Object of the week- teenage soldier’s letter
A poignant reminder of the human cost of war, this soldier’s letter was the last he ever sent to his family in Leeds.
Horace Iles was just 14 when he signed up to fight with the famous Leeds Pals in 1914, and lied about his age so he could enlist, like many other boys.
Private Iles wrote to his sister Florrie from France On May 25, 1916 saying: “Just a few lines hoping to reach you in the best of health as it leaves me at present, I was discharged from hospital about two days ago. I am sorry I have not written to you before but I had kept putting it off but at last I have written.”
Five weeks later, he was tragically killed on the first day of The Battle of The Somme at the age of 16. Florrie’s reply arrived at the front two days after he was killed, and was returned to her unopened.
The letter was donated by David Owen, who lives in Lincoln, and who found it amongst a box of First World War related documents and papers he recently purchased.
He said: “To me, Horace Iles epitomises all that was good about the Leeds Pals; patriotism, loyalty, bravery, comradeship and sacrifice.”
Private Iles’ letter is on display in Leeds City Museum’s Collectors Cabinet alongside other items recognising the extraordinary bravery of the local soldiers who fought and died in the First Wolrd War.
They include a never before seen photo of Leeds Pal Jogendra Sen, who was denied the rank of officer because of his race, alongside other items from the Leeds Pals collections.
Councillor Brian Selby, Leeds City Council’s lead member for museums and galleries, said: “This is a remarkable and poignant insight into the human cost of war and the devastating impact it had on the soldiers who fought so bravely and the families they left behind.”