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World War I Tuesday, 3 November, 1998, 11:29 GMT
Letters home: 'Pray for me'
Lance-Corporal Frank Earley was a young journalist from Derby who regularly wrote to his family from the front.

His letters were normally full of enthusiasm and excitement. In July 1918 he wrote, "As you see, I am still alive and well, and as usual enjoying life to the full."

It is only in his very last letter, on 1 September 1918, that he revealed his more reflective side.

The next day Frank Earley suffered a serious wound to his chest and died some hours later. He was 19.

Sunday afternoon, 1 Sep, 1918.

My dear Father,
It is a strange feeling to me but a very real one, that every letter now that I write home to you or to the little sisters may be the last that I shall write or you read. I do not want you to think that I am depressed; indeed on the contrary, I am very cheerful. But out here, in odd moments the realisation comes to me of how close death is to us. A week ago I was talking with a man, a catholic, from Preston, who had been out here for nearly four years, untouched. He was looking forward with certainty to going on leave soon. And now he is dead - killed in a moment during our last advance. Well it was God's will.

I say this to you because I hope that you will realise, as I do, the possibility of the like happening to myself. I feel very glad myself that I can look the fact in the face without fear or misgiving. Much as I hope to live thro' it all for your sakes and my little sisters! I am quite prepared to give my life as so many have done before me. All I can do is put myself in God's hands for him to decide, and you and the little ones pray for me to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady.

I hope that you will not move out of the old house yet. Write and let me know when anything happens. I see that you went to Preston a few days ago. It seems years and years since I tried to get drowned in the canal.

Well I have not much time left and I must end.
With my dear love. Pray for me.
Your son
Frank.

Frank Earley is buried at Bac-de-Sud Military Cemetery, Bailleulval, nr Arras.

His letters are held by the documents library at the Imperial War Museum. Extracts appear in 1918 Year of Victory by Malcolm Brown.

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