RSS

Monthly Archives: December 2014

31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude – Christmas Day Truce

Dec 31 / 1914

Dear Mother

Thanks most awfully for your last few letters. I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in answering them, but I have’nt had a moment really. We came out of those old trenches on the night of the 27th, after doing 25 days & nights there, pretty long time was’nt it. We were glad to be relieved as you may imagine, the men were all absolutely doggo, as they had to work day & night to keep the trenches for from falling in, because the weather was so wet & beastly that the earthy all got sodden & soaked & had to be simply propped up, & our trenches were simply lined with boards & old doors & anything we could get hold of. I am writing this in nice comfortable billets miles away from the firing line where the whole Indian Army Corps has come for a rest for 3 weeks or so.

I have’nt much news to tell you except an extraordinary thing which happened on Christmas day. To begin with on Christmas eve all the German trenches were lined with little lights, which we afterwards discovered were Christmas trees. Well next morning we heard them singing & shouting in their trenches, and about midday they began lifting up hats on sticks and shewing them above the trenches, then they shewed their heads, & then bodies & finally they climbed out of their trenches into the open! Of course one could’nt shoot them in cold blood like that, tho’ one or two shots were fired; and after a bit we also scrambled out of our trenches, & for an hour both sides walked about in the space between the two lines of trenches, talking & laughing, swapping baccy & cigarettes, biscuits etc. They were quite friendly & genuine, & our Col: who talks German had a long conversation with them, & asked them how they were & everything, & you would never believe that we had been fighting for weeks. After about an hour their officers shooed them back to their trenches, and we came back to ours, but for the rest of Christmas day & night, & all next day, 26th, I dont suppose 2 shots were fired hardly by either side! Was’nt it weird?

By the way, leave is now open, & 3 of our fellows have gone on leave. I am, I hope, arriving in London about 3 o’clock on the 8th, if all goes well, as my turn is next; so you can expect me home, with a fair amount of certainty, on evening of the 8th, probably by a train leaving Waterloo about 5-6 o’clock. So if anyone likes to hang about Waterloo anytime about then they are fairly sure to meet me. Is’nt it GORGEOUS!!

Happy New Year to all

yr loving son

Ted


Ted described the truce again to Jane the following day, this time illustrating his letter.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

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 

 

Tags:

31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Happy New Year

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
 
1 Comment

Posted by on 31 December, '14 in About

 

Tags:

25 December 1914 – Christmas Truce

Ted and the Garhwalis were present at the Christmas Truce though they didn’t play football. Ted wrote about it to his mother on December 31st and about it to Jane on January 1st. You can hear Matthew Ward of @HistoryNeedsYou read the letter of December 31st below:


Ted’s commanding officer Col Drake-Brockman found the Truce unmilitary and uncanny, but a good opportunity to search for the bodies of men who’d been killed some five weeks before. Here are his memories of the Christmas Truce from his book “With the Royal Garhwal Rifles in the Great War 1914-1917”.

I had just … got back to my dugout when Captain Berryman came running up with the news that “the Germans were out of their trenches.” “The devil they are!” I replied, and went up with him. Sure enough I found a number sitting on the parapet of No. 2 Company’s trench, and also out in front of No. 1 Company. They were trying to converse with our men and giving them cigarettes, biscuits and boxes of cigars. As I could speak German I conversed with them. They all belonged to the 16th Regiment, and it is a strange coincidence that at the battle of Nueve Chapelle later in March, 1915, among the prisoners that the Battalion took there were these identical men who came out on Christmas Day at this informal “armistice”. They seemed very jolly, as if they had had a good feed with plenty to drink. In fact they told me that they had had a good dinner. One of them said to me that there must be “Friede auf der Erde” on this day being Christmas Day. They seemed convinced that they were winning, and one of them said, with a wave of his hand, that the Russians were quite out of it. He gave me a bundle of newspapers to corroborate his statement.

This “armistice” was of short duration. Strictly speaking it should not have taken place without permission. Both our and the German headquarters (we saw from captured documents later) were very angry about it when it became known, and rightly so. At 3.45 p.m. a whistle sounded from their trench, and they all, driven by their neat, dapper N.C.O.s, or “unter oficiers,” scuttled back to their trench. The men were not so neatly turned out as the N.C.O.s, naturally, as they have harder and more fatigue work to do. One man, I noticed, had on a pair of civilian corduroys over his uniform ones.

