Monthly Archives: April 2017

30 April 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother.

Many thanks indeed for parcel cake porridge etc. The crême-de-menth sweets are awfully good. The armlets too are quite alright, the rest you say will roll up allright. Did I tell you I wanted 16. If you could sew a biggish red S.B. on to them it would be nice, cut the SB out of a bit of stuff       no desperate hurry

Lovely now, so warm & I wish I was at home. I had a long letter from Ben. Tell her when you see her. I wonder if you have seen about the tent.

post going more later

yr loving son


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Posted by on 30 April, '17 in About


26 April 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Thursday. 26th


My dear Mother-

Very many thanks for your letter – & I am ever so glad to hear your cold has gone & that you are quite fit again.

We only seemed to have a very few days of fine weather as to-day it’s gone back to its old habits again – very cold – windy and heaps of rain.

Yesterday we had a great rugger match ashore against another ship – but we were beaten.

So glad you’ve heard from Ted at last – I suppose by this time he is miles up in land somewhere. Dick’s given you a large order about a “tent”- I expect the people in the shop will know what sort of thing he wants.

Rather a fine show I thought that Dora raid – & I think our fellows did marvellously well – Really the casualties these days in the papers are sadly long are’nt they – seem to be hundreds of officers every day.

I am wondering how you like that book – really rather dreadful is’nt it – but of course it ends allright.

I enclose a snapshot of me taken the other day – just before a game of deck hockey.

Very best love to you all from

Your ever loving son


So Richard’s request for a tent does seem to have exasperated the inexhaustable Gertrude.

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Posted by on 26 April, '17 in About


24 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

St Mark’s day.

April 24/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 2 letters from you last mail, dated Feb 28th & March 7th which I got 2 days ago. How truly amusing the extracts from the Chronicle are, & I must really write to Ricketts & tell him he caught me out in a match 20 years ago! He will be vastly amused, and Miles will be too when I tell him of his mention in the acting. Thanks awfully for sending along the extracts, they are really most awfully interesting.

Glad the parcel arrived; those funny little Indian toy animals are rather fascinating are’nt they, & I thought those monkeys were ripping sort of hanging on to any old place by that long crooked hand of theirs. I have heard from the girls & the rugs seem to be a success, though I must say I did’nt do much choosing once they were sewn up; I just took up the parcels one by one any old how & addressed them, so can claim no credit for sending Rosamond a pink one on purpose, it was a fortunate fluke.

Nothing much doing here at present. We seem to be stuck here indefinitely, & there appears to be no chance of our moving just yet. Rather sickening & we are missing all the fun – interesting & successful fun too – up at the front & as the hot weather is now coming on, the prospects of our seeing anything for some months to come at anyrate is not very hopeful. However, we can but sit & wait in patience & doubtless we shall get as much as we want all in due time.

The camp here is getting horribly dusty & dirty. There are a good many troops here & lots & lots of transport animals, who simply churn the whole place up into dust & as there is always a good strong breeze blowing, so this dust is all over the place & it makes it very unpleasant, especially as it all blows into our tents.

Yes it was lucky Dick & Paul just managing to meet was’nt it. I wrote Dick a long letter from Karachi telling him all about June, but of course I have’nt had time to hear from him yet. I had a very long & interesting letter from Paul too last week; he is awfully pleased with life is’nt he, & he told me all about his romance & his Nance, most interesting. He also sent me typed accounts of the story of Tony Farrer & the little Ashburnham girl; really it makes the most splendid reading, & the way those two stuck to each other was really magnificent was’nt it. I shewed it round the mess & all were tremendously impressed with the story.

I have met a man called Searle here who lives near Hackney Row; I don’t suppose his people were there in your day, I fancy they have only arrived fairly recently. Anyhow he knows the place well, & knows the Maturins, Walkinshares & Seymours & Balgarnies (familiar old names!) so I thought p’raps if you happen to run across any of the people you might mention the fact. He is with his regiment (Indian Army) up in Persia somewhere, & is here doing a signalling course. He was with the Berkshires in France & got an M.C; a nice chap, quite young, only 21 I think.

