18 July 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

18 Jul

No 2 B.G.H

18th July 17


Dear Mother

Such a pleasant surprise this morning, after a wash & brush up early & my bed had been made up, I sort of dozed off again till breakfast time & woke up to find a whole heap of letters and papers on my bed, including 2 from you dated May 30th & June 6th. I had thoroughly made up my mind to get no letters from home for 3 weeks or a month, as the mail leaving London on 31st May had been sunk (by a mine, I hear, only 60 miles from Bombay if you please!) & with this fortnightly krewst beginning I could’nt hope for a mail I thought for a long time. Thanks awfully for the letters & papers, which I have not had time to peruse yet, but they are MOST WELCOME, as the trash in the hospital library nearly turns one silly to read.

Also thanks awfully for 2 cables, received 3 days ago, on the 14th to be strictly accurate, both exactly the same, I got one in the morning & one in the evening. As they were addressed direct to the hospital, I imagine you had received a W.O. or India O. wire saying I had been admitted to hospital. The O.C. hospital said he had worded the official wire so as to make it as all right as possible and not to make it too alarming for you. He was a charming man, Col: Hefferman by name, and died suddenly 2 days ago from cerebral malaria, brought on by the great heat of the past few days I fancy. He always used to come & talk to me morning & evening on his sort of semi official rounds. I wired you “going on well”. I wonder if you ever got it? They said it would take 2 or 3 days, possibly more.

Well, I’m much better, though by the time you get this it will be such stale news. I’m allowed up, & today I’m allowed out for a breath of fresh air; I am on good solid diet, chickens, eggs, an’ all, I drink whiskey & soda for dinner, & in myself I feel as fit as a fiddle, a wee bit “leggy” perhaps, but that’s only incidental on being in bed for 10 days or so. The doctor is quite pleased with my progress, & practically every day I’ve been in here I’ve been promoted to some extra diet or privilege, & my progress has been systematic & regular.

You see, I went on a milk & rice pudding diet at once in camp, a week before I came into hospital, when the first symptoms were apparent, and then I thought it best to come into hospital as there is’nt very much doing nowadays & it’s as good a time to “go sick” as you could find, ‘cos in hospital they treat you proper & one gets fitter so much quicker than if you let the disease hang on till you drop. Of course if we had been doing any soldiering, up at the front & all that, I would’nt have dreamt of coming in here, but would have managed to get fit again somehow, as I’ve never really felt absolutely rotten, I could always have carried on. So taking things all round, if I’ve got to have dysentery, better have it now. And now I hope to get absolutely rid of it & to be out and about again & rejoin in 2 or 3 days.

Everyone is most awfully nice & kind here, doctor awfully good chap. Sisters perfect darlings & look after you like mothers; brother patients very nice, & I get heaps of visitors from the regiment & pals in Amara every day, so the time passes pleasantly enough.

This last fortnight has been terribly hot. In here of course we have electric fans & my ward is particularly cool. But outside & in camp temperatures have been running up to 118° in the shade, & not a breath of air to relieve things. Cases of heat stroke are common among “Tommies”, but they have little “aid-posts” dotted about all over the place, with a canvas trough full of water, into which you hurl any unfortunate fellow who goes down with heat-stroke till medical aid can be summoned. The great thing is of course to bring down the patient’s temperature, by cold water, ice etc. Poor Col: Hefferman went up to 110°; think of it! It sounds incredible, but the doctor here took it himself & vouches for the truth of it, & he tells me temperatures of 108 & 109 are common in cases of heat stroke. Of course they get ’em into hospital with all possible speed & treat them with ice & wet towels etc & most of ’em recover.

I hear the regiment is keeping wonderfully fit, despite our men being hill men & not used to great heat. One man has died of heat-stroke, & we’ve had no more cases of it. All other officers are very fit & cheery & drop in to see me often; they say it’s “devilish hot” in camp but they keep smiling, & so shall I when I go back, so don’t worry about me. Besides there’s only about another month of this preposterous weather, & after that it begins to come within reasonable limits once more.

Yes the air raid on Folkestone was a bad show. All the same- it’s only a very minor thing in the war, & makes absolutely no difference to the result- I know it’s time we might be able to keep off these raids, but it would mean a constant day & night patrol of several hundreds of miles of E. & S. coast, & it would be playing into Germany’s hands to keep back all the hundreds of ‘planes & pilots for this purpose when they could be far more profitably employed on the Western front, where things matter & where after all the war is going to be decided. One simply must look at these things broadly & comprehensively; very unpleasant for the raided town I know, but we must not let little -(they are little, compared with the big things happening elsewhere)- raids like this turn us from our main purpose, killing Boches & winning the war on the Western front-

What a terrible thing the Vanguard being blown up like that: evidently done by spies I suppose, though I fail to see how it is ever to be found out what really happened- In your letter you were rather depressed about the Russians, but certainly since then they seem to have girded on their armour in fine style, & I see in today’s wires they claim to have captured nearly 40,000 prisoners in 12 days, to say nothing of numerous guns & much booty. I only hope we can really trust these reports, it means a lot if we can. By the time you get this I expect things will be moving again in France.

I’m very glad to hear you say you think of taking a rest, & I think it’s the best thing you can do. What’s Jane going to do? I’m weekly expecting to hear of her taking up some war work, as apparently there’s lots to do.

I can hardly credit your story of Hart’s men actually funking that ladder business; I can forgive him for funking perhaps, but not for saying so & not having a try anyhow. There must be very few men left in England now. Good old Capon, he deserved a pat on the back- & you too for holding the ladder, though as you say, Heaven knows what would have happened if it had slipped! I trust Specs will turn out a reliable defender of England- he may yet have a chance to prove his mettle. Dick & Jim both seem to like hot climates, of course I simply loathe them, especially when they are damp & sticky, as Singapore must be. Cheery weekends at Delaford lately you’ve been having.

Well, I must end up- I’m ever & ever so much better, nearly well in fact, & I’m awful sorry to have been such a nuisance, as I’m afraid you must have wondered what’s really the matter, as I expect all official wires are very bald & sketchy.

Best love to all

Yr loving son               Ted


Lt Col Francis Joseph Christopher Heffernan

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