Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front: 4th December

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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 J. Thompson of the Yorkshire Regiment, writing from hospital to his wife in Leeds says:

“I got hit with a piece of shrapnel in the right hand, so that is why they have invalided me home.

It was just hell upon earth. The shells came over us for days together. It was awful.

There were some pitiable sights. The Germans set fire to all the places they have to retire through.

We passed through a village where they had been billeted and I saw something I had never seen before.

The Germans had taken a pig from a farmer and skinned it, leaving the four feet attached to the skin.

The first thing they do when they are captured is to ask when we are going to shoot them. They think we shoot prisoners but they are glad to be taken prisoners when they know we do not.

“We cannot grumble at the way we are treated here. It is a new place just opened for wounded but we are well looked after.”


Writing to his friends at Malton, Driver McBenford, of Malton who joined Sir Mark Sykes’s Waggoners’ Reserve attached to the A.S.C. at the front states:-

“The weather is very cold now. We have had fourteen days rest and now we are just going to the front again.

I shall never forget being at Mons and in another engagement where we lost a lot of horses and waggons on every side of us. We had some very narrow escapes.

“We have taken a lot more German prisoners and they have been talking to me like Englishmen. This is the second time we have taken prisoners.

Shells are flying all around us. We have just gone into Belgium by train.

I’ve been talking to one man from Malton in the Scots Greys and others in the Yorkshire Regiment.

We have French and Belgian soldiers with us now.

I am as happy as ever.”


John Alan Johnstone of the s.s. Saxon Prince, who formerly lived at Agbrigg near Wakefield, in a letter dispatched from Marseilles on October 18th says:-

“When we arrived in India and got on shore I had a conversation with one of the famous terrible little Ghurkas who were embarking for France.

He was quite proud of being sent out to fight alongside the Europeans.

His face was wreathed in smiles when spoken to, and his sole wish was to be able to bring back one of the helmets worn by the Germans to sue as a drinking cup for his family!”