Neville Woodroffe

Neville Woodroffe, a lieutenant in the Irish Guards, was sent to France in August 1914. He took part in the battles at the Mons and the Aisne before being killed on 6th November, 1914 while leading an attack on German trenches.

Primary Sources

(1) Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe, letter sent during the Mons retreat (3rd September, 1914)

We have been trekking hard all these last days. Heat and dust terrible. We were in action the day before yesterday. We got in a wood and were surrounded by Germans. The Germans are very fond of wood fighting and detail snipers to get up trees. We lost considerably including nine officers.

(2) Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe, letter (13th September, 1914)

We have lost heavily as regards officers, and besides that the very best of fellows, many of whom ranked as one's very best friends. Lockwood was shot yesterday while he was standing up telling some wounded Germans to convey in their language to another party of Germans that if they held the white flag up they were to throw down their arms. John Manners, whom you know by name, shot himself, when he saw the alternative was to surrender to superior numbers of Germans.

(3) Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe, letter (30th September, 1914)

We continue to hold this position the other side of the Aisne and have been entrenched now for over sixteen days. One is beginning to feel the reaction after all our previous marching and we are longing to be on the march again.

This is a terrible war and I don't suspect there is an idle British soldier in France. I wonder when it will end; one hears so much. There has been more fighting and more loss of life crowded into seven weeks than there was in the whole of South Africa.

(4) Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe, letter (9th October, 1914)

We had a small patrol out in front of our trenches yesterday. Dead Germans and a few Wiltshire regiment which had been there fully a fortnight ago and in terrible conditions. Legs stuck in boots lay out in the open and corpses shattered from shell fire lay at short intervals. Kits and rifles, ammunition, helmets, tools, etc. all lay in heaps. The stink was awful. We buried what we could, but most one could not touch.

(5) Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe, letter written three days before his death (3rd November, 1914)

The last two days have been ghastly. The Germans broke through the line. We have lost ten officers in the last two days and yesterday the battalion was less than 200 men, though I expect some stragglers will turn up. All the officers in my company were lost except myself. We have had no rest at all. Everyone is very shaken. I do hope we are put in reserve to reform for a few days.

(6) Letter of condolence to the family of Lieutenant Neville Woodroffe (November, 1914)

Lieutenant Woodroffe was killed (on 6th November) leading his men against the German trenches. Of the 35 men that went with him none returned. Only 2 days before he had been specially mentioned for bravery in action. He had held a position long after the rest of the Battalion had retired.