Monthly Archives: October 2015

29th October – Ted and Nell

Ted and Nell, Autumn 1915

Ted and Nell, Autumn 1915

In her 1980s edited version of these letters, my mother wrote:

On the 29th October… the Fieldings and some of their friends went for a walk in the beech woods along the ridge of the hill above the house. It was a glorious Autumn day and the anniversary of Ted’s first going into the trenches… He could not but have been aware of the contrast and perhaps it was this that inspired him to ‘speak’. That evening he and Nell visited her aunt, who lived a little lower down the hill, and under the spreading chestnut trees in her drive, on their way back to Broadsground, they became engaged.

The Fieldings seemed to be slightly taken aback, although the domestic staff were well aware: at that first evening party [some six weeks before] word had gone out to the kitchen that it was all right; he had taken ‘the right one’ in to dinner. Of course, they had three older daughters still unmarried and, not only was Nell still only seventeen, but she had been engaged briefly at the beginning of the year to a young Sandhurst cadet who was about to go out to France. His mother had forbidden it on the grounds that they were both too young and the romance seemed to be fading when he was killed in action. Nell was always to feel a little guilty that she appeared to find consolation so quickly with someone else and for years she wore the gold half-hunter watch that he had given her on their engagement.

The Fieldings, however, were loving parents and they compromised. The engagement was not forbidden but it would not be recognised until Nell was older.

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Posted by on 29 October, '15 in About


28 October 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester



Dear Mother – I’m sure I quite forgot to put that 10/- in the other day – silly of me.

A simply filthy day – raining & blowing hard-

Please thank Ben for her letter – If you want some pictures for the lumber room – or rather the dining room – my sea chest is fairly full is’nt it – why not use them.

Did you see Digby had a son the other day?

With ever so much love from your loving son


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Posted by on 28 October, '15 in H M S Gloucester


26 October 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester
C/o G.P.O.

Tuesday. 26th


Dear Mother –

Thank you for your letter – & I’m glad the sox & chest have arrived safely. I enclose the 10/- – Ever so many thanks for paying the other 5/-, what’s the gear like inside – I expect I shall want some of those plain clothes shirts soon – I believe there are some quite good coloured flannel ones in there, are’nt there?

The lumber room sounds awfully cosy as a dining room- & ought to be quite warm with the kitchen so close – excellent idea it sounds-

What does that mean, Jim being transferred to a Reserve Battalion? Will he go out any sooner. I heard from Topher yesterday – he told me he expected to go out very shortly now.

Yes- they gave me £2 for my wins in the sports – & to buy my own prize – but I haven’t as yet bought anything.

It’s getting pretty parkey up our way – but I have’nt really begun to wear anything winter as yet – one wants a great coat ashore though. I don’t know whether you remember that big blue Reefer coat of Jim’s, that he gave me; do you? Well anyhow I’ve had naval buttons and shoulder straps put on it & it makes a ripping new great coat – which is a thing I wanted badly.

I say how ripping of Dreda to get some money for Topher’s gramaphone. I wish I had known – because I would have sent her some – why did’nt she ask me?

I was sent a most beautiful white knitted sweater yesterday by a friend of mine – gorgeous it is – all hand knitted-

We have a hockey ground now – which is very nice – but I’ve got a very slightly groggy ankle at present & the doctor says I’d better rest it for a week – but a funny sort of new lump appeared & only hurt when you touched it – I’ve felt it there for weeks & weeks but I thought it was a hack, from football or something – but when it wouldn’t go away – I showed it to him & he was bluffed and didn’t know what it was – but said it might be something – an abscyss forming in a tendon gone – anyhow I’ve had it well Iodined & occasionally wrapped up & sounds funny does’nt it – I’ve got the cold alright – but I’m glad to say the hard lump is going away & does’nt hurt ½ as much – (I’ve just felt it again & feel it still there – that’s why I changed the tense).

It’s nothing to worry about – for one thing I’ve never told you before – simply because I forgot that anything’s wrong at all. I ran all through the sports with it.

Well goodnight Mother – I hope you are all well.

With much love to you all.

from your ever loving son


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Posted by on 26 October, '15 in H M S Gloucester


19 October 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester

Oct. 19th


Dear Mother-   Thank you muchly for your letter- I say how dreadful about that air raid – and I am thankful that none of you are hurt or have suffered in any way – I should just say there was some excitement in Guildford – It must have been a great shock to everyone – I had no idea, till I got your letter that they had been anywhere near you, and of course I rather got a bit of a shock when I read your letter. They seem to have been over most of the Southern part of England-

I have been meaning to pack up some socks to send you – but I have had very little time to do anything just lately.

We had our sports last week, the finals – I managed to win the 100 yds & 2nd in ½ mile & obstacle race – but I was disqualified in the latter – because I did one of the obstacles wrong – not a bad day though on the whole & I think the men enjoyed it

Oh – do let me know if you have had to pay anything for my chest – they said it would be about 15/- so if you will let me know I will send you the money-

It’s getting jolly cold up our way now – more cold winds than anything else. I have’nt actually started my winter clothing yet though.

