Monthly Archives: November 2016

29 November 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

29. Nov


Dearest Mother-

Just got a minute to scribble off a letter. Thank you muchly for yours – and for the stocks – of course I can’t think how you tie them – but I daresay someone does.

Yes- fearfully busy – our show is tomorrow – & heaps of things to be done yet really – that’s why I am in such a hurry-

That’s good Zepp news eh! I’ll send you some papers when I can find a little more time-

Must end now-

My bestest love to you all-

Your ever loving son


A stock is a simple tie worn when horse riding –

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Posted by on 29 November, '16 in About, HMS Malaya, Rosyth


24 November 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

24 Nov


My dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter- I am late in answering because I was waiting for your letter. I had a letter from Dick on Tuesday telling me how he has met Topher & that he was trying to get Topher over to his unit – Must be awful out there now in that mud & cold – ugh! It’s miserable enough weather up here – but we have the advantage of having a comfortable mess & a cabin with a bunk in it.

We have had a few days at sea too lately – but I don’t think it was so bad there-

That new train service to Town sounds a good thing – most useful to the girls for weekends at Guildford I should think- I had a letter from Jane – I sent her an urgent letter to send us some wigs from Clarksons for our show – much better someone you know to choose them – I had a wire today saying they had been sent off.

What extraordinary things Jim seems to hear about where he is going! Hongkong sounds so extraordinary – is that the Portuguese show or his regiment.

Please thank Ruth very much for these beads – jolly nice they are – did you get that letter about a stock?

Yes- it’s pathetic about Roumania – and how truly ghastly about that ship the Britannic – & a hospital ship too – really it seems incredible that a human being can do such things in cold blood.

There is no more news really – I am awfully fit & well-

My bestest love to you all-

Your ever loving son


What I should really like for Christmas is some white handkerchiefs & ordinary blue or black socks – I’ve hardly got any left.

Gaudy US documentary

2000 TV movie – looks bad

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Posted by on 24 November, '16 in About, HMS Malaya, Rosyth


24 November 1916 – Ted to Gertrude




Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your 2 letters last week, one of them was of course the one that did’nt turn up the mail before. So glad the rugs have arrived and are appreciated, but they are rotten ones really & I’ll try & get you some decent ones later on as you say you can do with any amount.

So Dick has arrived safely in France and has gone up to the front. What a very typical letter he wrote! I must drop him a line. I wonder if Jim’s gone yet; as you say these ‘final leaves’ very often are anything but final.

Nothing very much going on here. I have been busy calling on everyone, & found most of them out so one has been able to get through a good deal. I met a Mrs Bingley, wife of a General Bingley, who said she had been working at the Guildford Red X hospital, opposite the county hospital. She seemed to know you, by sight at anyrate. And she knew the Gabbs well, & Dr Mitchell, & the Pringles from Stoughton. She was ‘pained & surprised’ to hear of Mrs Gabb’s death; so if you meet old Gabb I expect he would be interested to hear I’ve met her, & praps it might be of some use to me some day, as Genl Bingley is rather a nut in his way.

Otherwise nothing much is going on. You see the Army Hd quarters people come down en bloc from Simla, knowing each other already, so one is really rather out of things till you get to know a few people. I went to a big show at the Delhi club last Saturday, but did’nt know a soul, though the place was crowded with a most fashionable lot of people, the cream of Indian society, such as it is. The C-in-C was there, in uniform, so I expect we shall get orders to wear uniform always like we did at home.

At present you would’nt know there was a war on, so little is India affected; we go on just the same, no food, petrol, or other restrictions, all amusements same as ever, no lights to worry about, you can have as many as you like! Only the awful gaps in the regiments show what India has done, & it’s only the Indian army that really knows there’s a war, the vast majority of the Indian population being absolutely untouched by it, for the fighting races from which the army is recruited form of course only the smallest fraction of the population.

