Parish Notes

Letter from Trooper Mattison

N.E.R. Railway Magazine November 1914 page 291

History of the Northuberland Hussars War Diary

First Battle of Ypres 1914. Polygon Wood

The following letter dated October 26th 1914, bearing a postmark of "Ypres" was sent to the North Eastern Railway head office at York.

"I daresay some of your readers would like to read a few lines from a fellow N.E.R. clerk at the front.

I am a trooper in the Northumberland Yeomanry, and our regiment was the first territorial unit to actually in the firing line. At the moment of writing, we are halted in a wood* just behind the firing line awaiting orders. It is very big contrast-sitting at a desk with a starched collar on, and here in a Belgian Wood with the German Shells busting around.

We have not had a wash for a few days. We have had some severe tussels with the Germans and have had some experiences which we shall never forget; some very pleasant, and some very terrible, for we have looked on heartrending scenes since we arrived here.

Saturday was an awful day, and Regulars who had been at Mons declare that the fighting was even worse than that which took place there.

"I am keeping up my shorthand by writing a diary of our experiences. I cannot hear the rattle of the typewriter, but the rattle of the Maxims and rifles resembles it very closely. There has been a big battle, and when it is finished we hope the Germans will start to retreat and let us get the war finished for, although we are in good spirits, we would welcome the news of a crushing German defeat and the prospect of a speedy return to merry England. I wonder if the N.E.R. classes are being held this winter. I think last year at this time I would be attending these classes up at 'Canny Newcastle'. Strange to say, the result of the exam, reached me when I was on active service.

"How has the N.E.R. Battalion Fared? I hope that it has received some support from the clerks- as many as could be spared. I hope its services will not be required across here, and I am inclined to think they will not for wea are looking forward to a general retreat of the enemy.

The Germans afford an admirable target when they advance for they come in close order. Sometimes they rise up like a crowd at a football match.

"The best part of the German army-at least, in our opinion-is their artillery. The gunners are not long I getting on the right spot.

"The last paragraph was written after we had cleared out of the way of a German gun which had made the place a little too hot for us.

"Well, if I am spared to come back, my diary may be rather interesting to your readers. Meanwhile, I must say 'good-bye' - or 'au revoir,' as they say here. My schoolboy French has come in very handy indeed across here, specially when we passed through the towns. It is very amusing trying to understand the Frenchmen, but thy help us all they can."

* The wood he mentions in his letter probably was Polygon Wood, as at this time they were located here as indicated by the attached Map and their war Diary.

The writer is a Trooper Henry Mattison, who was still in his teens when he joined the N.E.R. He was originally located at Alnwick, before being transferred to Longhoughton as a Goods Clerk. He was a member of the Clayport Presbyterian Church.

He survived the War and returned to the N.E.R.

Source : N.E.R. Magazine page 291 November 1914.

He is remembered on A11.03 and A11.27.

Map showing location in October 1914