We have had a taste of hot weather this last week, & the thermometer touched 111º in our little 40 lb: tents one day. But that was unusual for the time of year, & it’s generally about 95º or so in the day, dropping to 64º or so at night. Now we are getting a breeze pretty regular, sometimes quite a strong wind & that makes a lot of difference to the temperature. Today is quite nice & cool, comparatively.

I told you I think I had met one Wilkinson of the Wireless telegraph station here? He was an engineer on the Dufferin when we came home for the Coronation in 1911. Anyhow his headquarters are here & I             go across & see him; & on Sunday he took me down to one of the many hospitals here, where he knew some of the nurses, & then we all went for a joy ride in one of the Red X launches. It was lovely, & it was 5 o’clock & in the cool of the evening; the river here is about ½ a mile broad or so, & always full of all kinds of shipping, as I think I described to you, cruisers, gun-boats, transports, fussy little motor boats & lots an’ lots of native craft of all shapes & sizes.

We went down the main stream a bit & then wandered off up a side creek, which was really gorgeously peaceful & quite English to look at, but for the dark palms which came down to the water’s edge on each side. We went a long way down this creek & I thoroughly revelled in the pleasure of it all.

At one place on this creek an Arab sheikh had his residence, & growing all over his verandah was a lovely climbing rose, pink & in full bloom. Close by was a huge splash of colour in the form of a big cluster of oleanders (? oleanda) & it was too much for us, so we landed & made friends with the sheikh by signs & broken conversation carried on in English, Hindustani and a few words of Arabic, & came away armed with huge handfuls of flowers, which subsequently I expect went to brighten up the wards at the hospitals. We came back in the dark almost, & the river was awfully pretty with all the ships lighted up.

I hope those 4 girls managed to get onto the land, especially Dreda who must be heartily sick of the bank & who really & truly deserves a change I think, & it would be so much better for her would’nt it. I think it’s splendid the way she’s stuck to the bank, loathing it as she must. Things seem to be fairly scarce at home now, potatoes & all that sort of thing; but I think the people will play up all right & back up the food controller don’t you. And with the Submarine show well in hand – though it is a very serious matter – & america coming into the war, things ought to improve in a few weeks, & get correspondingly bad for Germany.

Yes, India is bucking up quite a lot is’nt she, what with war loan & national service for Europeans. I must get some money into the Indian War loan I think.

I must censor some of the men’s letters now; they seem to write such a lot, but there is never much in their letters beyond messages to various relations to say they are well & flourishing! I hope you are getting my letters regularly, though I suppose they are bound to be erratic from here. Thanks again for the bound volume of the daily Sketch, much appreciated.

Very fit & well.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


We no longer know what details of Paul and Nancy’s romance merited the underline saying they were “most interesting”. Paul had become  increasingly close to Nancy Swan during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, possibly via an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.


Doreen Ashburnham, 11 and Anthony Farrer, 8, fought off a cougar in British Columbia and were awarded the Albert Medal

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Posted by on 24 April, '17 in About


19 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

April 19/17


Dear Mother

No letter from you last mail which we got last Sunday; but I heard from several members of the family, & the pink paper & Daily Sketch turned up, for which many thanks. We are still waiting down here at the base, & have no news as to when we are to move or likely to do so.

The camp we are in is very dusty & there are a whole lot of troops here now. However the weather is none too bad and we have had a cool breeze every day so far, & lovely cool nights. The hottest we’ve had it is 100° in our tents at midday & it drops into the sixties at 6 a.m. so there’s a bit of a difference is’nt there. A good many flies about, but we strafe thousands every day at meals with fly swats so manage to wreak our vengeance on them.

