Letter sent home from World War One
A moving and deeply religious letter written in May 1917 from a soldier by the name of Jack Smith to his dear wife Annie. The envelope opposite clearly stated that it was to be opened only by Annie in the case of his death.
Reproduced with kind permission of the family.
France: May 1917
Please God, you will never have cause to read these lines but if it should be God's Will that I should not return, learn to say Annie from your heart, "Thy Will be done, O Lord, Thy Will be done". At first it must seem impossible for you to truly say this prayer, but Annie if you look upon the crucifix and think what Our Divine Lord suffered for us, and contemplate what must have been the terrible anguish and grief of His Blessed Mother to witness Him die such a shameful death, it will enable you to become reconciled to your lot.
You know Annie what an example Our Lord set us by His meekness under suffering and how He told us that if we wished to imitate Him, we were to take up our cross daily and follow Him and again He says "My yoke is sweet to those who bear it for my sake".
All these Annie and such like thoughts will enable you to bear your heavy cross (and who but I knows better the terrible weight it will be) with patience and cheerfulness.
Annie, I am so sure that our Holy Religion is the one in which God wished us to serve Him that I have always prayed that rather than you or Vincent should become cold or indifferent Catholics, you may both have died, and now Annie I think God requires to test my faith still further therefore I have offered him my life for the same intention. This is much harder than the death of either of you two as I know it will entail the suffering of the two I love dearest.
Remember Annie that so very little which this world brings matters at all. The only thing we came into the world for, was to serve God and save our souls. Don't be too concerned about worldly goods. "Do your duty, that is best".
As regards Vincent Annie, teach him to love his Holy Religion and to try and imitate his patron St. Vincent, who loved the poor so much and if it should be his desire when he grows up to study for the priesthood, do not prevent him, but above all do not let him know that it was my wish for him to become a priest, as I know there are so many that have tried to enter the priesthood to please their parents and have made a failure of their lives. Bring him up to be a good Catholic Annie with a great love for the Sacred Heart and Our Blessed Lady. Tell him, when he is old enough to understand, how his Father would have loved him and what I shall often intercede for him, as I shall for you also dear before the Thorne of God.
Annie do not omit to have Masses said for the repose of my soul, I know you will always remember me in your prayers.
Offer up also the merits which you will gain by carrying your cross with resignation for the speedy release of my soul from Purgatory.
Before concluding I must thank you Annie dear for always being such a good wife to me. I know you will be a good Mother.
Give my love to my Father, Mother, your Father and all. Thank one and all for their kindness to me.
Goodbye my dear wife and child and my prayer is "May God Bless and keep you both always".
Your loving husband,
Footnote: Sadly Jack died just before the end of the war. Both Annie and her son Vincent are interred at St. Michael's cemetery, Rivelin, on the grass bank behind the chapel.