Frederick James White (1894 - 1916)
The lyrics for A New Day, the final song in the Trench Symphony song cycle are taken from an autograph book held by Wakefield Local Studies Library.
The composer came across this poem when researching for this project. The book itself contains poems, cartoons, thanks and prayers all written by soldiers convalescing at Ledston Hall Auxiliary Hospital in Castleford nr Wakefield.
Inspired by the story of where the lyrics came from, one of the project volunteers and community choir members, Colin Carbert, went on to research Fred and to discover how his war ended. This information can be found below.
Frederick James White was born to Samuel Edward White and Ellen White (nee Gilbert) on 11th June 1894 at Farnborough, Hampshire. He actually joined the army in February 1909, aged 14, signing 'attestation' papers for long service, which was a minimum of 12 years. So when war was declared in 1914, he was already enrolled.
At sign-up he weighed 69lbs (31.2kgs) and was 4ft 8 and 5/8 inches tall, which is roughly 143cms. in February 1910, aged 15, he is appointed into the Rifles Band. On 3rd June 1912 a little before his 18th birthday, he is declared a full time soldier.
In 1913, Fred undertakes training as a stretcher bearer and on 3rd September 1914, he leaves England, for France. He remains in France throughout 1914 and 1915, and although his casualty record is illegible, it would appear he is wounded, and the autograph book tells us that was on 6th July 1915 near Ypres. Due to his signature in the book being dated 16th December 1915, it would appear that this injury was serious enough for him to be sent home to recouperate. As only the most serious cases were sent home, it is also possible that he was not sent home, but that the nurse whom the book belongs to was nursing on the Western Front and then returned home, taking her book with her to Ledston Hall.
We may never know for sure, although we do know that 9 months after writing his poem, he was on active service at the Somme, where he was killed on 1st September 1916, aged 22 years.
His body was never recovered and he is remembered with Honour on the Thievpal Memorial.
There is much paperwork available for the time after his death, including notes from the delivery of his posthumous medals to his father Samuel White. These were the Star Medal - received in May 1919, The British War Medal in January 1921 and in June 1921, the Victory Medal. He also received the Rifle Brigade Scroll
After the arrival of form '118 Effects' arrived on 12th March 1917, Samuel wrote a response asking about Fred's personal effects. Most notably a musical instrument given to him when he was a bandsman.
The letter, shown opposite reads:
Will you please inform me of any private property belonging to my son above named Rifleman, have you sent as I know he had had, a clarinette presented to him during the time he was in the band. ...(illegible)... but do not know what became of it, when he was posted to duty.
Your obediant Servant
(Signed) 3312 Pvt S E White
The Army replied:
Informed non forthcoming