Monthly Archives: December 2014

Letter to the Trustees of the Imperial War Museum

Save the IWM Library

Click here for posters and leaflets

The Trustees of the Imperial War Museum have decided to close the Library and make 60-80 highly specialised staff redundant at an annual saving of £4m or so.

George Osborne has provided money for the Education Services, but how much integrity and truth can those have, without the research Library to back them up?

There is a petitition to save the Library at – please consider signing it. Follow @Save_IWM for updates and retweet to spread the word. There are posters, leaflets and a list of people to write to here.  Please consider writing to the Trustees, either individually on masse to

The Board of Trustees
IWM London
Lambeth Road
London SE1 6HZ.

This is the letter I’ve posted to the individual Trustees c/o the IWM London (19 letters, one each) and to George Osborne as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP as Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport c/o the House of Commons.

Dear Sir

Please reverse the decision to close the Imperial War Museum library and make the specialist staff redundant. The sums of money involved are not large, especially compared with the huge sums of money spent on short term commemorations of the First World War. It beggars belief that the IWM Trustees should spend so much on refurbishing the building, and then close its intellectual heart.

Let’s be clear, saving the Educations services is not enough. In fact, without the library it may even be an empty gesture.

There are many reasons why this is a bad idea and even morally wrong, here are just a few.

First, a personal reason. My mother donated 650 letters to the archives written by my grandfather and his brothers during and after WW1. The archives are “safe” but how can I believe you when you say that? I am considering options for finding other more appropriate places for them to be stored. I cannot be the only donor who feels that their trust is betrayed by the Trustees of the IWM. I cannot begin to think how those who donated regimental records of and other irreplaceable books now feel. Closing the IWM Library sends out a very bad signal to those who donated to the IWM Library, and to those who donated to the National Archives, the British Library, the National War Museum, and all other organisations who hold materials in trust.

The library is not just A library, it is unique in the world and serves a specific purpose. That purpose is to help us all understand the causes, course and consequences the single event that has had the most impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries: for example, we would not be sending troops to Iraq now if the treaty lines at the end of the First World War had been drawn differently. Closing the IWM Library makes it harder for journalists, think tanks, researchers and maybe even politicians to understand and explain critical and deadly events playing out in the present.

It’s a resource for everyone: what’s in the library ends up on our TV screens, in films and on the radio via the research done by documentary- and film-makers, authors and playwrights. It’s also a resource for academics and historians, who still have not arrived at a shared understanding of why the war started or why it ended. Closing the IWM Library will affect everyone, not just a dusty few.

A library is only as good as its librarians, who have spent a lifetime understanding what the material is and how it connects together. The books and other materials have been donated in good faith; to disperse the library is a betrayal of that trust, and once dispersed the library cannot be re-gathered. The materials have not been digitised; they cannot be found online. Closing the IWM Library is to smash a unique human and physical resource which cannot be recreated.

The library is not just a British resource – in a very real sense it’s not ours to close. One in six of the men who served Britain in WW1 was not British but a member of what are now foreign countries. Australia is loud in commemorating the Anzacs, but the heirs of the 1.5m men from pre-partition India who served in the WW1 and the 2.5m who served in WW2 are more ambivalent about their heritage. We owe our victories in no small part to them, and the IWM records their stories – there is no Indian Wilfred Owen, no Indian Siegfried Sassoon, the regimental histories in the IWM library are important records; in some cases it is the only place that those records are held in an accessible form. Closing the IWM library not only betrays those men and our moral debt, it re-writes history. A cynic may ask whether that is the intention.

In this centenary year, tens of millions of pounds, possibly more, have been spent commemorating the men who died, much of it on artworks that say more about us than about the men they commemorate. Politicians have missed no chance to be photographed standing in the cold and looking solemn. It beggars belief that something that actually does commemorate the First World War, and help us understand it and explain it, should be closed. Closing the IWM library reveals a sentimental hypocrisy at the heart of many of the centenary commemorations.

Finally, let me share with you some of the reasons given by others why the IWM Library should not be closed. These came from the petition in the few hours before I wrote this letter and are typical of the 15,000 or so reasons people in the UK and abroad are challenging this decision.

CO LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM less than a minute ago
I’m signing because I use this library. It is a valuable resource for scholars and the public alike

An invaluable, and accessible educational asset. Worth more than one banker’s bonus!

