2 December 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

XX Deccan Horse




My dear Mother. I wish you would’nt please give me such shocks. “Read this first” you said & it promptly began all about your will, I imagined the second letter was all going to be about some awful illness you had got! What fools Cox in Marseilles are. The keys were delivered to them I believe, anyhow I’ve written to all concerned & I hope they will turn up. And when they do I think I’ll have those field boots sent out. Would you mind packing them up securely & sending them. I may as well use them.

It was good about the 2 Zeps coming down. Where did Topher say he was, I have’nt heard from him lately, but he must be resting again now. They don’t seem to be able to decide about Jim. I expect he’ll like Hong Kong only the first 10 days of the voyage are rotten, they are quite safe when once past Port Said.

The “Gold Watch” is some use after all, but fancy having all those Tommies traipsing in & out, & how it will stink of smoke.

Ted sounds very swagger in his new Tent, I wrote to him yesterday.

So sorry you’ve had such a cold, I do hope it’s better by now.

You’d better send me a Xmas pudding as everybody seems to get odd things & I must put up a show, but you need’nt bother about sending anything else.

Freezing like blazes & so dull & cheerless.

The Countess’ daughter seems awfully bucked with the music. Trés charmante & elegante or something. I saw her for a sec yesterday.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



Of course I quite agree with you that the girls should first & foremost be provided for.


Then about Holmwood. I think that would be simplest to put Holmwood together with everything else, & divide up as you suggest. I don’t fancy I should ever live at Holmwood, much as I should like to, & taking everything into consideration it would be best to put Holmwood in with the other things, & me in with the other boys.

My idea has always been that provided all the girls don’t marry, the unmarried ones will live together somewhere, or at anyrate have a small house, with as much of the nice furniture that you’ve got in it. Then we unmarried boys will always look on that place more or less as a home, i.e. if we are working abroad. I’d hate that furniture to be lost.

Of course I quite agree with you that the girls should first & foremost be provided for.

Then about Holmwood. I think that it would be simplest, to put Holmwood together with everything else & divide up as you suggest. I don’t fancy I should ever live at Holmwood, much as I should like to. I am afraid all the girls won’t get married, & surely one or two of them will make a home somewhere together, & we unmarried boys will more or less look on that as a home, i.e. if we are all abroad. Anyhow Holmwood would be too big for them

The section starting “Then about Holmwood” is duplicated in the transcript from the IWM, Their transcriptions are excellent which suggests that Richard had drafted this section of his letter and lost his place when copying it. I can check the original next time I go to the IWM. 

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Posted by on 2 December, '16 in About


2 December 1916 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 2/16


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter last mail, dated Nov 1st. Thanks awfully for sending off the sword & Coat. What awful nonsense it seems does’nt it, not being able to send arms by post. But it was a bright idea to send it through Cox, because if they can’t do it I should’nt think anyone can. The Coat is badly needed, as it is bitterly cold here in the evenings & mornings, & I only have an old British warm which is warm enough but very shabby. But I hope it arrives soonish as I hear this place begins to warm up in March or thereabouts.

Delhi is very full now, and invitations are beginning to roll in, at least I have dined out 3 nights this week, not very exciting and I’m not a great diner out, but I don’t see how one is to get to know anybody otherwise. We go about in the car a good deal, & I am playing tennis pretty often, but we have lots of work to do & don’t have really much time for recreation. I have met heaps of fellows I know here and have’nt seen for years, but there are hundreds of people I don’t know of course.

I had a line from Dick last mail in France; he seems to be very glad he’s got to France at last, I wonder how he will like the cold. Still I suppose he won’t be up much, being with cavalry, but will be mostly behind, unless they do a huge push & break through with the cavalry. Roumanian news not very good is it, but something big will have happened by the time you get this. But I don’t think any successes in Roumania will help the Germans much, as the R’s have had heaps of time to remove or destroy most of their stuff.

Topher seems to be having a gay time in the Flanders mud; I suppose it’s just as bad as ever, though I should think they’ve got the place rather better drained now, but any amount of drains are’nt much use in that flat fen country.

