27 June 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Wednesday. 27th


My dear Mother- Very many thanks for your letter & I am awfully pleased to hear your rest at Totland Bay has done you such a lot of good.-

Last week we had great excitement up here – the King came to visit the fleet & there was a round of ceremonies – but you’ve never seen such filthy weather as we had – such a shame as nearly every programme had to be altered – postponed & generally changed round. One day we had quite the worst thunderstorm I’ve seen – & it was quite a cold week end for him.

The “press” & movie people were up here so I expect you’ll see a lot of photographs taken at various times in the papers. He came on board here on Sunday afternoon & we were all introduced to him & shook hands – then he went round the ship – & stayed to tea with the Captain – of course he came to us because P.A. is here – & I expect he wanted to see where he lived etc. I’ll send you our photographs along when I can get some prints.

We hear our regatta is July 9th & 10th – we have’nt been able to do any practices lately – so we must buck up & get into training – not much time eh?-

I see all the Indian – Mesopotamian – Malay States etc mails despatched from London on May 31st have been lost at sea – I saw it in the paper to-day – So sickening I think – I expect there were several there for Jim & Ted.

Quite a lot of people at home for the week end – I met the Meyers at the Shop I think- I remember a Rene awfully well. Lovely for Ben & Jane going to Sea View with the Darwens.

Rosamond sent me a most lovely box of green peas the other day – they were good- & the first I’ve tasted this year.

I had a letter from Dick the other day – he seems quite fit-

My best love to you all – from your ever loving son


To modern eyes it seems quaint that Rosamund sent peas to Orkney or that Gertrude should send eggs to France but we forget that both peas and eggs are seasonal and the summer was lovely not just because of the weather but because of plentiful, fresh food.

George V visit to Scapa Flow, June 1917

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Posted by on 27 June, '17 in About


22 June 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

My dear Mother

So sorry I never wrote to you at Totland Bay & by this time you are back & I hope all the better for your holiday. I expect you had nice weather & enjoyed the rest. You never do want to go.

Eggs etc arrived today and we hope to have buttered eggs tomorrow morning for breakfast. Your face is fat in that photograph is’nt it, but p’raps you are fatter nowadays.

How were all the horses & how’s Louis Anderson is he alright. Was’nt he the only Anderson in France?

Wud you send some more eggs. That cake was awfully good. I must send some more thick clothes home. Such a clatter as Topher is always saying.

We have a dear little kitten in our mess, our mascot we call it, black and white.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


In the Second World War, my grandmother Nell would send my mother breakfast by post – she used puffed wheat (the un-sugared kind) to pack one or two fresh eggs in an empty cocoa tin. Presumably Gertrude is doing much the same, but sending the eggs to France rather than Bletchley.

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Posted by on 22 June, '17 in About


21 June 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter from Totland Bay. I hope the clothes’ll come soon. We’ve managed to get a Gramaphone after all & the records are awfully good. Fancy getting a leaf out of the Garden of Eden, and fancy having a son in command of a Regt. I expect it’s a relief to Ted, to have DB [Col Drake-Brockman] ]out of his way for a bit.

J.B is up to time nowadays. Those raids were alarming. I do hope they don’t try Guildford again. More clothes lumbering home me dear! Huge parcel but undo it & get out that German Hospital placard, rather interesting.

I do hope Ted sticks to the Command, but I doubt it, his being only a Capt, yet quite capable.

Dreda tells me she is going on the land after all. How will she like it in the winter.

Such a hailstorm yesterday. We’ve tried the eggs. Jolly good & Topher has also made some cherry jam, most awfully good. Another paper for Kirwan to sign, the other are lost!

I’m told I’m getting fatter. I heard from Mr Gosse. Topher is a great fisherman with Gosse’s reel.

Best love to all

Send some more books during the next week or two. I’ll want them, also some lemonade powder

Yr loving son


As a doctor, Richard would have been behind the lines, presumably in a semi-permanent medical station. Even so, Topher’s gardening, fishing and jam-making seems extraordinary to modern eyes. It’s easy to forget the scale of the infrastructure in France supporting the troops in the trenches on the Western Front. 

My brother told me that Ted’s CO, Col Drake Brockman, was the only British field officer who survived serving in the First World War who ended the war the same rank as he started it. I have not checked this, but he certainly comes across as finicky and rather fussy in his book With The Royal Garhwal Rifles In The Great War, From August 1914 to November 1917

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Posted by on 21 June, '17 in About


19 June 1917 – Richard to Dreda



Dear Dreda

Please send me one or two of those awful common khaki made up bow ties with a thing on the back to fix it to your collar stud you know the sort, and it must have the allies’ flags or something on the bow parts, something bright & big.

I’m sure they make them.

Lemonade powder will be awfully welcome.

