10 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 10/17


Dear Mother

We’ve had no mail for a fortnight now and there seems to be no news of one either just yet. I believe the English mail goes out today but one can never really be certain. Today is a most awful day, there is a howling gale – nothing else will describe it – from the north west and it is bitterly cold. A feeble winter sun is giving a certain amount of light, but no warmth, and there is’nt a cloud in the sky. It’s impossible to get warm, & we are sitting huddled up in coats! I really believe the best & only thing to do is to go to bed! As I have told you before I think, it never seems to be able to do anything in moderation in this country, it either is blowing a gale or too hot or too cold, there seems to be no happy medium.

Yesterday 4 of us went out shooting and took our lunch out with us. We had quite a pleasant outing, and got 10 birds- We have only a very limited supply of cartridges and it’s hard to get any more. It rained quite hard for ½ an hour or so on our way back yesterday, cold driving rain that soaked us through in no time.

Col Hogg has arrived at Baghdad, but I don’t know when he will be coming on here. I expect he’ll put in a few days there first to look round. They are having a great show in Baghdad for Christmas, all kinds of sports & races, polo tournaments & dinners & duck shoots & general frivolities. We are having a few sports & football & hockey tournaments here, also a race meeting I think after Christmas.

I saw a “Surrey advertiser” I think it was in the Queen’s mess the other day, with an account of the part they took in the Ramadi battle in it. I also saw an appeal from Mr Kirwan for funds to send them Christmas presents, & they all ragged me & said that of course I as a Guildford resident must be in the subscription list!

There is practically no news here nowadays. All seems fairly quiet & no one knows quite what is going to happen I fancy. The rainy season is on us now which always rather interferes with things. Excuse a short letter but I have nothing to tell you & no letters to answer, & it is so cold in a tent in this wind! Thank goodness I’ve got that Shetland!

Best love to all

yr loving son      Ted

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Posted by on 10 December, '17 in About


9 December 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

Sunday 9th


My dear Mother

Thank you & the girls most awfully for that lovely box. It arrived most opportunely too. Thoroughly wet, tired, bored, & with no prospect of anything for dinner but bully & lo & behold that box of delicacies. We’ve been living like dukes. Too good of you to send it & it was like a conjuring trick, things never seemed to end coming out. We’ve eaten all the almonds, & that butter is lovely, & the mince pies too.

Did you have all that frost? We were sleeping in the fields then. Awfully cold but really not so terrible as it sounds. I have hopes of being home soon. Perhaps for Christmas but anyhow we have no interest till 15th so I hear. I enclose a cheque for £60 & Cox will change it.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



My mother says that Richard was back in France when this was written, and that Topher wasn’t with Richard by this time. “We” are Richard and his fellow officers, not Richard and Topher.

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Posted by on 9 December, '17 in About


1 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 1st/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 2 letters from you which arrived 2 days ago, dated 10th & 17th of October. In the 10th one you had’nt heard from me for some days & the 17th one was in answer to some of mine written just before we left Amara & on the boat up to Baghdad. I’m so glad you liked them, & the journey is well worth describing – one is apt to forget that scenes & sights & incidents which seem trivial to us maybe of great interest to you, so I always try & tell you as much as possible.

It has been very cold here lately, due to a biting NW wind which nothing will keep out. It seems to cut through all one’s clothes, & as we only have thin khaki drill you can imagine it’s a bit parky. I have found that Shetland woolly most frightfully useful, I simply don’t know what I should have done without it. The nights of course are very cold indeed, down to 40° sometimes, & it’s never above 80° in the shade by day now. So you see we are indeed subjected to extremes in this weird & wonderful land. However we are getting some warm clothing from Government soon I hope, so that’s all right. And by the time I get an answer to this letter it will be February, wet & horrid, & a month later that infernal hot weather will begin again. But we are all very happy & thrive on this open air treatment; personally I feel and am particularly fit & well.

Today a plum pudding arrived from you, so we are all right for Christmas in that direction anyhow. Our trouble is a Turkey (one is tempted to pun here, but I will refrain!) or a goose, but there appear to be none to be had. Thanks awfully for the pudding, you’ll be glad to hear of its safe arrival I know.