I hope the carpet turns up all right, & was’nt on the Arabia! I sent it off about then, but I don’t know exactly when.

Yes rather I remember old Ommaney well, a little person, always popping in to Delaford, & I’ve had many a talk with him; I’m awful sorry to hear about his son, & I hope you will tell him so, & give him my sincerest sympathy. I had an idea his son was in – or intended for – the navy somehow, I did not know he was a soldier.

Good for Paul being near the Conway Gordons. I have met lots of men I know here, but they are all on the H.Q. staff nearly, so are busy in office all day & one really sees very little of them.

Yes I remember Fisher, I think I mentioned in one of my letters that I had seen his name in the Casualty lists. How amazing about Jim & the Persian Barber! I should think he did remember me, ‘cos I had my hair cut in harbour at Marseilles & he made a special favour of it as he said he never cut hair there, because every man arriving overland by the boat train always demanded a shave & he never had the time to cut hair. He was rather a fool I believe. He was the man who said “chuck him overboard, he’s a goner” about a pal of mine called Fisher, who was only just rescued in time, having been sucked under when she sank, & so was pretty well done in, & collapsed when pulled into one of the boats, but the barber’s remark speedily brought him to life again!

I like the snaps of the Wedding awfully, thanks very much for them, the first ones I have seen of Sheina.

I have been taking a few down here & will send some home if they ever come out. Bitterly cold here now in the mornings & evenings, & very pleasant days; but I like the cold & am feeling awfully fit. The Viceroy is here for a day or 2, but goes away before the end of the month again for a long tour in Burma; but he is living a quiet life here, & no shows or anything on.

Yes address letters & everything to Cox & Co, Hornby Road, Bombay, & then I’ll get em wherever I go, as I don’t think we’ll go back to Lansdowne after leaving here, we may go on service again, but I can’t say for certain of course, but I understand there’s a very good chance of it.

What about the money for Ruth’s things! Did I ever send it, ‘cos if not I must hurry up & do so; let me know won’t you. I’m just off in the car now for an afternoon spin into Delhi.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


It seems likely that “the Persian Barber” that Jim told his mother about was a barber on the SS Persia rather than from the country that is now Iran. The SS Persia sank at the end of 1915 with Ted, his friend Fisher and apparently with the barber on board.

Mention of General Bingley, p328

Alfred Erasmus Stuart Ommanney

The Conway-Gordons were the uncle and aunt of Nancy Swan; Paul and Nancy were increasingly close during 1916 and became engaged in 1917


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Posted by on 24 November, '16 in About


18 November 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

Nov 18


Dear Mother  I got the disc & gloves alright. Open my luggage when it comes & have my field boots looked after. Get Capon to put an ordinary shoe tree in the foot & stuff the legs with paper. There are some films in that camera that want developing. Dunno’ what they’ll be like.

The breeches have come but the others are’nt mine & in case you send that British warm, that’s not mine either! I got the               & bystander.

Believe I’m off again.

Best of love to all

Yr loving son


I keep having to remind myself that as a medic, Richard would have seen and heard far worse horrors and far more of them than Paul and Ted put together. But really, would it have hurt to write a “thank you” for the things his mother had sent him and a “please” for the things he was asking her to do?  And we’ve just seen him write a charming letter to his sister. Perhaps that’s it. He’s used up all his charm on his sisters and their prettiest friends. 

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Posted by on 18 November, '16 in About


16 November 1916 – Ted to Gertrude




Dear Mother

No letter from anyone at Guildford last mail; only one from Ben at Weybridge; I suppose they have followed some erratic course as they often do nowadays & will turn up next week.

What about the Arabia being sunk; but what a mercy they were all saved. My friend Mrs Proctor was on board, & I knew a Major & Mrs Rait well too who were on board also. It must have been a jolly well run show to save them all, but she kept upright a long time apparently & took some time to sink. I’m afraid that week’s mails must have gone for good. I wonder if some rugs I was sending were on board.

