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Information from Clive Wood, 2008
Private Harry Wagstaff

10225 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment

Memorial cardSon of Mr George & Mrs Ellen Wagstaff

Aged 19 years

Died 4th July 1916

Commemorated at Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
Grave V. F.48

Harry in uniform

Memorial Card & Photograph Courtesy of Clive Wood
Born at Rushden, enlisted at Northampton.
In 1901 the family were living at 142 High Street Rushden. George was born at Staughton and his wife Ellen was from Raunds. Their three boys were all born in Rushden - Harry was the middle one, aged 4.

Harry enlisted on Easter Wednesday 1915 and was sent overseas on 26th December 1915.

He had enclosed a hymn sheet in one of his letters to his mother, with a caption "This is what we sang at Lord Kitchener's Memorial".

On 21st September his effects were sent to his mother:- 1 letter, 1 pipe, 3 photos and 1 pocket wallet.


A series of 24 letters that Harry sent home to his parents during his time in France.
The first is dated 3rd Feb 1916, the last 22nd June 1916.
We publish them here as a tribute to Harry, with permission of his family.
[Nos. 1, 2, 8, 22 & 23 are undated]
Harry wrote a card to his mother but the postmark is unclear:

Dear Mother,
Just a line to tell you I have enlisted in the line. I could not get in the terriers or the yeomanry. I expect to go to Weymouth.
Don't worry I'm alright,
Harry

2

Le Havre
Thursday

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line hoping it will find you in the best of health as it leaves me the same. I received both parcels last night, those fags and chocolate will come in handy as I am leaving the base tonight.You can guess where I am going. I did not receive the registered letter as you spoke about in your letters. I was expecting it when I was in England, you can trace it, write to A Coy in Strood they have it I should think. I have not received any answer to my letters from Mrs Case. How did my photo turn out. Dont forget to send Mrs Case one. I am sending her a letter with this. Don’t write until you hear from me again. I should write at the first opportunity. I hope to be in England very soon. I am living in hope. Did you get the present I sent for the baby. I must close now.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

3

3.2.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line hoping this will find you in the best of health and all right at home. That chap came back and delivered the parcel alright. Flo Whites cakes were a treat. I can do with them any time so thank her for them and tell her I am alright. I received a letter from Uncle Charlie and have wrote back to him. I have received no parcel from Tommy Burfield yet. I made a good breakfast of those sausage. I got a letter from Mrs Cases sister she didn’t half bum my photo up, roll on when the war is done. I see you have had the Zepps near home. We got all the news here, we give three half pence here for an half penny paper. I don’t think much to the French people they are worse than a lot of Jews.

I am your loving son

Harry

1

Sunday
Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line hoping this finds you alright as I am the same. I arrived in Strood 9 o’clock last night. I had a day in London. I hope Mother is going on alright and the baby. I think the Draft goes on Wednesday so I . . . . --- part of letter missing ----

P.S. I received your letter this morning it gave me a shock. I thought it was bad news. I am going out to the 1st batt in France on Wednesday,

Goodbye
Harry

4

4.2.16
Pte H. Wagstaffe
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received this afternoon. Hope you are alright at home as I am the same. I see you’ve had the Zepps near home over Stanwick, pretty close, that’s too near to be healthy. Ill bet it scared the people. Thats only the first time I turned out scared of times up Kingsnorth. I got used to turning out for them things. I got the last parcel you sent alright he brought it. I saw Puffin Whiting, he was on guard, he told me he was coming home, so I told him if he saw any of you to tell you I was all right. I can always do with a cake, don’t forget to send it. That is all this time,

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

5

13.2.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants Regt
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line to let you know that I am alright and hope you are the same at home. I received the parcel you posted to me Feb 4th today and I am sorry to say it was all smashed up and wet to top it up so it wasn’t eatable. I was disappointed I was counting on having a good tea today, well better luck next time, the sugar & cocoa was alright. Please send the next parcel you send in a tin or something, it will come alright. I am out of the trenches on a rest now you will know when I am in the trenches, you won’t hear from me so often, you will only get a field card but you can write as often as you like the more the merrier. I see the Zepps have been round there. I shall have to come home and build a dug-out in the back garden. I’ll bring home some sand-bags. I think this is all this time hoping the next Parcel will be alright.

I am your loving son

Harry
P.S. I wrote to you yesterday.

