Monthly Archives: June 2017

29 June 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



My dear Mother. Many thanks for the parcel. Clothes, cake, sweets etc. Eggs is’nt as good as cook’s eggs is it? Sorry you have’nt got any spare money to invest. Why not sell out the £600 in the War loan. It won’t be unpatriotic, & put it into enclosed. It’s a good thing I know & will pay you much better only I suppose old Hill and all will be against it. The stars are quite right. The ones I wanted. I did’nt sew my parcel up, a native did it!

So glad Totland bay did you such a lot of good. I expect you’ve had some more rain by this time. We’ve had lots. Cyril Maunders’ wife always had a reputation of being rather quaint.

Your bed room must look nice after it’s been painted

My bedroom at present is a greenhouse up against a wall. No glass, but there’s some corrugated iron, and only a little rain comes in. The vine inside is growing, but I fancy the Hun has cut the root, but a vine seems to spring up again & does’nt die like the apple trees, but of course it’s growing all over the place as there’s no one to tie it up.

Funny you meeting a person who knew Assam. Yes I know Stephenson & his wife & kids. Ripping children, but his wife was’nt a Hancock, but I cannot remember her right name, although I knew her sister quite well.

Best love to all   yr loving son


Suddenly one t warms to Richard, sleeping in a greenhouse with only a little rain coming in and a vine growing all over the place. But his casual use of the word “native” to describe the Indian who sewed up his parcel grates on ones teeth, even though it was the common language of his day.

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Posted by on 29 June, '17 in About


28 June 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

June 28/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for your two letters of May 10th & 16th which I got yesterday. Very nice of Mrs Bingley I’m sure to write to you about me; she’s awful nice, & was particularly kind to me in Delhi. I expect a letter from an independent source must mean a lot to you.

We’ve had a week of gales & dust since I last wrote. I think I must have told you that there is a special wind out here, which is supposed to blow for 40 days, commencing June or July. It serves to keep the air moving & affords considerable relief to the heat. It is known as the “Shamál” & blows from the N.W. This is generally acknowledged to be the Shamal which we have been getting lately. At times it reached almost the heights of a gale & blows with concentrated fury.

On these occasions it is accompanied by clouds of dust, which is so thick at times it is difficult to see 10 or 20 yards, but the dust is not perpetual of course, though there is always some in the air. It only gets as thick as that when it blows particularly hard, & other days the Shamal drops to a gentle breeze, and at times – today for instance – it does’nt blow at all, & up goes the temperature in consequence. Our thermometer has been showing 106° [41° Celsius] or thereabouts in our tent all this last week, dropping to 85° to 90º [29°-32° Celsius] or so at 6 p.m., & down to 79º [26° Celsius] at 5 a.m.

The temperature rises as soon as the sun gets up, & stays up till sunset. Today will be hotter I suppose as there is no breeze. I hate the dusty days, as everything gets covered in a thick layer of it, & it’s impossible to keep it out of one’s tent. Flies are not bad, nothing like as bad as they were in Basrah, thanks to good sanitation and I think it’s really too hot for them to be really lively. It’s 106º [41° Celsius] now at 11.30 a.m. & the hottest time is 2 in the afternoon, so I expect we are in for 112º or 113º [c 45° Celsius] today!

We are busy training still; work from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., then no parades are allowed – too hot – by order till 5 p.m. So we have lectures etc in huts, & the men bathe or sleep or mend their clothes (economy, “mend everything”, make everything last twice as long as you do generally, is our watch word out here) till it’s time to parade again. They are all as keen as mustard, & it has been a tremendous pride & pleasure to me to have been in command of the Battalion now for 2 months, short as the time is. I feel I have a slight say in the matter of its training, & I am prepared to stand or fall by its behaviour in action. I may say I have absolute confidence in it; but then that is only natural. I do hope I get a chance to command it in action – it would be a great opportunity, and if only the fates are kind I think I stand a good chance of doing so.

So glad you got my letters written on board & just after we had landed. I’m afraid the latter were full of ‘first impressions’, but they are the most lasting after all & generally most accurate.  I have’nt seen Desmond Gabb yet, but I suppose we shall all foregather at Baghdad sometime or other; I believe his regiment is on its way up now, & I expect we shall be going up very shortly. Meanwhile our stay here has been most fortunate, for the weather has been none too bad, we have a nice camp, & have been more or less on our own & have had no one to worry us.