The truce was well kept for all that night. Not a shot was fired. The silence, so different to the usual crack of rifles and spluttering of machine guns, was almost uncanny.

The way they came out was amusing. First, the evening before, they put out small Christmas trees with lighted candles on them on the top of their trench. Our men were astonished, as it looked, they said, like their own “Dewali” festival in India. During the morning singing and shouting were heard. After a time heads appeared, and finally thier whole bodies – and out they came! It shows what confidence they had in our men. We could not have treated them in like manner. We took the opportunity to search for poor Taylor’s and Robertson-Glasgow’s bodies. They were killed on the 18th November. Only the latter’s body was found. Taylor and the Garhwali officer must have got right into the the German trench and been killed there. Robertson-Glasgow’s body was found close to the parapet. He was buried in the military cemetery between Epinette and Le Touret on the Rue de Bois.

It was a strange feeling being able to wander up above ground after being so long below the surface. A couple of dead Germans were close to the side road. They looked so quiet and lifelike in the attitude they were lying in, so opportunity was taken to have a look at them. They were mere skeletons inside their uniform! One had no head. Both must have been killed by a shell.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 25 December, '14 in About

 

Tags:

21 December 1914 – Paul to Gertrude

Monday. [21 December 1914? Received on the 27th December.]

Dear Mother.

Thanks very much for your letter and also I got a letter dated about Nov 5th from you. I suppose it’s been right out to Malta & back- Oh how we have laughed in the mess over my floating waistcoat – anything so vast – I can’t even join the two edges of my coat together when it is on – so I propose wearing it outside – Lovely and warm it is which is one thing. I must write & thank old Daddy Yanow – but I must say it’s a most ridiculous garment to be always wearing – very nice to put on just before you fall in the water. Our new job up here ought to be rather interesting and really & truly the weather is’nt half so cold as yet – as you might imagine – but there’s nothing like being prepared.

The Town & county of Gloucester have been fine – they have sent us 20 cases various things- Plum Puddings – apples – warm clothes etc all for the men and officers; a representative of the Mayor came onboard while we were at [censored]  the other day & brought them all down. I had a letter from Bee [Ben?] today saying she had sent me some cyder apple jelly – but I have’nt got it yet – it apparently just missed me before we left – but I am sending for the case or whatever it is-

How are your officers getting on. Hope they are fitting into the Delaford methods- and are a success.

You can’t realize how backward I am with my letters; I have had absolutely no time since we left. We’ve been on the hop all the time.

Well I wish you a very happy Christmas & New Year under the circumstances.

My very best love to you all
Your ever loving son
Paul.

Dont forget to send me a piece of the family Plum Pudding.

 

20 December 1914 – Ted to Ben

Dec 20th

Dear Ben

Thanks most awfully for the parcel of mitts etc; they are lovely, and much appreciated and quickly found takers. That’s the best of those small parcels, you can dispose of them easily and they are most frightfully useful to fill up losses and things which have got torn or worn out-

Nothing much doing at present. The weather is fairly miserable, very damp and raw, & it keeps on raining on and off. However, tap wood, the men are keeping wonderfully fit, & they’ve certainly got enough clothes on. Bobby Reed went in to officiate for poor Young – I told you he had died of his wounds, did’nt I? – for a day or two at Brigade H.Q., and while there managed to get his parcel of uniform, & now sides about in it! He says it’s so much nicer than this thin stuff, as being warm, you dont have to wear such tons of stuff underneath.

Poor Young you know was just standing on the road by our 1st Bn Head qrs, behind the trenches about 1/4 mile or so, & a bullet came along & hit him. It’s the same road that Nobby has to come up every night with our rations, & it is very unsafe altogether, a lot of chance shots, which miss the trenches & come over & some aimed shots too, as I’m sure they can see the road in places. Was’nt it rotten luck, & we are all most awfully sorry, as I’m sure you will be.

