A WOMAN from York has shared a poem written by her uncle in the trenches of the First World War.

Cpl Henry Skilbeck was a schoolmaster and served with the Royal Field Artillery, who wrote to family friends in York from the battlefield in early 1918.

The youngest of six children - three boys and three girls - Cpl Skilbeck's was the only one of his brothers to be killed in the conflict. He died from wounds sustained in battle on March 29, 1918, at the age of 25, and is buried in Rouen, France.

His niece, Betty Rochester, now 95, inherited a letter written in rhyme by Cpl Skilbeck to his friends in York - a Mr and Mrs Cooper - and has kept it for more than 40 years.

York Press:

She said reading the poem for The Press brought a lump to her throat, as Cpl Skilbeck's final written words showed how keen he was to return home.

It read: "Home soon again we hope to be/In dear 'Old York', that 'Faire Citie'

"Dear Friends I bid you both 'Adieu'/Until the time when I come through/My candles' light is nearly spent/But - in dug-outs we pay no rate or rent."

The poem is upbeat - referring to Cpl Skilbeck's brother's fondness for eating peas from the pod, how he misses vegetables - but also talks of the difficulties he faced, including a rat infestation in his trench.

York Press:

Mrs Rochester said: "I've read this countless times over the last 40-odd years.

"I just feel very sad. He writes it so cheerfully, or he's trying to be cheerful, anyway. But he says at the end 'home soon again, we hope to be'.

"He doesn't make a lot of it, but it must have been absolutely horrible."

Mrs Rochester - who served in the Second World War as a flight mechanic on Spitfires for the RAF - said she also remembered seeing the 'death penny' sent to parents of those killed during the First World War in her family home as a child.

She said: "It's a very sad thing, to send one of those to a parent. You get that instead of your son. And for my grandmother, he was her favourite son, the youngest and the cleverest one. They didn't talk about him much.

"They were all very proud of him, because he became a teacher at Whitby, and then we found out his name was on a memorial at the church on top of the cliffs there. We went a few years ago and his name was on the open page that day, by chance."

York Press:

York Press:

Wendy Woodfine, Mrs Rochester's daughter, said her son - who is training as a teacher - is using the poem to teach primary school children about the First World War.