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17 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

17 Oct

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


 

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/mutiny-breaks-out-on-german-battleship

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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