A Letter to the Western Front, 1916

 

A letter from Charles Moody to his son, Thomas, written on 13 July 1916

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The Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916 and ended in November 1916. After four months of fighting and immense losses to both sides, there was no clear outcome. The losses were catastrophic, there were more British soldiers killed and wounded during the first three days of the battle than Americans killed during WWI, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. The poet Edmund Blunden, who fought at the Somme, attempted to answer the question of ‘who won’:

‘By the end of the day both sides had seen, in a sad scrawl of broken earth and murdered men, the answer to the question. No road. No thoroughfare. Neither race had won, nor could win, the War. The War had won, and would go on winning.’

According to the Battalion Diary the trenches were 3ft deep in water, and in the communication trenches the water was waist deep. A letter  sent from France from Sergeant McNab to the Moody family after Thomas’ arrival on the Western Front recorded that there were gas and mines on both sides of the trenches. After signing up in October 1915, and training over the winter at Leverstock Green, Thomas was eventually called up in the February on 1916 and arrived at the Somme on 4 July.

The Battalion Diary noted that on 7 July ‘heavy rain fell throughout… the trenches were flooded even worse than before’, and it was recorded that between 8 and 13 July ‘no events of importance occurred’. However, it was at some point between July 8 and July 9 that Thomas died. The records state that Thomas was shot by a sniper and died on a stretcher enroute to the dressing station. The letter sent by Charles to his son, Thomas, is a poignant reminder of the devastation of war. The opening lines read
‘My Dear Tom,        I wonder if this will reach you, I hope it may, but it seems rather uncertain. We have had no letter or even postcard since we received the … paper you sent…’.

Tragically, the news of Thomas' death had not yet reached England when Charles sent this letter. The letter and envelope it was sent to Thomas in were eventually returned to the family with the word ‘Killed’ quickly written on the top of the envelope which had also been stamped at London to indicate that the recipient was deceased.

  BIBLIOGRAPHY A Letter from Charles Moody to His Son Thomas, 13 July 1916, King John’s House and Heritage Centre, Romsey. A Letter from Sergeant McNab to the Moody Family, 2 May 1916, King John’s House and Heritage Centre, Romsey. Burbridge, B., (ed)., The History of Romsey: A LTVAS Publication (Romsey, 2000). Merriman, J., A History of Modern Europe, 2nd Edition (New York, 2002). Two Church Street Boys, Exhibition: King John’s House and Heritage Centre [ended January 2015].
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