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Lionel Reid Hall
Lionel Reid Hall   Lionel Reid Hall   Lionel Reid Hall

August 14th 2016


Lionel Reid Hall - Letters from the Trenches in 1917

In 1917, at the age of 19, my maternal grandfather, Lionel Reid Hall - Bobby to his friends and family; Grandpop to us - was given his orders to join the Royal Scots Guards as an officer as part of the British Expeditionary Force in the French trenches. The letters that he wrote to his parents, from the day of his departure from England to the time of his transfer less than two months later to an American hospital in Lancaster Gate with machine gun and shrapnel wounds to his leg, were kept by his mother and passed on to her children, including my mother. I have typed them out and posted them on the WTDW articles page, and you can read them via the Went the Day Well button above or by clicking here.

They are fascinating as much for what has not been written as for their content. Bobby was clearly reluctant to go into any detail about the dangers and I like the way in which he reassures his mother and father in almost every letter that he is as safe in the trenches as they are back at home. I wonder if these comments were written as much for his own benefit as his parents but his attempts to relieve their fears were perhaps not always particularly comforting. Consider, for example, the comment in his letter of 9th March 1917: 'For goodness sake don’t worry about me.  They keep us fairly safe at first – moreover about 80% of the casualties are only wounded'.

Daily life at the front was obviously uncomfortable and tedious for the officers for much of the time, although Bobby comments about how much worse things were for the regulars, and the importance of letters and food parcels from friends and family in relieving boredom and lifting moral is clear. It would appear that Bobby did quite well in this regard and was an excellent correspondent himself. Having access to only one side of the correspondence can, however, be frustrating. For example, it would be interesting to know more about the story behind the comment made in his letter of 9th March: 'Rather amusing about Captain Capper, I hardly know him.  Margarine dupes nearly everyone nowadays'.

A transcript of the telegram from the War Office delivered to Captain Hall, Bobby's father, on 17th April is included in this correspondence. One can only imagine what he must have felt when it was handed to him, fearing the worst and presumably relieved to read that the news was 'only' that of a serious wound.



  © Copyright Thomas Jackson 2010