We have quite settled down now, & are really very comfy here. The C.O. & I share a hired car, one simply must have one here, as there is a lot of getting about to be done & we are in camp 3 miles out of Delhi; I am learning to drive, but am by no means proficient yet. In fact I laid the car up for 2 days with a sprained tummy or something but it is going again now all right.

Heaps of people here now, as all the Army Headquarters people are down from Simla, & I suppose before long one will be sucked into the vortex, one simply has to do all that sort of thing here, as ours is a social job more than anything else, & soldiering is really a secondary thing. The war touches India very lightly, except in the case of regiments who have lost so many good fellows, & there are few who have’nt. But the general population of India is very little affected by it, & the same old life goes on just as before.

Bitterly cold down here now. I hope the British warm turns up soon, if it is still in existence.

The news is good again is’nt it. Funny, I got pink papers & the Daily Mirror weekly edn (I like that, it gives you such a comprehensive view of things when there is’nt much time to read) but no letters last mail. I am glad Topher’s C.O. can say such nice things about him; splendid, & you must be awfully pleased.

Bed time.

Best love to all

Yr loving son




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Posted by on 16 November, '16 in About


15 November 1916 – Paul to Gertrude


c/o G.P.O.

15th Nov.


My dear Mother-

Thanks very much for your letter- Oh yes – I really had to get another uniform suit – as I only have two – one everyday & working & one for dinner & Sundays – & the former is getting so filthy – I must shift one better so to speak – It’s alright is’nt it – because I have’nt had a new one since last January was’nt it-

We have had some lovely weather too lately, such a relief-

Yesterday Mr Drew came over to lunch with me – and we had a good old talk together – I had’nt seen him for about two months – & not since he went on leave – Also today Nigel Lyon is with me and staying the night – such fun it has been hearing all about his weekend at Delaford and all – he did so enjoy himself-

Our theatrical show is definitely fixed for the 27th Nov – so we are getting more busy than ever over rehearsals, scenery etc-

Rather a good thing for Jim I should think this Portuguese Staff show – I suppose they will make him “Officier de liason”-

I must go & see Lyon again – & entertain him –

With my very best love to you all-

Your ever loving son


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Posted by on 15 November, '16 in About, HMS Malaya, Rosyth


13 November 1916 – Richard to Dreda

Monday. 13th.


My dear Dreda. I believe I owe you a letter don’t I? Many thanks for yours, write sometimes & give me any news. My dear I’ve just come back from the front & am now safe again! Who do you think I saw the other day. Topher! He was awfully pleased to see me I believe & of course we had a huge brick & he told me all about his leave & so on. What a nice little moustache he’s got, you really ought to tell him to go steady with it. He admired mine awfully & now he’s going to try and train his like mine! Poor boy has gone up again today I believe but I may be going up again in a day or two, so we must have another F.F.

Of course you can never imagine the state of the country up there, you’d never believe it. It’s no good trying to describe it, I can’t understand how anyone ever lived up there. There really is’nt room to walk between the shell holes & of course the mud is the limit. It’s so dangerous too. The shells keep dropping about around you as you ride up, & one might easily drop on one & give one a nasty blow. Oh lor too, the air fights & bombs dropping at night, I am sure it must be worse than that Zep raid you had at Guildford. I hate the moonlight nights as the Bosch always comes then, sterrible. And the guns going off all round you all day & all night,  & the big ones each time rattle the whole place, & the other night just as I was passing water into an old shell case before getting into bed, bang! goes a huge gun, out goes the candle & there was I in the dark, wondering what was going to happen next!

T’is funny being back here again & everything is calm & quiet. A comfortable bed with sheets & clean plates & cups to eat & drink with. On the whole I like the other best, one’s doing more, but enough’s as good as a feast & for the men it would be better to do 3 days in the trenches than a month’s making roads & railways up to just behind them.

