Discover the story of Maurice Darby (1894-1915), the son of Alfred Darby II who fought and died in the First World War. His letters, written from the trenches on the Western Front, provide an insight into the realities of warfare in the early 20th century.  

On Sunday 22 May 1921, a large crowd gathered in Coalbrookdale near to the Literary and Scientific Institute to witness the unveiling of the new war memorial erected at the school’s entrance. A memorial service was conducted, accompanied by a brass band, hymns and prayers.

The War memorial had been paid for and erected by the Coalbrookdale Company, a leading manufacturer of cast-iron goods. Alfred Darby II, Chairman, handed over the deeds of the site as a gift to the Borough Council. It was perhaps a poignant moment for Alfred Darby as his son, Maurice, had been killed in action during the Great War. 

Lt. Maurice Darby and Lt. R S Lambert at the Wellington Barracks, London

Unveiling of the Coalbrookdale War Memorial

Maurice Darby was born in London on 6 May 1894, to Alfred Darby II and Frederica Arthur. The family settled in Little Ness, Shropshire. He received his education at Eton and Sandhurst, becoming a Grenadier Guard, obtaining a Lieutenancy within the 7th Division. Maurice served in the trenches of Neuve Chapelle during the winter of 1914-1915.

After his death his body was recovered from no man’s land by his uncle Sir George Arthur. This was a rare occurrence but as Kitchener’s personal secretary he had influence to bring his nephew home to be buried. Maurice was laid to rest in Little Ness churchyard.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust Library and Archives are fortunate enough to have some documents relating to Maurice Darby, including letters and a diary entry sent to his family from the trenches. Read some of them below.


A letter home from Maurice Darby, 27 October 1914

Maurice sent an uncensored letter home to his family. Download the transcript


Maurice Darby notes from the Front, 7 January 1915

Pencilled by Maurice Darby on 7 January 1915 and sent home to his family. Maurice describes bailing out trenches, the process of standing to arms, the singing of ragtime tunes with his comrades and the arrival of some peppermint creams sent by his uncle Sir George Arthur, to rally the spirits of the men. Download the transcript


A letter from Maurice Darby to his cousin Olive, 9 March 1915

Entitled “The place some deluded people call SUNNY FRANCE”. Writing with news from the trenches Maurice believes the war will be over soon, he’s killed two days after writing this letter. Download the transcript


Notification of Maurice Darby’s death, 11 March 1915

Maurice was killed at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. Download the transcript