Monthly Archives: December 2015

Email test post and thank you


This is a test post to check whether or not sending the letters by email is working. While I am here, I thought I’d let you know a bit about how the project is going.

The Twitter feed widely followed with well over 2000 followers. I left it to itself for a lot of the year, and am starting to re-engage with it again which will increase the followers as the war progresses. Facebook is expensive so I am not using it much to publicise the letters but I will use it a bit more in 2016. These emails are good, but it’s hard to gell when they stop working properly. Do please email me if you miss the letters for a while. will get to me.

Please like and share posts directly on Facebook or Twitter. This helps enormously.

In April I gave a short talk about the Indian Army in WW1 to an audience of a couple of hundred people who found it moving, most of whom had not realised the Indian Army had been involved in the fighting at all. I gave a couple of longer talks about the letters to smaller groups in Edinburgh who also enjoyed them. This is something I hope to do more of, so if you have a group like the WI or Rotarians interested in a speaker, please let me know.

I managed to track down the exact house in Guildford that Gertrude lived in; it’s now a business centre and I hope to get in touch with the people managing it to let them know the house’s history. It was odd wandering around the gardens on a Sunday trying to match the views with the photographs of the family. I also found the site of Churn railway station where Ted was sent very briefly in the summer of 1915.

It’s been thrilling to be in touch with so many people about the project including cousins I didn’t know existed. I owe great thanks to my extended family for their time and their memories. The project has also made me alert to the First World War all around us, from memorabilia in museums to war memorials in hotels and railway stations.

In other news, I am breaking my “no spoilers” rule to say that I’m very proud that the Orkney museum will be including Paul’s letter about Jutland in their display this summer and I hope to attend the Jutland commemorations in Orkney in May.

Finally – thank you so much for following the letters so far. I really appreciate it.

With kind regards

Benedicta Makin / Family Letters

Giving a talk about the Indian Army in WW1

Giving a talk about the Indian Army in WW1


Posted by on 31 December, '15 in About


30 December – SS Persia is torpedoed and sinks

30 December, the SS Persia  in which Ted was sailing to India to rejoin his regiment, was torpedoed in the eastern Mediterranean at 1 p.m. while the passengers were eating lunch.

Here is what my mother wrote about it in the 1980s:

Casualties were heavy, and Ted’s name was not on the … list of survivors published. Nell’s reaction was to go up to her room and write him a long letter. ‘I know he’s all right,’ she said firmly when she came down. Perhaps the fortune teller’s prediction that ‘your man won’t ever get killed or drownded’ gave her confidence, but her sisters could not stand the strain as time went by with no news and they went to consult this same fortune teller, the gardener’s wife.  Mrs Ridler put out the cards, shaking her head. ‘It’s all black, all black – ‘ ….

The photograph below was taken a few weeks earlier and includes two of Nell’s sisters, Gladys and Belinda. Left to Right it shows: Gladys Fielding, Ted Berryman, Nell Fielding, Jane Berryman and Belinda Fielding.

Gladys Ted Nell Jane and Bellows 1915

Gladys Ted Nell Jane and Belinda 1915

The sinking of the Persia was a war crime because she was a merchant ship and she was torpedoed without warning. Her most famous passengers were Lord Montagu of Beaulieu who survived because he was wearing a patent life jacket and his mistress Eleanor Thornton who drowned. She was the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot on the Rolls Royce. The Persia was carrying gold and jewels belonging to Maharaja Jagatjit Singh who disembarked at Marseilles feeding conspiracy theories that he had been warned about the attack. The wreck was discovered in 10,000′ of water off Crete in 2001 and some of the jewelery was salvaged but not the gold.

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Posted by on 30 December, '15 in About


29 December 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

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



Dear Mother – I’m hustled beyond everything – all this being appointed away etc etc – and I am ever so busy finishing up on board here – I have’nt had a moment to write to anyone – I’m feeling fearfully guilty – but it can’t be helped.

I do thank you all for your lovely Christmas presents – really they were too ripping – will you tell the girls how much I liked them – & say I hope to see them either Saturday or Sunday – because I shall stop on my way down to [censored?] where I told you.

But things are uncertain yet – & I’ve heaps to do – yet.

