Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front: 9th October

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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.

BRADFORD TRAMWAYMAN’S EXPERIENCES UNDER SHELL FIRE

Gunner J. Cory of the R.F.A. lately in the employment of the Bradford Tramways, writing to his wife on a piece of brown paper picked up in the trenches and dispatched without envelope, says:-

“We have been in a very hot position for seven days, and we can think ourselves lucky that we are alive.

We went into a position last Monday week under the face of a hill, and we had not been there three minutes when a German big gun opened fire on us.

A big shell exploded in a field where our horses and wagons were.

A corporal had his right leg nearly torn off and his horses’ head blown away whilst another piece struck our farrier in the stomach and sent him to hospital.

I was also knocked down nearly unconscious and a driver was blown off his horse.

The next day we had our Major killed and another shell smashed one of our guns and blew the men near it to pieces.

We remained in that position for exactly six days with shells flying round us all the time.

It rained for two days and nights, and we had to lie on the wet ground.

We have lost forty horses so far, but now we are having it a bit easier.

We are only firing a few rounds every time the Germans show themselves.

We have our horses in a wood, and we are sleeping in some very big caves dug out of the rock.

I hope we stop here for a week just to gather ourselves together and get ready for another big battle which I hope will be successful again.

I happened to find this piece of paper which has been a biscuit wrapper and I have begged an envelope so I am trying to make up for lost time.

People talk about war but you can’t understand what war is unless you have been in it.

There is a village we have just left which is like a butcher’s shop with dead men and horses blown to bits.

There were about fifty men and a hundred horses in the village, when the Germans shelled it.

It was an awful sight to see.

I shan’t be sorry when it is all over.

We are having to do without clean underclothes and having to go without a wash for five or six days together.

It would be grand to have a bath.”

A LETTER THAT HAS GONE ASTRAY

We have received a letter written by Sergeant W. Harrison, of the Coldstream Guards to his parents in Leeds.

“I am still in the land of the living, and what is more I am quite well.

I have been out here since the War started.

I was at Mons, and in the big retreat down towards Paris and am now with the 4th Guards Brigade, so you see I have not missed much.

This is a tiring sort of game and I shan’t be sorry when it is over.

The same old sound of guns booming day and night begins to get monotonous after a couple of months of it.

You might look out for my name in the dispatches. My captain told me a week ago that i was to be mentioned.”

HALIFAX YOUNG MAN’S ADVENTURE WITH GERMAN PATROL

Private Burke, if the 5th Dragoon Guards in a letter to his father at Halifax, dated October 14th writes.

“We have been in a very hard battle these last three days, but we are steadily overcoming the enemy.

I myself started the battle. Our troop was advance troop and I was advance man.

The Germans were hidden behind a drawbridge when I got up to them, but when they saw the British coming they dropped the bridge and of course, I had to cross it.

“I rode on, and at last I heard a pitter patter coming towards me so I passed back word that there was a German patrol coming down the road.

Just then they loomed up before me about nine or ten yards away.

There were two of them but they were talking to one another and did not see me.

I turned into the hedge.

When they got up to me I shouted at them and when they turned round and saw I was English they were terrified and turned away. I shot at the nearest and hit him in the back and I put five shots after the other. They didn’t half gallop but I am certain I killed one. As for the other, i don’t know whether I hit him or not.

“I then galloped back and reported and we all went up in dismounted action. Our casualties for the day were one killed and four wounded. The battle is still going on but during last night the Germans retreated a mile or two.

You must excuse the dirt as we have not had a wash for two days.

We drew rations yesterday for the first time for three days.

Thanks for the rosary beads which I think saved my life when I saw the two Germans.

We have got into Belgium again.

We took another prisoner today.

We shall mangle Von Kluck yet.”