9BA.
Tel: +44(0)1482 887700 Fax: +44(0)1482 887700 Website: www.eastriding.gov.uk