This is a world-leading resource with a world-leading library. Ways must be found to keep it fully maintained.

DR FROME, UNITED KINGDOM about 1 hour ago
2014 is the centenary of the Great War, given all the millions spent THIS year on politicians attending various commemorative events it seems cheap to cut funding for what must be our permanent reminder of the sacrifices in WW1 (and other conflicts)

The library is not an optional extra – it’s the intellectual heart of any cultural institution. … if you want to be a relevant, world class educational resource that can support exhibitions, publishing and scholarship at every level then you need a library and qualified staff to run it.

It seems particularly poignant to be trying to save the IWM just after the recent wave of public support to remember WW1. I’m a former MoD scientist with a deep understanding of conflict and its causes. I visited IWM two years ago in a different role as Chair of Governors of my local secondary school, and was deeply impressed by, for example, the holocaust exhibition. The IWM is an invaluable resource and it chronicles a key aspect of the century that transformed life in Britain. We cannot afford to lose any part of it.

DHA, SC about 3 hours ago
I’m an English professor, and I’ve made use of the IWM in the past.

MJ GIOLOU, PAFOS, CYPRUS about 4 hours ago
I believe the resources of the IWM are an internationally important archive which should be preserved for future generations and should remain fully accessible to the public.

JK TAUNTON, UNITED KINGDOM about 6 hours ago
preservation and maintenance of all historic and heritage property is vital, we must leave for future generations our history, we live in a miserly short term political environment which has no concern for the future.

Every family in Britain was touched by WW1 in which my great grandfather fought and my grandfather and brothers in WW2. Commemoration is an essential part of learning and remembering the lessons of the past. Put money on my taxes do not take money away from the fantastic work the IWM does and the fantastic learning resource it provides and the educational outreach it undertakes.

IR WIRRAL, UNITED KINGDOM about 6 hours ago
Lest we forget

Yours sincerely


Family Letters

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Posted by on 13 December, '14 in About, Imperial War Museum


12 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 12 1914

Dear Mother Just a line to say all’s O.K. Nothing much doing here, same old game, all day and every day the same. I got that ripping parcel of things yesterday. The waistcoat is too priceless, & I can hardly imagine myself wearing it in this filthy weather, besides it’s hardly cold enough yet. But then the snow comes and those biting winds, that’ll be the time and it will be gorgeous then. The map case is top hole & the exact thing I wanted, & is now in use & the envy of the Brigade. Had I chosen the flask myself, I couId’nt have chosen one more to my liking. Such a pity it has got an awful bash in it on one side, I don’t know how, as it came in a cardboard box, which was not smashed, wrapped up in the waistcoat; but I think I’ll be able to get it beaten out, I’ll give it to someone going back to civilisation for a bit- But it’s a ripping flask, and will do me splendidly.

We’ve had beastly weather these last few days, a tremendous lot of rain which has made the trenches a mass of mud. And the mess you get in walking round them, awful, You see the trenches are very narrow for the most part, only just broad enough to walk front ways, & one’s clothes get plastered all over. It’s quite miId really now – tap wood! – but I’m jolly glad my new uniform has rolled up as it will be coId enough soon. I have’nt got it yet, but keeping it till we get out of the trenches- We’ve been in them 10 days this time now, & should by rights be relieved in a day or 2, but you never know your luck.

If you are thinking of sending a plum pudding, perhaps mince pies would be better, being easier & more quickly eaten, & not requiring cooking. Had a letter from Ben yesterday, sending a Christmas card, & saying she was sending a present along at Christmas. Can you send me something of this sort, kind of little toe socks, I think I’ve seen them advertised somewhere; I fancy they wd be a great boon. No more now, hope I hear from you soon. I may get home on a few day’s leave sooner or later – how amusing, just as I write this, there comes an order cancelling all leave! I wonder what it means, but it’s typical of the army. Was’nt it sporting of the King to come out.

Love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 12 December, '14 in Benedicta Berryman


10 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 10th

Dear Mother I got a ripping parcel from you today, with some cigarettes from Aunt Edward in it, some dubbin & some ripping milk chocolate, Thanks most awfully for it, especially the cigarettes, of which I have just run out. I also got a letter from the Dudmans, sending me a Christmas card, & saying they were sending some socks and mitts for the men. It’s very raw weather nowadays, cloudy & cold, & a cutting wind. But we are living underground a good deal so manage to keep fairly warm. I see by some papers we got today that our 1st Bn: man was not the first man to get the V.C. in the Indian Army, but another man got one on the 31st October apparently. Jolly sporting of the King to come out here was’nt it; I see great stories of his going into the trenches, but I wonder if they are true or not, as it would be very risky with all these odd bullets flying about.

