If we loved one another less I could not have written this
A soldier prepares his mother for the worst
Some letters, like this one from Lieutenant Arthur George Heath, are invaluable, serving a purpose beyond the ordinary exchange of news or sentiment. Born in 1887 in Hackney, London, Arthur was an Oxford scholar who chose to enlist in the British Army in 1914, joining the 6th Battalion Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) three days after the country declared war on Germany. On this day in 1915, increasingly worried about the effect his death would have on his mother, he sent her this letter, designed to cushion such a blow were it to arrive. Sadly, Arthur had been right to worry: on his 28th birthday three months later, a single bullet brought his life to an end, leaving his mother with these thoughtful, generous words and a burden hopefully lifted.
July 11th, 1915
My dear Mother,
It is Sunday, and though we shall be working all the same in a few hours, I feel that I should like to take the opportunity of telling you some things I’ve wanted to say now for a long time. You remember that I told you when I was going that nothing worried me so much as the thought of the trouble I was causing you by going away, or might cause you if I was killed. Now that death is near I feel the same. I don’t think for myself that I’ve more than the natural instinct of self-preservation, and I certainly do not find the thought of death a great terror that weighs on me. I feel rather that, if I were killed, it would be you and those that love me that would have the real burden to bear, and I am writing this letter to explain why, after all, I do not think it should be regarded as merely a burden. It would, at least, ease my feelings to try and make the explanation.