6

16.2.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy.
1st Northants
B.E.F.France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received this afternoon. You say that I am sick of you writing to me so often, well I should crib if you didn’t write so often. I moan if I don’t get a letter or something pretty often. The fags dropped in a treat. I hadn’t a smoke only my pipe and I was fed up with that. I smoke so many fags you can always send me a few fags. You need not worry about me I am alright and in the best of health and I hope Dad will get rid of his cold. Tell him not to worry about me, alright though I should be better in England, roll on Blighty. I was sorry to hear about Mr Eden, he is lasting a good while. I saw in the Echo about Mr Causebrook, it gave me a shock. I hope Erns feet are better. I no what it is to have bad feet. I shall look out for the parcel. I think this is all this time, give my love to all at home.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

7

23.2.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to the parcel and to thank you very much for it. I wrote for a parcel yesterday but I didn’t expect one like that so send me a bit of sugar and a few fags dont trouble about anything else. I got the parcel at night on the 22nd as I wrote to you in the morning it was simply great. I did half have a feed I can tell. We are having poor weather just lately, it snowed for two days but don’t worry I am alright though. I still have my old cold. I got it bad this last two days the same still dry old cough, still I am all right nothing to worry about. Thank Dad for his Woodbines, he knows what sort of fags I like. I am always thinking about you longing to get back to Blighty once more but still I am alright. I am not down hearted. We shall give the Germans a licking. Keep an eye on the paper the next few days you will see something that will make you feel pleased. Please send a small photo to Mrs Cases sister. I should like her to have one if you have one to spare. I think this is all this time.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

8 [?March]

Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received on the 12th. I hope you are alright at home as I am the same. My cold is getting on alright now. We are having some lovely weather this last two days its quite hot. It will be all right to run across to John Rowney. I shall keep my eye open for him. I shall be glad to receive a parcel Aunt, I shall look out for it. I suppose Ern will soon be called up now, my only hope is the war finishes before he is trained. Arthur Freeman & George Hill have come out here again, Freeman lives along Oakley Rd. They have come to my Company, that makes 5 of us from Rushden in my company. I think this is all this time,

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

P.S. That Wellingboro’ chap I sent to you when he was on leave had a narrow escape, he got ten shrapnel holes in his coat and not one hurt him.

9

17.3.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a few lines hoping this will find you in the best of health as it leaves me the same. I am getting rid of my cold now we are having better weather now. I received the parcel quite safe on Wednesday thats the day I look out for the mail. I got it just as were going up the trenches. Last week I was there I stood on sentry duty with the box beside putting my hand in now and again and feeding myself. I’ve just had a good rest I didn’t enjoy myself. I drawn 15 francs thats 12/6. I finished it in six days. I meant to have a good feed, eggs for breakfast and tea, they cost two pence halfpenny each. Its funny how you meet Rushden and district chaps. Last Sat I met Bob Frisby and on Monday I came across a chap named Desborough from Wymington in the A.S.C. I was on fatigue one night and a L/C of a London mob came down to some of us and ask if there was any chaps from Rushden or Raunds there. I told him I came from Rushden, he told me he came from Irchester. I knew him well, I forget his name. Dear Mother will you send me some sugar and cocoa. I ran out now. Thank Dad for the fags, tell him we shall soon finish the war. I think this is all this time, hoping you are all in the best of health at home,

I am your loving Son,

Harry

10

25.3.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants Regt
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line to thank you very much for the Parcel which I received on Wednesday night. Everything was alright, I didn’t half enjoy it. I shant trouble you anymore about sugar and cocoa. I didn’t think it was as scarce as that or I would never have sent for it. I am alright now. Im getting rid of my cough and I hope you are all in the best of health at home. It makes you think of home out here, I do any way. I shall be glad to get back again. I had a nice letter from Mrs Cases sister, she says I am to thank you very much for the photo she thinks they are very nice. The 3rd Batt are shifting from Strood, spotted fever is breaking out. I shouldn’t mind if I was there now. We had some grand weather for a week then snow for three days. It aint half parky, roll on warm weather. I must close now, hoping you are in the best of health at home, thank Mrs Groome and Ern for the fags. I can always do with them.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry


