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World War I Monday, 2 November, 1998, 12:42 GMT
Letters home: Over the top
Company Sergeant-Major James Milne wrote this poignant letter to his wife moments before he was ordered over the top.

It was to be delivered in the event of his death - but luckily James Milne survived and was later reunited with his family.

July 20, 1918

My own beloved wife

I do not know how to start this letter. The circumstances are different from any under which I ever wrote before. I am not to post it but will leave it in my pocket, if anything happens to me someone will perhaps post it. We are going over the top this afternoon and only God in Heaven knows who will come out of it alive.

I am in his hands and whatever happens I will look to him in this world and the world to come. If I am called my regret is that I leave you and my bairns. I go to him with your dear face the last vision on earth I shall see and your name upon my lips, you the best of women. You will look after by Darling Bairns for me and tell them how their daddy died.

over the top
'God in Heaven knows who will come out of it alive'
Oh! How I love you all and as I sit here waiting I wonder what you are doing at home. I must not do that. It is hard enough sitting waiting. We may move at any minute. When this reaches you for me there will be no more war, only eternal peace and waiting for you.

It is a legacy of struggle for you but God will look after you and we shall meet again when there will be no more parting. I am to write no more sweetheart... Kiss the Bairns for me once more. I dare not think of them my Darlings.

Goodbye, you best of women and best of wives, my beloved sweetheart. May God in his mercy look over you and bless you all... May he in that same mercy preserve me today. Eternal love from
Yours for evermore
Jim xxxxxxxx

This letter is currently on display in the Imperial War Museum's First World War Remembered exhibition.

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