The letters compiled for the newsletter of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Dawley Baptist Chapel illustrate how much of an international war the First World War was. Inhabitants of this small town in Shropshire were posted across the globe and wrote back of their experiences.

Pte W E Powell was a regular contributor, he served with the 1st Shropshire Yeomanry in Egypt, this letter was printed in January 1917:- ‘If you only knew how much comfort and cheer you bring into the lives of Dawley men scattered in lonely places you would be very much encouraged in your work. For some months we have been hard at work in the Egyptian desert but wherever I have been the ‘Dawley News’ has not failed to reach me. You can’t imagine what it is, to see your sketches of old places and to read what one’s old friends say – out here in the midst of one vast, lonely, sandy desert. I must say the silence and vastness of the place is wonderfully impressive and when I have been on guard at night and everything has been deadly still, a feeling of great awe steals over one… At one time water had to be transported 100 miles across the desert – only two quarts of water were allowed each man per day for all purposes.  16 Jan 1917

He wrote again from Egypt in June:- “I eagerly look forward to your W.R.- we have no Dawley boys here but all the others like the paper, it is a great treat to get news of the Homeland. I am in camp on the banks of the Nile- we are not troubled like our friends in France with “charger” rats, but with mosquitoes, etc. While I am writing this I am so tormented that I shall have to put on my mosquito net. The heat is 118 degrees in the shade. You would not know us in our khaki drill and dark glasses. We have had two severe sandstorms while we have been here. The natives and their customs are very interesting, they have dress just as they did in the bible times – they are just like the Bible pictures you see. They have their yoke and oxen and plough and thresh corn just in the same what as we read in the Bible.”  13 June 1916

Pte E Jones wrote of the landscape and local wildlife from Diytalawa Camp, Ceylon:- ‘I am still alive and kicking and having a good time seeing some of the finest places in the East. We are in some pretty places here waiting for an escort to Durban and Cape Town – we may be held up here for goodness knows how long, but we may be off in a week or two. We are 150 miles from Colombo, right up country, 5,600 ft above sea level. We have the most splendid views of tea plantations, etc. When I have had another trip around the place I will send you a letter descriptive of it. I am servant to our Medical Officer – Captain Scales, so you will see I have got a good job. I have been studying the different tropical plants such as tea, eucalyptus, banyan and a great many others that I cannot find out the names of. There are some large poisonous snakes out here, also tic-bugs – both are in the jungle. If you keep on the move the snakes will not take any notice but once you stop, their bite means death in awful agony.’  19 June 1917

Not all the men were working in combat roles, but Cpl Alma Rhodes’s contribution to the war effort was perhaps more unusual than most, he was part of a touring troupe entertaining the soldiers, as he explains:- ‘I am exceedingly pleased with the D.N. Early in September we were sent as a Pierrot Troupe with three other Concert Parties by the Indian Government, for three months to entertain our soldiers in Mesopotamia. At first the scheme sounded rather ridiculous but on arrival we found we were wanted. At the end of our Concert a soldier came up and thanked us saying he could now do another year in this country quite easily and that is saying much for Mesopotamia. Our Headquarters are at Basrah and from there each troupe goes in succession up the Tigris. We have given concerts at Amara then on to Sheik Saad and to Higham Nullah – the latter place being only 3 miles behind the firing-line. We could see Hut-Al-Aimara in the distance. I have had the pleasure of passing through the renowned Sodom – I have also seen Ezra’s tomb and the ruins of Babylon. The Garden of Eden has lost much of its beauty and fertility … We have had the most appreciative audiences, up near the firing-line some of the men said they hadn’t seen a piano for two years. We shall be here till after Xmas I expect, and then we shall go back to India. India isn’t a land of milk and honey but I much prefer it to this land of Mesopotamia… I intended writing to you last week but for five days a Mohammedan Feast was taking place and what with the pom-poms the chanting and the weird musical instruments it was impossible to concentrate one’s thoughts.  9 Jan 1917

