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WORLD WAR ONE - Letters from the trenches from a British soldier 1915

  • £1,100.00

[WORLD WAR ONE]

Two Autograph Letters Signed (“W Sutton” and “W.E. Sutton”) both addressed to “Dear Misses” [identified from the accompanying envelopes as Miss P. Heron and Miss R. Deladoey of Downpatrick in Co. Down], sending news from the front, including the “Christmas truce” of 1914.
8 pages 8vo in indelible pencil, [France], 6 May [1915] and 2 pages 8vo in indelible purple pencil, [France], 1 September [1915].
Together with the accompanying envelopes, and a Field Service postcard signed “T.McKee” indicating receipt of a letter from Miss Deladoey, 26 September 1915. 
The relationship between Corporal Sutton, serving with the 1st The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) in France with the British Expeditionary Force, and the Misses Heron and Deladoey of County Down is unclear, but the ladies had evidently sent parcels to soldiers at the front, and may well have been unacquainted with Corporal Sutton before sending these as a means of supporting the troops.
Corporal Sutton expresses his views in forthright manner, echoing the anti-German sentiments, fiercely encouraged by the newspapers, prevalent back in England at this date, rather than dwelling on the horrors he had no doubt encountered at the front. These views may have been encouraged by his companions in arms, as the 1st battalion was famous for having refused to fraternise with the Germans in any manner, including football, on Christmas Day 1914.
Corporal Sutton’s somewhat erratic spelling has been retained in these excerpts from his letters.
6 May: “just a few lines to express my greate gratitude . . . for the splendid parcle &. . . We have come out of the trenches for a few days. . . I’ve been out here since aug 13th. we came from Glasgow Scotland & took part in the famous retirement from Mons, in Belgium. I suppose you read a lot about it at the time & then we came back into France. at Christmas the Germans had a lively time in the trenches they had a band playing & they were shouting over to us they have some lovely singers & they sing British songs just [to] amuse us we used to stand in the trench with the mud & water well over the tops of our boots & clap & encore them but “business as usual” the bullets flew about just the same but we have got quite used to doing our little bit. we got to win . . . I don’t think any Britishers could stick Prussian rule . . . But the Boys here are very glad to see the way that the civil population is helping us we didn’t like the strikes as they was stopping our artilliry giving the enemy their just punishment. I’m sorry I havent heard many jokes. what we really do is to make parodys on songs we made up a rather good one on (My little Grey home in the West) . . . As for war news we hardly know what’s going on a mile away you at home gets the news far sooner than we do we can only tell that a big battle is going on by the roar of the guns. . . nothing is better to the soldier for to soothe his troubled mind, than a smoke. we can’t have much of a smoke at night because as soon as a match is struck the Germs sends over a reminder in the form of a bullet or a bomb. . . they think we are gas pipes & try to fill us with gas. but we are all ready for them now with damp-pads & motor glasses over our eyes. I suppose the next thing will be taking us for haddocks & trying to smoke us out. . . “
Above a carefully sketch of a horse’s head, he adds the postscript: “a penny stamp only needed on our letters kindly note.
1 September: “. . . I’m putting in a couple of post cards we can get sometimes. the French are very good at making them . . . I must ask you to forgive me for not writing before as I have been pretty busy lately . . . its getting a very tiring job trench work & we have been out over a year. I must now close this short note but I’ll write a longer one before long so thanking you once again for your grate kindness . . .”
The postcard from T. McKee was issued by the army with the obvious intention of giving sign of life to those at home without offending the censor, and carries the clear instructions that “Nothing is to be written . . . except the date and signature of the sender. . . If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed.”

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