Many soldiers wrote home giving details of what life was like on the front line. One such letter writer was Company-Sergeant-Major John Gutteridge, whose letters were published in the Bromley & District Times.
Gutteridge had joined up in September 1914, when he was about 24. He was born about 1890, and listed on the 1911 census as the second son of eight children. He had worked at Messrs Howard’s Store, a fishmongers shop, before the war.
Throughout the war he was shown as a great letter-writer. He was always cheerful and seems to have accepted the hardships and dangers with great fortitude and seems to have enjoyed the challenge of the war. Through the District Times, we can trace his steady rise to, Lance-Corporal, Corporal to Sergeant and Company-Sergeant-Major.
In 1919, it was reported that his father received the D.C.M. awarded to him posthumously. Awarded for gallantry in the field all through his career from the time he enlisted as a private in 1914. He was a man never discouraged, always cheerful and full of great influence on those around him.
NB In 1911 his mother had already given birth to 14 children of which 6 had died. The youngest child was a boy, Cyril aged 4 months.
Copies of his letters are shown below:
20th July 1917, page 5 A TRENCH VIEW OF AIR RAIDS AND REPRISALS Sergeant J Gutteridge, of Bromley, was never a pessimist, as our readers have had a number of occasions to know – the men give a lead in cheerfulness and solid confidence which could well be followed by a great many at home – and his view on the subject of air raids and reprisals which is occupying so much civilian attention is worth reading. We are sorry ...Read More
From the beginning of 1917, letters from John Gutteridge rarely appear in the paper. Whether this was because there were more pressing matters report such as problems on the Home Front, as food prices and availability became more difficult and there was a growing number of regulations regarding food production and distribution (although rationing was not introduced, though frequently threatened, until 1918) and there was a lack of space. Or whether John Gutteridge was just not having the time or inclination ...Read More
26th January 1918, page 2 STILL CHEERY AND BRIGHT Sergeant Gutteridge, of the West Kents, writes home another of his cheerful letters , in which he says they are all merry and bright. “Had a great time yesterday. The company had a dinner and concert. The boys did justice to the food provided by the Colonel of the regiment, and the concert was a great success, the chief item being an original chorus by the sergeants of ‘B’ Company, entitled, ...Read More
20th October 1916, page 3 SERGEANT GUTTERIDGE STILL GOING STRONG ON CHEERFULNESS Look like having another Christmas out here, but we live in hopes of Frits giving in before long. Dear Sir, _ Still we live, and no complaints. More work than worry at present. We have been having a fairly good time these last (few) weeks, football, boxing &c., being our chief items with the regiment. We have now turned our attention to the more serious part of the ...Read More
28th August 1916, page 6 Often the Bromley & District Times published short updates on the Gutteridge to inform readers of his current status on the Front. We are glad to receive a card from our cheerful friend, Sergeant J Gutteridge, advising us that he is well notwithstanding all the strenuous demands on time and energy there is at the Front ...Read More
28th June 1916, page 10 Another letter from Sergeant Gutteridge of Bromley explaining the fun the 'boy' had trying to keep the soldiers awake! Of course we expected the D.C.M. for our good work in keeping the men awake "We had some fun a few nights ago. We had to “stand to” and the boys were allowed to lay down their equipment and helmets on, but not to go to sleep. We found it difficult to keep them awake, so ...Read More
23rd June 1916, page 10 More tales from the Front Line provided by Sergeant Gutteridge of Bromley: "We had some fun a few nights ago. We had to “stand to” and the boys were allowed to lay down their equipment and helmets on, but not to go to sleep. We found it difficult to keep them awake, so a few gathered round and told them the methods used by the Huns when they gas us. This is how the tale ...Read More
5th May 1916, page 5 WHO WILL? Sergeant Gutteridge (long known to our readers as Corporal Gutteridge), of Bromley, and now “somewhere in France,” writes:- "Have any of your Bromley readers a gramophone they could send the boys? One is apt to get dull when all is quiet, and I have an idea a good tune would make all the difference. If someone would be so kind as to send the boys of our Battalion a gramophone I am sure ...Read More
28th April 1916, pge 2 CORPORAL GUTTERIDGE HAS A NARROW ESCAPE In a recent letter home Corporal Gutteridge relates a narrow escape he had. He says: “I was conducting a sergeant of a certain regiment (who was taking over our trenches) to a listening post in front of our firing line, when the Germans opened fire on us with a machine-gun, and I, being near the parapet, at once jumped over. Being dark, I did not notice a rifle and ...Read More
14th April 1916, page 8 I ran across one of the Bromley boys last week, and we had a jolly good time, in fact the best I had spent since being out here. As ever cheerful and optimistic, Gutteridge writes to the Bromley Times of life in the trenches. Dear Editor:- APRIL FOOLS DAY I wonder who will start the games today. We have had a quiet week, owing to being moved to another part of the line. The weather ...Read More
