Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front 25th 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.


A letter from Driver F. Hornby, R.F.A. formerly a postman at Coxhoe near Durham relates an exciting adventure under fire.

He was sent about three quarters of a mile with a cart to the trenches to supply ammunition to the troops.

“I had to go along the road in full view of the enemy.

After serving the ammunition, I pulled my horses and cart into a road cut into a hill with the sides about six feet high on each side. Shells dropped where I had been standing and one passed over our heads without bursting.

After standing for about ten minutes a Captain of infantry saw me and ordered me to move quickly so I mounted and turned the cart round, urging the horses on and they galloped along like “Derby winners”.

The shells started dropping as I turned out of my shelter and they continued doing so behind me all the way but the gunners did not put their range on quickly enough.”


Trooper W. Jefferson, of B Squadron, of the 18th Hussars writing to his parents in Harrogate says:-

“On Sunday, 20th September, the West Yorkshires got hit hard and we had to take their places in the trenches. We were nearly all armed with bayonets, quite a change for a cavalry regiment.

“The Germans are not to be trusted under the white flag.

Two or three cases occurred where they have been surrendering themselves and then when they have got quite clear of our troops have opened fire on them. We wiped out a squadron of German cavalry.


Mrs. Hayes, of Goodwin Road, Leeds, has received a letter from her son, who is with the Field Cavalry Ambulance. He says:-

“I am quite well, and in the pink. I should say red, because it is red all over the grass, the tents, and our hands - red with the blood of British and French who have been killed or wounded. My word! it is terrible.

I thought at first, when I sat watching the kits when we were going away how nice it was to go into a strange country and to see strange sights but I never for a moment thought that I should look on men maimed for life.

One moment a soldier is carried in talking about his wife, another of a girl left behind him, and another raving in delirium, “Give ‘em hell, boys”.

Another breaks into a music hall song which he has heard in more favourable times and another talks about his children and his mother.

Whilst yet another is carried in sleeping the sleep of death, with a round hole in his head or breast to tell the tale.

Some have great holes torn in their sides where they have been struck with shrapnel.

The sights we see are beyond description. Not even the pen of the most vivid writer could give you an idea what it is like.

One hour we see men in the best of health, laughing and passing round the butt end of a cig. Next time they are carried into the tent unconscious, not knowing what has hit them.

Even now, with the shells whistling around and shrapnel screaming through the air, we see men suddenly clutch at their sides or arms and sink to the ground, whilst their mates are unharmed alongside them.

Dear mother, we shall win, because we are led not driven. Right is on our side. I hope to be home for Christmas.

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