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22 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 22/17

 

Dear Mother

No mail in yet and I hear it won’t be in for some days as it has only just reached Bombay. There is I’m afraid no news to tell you. Since I last wrote it has been frightfully hot, still muggy days & 115° in our tents, most awfully trying. Still the nights are fairly cool & the v. early mornings when we go on parade, but the rest of the day after about 7.30 is rotten.

However we are all keeping fit, though feeling very limp & slack of course, it’s absolutely impossible to feel otherwise. We just sit & drip & lose weight all day till the evening & long for the sun to go down. But I expect there are people a good deal worse off than us, right up at the front, in small tents & not so many comforts easily obtainable such as ice, which we have.

We are in big tents, the same kind as we were in in Delhi last cold weather; all troops have them out here now & they are really essent if you want troops to keep fit. We have a little thermometer in ours so’s we can keep a daily record of the temperatures; & just now we put it in a little light tent which we were living in when we were at Basra & which we now use as a sort of bathroom attached to our big tent, & in there it registered 125°! So we can thank our stars we have big tents to live in & not the small ones, which are really no protection whatever. The light tents are for use when “active operations” are in progress & you can’t cart the big ones about, but by that time the weather will be much more reasonable.

We are sort of on the end of a wire about our move up river, & we may more or less get orders to go any day now. Personally I don’t want to move in this heat. It means a big business, unpitching & packing all the tents, loading them all up on barges & all our heavy kit & stores & rations as well. You see all this would have to be done by hand, as we have no cranes or appliances of that sort of course. However if it’s got to be done it’s got to be done & we’ll do it of course, so that’s that.

I have had long letters from Col D.B. There seems little or no likelihood of his returning. He is not fit yet & I fancy his medical board will give him an extension. Then his time in command is up in November, so it’s hardly likely they’d send him out to finish it off. I rather fancy he hopes to get a job in India, so I gather from his letters.

As regards my prospects, this means – silly as it sounds! – that I shall keep the command till some one else gets it. I mean Henderson, our 2nd in command & on sick leave at home, may come out & take it on, or some senior fellow in the 39th or any other rgt – they are not particular nowadays – may be put in. Impossible to say; but don’t count on my keeping it; I may do so, & I may not; I’ve got it by a piece of luck, & it will be luckier still to keep it. How I should love to command it in some fighting, & to see the results of one’s efforts this hot weather. For indeed we have been working hard to get the regiment as efficient as possible & in good fighting trim & I should be grievously disappointed if they failed in any way. But I know they won’t, I’m confident they will do their very very best.

Such sad news from Lansdowne, Mrs Bobby Reed died the other day, having given birth to triplets, all girls, & all doing well I believe. They arrived 7 weeks before they were due it seems, so her death I suppose is not surprising. Poor Bobby, he’s awfully cut up of course, & the regiment has lost one of the best & brightest women members. She was one of the best, & as you know a great friend of mine & her loss will be felt by us all. Personally I can hardly realise it: one gets used somehow to hearing of the death of one’s men friends nowadays; but it does’nt seem right that people like Mrs Bobby Reed should die.

I must struggle to write to some more people, but I don’t feel in the least energetic. Excuse this rotten letter, but I’m sure you will understand. Heat, no news, & no letter of yours to answer, 3 very just causes for a short note, are’nt they…

Best love to all

yr loving son                Ted


Edith Giles, wife of Capt Henry Robert Baynes Reed CIE DSO MC

http://www.thekingscandlesticks.com/webs/pedigrees/482.html

Only one of the triplets, Jocelyn, survived and lived to 78.

 
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Posted by on 22 August, '17 in About

 

19 August 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

19.8.17.

 

Dear Mother

I hope perhaps to be home on 25th. Wonder if you have found the blue coat. I am telling Lesley Roberts to send my clothes to Guildford, and another small parcel will arrive with some collars. I shall come home on Sat.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Richard.


 

And here Richard disappears from view until mid 1918 apart from one letter in December this year. Perhaps he was transferred to work as an army Medic in an English hospital for a while. We know from when he was at the Mont Dore Hospital in Bournemouth in 1915 that either he didn’t write when in England, or that he or Gertrude didn’t think it worth keeping the letters. 

 
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Posted by on 19 August, '17 in About

 

14 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 14/17

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 2 letters from your last mail, which arrived 2 days ago, somewhat unexpectedly as we were not hoping to get it till 2 days later. Your letters were dated June 20th & 27th, long long ones & I loved getting them. Two mails arrived together & they are the first we’ve had for 3 weeks. I’m afraid I got no letters off the old Mongolia; only 11 bags for M.E.F. were saved but it appears nothing for us was amongst them. They talk glibly of salving some more bags, but I should think the letters would be ruined by now. I lost one or two parcels from Nell on board which is somewhat annoying. You seem to have got a whole budget of letters from me all together, 4 you mention in one letter and 2 in the next, most erratic the posts appear to be. However we have been very lucky so far – tap-wood – losing so few.

