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.


Private Priest of the Coldstream Guards, writing from a Hospital in France to his mother says:-

“Their infantry cannot be compared to ours any way.

As soon as we charge they either run away or throw down their arms.

I had the good fortune to find one who was man enough to chance his hand with me in a bayonet fight.

Where he’d learned from I don’t know but I felt as though I were taking an advantage of him. Still, he had to have it, and I had a queer feeling when I did hand him one over.

“A fellow would be inclined to be lenient with them were it not that we have seen so much of their handiwork.”


Mr. S. P. Turner of Victoria Mount, Leeds sends us a letter received from Private C. Ludgate of the York and Lancaster Regiment, who writes from hospital at Oxford.

“Once again in England, though unfortunately wounded in the right arm and out of combat for the time being.

The only thing I can say about the War is that it is nothing more or less than a huge shambles.

The sights are sickening. The German soldiers are a dirty lot of vermin and deserve all they get.

Their artillery is deadly, but our Boy Scouts could compete with the infantry who couldn’t hit the town they came from.

“I have walked for 300 yards in front of their trenches at dawn and am still alive.

Of course, I was compelled to do so to reach my own trench.”

“We had four killed and eight wounded in ‘A’ Company in the first few hours by shrapnel fire.

One chap had his leg blown into the air and died soon afterwards. I am writing this with my left hand.”


Some remarkable sidelights on the war are provided in this letter written to his mother by Gunner Thomas Trobe, of the Royal Field Artillery. One passage reads:-

“In the haste of the retreat they abandoned their trenches and we picked up bicycles, gramophones, concertinas, accordions, civilian clothes, and provisions of all kinds.

Our column captured some guns.

“There were a lot of dead Germans behind them. One officer was sitting quite natural with his head resting on his hands.

“Another chap had evidently been a bit of a carver, for he had just finished carving a doll’s house, with furniture complete. He had evidently been doing it in his spare time under fire.”

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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