I had a lovely Christmas – ever so cheery we were –

I have’nt got time for any more – I’ll explain everything when I see you-

best love – your ever loving son


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Posted by on 29 December, '15 in H M S Gloucester


28 December 1915 – Ted to Gertrude

Postcard from Malta

28 December

Arrived safely all well here, nice and warm!

Love to all


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Posted by on 28 December, '15 in About


24 December 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

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



Dear Mother- Thank you most awfully for the cigarette case – it really is lovely and will be ever so useful.

We are fairly busy up here – what with one thing & another – ½ the fellows being on leave – but still it’s quite allright – but a most filthy place – one mass of mud everywhere – I am staying on board to-morrow and Sunday – because the married officers wanted to spend Christmas ashore – but I have arranged a Christmas lunch party – so shall be quite happy- I wonder if Mr Drew was down on Wednesday – or whether he got that wine – sickening he being appointed away – I shall miss him dreadfully

I’m writing with the Dudmans’ present – a stylo – really quite useful – but I hate writing with them.

Well I hope you will all have a happy Christmas & I only wish I could be home with you-

With ever so much love to you all

Your ever loving son


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Posted by on 24 December, '15 in H M S Gloucester


5 December 1915 – Aunt Dodie to Louie Fielding

This letter is from Nell’s Aunt Dodie to Nell’s sister Louie written on either Sunday December 5th 1915 or Sunday 28th November. Ted had orders to report to the India Office in writing, which he did on Monday 29th December. He was to sail on the SS Persia, leaving London on December 15th.

Belmont, Sunday afternoon

My darling Louie

Are you having a good time? And how does the riding prosper?

My dear! What a to do you and Jack made over your drive to Gloucester. It really was dreadful. But HOW Jack would laugh if he could hear some of the reports! I certainly had a good old fright from our old post man. I met him the same afternoon and told him Jack was off again and his eyes almost came together and he gasped out “Not in the grey car!” My dear! I almost felt you in the infirmary or something tragic. Then he gave a me a graphic description of it all, the baker’s van in the bank, and the petrol tank whizzing round the bus which had been thrown in the air like a bomb etc. Also how he had to drag himself and bicycle into safety. And I said “But what about the car?” And then he finished up saying “and the car went on!” I wonder if you at all realised the scene? All the people go out of the bus. Martha Ballinger says she has not felt right since. The old post man was the best, and he is an old brick. He said “I did not tell them who I thought was in it!”

What do you think of poor old Ted going off so soon? We are going up for tea this afternoon. Nell and Jane met us coming out of church this morning. Ted and his sister Ben will be coming this afternoon. Nell seems very quiet over it, but I am so sorry he has to go off so soon.

I dare say all my news is stale, but have you heard that Ben Ballinger has joined the Royal Gloucester Artillery. He is so proud of himself but will not be called up yet. I am going to send Eric Robinson’s address in this for you to give Jack who wanted it.

I hope you will forgive the scribble, but you must remember my poor bandaged thumb. I saw Mrs Birchall on Wednesday. Her children went home on Monday trying to make up their minds which they liked best, Captain Periwinkle or Jack Fielding. I called on Mrs Stephens this week, she really was quite nice and I had quite a nice time with her. Angela is very sorry about Nell’s engagement as she had been looking forward to seeing much of Nell and now feels Nell is very much grown up and out of her reach.

Well dear, can’t think of much more. Mrs Powel sends her love to you and Jack. Between you and me I think he [who?] is feeling very Sunday afternoonish and can’t think of anything else to say, but he says “tell Jack he made all the people in the bus bustle out”. I hope Jack will properly enjoy the jokes.

Jane had a new coat on. Quite nice. Kakhi colour. Three quarter. Very plain. And she can wear it with that old skirt she had of the same colour, and that way gets a complete outfit.

Much love to you and Jack

Your loving Auntie Dodie

Dreda and Ben appear in Nell’s photographs that autum and so does “Jane”, but it’s not clear if Dody is referring to Jane Berryman or someone else.

There was still a Mrs Ballinger living in the village in the 1960s probably the daughter-in-law of Martha Ballinger. Martha’s husband Frank had died of tetanus poisoning in 1912, two weeks after working putting in fence posts. Her son Edward had been killed fighting in France in February 1915. Ben Ballinger survived the First World War and worked as a gardener.

