Letter from Private Giles to the widow of Private Christopher Coleman of the 7th Leinster Regt, killed on the Somme.


Dear Madam

Yours to hand the 15 inst & I have great pleasure in answering your

most kind & welcome letter. I daresay you was a little upset at first

after receiving a letter from my fried but I do hope & trust these lines

will find you in the best of health & spirits under circumstances & I

shall also be very pleased indeed if you will accept my sympathy in your

sad bereavement you said in your letter you would like to know details

re what I know of him well dear madam its a

(2)

very strange thing how I fell across him. My company was sent to

Guillemont to clear a way for traffic after the place was taken (this was) &

my duty was to go round & see all tools was collected & I can tell you

I was always on the look out for any one that may have been wounded or

killed & missed which I know often is the case as there is so much to

do & of course the lads cannot do everything. However I came across this

fellow in a shell hole (a very large one) & passed him as I passed

others that lay about. & something struck me to go back & see him, as he

lay there as if resting from a long walk. his statue marked me very

much indeed he looked sa smart & of a lovely build. then I pictured my-

(3)

self in his place. how if it was me & suppose he has just got missed

altogether how will his friends ever know. so you can guess how I got

my mind seemed only of him & his dear ones if any, how was I to know.

(at this time I forgot all about going to look for tools. & I thought

of his top pocket that all I could get tp. & with my knife I cut it

down & I saw a piece of paper I got it out & read it. & to my great

relief I saw an address taht as you have at the present. & then I opened

the other & the label of him was inside. this label I refer to is one

they all have to wear when wounded & as he was wounded in the hand. that

accounts for it)

(4)

& no doubt he was going to keep it. I hope dear madam you will forgive

me of taking liberties with your dear husbands body. but you can rest

assured (I will give you my word of honour.) that he is buried & I

buried him the best I could. not so well as some but better than

thousands. I was at this time up at the ruined church & luck came my way again

going about as I liked that gave me another chance of going to see if

any one had interfared with him. this was after I had buried him. &

about 600 yards from the church. I came back to my party after about

(say houer away. & found a lovely square stone from the ruins with 5

crosses

(5)

engraved on it. then I claimed it & took it for his grave after

writing his name & regiment in copying ink pencil as best I could. hoping &

trusting that if I was called away myself some-one would be sure & come

across him & probably would let your know. This was as near as I can

say to date Sept 15th & Fritz as we call the German was still sending

the shells pretty thick. & just after I was finished my duty to wards

this unknown soldier (your dear husband.) a shell came just after we had

finished dinner & I lost four of my comrades. I am very sorry also for

their parents.

(6)

it’s a hard war & dreadful to see let alone hear about it, but I thank

God he has spared me to write these few lines to you to night. how I

wish I had sent at the first. you can I hope well understand me. I did

not like sending such bad news to you but it struck me all at once. my

friend sent me a paper & has it happened there appeared the photo of a

fellow belonging to my own country. he also was reported missing but I

have the clue of him as of your loving husband & I saw him I believe

the same day but not in such a good condition & his letters & his kit

baglay their. I picked them up & he belonged to my own

(7)

brothers regiment & the same company. I kept them until now & when I

saw his photo. I soon reckoned up what to do. Send his & yours as

well. I thought to my self if that lady’s in the same street she will

never know. So of course I asked my friend as to her opinion about the

matter & if she would send. This she has kindly done & we must Thank God.

as I said before & hope & trust he will keep me long enough to let you

know as much as I possibly can can as regards to your husband Dear

madam if there is any thing else you would like to ask me I shall only be

to pleased to hear from you at any-time –

(8)

You said as to me wanting anything at present I’m afraid I do not as

I’m in good circumstances this has happened since, (this affair) & I have

pretty well everthing of the best. also I have good friends at home &

relations that will provide for me if Im wanting. I may tell you I

have had to rough it for at least 9 months. & this part I’m at now is not

so far up to the line. my work at present is cook for the superior 6

officers at Headquarters & they are of the best as one could wish also

my mates & we are all happy to-gether & make the best of it. not

forgetting to thank you for your kind offer. which is very good of you.

(9)

if I have done you a favour, I have been rewarded for it. & thats my

blood. I cannot help it I must be doing good some-where my dear mother

was the same – when she was alive. & she was my only treasure. you

can guess the rest. (how I miss her.) dear madam I hope you will forgive

me writing so much as its your husband you want to hear about it looks

as if I am telling you more of my-self. I was quite forgetting hoping &

trusting to hear from you again I must now close

I remain

yours truly

Pte G H Wiles

P.S. if you would like me to send the label I shall only be to pleased

to do so at my earliest convenience

Please excuse bad writing and mistakes

Good bye & may God bless you

(10)

Dear Madam

wishing you a Happy & Prosperous New Year

& Best of Luck

yours G W

I have no other paper & envelopes

so please excuse

 

3 thoughts on “Letter from Private Giles to the widow of Private Christopher Coleman of the 7th Leinster Regt, killed on the Somme.

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    1. I recently gave a lecture on this subject and in re-visiting the piece I noted that the link to the text of the original letter was broken as the site that hosted it had closed the link down. so this was just an editing really, although wordpress sees it as a new publication!

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