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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Transcript of Letter from Lieutenant Catford, 28 September 1916

Please remember that all transcripts show what is written on the page; spelling and grammatical mistakes are not corrected.

(D/DLI 7/115/16)


FRANCE

September 28th 1916.

6th Durham L.I.

B.E.F.

We have been having a very rough time of it lately. The 
Army has again advanced and our Division is exceeding all expect-
ations. Yesterday I must admit we had a very anxious few hours. I 
had twenty one casualties in my Company alone and was also wounded 
myself. A huge shell just burst on the parados of the trench kill-
ing two men, wounding three others and slightly wounding me. I had
a very lucky escape and was fortunate in not losing my right eye. 
As it was I was blown clean off my feet, have several small wounds 
on the right side of my face and have my eye swollen and the eyelid 
bruised. I shall be none the worse for this shaking, but of course 
am not feeling too frisky. As the C.O. wished to retain my ser-
vices and as I am the Senior Officer left in the Battalion I decided 
to remain with my men and not leave the trench. Our M[edical].O[fficer]. a splendid 
fellow was quite worried about me as was my servant who was the first 
to rush up and have a look at me directly I was hit.

The bravery of the men exceeds anything anyone could possi-
bly imagine. In the afternoon there was another big attack. Our 
Artillery which indeed is too terrible for words simply blew the 
Germans to smithereens. The whole of their ground for about a mile
back was absolutely one mass of terrific explosions followed by 
clouds of earth, limbs of men and debris (I am now writing this 
letter to you in a captured Germany trench. Two days ago we were a 
mile away from here.) When our Infantry attached yesterday afternoon 
I think I witnessed the finest sight I have ever seen. Under a 
hurricane of shell and machine-gun fire they advanced as if on 
parade. A huge shell would drop amongst them, you would see the gap 
made in the line, but they never wavered, never even lost their 
dressing. Of course, as usual the Germans put up no fight at all. 
Now they are driven out of their first and second lines and have no 
deep dug-outs, they cannot attend our shelling and are the greatest 
cowards directly you get close to them.

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You would be amused if you could see me now, I am dressed 
just like a private soldier except I carry a revolver instead of 
a rifle and have a couple of stars on each shoulder. I have neither 
shaved or washed for several days and am plastered all over with 
mud. In addition I look a very desperate character about the right 
side of my face.

I am getting tired of the incessant shell fire and row and 
want to get back to civilization. It is about three weeks since 
I was in a civilised and inhabited town. The trouble here is that 
we have to lay waste and blow to pieces every yard of ground we 
gain, whilst the old Hun is retiring into excellent billets and