The Abergavenny Chronicle Letters: Part I

During the First World War, the Abergavenny Chronicle and Monmouthshire Advertiser published a number of letters that had been written by soldiers who were fighting in the War. It was common for soldiers’ letters home to be passed on to local newspapers and published, particularly in the early years of the war, as the public at home was eager to hear about the wartime experiences of local men.

“Never Forget Your Welsh Heroes” has received transcripts of a number of letters that were published in the Abergavenny Chronicle in late 1914 and early 1915. The first of these letters was published on Friday 16th October 1914 and came directly to the newspaper from Pte E Cottrell, an Abergavenny man who had been injured fighting in France with the Worcestershire Regiment. In the letter, Cottrell tells of his daring escape after being taken prisoner by the Germans in the aftermath of the Battle of Mons. Following the battle, which took place in late August 1914, Cottrell was engaged in fighting against the Germans as his battalion retreated. When he was wounded, Cottrell could not accompany the rest of the retreating troops and was captured with other wounded by the advancing German forces.

The captives were taken to a town occupied by the Germans, where they were kept in a lace factory and attended to by the French. As soon as prisoners were able to walk following their injuries, the Germans took them to Prisoner of War camps. On 20th September, knowing that he was to be moved soon, Cottrell made a daring escape along with three other prisoners. Making their way to a Frenchman’s house, they were provided with civilian clothing and set off towards Douai, situated in the north of France about 25 miles from Lille. The march took four days and was fraught with danger. The men had to pass a number of German patrols and outposts on their route and faced recapture at any moment. Fortunately, Cottrell and his companions managed to safely reach Douai, following which they made their way to Lille and then on to Calais, where they sailed back to Britain.

Read the full extract from Pte Cottrell’s letter