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  • Christina Drummond

Private Percy Huggins and Sergeant Tom Gregory, The Hertfordshire Regiment

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1914, Private Percy Huggins and Sergeant Tom Gregory of the Hertfordshire Regiment were killed near the village of Festubert in France. Private Huggins was shot by a German sniper while on sentry duty, Sergeant Gregory was outraged and killed the sniper but was shot dead himself not long afterwards by a second enemy sniper. They were buried side by side at Le Touret Military Cemetery in Bethune, France. Although there was the famous cease-fire, it did not run smoothly in an unbroken line along the trenches. Shortly before dawn on Christmas Day, the Germans hoisted lanterns above the trenches and called out to the British as an overture for a temporary truce. The Guards Brigade were not interested in fraternising and the order was given to respond by shooting at the lanterns, which put an end to any prospect of a cease-fire where Private Huggins and Sergeant Gregory were situated; it is believed that they would not have died that day had their section responded and engaged in the truce. On that Christmas Day, another 147 Commonwealth soldiers were to lose their lives. Private Huggins and Sergeant Gregory both saw action at the Battle of Ypres, and had been away from the front line for a month of rest before returning on Christmas Eve. Private Huggins had worked in his family’s upholstery business before enlisting. He wrote his last letter home to his mother, thanking her for the pudding she sent and telling her he was looking forward to eating it. He also wrote: “'I long for the day when this terrible conflict will be ended. You consider war a terrible thing but imagination cannot reach far enough for the horrors of warfare that can be seen on the battlefield are indescribable and I pray this may be the last war that will ever be. I can only hope by the grace of God to acquit myself honourably and be permitted to return to all the dear ones in safety.” Percy, from Ware in Hertfordshire, was 23 years old and married. Sergeant Gregory had worked as a stable lad, served during the Boer War, and then worked as a postman before re-enlisting in 1914. From Watford, he was 36 years old and married - his wife had just given birth to their seventh child.

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