11

8.4.16
Pte. H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a few lines to say I received the parcel quite safe on the 6th and thank you very much for it. I also received [a etter] two days before I got the parcel but I wouldn’t write until I got the parcel so I can answer for both at the same time. You must have had some terrible weather in England, we had some snow out here twelve days ago but there was no blizzard just ordinary snow so you needn’t worry about me I am alright and in good health and I hope you are same at home. Thank Ern for the fags and tell him to stick in England, don’t come out here. Remember me to Mrs Lilley, thank her for the Oxos. I shall drop Mrs Newman a line this morning. We are doing a turn in the trenches. I shall look for Copper when I get out. Our 2nd batt were close against us last week and I took a walk over. I saw Hornsby his people live in Glassbrook Rd and chap named Farrington another townie he was cook so we had a good feed. I see Danby of the fifth batt has been wounded, that Smeathers who was wounded with him was billeted with me at Gillingham, he comes from Wellingboro’, please send me a few candles, but Mother I should not send such big parcels every week. I am only taking it away from you. Send me a few fags a week and a few sweets I shall be satisfied. I can’t let you send so much out. I am (costing) you a small fortune. I can get plenty of grub, we go a bit short when in the trenches. Dad used to say when I was at home I couldn’t dig for nuts. I show him whether I cant when I get home dig through chalk that the time to sing I had no heart for it then or else it was laziness but this as altered me I can stick four hours good hard work without a break. Easter comes later this year than it was twelve months last Wednesday since I enlisted. I feel quite an old soldier. I think this all this time quite a long letter eh, well I will close now.

I am your loving Son,

Harry

12

13.4.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line to say I received the parcel yesterday and thank you very much for the same, the fags came in a treat so did the cakes. I also got a letter a few days ago. I wrote to Mrs Newman to thank her for the cake. Don’t be alarmed at the Casualty list of the 1st batt, I am not on it. We lost some men this time up. I consider myself lucky I came through. We got a good shaking. They shoved missiles of every sort over, there is bags of life left in them. Millard, who I worked with, his people live up the Rock, got his coat laid open right across the shoulders with a bullet, it never touched his spine, he was lucky. I think this is all this time. Give my love to all at home. I hope you are all alright,

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

13

16.4.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter hoping it will find you in the best of health as it leaves me in the pink. I hope Mrs Newman got my letter alright and Ive had a small parcel from Tom Barfield. I read in the Echo about the light doings, it’s a thundering shame how they put it on you, they shake more on the lights in England than in France. Fred must be minting money 22/- at 17 year old. I should very much like his photo. I am sorry Dad cant get Ern and them to help him on the garden, he ought to have a fortnight with us I bet he would alter, I have. I would only like the chance. If he says anything about gardening I will learn him when I come home. I hope Dad don’t worry much, I thought he looked old when I was home before. I don’t let nothing worry me. I must close now.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

14

20.4.16
Pte H. Wagstaff
10225 C Coy
1st Northants
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a few lines hoping they will find you in the best of health as it leaves me the same. I received the parcel quite safe and thankyou very much for it. The candles come in very useful for dugouts and cellars and the biscuits were a treat. I like a biscuit. You can send them any time. Thank Dad and Ern for the fags, there always welcome. I had some fags from Tom Burfield, 28 packets of Woodbines, not bad was it. Millard got the same. I got a surprise last week, I was down Loos on fatigues, walk up a trench when I saw a chap come out of a cellar, I thought to myself I know you. I gave him a shout, it was a Higham chap named Espin in the artillery. Ive come across Bob Frisby while Ive been out here. It’s a knockout who you meet out here. Well its Easter on Sunday, no buns this year. Well roll on Apres La Guere as the Frenchies say, that means after the war. Remember me to all the neighbours. Give my love to all at home. Don’t forget Freds photo.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

15

9.May.16

B.E.F.

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received last Sunday. I hope this finds you alright at home as it leaves me the same. I very pleased with Freds photo, tiffing young scamp. I have met a lot of townies out here, theres three batts all together. I think I shall have a chance to see Copper. Jess Bird came to see me, he enlisted with me. I got that --- from America, it was bad, they had put some eggs in it and fruit, it didn’t half come up. Talk about German Gas I thought about putting my Gas helmet on. I had Reg Reynolds over to see me from the 2nd. I didn’t know he was out here again. Dodger wrote and told me he was to report himself on the 10th. I suppose Ern will have to go up. I am glad Dad is a lot better. I am always thinking about you at home. There is no need to worry about me. I have a bit of a cold. I think this is all this time,

I am your Loving Son,

Harry

Same address

16

24.5.16
France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a letter to thank you for the parcel which I received yesterday and was very pleased to hear from you. I wrote last week to say I got your parcel and one from Dodger. I went to see John Rowney, he is alright. I didn’t see Copper, he aint with the 5th. John thinks he is in an entrenching batt. Taylor is expecting to come to Rushden on Saturday, he will come round and see you I think. I must close now.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

