17 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 17/17


Dear Mother

I got no letter by last mail from you, but I expect I shall get one in a day or two, as everyone is the same, a lot of letters missing still. But you see we are somewhat far away from civilisation and the roads are bad up to here, in fact there are no real roads yet: transport is short, and all there is is being used for more important things like food & ammunition.

However I must say they are doing wonders & we have had 3 mails altogether since we left Baghdad just a month ago, 2 together & one a day or two ago. We have had a few parcels too, but these I suppose will take longer to arrive – otherwise all goes well here.

I forget if I told you we have moved to another camp, just behind our outpost line & we are busy now digging our new defences. We have got our tents now, which is a blessing but we are still on 20lbs kit; another 20lbs which we left in Baghdad is on its way up, but I am quite content with what I’ve got really, though it means sleeping in your clothes & nothing much in the way of a change. But one gets horribly used to pigging it & everyone is just as dirty as everyone else so it does’nt matter- all the same, if you think of it, a cake or two of soap & some cigarettes are always welcome.

It is really delightful here now. Gorgeous fresh mornings after really cold nights. In the daytime it is 92° or thereabouts in the shade, nice warm days: at night it drops down to 50°, a tremendous contrast is’nt it. But we are all very fit & getting nice & hard.- of course this open air life leaves nothing to be desired & I love every minute of it. All the same I long to get home again to see you all once more & dear old England. But as long as I’m here I feel much happier than if I was in India, doing something to help possibly, but not in the line I want.

News is good all round is’nt it, & we continue to push on in Belgium & I should’nt be surprised if by the time you get this the Belgian coast & submarine bases are ours. A mutiny in the German navy too, distinctly a sign of the times.

Since our great battle the 29th we have’nt seen a Turk. They put me in command of a mixed force the other day, cavalry & guns & infantry, & we went out & reconnoitred 10 miles or so in front of our line but never saw a sign of anything, bar a Turkish aeroplane, which must have wondered what we were doing- I also had some armoured cars with me & they went out about 20 miles but saw nothing- A most desert country this, simply miles & miles of sand & low hills – all sand – wherever you go or look.

The banks of the Euphrates produce a little greenery, reeds & palm trees, & the bedouin Arabs raise scanty crops here & there, & then wander on to a fresh camp: for the rest, it is one howling waste. So you may imagine an army operating here can’t go very far from the river, as this is absolutely the only water supply. We were fighting 4 miles from the river the other day & got thirsty enough, & the supply of water to us in the firing line was a very difficult matter.

I had long letters from Paul & Dick last week – Paul is getting married soon I see; & a very sensible thing to do too I think. I see no chance of mine being a war wedding, I’m too far off to hope for anything of that sort I’m afraid. I might manage a month in England next summer, but it’s doubtful. But the war should be over by then.

What a lot of air raids there have been lately. But reprisals are in the air (very much so!) I see, & I must say I agree. In fact that, combined with America’s entry & her air fleet, will go a long way towards finishing things off I think.

Two of the Turkish guns we captured on the 29th are being used as anti-aircraft guns here. I have had them engraved with the regiment’s name etc, so we can claim them after the war for the mess. They are most certainly ours – I’m afraid I gave you a very brief account of the fighting the other day. I have written a longer one to Nance as a matter of fact, but one can’t say much on these occasions. Anyway it was a great day, & the regiment’s fame has increased a whole heap- I cabled to Nell too, but I don’t know if it ever arrived- I expect the cables are pretty busy these days. The last letter I got from her was August 11th, & yours was  a week before that I think, so I’ve got some more to come I expect. By the way the mails leaving Baghdad 8 & 9 September have been burnt at sea, so I’m afraid you’ll lose my letters telling you about Baghdad, as we had just arrived then. Is’nt it a nuisance.

I am ever so fit now though it was’nt till we had been in Baghdad about a week that I began to really pick up. Praps I came out of hospital a wee bit soon, & it was difficult to get really well in camp in all that heat & scratch food etc. I tell you because your last letters were written just as you got my cables saying I had left hospital. However, I assure you that no one  could have gone through all that heat & dust & marching & fighting we had in the last fortnight of September, unless he had been absolutely well, as fit as a fiddle & as strong as a horse. I did, so I am, if you follow me! So rest assured that I have completely recovered & am as well as ever, in fact perfectly fit.

