Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front: 16th October

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.

Thursday, 16th October 2014, 1:18 pm


The extraordinary extent to which the British troops have been shelled by the Germans is described in a letter sent by Lieut. Anne of the Royal Field Artillery to his parents, Major and Mrs. Anne, of Burghwallis Hall, Doncaster.

He writes :-

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“5 inch Jack Johnsons” fell on our battery for an hour the other day and yet not a man was killed.

These shells made holes in the ground 20ft by 6ft. affording cover for a small squad of men.

The German lines were only 300 yards off the British at one point.

An Albatross biplane dropped two brilliant coloured lights over the position of the battery and exactly a minute later the Germans sent over a salvo of shells.

The British replied with such effect that the Germans never fired another round that day.

The woods were fairly heaped with bodies and although burying parties were sent out each night the bodies had not yet all been covered up.

The infantry in the advanced trenches were changed every forty eight hours.


Private Gillingham, of the 10th Hussars writing from hospital to his mother in Leeds says:-

I was wounded on the 20th and lay in a ditch.

How I longed to be somewhere where I could get ease; but I stuck it and on the same night I got hit again in the left leg.

I was in luck’s way. I was lifted into a hospital van but had to get out of it on account of the Germans firing at it and I got picked up by a machine gun car, and carried to hospital at Ypres in Belgium.

I can’t tell you all now, as it would take too long.

I’m getting on all right now. My leg is almost better but my hand is still bad.

They are thinking of sending me home for a month as I have been so long away.

I’m writing this letter with my wounded hand and it pains me so that I will get a mate to write the next one.

You can send me a parcel if you like and some tooth powder and a toothbrush.

Also send some fags please.


Sergeant Clay, a Todmorden member of the Scots Guards writes from France:-

“I should be pleased to get to that inhuman devil, the Kaiser, and put a bayonet through him. I dare not write of the havoc he has wrought through his men on poor girls, women and children.

“There will be battles in Germany that will make Mons and Marne appear insignificant.

Germany, as you are aware, is very strongly fortified and you can bet they will contest the ground inch by inch and the road to Berlin is a long one.

Victory will certainly crown the efforts of the Allies but it will be no easy thing.

England needs all the men she can possibly get. It is the duty of every able bodied man to be over here.

It will be a far better world when a few of those beasts are wiped out of it. The more the merrier, and the sweeter the air.

“I have a German cap in my kit bag. I would send it home by post if it were possible but I hardly think it is.

I can just fancy what father would do if I did send it home. He would walk through the town with it on his head. He would, of course, crown himself with glory, or be arrested as a German.”