WWI letters rediscovered by son of soldier author

Lewis Strange reading his father's letters from the front line, which have turned up in his family. EMN-150115-065818001
Lewis Strange reading his father's letters from the front line, which have turned up in his family. EMN-150115-065818001

Recently discovered letters from the front line by a World War I soldier have been handed down to his son, who was unaware of their existence.

Eight months ago, Brigg man Frank Strange died and, while clearing out his personal belongings, his family found letters written by his father Charlie Strange while serving in France.

The letters tell of the day to day horror in the Battle of the Somme, as well as of bird song and spring flowers

The letters were passed to Frank’s brother Lewis Strange of Grasby, a well-known 
Lincolnshire and West Lindsey councillor.

Fascinated by history and the Great War that started 100 years ago, Lewis never previously knew the letters existed.

Charlie Strange’s father, Percy, had been the senior teller (Chief Clerk) at Barclays Bank on Victoria Street, Grimsby.

Charlie started at St James’s School, from where he later transferred to the nautical school in Hull.

The family lived in Ainslie Street in Grimsby.

Charlie had three close friends in the street and they all joined together, volunteering at the Grimsby recruiting office, and joined the 10th Battalion the Lincolnshire Regiment, the Grimsby Chums, in August 1914.

After training at Brocklesby Park, 17-year-old Charlie set sail for France late in 1915.

The men on that ship were all volunteers, part of Kitcheners Army.

The regulars had been decimated in the retreat from Mons, and the volunteers were sent to the Somme Valley.

Charlie Strange was there a year and he wrote home regularly, now 100 years later son Lewis has found these letters compulsive reading.

Charlie wrote: “The town we have just passed through has been devastated, it’s a mass of ruins.

“The church has three walls standing, the Virgin and Child are top of the tower which has been hit by some kind of missile. It hangs over the street.”

Despite the horror on view, the 18-year-old Private Strange was a lover of nature and that showed in what he wrote.

“A full moon shone, nightingales were singing, flowers blooming. But there are so many young men here, going through a horror.”

When he wrote home of the horror on the front line he looked forward to letters from their nearest and dearest over the channel.

In those days before email and the telephone letter writing was an art.

“That Edwardian generation always said thank you in their letters for any gifts from home,” reflected Lewis Strange.

Charlie Strange told his family of being wounded, shot in the thigh. But he was one of the lucky ones; 520 out of 750 men were killed, injured or wounded in the Battle of the Somme.

He survived and wrote: “It seems there is at last reason to be proud of the boys.

“I saw my pals falling on 
either side of me.

“They went over at walking pace, 400-yards in the 
open before they faced the enemy.

“Hope you are all well at home.”