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Tragic WW1 Huddersfield love story teaches French pupils about the Great War

The youngsters read about the fortunes of love-struck First World War soldier Henry Coulter in an Examiner piece online, writes Suzanna Baine

The work inspired in a French school by the soldier's love letters

A Huddersfield love story from the Great War has captured the imagination of pupils at a French school.

The youngsters read about the fortunes of love-struck First World War soldier Henry Coulter in an Examiner piece online, writes Suzanna Baine.

One hundred and fifty letters between Henry and his sweetheart Lucy Townend were discovered in a rusty tin box in an attic, having lain untouched for decades.

They were wrapped in a 1916 edition of the Huddersfield Examiner and were only found when the new owner of the house went up to investigate her roof space.

Now the students of ‘quatrieme’, at the Lucien Sigala School in southwest France, are capturing the romance and tragedy of the couple’s WWI story in a project dedicated to its memory.

Part of the French school project
Part of the French school project

“We have read your article about a love story from the trenches,” they write.

“These posters are about the war and were inspired by your article.

“We saw the article on the internet in our English lesson,” they add.

The children, who are between 13 and 14 years old (equivalent to Year 9), were touched and intrigued by what the Examiner called ‘a love story to delight the hardest of hearts’ in its October article.

Their interest in Henry and Lucy’s moving story is all the more fitting given that 2014 is the centenary of the start of the Great War.

Teacher Margot Berning said: “The pupils were delighted to read of the letters.

“It really captured their imagination and they did a lot of work”

Henry, a tram clerk, lived in Marsh and wrote to Lucy from training camps with the 17th (Leeds) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, as well as the trenches of France.

Wartime love letters from Henry Coulter to Lucy Townend found wrapped in copy of the Huddersfield Examiner for Saturday Oct 28th 1916 - photo of Henry Coulter.
Wartime love letters from Henry Coulter to Lucy Townend found wrapped in copy of the Huddersfield Examiner for Saturday Oct 28th 1916 - photo of Henry Coulter.
 

He expresses his love with great intimacy, calling Lucy his ‘beauty’ and referring to her several times as his future wife.

The brave young soldier signed-off most of his letters with the devoted, lingering, romantic words: ‘Yours for Eternity, Henry’.

Lucy, who was living in Birkby, worked in a shoe shop in Westgate, Huddersfield, almost certainly Shaw and Hallas, still in business today. She would reply with tales of home life during those dark days.

Their correspondence, which c began in 1914, ended abruptly when Henry was killed, probably by a shell blast, in France in 1916.

Heartbreakingly, Lucy’s last letter did not make it to Henry in time and was returned to her, unopened and unread.

Henry and Lucy’s love letters have now been published by the Huddersfield Local History Society.

If you know more about the couple, are a relative or former neighbour, please get in touch with the Examiner’s news desk on 01484 437712 or editorial@examiner.co.uk

 

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