The only thing is my last remaining molar in my left jaw, bottom row, is aching like blazes & it has been stopped once, but wants looking to. I don’t want to have it out, or else I could have that done here, sitting on a biscuit box, & letting a shoeing-smith from a cavalry regiment pull it out with a pair of pantomime tweezers, or something equally painful. So I have shoved in to be allowed to go to Baghdad where there is a real dentist. There is’nt much going on now, and though I hate having to go away for a day or two, still I feel it will make me much fitter to do my work properly so I think it’s the right thing to go. Of course I may not get leave, but I sincerely trust they grant it me. I had a horrid cold the other day, chiefly sand & dust irritation I think, & I felt rotten for a day or two, but the excitement of battle proved a splendid cure. A tip for the future!

Desmond Gabb hopes to go to Hong Kong I hear & get Maggie Davids out to him, he does’nt seem to know that this is impossible now. I met a fellow in the Queens the other day – name unknown – who has been staying with Lil Davids, that was, in India. He said she was awfully fit & well & happy, & he had had an awful good time. Lil still has her nice English colour he says, & I’m very glad to hear it. It does’nt last long generally in the plains of India, especially down Madras way where she is. Desmond has “Mesopotamia heart” (whatever that is!) I hear, & is unfit for service at present.

I heard from D.B. last mail – he does’nt seem to know if he’s coming out or not. Anyhow his time of command is up on Nov 22nd, so unless they give him an extension, I don’t think we shall see him again. I hear Lyell is due to come out with the next draft, and he is senior to me, it would mean his taking over command from me. But I can’t complain can I! I’ve had the regiment 6 months, I’ve commanded it in action; the men & officers were splendid & did awfully well, so what more can I expect? I think you thoroughly understand the situation, as I have so often explained it, & after all it’s only fair that the senior ones should get the good jobs. So don’t be surprised if I get relegated down to my real rank as Captain, if Henderson & other senior officers come out. But it’s rotten if it happens, ‘cos people who don’t know will wonder why.

I must end up. An erratic mail leaves today & I am catching that. No time to write to the others yet. I must try next mail.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Ted at this time is 34, but he refers to “my last remaining molar in my left jaw, bottom row”. I don’t know if his teeth were partcularly bad, if dentistry in India was particularly poor, or whether this was standard in the late 19th and early 20th century. I suspect the latter. Rather him than me.



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Posted by on 17 October, '17 in About


10 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 10/17


Dear Mother

I hear a mail goes out today, so I’ll scribble you a line to catch it. Genl Maude flew over from Baghdad today in an aeroplane to inspect our Brigade, & to thank us etc & make the usual complimentary speeches. He said we had done great things etc etc etc & from all accounts the capture of Ramadi & the rounding up of the whole Turkish force here seems to have been a tremendous event & one of great importance.

We are still camped on the scene of our victory, & we move camp tomorrow, right up near the outpost line, so we shall be very much “at the front”. We are still without tents & sleeping on the cold hard ground. There seems to be a good deal of difficulty in getting things up, grub is rather short at times, but the show is being run well on the whole, & in a few days things ought to be running as smoothly here as anywhere else; one can’t expect much, as we have only just captured the place!

I thought of asking old Maude this morning about those socks, but my courage failed- all C.O’s were introduced to him, & we shook hands and he asked us how we were etc- He did’nt impress me much, he is not the hard, stern, cold conqueror I expected him to be, he is rather the reverse, but this does’nt seem to interfere with his capabilities at all does it.

We had a sharp shower of rain last night, unpleasant while it lasted, no tents etc, but it’s been a beautiful fine day today. We have had a lot of wind & dust lately, but I think we ought to be pretty free from the latter in our new camp as it is right on the bank of the Euphrates.

I have taken a lot of photographs around here, & I do hope they come out as they should be most interesting. I wonder if the stores in Bombay ever sent you those of Amara & Baghdad which I told them to send you. I have’nt seen the prints of those myself yet, but some of the films looked as if they would print quite well.

Reuter is most optimistic in his wires about France, & we certainly seem to be giving the Boche a rotten time now, & getting the submarines in hand too. Air raids are distressingly frequent, but I see reprisals spoken of, & L-G- seems to have sanctioned them, so I expect by the time you get this some raids will have taken place over Germany. But the war seems no nearer its conclusion.

Must end up now

I’m very fit & well, & going strong. All our wounded are doing well I hear, except one Indian officer who died yesterday. He was badly wounded in the thigh, poor man, & such a good officer too. The fortune of war! Well he died a soldier’s death anyhow.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 10 October, '17 in About


8 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

October 8/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 2 letters from you which I got a few days ago, about a week after we had got here. They were dated 2nd & 8th August and I can’t help thinking there is a mail missing somewhere, & other fellows seem to think the same; one is due in today & that may be the one.