17

1.June.1916

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line to let you know I received the parcel quite safe and thank you very much for it. The pipe will do nicely. I didn’t half enjoy the cake and stuff. The tomatoes kept alright. Fried bacon and tomatoes in the trenches she not so bad, roll on when I get them at home. I dare say I shall be home on leave about the end of August or Sept. I am on the roll for leave. I should very much like a photo of the baby. Pickle Austin as come out again, is father works with Dad. I had a long chat with him the day he joined us he is in my platoon. I couldn’t write before I had to wait for this green envelope. I couldn’t get a ordinary one to go. Remember me to Mrs Newman, her toffee was alright. I don’t know how long this war is going to last. We was having a joke with a officer the other day, he said I’ve heard it will finish on the 17th of June, but I didn’t say what year. Chaps say they will be putting in for the old age pension by the time this is finished. I hope not anyway. I think this is all this time,

I am your loving Son,

Harry

18

11.June.1916
France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line hoping this will find you in best of health as I am the same at present. What did you think of the Naval battle, gave them a shock. Ill bet it keeps on like that and it will soon finish, lets hope it does. The other bit of news is sad. I have been over to see John Rowney two or three times but Copper is not with him. Is Tom Hilson out here all the while. I would like to see him. I got the parcel alright last week, the pipe goes alright. How is Art going on, same old terror Ill bet. Is Mabel any better than she used to be. Hope all is right, she will grow out of it. My chest has played me up this winter. I never thought I should stick it but it’s a knockout what you can put up with out here. I shall be like a pig when I come home if those little things you find in your shirt leave enough of me to get home. Give my love to all at home.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

P.S. Same address, xxxxxxxxxx for the kiddie, take one for yourself x.

19

14.June.16

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line to thank you for the parcel which arrived today. I enjoyed the cake thank you very much for it, that tobacco will be a treat. I am in the pink and hope you are the same at home. The boys needn’t crib about only one days holiday, how about me in the trenches digging all day and out in front wiring at night, that was my days holiday. We’ve had a Memorial Service in Memory of Lord Kitchener just behind the firing line. The Northamptons did the honours. We didn’t weigh much. Stick your chest before the crowd. I am enclosing the hymn sheet. We are the only Regt recommended in the division. We have to keep the name up to clean badges and buttons out on a rest. I had a letter from Dodger today. I can see you losing Ern, he says they have an indoor license to some girls home. I can see myself trotting home and acting as best man, stop laughing, put me amongst the girls. I think this is all this time.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

20

16.June.16
France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter I received today. I hope it will find you all in the best of health at home as it leaves me the same at present. Don’t get downhearted I shall came home sometime the war will be finished. I quite think it will be over by August, lets hope so. Poor old Dodger, well it can’t be helped, he will have to come up the same as the rest, he won’t come out here it will be finished before he is trained. I had a letter and some fags from Phoebe White, they came in a treat, quite a surprise. I’ve wrote and thanked her. Sad about young Tailby, well I lost a chum last week, L/Cp Ashby of Raunds. I pal'ed up with him when I first joined the first batt. I must close now,

I am your loving son

Harry

21

22.6.16
France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line hoping it will find you in the best of health as it leaves me the same, the weather is grand now though it has been cold. I received the parcel quite safe and thank you very much for it. I am glad you will send me a photo. I’ve been out here 6 months. Poor old Dodger its no use him worrying he will have to grin and bear it. Laurie is alright his people needn’t worry about him. Remember me to Mrs Newman and give my love to all at home.

I am Your Loving Son

Harry

22

Pte H. Wagstaffe
10225 C Coy
1st Northants Regt
B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received yesterday. I am always pleased to get my letters or parcels. Parcels are always welcomed though. I have received the parcel you sent me last Friday. I keep hanging on for it. I have just heard from Dodger and he has sent me a writing pad. They must be minting money in the old County, fancy Fred getting a pound a week, 17 years old, thats good. Tell him to remember me to that girl when he goes drinking again. Sorry Erns feet are bad, mine feel rotten some times when I done a lot of marching. The roads are all cobbles here, they don’t half play your feet up. It seems years since I was home last time, roll on when I get home again. I'll make up for the time I am doing now, well its no use making a row. I had the sweet in Stroud, I am having the sour now. I am glad you will write to Mrs Case, she owes me a letter now. I must close now, give my love to all at home, tell Flo White I like her cakes,

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

P.S. Tell Dad not to put too much time in at the factory, tell him I hope he looks a bit younger this time.

23

B.E.F. France

Dear Mother & Father,

Just a line in answer to your letter which I received a few days ago. I hope they will find you in the best of health and all well at home as it leaves me the same. We are having a bit of decent weather. We have a few thunder storms at times. Tom Hilson is sticking it well though, he is safe enough. I wouldn’t grumble if I was where he is. So Arthur is going to treat me when I come home, that’s the style. Phoebe White sent me a dozen packets of fags, very good of her. I should have thought Ern would have found one before now, 20, think of that. Have you had any green peas and new spuds, makes your mouth water to think about them. Remember me to Mrs Newman. I must close now.

