Alfred McNair Dykes

Alfred McNair Dykes, born in 1874, was commissioned in the Royal Lancaster Regiment in December 1894, and served in the Boer War as a Special Service Officer from November 1899 to January 1900. He was present at the relief of Ladysmith and at the action at Spion Kop, where he was severely wounded. He was promoted to the command of the 1st Battalion, on 1st August 1913, and proceeded to France with his unit in August 1914. The King's Own with the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Middlesex Regiment were ordered to cover the retreat of the BEF from Mons. On August 26 on top of a hill at Haucourt, at the Battle of Le Cateau, they were heavily shelled. Dykes fell at an early stage of the engagement while shouting encouragement to his men. His last words were reported to have been 'Men, if you want your lives for God's sake extend,' and 'Good bye boys!' His body was not recovered for burial.

His last letter to his wife, written at 02.00 on 22 August 1914 reads:

My Own Small Darling Wife

I got the last of my great command safely on board at 1 am. Another Regiment are now embarking and we shall be ready to start in about another hour. All being well we should be over by about 10-am tomorrow morning. I have just been told that I am O C troops on board and handed all sorts of secret codes for communicating with the Navy in case of necessity! I have just finished a scrap to my poor mother and now my last word before we leave these shores must naturally be to my Most Darling Precious.

Baby, I won’t refer to our parting today. It was too damnable I fear I may have seemed a little hard, But I couldn’t help it. If I’d let myself go one inch, I should have cried and a crying Colonel proceeding to ‘the Front’ – would not have been an edifying spectacle.

Sweet Baby Love, My Small Small Darling, I wouldn’t have missed that Precious little time with you for all the greatest things in the world. It was awful seeing you drive off - so lonely-so small and so defenceless. Yet I feel cheered and strengthened by our time together. It has made all the difference. Sweetheart I do so hope and pray that you got safely and well to London. That you are sleeping well NOW and that tomorrow you will get safe and well back to Malvern and be none the worse of your journeyings. Please tell me soon. I’m certain you are none the worse of the N-gg—ing I feel so much better and when you feel sad call to mind the advantage we took of the hospitality offered us by the friendly German Jeweller!! Never was such conduct!! Darling the future lies all unknown. But we both face it with full hope and confidence.

I know you will pray that I don’t fail in my big job. You know that I shall ever pray for you, to be spared anxiety, to keep well and strong and brave and in due time to bring the little IT, healthy and strong and well into the world. And above all with no danger or hurt or harm to your Darling Precious self. God bless and keep you my Darling Wife. I will come back to you safe and sound and younger than ever.

Au Revoir. All my love and a great long lasting snuggle. Just one long kiss.

His letters are held by the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum

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