Following the outbreak of war in August, 1914, the Leeds Mercury encouraged readers to send in letters sent to them from relatives on active service. A century on, we will be re-publishing a selection of these letters over the coming months.
A HUNSLET GUNNER’S VIEWS
An interesting letter has been received by Mrs Lee, of 10, Vincent Place, Hunslet from her son, Charles Lee, who is a gunner on board the battleship Queen Mary. “Don’t bother about me,” he writes. “I shall be back by Christmas smiling like a bad half penny. I have not enjoyed myself too much of late. It’s been all work and no sleep. I have about twenty-four hours sleep in nine days, but we are still alive and kicking, and ready for the worst.
“I am sorry I cannot tell you all the news, it would fill a book - but we are not allowed to state where we are or what we have done or going to do. This letter has to be read by an officer before it is allowed to be posted. I think the enemy will have to go under. I don’t expect it would last twenty-four hours if we got into them. I am not funking, nor is anybody else, for we mean to reap everything before us and still be alive to tell the tale. Follow the papers; you might get a little news of us some time. So good-bye and God bless all, hoping we shall still keep the old flag flying.”
JOLLY AND HAPPY AS CAN BE
Private J Whittingham, of “E” Company, West Riding Regiment, at the front, writing to his uncle, Mr W Hardcastle, 30 Florist Street, Leeds, says:- “It is all right being on active service,” he writes. “You have a lot to put up with, but the men are as jolly and happy as can be, so I have to be the same. I am hoping to get up a raffle for a German sausage when I come back. I dare not let you know where we are going, as we are bound to secrecy.
“I shall get two medals if I land home, one from France and one from England. I am sitting down resting by the roadside as I write this, and the regiment is getting ready to start off again for another 150 miles”.
CHEERED BY FRENCH WARSHIP
Mrs Bennett, Algeria Place, Leeds, has received a letter from her son, Henry, who writes: “Just a line to let you know that we arrived safe after three days’ sailing here.
“We got pulled up once by a French warship, but when they saw that we were British troops you should have heard the cheers they gave.
“We had a small book given to us from the General, and in it it said this war may only last about three months, but it will be one of the worst ever known.”
Did anyone in your family fight in the First World War? Get in touch with your stories. Email: email@example.com