1 February 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

01 Feb

Feb 1st/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 3 letters from you last mail, a day or two ago. I am indeed sorry to hear of poor Aunt Edward’s death. She was always most awfully kind to me and took a real interest in me & my welfare. I know, as she always knew all about me & my latest doings whenever I went to see her. She was very interesting always about our family and the members of it whom we never or seldom met, and I was always surprised at the number of cousins, however distant, we seemed to possess but had never seen!

It was curious too the way she went on living in old Gravel Lane surrounded by all sorts & conditions of men, & every kind of squalor & poverty. I was always in an awful funk going to see her, all down among those slums and alleys. I only wrote to her a few weeks ago, as I always did at Christmas, but I’m afraid my letter never reached her this time.

I’m so glad that my letters about the Ramadi show arrived safely and that you were interested, but you are all much too lavish in your praises. I speak for myself, though I don’t think too much can be said for the men & the regiment. Very many thanks indeed, all the same. It is pleasing to know that having done our best, that best is appreciated.

We have had a day or two’s rain of late and one night of howling gale and wind, but otherwise this lovely cold clear weather goes on. We have frosts at night but it’s gorgeous weather all the same, and ever so much to be preferred to the summer out here.

So you are all going on rations I hear. I think it’s rather bad luck on you & all the rest who have played the game all along to have to suffer for the extravagance & indifference of an upstart class that suddenly finds itself with money in excess of its wildest dreams. All the same, I’m sure it’s right and after all I expect the ration will be ample, and it at anyrate ensures an equal distribution and shows the world we mean business. I don’t fancy England itself is short of food, not as short as all that I mean, but it’s the food supply of the whole world that is causing anxiety.

You all give me hopeful news about Topher and the curing of his stammering. I do hope you’ll be able to tell me of considerable improvement, if not of a complete cure, in some future letters. The boy has done splendidly I think & I’m sure we are all jolly proud of him, and I think he deserves a jolly long rest; even if it involves strenuous training he will at least be well housed and fed and will be away from the strain & stress of the front. Poor Dick! I know how he must hate all that slush & cold. You say he has been away from his regiment. What’s he been doing I wonder?

I hope to have lots more photographs to send you soon, but they take years to get developed and printed. The Stores, Bombay, should have sent you another lot now, but I have still more – chiefly groups of officers, & a few local scenes. I hope the ones of the guns & trenches arrive safely, though I’m afraid the ones of the trenches are very dull, but of course they are very real, as we lived & fought in them & for them for 2 & 3 days, & so we look on them as old friends, or enemies.

(By the way, don’t call us the “Garhwals”; either the “39th”, or the “Garhwalis”: hope you don’t mind the hint, but there’s nothing like correct names, & “Garhwals” sounds terrible to us!) Garhwal is the country where our men come from, and the inhabitants are called Garhwalis; just like Bengal & Bengalis, or Punjab & Punjabis.

Your letters were dated 28th Nov, Dec 4th & 5th, the latter a note to tell me of Aunt Edward’s death.

We have been gorgeously free from flies all the last 2 months, and yesterday one came into the mess & was chased & slain, his death being greeted with cheers! one came in a few weeks ago too, and was also slain. It’s the cold weather & improved sanitary conditions that has done them in, but I fancy the hot weather will see a revival of them, as however careful one is they seem to be a perpetual plague in this country.

I suppose Paul is married now, but I was not aware of the date, which was being perpetually changed I gather, so I could not cable. In any case the cable between Bombay & London is unable to be used for private wires now owing to over-work, and cables are being sent by post if you please between Bombay & London! I’m glad they call it a cable!

You seem to have got all my letters all right; possibly one I wrote on 4th September was burnt, as you make no mention of having received it, but otherwise I seem to have escaped as regards my letters, & very few, if any, went by that ill-fated ship and were burnt.

I had a line from Jim at Krillee, near Poona. He does’nt think much of India (who does?) & prefers Singapore. I wonder if he will turn up out here.

Now I hear of the shortage of sugar & currants etc at home I can appreciate your plum pudding (already eaten) much more. We still get rich Christmas cakes with thick sugar and almond icing from India, sent by various friends & relations. And if I come home this year it seems I’ll have to bring my wedding cake with me! I think it could easily be managed as of course there is no real shortage of sugar & spice in India: the difficulty lies in getting it home to England. They seem to have sunk much fewer ships in the last 3 weeks, but America says they have withdrawn a lot of submarines. In any case fewer ships have been sunk which is the main thing.

I fancy we are moving back in a day or two for a rest & change. We have been up here on outposts, & digging defences, & on reconnaissances for over 4 months now. And though of course we are not in actual touch with the enemy, still we have to keep our eyes skinned & always be ready for emergencies which becomes rather wearing after a time.

Must end up now

Best love to all & again many thanks for nice things said.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


Whenever my father, who also served in the Garhwalis, met his brothers in arms at the Regimental reunions, we children ran a discreet sweepstake on how long it would be before one of them said “When I was at Poooooon-AH”. I was disorientated when my yoga teaching friend said it, freshly back from meditating on an ashram. It’s only a matter of time before I hear someone saying it about visiting colleagues in a software team or an operations centre. The relationship between Britain and India is as complex as it is long. 

I am surprised and slightly disorientated by Ted’s throw-away comment “he doesn’t think much of India (who does?)” – maybe long distance love was making him particularly homesick or maybe he was nervous about taking his bride out there.


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Posted by on 1 February, '18 in About


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