Life is strenuous for us – at least for the men – these days. Dig dig dig all day, but last week we were lucky & went out on a 4 days reconnaissance about 15 miles up the river. “Berryman’s column” it was called, & we had cavalry, infantry, & guns in it, & I was put in command; I rather think I referred to this krewst in my last letter. Anyway we had quite a nice 4 days out; ooo it was cold, no tents & this old wind blowing the whole time.

We came across some Turks one day & they fired a few shots at us, but did no harm. But it was a good training for us all, as we were in hostile country & never knew what might’nt turn up. And it was a very pleasant change too from our life of late, cooped up inside barbed wire an’ all here-

Lyell has’nt joined yet. Yesterday I got a wire aasking me to inform him of his wife’s death in Lansdowne. Did you ever hear of anything so tragic? She has just had a son, but from all accounts was going on well. Poor Lyell had to leave Lansdowne a week before the child was born, so perhaps the worry of it all killed her poor woman. I don’t know what Dolly Lyell will do now; I believe he was devoted to her, & it will be such an awful shock to him poor man. I have wired the sad news to him to try & catch him at Baghdad before he arrives here, I think it’s better he should know as soon as possible rather than wait till he gets here.

Later Just got a wire from Lyell to say he is applying for leave-

Jack Hogg is on his way up from Basra too to take over command, but he won’t be up here for a week or two yet.

Topher seems to have had a good leave, I’m so glad he managed to get it at last. News is on the whole good, for I have long since ceased to regard Russia as a country at all, as the Italians seem to have rallied somewhat. Then our big breakthrough on a 10 mile front on the Hindenburg line is awful good news, the tanks seem to have done well there.

Everyone is very optimistic it seems about submarines & air reprisals, & I do hope they start soon, though this is possibly not quite the season for them.

Really Babs Davids being married seems very hard to believe, they both are so absurdly young. As you say it must be hard to feed a sudden inrush of people for a weekend, & even your truly marvellous capacity for meeting these somewhat alarming situations must be taxed these days, but I have no doubt you still succeed in making a little go all the way & I’m sure no one leaves Delaford either hungry or sad.

Whiskey at 8/6 a bottle! My word, we pay 33/- a dozen here, but I suppose we are spoilt children. Sugar seems plentiful & we get enough; tea too, somewhat hay-like as yours is. I’m personally rather lucky, as I still have 2 pounds which Nell sent me, also enough tea tabloids to make over a hundred cups, but I am keeping all these for a rainy day when things fail.

Your second letter of 16th Oct acknowledges 3 of mine. I rather think my letters describing my first impressions of Baghdad may have been lost, as one lot about then was burnt at sea I know, but it’s just possible it may have escaped, I sincerely hope so anyway. So glad you like the links, & how wonderful their arriving safely. I must confess I never imagined they would! They are quite a good example of Amara silver work & I have one or two more odds & ends which I do not care to commit to the care of the post, but I will bring them along some old time.

Yes mother, I have had my wish of leading my men into action, & indeed they did not fail me-

You say Specs you think will be roped in at last, & all the pleadings of Col Perkins will be of no avail. Well, it’s about time, & his work can hardly be put down as one of national importance! I got a lovely box of cigars from old Fielding today, very sporting of the old man. He wrote such a nice letter in reply to my “ultimatum” about getting married next year. I wish you could manage to put in a few days there, but I know it’s difficult, but the rest of the family are all very anxious to meet you, & I’m sure you would like them all most awfully-

Dinner time- Best love to all

Yr loving son


Enclosed shows our casualties in the scrap, underlined. I told Ben I wd enclose it in her letter, but I forgot!


Derivation of tabloid: Henry Wellcome pharmaceuticals

Marriage announcement in Times for Alfred George Lyell, 9/12/15

“A G. Lyell, 39th Garhwal Rifles, Indian Army, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. James C. Lyell, of Heathfield, 68, Upper Richmond Road, Putney, and Dorothy Flora, second daughter of the Rev. Charles Kensington, and Mrs. Foy.”