I have’nt really & truly had time to sit down & really write letters lately – Ever since the fighting was over on 29th Sept we have been more than busy clearing up the battlefield, guarding prisoners, on outpost duty etc and we’ve had hardly time to turn around. From all accounts our victory here seems to have caused a tremendous impression everywhere, and the force has received numerous congratulatory messages from the King & General Maude. It appears to be a victory of tremendous importance, so I am most awfully glad to think the 39th played such an important part in it, and so proud myself to have commanded the Battalion in the fighting.

You will have seen references to the capture of Ramadi in the papers, & I expect you wondered if we were there, very much so, & the regiment played a very prominent part & did splendidly – one of our officers has been given a D.S.O for good work & gallant conduct that day – he was badly wounded in the mouth, his tongue being nearly shot away, but he stuck to his job & eventually came back to the ambulance & on the way stopped & wrote down for me a clear & concise account of the situation where he was, though he must have been in great pain at the time. He was very plucky all through & thoroughly deserved his award. I have had a line from him in hospital & he tells me they have sewn his tongue on again & he will get his speech back all right, as of course he could’nt speak a word when I saw him-

Our 2 men who knocked out the Turkish field-gunners with Lewis guns have been decorated too; these are what they call “immediate” awards, given by General Maude in the field, & I hope we shall get lots more in due course, as the men thorough deserve them. The 5th Queens were with us in the fighting, and – being a Guildford regiment – no doubt the name Garhwal will soon be quite familiar there. They are awfully struck with our men, & especially with their work during the fighting, & I expect you may hear something about us in your conversations with various people- The Queens fought splendidly & did awfully well, & please tell everyone so.

We are still on a very light scale of kit, one blanket only, & no tents, & the nights are frightfully cold now. We hope to get more kit up shortly, but we are all pretty hard now & can put up with a good deal of knocking about & pigging it.

I owe several letters to the family but I really have’nt time to do anything like answering letters just at present. I am most awfully fit & well, & love this sort of thing, real soldiering with a vengeance.

“Eye-witness”, the official reporter, came round to see us after the fighting, & I took him over the battlefield & he is writing a long account of it & us, so look out for it in the papers- He told me he had already mentioned the regiment in his wire to the home paper, but expected they wd censor it.

The woolly Shetland has been more than useful & I don’t know what I should have done without it. I carried it in my haversack on the show, & very glad I am that I have it with me now.

I am telling Cox to send along £2-15 for Ruth’s things. I’m awful sorry, but I had an idea I’d settled that.

The flies here are absolutely indescribable. The Mess (we are messing in a tumbledown old Arab mud hut) is black, really & truly with them, & at meal times you can’t see your food for flies. They nearly drive you mad. No more for the present

Excuse scrawl. Best love to all

Yr loving son


This is the writing pad you sent me in Egypt in Jan: 1916!

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Posted by on 8 October, '17 in About


1 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 1st/17


Dear Mother

Just a scribble to tell you I’m all right after the fighting round Ramadi on Sept 27th, 28th, & 29th, which you may have noticed in the papers, though I don’t suppose they will make reference to it. The 1/5 Queens were in it with us, so you may perhaps hear accounts from some of their relations. The fighting is all over now, as we have killed or captured the entire Turkish force here, some 3000 men, & 2000 of them surrendered to us, the good old 2/39th! Is’nt it splendid. The regiment has done awfully well, though I say it as should’nt, as I commanded it all through!

The G.O.C. the force has been round to thank us & congratulate us & said that we were going to be specially mentioned separately from the others as having done so well. The officers & men were magnificent, mother, & I am frightfully proud to have commanded such a splendid lot of men in action, & I know you will be too. The Queens were splendid too, & fought like veterans.

We did a night march on 27th Sept & dug trenches close to the enemy that night, marched all next day till 3 pm & then attacked & captured a ridge; dug trenches all that  night & next morning advanced over 1500 yards of open ground & attacked & captured another ridge, & a very important bridge which prevented the Turkish army escaping. Also we captured 3 field guns, is that magnificent for infantry, & all by our little selves too! These guns were knocking us about rather badly at very close range, so 2 of our men got Lewis guns & shot down the gunners, & then a company of ours charged the guns & captured them, alone & unaided. A very nice thing for infantry to actually knock out guns, & then capture them.

After that practically the whole of the Turkish force (2500 out of a total of 3000 odd) surrendered to us, the 39th, including Ahmed Bey the Turkish commander & all his staff. We had a good many casualties in the 3 days fighting, during which we came under very heavy machine gun & rifle fire at times, & also heavy shell fire. But we fortunately only had 2 officers wounded, & very few men killed.

