MEMORY LANE: High Peak soldiers’ tales of war from the front line

Buxton 'Terriers' ready for war, Buxton Herald 1915.
Buxton 'Terriers' ready for war, Buxton Herald 1915.

Letters by brave High Peak soldiers from the First World War trenches and camps provided readers of the Buxton Herald with a harrowing first-hand account of the conditions faced on the front line.

Printed in the March 3, 1915, edition was a correspondence from private Vincent H. Strang, of the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders, who had been at the front for nearly four months.

I have wasted thousands of gallons of water trying to separate myself from the loving mud which seems to have become part of my very existence.

Private Vincent H. Strang, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders

The letter to his father read: “I am taking advantage of a few days out of the mud holes to say that I am well, and this after three months among the whistling bullets, the roar of shrapnel, and mutilated human beings.

“I have wasted thousands of gallons of water trying to separate myself from the loving mud which seems to have become part of my very existence.

“We have had it fearfully hard for the past two months. I have been at almost all parts of the line held by the British, and there is no doubt our fellows have put the fear of God into the hearts of the Huns.”

Another letter was written by Harry Pearson, of Buxton, on board HMS Cochrane, dated February 19.

He said: “I met a chap at a place we touched at named Mortin (Cameron Highlanders), who came from Burbage. He tells me there is plenty of mud and water where he is.

“I get the ‘Heralds’ you send me... and have just been looking at the pictures in another paper of the football at Ashbourne on Shrove Tuesday.”

Another unnamed wounded soldier wrote: “I am in the Lancashires, and we were having a hot time of it near Ypres. Shells were falling like rain, and the noise was deafening. Our poor fellows were lying dead and wounded everywhere.”

He described how a pal, despite being shot in the side, had braved a shower of bullets to crawl to the aid of a fellow comrade.

“Some time later, when the Red Cross men came to them, they were both past all human aid,” the letter writer added.

“Such sacrifices are often made for friends in the British Army. Nobody hears of these heroic deeds, but we often see them.

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