Best love to all & I hope you’ve seen Cicely.

Yr loving


Is Richard getting involved in amateur theatricals while serving as an army doctor in France? Interesting he asks his sister for these “big and bright” bow ties – presumably he thought even his mother’s adoration had its limits.

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Posted by on 19 June, '17 in About


14 June 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Thursday. 14th.


My dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter – and the photographs too – though I don’t think it is awfully good of you – perhaps it is because I have’nt seen you in that headgear before – you look awfully well & so fat!-. I am ever so pleased to hear you are – or rather have had a holiday – it will certainly do you a whole heap of good to get some sea air & I do so hope you have enjoyed yourself Mother – lovely weather for it an’ all.

Nance simply hates going away from Delaford & did’nt want to go home a bit – so dull up there she says – but of course she’s got her hospital work to do for which I am very pleased – keeps her mind employed.

Just heard about that awful air raid in London – such a heap of casualties – & mostly kids at a school – dreadful I think don’t you.

Dreda’s farm work sounds awfully nice – & I really do think she ought to lead an open air life for a bit – don’t you – after being 2 years in that bank – a marvellous record I consider that- such dull work really – but necessary, & she certainly deserves all praise for staying there all that time.

Fearfully windy weather we seem to be getting these days – but it’s quite warm really. We still play football & the Officers team is top of our ship’s league – fearful keenness over it.

Not much news these days – my very best love to you all-

from your ever loving son


Paul’s dislike of any kind of indoor or desk work comes through very strongly in his comments about Dreda’s new job.

Bombing of Upper North St School, Poplar, 13/6/17

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Posted by on 14 June, '17 in About


13 June 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

June 13/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for your letter dated May 2nd which I got yesterday. My dear, how we have all been laughing at the idea of Genl Maude getting a parcel with a pair of socks marked for me in them! A gorgeous idea I think; & my pals have all been ragging me, & all the troops will parade while I step forward & he hands them to me! As a matter of fact I don’t think any harm will be done & between you & me it’s just as well; you never know, even little things like that always help, & it may mean something to him if he ever hears my name again. No harm in being on sock-receiving terms with the G.O.C! tho’ I expect his A.D.C. will have most to do with it.

I’m so awfully sorry to hear about your bag & purse being stolen; rotten luck, & I know how you hate anything like that, especially as you say you lost one or two litte treasures in it. I lost my ring for 3 days the other day. I was bathing in the river & had taken my ring off & put it on the bank, under a tuft of grass; I forgot it when I came out but remembered it about 20 mins: later & went to get it but it had gone. One or two Arabs & people had been known to go by, & a thorough search revealed nothing, so I thought they must have spotted it & bagged it.

Next day I & some of the men had a thorough search, but with no results, & next morning while I was dressing my orderly brings it in to me! It appears, as Capon would say, one of our regimental police walking along there saw it quite by chance, & picked it up, thinking, he said, it was brass! & so kept it. He happened to show it to some pals, & one of them had heard about my losing my ring, so he came along & gave it to my orderly at once. Was’nt it lucky. Very silly of me of course to put it there, but it’s always a bit loose when my fingers are wet. I was most awfully distressed at the time & it quite worried me, & I was most frightfully pleased to get it back again.

Poor Capon sounds very ill, I do hope the baths will do him good. I should like to subscribe towards his treatment, if you’ll let me know about it, as he has always done me pretty well when I’ve been at home.

Hottish now, every day, & yesterday & today a high hot wind. But we must expect hot weather now, middle of June an’ all, though I believe July & August are the hottest months, but everyone seems to have different opinions on the subject.

Thank you for the cutting from the paper about the Indian Army; most interesting, & though it all seems so long ago now, still it’s nice to know one’s little bit has not been forgotten. I suppose things were rather bad just then.

Yes, I’ve promised to be godfather to Dolly Dawson’s son, but I’m afraid they won’t get my letter anything like in time, but Ben tells me they are taking it for granted I shall agree.

Very little news here. They have made me a Major now, from April 8th. It’s acting rank only, but with pay as a major. It’s because I am – or was then – 2nd in command, and on field service they give you the acting rank of major when 2nd in command (if you are not one already) & full pay as such, very nice. But when the war stops, or if I leave the rgt: for any reason, sick wounded or go to a job, then I drop the rank & revert to captain; & my successor in the job gets the rank & pay, after waiting 15 days from the date of the vacancy. That’s why I had to wait till April 8th, 15 days after sailing from India. Previous to that I had been 2nd-in-command since last september, but as we were not on F.S. no promotion was admissible, see?

Things are going well in the west, but Russian affairs seem very shaky don’t they. And I’m afraid you’re not having very cheery times as regards food in England now, but I think the nation is playing up on the whole, & it won’t last very long now, & we’ll soon all be back on full rations again.

