100 Years Ago Today

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A Letter Home From The Front Lines

Grenadier Guards - 1914

Grenadier Guards – 1914

Oliver Lyttelton is from an aristocratic British family and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. Since the beginning of the European conflict, he has been serving with the Grenadier Guards.

On February 21, 1915 Oliver Lyttelton wrote home about the war.

“Things are quiet, a little shelling now and again, but not much. We lie very low when it is on, right under the bank or in a dugout. All the men have little fires in this and keep decently warm whilst they sleep, which they do in amazing positions. ‘Make way’ is the commonest remark as we go along the lines, with elbows rubbing the sides. It is impossible to keep really warm, one is either hot and fuggy or else dankly cold. It is not a very active kind of cold but is quite unpleasant. I have taken a photo or two which I hope to send home by someone going on leave.

You see in front of you a greyish clay bank to about two feet above your head, to your right and left about six men before a traverse stops your view. We have, I think, established a certain kind of ascendancy over the enemy lately and any half hearted attempts he has made at attack have been repulsed without difficulty. At night the parapets are improved and men show themselves freely.

The night I was in, we completed a line of trenches gaining connection with the French (we are the extreme right of the British position) digging quite openly above ground without casualties except one engineer hit in the thigh. This, mark you, within 150 yards of the enemy on only a darkish night.

The Royal Engineers are wonderful, they put up wire about 11.30 when the moon was quite bright, bang in front of a new sap trench, without loss. Amazing. The enemy though are chary of showing themselves and if they start fire they get a hottish reply. We buried a few of their dead who had been out for about three weeks, and who lay in the line of this new trench. There are 120 more about the place but we can’t get to them.

This digging is ticklish work but losses are very small generally at it. However, it’s all done now in the position from which advance is considered impossible, in face of a place known as the triangle on the railway held by the Germans which is impregnable. It will have to be turned elsewhere if it is ever to fall. ”

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