©The Lucas family

Your Loving Son: The letters home of Cuthbert H T Lucas August 1914

Posted on centenarynews.com on 13 October 2014
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Captain Cuthbert Lucas’s arrival in France was obviously an auspicious one. Very much the advance party for the BEF, he had been sent – along with some contemporaries at the Staff College - to provide the coordination for the successful disembarkation of the BEF.

Captain Lucas always tried to write home to his mother, normally on a Sunday - a habit he acquired at boarding school.

Centenary News is publishing his letters, compiled by history teacher Steve Warburton, as part of a series throughout the centenary of the war.

© The Lucas family

Head Quarters 

No 2 Base

Cut-out

Sunday August 23rd

My dearest Mother

You will see from the above where I have been for the last fortnight. We are now allowed to divulge this. We were the first ship to land in France so you can imagine the reception we got. We steamed up the Seine early on the Monday morning, it was very pretty all the way up.

It took some time for the inhabitants to realise, from the shore, that we were the British army, and then they shouted themselves hoarse.

It was all right for them as they only had to do it once, but we had to keep it up for 5 hours, and then make a supreme effort on landing here. A number of French officers came on board, the General kissed our commandant on both cheeks, and then we went on shore.

For the first two days it was very embarrassing, crowds swarmed round one in the streets, and when one went into a restaurant for one’s meals everyone stood up and cheered.

Since then we have been busy getting troops off ships incessantly, including hundreds of motor lorries which are a dreadful nuisance, as the facilities are very poor. However we have only dropped one and no one was underneath.

We are not the only part, the others you will see probably in the papers. I don’t see very much of my household, an officer’s wife with a baby, as I get home after 11PM and leave again at 5AM , and I never get back during the day.

I ran into a lamp post last night trying to get onto a moving tram in the dark, got knocked down and cut my eye open, but am otherwise in the very best of health.

I can’t think why I don’t get any letters from you, I wonder whether you address them right (Hd Qrs No 2 Base, Expeditionary Force). I got one from Chamberlayne yesterday written on the 19th and sent to Staff College.

Our Rly Transport Officer, having had no sleep for several nights, we sent him to bed yesterday and took on his job for him, so I put troops into trains all yesterday afternoon instead of taking them  off ships.

Love to everyone

Your loving son

Cuthbert

This letter is written the same day that the confrontation at Mons marked the first significant encounter battle with the advancing German army.

The demands of the dis-embarkation were obviously high, the hours resembling the same ones that Lucas would be obliged to keep while under fire in the frontline.

Getting the BEF into the field so quickly was a triumph of pre-war planning and professionalism, even if some of Lucas’s other letters refer somewhat critically to the way that ships had been loaded and the ineptitude of the French convicts who supplemented the usual dockhands.  

Lucas is frustrated that mail is not getting through from his family, although a previous letter on August 20th is very appreciative of the arrival of 50 cigarettes!

It appears that he thought better of his decision to communicate where he ‘…had been for the past fortnight’ as the name of the French port is actually cut-out of the letter (see image).

© Centenary News and author