Best love to all

ever yr loving son


More of Ted’s photos. After adding these to this letter I checked the original albums and saw some of the photos were captioned and appear to have been taken in Egypt in 1916 instead of Mesopotamia (Iraq) in 1917. I’ve left them with this letter and updated the captions accordingly.

Un-captioned, but probably a camp at Ain Musa with the Gulf of Suez in the background - the Garhwal Rifles in Egypt in 1916

but probably a camp at Ain Musa with the Gulf of Suez in the background – the Garhwal Rifles in Egypt in 1916


"Camp at Ain Musa: Gulf of Suez in Background" - with the Garhwal Rifles in 1916

“Camp at Ain Musa: Gulf of Suez in Background” – with the Garhwal Rifles in 1916

Ted took a couple of photographs of the mule lines – one can see why

"Mule Lines" - Mesopotamia (Iraq) 1917

“Mule Lines” – Mesopotamia (Iraq) 1917

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Posted by on 13 June, '17 in About


6 June 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

June 6/17


Dear Mother

No mail in yet, & I hear too they are starting a bi-weekly mail from India, though I think bi-weekly means twice a week, does’nt it? I really forget! Anyhow I mean the mail is going to leave India for home only twice a month in future, every other week in fact, so heaven alone knows when our letters will reach you.

I last wrote on 31st. Nothing much has happened since then. We gave 3 concerts last week, calling ourselves the Pipsqueaks. They all went off very well, but I find that I have’nt got time to worry about these things so I’ve chucked it. You see we are in camp 2 miles up stream, and it means a long journey in to the Club for rehearsals, in the heat of the day too, or else a long journey down after dinner & a hopelessly late bed-going, & these days of getting up at 4.30 it’s not good enough. It’s the getting back is so hard, upstream against the current in a bellum is almost impossible, besides bellums won’t run at night, so one is done in.

Fortunately last week I managed to cadge a car one night, as I couldn’t get across the river, all bellums being in bed & the bridge of boats being open to allow river traffic to pass. You see our camp is on the other side as well as being 2 miles away. So I got this old car, & went a huge long way round over another bridge much lower down & home that way, 5 or 6 miles, which I should have had to have walked otherwise. Next night I managed to cadge a launch home, but one can’t go on doing that. Besides I’m really much too busy to take on the job: so you need’nt worry about sending any songs. It was quite good fun while it lasted, & I got to know a good few people through it.

Hellish hot here nowadays, it’s been up to 113° [45° Celsius] in our tents, but the last 2 days have been much cooler, & last night was positively cold the thermometer dropping right down to 74 [23° Celsius] at 5 this morning. I generally have a dip in the Tigris in the morning, & we all bathe again in the evening. The current is fearfully strong & carries you right down, however much you try & swim against it, but it’s great fun & very refreshing. We have managed to bag a bit of board & are putting up a diving-board today.

There are some lovely walks along the river here, through most gorgeous date groves, with willows all growing alongside the river. And pomegranate trees with the fruit just ripening now & their lovely scarlet flowers. Funny little Arab children play around the villages, & the gardens are deliciously untidy, but lovely & cool & green. Melons and a sort of pumpkin-like vegetable grow here, and all sorts of weeds & creepers; & yesterday we were walking along & found real live English Blackberries, which of course took us straight home to England.

They water their melons & dates by curious old wells, & Persian wheels, where tins are attached to a wheel which revolves in the water, worked by a very rickety old horse who walks around a very Heath-Robinson contrivance, consisting of home-made cog wheels and creaking axles. But it seems to work all right, & I must really try & photograph it one day for you.

We are very comfy in our camp, & dinner on the river front is a perpetual delight, especially nowadays when there is a moon. You would hardly think you were in a much-abused Mesopotamia if you were suddenly dumped down in the mess at dinner, with the gramaphone playing, iced drinks, & a fresh breeze blowing, and the old Tigris flowing by looking ripping in the moonlight. But I expect our strenuous days are to come; meanwhile we are living really very comfortably, except on days when sand and dust are about, which, I may add, is nearly always. Our last 2 days here have been ghastly in that respect.

Hope you’re all right at home, food an’ all. I don’t like these air raids, & I think the invasion scare is no bogey but a very possible reality

Best love to all   yr loving son


Ted was always fond of children, and I attached this photograph to this post assuming they were connected. It was only after I went back to the album that I saw the caption and realised I should have posted it in one of his 1916 letters from Egypt. The caption is heart-breaking.

Captioned 'Armenian Refugees Port Said' - Egypt 1916

Captioned ‘Armenian Refugees Port Said’ – Egypt 1916

Paintings of bellams in book of 1920

Persian wheel

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Posted by on 6 June, '17 in About