11 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

11 Apr

April 11th/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for the letters I had from you last mail – on the 8th – the first I have had from you since March 5th! So you can imagine how pleased I was to get them. What splendid news about old Paul; I am glad, & I must try and send him a cable. I somehow did’nt imagine there was anything in the wind, though he told me he had met a niece of the Conway Gordons a long time ago, & you mentioned her once or twice in your letters. Your two letters were dated Feb: 14 & 21st, but all our mails are rather out of step now as we have been moving about a bit. Not here, by any means, for we are still stuck at the base in camp awaiting orders to go up the line.

It seems we shall be here for a long time yet, ten days or more, as there is so much stuff to be sent up, stores & rations etc, that they are rather hard put to find ships & boats to carry all they want to. However I expect we shall be going up before long now; at anyrate I hope so, as it’s not much fun sitting in this rather dusty camp. America has at last come into the war I see, and about time too, though I can’t help thinking there must be some jolly good reason for her not having done so before, & I suppose all the allies are pulling together and are making their plans in consultation with each other  Dick seems to have had no luck about his leave, I wonder if he managed to get away in the end; awfully bad luck his having to go back after he had started an’ all.

I have been meeting old friends out here. Gaskell, an R.E., who was in Lansdowne when Ben was staying with me, and Gaskell & Mrs Gaskell were great friends of ours. He was in France with the Indian Corps, & came out here with them when they left France & has been out here ever since. Sam Orton is also here, on the staff of our division, and he has been along today to see us; he is very cheery. Curiously enough the 1/5 Queens are in the same Brigade as we are, & I hear the Gabbs are with them – are’nt two of them out here   Harold & Desmond? Anyhow I’m bound to meet them soon, as we are gradually concentrating & as they are in the same brigade I ought to see a good deal of them. I wonder if any other Guildford people are in that Battalion, I’ll probably be able to let you know next letter I write.

Weather still quite all right here, hottish days but quite pleasantly cool nights, & we generally get a haze all day which makes a lot of difference. I have been out a certain amount here, shopping in the town, & to visit the native arab bazaar here. Curious places, roofed in for a great part of the way with planks & matting, to keep out the sun which must be unbearably hot in the summer here. In the better part of the town – the residential part – several English shops have been stocked to supply the needs of the large crowds of officers & men now in the country, & you can get almost anything you want here now.

The gold crown of one of my teeth came off last Sunday & I went in & had it put on again. There is a Base Dentist here who does all that sort of thing, so you can see all our wants are anticipated & catered for. On Sunday Bampton took us for a joy ride in a motor launch on the river here, that was very pleasant, barring a slight accident on returning when he ran hard into the jetty, as the man working the engine failed to turn it off in time! However no damage was done, though we went a fearful bump into it.

So glad the rugs are all right & are approved of. It seems years since I sent them off. So sorry to hear Billie Barlow is so bad; what a truly awful time that man has had with his arm.

I wonder if you managed to get old Nell to come & stay for Easter. She writes very cheerfully & talks of getting a job with her sister Louie in a hospital at Chelmsford, but I have’nt heard any more about it.

Not much news here, we don’t get hold of mail close up to things like this. I wish we could get out of this camp though, as I’m rather sick of it & it’s rotten having to sit here & wait. However I expect we shall be in heaps of time for any fun that’s going.

I must try & write to Paul & Ben this week if I have time, but we are fairly busy with parades & things.

Lots of love to all

Yr loving son


Ted’s congratulations for Paul seem to confirm that Paul and Nancy had got engaged during his Leave in February.  As Ted suggests, Paul and Nancy Swan were increasingly close during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, with the possible connection being an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.

We will hear more of Ted’s visits to dentists during his time in Mesopotamia. As a side-note, my dentist once told me that she had offered Nell an anasthetic for a filling and Nell had replied that she only bothered with anasthetics for extractions. My eyes water in sympathetic pain whenever I think of my grandparents and their teeth. 

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