Leeds Mercury 1914: Letters from the Front: 13th November

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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.

A somewhat thrilling story has been told in a letter that has been received from Private Flanagan of the East Yorkshire Regiment as to his experience with the British troops in France. He says:-

“We marched through villages which had been pillaged and destroyed and all the inhabitants had fled from them.

We had been firing at the Germans for about half an hour when their shells started to come over us and when they come, you know it.

They kept it up for a bit and then they retired. Then we formed up ready to march off.

All other people in the place had packed up ready to leave, and we could hear them praying.

Then we saw a woman coming down the road with seven little kiddies.

They were all wet to the skin and the poor mother told us that the Germans had taken all her things and commanded her to clear out in ten minutes.

She did so, and then they set fire to the house.

Another day we saw the Germans fire a farm which had been converted into a hospital.

On the day I was wounded we were almost surrounded by the enemy whose general formation was in the shape of a horseshoe.

Eight of us were in a trench and we looked behind us and saw the Germans retiring.

We watched a bit, thinking some of them might be hiding in the trenches and we shouted but got no answer and so we returned just in time for had we waited another five minutes we should have been cut off.

Some of our men in front were cut off and surrounded and a German officer shot several of them down and others were bayoneted.

When we tried to retire at this point the enemy came up on either side and we ran between them and when we were about 100 yards away they knocked us down like flies.

I escaped to a house but being wounded I came into the road and crawled along for a couple of miles and was fortunately picked up by a motor ambulance.

Two or three days later I got to the coast and and crossed over to England and it was like getting out of hell into heaven.”