It’s been very hot this last week, & hardly any breeze. Trying weather, especially if one has been a bit off colour as I have, it takes so much longer to pick up. However the cold weather is not far off now, & then I shall be as fit as a fiddle. Besides the nights are nice & cool now, I pulled up a blanket over me about 2 o’clock this morning & slept quite comfortably under it; before I had nothing on me.

Yesterday I went out to tea with the matron of No 2 B.G.H, Sister Macfarlane to whom I asked you to write. A very pleasant little tea, with ices to wind up with! Gorgeous they were, as it was fearfully hot & I could have eaten hundreds! How ever I thought one was all that was good for me. I went into the hospital to see my friends the sisters who were all very cheery, and it was quite a pleasant afternoon despite the heat. How I sigh for a nice cold winter day again; the other members of the family, especially Dick & Jim, seem to revel in the hot weather, but I’m afraid I have no use for it.

Otherwise we have been leading our usual humdrum life. No news of a move yet & I don’t suppose we shall move for a fortnight yet.

There seems to be some doubt as to my rank, quoting from your last mail letters. I see the letter in which I told you I had been promoted to tempy. Lt Col has been sunk, at least I work it out to have been so. Anyhow, things are as follows; on active service, if acting as 2nd in cmd & you are under the rank of major, they promote you to tempy: major, as long as you are 2nd in command & with the rgt; if anyone senior comes in, you of course revert to your permanent rank.

So when I came out here I became a tempy: major, or rather 15 days after we’d been out, which is the rule, but it took such a long time to be gazetted in orders that I only got news of it a few weeks ago. I was made a tempy: Major on April 8th; then D.B. went sick, & 15 days after he had gone sick and I took on command, I became entitled to be promoted to tempy: Lt Col, but this again took ages to appear in orders; my date of promotion to Lt Col is May 14th, just 3 months ago, but it only appeared in orders about 6 weeks ago.

Similarly I revert to my lower rank in the event of D.B. coming back, or if they put anyone else in command, which is quite likely as I am somewhat junior and there are any amount of fellows in other regiments who are senior to me but who have not got even temporary commands. However they may let me keep it on; anyhow I’ve had it 3½ months now, & I’m drawing Lt Col’s pay so I’ve not done so badly. So don’t be alarmed or despondent if one day I write and say I’ve been demoted! I hope I’ve made this quite plain. The India office would always be able to tell you what I am, if you’re ever in doubt! It’s something to have risen to even tempy: Lt Col, in these days when all sorts of odd people get such rapid promotion.

No have’nt seen any Gabbs yet. I heard Desmond had gone on leave to India, but did’nt know he’d gone to stay with Lil. Rather a good idea, I must remember that if I get any leave next year! I had a brief note from Dick last mail, talking glibly about “my last letter” which I presume went down in the Mongolia, sickening is’nt it as I suppose it was in answer to one I wrote from Karachi after meeting all his friends there. Really I don’t know what’s best for Topher. I sympathise with him immensely, he must be so heartily sick of being a Tommy, & besides I expect he’d like to earn a little more pay. Surely a commission in the A.S.C. would not be impossible, a stammer would’nt matter there, & he’s seen enough scrapping to warrant his going into the A.S.C.

So glad you like Eve’s leaf! It’s interesting certainly, but now I hear they think the Garden of Eden was more up Baghdad way! However, Kurnah will do very well for the present. I chucked learning Arabic several weeks ago. I found it very hard to begin with, & no one decent to teach you. The man I had was an Armenian coffee-shop keeper, who spoke English, but of course had no idea of teaching; he sad “Yes sir” to everything you said, right or wrong. Besides, I’ve got heaps of other things to do, & it’s too hot to sit down and work. Very unenterprising perhaps, but I found I was making practically no progress, so thought it best to chuck it in altogether.

Things seem to be in a good old muddle in Russia don’t they. Really it is amazing the way she’s behaved. We’ve financed her & fed her & munitioned her & done everything for her, & now she’s let us down badly like this. Thank heavens I’m English, for truly we & the French are the only people worth being in Europe just now. The rest are useless.

Piping hot day & not a breeze of any sort. I’m sitting – dripping positively – & yet I am stripped to the waist & only a towel on, & yet I’m boiled alive.