Regular attendees of the Chapel were familiar with the bible and many men who served in the Middle East were struck by the Biblical locations. Pte W E Powell wrote on 14th May, 1917:- ‘We have had our exodus from Egypt and glad we were to leave that country – we were hoping to get to France but we have arrived in the Land of Promise! We passed through very interesting lands – through Goshen, crossed the Suez Canal, across the Sinai Desert and right on here into Palestine. How often when reading the Bible in Dawley have I wished I could visit the Holy Land, little did I think I should do so under these conditions. Never shall I forget the feelings I had the first evening we camped in this land. We dug ourselves in on a slope overlooking ———— with its lovely green orchards. On this very ground, centuries ago, walked some of the most famous Bible characters. I could not help thinking of old Abraham and the rest of them and the promises God made and fulfilled. Then I thought to myself ‘The God who led them and blessed them is the same God today, willing to lead and bless us…’ A few days after we arrived there was a big battle which lasted for three days – it was very severe but I came through safely. After we left the trenches we bivouacked in a cornfield where we had a Nonconformist service and afterwards partook of the Lord’s Supper – I tell you it was most impressive… The DN reaches me safely even out here and to show how much I appreciate it I will try and send you another letter soon.’  19 June 1917

Pte. A. E. Corbett went even further afield as he wrote from Hong Kong on March 16th. “The fountain pen is the best present I have ever received since I left home, you can write when you go on guard without troubling to take a pen and ink with you. We have only just got back from Australia where we took the German prisoners. Tom Tranter has gone now with another batch, he was not with us. We had a nice time there – one could not know there was a war on, only they have got a lot of Australian soldiers home wounded. We had a fine time of it – one gentleman was a soldier who had been over to England and he was once billeted at “Davies’” at Wellington – when he knew we came from Dawley he took us for a ride in motor all round Sydney….. At the different ports we stopped at the women made such a fuss of us, a lot of them had come from different parts of England. We met with one man from Dawley in Australia who had been out there 20 years- I forgot his name, but I will get it off George Roberts- he knows it.”  25 Apr 1916

Not all the Dawley residents who travelled as a consequence of the war were men, as this entry explains:- One of our lady friends has bravely accepted an appointment at Port Said, to care for Armenian refugees who have been so brutally treated by the Turks. The Friends of Armenia in London have thoughtfully provided her with a life-saving jacket before starting – for possible use in the Mediterranean! During her visit home this lady has kindly handled many copies of the DN for us and worked in connection with our Monday Socials for your wives and mothers. At her request we have now placed her on our soldiers’ list – a copy of this paper to be posted to her every week. If you happen to call at Port Said go to the Armenian Refugees’ Home and ask to see the representative of the Dawley News. 30 Jan 1917

The lady in question was Miss Alice Smith; she safely made it to Port Said, presumable without recourse to her life-jacket, and regularly received her copies of the Dawley News. She wrote saying:- ‘I feel I was very favoured to arrive without any alarming experience, apart from the stuffiness of the cabin and saloon, the lack of light and the suspense of submarine attack at any moment. I am happy here with my work and I feel it is a privilege to help with these poor oppressed people. The Refugee Camp is just a large canvas city of 4000 inhabitants – if Dawley people were dumped down here the majority of them would soon wish themselves back again. They would soon get tired of the look of the Suez Canal and the vast stretches of sand without trees or flowers, though they might like the sunshine. We are finding the Armenian Refugees work and they are happy to earn money to better their condition. We have quite a large bakery where the bread is made for all the Camp and when British boys were in Port Said in large numbers, 70,000 currant buns were made in a day and sold in the different Camps around – very nice they are too! Some of the Refugees are making bone and ivory combs, handkerchiefs, lace and other fancy things. Please accept my greetings and best wishes for the B and S. I get the DN each week – fancy it coming all this way for a halfpenny!’ 10 Apr 1917