I had tea with a Countess yesterday. Bow wow, and one daughter most fascinating, fair hair done in a huge chignon, & dark brown eyes, ripping figure & plays the piano so nicely. Please send me “The only girl in” etc to give her to play. Her aunt is the richest woman in Paris, so I’m all for it. The girl is about 18.

I must write to Topher.

Write to me again soon if you have time.

Best love



Here we see that Richard could be charming. His letters to his mother (who adored him) were little more than shopping lists, but this letter to his sister is as full of comment and incident as any of Ted’s. Now why couldn’t he write to his mother like this?

Possible countess

If You Were The Only Girl In The World

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Posted by on 13 November, '16 in About


12 November 1916 – Richard to Gertrude

Sunday 12th


Dear Mother

Many thanks for your letters & the parcels, but no breeches yet! or Socks. The loofas, caramels, paper & canteen are here & many thanks for all. I expect you’ll hear Topher & I have met. It was nice being able to see him & I think he was pleased too. He looked awfully fit, but most anxious to get out of his job & I am doing my best for him.

I am out of the danger zone at present, but may be off again. It’s very nice down here, quiet & nothing much doing. I went to tea yesterday with a countess & was very much struck by one of her daughters. The money has come, many thanks for it.

What a pity I did’nt know about Wiggs before. Ben has written & I could easily have gone & seen where he is buried poor boy. However if I go up again I will go & see at once.

The lanyard is very smart. And very many thanks.

Must post this.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


Wiggs, whose full name was Ivan Provis Wentworth Bennett, was killed on the Somme on the 13th or 14th July 1916.

He is buried at Thiepval, his body having been moved there in 1931. His remains weren’t identified until they were moved from another location also on the Somme and the original CWGC entry records an Unknown British Officer. His body was identied from his officers tunic with its regimental buttons and badges, from an engraved pencil case, and from his dental records.

This is just one tiny example of the astonishingly detailed work done by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission around the world matching archived documents with what are effectively archaeological finds.

However, in late 1916 it seems unlikely that Dick could have found Wiggs’ grave. 

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Posted by on 12 November, '16 in About


11 November 1916 – Topher to Dreda

Nov 11th


Dearest Dreda

Ever so many thanks for your last letter. We are stll back from a rest but go up again on Tuesday worse luck. My dear yesterday I met old Dick, hooting an’ all. Apparently we have been quite near each other all the time, when we were up in the trenches. His lot has been ordered back suddenly. And the lot that took over from him were the 18 Middlesex, and they told him where I was, he motored over yesterday to see me.

He was looking fearfully well & in a very cheery mood. We had tea together; He’s pretty good at french, but his accent makes me laugh. We had some good laughs together. He went in to see my C.O. and asked him if he could take me as his groom. (Because an elder brother can claim a younger brother if he wants). The C.O. was awfully nice & told him to write to him putting in his claim and he would do all he could. So with any luck I may go with him, what fun eh. but mum’s the word. I wish I had met him up the line. I can’t think how I did not, because he was quite near me, sickening was’nt it. But it was fine meeting at all. He has grown a moustache, a very nutty one. He thinks it is better than mine. He hopes to come in again this morning. I hope he does.

We have had two air raids over here these last two nights, one night a Zeppelin came over, and did a lot of damage. I hope the oily paint arrives all right, because the coat neets it badly. Those papers you send daily have all got mixed up & now arrive in batches because they have been held up. So if you would stop sending them for a week, they might get it right. I was a whole week without any letters or papers not long ago. Then they all arrived together. Our T.O is on leave, and he is going into the shop to see Jane. I have written to her telling her so.

Well dear no more news.

best of love, yr loving brother.


We have very few of Topher’s letters surviving which is frustrating, especially since he seems to have had a much harder time than his more robust elder brothers. This one to his sister Etheldreda was presumably mis-filed which is why we still have it.