Hindenburg victory

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Posted by on 1 December, '17 in About


23 November 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 23rd/17


Dear Mother

I have’nt heard from you again since I last wrote, but I have to write tonight as we are going out on a reconnaissance for the next 3 or 4 days & we shan’t be back till after mail day. No news much nowadays, it was very cloudy & muggy all the beginning of this week, & regular blue nose day. We had a certain amount of rain too, which laid the dust but made things very cold. It is much the same today, only no rain, but regular raw English weather.

I am taking out a column of cavalry & Infantry & guns tomorrow, and am commanding the show. It’s awful good fun getting these mixed columns to command, as it’s good practice in handling troops & very good experience. The amusing part is of course that most of the senior officers in the column are really senior to me, being real Majors etc, but I am senior to them pro tem by virtue of being an acting Lieut Col! So it’s a bit of luck for me, is’nt it- However when Hogg & Lyell join & I have to revert, I shall only take part in these affairs as a humble captain again, rather a drop from commanding the force to commanding a company! The fortune of war-

Good news from Palestine is’nt it, & just as well perhaps considering the rather depressing series of events in Russia & Italy. Really the Russians are rather trying, but I fancy we have cleared them out of our calculations altogether now. The Italian news is uncertain, but they seem to be preparing us for worse. Poor old England & France! We are bearing the whole weight of the war between us.

I rather fancy America’s entry will make all the difference, especially her air fleet.

Awfully sad about Genl: Maude was’nt it, so awfully sudden too. They say it was Cholera, but no one seems to know for certain. He was undoubtedly a very good man, with an extraordinary amount of energy & attention to detail- and he is a great loss.

I must have my bath now, & use some of the bath salts you sent. I used one cube the other day & it was gorgeous.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Maude’s death in NZ Press 2 days earlier


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Posted by on 23 November, '17 in About


18 November 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 18/17


Dear Mother

I got a lovely surprise today in the shape of a really gorgeous pipe from you. You had to post ridiculously early apparently to catch the Christmas mail for these parts, and your parcel turned up today! But that’s no matter, the point is the rippingness of the present. Thanks ever and ever so much for it Mother: it’s a regular “just what I wanted” and such a gorgeous pipe too; I’m awful proud of it and it’s the envy of the Brigade.

Kindly tell me please what’s come over the posts lately! Two days ago I got a letter written by you from Pitney on 25th Sept, & today I get the pipe & letters from Nell date Oct 3rd to Oct 9th! So things seem rather higgledy piggledy all round- Nell tells me she has rheumatism in her shoulder poor child. Can’t it be sort of got out of her system now while she’s young, by baths (mud baths I’ve heard of; she’d better try the trenches!) or some means, I’m so awfully sorry for her poor dear & I’ve no doubt she’s being looked after all right, but I’m naturally very anxious to get all that can be done, done now. Otherwise she seems very fit & cheery, & I wish she could manage to get a bit of a change & go & stay at Delaford for a bit-

Your letter to me from Pitney was sad in many ways, I mean the way the old place has been so unavoidably neglected – one always associated Pitney with neat lawns & flower borders, & your description is hard to picture. Joe must be getting very old & feeble now, but from your account is still happy & his simple pleasures still appeal to him.

I have’nt heard ftom Ben for some time now, the vagaries of the post again I suppose. But all the same I think the posts out here are most awfully good, & we have had heaps of mails lately & have really no complaints- Yes, Jim wrote & said he had actually got orders to come out here, but I’ve heard nothing since-

So glad you met the Kelways. I met them of course at Cheltenham College, & remember them awfully well. It was the first time I had met them, as I had always missed them as kids at Pitney.

