Saving Driver Herd
On 12th October 1917, the following letter was penned, probably from an artillery depot just behind the muddy front line near Ypres. The letter was written by Leonard Herd, a former clerk from the Country Roads Board in Melbourne, now serving as a driver with the 21st Field Artillery of the AIF.
His request to be removed from danger was audacious and, as his record reveals (you can view it here) his request was successful and, as a consequence, he survived the war.
Further letters from a cousin and his father (the latter addressed to Defence Minister, Senator Pearce) no doubt helped his case.
Driver Herd was saved. The 10,000 other members of the AIF who fell in the Third Battle of Ypres were less fortunate.
Below is the original letter and a transcript.
Oct. 12th 1917
Being an Old Melbourne Grammar School Boy, I am taking the liberty of writing a personal letter to you, rather than the formal military letter, which being in the ranks, I should write to you.
I hardly know how to start but perhaps I had better lay full particulars before you, first of all.
I am of a family of three sons, one of whom was killed while serving as a serjeant [sic] in the Light Horse in Egypt nearly fourteen months ago. My other brother who had over two and a half years service with the A.I.F. as a Lieutenant in the Light Horse, Anzac Cyclist Battalion and later in the Royal Flying Corps, was killed three months ago in an aerial accident in England.
Myself, I am eighteen years of age, nearly nineteen, and have been in the A.I.F. nearly a year, of which period I have spent five weeks in France as a driver in the 26th Battery, 7th Brigade.
Only the last two mails have I heard from home, in which my people knew of the death of my second brother. The sorrow and despair of my Mother and Father is intolerable to me. So I decided to write to you, putting the situation clearly before you, asking to be removed from the front, to a base where I could, perhaps, do work equally as useful as I am doing.
This I know, would be a great help to my Mother in recovering a little from the shock.
Being and Old Melburnian yourself, you will understand how distasteful this is to me, but the agony of mind which my people will be in, all the time that I am in danger I think, fully warrants my course in writing to you.
Trusting that you will be able to do something in this matter and also that you will overlook the audacity of the letter.
I am yours
Leonard J Herd