Letters from First World War soldier expected to fetch £5,000 at auction

An unpublished archive of letters written from the trenches in the First World War is expected to fetch up to £5,000 at auction.

Private Alfred Smith, 21, who served with 1st Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, wrote the eight letters from the western front in 1915.

His letters begin on April 30 1915, just five months before he died near Loos, France, on September 22.

Letter written by Pte Alfred Smith from the trenches (Henry Aldridge and Son/PA)
Letter written by Pte Alfred Smith from the trenches (Henry Aldridge and Son/PA)

In one, the soldier of Woking, Surrey, writes: "Every man is now ready for the mad rush to death which is for England and Freedom."

The letters will be sold at Henry Aldridge and Son in Devizes, Wiltshire, on February 24.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: "The archive gives us a brutal snapshot of the life of an infantryman in the trenches in 1915.

"For me, its monetary value is outstripped by its historical worth.

"Private Smith was one of the hundreds of thousands of heroes who time has forgotten but these letters bring his words to life."

Envelope from a letter written by Private Alfred Smith (Henry Aldridge and Son/PA)

In his first letter, Pte Smith writes: "Well I've seen a bit more fighting also a charge or two, sometimes things are a bit hot for us as we are only 100yds apart even when the Germans are shelling."

He recounts how a comrade was hit close to him and how lucky he has been not to have been wounded.

His second letter reads: "We had five or six charges made from the Germans but we stopped them back each time they got to our trenches leaving hundreds of dead.

"By the time you receive my letter my regiment will be leading a bayonet charge with the hopes of breaking through the German lines.

"Every man is now ready for the mad rush to death which is for England and Freedom. Excuse this letter as the bombardment has now started and it gives us a nasty shock."

Letter written by Private Alfred Smith (Henry Aldridge and Son/PA)

In another letter, written over two pages and dated June 14, he gives a vivid account of an attack on German lines.

"It was like hell getting back. I can say I said my prayers when I got over the front of our trench," he writes.

On July 12, Pte Smith writes how he and his comrades are unhappy as there are married men at the front and single men still at home.

"If a man is wanted for a hot job a single man should always be first, a married man second for they have wives and children to think of," he writes.

His final letter is undated but describes the dangerous life of the trenches, recounting how a shell landed in his trench as he was eating breakfast.

The letters come with their original envelopes.

Pte Smith was the son of George and Emma Smith, who lived in Beaconsfield Road in Kingfield, Woking.

He is buried at the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, in Cuincy, France, along with 1,250 others.

In total, 8,000 men were killed from the 25 battalions and 31 units of The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment during the First World War.

The regiment gained five Victoria Crosses.

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