Like many people interested in the First World War, my curiosity was spurred by mementoes of family involvement. I had often heard of my great uncle - David Pugh, who had a distinguished career in the Great War, but I became more involved when his decorations and papers were passed to me for safekeeping. There are some unusual features in his story: he was in his late 50's when he joined up, and - when he felt he had 'done his bit' he asked to be discharged to return to looking after his business, an option I had not expected to find available!

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For his services as Commanding Officer of an Ammunition Column in the 42nd East Lancashire Division during the Sinai Campaign of 1916-17, David Pugh was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in dispatches. The Division at that time was commanded by Major General Sir William Douglas. He was highly regarded by my great uncle who referred to him in correspondence as 'My General'. Indeed, when General Douglas was relieved of command and superceded by General Allenby, who was deemed to be more energetic, letters were exchanged - I think the change in leadership prompted David Pugh to write to the War Office in July 1917: 'I beg to request to be allowed to resign my present Command; I have been over two years in this Country and feel that my energy is not what it was and a younger man should take on in view of the reorganisation of this unit. I am 58 years of age and my business is also in need of supervision'.

The request was granted and David returned to England to be employed at home. In October he was posted to the reserve list of the Territorial force in view of his age. He returned to Liverpool and to the Liverpool Storage Company in Clayton Square.

David Pugh was born in 1859. At the age of 20 he joined the volunteer forces in the Kings (Liverpool) Regiment as a private soldier. He progressed steadily until he retired in 1912 with the rank of Major and the award of the Territorial Decoration. When he retired from the volunteers he had been serving ion the 1st Lancashire Royal Garrison Artillery. His retirement was reported in a profile published in the Liverpool Echo, when it was suggested that a new CO would shortly be needed for the Lancashire Brigade RGA, and that he was the man for the job! This article also noted that Major Pugh had undertaken the annual entertainment of Liverpool Veterans of the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny.

The next document that I have records that in July 1915 , David Pugh had been gazetted Colonel and his appointment to the 42d Division appeared in the general orders for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. This Division had served in Gallipoli, and their Christmas Card for 1915 shows that they hadsubsequently transferred to the Suez Canal Zone.

David Pugh wrote a number of letters to his wife whilst he was in the Middle East. They are of interest principally because they show the attitudes and thoughts of an older Liverpool businessman suddenly cast into the role of Senior Officer on active service in the desert. The first of these letters home that I have is dated 25th December 1915, from Egypt . All were written on sheets from his field service notebooks and were kept by his wife.

His letters mention people that he met. In February 1917 he says 'I talk with anyone I think may be interesting and I met a man in khaki talking with the natives in Arabic. I found he was a Russion subject who had worked in Jerusalem for two years. He started a lace factory and was making some headway with it when the Turks arrived and only succeeded in getting away by bribing some people when the American gunboat went to Jaffa to take away the Armenians and Americans who were there at the time. He is an ardent Zionist and is doing his bit to hasten the time when the Jews will go back to their own country. He is really a Polish Jew and in conversation is very intelligent. He says the Jew has no home and although they enjoy in England perfrect freedom, still in reality they are only guests. He has no great love for the Russians who have greatly suppressed them and one can't help feeling that when a man of this type is investing as he has done a considerable amount of money to establish a business in Jerusalme that the time will not be too far distant when a large influx of his co-religionists will take place and Palestine become a great nation'.

The last letter from Palestine is dated 26th May 1917. Many of the letters were about the routine of army life and his high regard for the volunteer spirit of his men. He notes how fit they were looking with the outdoor life and the sunshine. His wife was much concerned with parish church affairs, which interested him greatly. He was a little annoyed that he had not received a letter from the Curate to whom he had written about coming out as a Padre!. He noted with great interest the biblical connections of the area the army advanced throuogh - El Arish and then the land of the Philistines - Hebron in the distance - the ancient city of Gaza was passed but he had no opportunity to visit.

There were a contingent of Maoris attached to his command and he was impressed with them. When he left for England they presented him with a wall plaque written in Maori, with an English translation and complete with a New Zealand cap badge.

In his last letter home, David was upset about what he saw as financial meanness from his board in Liverpool. He wrote: 'I may not gain financially but I am proud that at my time of life I am privileged to serve as an active soldier in this my Country's greatest need'. Truly a voice from another time.

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