Rather cloudy & muggy here now, & some rain hanging about I think. The papers we have had from home these last 2 weeks have been wonderfully cheery & optimistic, but since then the Italian débacle has occurred, so I wonder what they all say now-

I have no news. I was vaccinated two days ago – at my age too! I do hope it won’t take, but it’s looking rather angry just at present – what a lot of stuff one has injected nowadays, enteric, cholera, vaccination & emitone, I must be a walking chemist shop by now! I retired to bed early last night with a head & a cold, good old neuralgia & shivers- nust have been a touch of malaria I think, but I’m all right today & am going to drink a hot whiskey & lemon in bed (you know the krewst!) & then fairly pile on the clothes, though I have not got many to pile on, though fortunately the paternal government gave us another blanket all round today & I got a beauty.

Again thanks awfully for the ripping pipe, most welcome a real beauty too-

Best love to all

yr loving son


I told you did’nt I that D-B gives up command on 21st of this month, & Jack Hogg, now commanding our 3rd Batt, succeeds him & is coming out here.

Lyell has left Basra to join us, & will be here in a week or two, so that puts me down to Major when he arrives, & when Jack Hogg arrives to command us, I subside to Captain!


History of Pitney

Probable Kelways –  family of peony cultivator


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Posted by on 18 November, '17 in About


11 November 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 11/17


Dear Mother

Two letters from you today, one from Pitney on 26th Sep & one from home on 3rd October. Thanks most awfully for them. I have half an idea that there is a mail missing, though we have not been warned of one being lost – as a matter of fact later mails do arrive sometimes before previous ones, as they occasionally go via Ceylon for some reason or other, & while they are doing that the next mail nips into Bombay & reaches us first- However the chief thing is that they should arrive sometime. I wrote to you 2 or 3 days ago so I have’nt much further news for you.

We got the home papers today with the wires about our Ramadi show in it, but I see they are very non-comittal & told you nothing beyond that the action was a success. I cabled to Nell as soon as I could to say I was all right, and I expect she sent it on to you, at least I hope so. The wires were rather congested just then so I only sent one.

Nell’s birthday today, she is 20, so is getting quite grown up! I hope Jane finished her present in time, somewhat novel perhaps & I hope Mrs Fielding won’t be shocked! Nell writes very cheerily & of course is wild at the prospect of my coming home next year. I hope the dear child realises that it is only an outside chance & may not be possible, but I’m going to have a jolly good try.

My chief bit of news this mail is that Col: D.B. is definitely giving up command on the 22nd of this month, and Jack Hogg has been appointed to succeed him. He is son of Col Hogg you know at Camberley, & is at present commanding our 3rd Bn: in India. He is an awful nice man & we are lucky to get him. The official letter says he will proceed to Mesopotamia “in due course”, which may mean anything. So when he arrives and Lyell, I shall drop to humble Captain again! But I can’t complain can I; I’ve had my innings & a jolly good one too; besides it is’nt over yet either, as I don’t suppose Hogg will be out much before Christmas.

I went out shooting this morning, it’s the first holiday the men have had since we left Baghdad last September. We have been so busy marching & digging that we have’nt had time for any “days off”. It’s rather a krewst here, as you have to have an escort to go out any distance from camp with, rather novel conditions to shoot under! However nothing exciting happened, & we brought back 6 partridges & 2 grouse so had quite a nice little outing.

I hope the stores have sent you some photographs- I sent you the key to them some time ago & if they have numbered them properly you should be able to tell exactly which is which. I have ordered them to send you another lot & send the key to the new lot herewith.

So glad you had a few days at Pitney, the fruit sounds gorgeous. Yes, Ben told me all about the air raids; terrible they sound, & it’s good (?) to get some inside news, as the papers tell us so little. They must do a lot of damage of course; you can’t miss anything, bound to hit something flying over London. They are terrible things all the same, & I sincerely trust we are paying the Boche back in some of his own coin by now.

Thanks most awfully for your contribution towards the mess Fortnum & Mason parcel. It’s most awfully good of you, & we shall all appreciate it most awfully when it arrives. I was particularly anxious to do something – however small – in return for all the good work fellows, who have served under me while I’ve been in command, have done for me. I could not have been better served, & I am frightfully glad to feel that you too are helping too- I do hope things turn up in time for Christmas, but things take years to arrive to this “outpost of empire” nowadays.