We have got a Iittle bomb gun now in our trenches, which throws a biscuit tin bomb about 200 yards & goes off with a tremendous bang. We landed a bomb on the roof of one of the German dug-outs a few days ago & it exploded there, and huge beams & planks were thrown all over the place. I fancy it must have been very uncomfortable for the people inside!

I see French’s despatches in last week’s weekly times, which arrived yesterday. What splendid reading they make- I saw the othor day that they had been published in book form, his first ones, & I should rather like a copy if you could raise one. It’s been too bad weather for aeroplanes lately so they have’nt been about much. They are most awfully pretty sights in the air, especially against a blue sky with little puffs of smoke from bursting shells all round them; very pretty to look at, but not so nice for the people in the aeroplane! A man called Parkin has been attached to us for duty; I think he must be a Parkin of the lot who used to live up the avenue? He’s dark, & red in the face.

No news here; it’s fairly quiet except for this incessant sniping and bombing, which gets on one’s nerves. So glad to hear the uniform etc is coming- It will he ripping to have it. I see Sonnie Gabb’s rgt, the Worcesters, got specially mentioned by Sir John French. Dinner time.

Love to all

yr loving son


One of the things I found fascinating when I got the chance to look at the original letters was the sheer variety of stationery. This is a letter and envelope in one.

Ted to Gertrude

Ted to Gertrude


9 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 9th

Dear Mother, better start here on 2nd thoughts, though I’ve put the date t’other way up. Is’nt it simply splendid, & you must have seen it by now, a man in our 1st Battn: has been given a V.C. the first ever won by a native in the Indian army What a gorgeous thing for the regiment, and it will make people know us now, & no one can say “oh, yes 39th, never heard of them, who are they-” We are all, as you may imagine, most fearfully pleased. The King pinned it on himself, & said “Let’s see, this is the first one in the Indian Army, is’nt it.” You see, the V.C. was only allowed to be won by natives after the Durbar, it was one of the Durbar concessions to India; and to be the first to win it is indeed an honour.

I enclose two cuttings from papers which you have doubtless seen, but it will tell you where we are, or whereabouts, anyhow! It was at F—–t [Festubert] that the man got the V.C. From what I hear it was as follows: after 2 frontal attacks had been made on some trenches captured from us by the Germans (I told Ben all about this) the 1/39th came in from the flank and fought their way yard by yard down the trench. You must remember a trench is only a narrow little thing, 3 feet broad, so anything you do fighting down one you’ve got to do alone, or nearly so, as there’s no room for anyone else. Well trenches are made with things called “traverses” in them, that is, pieces of the ground, in which the trench is dug, left there, & the trench runs round it, so:-

ERPB to GFB 1913 12 09

in this plan the dots being men in the trench. The idea of these traverses is that if a shell bursts in the trench, it’s effect is only local, & only hurts the men in that part of the trench, as the traverses stop the flying bits from going into other parts of the trench, see? F’instance: a shell bursting in trench A might kill all the men there, but men in B would be saved by the traverse; & vice versa of course. Well, fighting down a trench, the enemy can of course hide behind these and it’s exciting work running round them.

That’s what the chap got a V.C. for, for being in front all the time, and running round each traverse as he came to it & bayonetting the Germans in the next bit of trench; does’nt sound much, but it’s jolly plucky and 16 men were killed like this before the trench was taken. Still in these muddy trenches, mud is simply awfuI. Tell the Dudmans I should like a waistcoat pocket Kodak for Christmas, & please send some films. No news much, but I thought I must tell you about the V.C. Ben will be fearfully interested.

Love to all


Send me any papers or pictures you can about this V.C.

I hear the Stock Exchange are betting the war will be over before Christmas

A Durbar was a ceremonial occasion. Ted is probably referring to the 1911 Durbar which celebrated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary.

A Naik was the equivalent of a Corporal in the Indian Army. Naik Darwan Sing Negi was the first Indian to be awarded the VC, though the action for which Khudadad Khan was received his VC took place earlier, and Khudadad Khan, who came from what is now Pakistan, is recognised as the first member of the Indian Army to win the VC. 

