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.

Thursday, 17th July 2014, 1:10 pm


The first soldier from the Malton district to lose his life in his country’s cause is Private Harold Matthews, of the 9th Lancers, whose parents reside in Love Lane, Norton, Malton.

The news of his death has just reached Mr. and Mrs. Matthews in a pathetic letter from another son of theirs who is serving in the same regiment, Lance-Corporal Ernest Matthews, and reached the fighting line from the base the day after his brother was killed.

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“My dear Mother, I suppose you will have heard before this of poor Harold’s death.

He was killed in action last Sunday by a shrapnel shell.

B squadron were digging a trench, so as to get cover from the German fire, when a shell burst overhead and killed Harold and wounded a Lance-Corporal.

I joined the regiment last Monday and the first thing I heard was of his death.

He had not the slightest pain, but was killed outright.”

“We could not get his body until Tuesday morning as the German fire was so terrific on the part where it lay.

We managed to get at him by 9.30 on Tuesday morning, and buried him in Paissy churchyard and at 10 am.

Our squadron leader read part of the burial service over him. We then erected a pile of stones over him. and put his name in a bottle and placed it among the stones.”

“I will give you fuller details if I am spared to come home again. The firing is so terrific that no one knows who is going down next.

We always have plenty to eat and drink, so we are all right that way. We are having a rest today.

I think the Germans are having one as well, as we cannot hear much firing.”


In a letter to his sister at Malton, Private G. Simpson, of the 18th Hussars, refers to the censorship of letters for home, stating it is hard for them when, after working so hard, they could not send good news away.

So far the battlefield is like a playground to me, and I cannot help smiling to see the enemy’s fancy shots ploughing the ground up.

All our officers speak well to us, and our General is one of the finest leaders we could wish to have.

As for myself, I shall have plenty of news to tell you if I have the chance to reach home again.”


Gunner F. Cooper, 57th Battery R.F.A. writing to his parents at Harrogate from the front says:-

“If I were in England now I would try and get every young man I knew to join the “Terriers”. If some saw half I have seen they would wish they had enlisted.

“I have seen Frenchmen, Zouaves, Turcos and even Germans having to face death but I think now that the Britisher has the finest pluck of all.

You should see just how calm and fearless they all face death itself.

You never see one of them even flinch when they are really put to it.

They seem to go real clean mad, and don’t realise or think of danger.”