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Posted by on 11 November, '16 in About


10 November 1916 – Ted to Benedicta


Nov 10/16


Dear Ben

Mail goes out tomorrow so I must try & drop you a line, late though it is; it is 10.30 after dinner, & the mail leaves the local post office at 5.45 am tomorrow morning so I’ll just stroll over & post this & then go to bed.

What about the Arabia being sunk. Awful is’nt it but I see they saved everyone thank goodness. My friend Mrs Proctor was on board poor woman, but I suppose she’s all right. Did I ever tell you, the day before she left Lansdowne I heard quite by chance she was going down the hill next day, and as I could’nt possibly find a minute to go & see her, and as she was a cheery soul & I liked her, I just scribbled a note, wishing her luck etc. She wrote back a hurried line of thanks, & afterwards I heard through a mutual friend that she was ever so bucked at my note, I & the mutual being the only two men in the station (she had many friends) who took the trouble to say goodbye.

She was feeling rather wretched at the time, her husband having just gone to Mespot, so I’m glad I did just that little thing. Funny how these little efforts count for so much sometimes. Her husband poor man must be having a rotten time; because when she came out last year she booked a passage on the Persia, & changed it, but he thought she was on the Persia, because he sailed from Egypt to India just then, & did’nt know she had cancelled her passage, & on arriving in Bombay he heard about the Persia, & did’nt know for 2 whole days that she was’nt on it. And now this had happened, but she’s saved I sincerely trust with all the others. I must write to her, only I have’nt the foggiest idea what her address is.

We have settled down now at last & are very comfy in camp here, electric light an’ all. We have laid out the camp rather nicely, whitewashed bricks as borders to all the roads and paths, flower beds & palms in tubs, so it all looks quite neat & smart.

D.B. & I share a car my dear! A tinpot American invention called a “Chevrolet”, a sort of between-a-overland-and-ford. But it goes quite well, 4 seater, self starter an’ all. But can you imagine a C.O. If you please not having a car of his own! Why, everyone here of an official or social standing has one, & he has to share one (on hire too!) with a junior captain! However I suppose I must play up to him. He is learning to drive but is a perfect fool at it as you may imagine, & thinks he is competent already in 2 lessons! Wait till he gets onto some windy roads and some traffic. I am learning too of course, & we should have some fun out of it.

Nothing much doing here. The 1/4 Wiltshire Rgt is in camp next door; quite good chaps. The Earl of Radnor commands our brigade, & I am having short drinks with him and the Hon: G.S. Herbert of the Wilts tonight at the Club. Some society! The army nuts are not down from Simla yet, & the Viceroy is away till January, so the place is very empty. Simla comes down about the 15th of this month, so things should liven up them. Foxo is still at the depot, as Nobby & his crowd are not down from Simla yet, they will be down about the middle of the month, & then Fox comes down here. I hear the 1st Batt move to Quetta is postponed again till December now. I wonder if they’ll ever go!

Lovely down here now, very cold mornings & pleasant days. I have had a day’s duck shooting, & hope to put in lots more while we are here, of course all this part is familiar as we were here at the Durbar 5 years ago but all the splendour has gone & the place is really hardly recognisable.

Hope you are getting on all right at the Canteen. Write & tell us all about it when you have timel your letters are always welcome. We are a dud mess here, only 7 of us C.O. & I & France, & 4 others you don’t know, children from Sandhurst. I wish Foxo would hurry up & come down, as it’s rather trying. I can’t help thinking some of us could be more profitably employed. I hate the idea of this sort of stunt during the war, but as we’ve got to do it, I suppose I may as well take the best of it.

Very sleepy. It was a guest night tonight, & they played tonight’s the night. How it reminded me of that cheery evening last year, somewhere about this time too!

Lots of love from yr loving


Ted of course had been on the SS Persia when it sank. Let’s hope that Procter didn’t serve in Samarra.,_6th_Earl_of_Radnor



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Posted by on 10 November, '16 in About