Rifleman Ernest Bettison, 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps, landed in France on 12th May 1915, one of several local men who served with the unit at that time.
On 29th July 1915 a letter in which he recounted his thoughts on the sights he had seen since arriving on the Western Front appeared in the local press.
“It is but a short time since I left Hucknall to come out here, but in that time I have passed through several terrible experiences; and I thank God with all my heart that He has spared my life so far. How true are the words of that good old hymn, “I need Thee every hour.” If ever one did feel the need of a loving Saviour’s care, it is out here in the trenches. As you know, these are terrible times, all the more so because of the heartless devilish foe we have to face. That is a hard expression to use concerning human beings, but when one sees the remains of their work here one feels quite justified in using it.
To see Ypres – no doubt the scene of the fiercest battles yet fought in this district – is quite enough. The once beautiful city is now nothing but a blackened mass of ruins. I went through the last bombardment, but mere words cannot describe its awfulness. Both sides suffered severed losses, but the Germans suffered far more than we did; there were literally hundreds of them lying dead and dying around us. Imagine if you can what a sight it was, for I cannot describe it.
The sight of one’s comrades lying dead, and dying also, was one I shall never forget. One moment strong and well and full of life – the next dead or dying. Thank God we gained the victory, outnumbered though we were. Sheer British pluck won the day.
“The saddest sight of all as one goes along is to see the simple wooden crosses which mark the last resting place of the brave men who have given their lives for their country and their loved ones. My prayer, like yours, is that it might be well with them in the presence of their Maker. May God be with their loved ones and comfort them in their sorrow and distress.”
Credits to Small Town, Great War, Hucknall 1914-1918
Sourced from ‘Hucknall Dispatch,’ 29th July 1915.