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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2018 > Your letters

Your letters

A letter from a lad at the Front in 1915, the value of leaving no stone unturned, and other memories

A letter from the Front, 1915

Private George W Short of the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment was my great-uncle. His life was brought to an end in 1915 when, at dawn on 25 September, he went over the top for the last time at the Battle of Loos.

I only recently learned about George, who was born in 1897 and enlisted in the first week of September 1914. He and about 30 others signed up in Hove on the same day for service in the New (pals) Army battalions that were being raised for the Royal Sussex Regiment (RSR). It seems George was one of four lads who were accepted for military service on that day even though they were under age, the youngest being 16. (The recruiter obviously had ‘poor eyesight’). Sadly three of four of these young soldiers were to fall.

Once I began looking into George’s life I immediately got enthused in learning what I could. I was given a photo of him and also his Death Plaque from a relative. While researching the internet I found a mention of a George W Short which indicated the existence of a letter within the archives of The Sussex Daily News. The archives are kept at The Keep in Brighton and I started to search the microfiche files in its reading rooms. It was indeed a letter from George.

George had written the letter to his mother Martha on 13 May 1915 while resting in billets at Bethune. This was just a day or two after he had taken part in perhaps his first battle, The Battle of Aubers Ridge, in which the battalion had entered the action approximately 850 men strong but suffered 103 killed, 338 wounded and 121 missing in just a few days, 9-11 May.

This is George’s letter printed by The Sussex Daily News on 20 May in its ‘Letters from the Front’ column, which was dedicated to the Royal Sussex Regiment. George wrote:

I am sorry to have to tell you that poor F Bowles and P Smith are wounded. We had a big fight on Sunday, (your birthday if you remember). I wrote a letter to you on Friday to wish you many Happy returns of the day but could not get it posted, so I carried it with me into the scrap. I am sending it within this letter, so it is worthwhile keeping and you would think so if you knew what it went through while in my possession. Well, on Saturday night we moved up to the place we had to charge. On Sunday morning, at 04:30, our first gun spoke and fired a few “coal boxes” til 05:00 and then all the guns started. The earth seemed to shake and tremble, shells flew over our heads and you couldn’t hear what the next man said to you, if you tried.

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