Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Private Ernest Emery of Biggleswade

Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery (Wikimedia)

Wednesday 3rd March 1915:  Mrs Emily Emery of St. John Street, Biggleswade has received the following letter from the Sergeant Major of the Company of the 1st Wiltshire Regiment in which her 21 year old son Ernest was serving:
Dear Madam,
In answer to your letter I will endeavour to give you the full particulars of your son’s death. Of course, though I am hundreds of miles from you, it hurts me just the same to write this as if I was saying the words to you. I have had several of his companions around and have gone thoroughly into the case for you. He iwas in the trench at or about 1 a.m. on the 9th [February], a bullet came through the top sand-bags, striking him in the cheek or near the jaw-bone, and came out through the skull. He was taken down to the dressing station at or about 2 a.m., of course being previously bandaged up and made as comfortable as possible. The stretcher-bearers carried him down to the dressing station, where he died at or about 4 a.m. During the two hours from the time he was wounded until he went to his Maker I am sorry to say that he never made a murmur of any description, as he was in a state of coma.
We had him buried in the grounds of a chateau, alongside of other fallen comrades.[1] There is a cross erected, with his full name and number on the same; every time we come up here we tend to the graves of our fallen comrades, so that in future the inhabitants of this district will then be able to given an eye unto the same for us, which I am sure and confident that they will do, for the other day when a party went along they found that flowers had been put on the different graves. Then again, after the war, “The Women’s Loyal Guild” takes over charge and care of all our fallen comrades the world all over, that is, where we have lost any. No, madam, you may think this is a brutish letter, but really I am no hand at writing letters on this subject, though I always like to let people know how their loved ones have departed, for there is no knowing when I may require someone to do the same sad service for myself, but we never study that question, nor did your son. All we think about when up here is how to overcome the enemies of our King and country, and by doing so we tend to the welfare of our womenfolk in the dear old country. For when one sees the trials through which these people have to go there is no further stiffening required for our boys, and the one who writes has been through all since the 24th August, from Mons, and is still as cheery as of old. When in the thick of it the old Church hymn “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” rings through my ears. I now close, with deep sympathy, begging to remain, yours truly,   
A. Goulding, C.S.M.
Source: Bedfordshire Standard, 5th March 1915

[1] Private Ernest Emery is buried at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery. The cemetery was established in December 1914 and was used until March 1918. In April 1918 it fell into German hands for a time and was badly shelled and the chateau destroyed. It now contains the graves of 1,135 Commonwealth service men from the First World War and 21 from the Second. 

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