This is a tribute not only to Frederick Elias Noakes, Junior, private in the Coldstream Guards on the Western Front, but also to all the other ordinary soldiers who left all that was familiar in their lives to fight for their country in the 1914-18 War; those who died, those who came home again, all heroes in their own way.

Like many young men of his generation, Fen felt it to be his duty to fight in the War. With his two friends and workmates, Jack Kitchin (on the left) and Harold Wilson (on the right) he went to the recruiting station. Jack and Harold enlisted, but Fen was a chronic asthma sufferer and, despite several more attempts to join the army, was turned down every time. Harold was killed in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, and Jack died a year later at Vimy Ridge. Fen became more and more determined to fight and embarked on a "toughening-up" regime; nevertheless he entered the War as a conscript in 1917.

Harold and Jack were both brave men who died for their country; however Fen's feeling of inferiority was unnecessary. He could have used his asthma as a cast-iron excuse to stay at home for the duration, but instead he tried to get healthier so as to pass the medical, even though he knew of the terrible conditions he would be going to. Men like this were as brave as those who gave their lives.

  Fen survived the War and returned home to Tunbridge Wells to rejoin his family and to help run the family drapers' business. His asthma attacks had disappeared after a few weeks at the Front, and never returned. Nevertheless he said he would not recommend a World War as a cure.

In 1952 he published a personal memoir of his time in the Guards, "The Distant Drum". This was only a private publication but it has now been re-published and is available from Pen and Sword Books here.


As a taster, you can read extracts from the book here.