Just a line to tell you briefly of our doings the last few days. On the 9th we left our billets after a week’s rest & marched to more billets near the trenches. We spent the 9th there & on the night of the 9th marched off to the trenches- on the morning of the 10th, as you see in the papers, we advanced. You no doubt saw that Neuve Chapelle was taken; well this brigade took it & the 2/39th practically took it on their own, & we went on right beyond it. After a terrific bombardment by artillery for ½ an hour we charged the trenches, captured 180 prisoners & 3 machine guns; we lost a few men but on the whole it was very successful- We dug trenches beyond Neuve Chapelle, & stayed in them that night.
We then got orders at 12 midnight to march off and relieve our 1st Batt: in the trenches, & there remained till dawn, when we were ordered off to be attached to another brigade as they were short of troops. So off we marched again, & reached them about 7 am and stayed there or thereabouts, digging & working hard, till 12 midnight, when we were told to march off and have a rest. Well we got to our billets at 3.30 am on the 12th, & got orders at 5 am to march off that morning at 7 a.m.!
So off we went again, back to have a real rest for 2 or 3 days as the men were rather tired & knocked up after 3 hard days & nights fighting, marching, and digging- We got to our new billets, settled down, but at 4 p.m. got orders to proceed at once up to a village near the trenches to be in readiness.
So again we marched off, although none of us had had any sleep for 3 nights & had been hard at work all the time. However we staggered off & arrived here at 9.30 pm. & after a long search for billets managed to get settled down, very tired & very hungry & we had had no decent food either for 3 days.
I got to bed about 12.30 & had a good sleep, but I could do a lot more. We are still here awaiting orders. I am afraid our 1st Battn have had a lot of casualties, 7 officers killed, including my great friend Major Mac, who had gone to command them vice their colonel who had been wounded. This war is too awful for words. This is only a scrawl, will write more when I have time. I am very fit & well, & going strong.
Love to all, your loving son Ted
(Enclosed in letter the following:
With many thanks
I hope and trust he may get through alright but it is awful – W G )
The original of this letter is in the Archive of the the Imperial War Museum: Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel E R P Berryman DSO – http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030021700
In the ‘terrific bombardment by artillery’, Ted and Colonel Drake Brockman were sitting shoulder to shoulder, either side of two men who were killed outright by a shell exploding.