Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front 2nd 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.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 2nd October 2014, 1:52 pm
Letters from the front
Letters from the front


The following extracts are from a letter written by a Kirkstall youth named Stanley who has joined the French army.

He is in training with his corps for the front.

Letters from the front

“Yesterday we went into a long valley which traverses the Forest of Mailly. There we passed through a part which had been the scene of the French retreat.

There were shells all over, hundreds and hundreds of them, with broken gun carriages.

We also found two or three French haversacks each of which held a new pair of boots, whilst one was full of the new French cartridges.

I have found a lot of German things, but I suppose I shall have to throw them away because they will not let us have them. We had a lovely send off from Toulouse.

They thought I was a soldier from the 24th because they paid us 1franc 25, that’s a shilling, for the rest of the day.

We get a halfpenny per day, but as the food is so awful, I have to get a bit of cheese or a pennyworth of jam and bread, and such little things. We shall get fifteen centimes per day ‘haute paye’ after the war.

If you can spare a little I don’t mind but if you cannot I will manage without.

We saw many destroyed houses yesterday. They had been blown up. Just a wall or two was left. In the remains of one house was a clock standing on wall with what had once been a mantelpiece.

Our captain has invented a new system for advancing under fire. When we lie down behind our haversacks to make a trench, instead of piling the earth behind the haversack, we carry a big sack like a potato sack, and fill it with earth. Then we push it forward before us.

At up to a hundred metres a bullet will not penetrate it, and after that distance it is the bayonet that is called for.”


Sapper George Hemsley of Leeds, who is serving with the Royal Engineers writing to a friend in Leeds says:-

“Enclosed you will find a piece of German telephone wire which we captured upon taking a village. They had not had time to reel it up.

It is disgusting the way the Germans destroy every village they pass through if they can find time to do it.

We stopped at a big mansion all night.

The Germans had been there the night before and although they did not damage the outer structure, they absolutely gutted the inside.

I have enclosed a photograph of the house, which is situated in the most beautiful grounds I have ever seen.

The nights are drawing in now, and we are making all preparations for the winter.

How is everything going on in England? It will be none too cheerful I know, but you are a lot better off than the poor old civilians here.

It’s a shame to see the hundreds of refugees that pass us each day.”


J. Newby of the 1st Coldstream Guards, writing to his parents at Harrogate, says:-

“The grey devils are six to us one but they won’t face us.

They run away from our bayonets and depend upon their artillery which is good, and they have plenty of it, but I think as things are going on they will soon lose the lot of it.

A party of ours charged their trenches the other night and did about thirty of them in and got back again with the loss of only two and nine wounded.

Oh! if they would only come out of their trenches and fight we should be home for Christmas.

But they won’t, they are safer where they are.

I’ll bet they think so too, as they have tasted cold steel made at Sheffield and they don’t want any more.”

“They are a barbarous nation, and by God’s help we shall have to put them down or we shall know about it.”