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58461: Letter to my Grandmother

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posted on 2024-02-23, 22:59 authored by Great War Archive Project Team

The above letter has been carefully looked after by my late father Charles K. Taylor. It refers to one of his brothers, Ernest Taylor, who died in battle in WWI. The girl, Miss Hollingsworth, is my Grandmother, Ernest's mother and that was her maiden name. My father was the only survivor of four brothers:

Edward, Private 16836 Bedfordshire Regiment. Died 19/04/1916 Age 18

Ernest, Private 16830 Bedfordshire Regiment. Died 16/10/1916 Age 20

Robert, AB/SG Royal Navy Submarine M1. Died 12/11/25 Age 26

I think E.S.Campbell may be 34A DVR, Eion Sydney Campbell 25th F.A.B. 26/08/1914 R.T.A. 25/11/1917. I wonder if any family of the writer, E.S.Campbell, are still around in Australia?

Transcript of the letter

Firing Line France 15-5-17

Dear Miss Hollingsworth

I hardly know how to commence this letter to you, but I feel that I write and tell you of a sorrowful incident that happened yesterday. Whilst crossing a portion of our old trenches, I noticed the body of a soldier which had been almost buried by the explosions of a shell. In his pockets were several things - a testament, some letters and all the little trifles that a man carries with him, of no value, but which may be treasured by his relations at home. How sad and mournful those trifles seem - the links that bound them to life and are now forgotten in death. - There were several photos also, but they were nearly all destroyed by the water and mud that had soaked them through.

Your photo gazed up at me as I turned them over and noticing that your address was on it, I kept it to send to you. - The soldier belonged to some British regiment, the Lincolnshire I think, for the Lincoln's had a very bad time just there and their bodies are lying thickly among the shell holes.

In time perhaps the burial parties will come along and give them decent burial and all personal property will be sent to their people, but in many instances they will be merely covered with earth.

There is little time in this bitter warfare to think of the dead. We are not allowed to mention names of places in letters but in this case, it may be over-looked, this unknown soldier from whom I got your photograph, lies in the old trenches, half way between Lesbouefs and Geudecourt, on the Somme front. - Your friend has died for the honour of his country, I marked a passage in his testament, (greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.) And I laid it on his breast. So he lies at rest - until the great mystery called life and death is made known to us, - in that noblest of all tombs, a soldier's grave. - On second thoughts, Miss Hollingsworth, I would like to keep your photograph. It is partly destroyed, and it may awaken old memories in you that may be better left undisturbed. I may be wrong, of course, if so forgive me. I have no envelope to enclose it in, anyhow, if you will enclose an envelope to me with the request for the photograph, I will send it at once. - We are engaged in heavy fighting just now, and writing letters under these conditions is rather a feat. Just as I had finished the preceding page, a shell roared over our gun-post and burst behind, with an appalling crash. So pardon the scribble and disconnected sentences. - Night on the battlefield is a beautiful and terrible sight, along the whole line the star-shells and flares rise and fall ceaselessly, lighting up the trenches with a ghastly flickering glare for miles around, whilst the rattle of machine guns, and roar of our artillery make the earth tremble.-

The cannon thunders - high flung star shells gleam, the maxims gibber as the great shells scream, gaunt Death stalks out to claim his ghastly Right, and Day weeps out upon the lap of Night. - So we live amid the chaos of war and sometimes I get homesick and wish I were back in Australia in the solitude of the bush again. I've been going since August 1914, so I deserve a rest, don't you think so? I mustn't write about myself though, I intended sending you only a few lines, just to tell you of your friend, for you may have wondered about his fate. Life holds little for many of us, for after all the few things that make it worth living are at present denied to us - the blue of the summer skies - a little laughter and a little love.

Dear Miss Hollingsworth,

I send you my sincerest sympathy for the loss of your friend, do not grieve; his death is honourable and honour is eternal,

I am,

Yours sincerely,




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Taylor, Ernest


15th May 1917

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1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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