As we recently honoured the fallen on Remembrance Day, a BBC television series about the First World War showed a clip of a soldier from Hampshire carrying a fellow soldier and casualty of war through a trench.

Reuben Forrest Fray grew up on a farm near Southampton before becoming a trainee butcher at Gough’s Butcher Shop in the city.

Reuben joined the Labour Corps where he carried out dangerous work in France during the First World War, often coming under shell fire.

Adrian Fray, Reuben’s son, got in contact with the Daily Echo, and sent through a copy of a letter sent to his uncle on February 6, 1917.

“You must think me a fine brother not to scribble you a line for such a long while. This is the first time I think I have written to you since you joined the others by entering upon married bliss,” the letter said.

“How proud you must feel to have a dear wife and a home of your own, I hope and trust you are as happy and contented as it is possible to be.

“I’m sure I’m looking forward to the time when this strife is all over and I am placed in a position to make a home for the best girl in the world.

“I wish it had been possible for me to get leave and been home for your wedding, but it wasn’t for the lack of my asking. But I expect you know it is very difficult to get back to dear old England once one sets foot on French soil.

“All at home have been expecting me on leave for some while but I’m afraid they will all be disappointed as I understand now that leave is stopped altogether for our battalion this year.

“We are all anxious to hear news of home and loved ones and welcome letters from home more than anything else.”

Reuben went on to speak of the conditions he and his battalion faced in France.

“I’m pleased you have escaped the discomforts of a winter out here in the army. It is wonderful what our human frame can stand when it is put to the test. The comfort of a home will appeal to us far more after the experience of this life on active service.

“You used to think it rather hard going to prepare camp during the summer months in the territorials, but here it is far different. It is rather different having to make one’s own bivouac in the dusk of an evening with shells screaming over. But is all right when one gets used to it, although the mud and wet like we have had here during the winter takes a little getting used to.

“We have had it rather cold here lately. Snow has been on the ground since the 1st January. It isn’t so bad when there is no wind, but when the wind is blowing it is awful.

“I don’t remember seeing horses and men with moustaches having long icicles hanging from them like we see here. I’m sure I shouldn’t like to be bothered with a moustache in this weather. I often laugh at some of them that have them and so much ice clinging on.

“When I leave my morning’s washing water in the old steel helmet all day it is one solid block of ice by the night, so you see how quickly it freezes. I thought I could not have done so until now I have to.”

After writing of the harsh environment, Reuben went on to explain how they attempted to make things “warm and comfortable”.

“We have gradually improved our bivouac or dugout, as we might call it, and now it is quite warm and comfortable. The floor is sunk down to about 4ft and the sides made up to about 6ins with sandbags. I have a bedstead that I made myself which is far better than the hard ground.

“I have done away with our old fireplace which was set in the bank of the dugout and let most of the heat go up the chimney, and put in a stove instead made from an old oil drum and a chimney of old cordite cases socketed together.

“It is surprising how comfortable it is possible to make one’s house with a little trouble.”

Most of us would find it hard to fathom being in a warzone, yet was something Reuben and millions of others experienced during those dark days, and something he went on to describe.

“It was a funny experience to be under rifle fire the first time but I haven’t experienced this since last summer and I don’t particularly want to do so again. Bullets make such a nasty little ‘ping’ that you get the feeling that the further away from them you are the better pleased one is.

“You haven’t heard anything more about your exemption I suppose? Be wise, mind, milking cows is better after all than this life.”

Reuben clearly and understandably thought about life

after the conflict, going on to talk about his plans upon his return.

“I think that I shall have another try at my trade if I get home again safe and sound. After this life I expect that I shall want employment a little more exciting than the quiet routine of our farm life.

“An air fight is very interesting to watch; it is wonderful how they dodge around one another. I have seen several brought down, one of which in a whole mass of fire.”

Reuben worked his way up the ranks, becoming lance corporal before making full corporal.

Returning from the conflict he took over milk delivery for the family farm before setting up his own butchery in West End.

He died at the age of 69 from a heart condition.