My dear “Torchers” won’t work, so I am sending him in tonight to Major Stewart to see if he can do anything as I can find nothing very wrong. We have had disturbed nights these last 2 nights, a devil of a lot of firing & searchlights all over the place. My dear Guy Mainwaring has got mumps! and has I hear gone home, but whether the latter part is true or not I don’t know. Archie is doing Adjutant now. Stewart has got brigade major in Young’s place.

A fearful heavy fire suddenly broken out down on our right now, but all seems fairly quiet in front of us at present, & I trust it will remain so; heavy guns & shrapnel going off too, a most awful din! Thank goodness I’m in the dugout! Last night there was a lot of artillery fire to the north of us, & the whole sky was continually lighted up by flashes of the guns, & bursting shells, but it was a long way off, as the sound took a long time to reach us. Two of our aeroplanes have been very busy today; it was quite a clear morning, blue sky & all, & there mono planes looked gorgeous; the Germans fired one or two shrapnel at them too, which looks awfully pretty, little puffs of smoke against the blue sky. I’m frightfully keen on flying now. I hear Mac is going into the flying corps, lucky devil.

Tons of love Ted

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
 

20 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 20th

Dear Mother  I got your little parcel of peppermints and stuff 2 days ago, I seem to remember having told someone in a letter that I had received them. They are most acceptable, and all the little oxos & cocoas I have put in my haversack as an emergency ration. Our Government rations still continue as good as ever. Bobby Reed & I have great cooking every morning here, frying bacon & mashing potatoes. He’s an awful good cook, & this morning he had a tin of sausages sent him which we fried with great skill! I got 2 lovely boxes of Biscuits from a friend of the Dudmans for whom I got a Derby sweep ticket last year; very nice of her was’nt it, Bee’s or Katie’s nurse I think it was. Just got 2 Daily Sketches & a Daily Mail, please thank Dreda for them, & for the one which contains a picture of Darwan Sing’s V.C. especially.

Still damp & raw here with lots of rain at intervals. Somebody swore they saw snow this afternoon but I don’t think so; but I suppose we are bound to get it soon. Vanity Set
By the way, can you get me something of this sort, a little pocket mirror & comb, sort of thing one wd never dream of using in peace, but in this show, where one is days without one’s kit, it would be most useful. If you could do this:- get the above, & a tiny toothbrush, (ordinary size with handle cut off will do) & a small size tube of tooth paste, & put the whole in a small, tin box about the size of one of those of one of those bivouac cocoa tins if possible, nice & handy to “slip in the pocket!” The Col: [Drake-Brockman?] had an awful nice little case, about 2½ inches square, folding flat like an envelope, containing a little glass, tiny comb, & a toothpick I think! But it does’nt matter about the latter. I should think Boots wd have one-

Could you do that for me please, as I like to do a little toilet when I can- [ie wash and tidy up]
I hope the cake rolls up soon, thanks awfully for it, it will be most acceptable, & disappear in no time I expect. Tons of love to all your loving son Ted

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
 

18 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 18/14

Dear Mother I got a tiny parcel from you today containing some curiously strong peppermints, & some oxo & bivouac cocoa, most acceptable & thanks awfully for them. I’m waiting for the Colonel to go to bed, & then I’m going to eat one! It seems colder today, but it was quite fine. Our aeroplanes were very busy all morning. Tell Ben I’m keener than ever to take up flying now, & tell Jane I’m not so much Mr Stare-Stare as I used to be! Have you read about these small steel arrows they are supposed to drop from aeroplanes? We have heard that both we and the Germans have them; they drop about 500 or so at a time, & they come whizzing down point first; jolly is’nt it!

Biplane dropping steel arrows onto troopsYes we’ve heard all about the oId Kaiser being ill, & he’s dead, & better, & worse, & everything. I wonder which is true. I got a letter from Jim today, he seems very cheery; tell him I’ll write when I have time. He tells me the Gloucester is the Buzz of the fleet, which is a good thing. The enemy have been very noisy today, making a beastly noise shooting, & all last night too; very trying to the nerves. One of our scouts got right up to the enemy’s trenches the other night, & heard them laughing & talking; then he peeped over the parapet & saw them all sitting round a fire, & they never saw him! And 2 nights ago one of the 1st Bn scouts got onto the enemy’s parapet, but they suddenly got frightened, & started firing, & he lay flat between 2 loopholes till they finished & then crawled back to his own lines unhurt.

