Lt Cyril Catford, letter from the Somme

Letters from the Somme: send Woodbines for them

The Battle of the Somme lasted 141 days with soldiers living under dreadful conditions as described in these letters home.

Lieutenant Cyril Herbert Barclay Catford was born in 1890 in Barnet, Greater London. He married Rosalind Ruth Jarmand in 1915 and they lived in Steeple Morden, Royston, Hertfordshire.

25 September
My Darling
Surely truth is stranger than fiction!! Last night I had a most excellent sleep in No Man's Land, during a fairly heavy bombardment such as is practically continuous in this the greatest battle of the War!! 
I am pleased to say that I got the whole Company back without a single casualty. As a matter of fact up to the present, my Company “Y”, proverbial for their luck in the Battalion, have had only 15 casualties whereas other Companies have lost at least 50 per cent of their personnel.
Of course since it has been so stated in the papers, there is no harm in my telling you that we were in the great attack on the 15th. (The Battle of Flers-Courcelette.) Our artillery simply blew the Germans to bits and naturally their artillery which is both powerful and very efficient was not at all pleasant.
There is very little to say about this big show except the artillery is awful and the flies are worse, whilst conditions of living are worse still. All the same we are exceptionally cheerful. We bear everything I hope like good soldiers, proud to have beaten thoroughly the reputed “Invincible German Army”. The men are absolutely wonderful. My Company is in the best of spirits. I think you might send out 1,000 Woodbines (cigarettes) for them. 
Well I think I have given you some idea of what it is like out here. Men live and die like heroes and face with the greatest of courage that which no men ought to be called upon to face, I can say no more.

30 September 1916

I am writing to tell you that I am keeping well and am feeling very much better today. I have only one Officer left in my Company. One left last night with shell shock. I do not wonder at it seeing what we have to put up with. I expect to be on leave in a month’s time and am looking forward to seeing you.
Tomorrow we go into our final big attack. Do not worry if you don’t hear for a day or two from me, I shall not have very much opportunity of writing to you for a bit.

Letters from Durham County Record Office

Remember Lt Cyril Catford

Lt Catford died of wounds on 5 October 1916, aged 26. He is buried at Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension in the Somme.

Thousands of young men like Cyril never returned home from the Somme, and those that did were never the same. Today, a hundred years later, you can commemorate their service and sacrifice. Lt Catford's letter, and other items to help you hold your own Remembrance event, are available in our Somme toolkit.

Order a Somme Toolkit and hold your own commemoration for those who served at the Somme.

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