Naik Darwan Sing Negi Clearing the Trench

Naik Darwan Sing Negi Clearing the Trench


9 December 1914 – Ted to Ben


Dear Ben Is’nt it top hole a man of the 1st Batt getting a V.C. simply splendid, and the 1st one too ever won by the Indian Army; you’ll be awfully pleased I know, so I thought I must write & tell you, though I expect you have seen it in the papers by now. But I hope they say Garhwalis & not Gurkhas- So you can tell old Garin-Fitz that even if we are only imitations, we can give a dam good lead anytime he likes, so there.

You may think you know what mud is, but you don’t till you’ve been in these trenches. It’s the most remarkable stuff in the world. You walk along the trench and grow about 12 feet higher as you proceed, with thick glutinous extra soles to one’s feet. And my kit, the clothes we stand up in, plastered in mud off the side of the trenches.

We’ve been a week here now, things fairly quiet, but thank goodness that awful shell fire has stopped, as least they give us a few shrapnel for lunch, but nothing to what it was when we were here before with J.J.’s all day [‘Jack Jonhnson’ was slang for artillery shells] – Some cavalry are coming to “be broken in to trench work” as the orders were, & we are doing some of the breaking, starting on a squadron of Billy’s push, 9th Hodsons Horse– You see there’s no use for cavalry in their true rôle, so they shove ’em in trenches to help the poor old footsloggers. So they send up squadrons to learn how it’s done-

Sat up till all hours of last night bucking to Nobby, about marriage! How’s the child. Nobby has got a rotten job, qr:mr,[quarter-master] & has to fix up all rations etc, which have to be cooked right back behind & sent up into the trenches to the men. Well every night Nobby has to come up the road, quite a mile of which is always swept by bullets & lots of people have been hit on it. So he has a pretty warm time, though few realise it, & I think people should known, as otherwise people might think he, not being in the trenches, was quite safe. Divil a bit. Tons of love


Send me some paper like this, it’s awful good for daily chits

The 9th Hodson’s Horse was also known as the Bengal Lancers.


8 December 1914 – Richard to Gertrude


[Incorrectly dated Nov 8th, presumably Dec 8th].

My dear Mother.

Here I am yer see in Bombay on board a transport. I believe we are coming to England, Brighton or the New Forest or somewhere. I dunno’ if this’ll get home before I do, I expect so anyhow. Crowds on board, Hospitals, Regiments, Rats, Ladies, & Stewards.

I’m a Lieut in the I.M.S! [Indian Medical Service] hot stuff in uniform, at present more “hot” than “stuff”.

I daresay Topher is anxious to get back & fight but I imagine from there they have to pay their own passages. I should say stop where he is, there will be plenty of vacancies out in the Argentine nowadays.

I got a letter from you today. Just luck as I got some mail sent to the Taj Mahal Hotel here. They would not tell us where we were going, so I could give no addresses & had all my letters sent home again. I hope I shan’t be very ill on this ship! We’ll probably be a long time getting home.

Well best love to all

yr loving son


The Taj Mahal Palace is still one of the most prestigious hotels in Mumbai. According to Wikipedia, it had been built some 12 years before in 1902. It is situated on the waterfront, next to the Gateway of India, itself built only three years before in 1911. In 2008, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was one of the targets of co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai.


7 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec.7. Trenches

Just a line to say all’s well. A beastly day today, wet and windy and trenches in an awful state in consequence. Very good of Dudman’s to ask what I want, I will let them know when I’ve made up my mind, I can think of nothing at present. Have got a letter from you of 29th, so must answer it when I have time.

Not much chance of home leave just at present, but I’ll seize the first opportunity. I hope Ben & Jim fixed up my uniform all right. It’s ever so much warmer today, but I s’pose this rain will turn to snow soon. I’ve thought of a good thing the D.’s might give me; but I won’t tell you on here, the censor might’nt like it! Let me know the dates of my letters & p.c’s you get.

Love to all


The D’s were the Dudmans. The right to appoint a clergyman as parish priest did not always lie with the church authorities, in many parishes it lay with a local landowner. The Dudmans were patrons of the living of Pitney in Somerset. and had given Ted’s father, Charles Berryman, his first appointment as Rector there.


