Courageous First World War soldiers amazingly managed to keep in touch with loved ones and family with compassionate letters from the killing fields of Europe.
So often their plight was bravely played down with remarkable understatement in their correspondence and they no doubt gladly shifted their focus to events at home and plans for the future to bring them hope. Trevor Finch, 60, of Wingerworth, Chesterfield, has shared his great-grandfather George Finch’s last letter home from March 7, 1916, before he was killed in action just months later on August 9, 1916. Mr Finch said: “My dad passed away in 1988 and we looked through a drawer at his home and found great-granddad George’s last letter written on tissue paper and kept in a tin.”
The letter is one of the latest World War One sources being shared with Derbyshire Times’ readers during this year’s anniversary marking Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany on August 4, 1914.
Pte Finch’s letter to his wife immediately mentions his pleasure at being able to ask after her and their children while playing down his own situation by stating, “we are having a very warm time of it up here”. He shares concerns for relatives and friends and hopes of sharing a pint with them before explaining he is not allowed to say where is going next.
His last written words stated: “From your loving husband, Good Night, God Bless us all till we meet again. Kisses for you and the children.”
But George would soon be going to his death and would never be reunited with his loved ones as the next correspondence they received confirmed he had been killed in action on August 9, 1916, at an undisclosed location. Further correspondence saw a final payment to his family of just £2, five shillings and two pence.
Great grandson Trevor, who was so inspired by his discovery of the letters, established that George joined the Sherwood Foresters at Derby in August 1914 and was part of K1 – The New Army.
In July, 1915, Pte Finch embarked at Liverpool for Mudros, a base on the island of Lemnos, for trial landings and between July 20 to 31 he was at Helles.
He landed at Sulva on August 7 and the area was evacuated on December 20 1915.
He was subsequently based at Imbros in December 1915 and Egypt in February 1916 where troops suffered with dysentry and heat.
Pte Finch was based in France in July 1916 but sadly his great grandson Trevor would discover that George was gassed to death near Bernville on August 9, 1916. Pte Finch, who was honoured with medals was buried at Aras memorial, Pas de Calais, France. Pte Finch’s brother-in-law Philip Lakin, of Stonegravels, would also lose his life during the conflict.
The impact of the Great War would be felt strongly by family and friends on British soil, just like those of Pte Finch, who would go on to treasure and dread vital, postal deliveries until the war ended on November 11, 1918.