Dent tells me his mother remembers you well; he evidently wrote home about it the same mail as I did. So glad to hear Dick & Topher are flourishing. The latter must be rather tired of roughing it, & he must feel the poor old 16th being cut up very much, he must have lost so many pals.

We don’t do much else besides work here; the Gunners next door gave some sports last week, which were quite good fun. We generally have a dip in the Tigris in the cool of the evening, & I go in to Amara about once a week to have a look round. Boats of all shapes & sorts & sizes are continually passing by up stream carrying stores & reinforcements up, & if forethought & organisation can beat the Turk, well we ought to have him cold. We are taking no chance this time I fancy.

Putting up the tennis net! Shocking, war time an’ no potatoes!! I expected every mail to hear that had gone the way of all spare land and had been dug up for agricultural purposes. I must say the papers make much more fuss about it than individuals, judging from your letters & what I hear from other fellows; but it’s serious enough I should imagine chiefly because it seems almost impossible to bring the very seriousness of the situation home to people with their high wages an’ all.

However the land news is good, & I fancy we have the Hun fairly ‘coopered’ on the west now. We have been making a series of small attacks everywhere to gain high ground & important points, preparatory, presumably, to making a great big push on a very wide front sooner or later. Russia appears to be going to see us through after all, & I’m right glad to see Tino out of it & I think Greece will bow to the inevitable now & give us no more trouble.

If only we could get America’s army into the field. Well they’ll come soon enough I’ve no doubt, & it’s men men men we want, & the allies have far greater & untouched reserves to draw on than Germany, who must be wasting all her reserve strength in furious & fruitless counter attacks.

That’s what we want – to kill Bosches day & night till none are left; it’s going to finish the war quicker than anything else. Our casualty lists are sadly long as you say, but however great the price it’s worth it besides it’s the duty of this generation to posterity & the world at large. Think what future generations would say of us if we failed now. It would only mean a far greater tragedy in years to come for them.

Best love to all. Ever yr loving son    Ted

I’m very fit & well, by the way.

Boats of all shapes and sizes:

Uncaptioned boat and jetty – with the Garhwal Rifles in Mesopotamia (Iraq) early 1917

Uncaptioned boat and jetty – with the Garhwal Rifles in Mesopotamia (Iraq) early 1917

Uncaptioned Boatman, probably 1916 or 1917

Uncaptioned Boatman, probably 1916 or 1917

Uncaptioned, from an album taken with the Garhwal Rifles in Mespot (Iraq) in 1917

Uncaptioned, from an album taken with the Garhwal Rifles in Mespot (Iraq) in 1917





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Posted by on 28 June, '17 in About


27 June 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Wednesday. 27th


My dear Mother- Very many thanks for your letter & I am awfully pleased to hear your rest at Totland Bay has done you such a lot of good.-

Last week we had great excitement up here – the King came to visit the fleet & there was a round of ceremonies – but you’ve never seen such filthy weather as we had – such a shame as nearly every programme had to be altered – postponed & generally changed round. One day we had quite the worst thunderstorm I’ve seen – & it was quite a cold week end for him.

The “press” & movie people were up here so I expect you’ll see a lot of photographs taken at various times in the papers. He came on board here on Sunday afternoon & we were all introduced to him & shook hands – then he went round the ship – & stayed to tea with the Captain – of course he came to us because P.A. is here – & I expect he wanted to see where he lived etc. I’ll send you our photographs along when I can get some prints.

We hear our regatta is July 9th & 10th – we have’nt been able to do any practices lately – so we must buck up & get into training – not much time eh?-

I see all the Indian – Mesopotamian – Malay States etc mails despatched from London on May 31st have been lost at sea – I saw it in the paper to-day – So sickening I think – I expect there were several there for Jim & Ted.

Quite a lot of people at home for the week end – I met the Meyers at the Shop I think- I remember a Rene awfully well. Lovely for Ben & Jane going to Sea View with the Darwens.

Rosamond sent me a most lovely box of green peas the other day – they were good- & the first I’ve tasted this year.

I had a letter from Dick the other day – he seems quite fit-

My best love to you all – from your ever loving son


To modern eyes it seems quaint that Rosamund sent peas to Orkney or that Gertrude should send eggs to France but we forget that both peas and eggs are seasonal and the summer was lovely not just because of the weather but because of plentiful, fresh food.

George V visit to Scapa Flow, June 1917

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Posted by on 27 June, '17 in About


22 June 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

My dear Mother

So sorry I never wrote to you at Totland Bay & by this time you are back & I hope all the better for your holiday. I expect you had nice weather & enjoyed the rest. You never do want to go.

