Letter from Private 'Reggie' Clift
Private Clift: The letters
The moving letter from Hyram Clift to his mother, written in 1916 and to be read on the event of his death.
Private Hyram R. Clift
Private Clift fought with the 1st Battalion Royal West Kent (13th Brigade, 5th Division) in France first as a bicycle orderly and then in the trenches. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in January 1916. He gives an impressionistic account of the Battle of Hill 60, and his diaries provide details of his experiences in the trenches and the surrounding villages in the months leading up to the Somme Offensive in which he was killed on 19 July 1916. He wrote several letters to his mother, including a note to be read only in the event of his death (shown below).
Letter from H.Clift to his mother on 1916 April 15th – To be read on the event of his death.
I have often thought I would like to write you a letter which you would only read if I happened to be killed and I have written similarly to uncle Walter and Aunt Jane doing the same to you although I hope you will never read it.
Dearest I thank you with my heart for being so good and kind to me. [...] I do not believe it is possible for anyone to love his mother as much as I love you have comforted me, cheered me and advised me in lots of my little troubles and you have also made me a much better man, for who could hear you talk of charity and not learn the lesson there from. Of course we have not always agreed, but there has been no war fought between us. If every boy understood his mother as I understand you the world would be a brighter place to live in. Of course, if you read this I shall be no more and you will grieve very much. […] It seems hard to convince myself that I may not enjoy your company any more, but it is no use flattering myself that, because I have survived for 20 months, that I am untouchable.
If you read this letter, dear one, do not grieve, instead take praise that you helped me to be brave when I otherwise may have been afraid.
I have always thought of you, when in danger, or when I have been fairly safe miles behind I always have thought of you with love and pride. You are a soldier’s mother, dear, never a finer one unearthed, and I know you will cherish my memory as I have you. I hope you will meet my aunt some day, she too is a dear woman. [...] When you read this I am hoping that you will be in the old kitchen with Arthur in the corner and I was so hoping to get leave to come to see you, but the authorities would not postpone battles because I want leave.
Mother darling, Good bye think of me always, but do not grieve will you, dear [...]
Letter sent to Mother on 23.7.1916 by E. Young
No doubt you have heard from the Rev. […] that you son has been killed. I very much regret to have to write this news, but I know you will be anxious for details. We had not been in action more than 10 minutes, had just got near a trench when a shell burst overhead. He was struck in the side by a piece which must have entered his body. Within a few minutes he was taken away by the ambulance but died shortly after. I took all the papers I found in his jacket which I am forwarding to you with his money and wrist watch. As near as possible the exact time was 8pm 19th July. I am the Capt of the R.E. We had our photo taken together a little time back, I believe you have one. Should you require any further details I will readily oblige. We were great pals, had many a good time together and I deeply regret his going. I am keeping his belt as a keepsake, I hope you have no objection to my doing so. Trusting you will comfort yourself in knowing that he died like a man bravely and for his country. I am yours sincerely.
last updated: 20/10/2008 at 15:48