18 February 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

18 Feb

Feb 18/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter of Jan 11 which I got a fortnight ago, & since then we have had no mails, though there are rumours of one arriving tomorrow. So Jim has really sailed, & Hong Kong is quite a good place I believe, & I have always heard fellows say they like it. A new part of the world for him anyway. I can’t quite understand how Topher has managed to get a job with Dick, but I suppose many things are possible now that one never thought of before.

Please apologise to the family for my not having written much, but I have been frighfully busy these last few days. I have managed to get out for a few games of tennis & have been out to dinner once or twice, on Sunday picnics with the Ricketts, but otherwise I have been pretty hard at work.

I am under orders for Mesopotamia, & we shall probably start about the middle of next month, but of course we don’t know yet. But please don’t worry, mother, I’ll be all right & will take great care of myself. Conditions out there have improved out of all knowledge, & now ice & electric fans & magnificently equipped hospitals are the order of the day, & they are sparing no money or trouble to make no mistakes this time. It is a picnic compared to what it was, & though I expect there are many discomforts still, & there simply must be on a campaign like this, yet it’s ever so much better than it was and not a bad place at all.

Of course I’m awfully excited & pleased at the prospect, & I do hope it won’t add too much to your anxieties, which must be heavy enough. Don’t worry to send me anything, as things must be hard enough to get at home. A few sort of lemon drops are good things to suck when one is thirsty I’m told, & water sterilising tablets might be useful, & possibly a little eau-de-cologne with menthol in it to make it cool. Ever so many thanks for getting Nell her gloves; I haven’t heard from her about them yet but I ought to hear next mail.

Today the Ricketts took me out to tea & a joy ride in their car; awful nice of them and it’s ripping having such good friends as that, & they have been awfully good to me. The news from Mesopotamia continues good, and I suppose there will be big things doing in Europe soon now. This submarine campaign seems to be the chief danger at present, but even that they seem confident of breaking down within the next few weeks. I hope it’s not making things too unpleassant for you at home, but from all accounts it’s quite hard enough.

Yes, my sword has arrived, but I have’nt retrieved it from the rly: station yet, & now we are just off, I suppose I shan’t need it after all.

Better stick to Cox for an address, as I don’t know what Brigade or division we’ll be in, but I’ll let you know as soon as I can. Address letters very carefully, as I hear they still go astray a lot out there. Lots to read will be welcome I should think. And will you tell them to send me “the Saturday Review” every week; let me know what the subscription is, for one year would do I should think, & I’ll tell Cox to pay you. I don’t know that it’s a particularly good weekly, but one wants a paper like that just to help one keep up to date with current ideas, & we take in the Spectator in the Mess, so I thought the Saturday Review would be a good paper to take in on my own.

Must run over & post this now, as the mail goes at 5.45 tomorrow morning. It’s been much warmer here these last 2 or 3 days. P’raps a little asperin or quinine would’nt be out of place in Mespot if you are thinking of sending anything along, but please don’t worry to send parcels, as I ‘spect we’ll get all we want out there under the improved conditions.

Best love to all & wish me luck

ever yr loving son


This letter is endearing with its mixture of excitment and concern, and the comic-timing of the simultanious arrival of his orders and his dress sword is perfect.

Ted last saw action when he had been wounded in May 1915 and had spent most of 1916 in India, latterly as part of the Viceroy’s escort in Delhi.The army was his career, and he was frustrated when the chance for action went to volunteers who got promotions in months that he had worked years for. He also missed friends who had been killed and found it hard not to resent their bright-eyed replacements, and this fed into his survivor’s guilt. So he was pleased that his time on the side-lines was soon to be over. 

The seige of Kut had been brutal, and the Arabian pensinsula was important not only because it protected the sea routes to India, but also because oil was now the life-blood of the Royal Navy since Churchill had shifted the ships from coal.

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