Dog fights and endless waiting: letters home from war

The Sussex and Surrey Courier often printed letters which had been sent home from men serving abroad.

In 1915 letters from France and the Dardanelles, Turkey, were published.

The first came from Saddler-Corpl HE Hearsey, of Malthouse-road, who had been a postman before joining the army.

In a letter to his wife, he wrote: “We had great excitement here this morning. A German aeroplane came over our lines, and, of course, was fired at.

“Then one of our aeroplanes went up after it and manoeuvred about until it got on top of the enemy.

“Of course, the planes were pouring machine gun fire at each other.

“All at once the German machine was seen to tilt up on one side and come planing down.

“It looked as though it was going to drop in to our field, but it suddenly partly 
recovered itself so that it was just able to fly, though very low, only just above the tree tops.

“Everybody started running, hoping to see it drop, but it went about a mile before it stopped.

Before it was finally stopped several volleys were fired without effect, and 
then a company of infantrymen came along the road, and the officer in command, seeing the nearness of the machine, gave orders for the machine gun to be turned on, and this soon had the desired effect.

“Needless to say, both the German fliers were riddled with bullets, but except for a pierced petrol tank their machine was uninjured. It is a splendid machine.

“I suppose the men had done some noble deeds, as both were decorated with iron crosses.

“I am sorry to say one of our infantrymen was killed, having been shot right through the face. “

Another letter, from Corpl A Soper to his parents in Spencers-road, was written while he recovered from a bullet wound to his foot, sustained while landing at Sulva Bay, Turkey.

He wrote: “I cannot understand why it is I get no letters from you; it would be so nice to sit down and answer a letter instead of writing to you about the place out here, because of course I must not say very much.

“We find the flies to be our chief trouble; there are millions of them swarming about, while the stones seem to grow about here.

“We are quite happy, but have had some hot times. Still, things won’t always be the same. I should like to be home for Christmas, but we must wait and see.

“I have seen Bert Mills again and also Bert Knight. Young Knight doesn’t half look well, and he is such a big chap.

“There are several local fellows in hospital here, but none seriously wounded.

“I am still without a letter from you, and I don’t like it, but suppose I shall get one some time.

“We are doing fairly well for tobacco, but should like some English cigarettes. Woodbines would do 

“Our Chaplain brought us a supply of tobacco yesterday, so we shall do for a time. It gets a bit monotonous doing nothing but smoking and waiting about.

“The dust here is very troublesome; it comes up just like a fog, and now that it is getting windy it doesn’t help matters much.

“We had a band come to us last Sunday just to liven us up. Put one in mind of Crawley Town.

“Cheer up and don’t worry about me. I shall be all