'I thought the end of the world had come'


Writing from "Somewhere in France" to his brother, Mr George Harper, of 26 Cambridge Street, Luton, Pte Fred Harper, of Lilley Bottom, near Cockernhoe, says:

"Last Sunday night I thought that the end of the world had come. The Germans blew up our trenches in three different places. I have never seen such mines before. They then came over (quite 300 of them) with bombs, but our artillery got to work and I bet that not many of them got back alive.

"I and four others got into a ruined house, but the Germans put five shells on it and blew it up, and by a squeak we managed to get out before it was too late. What with the falling bricks and wood and the dust as well as the darkness we could hardly discern who was friend or foe in the melee which ensued.

"We found out afterwards that the Germans bombed their own men in mistake. I have only the good God to thank for being here now.

"Next morning we went to see the trenches and it was a sight such as no one can realise who has not been out here. The enemy left articles of clothing, bombs and other things behind them in their haste to get back to their own trenches.

"We lost a few men, but not as many as might have been expected, though some of our poor fellows, we are afraid, got buried in the dug-outs.

"The Huns did not gain an inch of ground over this section, but one of them whom we took prisoner told us that they still expected that they would win the war. I don't think the war will last much longer and will be over by the end of August, but there will be some very hard fighting before that comes."

Pte Harper has been out at the Front for over 12 months, and he is well known in Cockernhoe and Mangrove and the surrounding districts.

[The Luton News: Thursday, June 22nd, 1916]