Fascinating First World War letters unearthed from a Reigate school’s archives describe soldiers preparations for war

November 14, 2017
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A letter written by a Reigate soldier shortly before he was deployed to France to fight in the First World War has been discovered in the archives of a Reigate school.

The 1915 letter, written by George Garton, who studied at Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School and continued to be a chorister once he left, is an apology for him missing a school reunion event due to his preparations for deployment.

It was unearthed from the school’s archives for the first time on Friday (November 10), having been misplaced for decades.

The letter, dated February 1915 and addressed to Godfrey Searle, the founder of the school, said: “‘I am very sorry I cannot be present on Old Boys’ Day at Reigate.

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“I should like very much to be there but it is impossible.

“All weekend passes [for free time outside of military work] are stopped now except very special ones indeed.

“We are getting close to the time when we go abroad as we expect to be in France by the end of March.

“The rumour is about that we are leaving this district for Aldershot about the 20th of this month.”

A choirster reads Mr Garton's letter

A chorister reads Mr Garton’s letter
(Image: Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School)

Sadly, staff at the school, on Chart Lane, also uncovered another letter in the archives informing Mr Garton’s family that he had been killed in action less than three months after arriving in France.

The letter, sent to his mother by the chaplin of 37th Brigade in May 1915, said: “I am indeed sorry to say that George has been killed in action but in a most famous Charge of the Buffs, one that was really heroic – one company after another went up over the parapet in waves and alas were stricken.

“Nine out of ten officers were killed but it can with truth be said that every man who took part in that charge knew they would almost certainly be killed – yet never hesitated.

“Your son was such.”

Wreaths were placed in the school's garden

Wreaths were placed in the school’s garden
(Image: Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School)

The letter continues: “I knew him well and knew what an influence for good he was. He helped my colleagues and myself in many ways and was a noble example of a Christian life. He lies with his comrades near Vermelles.”

Pupils at the school were given the chance to read and examine the letters as part of their annual Remembrance Day Service, which also included the playing of the ‘Last Post’ and a rendition of ‘Abide With Me’.

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Article source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/fascinating-first-world-war-letters-13900177


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