Yes – Jane seems to be enjoying herself immensely – I heard from her only a few days ago.

We have just got rather a good hockey ground fairly close here – it is a cricket ground really – so it’s very good. & they are letting us have it for nothing too.

Well I am glad you are all safe and well –

With ever so much love to you all

ever your loving son


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Posted by on 19 October, '15 in H M S Gloucester


Report from Jim’s Commanding Officer – 10 Oct 1915

One thing that comes through from the letters is how differently the brothers coped with the War, with the two already in the services (Ted in the army, Paul in the navy) fully engaged and understanding how it was being waged, and the younger two who signed up in 1914, Jim and Topher, finding it harder to adapt to. The eldest, Richard, is always veiled in what he writes to his mother and it is impossible to tell how he reacted to the horrors he must have dealt with as a medic. 

I am grateful to Robert Clark of for the following information.

By October 1915 Jim had been in training for a year, first in the Public Schools Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment and, once he had received a temporary commission, in the 18 (Service) Battalion (1 Public Works Pioneers). Pioneers battalions were a new idea in the British Army, intended to provide skilled labour which would relieve other infantry battalions from non-combat roles. In September 1915, the Battalion was training on Salisbury Plain. However, a medical board convened on 23 September decided that Jim was unfit for general service for a month. Shortly afterwards, he received an adverse report from his C.O. which would see him leave the Battalion a month before it was due to leave for France. 

10 October 1915

In accordance with verbal instructions from the from the General Officer Commanding Division, I beg to forward a report on the undermentioned officer.

This officer’s state of health has been more or less unsatisfactory during his service with this Battalion. I do not consider him likely to do well on active service whilst this Battalion was stationed at Rayleigh he had a months sick leave. He has a curvature of the spine which gives him an excuse for avoiding anything he does not care for. I would strongly recommend his transfer to a Reserve Battalion. [Emphasis in the original].

This was followed by another letter on the 12 October sent to the War Office.

Headquarters Salisbury Training Camp

I recommend that this officer should be transferred to another formation, and his promotion should be delayed. I shall be glad if another officer may be appointed to take his place in the 18 Middlesex Pioneers at an early date.

Major-General Herman Landon
Commanding 33 Division

Ouch, just ouch. I am curious how much of this correspondence he himself saw, and what he told his mother Gertrude, that stickler for hard work and duty who took so much status from having five serving sons.

Jim was transferred to the 25 / Middlesex, a reserve battalion formed in October 1915 and he joined them on 23 October in Hornchuch in Essex. Life would have followed a mundane patter of training new recruits and it must have been hard for him to watch them depart for the front. 


Posted by on 12 October, '15 in About


12 October 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester
C/o G.P.O.

October 12th


Dear Mother

V. many thanks for your letter – I expect by now you have got my letter telling you how it was I had’nt written. We are in harbour again now – & have received a batch of mails.

They have postponed our sports – but they are to take place as soon as possible – so I shan’t have much time to do any training – because I have’nt had a run since the end of last month nearly-

So glad you have had a day in London-

I am writing in a minute to Gieve’s about my chest – I have’nt had a chance till now – I can never write any letters at sea.

That friend of Jim’s who sent him some cigarettes has just sent me some – she must be rather a nice person I should think. I am awfully well and fit & hope you have not been worrying about my not writing.

With best love to you all-

from ever your loving son


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Posted by on 12 October, '15 in H M S Gloucester


9 October 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester
C/o G.P.O.

Oct. 9th


My dear Mother.

V. many thanks for your letter – which I got yesterday – because we have been messing about at sea all during this last week, & consequently no mails out or in till yesterday – so that’s why you have’nt heard from me as usual.

All right I’ll tell Gieve to send my chest home – oh yes I’m sure it will fit in anywhere really – but you know how one imagines things are huge & they are not really.

I must send Ruth a fountain pen – I presume she writes with a Relief like we all do.

Sickening about our sports – because since the heats we have been at sea & so I’ve had no training & at present are at a different place – and the finals are Monday & Tuesday- so whether we shall be there for them I don’t know. I do hope we are.

I say how sad about Fred Hewett & what a shock for poor Bunchie – I never saw it in the paper – & did not know till I read it in your letter-

I had a letter from Jane from Gloucester – she seemed to be very happy-

Yes all this news East & West is extraordinary. I really believe we are on the move now – I think all those Balkan states are the limit- Heaven knows what will happen next.

My cold has quite gone now- oh about a week ago I should think.

If I send some socks home to be darned & mended – has anyone any time to do them – seems a pity to waste them – they are such nice ones.

Heaps of love to you all & I hope everyone is very well.

Your ever loving son



Relief pen nibs were dipped in an inkwell (difficult in a ship at sea, one would think). Fountain pens had a rubber bladder containing ink.

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Posted by on 9 October, '15 in H M S Gloucester