The main point is the operations have been entirely successful, the general & all are fearfully pleased, & Genl: Maude has sent us some very congratulatory messages. I, of course, am more pleased than I can say; I knew the men would do well, but they have exceeded my wildest expectations. We had heaps of congratulations from other regiments & individuals, & the Garhwalis have more than sustained their reputation.

The 3 days fighting were really hard, no sleep practically, very very hard marching & some good stiff fighting; very very little water, scanty food, but a cheery view of life helped us all along, & now of course you could’nt find a happier crowd anywhere. I’m awfully fit & well, had many narrow escapes, but a miss is always as good as a mile is’nt it.

Too busy to write any more. Best love to all the others. I can’t write any more I’ll try next day. Heaps of love to all

Yr loving son



Sketch and report of Ramadi from In The Clouds Above Baghdad, being the records of an air commander by John Edward Tennant (1920)

Veteran’s account

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Posted by on 1 October, '17 in About


22 September 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 22/17


Dear Mother

Just a line to say all’s well. We have had no scrapping yet but have had 4 days’ hard marching, very hard, over frightully bad & dusty roads. We have come 54 miles, & that at the end of an enervating hot weather & the men not hard & not having had much practice in route marching lately, is pretty good work; hard work anyhow.

The dust on the march was awful, absolutely indescribable, you really & truly could’nt see one yard at times. It is very cold at nights now, & still warmish during the middle hours of the day. We only have one blanket each, & our great coats of course, & no tents, so it’s pretty parky at night, I carry that Shetland woolly in my haversack & find it frightfully useful.

There are some more troops just ahead of us, & we heard guns this morning so evidently the ball has opened, though of course by the time you get this it will all be over, & a brief reference in the papers will be the only thing the public will know. But to us on the spot it looms much larger of course. We are all fit & well, & thriving on the simple life. I must keep a full record of all our doings as things & incidents fade so quickly from one’s memory if one does’nt jot them down at the time or very soon after. I wish letters took a shorter time to arrive.

Well, please don’t worry, mother. The regiment is in great form & I’m tremendously glad to get a chance to take it into action. I have’nt got time to write to the others as you may imagine, so will you please apologise, & expect my next letter when you get it.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



Battle of Ramadi

39th Garhwal Rifles marching in Mesopotamia 1917

39th Garhwal Rifles marching in Mesopotamia 1917


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Posted by on 22 September, '17 in About


17 September 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 17/17


Dear Mother

Just a line to tell you not to expect a letter from me for some time, after getting this one, as we are off on a strafe, so I don’t suppose I’ll get much time to write. Please don’t worry, I’ll be all right and I’ll write again as soon as ever I can, but of course on these occasions one does’nt get much time, & besides I expect censorship is strict, & letters take such years to get home don’t they – I am most awfully glad to get the chance to command the Battalion on this show & I do hope we get a good chance: I have absolute confidence in the Battalion, officers & men alike; so wish me luck & don’t worry. Wish I was nearer home all the same, so as to communicate with you more often & quicker.

I have taken a good many photographs with my new camera, & have sent the films to India to be printed. I have told them to send you the prints direct, each one numbered on the back, & I am sending you a list herewith shewing what each one is, otherwise you’ll not be able to tell. I expect this letter will reach you long before the prints, but that can’t be helped.

It’s a wee bit cooler, but still hottish for campaigning; however, we are more than ½ way through September & we should’nt get much more hot weather now.

We are going very light, hardly any kit, & are saying goodbye to creature comforts for some time I expect. However, I expect we shall all be as hard as nails before very long & shall prefer discomfort to comfort!

Well goodbye for the present & wish me luck & the regiment too- I never expected to command it in action, & am indeed proud & happy to get the chance- I’ll write again just as soon as ever I can, but you must expect short & scrappy letters I’m afraid.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 17 September, '17 in About


11 September 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 11/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 3 letters from your last mail, which arrived on Thursday 6th. Your letters were dated 12th 18th & 25th July. Yes was’nt it silly of them to wire & say I was seriously ill, I asked the doctor man not to wire, but he said he had to, as it was the order, but he would just say I had been admitted to hospital. But it seems he wired seriously ill all the same. I’m so sorry, but I wired as soon as I could to say I was all right really & I’m glad you got that wire, but I expect there was some delay in sending mine off.

You will have had my letters from hospital of course, & I am absolutely fit again now, though I took a longish time to pick up after leaving hospital thanks to the trying heat & not wonderfully good or nourishing food. In fact I did’nt really turn the corner & feel my own usual self again till we had been here a day or two, & then I think the change of air & scene worked wonders & I’m as fit as a fiddle now, so please don’t worry any more about me. I’m taking great care of myself, as if one gets ill & is invalided, it only means being sent to India, & I think I should hate that more than anything else, being right out of things owing to some rotten illness & not helping things on a bit. So I determined to get well & defeat this dysentery & its after effects & I have at last succeeded.

