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.


An account of a gallant act performed by a Leeds man is recorded in a letter written by rifleman W. Sissons to his wife in Leeds.

Sissons says:-

“I saw a fine thing on the 18th.

We went out to take some German prisoners and the German artillery began to shell us.

We got orders to retire and on the way poor Jack Anderson got hit in the neck.”

“Billy Flaxington, one of our fellows, at once went out in front of a shower of bullets and brought him in.

Even our officers cheered.

It showed the Germans what Kirkstall road lads are made of.”

It transpired that prior to the war both victim and rescuer worked at Leeds Forge.

Both men are members of the 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifles.

Burley Sergeant’s Story

Sergeant F. Town, of Burley-in-Wharfedale, a member of the 2nd Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, has sent home an interesting letter, dated October 2nd, from the front.

He writes:-

“Our brigade was at the battle of Mons on August 23rd and 24th and lost heavily.

This was no wonder, as it was like what it said in the newspapers, “hell let loose”.

We went into action about noon on the Sunday, and came out, about six p.m. on the following day. We lost about 460 officers and men.

“I regret to say that my enlisting chum, Lance-Sergeant W. Wood was killed by an explosion from shrapnel shell on Monday.

It was practically one continuous rain of shell fire for thirty six hours and one word “lucky” can only describe those who came out alive.

There always appears to be a lot of superstition as regards the number 13. We marched out of barracks in Dublin on August 13th, we belong to the 13th Infantry Brigade and my section is numbered 13.

We were marching practically every day and night for thirteen days until we were within about twenty five miles from Paris with short rests of a few hours each.

It is surprising what a man can do when he is put to the test. Since then we have been continually pushing the enemy back.

Our artillery are now getting their own back.”

Wounded Leeds man who saw his comrade die

“I am going on nicely and expect to come home in about three weeks for a fortnight on furlough” writes Lance-Corporal Potton of the 18th Hussars to his mother in Leeds.

“We had a terrible time at Mons and for four days and nights we id nothing but fight and I should think the Germans had three men to every one of ours. On the 24th August we lost one hundred men in about five minutes. We had a mile and a half to gallop over open country with as many as thirty shells a minute bursting round us.

how I got out of it I do not know for I had not gone two hundred yards before a shell burst under my horse and killed it.

I was not touched and I managed with a bit of luck, to get another horse from a comrade who had been killed. i am sure it was worse than Hell let Loose and I think I said a prayer afterwards but any way I shall soon be right now.

The man who was with me when I was wounded is dead. he died as soon as the search party found us. He was shot twice in the stomach whilst I was shot in the thigh. I crawled to him when he was dying, but I could not help him such agony myself. He gave me his papers, and I gave them to the officer when he rode up to us.”

17 April  2018......   Belinda Dawson, general manager of 42 The Calls  Picture Tony Johnson.

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