Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front

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.


Written by Private J. Palmer

“I was one of the very few survivors of a desperate bayonet charge in which we took part. We charged the German infantry across the open on the sabbath afternoon.

They turned machine guns on us and played havoc, but we captured a Maxim from them.

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We were glad to get away as quickly as possible. We had to swim a canal to get clear, and only a handful came back.

The order to retire came when we had faced the worst, and we had a hot time falling back.


Corporal H. Lee Pickard, of the 11th Hussars writes:-

“We have had some funny times since we came out here, and some that I should not like to experience again. Several times we have been under shell fire by the Germans and last Tuesday we had a miraculous escape as they found the range and started shelling us.

We lost several men and a lot of horses.

On September 1st we were attacked in a farm quite early in the morning. It was a furious battle and we lost some men there and they killed a lot of horses.

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Still we drove them off and captured about forty prisoners and some guns, and got some souvenirs in the shape of revolvers.”

“It is a rough life, getting food the best way you can, and cooking it all ways. One morning we were cooking some rabbits and the Germans surprised us so we had to leave all the cooking and get out of the road quick.

“It’s a terrible sight to see the dead and wounded after a battle, but we are getting quite used to it now. All the same, I shall be glad when it’s over.”

“I was lucky to get a hot bath last night. I boiled a lot of water in a big can and found a small bath. This morning I got a new shirt and drawers so feel a bit better.”


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The following letter has been sent by the Earl of Kingston, who is serving as an officer with the Irish Guards to an old retainer ex-Sergeant Nathan Armstrong of the Connaught Rangers, in Ireland.

Dear Old Nathan, So far I am all right but it is a pretty hot decision we are in as regards fire.

Our trenches are only six hundred yards from the German trenches in places, and their big guns are seven miles behind, but they still shell us morning, noon, and night with shells thirty two inches long, and all day they keep up strong rifle fire.

We lose a few men every day.

Our men are getting better now, as they get a rest every three days but still they have very hard work, digging all night in the trenches. I expect we shall have a great fight in the next day or two.

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I don’t know how long I have to live, but I hope somehow I shall escape to see you all again.

I have bagged one German already and only wish I had my Ross rifle and telescopic sight. I would get a few more.