A sol­dier’s story: long­ing for home amid the carnage of the trenches

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY MAR­CUS DYSCH

MAR­CUS SE­GAL en­listed at 17, en­ter­ing the Lon­don Reg­i­ment straight from school in Septem­ber 1914.

Stand­ing only 5ft 2in tall, he be­came a Sec­ond Lieu­tenant in the 16th Bat­tal­ion King’s Liver­pool Reg­i­ment a year later.

Dur­ing his years of ser­vice he wrote more than 150 let­ters to his fam­ily, chart­ing the tribu­la­tions of be­ing Jewish on the front­line.

His par­ents, Solomon from Rus­sia, and Es­ther from Hull, re­ceived his let­ters at their home in Lon­don. In one of the ear­li­est, from Septem­ber 1916, Mar­cus writes: “My dear par­ents, I do not want you to worry if you do not hear from me ev­ery other day.

“I am, at present, in a very nice bil­let here and the only fault is that the Madame is so fright­fully re­li­gious and I can tell you with­out doubt she is a very close run­ner to Gran­dad.”

Even in his first days on the front line Mar­cus saw his com­rades killed. He told his par­ents he would write an obituary for one man and pub­lish it in the JC.

A month later he wrote: “I am at­tached for a few days to the R. En­gi­neers and have quite a de­cent time. I am very chummy with a Jewish of­fi­cer here called Cap­tain Hen­riques and he is a top-hole fel­low.” He added: “I ex­pect to be go­ing over the top in a cou­ple of days and with Almighty’s wish I will come back safe and sound.”

As with many on the front­line, hunger be­came a key is­sue. In Novem­ber 1916, he wrote: “The main com­plaint I have is the lack of good old tomato soup, and var­i­ous other kosher dishes. I may as well tell you I have not re­ceived the chicken with the soup cubes in”.

By March 1917 his thoughtswere­backto his re­li­gious ob­ser­vance. “You might let Grandpa know I could do with a tz­itzis when he gets time to send me one out.”

Be­ing sep­a­rated f r o m h i s fam­ily was hard, par­tic­u­larly a t Yo m To v. He re­peat­edly asked for the JC to be posted weekly so he could keep up-to-date with news from home. As Pe­sach 1917 ap­proached he wrote: “I am sure you will miss me no more than I will you on Seder. Please God we will all be to­gether another Seder

Lieu­tenant Mar­cus Se­gal

night and will sing Manash­tana with all our mu­si­cal voices.” A week later he noted how his of­fi­cers en­joyed try­ing the matzah sent out by his fam­ily,

Later in the year, Mar­cus was made re­spon­si­ble for bury­ing his fallen Jewish com­rades. “There were 15 Of­fi­cers of the Kings L’Pools killed and they were all such top-hole fel­lows. I helped to bury sev­eral Jews on the bat­tle­field and said the Memo­rial Ser­vice over a good few graves,” he ex­plained.

“Dur­ing these aw­ful moments one’s mind is con­tin­u­ally think­ing of home and won­der­ing how the par­ents of the un­for­tu­nate fel­low will re­ceive the news. When I read on one chap’s prayer book — a small bar­mitz­vah present from his dear Gran­dad — I can tell you I was cry­ing like a baby.”

Mar­cus Se­gal was killed by a shell at Ar­ras in France on June 19, 1917. His friend, Pri­vate Ed­win Stone, wrote to Mrs Se­gal: “It is with deep re­gret that I am writ­ing to in­form you of your son’s death. I can­not find words that will ex­press the sor­row of both my com­rades and my­self. He was re­spected by ev­ery man in the Bat­tal­ion. He was buried at Ar­ras by a gen­tle­man of his own de­nom­i­na­tion.” Mar­cus Se­gal’s let­ters are on dis­play at the Jewish Mu­seum

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