I am Your Loving Son,

Harry

Letter from C of E Chaplain ------

33 Casualty Clearing Station
B.E.F.
France
July 25th 1916

Dear Madam,

Private H. Wagstaff 10225 C Coy 1st Northants Regt was wounded in the neck, penetrating the lung. He was also suffering from Cervical vertebrae. He was admitted here on the 2nd inst and died on the 4th inst at 7pm. He received Holy Communion on 3rd inst. He was conscious the greater part of the time. He sent you all his love and said you were not to worry about him. I do not think he knew he was dying. With sincere sympathy in your great sorrow.

Yours very truly,

R. Fillenous?

C.of E. Chaplain

24 ----- Part letter ------
I must close now hoping this will find you all in the best of health,

I am Your Loving Son,
Harry

P.S. Will you kindly send a good strong belt, I've broke my old one. We do a lot of digging and its warm now. I work with my coat off. I like to slip my braces off my shoulders so I can have my arms free. I'll square you as soon as I can get a postal order.


The Rushden Echo Friday 7 July 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier Injured - Pte George Wagstaff - Dangerously Wounded In the Great Advance

Mr and Mrs George Wagstaff, of 142, High-street, Rushden, on Tuesday evening, received a telegram from Warley Common, Essex, as follows:-

"Regret to inform you that No. 10225 Private Wagstaff, wounded 33rd Casualty Clearing Station, France. No permission to visit him can be granted."

Private George [error-see next newsclip] Wagstaff, who joined the ranks over 12 months ago, is the second son of Mr and Mrs George Wagstaff. He has been out in France for six months, and is 19 years of age. He formerly worked for Messrs. Lawrence Bros., shoe manufacturer, John-street, Rushden.

Mrs Wagstaff informs us that she telegraphed to Warley Common for further information, but the reply was "no further news." Up to this morning Mr and Mrs Wagstaff have heard nothing further, and are anxiously awaiting news.

The Rushden Echo Friday 14 July 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Soldier Dead - Pte H Wagstaff Succumbs to Wounds

Yesterday Mr and Mrs G Wagstaff, of 142, High-street, Rushden, received a letter from the War Office reporting that their son, Pte Harry Wagstaff (not George, as stated in our last issue) died of wounds at the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station on July 4th. Pte Wagstaff, who was in the Northants Regiment, was reported in our last issue seriously wounded, and it is with regret that we have to report his death. He received his wounds in the great advance. During the week a rumour has been spreading that someone in Rushden has received a letter from France in which it is stated that Pte Wagstaff had both his legs blown off. Mrs Wagstaff would be glad if the one who received that letter would let her know of the particulars contained therein.

The Rushden Echo Friday 4 August 1916, transcribed by Nicky Bates

Rushden Hero's Death Letter From Chaplain and Comrade Many Northampton Men Buried Near Him

Mr and Mrs G Wagstff, of 142, High-street, Rushden, have received a letter from the 33rd Casualty Clearing Station in France, concerning the death of their son, who was reported "died of wounds" in our issue of July 14th. The letter says "Dear Madam, - Pte H Wagstaff, 10225, C Coy., - Northants Regt., was wounded in the neck, penetrating the lung. He was also from cervical vertebrar [sic]. He was admitted here on the 2nd inst and died on the 4th at 7 p.m. He received Holy Communion on the 3rd inst. He was conscious the greater part of the time...- Chaplain."

A Rushden soldier in the RAMC (Jack Taylor), writes:-

"Dear Mrs Wagstaff, I don't hardly know how to start on this letter to you, but knowing that you would like to hear that someone who knew your son has visited his grave, and that he is buried in a nice cemetery, will help to relive your burden a little bit. While staying in the town where your son now lays, I saw in the "Rushden Echo" that he was in a hospital in the town, dangerously wounded. I went straight to the place to find him, only to learn that he had gone under. It made me feel so sorry that I asked for his grave number and I went and found out where he was laid. He had a cross over him, and his name and number on it. There are lots of Northamptonshire chaps buried near him. It is poor sympathy I can offer you but I heard he died peacefully."

The Rushden Echo Friday 5 July 1917, transcribed by Nicky Bates

In Memoriam

WAGSTAFF - In ever loving memory of Pte Harry Wagstaff, 1 st Northants Regiment, who died of wounds and was buried in Bethune Cemetery, France, July 4th, 1916, aged 18 years 9 months. From his loving Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters.

Two years have passed and still we miss him.
Some may think the wounds has healed,
But they little know the sorrow,
Deep within out heart concealed.
Greatly missed. Silently mourned.


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