Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front: 5th November

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Readers who received letters from men on active service were invited to submit them to the “Leeds Mercury.” Any extracts published were paid for, with the promise that letters would be carefully and promptly returned to the senders.

FEEDING THE TROOPS: EXPERIENCES WITH THE ARMY SERVICE CORPS

Lance Corporal McVoy, of the Motor Transport Army Service Corps writing of his experiences to his brother in Leeds, says:-

Our runs are of about twenty five miles with a load to within some five miles of the firing line where, of course, the Horse Transport take it on from us.

Then we have a run of about twenty miles to reload.

We have not had any money up to now so are getting on the rocks.

We have been through several places where the Germans have passed.

We are now camped by the roadside and have been here four days. We run our loads at all hours day and night and unfortunately I have to do my turn with the Non Coms for guard although all the other first drivers are exempt except the Non Coms who are in charge of the guard every twenty four hours.

The other day we did not get back till 2 a.m. and went for another load at 7 a.m We got back at 2.30 p.m. when I had charge of guard from 5.30 p.m. to the same hour next day.

The men get two hours on and two hours off.

One of the drivers with whom I came to Leeds with those Russians came out at the beginning of the War with the Transport and I passed his company the other day and had a few words with him.

The Belgians have a light Transport which is much better than ours in my estimation.

It seems a shame to see all the lovely cars so knocked about.

Beautiful Limousine and touring cars are filthy and disfigured.

There will be some cheap cars after the war is over.

HOW TOMMY’S SPIRITS SURVIVE ALL HARDSHIP

Private S. Dobson of the Scots Guards lately porter at Liversedge Station has described his experiences to a Liversedge friend. In a letter he says:-

“When we arrived at Havre on the 12th August we were cheered by the French Tommies.

We travelled all the next Sunday in the train and we were near Paris.

We set off on the warpath and marched through France and Belgium and never saw a German. We returned to France, marching all the way there and back without seeing Germans.

The second time we set off and nearly every day we were under fire. On the 17th we got it grand.

We were rearguard to the 1st Brigade which had gone on and we stopped to blow up a bridge.

After that we got formed up, the second in command leading. We were going through a little place when we were fired on by shells.

We thought it was our artillery covering our advance. But not it.

We lay down in a turnip field. The shelling reached within a few feet of us and if we had stopped another five minutes we should have been cut up.

Getting the order up we rose and doubled on to a dip near the road and down a cutting through a river which took us up to the waist.

Our Captain’s horse got in it and stuck so he left it and got through on a bit of high ground.

A number of guns opened fire on us. Our officer made up a small firing line and we fired over forty rounds, and were just enjoying ourselves when the enemy yelled and the Scots Greys were on them.

They tried to escape but in vain. They came out of a wood and we carved them up.

We could see them lift their rifles and shoot, but they could not hit the broadside of a train. I can tell you I enjoyed it up to the mark. My blood was boiling and one goes half mad for a time.

There were some six hundred of them and sixty of us. We sent them a murderous volley and more than they wanted.

I shall never forget Mons.

We had the time of our lives there. It was better than bagging rabbits. Then came the charge with the Irish on our right and then the KOYLIS and Grenadiers. We ploughed our way through. I got my bayonet stuck in a German’s ribs and I put my foot on the other side where another was just going to fell me with his butt.

Luckily one of my mates saw him and shot him dead.

So we got through though how, I don’t know.

You are walking on the top of bodies and there you are.”

“Later on we reached Senlis where we took over some trenches and held them for a week.

There was hardly anything to eat and not a cig or a match. The Germans shelled us from morning to night.

I have had a postcard from my section commander. He says they are still in the same trenches. We never had a wash for a week, so you see how we came to call ourselves the Mudlarks.

We used to sing out; “Cheer oh! You’ll soon be dead”.

I have walked many a mile in my sleep. It didn’t matter, however we had to rough it. We could always sing “Tipperary” and other songs.

One day we went to a wood where our guns got put out of action. The Brigadier sent the Guards to save the guns. It was hot work and my comrades fell in all directions.

It is a marvel is warfare!

“It was at Senlis where I was put out of action. A shell burst, sending the sole of my boot off. Then a bullet, or something went through. The bone is broken to fragments. I get about with a pair of crutches. I can’t put my foot on the floor but I am in the best of health and spirits.”

Ian Watkins

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