'A too modern war'

Pte Sidney Deller, who is with the Special Reserve Beds R.A.M.C., writing to Mr David Hammett, of Hitchin Road, Luton, for whom he worked before going on active service , says:Trenches

"As I am writing this letter, the shells are bursting all around me, so if you find any small pieces of shrapnel in the envelope keep them as a present from the Germans. I am at a first field dressing station right in the firing line, so you see I am seeing plenty for my money.

"Before I left home you said it would be a modern war. Well, it is somewhat too modern, as the aeroplanes are doing a tremendous lot. Some they use as despatch carriers, and others to find out positions. We have had a German ship over us all this morning and, where this German ship drops a light, shells begin to come. Some of these shells weigh 100 lbs, so you can look out for yourself if one drops on your head.

"It is awful to see villages and towns all ablaze. But the worst is to see the poor people, with their bundles on their backs, trying to get somewhere for safety, with no home; lost all. It is horrible. The Germans respect neither sex, and us Red Cross - it does not make a bit of difference; they would give us a bit of lead, just the same as the other soldiers. They have blown us out of one hospital already, and one of my pals got wounded. You know him - Wally Lawrence. He used to come and clip the horses. He got very badly hit.

"But now we are staying in a church. The French people are splendid people. Although they are in a bad way themselves, they will give us anything.

"You say in your letter that fruit is plentiful this year. You ought to be out here. There are thousands of fruit trees out here going to rack and ruin, tons of fruit spoiling. In fact, never in my life have I eaten so much fruit. I had to live on it for two days when we were retreating."

[The Luton News, October 15th, 1914]