With today’s internet a wealth of official information is available regarding those who served.
In an age before local radio and television, families often allowed letters to be published in the local press from their loved ones on active service.
However, for their descendants the letters reveal a more personal aspect, graphically describing the experience of the people and providing an insight into their personalities.

NBT 1915 May 18th Tue.

In a letter to a tradesman of the town, his son writes;

“I want to ask your permission to resign my post at the Bank and to apply for re-instatement at the end of the war. Several of our men throughout the service have done the same, and there is no doubt the Bank will take them on again, but of course the men’s salaries will not be paid during their absence. It seems to me that men not employed by the Government ought to be doing something more than sitting upon an office stool all day, and undoubtedly a good many will be forced to go in the future. It is not so much now as after the war that all ‘stay-at-homes’ will get it rubbed in, and apart from that I am still as I have been all along - dead keen on joining. I see by this morning’s paper that the loss of the Lusitania has stimulated recruiting. If men who have not thought of joining before have been so touched, how much more should those be who have lost friends and relatives who were on the boat. I am enclosing a cutting out of last Friday’s ‘Evening News’ describing the death of my Canadian pal, Eddie Lloyd, about whom I told you. To see one’s friends and relatives being killed off like this is a bit too much. I shall regret it all my life if I don’t join the Army, the same as all my pals have done. I would rather leave the Bank for good than miss this chance. As far as I can see, the war will last a good time yet, and it is not too late to make a start. It is my privilege, being the youngest, of joining first, and I reckon C--- would then join, too. Do please, sanction this move. From your ever loving son, Billy.”

The parents gave their permission, and allowed this letter to be published in order to encourage others to do the same.

NBT 1915 June 1st Tue.

On May 20th, Sapper F. Young, 2nd Field Squadron, Royal Engineers, writes from ‘somewhere near Ypres’;

“We were called out at 2a.m. on the 7th and taken by ’bus to Ypres. On the way we went through a place which was being shelled by the Germans; then we had to walk from Ypres to the trenches and it was a sight I shall never forget, horses and wagons lying all over the roads, you could not walk 100 yards unless you trod on portions of bodies. The worst of all was a woman carrying an infant who was cut in half by a shell. As we neared the trenches you could hear the snipers firing at us, and by chance a bullet would hit one of us, but still we had to keep going, and as we walked up the communication trench you could hear our lads peppering away at them. It was like hell there; but after a while we had to retire to another trench, and they caught us on the hop so we had to dig ourselves in. After a while we advanced a little way with the machine guns, then all at once we heard the order ‘charge,’ and our gallant lads went forward and drove the Germans back at the point of the bayonet and recovered our lost trenches. It was a pitiful sight to see the wounded returning. A good many did not return. After we had taken our places in the new trenches, I was walking along, when all at once someone patted me on the back and said ‘what do you think of our lads,’ that was the Royal Horse Guards, and the fellow who patted me was Bert Wooton. I never want to see anything like it again. The people in England cannot realise what it is like unless they have been out here. We always get a souvenir or two in the morning, just to let us know they are still there. I am pleased to say I am safe and sound, and hope to be walking through Winslow shortly. I met a Twyford fellow in the trenches. It was a gallant charge the Guards made, and the 18th Hussars were also in it. It took place on the 13th of May.”

NBT 1916 July 11th Tue.

Aged just 30, Charles Vaisey, the eldest son of Dr. and Mrs. Vaisey has died from wounds sustained whilst flying on active service in France. Born in Winslow, he had been farming in Australia before the war broke out, and on his passage to England saw two ships torpedoed. He joined the Royal Flying Corps, and had been in France for about three months. Despite a severe wound to his abdomen he managed to land his machine without damage. His father has received a letter dated the 30th from Nurse Blair at the Clearing Hospital, stating that he had undergone an operation and was very weak, ‘but was enduring with an amount of pluck that few men would display.’ Later, a letter from the Army Council stated that he had succumbed to his wounds. Dr. Vaisey has also received the following letters from the front regarding the death of his son;

“I have been waiting to write this - hoping that there would be better news from the hospital, the doctors told us at first that ‘Charlie Vaisey had at least a fighting chance,’ - he was always such a grand fighter that we hoped his pluck would pull him through. I was his observer most of the time he was with us and during his last flight. He was badly hit almost in the first burst of fire from the three hostile machines which attacked us. At first, I thought he was all out - but somehow, he pulled himself together and brought the machine some eight or ten miles back to the aerodrome, where he made a perfect land. God knows how he did it - for he was in awful pain. Vaisey had only been in this squadron a few short weeks - but in that time he had endeared himself to everyone and won a reputation for absolute and complete fearlessness, nothing was too wild an adventure for him to undertake - the meaning of ‘fear’ or ‘danger’ he did not know. The Major-General of the R.F.C. sent his congratulations on what he called a ‘very fine effort,’ - that it certainly was. The whole squadron joins me in extending to you and Mrs. Vaisey our very deepest sympathy. We hope that it will be some small comfort to you to know that he died as he had lived - a very brave and true man. His one question almost till his last breath was: ‘Did I land all right, did I get P--- back?’”

A letter of July 16th, 1916, reads;

“It is with great regret that I have to write to tell you that your son died in hospital on the evening of the 30th June. He was hit in the back by a bullet when out on Artillery reconnaissance. He managed to bring the machine safely back to the aerodrome. We were all most awfully cut up about it as your son was exceedingly popular in the squadron and was exceptionally brave. His act of getting the machine back to the aerodrome was a very fine one, and I hope it will meet with the recognition it deserves. You have a great consolation in hearing that he died a fine death, doing his duty for his country, and you have all our sympathy in your great loss.”

W.E. 1917 Aug. 17th

Lieutenant H. Wigley, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was killed in action at the end of July in the big offensive. He was a partner in the well known firm of Wigley and Sons, auctioneers, and his Colonel writes;

“I must write to try and express what a loss his death is to me personally and also the Battalion. I could always depend on him to do everything well. He died gallantly leading his men, and I am sure that his great example did more than anything to help us to win our part of the example.”

His Captain writes;

“I find it very difficult to tell you how splendid he was in the fight. He was wounded by a rifle grenade in the left shoulder, some three hours or more before he was killed, and although 90 per cent of fellows would have at once cleared out of action with such a wound, he refused to go down, but stayed and spent his whole time encouraging his men wonderfully in what was at that time a rather critical situation.”

NBT 1917 Sep. 25th Tue.

The late Private George Hancock has been commended for ‘gallant conduct’;

Pte. Geo. Hancock, Ox. and Bucks L. I., attached to Employment Company, on 16th August for supplying comforts to the wounded under severe shell fire near Langemarc and the Major General wishes to congratulate him on his fine behaviour.”

NBT 1917 Sep. 25th Tue.

Following the death of their fourth son, Sergeant Amos Walker, Bucks. Battalion, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Walker, of the Market Square, Winslow, have received this letter from his Lieutenant;

“Dear Mr. Walker. I expect you have heard by now the sad news of your son’s death. I feel I must write and tell you how terribly sorry we all are for you and what a great loss he will be to us all out here. It is impossible, I know, to give much consolation to you, but it is some comfort to know it was so sudden that he could have suffered no pain whatever. I was with him at the time and he did not recover consciousness. He was always so very cheery and did his work so excellently that the loss to us all will be very great. Assuring you of our sincere sympathy in your sorrow I remain, yours truly, L.R. Clarkson, Sept. 12th, 1917.”

Aged 30, Sergeant Walker had volunteered for active service in August 1914, and had been in France for over two years, having on one occasion been wounded in the head by shrapnel.