A letter home

A collection of letters sent to loved ones at home written by the men who fought in the First World War.

Private Alec Childerley Cambridgeshire Regiment, Eltisley

No doubt you will be surprised to hear I have been wounded in the back, but I am going on nicely. I should never have been alive to tell the tale if it hadn’t been for the parcel you sent me in the wooden box. We were going in the trenches to relieve another battalion when all of a sudden a shell from the Germans burst within a short distance of us. I was hit in the back by a piece. I had got the wooden box tied to my back and it was smashed to pieces and all the contents. The tin with the Oxo cubes was bent all shapes. I have only the parcel to thank   for my life. I happened on a St Neots boy this afternoon at the Dressing Station, his name is Bill Gilbert. He was sick but I am glad to say was not wounded. I am quite happy and well looked after and in a few weeks will be fit again.

Lance Corporal Sidney Rose Cambridgeshire Regiment, Eltisley

Thank you very much for the “Advertiser” and letter, which I received safely. No doubt you saw in the papers about the charge of our regiment on Oct 14th. Well, that is not all. We were in the big advance last week. In the mist I got lost but I got where I had orders to go. We advanced nearly a mile deep, and took a lot of prisoners. I got several myself and it was great sport poking them out of dug-outs with our bayonets. Lance-corp Day, who was in the St Neots Post Office, was killed in the attack by a sniper who happened to get left behind in the mist. Tell his people he won’t snipe again, a pal of mine blew half his head off first shot. Day was shot through the heart and suffered no pain. We only had about 63 casualties, so we did pretty well. I saw Frank Riseley after he was hit, but I didn’t think he would be sent to England. I also saw Alix Childerley, but I never spoke to him, so I didn’t know it was him until I passed him. It was pretty rough when he got hit I can tell you. We are now out on rest, after being in the thick of the fighting on the Somme for three months without getting a rest. I think there is a chance of getting home again before long, as we have all been promised leave. I am A1. Don’t forget Christmas puddings.

Bombardier Joe Baker, Eynesbury

Now for a few lines to let you know I am still well, under the present weather conditions, and our houses are shell holes now, and the other night we got flooded out with 18 inches of water, everything wet through and no dry ones to put on, but still we keep on smiling. The ground we are on is all like ploughed land and mud and water. One has to be very careful walking about here at night, or else you would soon get a good bath, as the shell holes are nearly full of water, which is 8 and 10 feet deep. I have been busy today, it has been my wash day. The usual shirt, socks and towel, water from shell holes, muddy, but it has to do. I went out the other day to go and find my brother, and I had a great surprise to meet Tom Sharman, he looks well. only covered in mud the same as myself. I had a good chat with him, his Division is now with ours. We have been in action for 17 weeks, and only 2 days’ rest, but we have the honour of being in action the longest here of any Division, which is a lot to say, and we have been mentioned for our grand work. I am real proud of being in a Division like that, but no doubt I shall be able to give you a good lecture when I do come home, which no doubt will be very interesting, as I can tell you since July 4th I have seen some sights and towns – well I may say heaps of bricks where towns and villages have been – but still we keep going. The Bosche don’t like us artillery boys, we are hot stuff. The prisoners often want to know if we have gone mad, which is very interesting to us, as we like to know we annoy him as much as we ever can. Aeroplanes have been very active lately. Well, I expect we must rest content to have another Christmas dinner out here. George is not far from here. I have seen young Judd, of the Beds., but they were the digging party. Give my love to Mrs — , and Family, and kindly remember me to all friends and the Choir – well, what you have left of it, I expect you haven’t many. What has Jon Bass gone in? Well I really must close. Oh, I forget to tell you I have been promoted to full Bombardier, which makes eight shilling a week more money to me. I am still showing them what we can do if only we try. Well I have a parade at 9 pm to fall the boys in for a run which they like.

Private Lionel Martin, Grenadier Guards

It is with very much pleasure that I write these few lines to you, hoping you are quite well, as I am pleased to say I am the same. We have been having some lovely weather here just lately, it’s been very hot, but has now changed to cold and wet. I am in the trenches now, after having about three weeks rest, and have been through some of the hottest firing I have been into. The Germans are entrenched on a ridge, from which they can see all that goes on in our lines in the daytime, and they can also observe from stationary balloons. During this time we have been in reserve or Company has had to carry other Companies’ rations to them to the front line as well as carrying trench boards and wire to the Engineers. This job is dangerous, as on a moonlight night the Germans can see us and put machine guns on to us, and we have some work cut out to miss the bullets. On Sunday night I was on a ration party and we had to into the open – something like going across the Common – in single file when Fritz saw us, and I had the warmest time of my life out here –he played hell with us, several machine guns being put in us, some bullets hitting the ground where we lay, and others going through the air. Well, we had to lay there several minutes, and in that time two men were severely wounded in the legs whilst lying down, and to get to the front line we had to crawl the best we could a distance of 200 yards. I had a sack of bread and two petrol tins of water and rifle, and the fear of being hit any moment. Well, we reached the line all right without any more casualties, but like the others trembling all over. On Wednesday night we were on Engineers Fatigue and carrying boards and were caught the same way on a road, some bullets hitting the road and glancing off two of our men, one being hit twice in the leg, and the other man in the joint of the right arm, this being his first time in the trenches. We were shelled as well by whiz-bangs, these shell are small, but can’t be heard coming, they give you no time to get out of the way, as they burst before you hear the report of the gun. That night we had trench mortars set on us, but we can see them coming, they come like a spark in the air and give you no time to get out of the way.

Drummer H G Sewell

No doubt you will be greatly surprised to hear from me, but being one of the boys from St Neots, and seeing some of their letters in the Advertiser, I thought I would like to write one to you and see if you could get it put in the paper as well for me. I am with P Milton, of Abbotsley, and also E. Brace of Croxton, they are both in the pink of health, also myself. Well, I am a stretcher bearer, and I can assure you we see some awful sites sometimes. I was on the spot when Albert Saywell of Croxton was wounded, but I did not help to carry him out of the trenches, as some of the other stretcher bearers took him while I was tending to some more fellows he got wounded by the same shell. I saw in the paper it was a gunshot, but it wasn’t, it is a shell, as there were three others got hit with the same one. It seems by the papers that they are giving the old Bochers some stick now, on land and sea, so let’s hope the war will soon be finished. I had the pleasure of having a long chat with a fellow from St Neots, he is in the R.A.M.C., the other week, he was in the best of health. Well, we are in a pretty hot quarter now, the Germans continually shelling us all the time, and our Artillery is the same with them. But still I have managed to pull through so far, and hope to till the finish of it; but if I am not able to I shall know I have done my duty as far as I could, and if everybody had stepped forward about twenty months ago as well, my idea is the wall would have been finished long before now. But one thing I can say, and also a lot more boys of the town and surrounding villages, is that they volunteered. Pte J F Jacques of Weald also wishes to be remembered to you all. I think this is about all, so we’ll now draw to a close, trusting these few lines will find you in good health; also wishing the good old Advertiser every success.