Hussar: 'This isn't's murder'

Pte Frank Parker, 5028, 18th (Queen Mary's Own) Hussars, writing to his wife at 16 Edward Street, Luton, says: "It is absolute hell out here, and when the war is over they'll want a few more madhouses. You people at home can't realise what it is like...this isn't war, it's murder.

"At first it made me feel ill a bit sick, but now I've got used to it. I thought the sights of Africa were bad enough, but they were nothing to this. The best part of us are deaf. It is devil's work in the trenches.

"We get our own guns firing over us, and the Germans coming at us. They would properly smarten us up, I can tell you. If their ammunition was as good as their firing, 5028, wouldn't be here now. They are hot stuff but the best part of their shells don't burst; that is my experience.

"We have been in the trenches a week, and it was snowing the best part of the time. Half of the men are frost-bitten, and I am only just beginning to feel my feet. I was afraid I had got it.

"We always go into the trenches at night so that the German's can't see us. We were in the advance trenches at Ypres. Arrived there at 2.15 am Sunday morning, and were told we should be relieved the same time Monday as they don't keep the troops in the trenches any longer than possible, as there is so much strain on them. But the Germans got 150,000 reinforcements up to try and break through. What a time we had! I can't tell you how I got through. Three shells dropped within ten yards of me, and none burst."

After referring to the death of one of his mates who was struck by one of these shells, he continues: "We had to stop there until Wednesday before we could shift them. We were relieved at 12.30 am Thursday, a party bringing our horses up. We were so stiff we could hardly mount. We were hardly up when they started shelling us. They dropped a "coal-box" right in the middle of us."

The shell killed a number of men, and Pte Parker's horse had its forelegs blown off. He says: "Down I came and I thought I was a goner. How I got out of it I don't know. The only damage I got was a broken watch; something wrong inside but I shall bring it home with me. It stopped at 1.35, so that would be the exact minute my horse got shot.

"I shouldn't have told you this, only I feel so confident of coming home safe. If I was going to be killed I should have been up before now."

[Pte Parker was killed in action on May 13th, 1915, and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres and in the Luton Roll of Honour, on which his family address is given as 4 Butlin Road, Luton.]

[Beds and Herts Saturday Telegraph, December 12th, 1914]