Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front

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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.


Lieut. Milton Kershaw, who is with the 1st Gloucester Regiment at the front, writes home to Cleckheaton saying:-

“We are not living so well this week as we did at first.

Our food consists of hard biscuits and tinned bully beef, with jam or cheese occasionally.

I am writing this on the roadside where we have halted for a meal.”

“One loses all account of days and time here.

All days seem alike except that we are more tired one day than another.

But we are all quite happy.”


Letter from the son of Mrs. Hargreaves now staying at Burley-in-Wharfedale.

The son has been made a member of the Red Cross and is an interpreter at Nogent Station.

“It’s a terrible thing to see our men cut up so much, and it gives one such satisfaction to relieve them.

Tonight we shall have heaps of English wounded, as there is a great battle going on a little further down the line, where there are 50,000 of our fellows.

“I would never have had you see the horrors that have passed before me these last two weeks.

I won’t describe it. I will only just tell you one little story.

One night last week, I was called urgently away from one case to an Englishman, whom they were afraid was dying.

When I got to his truck I found a big strapping Yorkshireman who had his leg blown off.

I called the doctor up, sounded him, and attended to his wants, and we were told we had probably saved his life.

In his mutterings he was calling to his men to “buck up and come on”.

I don’t dare to stop and think any more, that’s not my work; I go from one to the other and do what I can.”

“There are trains full of English soldiers going through, who are like a lot of schoolboys on a holiday. They come in singing and the Highlanders playing their bagpipes.


Mr. J. W. Garnett, a member of the Halifax Board of Guardians, has received this letter from a Royal Army Medical Corps man at the front.

“You at home do not know the very depths of misery the war is causing out here.

To see the women and children refugees travelling in cattle trucks, eighteen and twenty hours to do thirty miles.

No food and too terrified to take the food we offer them, the women weeping and the children wailing, it is piteous.

“Occasionally we come across one who can speak a little English.

It is horrifying the news they tell me,and others also.

It l makes one think the Germans are a barbarous race.

I could not believe it at first, but I do now.

They take all the food out of the houses of the poor people, outrage their women, then set fire to their houses. I can believe it all.

“Two of our men from the Royal Army Medical Corps, who carry no arms of any description and whose duty it is to attend to the wounded of any nation, be he friend or foe were captured by the Germans.

They cut off their hands, and sent them back over the frontier.

This is the truth. I saw both men lying in hospital in Rouen last night.


From a wounded man of the Irish Guards now in a London hospital.

“In the last fight we were posted near to a wall over which hung the most tempting grapes you ever set eyes on.

When you’ve lain for nearly a day in a hot sun without bite or sup, grapes seem more tempting than ever.

The Germans seemed to concentrate their whole fire on the corner where those grapes were but most of us couldn’t resist the temptation and risk of stealing out to get them.

What you had to do was to crawl along the top of the trenches like a big snail, and then, when you got there spring up and catch what you could before the Germans caught you.

We weren’t always successful, and there’s many a lad of ours owes his life or his wounds to touching that forbidden fruit.