WAR letters detailing a Somerset man’s experiences of the famous Christmas Truce and his final words home before being sent to the front have been made public by his family.

Private Ernest Bawdon, of 6th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, was the youngest of six children and died fighting in the Battle of the Somme.

Dot White, of Chard, contacted us with the story of her great uncle and copies of the letters, including the final ‘killed in action’ notice.

She said: “As a child, I vividly recall, being told, how his name was only mentioned in whispered tones, especially in front of Great Grandma Cinderella (Ernest’s mum).

“This, I now realise, was to spare her the agony of having to re-live the painful memories of what happened to her youngest child out there on the Somme.

“For years, he was to me, just a name, one of 72,000 men who have ‘no known grave’and, whose names are carved into the cold stone of the Thiepval Memorial.”

However, as the war centenary approached, Dot was inspired to discover more about Ernest’s time serving Queen and country.

“A recent trawl through archival family papers has turned up exceptional information in terms of letters and official paperwork,” she said.

“What I found during my research, at times lifted my spirits, only to later drown them in tears.

“This was particularly true of the terrible slaughter he witnessed in the battle of Delville Wood, where his Battalion ‘held the line’, but in so doing sustained the loss of 268 all ranks, killed, wounded and missing - only to be eclipsed some two weeks later in the Battle of Flers–Courcelette where he was to die, just one more soldier in a casualty list of 404 all ranks, killed, wounded and missing.

“His last letter to his parents is particularly poignant, and written, I am sure, with the knowledge that he was about to die.”

Pte Bawdon’s final letter included the words ‘it is like wishing you all goodbye forever’.

It is signed with nine kisses, large and bold.

Mrs White added: “His account, in another letter of the Christmas Truce, is a remarkable piece of history frozen in time.

“Many have recorded it, but few have seen it like this, through the eyes of a simple private soldier, who was there.

“Amongst that hell on earth, how comforting and evocative it must have been to hear the musical strains of There’s No Place Like Home, drifting across no man’s land, on Christmas Eve.

“To meet the enemy on Christmas morning, exchange gifts and to shake hands, must surely have been an emotional experience that beggared belief as an example of the true meaning of the Christmas Message – Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men.”

In the Battle of Flers–Courcelette, Pte Bawdon made it across no man’s land and then survived an attack on the ridge the next day in the face of heavy machine gun fire.

It was on the second day, September 17, that Bawdon ventured back into no man’s land to tend to two officers who were lying wounded in a shell hole, when he was caught by a sniper’s bullet.

Dot said: “His name will be etched with pride upon my heart, forever.”