Good news from France is’nt there. I hear from the girls that Dick managed to get home after all, & even to get one evening with Paul. But they had’nt seen much of him, especially as they are so much away from home themselves.

I have met more old friends. Sam Orton is on the staff of our Division, & he came along to see us the other day. He has now gone on up river, but I shall see a good deal more of him I expect. Also one Gaskell, who with his wife was a great friend of Ben’s & mine in Lansdowne; he too is on our divisional staff.

Then I met a man in the S. in-S who used to be our doctor, one Newland by name; he is in a field ambulance here. And also two of the ship’s officers off the Dufferin, you remember, the ship we came home on for the Coronation in 1911. One has a job at the Docks here, & the other has chucked sailoring & taken up wireless telegraphy. They have a very comfy little wattle & daub mess here & have their wireless going & pick up various messages from all over the place, Berlin & Malta, & sometimes from the Eiffel Tower wireless in Paris, if the weather conditions are favourable, and so they get news sometimes well in advance of official communiqués. Rather marvellous is’nt it, especially as the apparatus here is only a travelling one, & can be packed up & taken away in Motor lorries & on pack horses & put up somewhere else in no time!

I have been down into the town several times, just to get a change from the dusty old camp. On Sunday we had a tremendous dust storm which was very unpleasant, & the air was thick with dust for 2 or 3 hours; beastly, as of course in tents everything gets smothered in a thick coating & you think you’ll never get clean again. However as our normal condition is one of dust, a sandstorm or two does’nt really make much difference.

Bampton took Fox & I out for a joy ride in a car last Sunday. We went all through the native bazaar, & it was very quaint & curious. As a rule Eastern Bazaars rather bore me; when you’ve seen – and smelt one, you’ve seen & smelt them all. But this one is rather different, some parts of it are roughly roofed in with planks & matting, & the sun’s rays sort of break through in between the cracks & the beams of sunlight coming into the crowded streets are really awfully pretty. Shops line each side, each little shop only 6 or 7 feet square, with the arab squatting in the middle surrounded by his wares.

The streets are full of all sorts of people, chiefly arabs of course in their picturesque biblical robes, but one sees also types of almost any race from Egypt to China; also negroes from the West Indies, to say nothing of Tommies & officers wandering about sight-seeing. Truly nothing could give a better example of our cosmopolitan Army, or of how the war has affected the uttermost parts of the earth and has dug out people from most unexpected and unheard of corners.

There does’nt seem to be much to buy in the shops, very little home-made stuff so to speak, though I daresay one could pick up a few curios if one knew where to look. They display a great deal of cheap Manchester & Birmingham goods, a few native cloths & such like articles, but otherwise the shops are not very interesting. Fruit – except dates of course – is frightfully expensive, oranges for instance being 3d each, and only very poor ones at that. The bazaar struck me as being considerably cleaner than most eastern bazaars, & generally more attractive.

I met an old Canterbury boy here, but he was there long before my time, so of course I did’nt know him. Somehow he knew me by name & wrote to me & I went & had lunch with him. He has a job at the base here, but I have’nt seen him since so perhaps he’s moved off somewhere. People have a habit of disappearing a hundred miles or so in any old direction at a moment’s notice.

Mail goes out tomorrow & I have several more letters to write so I’ll stop this one. I expect we shall be still here by next mail, & anyhow I’ll drop you a line before we leave, if that much-longed for event happens before next mail goes.

Love to all

Yr loving son


TS Dufferin

Photo of guard outside Eiffel Tower wireless station, 1914/15

WWI Wireless pack set

Photo of Iraq bazaar taken in 1932

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Posted by on 19 April, '17 in About


18 April 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother

Could you make me some white bands to tie round the arm. About as wide as this & measure 2  arm for length.

They are for my stretcher bearers.

