LEONARD DUNKLEY’S LETTERS TO THE VICAR
From St Michael’s Parish Magazine
“Here’s a letter from dear old Dunckley, one of the keenest Servers we ever had, and one of the best. He has helped at St Michael’s now for many years. May God spare him to come back again as he desires! There has been terrible fighting since he wrote, but so far, thank God, he has come through.”
“August 29th, 1915
Just a few lines from amidst the sand and sun, with a little lead flying about, to let you know that up to the time of writing I am quite well and whole. After a long, weary wait we have at last taken our position in the firing line. We have been dismounted, and have been sent out as Infantry, the ground at present being too hilly for us to use our horses. We have had a baptism of fire, and, in fact, have been under fire since we neared land. The landing itself was difficult, but we had very few casualties. I am sorry to say, though, that now several of the poor fellows have been unfortunate. It is a terrible country out here, and the heat that we have had to endure, coupled with the sand and dust storms, has been too awful for words. I often think of the dear old place, and wish it were possible to be back with you all again. Oh! how lovely it will be at peace once more, and how it will strike home to many of us when we hear the words before the Procession: ‘Let us go forth in peace’. I only hope that the time will soon come when I shall hear those delightful words once more. I am always thinking of St. Michael’s, and the beautiful times I had there. It is very hard to be away from it all, and also one’s dear friends. The only consolation we have is that we are doing our duty. I am sorry to be away from our Annual Feast again this year, but perhaps we shall be having a big procession of our own out here about that time through one of the enemy’s cities.
Well, dear Vicar, I do not know that there is much else to tell you at present, so I think I had better close. I wrote to you and Mr. Stevens soon after we left England, but as he never received his, I suppose yours got lost in transit also. For the present I must say “good-bye” , trusting that God will bless our efforts in the cause of right, and spare us to meet once more in dear old St Michael’s.
Yours very affectionately
Leonard Dunckley, “A” Squadron, 4th. Troop, 3rd County of London Yeomanry,
4th Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, BMEF”
And another published in the
“July 3rd. 1917 – In the Field
I am afraid it is a very long time since I last wrote to you, and possibly you have thought that I had forgotten you; but let me hasten to assure you, while I have omitted to write, my thoughts and prayers have continually been with you and all other dear friends at S. Michael’s. Well, since you last heard from me I have travelled far and visited many places, and seen some strange, as well as painful, scenes. I have recently arrived in Egypt from the Macedonian Front. This makes the fourth time I have landed in this country and the second time I have visited Macedonia” [He must have some local leave in Egypt]. “With regard to the inhabitants and customs the two countries are very much alike; but the countries themselves differ very much. Greece and the surrounding country are very hilly and mountainous, besides being very green and in parts well wooded; while Egypt is all glittering sand, both tiring to walk over and very trying to the eyes. The heat also is a big trial. It is now well over two years since I left the dear little grey island home in the West, and I am sure it seems like twenty. many of our fellows have been fortunate enough to get home on leave, but that good fortune has not come my way yet. One really wonders sometimes if we ever will see the dear homeland again, or whether this terrible strife is going to last for all time. I have the Magazine sent on from home every month, so I am kept fairly up to date with all the happenings at S. Michael’s. Oh! how one misses the dear old place at Festal Seasons, and what a joy it will be when once again (DV) we shall be able to resume our old places and take up the duties we were privileged to carry out! Our Chaplain is a splendid fellow, and we are lucky in having one who carries on the teaching that we have always been accustomed to. We have had some very jolly services. Tents, old barns, ruined villages, and straw-matting huts have all provided shelter for us, as well as the open air. Last Sunday we had Mass in a nice little building of wood and matting. All was complete, and I had the privilege of serving. How it brought back the dear old days at S. Michael’s! Since I came away there seems to have been quite a lot of additions and alterations, and I shall hardly recognise the dear old place when I have the happiness of once again visiting it. I was very pleased to hear of the Calvary to be erected as a Memorial for those who have made the great sacrifice. It was , indeed, a pleasure to be able to send a small subscription towards the cost. It must be strange in the old country now to see the ladies do so many things. They seemed to have quite dropped into the way of things now, and nothing appears too arduous for them to attempt. They are certainly wonderful, and we are all very proud of the way they are helping us to carry on.
We have not received much news of late from the other fronts; but no news is good news – so the saying goes – and no doubt before long we shall receive tidings of great doings by our warriors on the other far-reaching battle lines. Where we are at present we are more or less resting, and expect any time now to proceed up the line, where no doubt we shall find things rather warm. well, now I am afraid I have come to the end of the chapter, but I will endeavour to let you have another letter shortly … With best wishes for yourself , trusting that in the near future we may meet again, I must say adieu.
Leonard had no other opportunity to write to the parish before his death on 27th November 1917.