In your letter of June 27th you say you have had another letter from me. I wonder if you managed to get Topher what he wanted, I see Mark Cross advertises “just the thing” I should imagine, but I’ve no doubt you got him something to his liking.

Fun those flying men must have had who came over for the day from Reading, Ben tells me there’s a Major who came over too with that balloon, Eric; what’s he doing by the way? I thought he was in France somewhere, but he seems to be perpetually at home; sick leave I suppose, at least that’s what he always seemed to be on. I should so hate to be always on sick leave, the very expression is horrible I think.

So specs is now a defender of his country & quite time too. However it’s his show, & his conscience that’s got to be worried, if anyone’s, if he did’nt try & join up before. I am truly thankful to hear Dreda has left the bank for a far more congenial occupation. Does she dress in that saucy farming rig with gaiters an’ all! When I retire & live on my farm I shall have to take lessons from Rosamond & Dreda. I still cling to the idea of retiring as soon as I can (I can get £200 a year in 5 years’ time) & start something of the sort, so I must save up a little capital for investment, & my pension will help along, though I’m afraid taxes will be alarmingly high for many years to come yet. You talk of strawberries & make my mouth water indeed. I trust I shall be home next year to enjoy a few.

Best love to all

ever yr loving son

Ted.


 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Army_Service_Corps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_Days

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 14 August, '17 in About

 

8 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 8/17

 

Dear Mother

No English mail in this week & I’m afraid we shan’t get one till next week, as the fortnightly krewst is in working order for the present, though it seems it has been stopped again now.

Still very hot, but the nights are getting cooler. It was only 72° at 5 this morning, & it gets up to 112° or so at midday, an extraordinary difference is’nt it. But we are within sight of the cold weather now anyhow & have’nt got much more of this rotten hot weather to get through. How I do hate the heat!

I was out to dinner last night with some pals on the staff of the G.O.C. Tigris Defences, & there I met one Lee, a Captain in the Connaught Rangers. It appears he married a Miss Marks, who used to stay with the Bromley-Bowines, & used to go over to Pirbright with the family & sing at soldiers’ concerts. Lee told me she remembered us all quite well & appeared much struck with us! I can’t quite place her somehow, I seem to have a vague recollection of her name but not her face, but I expect you would remember her all right & the girls too. Where are the Bromley-Bowines by the way? He was a good chap & so was she; is she married yet I wonder? Funny my knocking against Lee like that was’nt it.

There were some swimming sports yesterday which Fox & I went to see. Our men got one or two prizes but on the whole they were rather dull. I paid a visit to my old hospital & met my nurse friends & they were all very nice, & all divided in their opinion as to whether I looked fit or not! Miss Macfarlane, the matron, however, said I looked very well, & so did Bat the doctor, so that’s all right.

No news or signs of our moving yet, though I hear our camp is all ready for us at Baghdad, & we have only to walk into it. Till then I’m afraid I shan’t be able to look up any friends or acquaintances in the Queens.

We still manage to catch a nice lot of fish out of the river which helps to keep the menu going. We shall soon be able to shoot for partridges, & a small bird called a sand-grouse, which fairly swarms out here, there are literally millions of them. I have brought a gun & a few cartridges out with me, but I don’t know really if I’ll have much opportunity to shoot, one is fairly busy nowadays.

A dull letter I’m afraid but it’s not been a particularly exciting week-

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


 

Marched into war to It’s a Long Way to Tipperary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connaught_Rangers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandgrouse

 
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Posted by on 8 August, '17 in About

 

1 August 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

1.8.17.

 

Dear Mother

I am so glad Ted is all right again & has rejoined. I dunno’ if you ever got my letter telling you dysentery was not so dreadful a disease as people at home think.

I hope to be home next month sometime, & shall spend it quietly at Guildford. Rotten weather nowadays, so wet. Best love to all

Yr loving son

Richard.

With a view to my being home in Sept ? perhaps, please have my evening dress shirts sent to the cleaners not the wash

Do you remember that number we worried so much about last time? Paul had one on the ship I know. Those are the ones I want to go & I enclose a cheque to pay for the dressing of them. Don’t please send them to the wash they do spoil them so. There are the ones I bought in London but I’ve no idea which they were, unless they are all in the suit case together. They might go too if you know them

Have you found my blue coat

 
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Posted by on 1 August, '17 in About

 

1 August 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. MALAYA.
c/o G.P.O.

Aug. 1st

 

Dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter, and also for forwarding on all those others. Nance & I have had simply heaps – all about society papers asking for our photographs etc – awful waste of paper!. I’ve had several other letters from various friends which I am gradually answering. I have had a talk with Nance re Mr Kirwan – you see it’s going to be a very quiet wedding at Sawsthorpe and the date will be so uncertain – and Nance says she has 2 pet parsons whom she wants, but if Mr Kirwan likes to come – by all means but it’s a fairly expensive journey up there and back & also the uncertainty of the exact day – we hardly think, in a way, it’s fair to ask him- because perhaps he would’nt like to say no – But I’ll write to him and explain things – but will you see him too, about it.