What a treat for Jim if he gets a job with the Portuguese army & a jolly good thing too I should think, as he will be on the Staff and be quite a tin hat. Every letter from home seems to refer to his final leave, but it never seems to come off! Two more Zepps down in the North I see; how wonderfully our defences must have increased & improved in the last year.

Thanks awfully for sending my purple scarf out, it will be most useful here. What a brain wave you had in the middle of the night about my swords; yes, it’s a good thing to put a little vaseline on as a sea voyage is always apt to rust them, though mine is a plated hilt so should’nt rust.

Our mail is very late this week, & only reaches Bombay today, 3 or 4 days overdue, so we shan’t get our mail for 3 days yet, that’ll be 10 days since the last one.

I believe this is the Christmas mail, so I must wish you & all the family the usual things, & pray God the New Year will be a bright one and see the end of this ghastly business. I am sending you some more of those rugs as you seem so pleased with the last lot, & hope you’ll find a place for them.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 2 December, '16 in About


1 December 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

X Deccan Horse.



Dear Mother       Just a line to say address as above and not as I put last time. Tell Ben & Dreda I wrote them the same.

Euh is’nt it cold,

Yr loving son



Actually 20th (XX) Deccan Horse

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Posted by on 1 December, '16 in About


29 November 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

29. Nov


Dearest Mother-

Just got a minute to scribble off a letter. Thank you muchly for yours – and for the stocks – of course I can’t think how you tie them – but I daresay someone does.

Yes- fearfully busy – our show is tomorrow – & heaps of things to be done yet really – that’s why I am in such a hurry-

That’s good Zepp news eh! I’ll send you some papers when I can find a little more time-

Must end now-

My bestest love to you all-

Your ever loving son


A stock is a simple tie worn when horse riding –

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Posted by on 29 November, '16 in About, HMS Malaya, Rosyth


24 November 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

24 Nov


My dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter- I am late in answering because I was waiting for your letter. I had a letter from Dick on Tuesday telling me how he has met Topher & that he was trying to get Topher over to his unit – Must be awful out there now in that mud & cold – ugh! It’s miserable enough weather up here – but we have the advantage of having a comfortable mess & a cabin with a bunk in it.

We have had a few days at sea too lately – but I don’t think it was so bad there-

That new train service to Town sounds a good thing – most useful to the girls for weekends at Guildford I should think- I had a letter from Jane – I sent her an urgent letter to send us some wigs from Clarksons for our show – much better someone you know to choose them – I had a wire today saying they had been sent off.

What extraordinary things Jim seems to hear about where he is going! Hongkong sounds so extraordinary – is that the Portuguese show or his regiment.

Please thank Ruth very much for these beads – jolly nice they are – did you get that letter about a stock?

Yes- it’s pathetic about Roumania – and how truly ghastly about that ship the Britannic – & a hospital ship too – really it seems incredible that a human being can do such things in cold blood.

There is no more news really – I am awfully fit & well-

My bestest love to you all-

Your ever loving son


What I should really like for Christmas is some white handkerchiefs & ordinary blue or black socks – I’ve hardly got any left.

Gaudy US documentary

2000 TV movie – looks bad

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Posted by on 24 November, '16 in About, HMS Malaya, Rosyth


24 November 1916 – Ted to Gertrude




Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your 2 letters last week, one of them was of course the one that did’nt turn up the mail before. So glad the rugs have arrived and are appreciated, but they are rotten ones really & I’ll try & get you some decent ones later on as you say you can do with any amount.

So Dick has arrived safely in France and has gone up to the front. What a very typical letter he wrote! I must drop him a line. I wonder if Jim’s gone yet; as you say these ‘final leaves’ very often are anything but final.

Nothing very much going on here. I have been busy calling on everyone, & found most of them out so one has been able to get through a good deal. I met a Mrs Bingley, wife of a General Bingley, who said she had been working at the Guildford Red X hospital, opposite the county hospital. She seemed to know you, by sight at anyrate. And she knew the Gabbs well, & Dr Mitchell, & the Pringles from Stoughton. She was ‘pained & surprised’ to hear of Mrs Gabb’s death; so if you meet old Gabb I expect he would be interested to hear I’ve met her, & praps it might be of some use to me some day, as Genl Bingley is rather a nut in his way.

