Pte E Cottrell letter - transcribed

Pte E Cottrell, Abergavenny, The Worcester Regiment, to Mr C Powell, Manager of the Abergavenny Chronicle and Monmouth Advertiser. Printed Friday 16 October 1914. With thanks to Dr Katie Nelson for the transcription.

‘Dear Mr Powell,

I am writing to tell you about my escape after the battle of Mons. We had just arrived at Mons, after a great deal of marching up the country of France and Belgium, and they were just about to cook us a bit of dinner when we were told that the Germans were upon us. Well, they weren’t half, some how, for before we could get any positions they commenced shelling us. It was a terrible affair, but we all got used to it after a time. Our artillery did splendid work there – well in fact the lot of us did. We had about 18 hours of hard work in the trenches there, when we had orders to retire. We retired 60 miles in two days; it was a bit thick, I can assure you; we were all worn out, and had nothing to eat for three days. We were in action again at daybreak. At about dinner time I was wounded, and left there as our troops had to retire again. The Germans advanced, and of course took us all prisoners. They put us into a lace factory, and left us there, and the French attended to us; but the town was full of Germans and they were taking our men away as fast as they got well enough to walk. Well, my turn (with 30 others) came next, but on Sunday night, September 20th 1914, three of us made our escape. We got into a Frenchman’s house, and were given some civilian clothes to get away in, but we had some close shaves of being taken prisoners again passing German patrols, and outposts but luckily we managed to get through. We came down to Douai after four days marching; from there we managed to get from there to Lille and on to Calais after which all was plain sailing.’