A HEARTBREAKING account of the horror of war has been unearthed by the relatives of a Herefordshire soldier killed in the bloodiest conflict of all.

Joseph Sockett penned a love letter to wife Ethel from the front line in August 1917 the night before he, and his fellow troops, advanced to Belgium during the First World War.

Sadly, little more than a fortnight after writing it, the rifleman, who lived in Perseverance Road in Holmer, Hereford with his wife and two children, was killed.

But David Broggie, Mr Sockett's nephew, has shown the Hereford Times the letter which has been kept by the family over the years. Mr Broggie and his son, Richard, said it was important his legacy was remembered.

The letter, written on August 23, 1917, begins with Mr Sockett, who was a member of the 12th Battalion London Regiment, explaining he is penning the note in case anything happens to him.

"The reason I am writing sweetheart is because we are moving up into Belgium tomorrow, and there is very severe fighting going on there at present," he wrote.

"Well my little queenie, we have been married five years, and out of that time I have been away from you for more than three, but all the time, my loved one, my thoughts were always with you.

"If anything happens love, I hope you will get this letter, and I beg of you to be true to me in death as you were in life. I shall be waiting in heaven for you my darling, and my thoughts and spirit will be always with you.

"Be sure to look after my darling little Georgie and Betty."

He ends the letter by drawing a heart shape, filled with the words "Sweetheart be true".

He died on September 9, 1917, believed to have been at Passendale, Belgium, and is remembered at the St Julien Dressing Station Cemetery in nearby Langemark.

He is one of 70 former Holmer residents killed in the First World War who are named on a memorial on Widemarsh Common in Hereford.

Hereford Times: Woodland Trust