Hope quickly followed by sorrow - a too familiar story of the Great War. The Saturday Telegraph revealed one such instance involving a young couple from Derbyshire, the husband having been billeted in Luton before meeting his fate at the Front. As usual, the tragedy is told only through third party eyes and we are left to imagine the heartbreak of the family.
More letters are to hand from the Notts and Derby Territorials who were so long billeted in Luton and district. Although for several weeks they escaped serious damage, many of them have fallen to the prowess of the German snipers.
One of these victims is Cpl Stephen Annable, 5th Sherwoods, who was shot while superintending trench digging, work for which his ordinary vocation - miner - especially fitted him.
The following letters from Lieut G. T. Aldous and the Rev Stanley Bishop show how nobly our soldiers die.
Lieut Aldous wrote to the Corporal's wife: "I am extremely sorry to tell you that your husband was wounded in the trenches yesterday rather seriously, but at present we have every reason to hope that he will get over it all right. He was hit at dawn just as he had come off a piece of trench work he was superintending, work at which he is particularly clever. Unfortunately he could not be moved out of the trenches until night, but everything possible was done to make him comfortable, and he was very quiet and patient.
"I told him I would write and tell you, as he will not be able to write for a time, but, as I said, we have every reason to hope that he will recover, though it is a serious wound. I will write again when I hear how he is getting on, but, of course, they move the wounded right back from the firing line, and I dare say he will be taken to England. I hope he will come back to us, as I shall miss him very much from my platoon. He is one of my best men."
On June 8th, Lieut Aldous wrote: "You will have heard by this time that your husband died this morning. Mr Bishop, the chaplain, will have written to you about it better than I can, but I should just like to write you a line to say how much we of his company feel his loss. I quite hoped when I wrote to you that , and he made a he would get over it, and he made a splendid fight for it, but the wound was too serious.
"I went to see him in hospital twice; he was brave and patient all through. I know you will be feeling just now as if nothing could make up for this terrible loss, but it will console you some day to know that he lost his life fighting for his country and that he did his duty so bravely.
"He was buried this afternoon in a little country churchyard, the captain, myself and many of his comrades following him to his grave."
Two letters were also received from the Rev Stanley Bishop, the Wesleyan chaplain who left his churches at Luton and Harpenden to follow the fortunes of the Sherwoods.
The first stated that Cpl Annable bore his wounds like "a brave and true soldier".
The second letter, written after his death, said: "Stephen died at one o'clock this morning (8th inst). He sank rapidly last night, and we could see that the end was not far off. We gave him a soldier's funeral with all the honours we could pay to a brave comrade.
"We send our deepest sympathy in losing this man, of whom we were so proud, and who was such an example in his patient suffering."
[Cpl Stephen Annable (27), 681, 1/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment), was buried at Loker Churchyard, south-west of Ypres. His wife Susannah later remarried and lived in Nether Heage, near Belper in Derbyshire.]
[Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph, June 26th, 1915]