Jack Fielding 1915

Jack Fielding 1915

Possibly Louie Fielding c1915

Probably Louie Fielding, c1915

Letter from Dodie - pg 1

Letter from Dodie – pg 1

Letter from Dodie - pg 2

Letter from Dodie – pg 2

Letter from Dodie - pg 3

Letter from Dodie – pg 3


Posted by on 5 December, '15 in About



3 December 1915 – John Fielding to his son Jack

This letter is from Nell’s father to her brother Jack. And many, many fathers since. 

The Fielding Family, 1915. Jack is seated back left, and his father is seated right, with the dog

The Fielding Family, c1915.
Jack is in uniform and his father is seated right, with the dog

Fielding and Platt

December 3rd 1915

My dear Jack

I rather expected a line from you explaining what had happened to the car. I presume you can hardly have been aware, or you would have mentioned it, [but] when I went out to the station I found that the nearside wings were both so badly knocked about that I have had to order new ones, and the petrol box was missing except for a few fragments. Really, it would have been much better to have missed the train than to have caught it at this expense and risk.

My particular object in writing is to warn you very seriously against the tremendous risks you run when driving a car. The losses and damage to the car are one of the last things to be considered compared with the risk to yourself and passengers. And also the people in the road! One of these days, unless you take much greater care, I am afraid there will be a dreadful trouble. And I am very nervous indeed when I remember that you think of having a car, especially as you might be driving at night on not very suitable roads. I would much rather you didn’t, and I hope you will be satisfied to do with your motor bike and be very cautious even with this. You mustn’t think I am faddy. Remember, that you have had a good many incidents latterly upon which my fears are founded.

I have not heard of any damage being done to the omnibus or the baker’s cart, but inquiries are being made about a grey car, and I believe the petrol box is held by one of the Matson cottagers. I confess, I am not keen about asking for it, and I am making no claim on the insurance company because I don’t think it is a fair risk from their point of view.

What I want to impress upon you is this. That whenever you see other traffic in front, consider it as a danger signal and at once get your car in hand to be able to stop within a yard. Until you do this, you are a danger to the public. The best drivers are the most careful ones and those who will not take risks. I don’t know whether you have a driving licence or not, or whether one is required for a bike, but if anything happened and you haven’t a licence, it would be awkward.

Now to change the subject. Keble[?] writes to say he has a chill and so is prevented from seeing you again. But did you write to him? If not, you had better do so and say you have heard from the office, etc. I hope Louie is enjoying her visit The weather here will not help her much. We had a post card from Marjorie, but I don’t know her next address and it will be no use sending her present one. Mother is much better but has not been out. Nor do I see much prospect in view of the fog and the damp.

How are you situated financially? Let me know. I expect you have had rather an expensive time lately.

Love to Louie and yourself,


It's not clear if this is the car that Jack crashed, but it came from Nell's 1915 photograph album

It’s not clear if this is the car that Jack crashed, but the photo was in Nell’s 1915 photograph album


Posted by on 3 December, '15 in About



3 December 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

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



Dear Mother

Thank you for your letter – and the parcel of clothes arrived to-day – for which also ever so many thanks. I’ll look after them all right.

I couldn’t write before – because we’ve been at sea since last Sunday & I’ve got a perfect mass of work to do in consequence – don’t know when I shall get settled down again – so you must excuse a short letter-

Filthy weather we had at sea – except the last day – & then it cleared up a bit – but it was bitterly cold all the time.

Poor old Topher. I had a letter from him too – he doesn’t seem very happy at present. I’ve sent him a parcel of cigarettes – tobacco etc from Dunhills – & several papers.

Dick appears to be having plenty of leave- I hope he is at home when I blow along –

Bee Dudman has written to say she wanted to send me some more food of sorts- They are kind are’nt they-.

I suppose there’s a certain amount of Christmas hustle already at home.

The things I want for Christmas are so fearfully expensive – i.e. a good luminous wristwatch & a blue Burberry – with a lining – My watch is always going wrong, & I had a Blue Burberry – but it was too big & I sold it to another fellow & bought an oilskin coat – souwester & trousers with the money – of which ½ is yours really – but a Burberry is so useful ashore – specially in this kind of weather-

I must stop now – ever so much love to you all – Hope to see you soon-

Your ever loving son


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Posted by on 3 December, '15 in H M S Gloucester