The pencil I asked for has never rolled up, the one I’m using now is nearly used up, I can only just hold it. Got a long letter from Mabel yesterday, she seems very full up with Red Cross work. What have you done with Topher? Is he going to the RMC, & going to take up soldiering as a career? It’s worth considering I think.

Mabel said in her letter that Christmas letters for us had to be posted on the 13th, but I got hers yesterday, so they only take 3 or 4 days- I must write to the Dudmans, but I have no paper. A few things like this or some notepaper & envelopes all in one wd be very acceptable, something small & handy. I’ll send you an F.S.[Field Service] post card tonight, just to see which gets home quickest. Glad you like my letters, but I’m afraid my last one or two have been very dull, but nothing much has happened. No news of being relieved from these trenches, this is our 15th day now- only a week to Christmas, it does’nt seem like it somehow. I have’nt spent Christmas in Europe since 1903! when I was a spotty cadet! Best love to all & again many thanks for the parceI. Send along the pencil & notepaper sometime.

Yr loving son

Ted

I meant to send the Davids a p.c. [post card] for Xmas but I can’t remember their address!!!

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

 

18 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 18 December, '14 in About

 

16 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 17

Dear Mother Very many thanks for your letter of the 13th, arrived today, but as this won’t be posted till tomorrow I have put 17th on it. Your letter was full of ripping news, especially the old war being over by the New Year! The story of guessing the amount in the purse is truly convincing. Of course the Stock Exchange betting is on the war being over by Christmas, so we hear, & they generally know what’s going on, quite apart from military point of view. I still say by Easter, but it’s of course useless speculating- Anyhow I hope they hurry up now & send out K’s [Kitchener?] army & push things along a bit on this front; I’m fed up with sitting in trenches. From your letters you seem to think I was in that recapturing trench show, when Derwan Sing got the V.C., but alas! I was’nt. Well I can say is that we were supposed to be there, but in the muddle of war couId’nt be found at the time.

We went in a day later, & even then the situation was fairly exciting. There has been a bit more rifle & machine gun fire here these last 2 days, I dunno why, & it’s not very safe exposing yourself too much, at all in fact, above ground. I’m rapidly turning into a mole! Thanks awfully for sending on the cakes, I hope they arrive all right; I have sent Dryden a secret code whereby I hope to ensure the safe arrival of cakes etc. I should like some cigarettes occasionally, Abdullas will do, in tins, as cardboard boxes break so.

Colder again today, but no snow yet. My uniform has rolled up I believe, but I can’t get at it very well in the trenches. Wish I could as it wd be warrner than this. We have been in these trenches 15 days now, & since we first arrived here on 29th October we’ve had 35 days in trenches & only about 10 out, out of which were 5 in reserve and so we have only had 5 days’ so called rest, & were busy the whole of that. However it’s all part of the show. Tell people to write to me a whole lot, as I love getting letters, but the only drawback is I cannot guarantee to answer them, though I do my best. It’s a good thing to enclose a letter card or a folding up envelope thing which you can write inside, & then I can answer them easier- Tell Ben poor Major Young has died of his wounds. She will be awfully sorry I know, so are we all. What a beastly war this is. He was standing in the road, a long way from the firing line & a stray bullet hit him; most awful bad luck was’nt it.

Mud is still as bad as ever, chronic. No chance of leave just at present. I’m awful keen to know what Topher’s doing- Don’t send too many warm clothes, except mitts & socks, & gloves & hankies, in small quantities, as one can dispose of such things fairly easily – Looking forward to your parcel of cakes etc, most welcome.

No more news just now. What awful ROT the papers talk about the Indian troops’ “stealthy forms” “panther springs” & all that absolute tosh. It makes us all look such idiots. We’re no better than anyone else after all, & not nearly as good as some. Why can’t the papers be reasonable, & treat Indians as ordinary human beings

Really the nonsense in the papers about the Indian troops is making us all awful angry; we’ve done no more than was asked of us, and all that appalling balderdash about Gurkhas & Kukris, & “grinning faces” – oh law, it makes me SICK!

(unsigned)

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit
 

14 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

I am quite well.

I am quite well.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 14 December, '14 in About