Problems with letters

Problems with letters

Many soldiers' experiences were reported in local newspapers in the early years of the war, but their unguarded comments had the potential both to give away information that might be of use to the enemy, and to cause distress to relatives. When writing to inform relatives of a soldier's death, officers and chaplains almost always gave assurances that their loved one had died instantly - 'shot through the heart' or 'never regained consciousness' were common terms. Imagine the distress of the family of 'Graham of West Calder' when they read this report in the West Lothian Courier on 20 November 1914:

Private Robert Darling and Private Thomas Darling of the 1st Scots Guards, sons of Mr and Mrs David Darling, Stonerigg Filters, Armadale, have had some exciting experiences in the fighting around Ypres, Belgium, where Robert had both his feet badly shot, and is now in hospital... Tom has escaped so far. He is engaged driving ammunition to the trenches, and on a trip last week, he had the experience of a shell dropping at his right side and killing his offside horse stone dead by his side. On another occasion one of his mates, a man named Graham, from West Calder, was standing by his side when a shell came and blew his head off. It was a terrible sight, he says. The Scots Guards have lost heavily, being in the thick of the fighting, not more than a third of his battalion being left.

Because of these dangers, the printing of soldiers' letters in the press became subject to restrictions regarding the information they might contain.

A map of the Western Front, published in the West Lothian Courier during the second week of the war