A busy life we have nowadays as we are doing rigorous brigade training. By the way I was a bit premature in my remarks about the hot weather being over. It is by no means, & every day this month we’ve had it 112°, far above what it should be, & as you may imagine leading a strenuous life in this heat is not all beer & skittles. But it’s got to be done, as time is short now to complete our training. The nights are certainly lovely now, & the early mornings too, but one has a good deal to do right up till late in the day when it is really hot, & after that I have to start getting ready orders etc for the next day’s work, so one is at it either physically or mentally the whole day. But I love the work, being in command, as it’s all so interesting & such good practice for me; and it is a pleasure to work with such good & keen officers & men as I have got under me.

I went into Baghdad on Sunday & wondered about having a look round. The silk market here is lovely, & you would love to have got a good old look round among all the lovely stuff they have got. I have bought one or two pieces, but I don’t know if it’s any good. I also bought one or two odds & ends of brass ware, very badly made an’ all, but it’s just the stuff the Baghdadis use in their own households for making coffee etc.

I strolled round in the copper market too, a long low roofed-in bazaar, with nothing but coppersmiths all down each side. They all sit in the road-way just outside their shops & bang away at their pots & pans, & the din they all make together is absolutely ear-splitting. We had breakfast at the Hotel Maude, quite a nice breakfast – we had butter for the first time since I’ve been out here (we have’nt had any potatoes for about 4 months, by the way: I’ve quite forgotten what they’re like: it’s quite like home is’nt it!) & then we came back to camp by river. We get awful good fruit here, I wonder if I told you before, grapes & water melons chiefly, & of course dates which are very nice, but filling.

The drop in temperature between day & night here is really almost incredible; on the 6th it was 114° by day & dropped to 67° at night, a difference of 47° between day & night readings! So no wonder the nights seem cool after the grilling days, & one has to be careful in such contrasting temperatures. However one gets pretty hard out here & can stand a good deal of knocking about.

I had a line from Jim at Singapore, he seems very happy & is by all accounts a very busy man, what with being cable censor & a few other things. Very many thanks for the Blackwoods with the I.A. article. A most interesting piece of reading, & a very fair estimate of the value of the 2 Indian Divisions in France I think. It is nice to see the regiment’s name so prominent, in such a widely read magazine too, & it is an article that is sure to be read by everyone familiar with the magazine. I am cutting it out & keeping it.

I only got Nell’s wire after I had come out of hospital as it was addressed c/o Casualties, Bombay & was sent on by post from there, which seems rather a rotten arrangement. It’s better I fancy to stick to the regiment always for an address & not try any games. I only got one letter from Nell too last mail, & that was addressed the same whereas all yours & Ben’s & several others addressed here all came direct.

Very nice of everyone to be so kind in asking after me, & I appreciate it muchly. I know several of the Queens now, and old Roderick, the C.O., was talking to me about Mr Kirwan the other night, as he is chaplain to the rgt: of course. You say something about getting home, but I’m afraid that’s clean out of the question. You have to be pretty bad to be sent home from here; they consider India quite good enough to convalesce in nowadays, & I believe they have awful good homes etc there up in various hill stations which are undoubtedly as good as you will get anywhere. However with any luck I’ll be home on a month’s leave next year sometime, & if the war’s over I may get longer.

I see in your letter of 25th July you say you had got my cable saying “much better”, but I sent that off long before then I think, & when you got it I must have been out of hospital & back with the regiment. I cabled again when I rejoined & I think you must have got that quicker, as I sent the former ones at “week-end cable rates” which is cheap & slow but I sent the one saying I had rejoined at quicker rate, as the week end ones seem to take such years.

A good thing your getting over to Hook Hospital for a change, & I expect you liked it. Meeting all those descendents of old Hartley Rowlks too must have been amusing.

Heaps of papers arrived last mail, & very many thanks for them. I see you address my letters as Lt Col now – quite right – but I was wondering how you knew, because I figured it out that the letter I wrote & told you I had got tempy: promotion was one of the ones that was sunk. It only came out in orders out here on June 16, & even if my letter telling you had not been sunk, it could’nt possibly have reached you by July 12th, which is the date of the first letter I got so addressed. P’raps the India office sneaked.

Must end up. I fancy D.B. is absolutely certain not to come back now.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 11 September, '17 in About