Kate Frye: A War-Time Birthday: 9 January 1917



On her birthday – 9 January 1915 – Kate Frye had at last married her long-term fiance, John Collins.  Two years later he was fighting in France and she was living with her mother and sister in a house at Berghers Hill, Buckinghamshire, courtesy of her mother’s sister, the wealthy Mrs Agnes Gilbey. A small cluster of cottages on a ridge at the top of a steep hill above Wooburn Green, Berghers Hill lay exposed to the elements. The wind whipped through Kate’s cottage, bedrooms were icy, the pipes froze – and burst. The walk down the hill to Wooburn Green and Cores End, whether by the road or the path through Wooburn Manor Park (the Gilbey property), was treacherous in winter.  

Tuesday 9 January 1917

Woke to a terrible morning – dark & cold & sleet. It continued to sleet & snow & hail at intervals all day and the wind out was cruel. The anniversary of our wedding day. Two years ago at Hove. All day long & into the night I kept thinking at this time we were doing so & so and Oh it was sad to think of the present and to wonder whether John was alive or dead. It comes so suddenly – the death to them and it would be hours & days before I should hear.

Agnes [Kate’s sister] still seedy & in bed and so cross with both Mother & I. I went off soon after 10.30 to Cores End to seek a Cod’s Head for the cats & fish for her dinner. Couldn’t get the former, the latter she refused to eat when cooked and sent up.

Writing letters most of the evening and after supper sat over the fire trying to get warm & thinking, thinking. Fortunately Mother went to bed. A letter from John – the first since Friday.


For more on Kate – look out for Elizabeth Crawford (ed): Campaigning for the Vote: the suffrage diary of Kate Parry Frye to be published by Francis Boutle Publishers in February 2013

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