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1915: Cheery letter from Cuckfield Corporal on the front line

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Mid Sussex Times -Tuesday December 14 1915


Writing to his parents at Cuckfield, Corporal M Anscombe 8th Royal Sussex Pioneers, says:-

“Our company does a lot of tree felling. We have had several nights up at the trenches, having to repair them. Once we went to within 500 yards of the firing line to dig another trench. Luckily only one man was wounded. I bet the Germans had a surprise when they saw the trench the next morning.

As I write a whole fleet of our aeroplanes are flying over us to the German lines. It is a fine sight. Doubtless they are going to make a raid on some German show. Any amount of German shells greeted them, but they passed over the lines safely.

Two soldiers from the 8th Sussex Battalion Royal Pioneers c1917. They wore a Rifle & Pick collar badge to show they were pioneers, something veterans were very proud of.

I have been giving the rats something to go on with lately. I have got a catapult, and have killed any amount of them.

I'm glad you got the postcard safely. The place shown is blown to bits. The people here have a nerve! One house was half blown down by her shell, and the occupants are actually living in the other half! What do the people who are afraid of zeppelin's think of that!

We are all waiting to see our first German. We have been within 50 yards of them and yet haven't seen one. Some of our machine gunners have been in and out of the trenches ever since we have been out here, and even they haven't seen one.

We are living like a lot of rabbits. You creep in a hole and poke your rifle over the top to fire. The Germans seemed terribly afraid that our lot are going to advance, as they, the Germans, keep firing all night long when there isn't a thing to shoot at.

Our division is very lucky. It has some of the best batteries of artillery in the army. You see in the papers that the German guns and shells are better than what we have. Why, we can whack them into a cocked hat! Our men fire twice the number of shells that the enemy do and drop them smack into their trenches every time. There is a village here that is half held by us and the other half by the Germans. The line runs right through it. I bet our half will soon have the other half out of it!

I am going to creep in between the sheets now and have a bit of sleep, that is, if the rats will keep quiet.

Nicholas Day writes:-

My grandfather Albert G S Thompson loved and worked in Lindfield and joined up September 1914. He was in the 8th Royal Sussex Regiment (Pioneers) but I don’t know which battalion. There’s every chance he knew Cpl Anscombe.

Soldiers in the pioneer regiments were usually recruited from the gardeners and farm labourers. Cpl Anscombe’s letter gives some idea of their duties.

My grandfather was wounded in the ankle in 1916 and was hospitalised on and off into 1917 when he was transferred to the fledgling Tank Corps and trained as a machine gunner.



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