Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front 18th September

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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.


Corporal E. Harrison, of the 18th Hussars, writing to his mother at Horsforth says;

“If people at home only knew what a soldier has to go through in such times as these, public opinion of the soldier would considerably alter.

To see the horrible sights that we have seen would make anyone’s heart bleed - French, English, Turcos, Germans all lying dead or wounded in the mud in the streets.

In fact, I cannot express it all on paper.

Let’s hope I am spared and then I can tell you all the better than on paper.

The boys here all seem to have the feeling “Stick it if it Kills you”.

We cannot say this of the German soldiers. They seem to have no interest in the war.

In fact, they appear pleased to be taken prisoners.

“It seems a shame that people living peaceably in such a beautiful picturesque country as this should be disturbed by these cowardly Germans who daren’t come out into the open and fight us.

Fortunately they are now paying the just penalty for their cruelty and misdeeds.

“I think it’s very good of the people at home getting up subscription lists for cigarettes, clothing etc., for the boys at the front and then again for finding homes for the poor refugees.

It breaks one’s heart to see families wandering about homeless.

I came out here to serve my King and country and if the Lord thinks it good for me to end my days here what could be a more honourable end?”


Private Willie Sheridan, of Parkgate Rotherham of the Coldstreams writes:-

“We are having it very stiff at present with both us and the Germans being in an entrenched position.

We are in the trenches twenty four hours every other day but for these last three weeks we have had very little loss in the Guards, but at Landrecies we suffered a great deal.

There were thousands of Germans. The Coldstreams made one bayonet charge and killed 800.

The Germans dread the bayonet.

Once a company of the Grenadier Guards took part in the firing line and about twenty Germans hoisted white flags as a signal that they wanted to surrender.

An officer sent a party of his men out to fetch what they thought were prisoners and the dirty dogs fired at our men.

They are a dirty, sly race of people but when we move them out of this we will mow them down.

As it is, everything is in our favour at present.”


Mr. Maurice Herickx, a Belgian civil engineer and commissaire du service who is staying with his wife and family as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Gray in York was present in the fortifications during the siege of Antwerp.

He was an eye witness of the heroic conduct of the Naval Brigade and in reply to the criticisms which have been made upon the intervention of this force and its apparent uselessness, he says:-

“The presence of Mr. Winston Churchill within our walls at this critical hour of our national history contributed to a great extent to the tightening of the bonds of fraternity which unite the British and Belgian peoples.

The action of the British Minister was sublime and had a strong moral effect.

He showed forcibly to the inhabitants that England intends to maintain and defend the integrity of Belgium and his action was a guarantee for the future.

Never will the people of Belgium forget the emotion which gripped their hearts when they saw defiling through their city and with a step rapid and assured, that valiant Naval Brigade come generously to help in their defence.

During the retreat a violent battle was fought near Lokeren in which the Naval Brigade took part.

All honour be to it!

It is also certain that the participation of the force had the most happy effect on the general operations.

Each day of resistance kept a large portion of the enemy engaged and prevented the reinforcement of his troops in France.

A perfect equilibrium was established between the benefits of a retreat and the advantages of resistance and we ought to congratulate ourselves that the Belgian Army was able to rejoin the Allied Armies in France.

Therefore, Vive l’Angleterre et ses vaillant soldats!”

Stephen Blake of the CMA  Photo: Vikki Ellis

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