Leslie Mutum

Leslie was born on 20th June 1920, with his birth registered at Thetford.  He served with the British Army during WW2 and often sent correspondence back home.  Some of his letters were directed to the editor of a local newspaper, the Bury Free Press, where he wrote about his experience of life in the army.  Below are a few of his letters to the editor.  He died, aged 80, on 13th November 2000, and is buried in Bury St. Edmunds’ cemetery.


“Sir –  Many Service man and women returning to the district on leave have complained that they are unable to get soap with their ration cards. Shopkeepers say they get their soap coupons separately – this is correct; but they do not get a coupon on leave, for panel 1 on the back of the card is the soap coupon. A telephone call to the local Food Office confirmed this today.  LESLIE T. MUTUM,”

August 12th 1944.  LETTER FROM THE FRONT.  L.T. Mutum, serving with the Forces in Normandy, wrote a letter to the Bury Free Press and in it he says that Lance Sergeant A.J.W. Armiger’s duties now include feeding and maintenance of some rabbits which he recently ‘acquired’ after they were left behind by the local inhabitants during the fighting in Normandy. He also has five hens and there is a kitten in their camp.  Gunner J Harrington, of Brandon Fields, who worked for Frederick Hiam Ltd before the war, is now using his skills to attend to some cows that his unit has just rounded up.  Gunner W.E. Dyer has recently visited the camp.

29th September 29th 1944.  WITH OUR FIGHTING MEN.  More Interesting Sidelights from Normandy.  L.T. Mutum, with the Forces in Normandy, sends another message to the (Bury) “Free Press” of special interest to West Suffolk:

“Local men serving with the British Liberation Army have just started to receive fresh rations daily, and white bread makes a welcome change after weeks of eating biscuits. A dinner is steak, green peas and potatoes, followed by prunes and custard and “real” tea!

If you could visit their camp when they are out of the line resting, you would find them washing clothes, having baths in biscuit tins, or getting their hair cut in a saloon which has the sky for a ceiling and a “compo” (ration) box or water or petrol can for a barber’s chair.

They all look very brown and healthy, for the weather has been kind recently, and they are able to sunbathe stripped to the waist. The nights are often very noisy, but their chief complaint seems to be that the mosquitos keep them awake!

In one camp, tame rabbits left behind by the evacuated people have been rescued, and are a source of much interest. Feeding and maintenance is an additional job for L/Sgt A.W.J. Armiger, whose home is at Brandon. He has now five adults (for breeding purposes) and 27 immatures for rearing. Five hens and a kitten have also sought refuge in the camp.

Local men visiting the camp recently include Gnr J.W. Chapman, of Bury St. Edmunds; Gnr A. Hughes, who joined the “Terriers” while stationed at Feltwell; Gnr W.E. Dyer, of Brandon; and L/Bdr G.A. Smith of Bradfield Combust.”

SUFFOLK PUNCH.  From L.T. Mutum, with our Forces in Normandy …

“Last night local men serving in this sector were each able to purchase a bottle of beer from England for 14 francs; it was sold in a Regimental Canteen run by Regimental Quartermaster-Sergeant J.J. Bond, who before the war was with Barclays Bank Ltd. at Brandon. It was their first “real drink” since arrival in France and made a welcome change from the limited amount of cognac or white wine available at 15 francs per wine glass (10 francs = 1 shilling).

Each man was also able to purchase 75 cigarettes for 25 francs, matches razor blades, chewing gum, shaving soap, etc. were also available from N.A.A.F.I. Assisting R.Q.M.S. Bond were Sgt. H.C. Leathers, of Bury St. Edmunds and Bdr. A.W. Rolph of Brandon. Lt.(Q.M.) W.A. Crack, of Bury St. Edmunds, was watching the proceedings.

Local men bivouacked in a farmyard include Sgt G.T. Reynolds and Sgt W.A. Baker, of Bury St. Edmunds; L/Sgt A.J. Armiger, of Brandon; L/Sgt J.W. Palfrey, of Great Welnetham; and L/Bdr F.W. Groves and Gnr L.J. Brett, also of Bury St. Edmunds. They are making themselves very comfortable under the circumstances. Little groups of twos and threes have dug themselves pits about 2 feet deep and formed snug tents by fixing such material as is available to form a covering. A touch of home is provided by photographs and pin-up girls which adorn the walls.

In spite of the language difficulties, our men are making friends with the villagers from a hamlet near by.

Walking along the lane to a Normandy farmyard about 11 o’clock this morning I was surprised to hear the strains of “Bread of Heaven” in full Welsh harmony, and came upon some fifty officers and men of a local unit gathered round their padre under the dripping trees in an apple orchard. The men had recently been relieved from the line and were having a brief rest. They were remembering fallen comrades, giving thanks for deliverance, and gaining strength for coming tasks. Prayers were being said for the safety of those at home. The singing attracted a number of villagers who were listening intently.”

NOVEMBER 1944.  PROMOTION.  Lance Bombardier L.T. Mutum, Royal Artillery, of 6 Coronation Place, has been appointed Press Assistant to the Public Relations Officer of his unit in Europe. Before the war he was a clerk/assistant to Mr R.J. Woodrow, Brandon ironmonger and at the outbreak of war he wrote for the Bury Free Press. He has edited a regimental magazine called “Suffolk Punch” which he founded in 1942.