So many thanks for cake porridge & lux. Most welcome nowadays

Love from both


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Posted by on 18 April, '17 in About


18 April 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Wednesday. 18th


My dear Mother,

Very many thanks for your letter. I am awfully sorry to hear you have had such a bad cold. I know so well how you lose your voice – but I am glad you are ever so much better again. You must take more care of yourself Mother; but you always will insist on going on working in the indefatigable way that you do – even when you are seedy – and that is why I am so pleased about Jane going home now & looking after you a bit & perhaps she won’t allow you to do too much. This weather is really appalling – the amount of snow an’ all- Every day it has snowed up here for the last 6 weeks – at sometime or other.

I can’t seem to realize that Babs Davids is engaged – she seems to me to still be in short skirts & about 15 – tho Dreda tells me that she is 19! Yes I will write to her & congratulate her. I wrote to Dolly Fox yesterday – awfully sad about old Mrs Fox.

We’ve started our mess on rations now – at least – we commence next month – up to date they have’nt restricted the services very much – but we are starting it more or less on our own to see what we can do- much the best thing I think.

Is’nt the western news priceless these days. I really do think we have got the Huns rattled and they seem bound to go back if we can follow them quick enough. So pleased to hear Dick & Topher are still allright. I had a short line from Jim the other day – dated March 1st – he said he was having a lovely time in Cape Town – they are all such heroes.

I am awfully fit and well and I do hope you are allright again Mother.

With best love to you all

from your ever loving son


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Posted by on 18 April, '17 in About


15 April 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother

Many thanks for your letter & the D.M. I expect the porridge will arrive soon.

I wonder if you could find out about a small lightweight tent. The advt was often in the Field & I meant to have seen about it when I came home but forgot. The stores may have it – It costs £7 and weighs 4 or vice versa, can’t remember.

Wet & beastly again today.

Best love

Yrs ever


My mother’s comment in her book of the letters:

This seems to have been almost too much, even from Dick who could do no wrong. The note on the envelope [written by his mother Gertrude] is a terse “tent” heavily underlined. 

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Posted by on 15 April, '17 in About


11 April 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Wednesday. 11th


My dear Mother- Very many thanks for your letter & also for the lovely new handkerchief & card. I had 2 new things – your handkerchief & a pair of socks.

So glad to hear everyone was home for Easter – except Rosamond – but there seems to have been a very cheery crowd. Our Easter was undisturbed this year. We have generally been at sea.

It is still most awfully cold up here – & frequently snows – but in spite of it we have already started working up for our regatta – which I suppose will come off in June sometime.

Some of us have taken to going ashore after tea now it is so light and going for a sort of cross country run. Yesterday was our first effort. Captain Done we all were after about 5 miles – so muddy & filthy – but most excellent exercise.

We had the Bishop of Kensington onboard on Monday – he is staying up here with a parson friend in some ship & he knows our man too – & as we have a church we had a regular parson’s day onboard here. Quite a dozen of them I should say-

Glad you have heard from Dick & Topher, they seem to be getting a slight move on over there. Topher really deserves a commission after all his meritorious work, but I don’t see why he should’nt really – in spite of his stammering – I don’t know that it effects him when yelling out orders.

I wrote Jim a long letter yesterday – & sent it to Sheina for an address – because I don’t exactly know how.

Cannot think who the Petches are – never heard of them I’m sure – of course I remember Kathleen awfully well.

I had a letter from Gordon Campbell the other day in reply to mine – but he couldn’t tell me anything, as he was’nt allowed to.

My very best love to you all

from your ever loving son


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Posted by on 11 April, '17 in About


11 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

April 11th/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for the letters I had from you last mail – on the 8th – the first I have had from you since March 5th! So you can imagine how pleased I was to get them. What splendid news about old Paul; I am glad, & I must try and send him a cable. I somehow did’nt imagine there was anything in the wind, though he told me he had met a niece of the Conway Gordons a long time ago, & you mentioned her once or twice in your letters. Your two letters were dated Feb: 14 & 21st, but all our mails are rather out of step now as we have been moving about a bit. Not here, by any means, for we are still stuck at the base in camp awaiting orders to go up the line.

