A 1933 book written by feminist and pacifist Vera Brittain included a tribute to a young Worcestershire Regiment officer who died 100 years ago during the First World War.

Lt Roland Leighton was the fiancé of the author, who, in Testament of Youth, recounted her experiences as a VAD nurse during the war, also sharing her correspondence with Lt Leighton, close friends Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow, and her brother Edward Brittain, all killed during the conflict.

In January 1916, shortly after hearing of his death, she visited his family home in the village of Keymer, near Brighton, and wrote: "I arrived at the cottage that morning to find his mother and sister standing in helpless distress in the midst of his returned kit, which was lying, just opened, all over the floor. The garments sent back included the outfit that he had been wearing when he was hit. I wondered, and I wonder still, why it was thought necessary to return such relics – the tunic torn back and front by the bullet, a khaki vest dark and stiff with blood, and a pair of blood-stained breeches slit open at the top by someone obviously in a violent hurry.

"Those gruesome rages made me realise, as I had never realised before, all that France really meant. Eighteen months afterwards the smell of Etaples village, though fainter and more diffused, brought back to me the memory of those poor remnants of patriotism.”

Initially rejected due to poor eyesight Roland Leighton two months later obtained a commission in the Royal Norfolk Regiment before being transferred to the 7th Worcester Regiment in an attempt to get to the Western Front as soon as possible. He arrived in the trenches at Armentieres in April 1915.

Before actually seeing any action he became aware of the reality of war. Soon after arriving at the front-line trenches Roland wrote to Vera Brittain: "I went up yesterday morning to my fire trench, through the sunlit wood, and found the body of the dead British soldier hidden in the undergrowth a few yards from the path. He must have been shot there during the wood fighting in the early part of the war and lain forgotten all the time. The ground was slightly marshy and the body had sunk down into it so that only the toes of his boots stuck up above the soil. His cap and equipment were just by the side, half-buried and rotting away. I am having a mound of earth thrown over him, to add one more to the other little graves in the wood."

The Worcester's held a part of the front line in Ploegsteert Wood (Plugstreet to the soldiers) for most of April 1915. Lt Leighton letters are full of the incongruities of war; in one he is amazed at some primroses growing near his dugout. In the same letter, he reports that the Worcesters had had their first man killed, Lance Corporal John Beagin, aged 23, who a week earlier had been recommended for a Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The young officer soon became disillusioned with the war. He told Vera later that month: "There is nothing glorious in trench warfare. It is all a waiting and a waiting and taking of petty advantages – and those who can wait longest win. And it is all for nothing – for an empty name, for an ideal perhaps – after all."

On the night of December 22, 1915 he was ordered to repair the barbed wire in front of his trenches. It was a moonlit night with the Germans only a hundred yards away and Roland Leighton was shot by a sniper. His last words were: "They got me in the stomach, and it's bad." He died of his wounds at the military hospital at Louvencourt the next day and was buried in the military cemetery nearby.

You can read more about Roland Leighton here http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-people/brothers-arms/266-roland-leighton.html