10th March, 1916 page 10 CORPORAL GUTTERIDGE’S LETTERS: TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN ROSS Last week we had two communications from Corporal Gutteridge, of Bromley, 1324, B Company, 8th Royal West Kent Regiment, whose cheery and optimistic letters are always welcome, although indeed they are but characteristic, as our readers know, of all the letters from the men at the Front. It is only the less hard-worked civilian at home who finds time, and thinks he has cause, for grousing. One of ...Read More
3rd March 1916 (page 5) CAPTAIN W URQUHART ROSS - an officer respected by all his men As will be seen in the following extract from John Gutteridge, He had great respect for this commander of the regiment and spoke very highly of him: Another tribute to the deceased officer came to our hand only yesterday, from Corporal Gutteridge, of B Company, 8th Royal West Kents. In a letter which he says #“We are having a busy time, but the Germans ...Read More
25th February 1916 (page 2) OUR WARMEST TIME Our genial correspondent, Corporal Gutteridge, Royal West Kent Regiment, says:- "Deart Sir, - Have been very busy. Have been relieved from the trenches after being away from the rest camp for twelve days. My word! It has been our warmest time. The Germans have done nothing else but shell us, the shells dropping right in our trenches. But we have been very lucky. They must have sent, in all, something like a ...Read More
28th January 1916 COMMENDATIONS FOR WEST KENTS Corporal Gutteridge, of the 8th West Kents, who has recently returned to the trenches, after a brief visit home on leave, writes: “I thought probably you would like to know that two of our fellows have been commended for special work. While the regiment were in the firing line at ___ Private Calaw and Private Watson crawled from our own lines to the enemy’s, and sketched their firing trench, and arrived back in ...Read More
26th January, 1916 p2 The company had a dinner and concert. Sergeant Gutteridge, of the West Kents, writes home another of his cheerful letters, in which he says they are all merry and bright. “Had a great time yesterday. The company had a dinner and concert. The boys did justice to the food provided by the colonel of the regiment, and the concert was a great success, the chief item being an original chorus by the sergeants of ‘B’ Company, ...Read More
7th January 1916 (page 3) A LUXURIOUS EVENING FOR THE MEN WHO DESERVED IT With the 8th West Kents Corporal Gutteridge, of Bromley, 1234, B Company, 8th Royal West Kents (the glorious West Kents) sends us an account of the Company’s concert, which took place on Boxing night, in an empty room adjoining a farm. "Decorations were supplied by the boys, who had them sent from home in their Christmas parcels; tables were provided by the owner of the farm, refreshments ...Read More
14th November 1915 We all have got quite used to the hardships Lance-Corporal Gutteridge, 8th West Kents, writing in November 1915 says: “Our regiment has been very busy. We left the rest camp on Tuesday, the 9th of November, and expect to be relieved on the 18th of November, so we will have had a pretty good time, especially when I way the weather has been against us. We have been flooded our of our dug-outs, but it makes no ...Read More
12th November, 1915 page 2 "The Germans opposite me are starving. They shouted across for food, and sometimes they got it. It all depends what regiments are occupying the line" More notes from Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge, on life in the trenches during World War one. "A few lines from our mud camp, somewhere in Belgium. Our regiment have this time occupied the reserve trenches, which means they have been doing fatigue work for the companies in the firing line, carrying ...Read More
October 1915.More insight into life on the Front Line from Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge. Letter printed in the Bromley & District Times.. "A few lines showing how we spent our time in the rest camp, which lays seven miles away from the firing line. We arrived back in camp at 1.30 a.m., on the 28th October. We did not march, the best part of us rolled back, as we had had a pretty rough time of it. One can just imagine ...Read More
October 1915.They gave us a quiet day, so we guessed they had something special for us Another account of war from the letters of Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge to the Bromley & District Times. "Our regiment started out for the trenches on Friday, October 22nd, at 4 pm, arriving in the trenches at 7 pm to an easy time, but afterwards we found that we were in for a hard time. We had only been in the trenches a short time, ...Read More
29th October, 1915 p2Another letter from Lance-Corporal John Gutteridge, this time to Mr Will Howard his former employer. Much of the letter repeats information about the Battle of Loos. "…They (the Germans) cannot look cold steel in the face for love or money; show them cold steel and they will run for miles. After our charge we came back, bringing the wounded on our arms, smoking as we walked back, as we had not a run left in us. They ...Read More
15th October, 1915 In a further letter, written on the 8th of the present month, Lance-Corporal Gutteridge says:- "Our regiment has just returned from the trenches, and had a very peaceful time; a change from the bayonet scrap we had on the 26th of September, we coming our this time with a complete roll. The only danger we had was when we relieved the ---, and when we were relieved by the ---, as they (the Germans) have machine guns ...Read More