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Corporal George Petty


Harrogate Herald - 27th January 1915

Corporal G Petty writes :

Dear Mr Breare, You must please excuse me not writing and thanking you sooner for your kindness in sending me the Harrogate Herald. I do look forward to the day when it comes. It is a treat to read about the old town and its doings, and see the boys' photo in the gallery. I am sorry I have not got one of my own to send you. We should make a good show in our family. I understand my young brothers have enlisted, so that makes six of us. There are one or two more Harrogate chaps in my Company : Sergeant Smith, who lives up Cold Bath Road way, whose number is 9963; Private H Sheffield, whose number is 8587, lives in Ashfield Terrace; and Private Laycock, No. 12092; and there is a young Holdsworth from New Park, but I do not know him. So you see the Harrogate boys are all over the place. Excuse post-card - have no writing paper. Again thanking you. Will try and write you a letter some time.

Yours sincerely, GP.


Harrogate Herald - 7th April 1915

Corporal George Petty, 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment, writing to the Editor, says :

Dear me Breare, You will think I have forgot my promise to write to you - a promise made a long time ago - but really I have nothing much to tell you. However, you are not a bad sort of chap, so look over it this time. I had a rather pleasant experience the other day. The Harrogate Herald had arrived and was being devoured as usual by your humble. I had scanned through the photos to see if any friends' faces were there, and noticed Tommy Spencer's "fiz" among others, and who should I see not five minutes after but Tommy himself. While I was talking to him Jim Heavysides popped up. You will remember him; one of the stalwarts of the old East Ward CC. It's grand to come across friends like that. Well, now, for a little news. You will, of course, have heard about our grand victory at Neuve Chapelle. [10th-13th March 1915 : Total British casualties numbering 11,652] What an experience! I am afraid we lost a lot of good men, but what must the German losses have been. Good gracious! They were lying in heaps all over the place. Our artillery opened the ball early on th morning of the 11th. The noise was terrific. Shells screamed over us by the hundreds and bashed the German trenches something awful, and then after a while our infantry advanced and took the first line of trenches; but previous to that the Germans kept coming out in batches and holding their hands up surrendering, and we noticed an incident just in front of us. A batch of Germans came out to give themselves up, and two or three men of a regiment in front of us got out of their trench, put their rifles down, and advanced to bring them in, but our chaps were shot dead instantly by the Germans left in the trenches. By Jove! We were wild, and vowed each in his own picturesque way what would happen to them should the opportunity occur. Well, after the first line had been occupied by our troops, we advanced through them and took up a position in front of the German trench and entrenched ourselves overnight. The following day opened with more artillery firing, followed by more infantry attacks and more trenches captured. The following day, Thursday, our regiment were in the most advanced part of the firing line, and were subject to a lot of shelling by the Germans, the platoon I am attached to being in a support trench in a small wood just behind the firing line, and we were shelled out by their "Jack Johnsons". Two shells dropped just in front and several, just at the side, and then one half filled the trench, and we got the order to retire a little way to another trench till night. Then we took our place in the fighting line, and the following morning the opportunity came that we had been waiting for, and didn't we make up for lost time! Just after five o'clock in the morning sentries reported enemy advancing, and we were ready for them. They simply swarmed out just like a hive of bees, and didn't we give them socks! Here was the opportunity we wanted, and we took full toll of them. They dropped like skittles. The beggars stood it a little while, and then turned and ran for their lives. I should think there must have been hundreds of them left dead in front of us. It was very exciting while it lasted, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we helped to put another nail in their coffin. Our casualties were few that morning, but several of us had narrow squeaks; but that is all in the game. We have had a fairly quiet time since then, and we could do with it. It was a very hard and trying time for all of us, and we shall have plenty of yarns to spin if we are fortunate enough to reach the dear old town again. I got an awful cold over the job - lost my voice completely and felt run down very much altogether, but am thankful to say that I am now about all right again. I caught the cold one cold night. We had to sleep out in the open, and it was freezing like mad, and when I woke early in the morning at stand-to, 4.15, my coat was frozen stiff and lifted up as stiff as a piece of wood. I nearly had a fit when I saw that I was covered with nice white snow. Br-r-r-r-r, however, we get over these things all right. It is still very cold and frosty at nights, and the trenches we occupy at present are very wet, and the general order is mark time at nights to keep toes warm. Well, I think that is all the news this time. Hope you can make this scribble out, my fingers are cold. I wouldn't mind having a go at one of those huge springy chairs that Thompson's show in their windows and a rollicking big fire, with my feet on the fender. Thanks very much for your kindness in sending me the paper. I do look forward to it coming, and was much disappointed that week it missed, and I have seen the reason why in this week's issue. I think it is time I drew to a close. There is nothing further of interest to tell you at present. Will try and write some time, so excuse more at present.

Yours sincerely, George Petty

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