Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front

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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.


A thrilling account of the fighting is given in a letter written by Lance Sergeant Alf. Gearey, of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, a son of ex-Sergeant and Mrs. Gearey, of Barton-on-Humber.

The letter was written on board the hospital ship St. David at Havre and posted at Southampton.

“Just a line to let you know I am A1. Now it’s over I must say the last few days have been real horror, fighting all the time since Sunday.

Our last action was the worst. We fell like corn before the reaper, I tell you truly, I never expected to get out alive.

The Germans must have lost thousands, but they were ten to one, so we had to retire. The shrapnel and hail of lead and bullets, i see it all now, and I was one of the last to leave the field.

I won’t say any more, but I got a bullet through my right leg, but I still kept on twenty yards or thereabouts. I got a great piece of shrapnel shell in my neck - laid me senseless.

I came to again and as if possessed ran for my life through it all and made good.

It’s wonderful how you can run with a bullet through your leg. We expect we are for Netley, but don’t know.

I have not been long at it but fellows say that they saw more in the last four days than they did in three years in Africa, that’s the truth.

Ah well, I am not grumbling. I’m not disfigured or maimed like so many poor fellows, so let’s rejoice over all. Some of our engagements lasted thirteen hours and the last and worst, ten hours. So tired, must sleep.


Private E. Bleasdale, whose wife lives at Dale Street, Huddersfield, has written describing an engagement in which the Cameron Highlanders, of which he is a Reservist, took part. he says:

“Just a few lines to let you know that I am still amongst the living, but am very lucky to be able to say so, as our men got knocked down like nine pins on Monday, the 14th, and I lay on the battlefield twenty eight hours before I was brought in.

I thought every minute was my last, as the Germans were killing our wounded as they lay on the ground. They shot six of our men ten yards away from me, but they passed me by. I thought it was all up, but some of the S. W. B. came up and drove them back, and I was glad they did. We are sailing for England today.


Jack Spencer, of the destroyer Lurcher, describing the action off Heligoland, in which he took part, to a Bradford friend, says:-

“We were in an awful mess on Friday off Heligoland, as we met the Germans, and, as you hoped, we sank five, as far as we can make out, others being badly wrecked. We went up alongside the mainz just before she sank, and it was an awful sight. We got 224 prisoners in a most terrible state, and many of them died.

You have not the slightest idea what a terrible thing modern warfare is. Some of the Germans were torn to pieces. It is impossible to describe it all on paper. Our decks were red with blood, and you see we are only a destroyer, so you may tell what a mess we were in.

All the Germans seemed quite happy when we got them on board. The worst job of all was getting them out of the sea. Some of them had legs and arms shot away, battered to pieces. I was in our boat just before their vessel sank, and there seemed to be many who were helpless on board her. I am pleased to say the English losses were small. So I think I shall have plenty to say when I arrive home.”

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