It seems we shall be here for a long time yet, ten days or more, as there is so much stuff to be sent up, stores & rations etc, that they are rather hard put to find ships & boats to carry all they want to. However I expect we shall be going up before long now; at anyrate I hope so, as it’s not much fun sitting in this rather dusty camp. America has at last come into the war I see, and about time too, though I can’t help thinking there must be some jolly good reason for her not having done so before, & I suppose all the allies are pulling together and are making their plans in consultation with each other  Dick seems to have had no luck about his leave, I wonder if he managed to get away in the end; awfully bad luck his having to go back after he had started an’ all.

I have been meeting old friends out here. Gaskell, an R.E., who was in Lansdowne when Ben was staying with me, and Gaskell & Mrs Gaskell were great friends of ours. He was in France with the Indian Corps, & came out here with them when they left France & has been out here ever since. Sam Orton is also here, on the staff of our division, and he has been along today to see us; he is very cheery. Curiously enough the 1/5 Queens are in the same Brigade as we are, & I hear the Gabbs are with them – are’nt two of them out here   Harold & Desmond? Anyhow I’m bound to meet them soon, as we are gradually concentrating & as they are in the same brigade I ought to see a good deal of them. I wonder if any other Guildford people are in that Battalion, I’ll probably be able to let you know next letter I write.

Weather still quite all right here, hottish days but quite pleasantly cool nights, & we generally get a haze all day which makes a lot of difference. I have been out a certain amount here, shopping in the town, & to visit the native arab bazaar here. Curious places, roofed in for a great part of the way with planks & matting, to keep out the sun which must be unbearably hot in the summer here. In the better part of the town – the residential part – several English shops have been stocked to supply the needs of the large crowds of officers & men now in the country, & you can get almost anything you want here now.

The gold crown of one of my teeth came off last Sunday & I went in & had it put on again. There is a Base Dentist here who does all that sort of thing, so you can see all our wants are anticipated & catered for. On Sunday Bampton took us for a joy ride in a motor launch on the river here, that was very pleasant, barring a slight accident on returning when he ran hard into the jetty, as the man working the engine failed to turn it off in time! However no damage was done, though we went a fearful bump into it.

So glad the rugs are all right & are approved of. It seems years since I sent them off. So sorry to hear Billie Barlow is so bad; what a truly awful time that man has had with his arm.

I wonder if you managed to get old Nell to come & stay for Easter. She writes very cheerfully & talks of getting a job with her sister Louie in a hospital at Chelmsford, but I have’nt heard any more about it.

Not much news here, we don’t get hold of mail close up to things like this. I wish we could get out of this camp though, as I’m rather sick of it & it’s rotten having to sit here & wait. However I expect we shall be in heaps of time for any fun that’s going.

I must try & write to Paul & Ben this week if I have time, but we are fairly busy with parades & things.

Lots of love to all

Yr loving son


Ted’s congratulations for Paul seem to confirm that Paul and Nancy had got engaged during his Leave in February.  As Ted suggests, Paul and Nancy Swan were increasingly close during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, with the possible connection being an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.

We will hear more of Ted’s visits to dentists during his time in Mesopotamia. As a side-note, my dentist once told me that she had offered Nell an anasthetic for a filling and Nell had replied that she only bothered with anasthetics for extractions. My eyes water in sympathetic pain whenever I think of my grandparents and their teeth. 

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Posted by on 11 April, '17 in About, dentist


8 April 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

Easter Day


Dear Mother

Many thanks for the handkerchief. I am using it today. It arrived just right. The porridge, chocolate & cake all arrived safe. The chocolate just what I like & in the small pieces too. Much easier to carry one or two in your pocket. Send me some porridge once a week   I will send you the money as I charge the mess.

Happy Easter to all

Yr loving son



Such a nice card.

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Posted by on 8 April, '17 in About