6 December 1914 – Ted to Dreda

    Dec 6th

Dear Dryden I’ve just thought of a good idea, could Delaford send me a cake every week, as they are so useful we seldom see cake & it’s a darned handy thing for tea. Just mark the parcel “cake” & it will roll up whereever I am. Nothing much doing today it was a gorgeous morning, lovely winter day with a frost, but it’s clouded over since & will I suppose turn to snow soon.

2 or 3 of our aeroplanes have been flying about above us all the morning, awfully pretty against the blue sky. It must be awfully cold up there I should think. O yes, another thing I want is a pair of khaki putties, Fox’s patent spiral, as worn with home service khaki; I want the thin sort, not the great thick cloth ones; could you get a pair & send them out d’you think. Thanks awfully, I hope my new khaki turns up soon. I got a letter from mother yesterday, dated Nov 29th.

Tons of love


Delaford was the family home. Presumably Ted’s idea was that the cook would make the cake and his mother or sisters would post it.

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Posted by on 6 December, '14 in Delaford


6 December 1914 – Paul to Gertrude

H. M. S. Gloucester

Sunday 6th

Dear Mother

I hope to come home on Tuesday till Friday – I am excited at getting leave – I seem to want to do so much- I’ll wire my train arrival in London – as I should love someone to meet me there just for a cheeroh!

In huge haste & tons of love
Your loving

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Posted by on 6 December, '14 in H M S Gloucester


5 December 1914 – Ted to Ben

Ted to Ben

Ted to Ben

Dec 5th 1914

Dear Ben I got your parcel last night of mitts and Balaclava caps for the men. Thanks most awfully for them my dear, they are most acceptable and the fellows I gave em too are fearfully pleased. You see government issue them with a Balaclava cap each, but they lose them or tear them or something so one can always – or nearly always find a use for one or two of them. And the men seem to like those knitted wristlets too. I think I only wrote to you 2 days ago so you can imagine I have’nt much more to say.

We have got a lovely underground room, about as big as the Delaford dining room [their childhood home], only not so high of course. It is floored with doors from the ruined houses all round, & roofed in the same way, with earth and turf on the top. We have bagged chairs tables & crockery from the houses too (this is not looting, but quite fair, as the houses are mostly flat on the ground and you have to grovel about among ruins to find anything; and stray bullets keep on zipping about & hitting the walls with an awful smack, a most evil sound) so we are awful cosy; it is our mess, where the C.O & I live, also the officer of the company in support. We have a little charcoal fire, & cook our bacon & potatoes over it. All the other officers of course live in the trenches, but change about, & get their turn here.

It’s raining today, which makes the trenches in a beastly mess, feet deep in mud, & it’s awful walking about in them. You see the C.O [Drake-Brockman] & I make periodical tours of the trenches & have a general look round. They are at the present moment letting us have some “Black Marias” for some unknown reason, as their Maria battery is supposed to have gone away & they certainly have’nt been shelling us like they used to. 3 shrapnel also burst right over this dugout just now, but did no damage as we were safe inside. They know troops are here of course, & I fancy just give us a shell or so occasionally for luck.

I like this pencil I’m using, it’s called the “Eagle copying ink Pencil, No 1522”, it’s a short one, with a tin cover thing, do you think you couId manage to send me one a week, in an envelope as they are infernally useful. This is rather a good card you have sent, there’s such lots of room on it. I see accounts in the papers of officers getting 96 hours leave to England, so don’t be surprised if I turn up one day, only for goodness’ sake get some mufti [ie non-uniform clothes] ready for me, & a hot bath. Our guns are firing at the Maria battery now, & she’s stopped thank goodness, as you never quite know where she’s going to fall. Must end up now & get this censored. Thanks again & tons of love Ted

Then a postscript around the margin:

I think we are in for another whack of cold weather, as there’s a bitter wind today, & rain, which will turn to snow soon I expect. Hurry up my new khaki as this drill stuff is awful

Good news, a man in the 1st Batt has got the V.C the King gave it him yesterday

I think Fred Lumb will get something too

Am getting the weekly times regular, please thank Mother it’s awful interesting always

Drake-Brockman says:

The 1st Battalion …. was awarded one Victoria Cross to Naik Darwan Sing Negi, who led round each traverse. Captains Lumb and Lane each received the Military Cross for their gallantry in this action, and several men got other decorations.