Otherwise nothing much is going on. You see the Army Hd quarters people come down en bloc from Simla, knowing each other already, so one is really rather out of things till you get to know a few people. I went to a big show at the Delhi club last Saturday, but did’nt know a soul, though the place was crowded with a most fashionable lot of people, the cream of Indian society, such as it is. The C-in-C was there, in uniform, so I expect we shall get orders to wear uniform always like we did at home.

At present you would’nt know there was a war on, so little is India affected; we go on just the same, no food, petrol, or other restrictions, all amusements same as ever, no lights to worry about, you can have as many as you like! Only the awful gaps in the regiments show what India has done, & it’s only the Indian army that really knows there’s a war, the vast majority of the Indian population being absolutely untouched by it, for the fighting races from which the army is recruited form of course only the smallest fraction of the population.

I hope the carpet turns up all right, & was’nt on the Arabia! I sent it off about then, but I don’t know exactly when.

Yes rather I remember old Ommaney well, a little person, always popping in to Delaford, & I’ve had many a talk with him; I’m awful sorry to hear about his son, & I hope you will tell him so, & give him my sincerest sympathy. I had an idea his son was in – or intended for – the navy somehow, I did not know he was a soldier.

Good for Paul being near the Conway Gordons. I have met lots of men I know here, but they are all on the H.Q. staff nearly, so are busy in office all day & one really sees very little of them.

Yes I remember Fisher, I think I mentioned in one of my letters that I had seen his name in the Casualty lists. How amazing about Jim & the Persian Barber! I should think he did remember me, ‘cos I had my hair cut in harbour at Marseilles & he made a special favour of it as he said he never cut hair there, because every man arriving overland by the boat train always demanded a shave & he never had the time to cut hair. He was rather a fool I believe. He was the man who said “chuck him overboard, he’s a goner” about a pal of mine called Fisher, who was only just rescued in time, having been sucked under when she sank, & so was pretty well done in, & collapsed when pulled into one of the boats, but the barber’s remark speedily brought him to life again!

I like the snaps of the Wedding awfully, thanks very much for them, the first ones I have seen of Sheina.

I have been taking a few down here & will send some home if they ever come out. Bitterly cold here now in the mornings & evenings, & very pleasant days; but I like the cold & am feeling awfully fit. The Viceroy is here for a day or 2, but goes away before the end of the month again for a long tour in Burma; but he is living a quiet life here, & no shows or anything on.

Yes address letters & everything to Cox & Co, Hornby Road, Bombay, & then I’ll get em wherever I go, as I don’t think we’ll go back to Lansdowne after leaving here, we may go on service again, but I can’t say for certain of course, but I understand there’s a very good chance of it.

What about the money for Ruth’s things! Did I ever send it, ‘cos if not I must hurry up & do so; let me know won’t you. I’m just off in the car now for an afternoon spin into Delhi.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


It seems likely that “the Persian Barber” that Jim told his mother about was a barber on the SS Persia rather than from the country that is now Iran. The SS Persia sank at the end of 1915 with Ted, his friend Fisher and apparently with the barber on board.

Mention of General Bingley, p328

Alfred Erasmus Stuart Ommanney


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Posted by on 24 November, '16 in About


18 November 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

Nov 18


Dear Mother  I got the disc & gloves alright. Open my luggage when it comes & have my field boots looked after. Get Capon to put an ordinary shoe tree in the foot & stuff the legs with paper. There are some films in that camera that want developing. Dunno’ what they’ll be like.

The breeches have come but the others are’nt mine & in case you send that British warm, that’s not mine either! I got the               & bystander.

Believe I’m off again.

Best of love to all

Yr loving son


I keep having to remind myself that as a medic, Richard would have seen and heard far worse horrors and far more of them than Paul and Ted put together. But really, would it have hurt to write a “thank you” for the things his mother had sent him and a “please” for the things he was asking her to do?  And we’ve just seen him write a charming letter to his sister. Perhaps that’s it. He’s used up all his charm on his sisters and their prettiest friends. 

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Posted by on 18 November, '16 in About