I didn’t get to hear what Harry was going through – you had to use your judgement from the people who came back. They sent me a letter from the War Office. ‘Dear Madam, we regret to inform you that your husband has died. He was sentenced for cowardice and was shot at dawn on the 16th October [sic].’ That was all i got, through the post, I got hold of that letter and pushed it right down in my blouse in case anybody saw it – and nobody knew – even my mother didn’t know.
Nobody could say anything to help me – my sisters were cross with me because I’d kept it to myself for six months. I managed to pay for my accommodation until six months had passed. I was supposed to go on the pension – but I didn’t. When I went to the Post Office, the six months had expired, and the lovely lady, who had known me since a little girl, said, ‘I’m sorry Mrs Farr; there isn’t any money for you this week. You really should be on your pension now. The allowance has been stopped and you’re now a war widow, with a war widow’s pension.’ I kept looking for the pension, but still there was no money. But in the meantime, I got a letter from the War Office, saying “Owing to the death of your husband – owing to the way he died – you and your daughter are not eligible for the pension.” That’s all I got. I had no income at all – I was left stranded and penniless. I had to go to the soldiers’ and sailors orphanage for help – the Post Office lady said to me I ought to ask if I could get relief there. In the meantime, my little bit of rent was going up and up, and when my landlady knew I wasn’t getting a pension, she told me she wanted her room back – I’d got to get out of the house. A friend took me in and put me and Gertie up in one of her rooms until we found another place.
Armistice Day? Don’t mention it! I can’t describe the feelings. I feel absolutely dreadful and every year I feel worse. Every year I see all those men who came back – the veterans – and my husband should have been there among them. It’s very distressing when I see them all.
This extract is from The Road Home – The Aftermath of the Great War Told by the Men and Women Who Survived it by Max Arthur.