Eggs etc arrived today and we hope to have buttered eggs tomorrow morning for breakfast. Your face is fat in that photograph is’nt it, but p’raps you are fatter nowadays.

How were all the horses & how’s Louis Anderson is he alright. Was’nt he the only Anderson in France?

Wud you send some more eggs. That cake was awfully good. I must send some more thick clothes home. Such a clatter as Topher is always saying.

We have a dear little kitten in our mess, our mascot we call it, black and white.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


In the Second World War, my grandmother Nell would send my mother breakfast by post – she used puffed wheat (the un-sugared kind) to pack one or two fresh eggs in an empty cocoa tin. Presumably Gertrude is doing much the same, but sending the eggs to France rather than Bletchley.

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Posted by on 22 June, '17 in About


21 June 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother,

Many thanks for your letter from Totland Bay. I hope the clothes’ll come soon. We’ve managed to get a Gramaphone after all & the records are awfully good. Fancy getting a leaf out of the Garden of Eden, and fancy having a son in command of a Regt. I expect it’s a relief to Ted, to have DB [Col Drake-Brockman] ]out of his way for a bit.

J.B is up to time nowadays. Those raids were alarming. I do hope they don’t try Guildford again. More clothes lumbering home me dear! Huge parcel but undo it & get out that German Hospital placard, rather interesting.

I do hope Ted sticks to the Command, but I doubt it, his being only a Capt, yet quite capable.

Dreda tells me she is going on the land after all. How will she like it in the winter.

Such a hailstorm yesterday. We’ve tried the eggs. Jolly good & Topher has also made some cherry jam, most awfully good. Another paper for Kirwan to sign, the other are lost!

I’m told I’m getting fatter. I heard from Mr Gosse. Topher is a great fisherman with Gosse’s reel.

Best love to all

Send some more books during the next week or two. I’ll want them, also some lemonade powder

Yr loving son


As a doctor, Richard would have been behind the lines, presumably in a semi-permanent medical station. Even so, Topher’s gardening, fishing and jam-making seems extraordinary to modern eyes. It’s easy to forget the scale of the infrastructure in France supporting the troops in the trenches on the Western Front. 

My brother told me that Ted’s CO, Col Drake Brockman, was the only British field officer who survived serving in the First World War who ended the war the same rank as he started it. I have not checked this, but he certainly comes across as finicky and rather fussy in his book With The Royal Garhwal Rifles In The Great War, From August 1914 to November 1917

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Posted by on 21 June, '17 in About


19 June 1917 – Richard to Dreda



Dear Dreda

Please send me one or two of those awful common khaki made up bow ties with a thing on the back to fix it to your collar stud you know the sort, and it must have the allies’ flags or something on the bow parts, something bright & big.

I’m sure they make them.

Lemonade powder will be awfully welcome.

Best love to all & I hope you’ve seen Cicely.

Yr loving


Is Richard getting involved in amateur theatricals while serving as an army doctor in France? Interesting he asks his sister for these “big and bright” bow ties – presumably he thought even his mother’s adoration had its limits.

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Posted by on 19 June, '17 in About


14 June 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Thursday. 14th.


My dear Mother-

V. many thanks for your letter – and the photographs too – though I don’t think it is awfully good of you – perhaps it is because I have’nt seen you in that headgear before – you look awfully well & so fat!-. I am ever so pleased to hear you are – or rather have had a holiday – it will certainly do you a whole heap of good to get some sea air & I do so hope you have enjoyed yourself Mother – lovely weather for it an’ all.

Nance simply hates going away from Delaford & did’nt want to go home a bit – so dull up there she says – but of course she’s got her hospital work to do for which I am very pleased – keeps her mind employed.

Just heard about that awful air raid in London – such a heap of casualties – & mostly kids at a school – dreadful I think don’t you.

Dreda’s farm work sounds awfully nice – & I really do think she ought to lead an open air life for a bit – don’t you – after being 2 years in that bank – a marvellous record I consider that- such dull work really – but necessary, & she certainly deserves all praise for staying there all that time.

Fearfully windy weather we seem to be getting these days – but it’s quite warm really. We still play football & the Officers team is top of our ship’s league – fearful keenness over it.

Not much news these days – my very best love to you all-

from your ever loving son


Paul’s dislike of any kind of indoor or desk work comes through very strongly in his comments about Dreda’s new job.

Bombing of Upper North St School, Poplar, 13/6/17

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Posted by on 14 June, '17 in About