I see a picture of George Moodie’s fiancée in the Tatler this week- so Topher turned up on leave did he at last; I am glad to hear it, & I hope he liked it- Wish I’d known, I should have liked to have sent him the price of a sherry & bitters at least-

You say in your letter of Aug 21st that you sometimes feel a bit anxious about me, but please don’t my dear mother. I really & truly am awful fit now & am feeling so well an’ all & in this cold weather one ought to keep as well as anything.

Nell tells me she finds it very hard to get away now, her V.A.D hospital is only staffed with ½ the right number of nurses apparently, so she is pretty busy. I wish she would get away for a holiday & change, however short, all the same.

I don’t know how the mails run nowadays, especially so far away as we are, but I expect this will reach you some old time.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Am enclosing key to next lot of photographs, stores Bombay will send you

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Posted by on 11 November, '17 in About


7 November 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 7/17


Dear Mother

I seem to have a lot of letters from you to answer – we got 3 mails altogether a few days ago, & I got 4 from you dated 5th 12th 13th & 19th September. Thanks most awfully for them, also for the papers which always turn up safely (tap wood) & are most welcome.

I have’nt much news for you. I had to go down to Feluya for a day last week to have my tooth finished off. He only had to put the stopping in so it did’nt take long & he did’nt hurt, it’s so difficult to get about in this country, you have to wangle lifts in various cars etc. I stayed with Sam Orton at Feluya, I was only there one night & I came back next day. A vile day to day: SE wind and the air thick with dust. Yesterday we went out on a reconnaissance about 5 miles beyond the outposts but saw nothing.

In to-day’s communiqué I see we have got Tekrit, north of Baghdad. I wonder what our next move will be. I am sending along a card which they give us out here, a ghastly production but I’m afraid it’s the best I can do. We just got Ramadie in time to appear in the card as you can see- all the other names are former scraps out here-

Yes I see London has been raided a good deal lately, but Ben writes to say how wonderfully calmly people take it all. So glad to hear the specialists’ opinions on Capon are so hopeful but as you say it must be awkward having him on the sick list. I do wish old Nell could manage to get up to Delaford for a bit, but she writes to say she is very busy nowadays as her sister Gladys is not very fit & she has to do more Red X work in consequence. However I expect she’ll be able to manage it someday. I’m very anxious to hear what job Topher has managed to get, whether he got gunners or tanks. Really awfully good of Genl: Robertson to take such an interest in him.

Ben told me Romer had been wounded & she saw him one day in town I believe. I hear he’s not bad, though still on crutches- You say you had 2 letters from me one day, 11th Sept, so glad they arrived safely- one was written in hospital, & one just after I came out. Thanks most awfully for writing to the matron & sending her a parcel, I know she will appreciate it so. Certainly the things you put in sound most alluring & I think you couldn’t have chosen better. Lucky getting that bit of sandal wood soap!

There is another excellent article in the “Field” of ? (I’ll look it up in the mess & tell you later) on the I.A. in France, & it has some nice things to say about us. So if you can get a copy anywhere, as I think it will interest you- I had a line from Jim a day or two ago, & he tells me he expects to be sent out here soon, but has to go to India first. I wonder if we shall meet! Specs still exempted! Disgraceful I call it. Surely he can hold a gun straight in a trench, or do something to finish the war-

You seem to have had another letter from me on 13th Sept: are’nt the mails erratic these days. I have’nt had a parcel from you for sometime now. There must be 2 on the way I fancy, but parcel mails, once they are landed out here, are very erratic as transport is so scarce & parcel mails are the last things they send up. Our letter mails are really wonderfully good.

I can’t remember Jerreland at the R.M.C somehow. I wrote & told Nell she could put our engagement in the paper if she liked. Several people have seen Paul’s, & asked if it was my brother, Spens of Frimley Hall for one.

It has been awfully cold lately, right up to 10 o’clock or so every day: but today with this S.E. wind it’s quite hot again & last night was not nearly so cold as usual either.

No more news for the present: I’m very fit & well.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



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Posted by on 7 November, '17 in About