Nance will probably be going south about the 29th – and I want her to stay a few days with you before she goes up home – but it is all rather uncertain as yet. Wish we could get some decent weather up here – it rains every day still.

I’ve just heard from Dick who says he will be home on the 25th for 10 days – I suppose Topher is coming too.

My best love to you from your ever very loving son

Paul

Sorry to hear Capon is’nt much better!-


And that’s almost the last of Paul’s letters which we still have which he wrote during the war. We hear of him from the others and there are a couple from him in 1918 and a dozen or so from him when he was posted on the China Station in the 1920s but that’s it. 

The fact that this last letter was written just before Paul and Nancy’s wedding must be significant. I suspect Nancy asked for Paul’s letters but Gertrude only gave her the ones dating from after the wedding. 

There’s the allied question of why we have only a couple of letters from Jim and Topher. Perhaps they asked for their letters themselves or perhaps we are seeing Gertrude’s partiality: she adored her eldest child Richard, and Paul and Ted were undeniably heroic, while Jim was out of the action for most of the War and poor Topher was not a great letter-writer and lacked glamour as a Tommy. I prefer to think that her favouritism wasn’t that blatant and it’s simply happenstance that we don’t have their letters too.

So let’s cry a little because the bride is so young and the groom is so handsome, throw rice over the happy couple as they leave the church, and wish them well.

 
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Posted by on 1 August, '17 in About

 

1 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

August 1st/17

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for your letter from Totland Bay dated 13th June. You seem to have had quite a pleasant & peaceful time there and I’m right glad to hear it. From all accounts you came back looking all the better for the change.

And I like the photograph you sent. Quite right my dear mother to have something to hand down to posterity; I think you’ve done your bit splendidly in the war, in many more ways than hospital work not the least of which is in keeping so wonderfully cheery & always smiling for all your anxious moments, from which I’m afraid you are seldom free. But I trust it is some satisfaction to you to know that your cheery & happy bearing  & the way you never allow us to catch even a glimpse of the anxious thoughts that must be always with you, all this I say helps us more than we can possibly say to carry on with whatever particular job we are doing. You’ve been just splendid all through. The photograph is quite good I think; you look rather like a Serbian nurse I think, at least what I remember of their pictures in the paper! But it’s a good “likeness” & easily recognisable.

I’m out of hospital again you see, but I suppose I told you this last week, as I got out before mail day. I have been taking things easy for a week, & am really perfectly fit again now, & feel much stronger & better all round. Trying weather to convalesce in all the same; 115° the usual thing nowadays, but coolish nights which is a blessing. And now we have begun August, one of the hottest months of the year according to past records. But it’s only a month & after that in September the days begin to get bearable, & after that again they are cold & bright & the climate I believe leaves nothing to be desired; one hears that the cold weather out here is perfectly delightful.

I got a parcel from you a day or two ago, containing some gorgeous soap, lemonade powder (most refreshing) & some lemon tablets which I’m afraid had all melted into a sort of paste! & some tea, beef & milk tablets which I hope to try some day. All together a most pleasing little parcel, (& a bottle of Eau de Cologne too, most acceptable) thanks most awfully for it. I’m afraid no letters were for me in the few bags saved off the Mongolia, & now I see the parcels mail 4th – 18th July has been sunk. The submarine show seems to be much the same, same number of boats sunk each week; I do hope we are really rounding up a good many U-boats nowadays.

The Russians are doing badly are’nt they, which is a nuisance, & I’m afraid it means prolonging the war. But the news from France is still good, Messines an’ all, & I expect by the time you get this there will have been another of Haig’s ‘Hammer blows’ struck.

So glad to hear Dreda contemplates farm work, & she seems to have found a nice place to start on. Much better than the stuffy old bank. I remember having a drink of the water, as far as I remember very cold coming from such a deep well. How I would love a glass of it now! Today is a fiendish day, a howling gale and thick clouds of dust, settling down in a thick layer over everything; impossible to keep clean too. The wind does’nt lower the temperature, it just keeps the hot air moving, and the dust.

I see they propose starting the weekly mails again. Many thanks for all the papers, daily sketches etc, most acceptable.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted

 
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Posted by on 1 August, '17 in About