RSS

Monthly Archives: August 2017

29 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 29/17

 

Dear Mother

I wrote you a letter 2 or 3 days ago on board the old “P 93”, & posted it at Kut, & we have now arrived safely at our destination and are quite settled down in camp. We had no startling adventures on the way but it has been quite an interesting journey. We reached Kut about 7.30 one morning & started unloading the ship at once, so as to make the best use of the cool hours. We stayed on board after that till the evening, when a train came along & we loaded that up with all our kit & stuff, a long job, as shifting a big camp, tents and all, is a big business. We have to cart tons of heavy stuff about with us, which of course we should not take on active operations.

I did’nt see much of Kut itself. To begin with we anchored about 2 miles below the town, where a sort of new Kut has sprung up, consisting of dumps of stores & depots and a hundred & one things necessary for an advanced base. The railway ends – or begins – here too, so in the short time between getting in by ship & going off by train there is’nt much opportunity for sight seeing. It was a frightfully hot day too, much too hot to move about unnecessarily between 8 & 5. I met one Bunbury there, a pal of mine, whom I last saw in Basrah, & he has a job in Kut now. I had tea with him & after tea we strolled up the river bank towards Kut just to have a look round.

There is really very little to see. A jumble of broken down trenches, which might be ours or the Turks, it’s impossible to tell which. Barbed wire, bones, & dud shells here & there testify to something having happened round about here, but otherwise the place must be rapidly assuming its former aspect. You see we captured Kut once, & then the Turks got it, & then we got it again, so the whole countryside is seamed & scarred with trenches belonging to both sides.

The town itself – an ordinary fairly large mud-built town – was rather knocked about, but has since been considerably repaired so there is nothing much to see there. We got within a mile of it but had no time to go further. It stands out very clear & plainly in a bend of the river, & it is curious that such an unimportant and small town should gain such world fame, is’nt it? For it is quite an insignificant place really & but for the war would I suppose have remained so.

There is one rather interesting thing there, on the river bank, about a mile below the town, the Germans built a sort of column of Victory or it may have been built by the Turks in memory of those who fell, both British & Turkish, in the siege of Kut. I have heard both explanations, at any rate it is an obelisk, shaped something like Cleopatra’s needle, & surrounded by a wall. It has no inscriptions on it, but at its base are 2 guns captured from the British at the siege. It is in bad repair, & will not survive long, as it is only made of inferior bricks & mud; but it is a curiosity in its way, & we have made no attempt to keep it in repair or to destroy it. Close by are the graves of several Turkish officers.

We left by train about 9 pm travelling in open trucks. It was a jolly journey, as the line was hurriedly & none too smoothly laid. And lying on the hard floor of a truck you feel every bump and jar ten thousand times magnified. However we all slept like tops, & missed seeing the famous arch of Ctesiphon; the railway runs past it, about a mile distant. In any case I doubt if we should have seen anything as we must have passed it in the dark in the early morning. This railway was very quickly laid and it speaks volumes for the engineers in charge and their workmen.

We arrived here about 7 in the morning and marched to the camp, about 1½ miles off, & got settled in more or less by about 2 p.m. Frightfully hot it was, but we were right glad to reach our journey’s end & that kept us going. Other regiments in camp here gave us breakfast & cold drinks, while we were getting our camp ready, which was very kind of them. I have met some of the Queens; one Mudford (Mumford? or some such name) claims to know the family: also one of the Spens, I think, from Frimley, is with them, & though I have’nt met him, still he asked one of our officers if I was here & said he knew me at Camberley. Desmond Gabb is, as you say, in India & has joined the 84th Punjabis. But I have met very few of the Queens as yet, we’ve been too busy to go about much.

The camp we are in is about 2 miles below the town, & of course I have’nt had time to go in & have a look round yet, as we only arrived the day before yesterday. I have met Sam Orton, who is on the division staff, & also our own Brigadier & divisional commander have been round to see us & see how we are getting on.

A very dusty camp this, & about ½ mile from the river, so different from our river frontage at Amara! However I’m afraid our days of real good camps & such like are over now, & when we leave here we shall travel light and say goodbye to creature comforts for some months. It’s still very hot & not much breeze. September should be a trifle cooler, the nights will be nice anyhow, but oh I shall be so glad to see the last of this stinking hot weather. How I loathe it! I fail to see one single redeeming point about it. I’m looking forward to the cold weather immensely: that’s what I like, & it likes me too.

English mail goes out today, so I must post this. I see they are still on the fortnightly mail business, though they said they were going back to the weekly ones.

Best love to all    yr loving son

Ted.


Images of Kut, including the obelisk

http://www.iraqkhair.com/vb/32879-post1.html

Arch of Ctesiphon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taq-i_Kisra

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/84th_Punjabis

Sam Orton & Lumb mentioned in With The Indians In France

https://archive.org/stream/withindiansinfra00will#page/130/mode/2up


 

Ted's photograph of the Obelisk at Kut

Ted’s photograph of the Obelisk at Kut

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 29 August, '17 in About

 

25 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

on board “P 93”

Aug 25/17

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter from you dated July 4th, which arrived quite unexpectedly on 23rd, 2 days ago. We had just got orders to move up river, & were not expecting an English mail at all. So D. Gabb’s going into the I.A. is he? Well, I suppose he knows what he wants to do best. I don’t imagine I shall see him now as they will probably have to stay in India a bit learning the language etc.

I’m writing this on board the river steamer and will try and tell you all about it. We got orders rather unexpectedly to move at 24 hours’ notice – none too long if you have a big camp to strike & pack up and heaps & heaps of stores & baggage etc to pack up & load. However, that’s by the way. These “p boats” as they are commonly called are paddle steamers built & designed for rivers such as this. They are shallow-draft boats, and to each side of them is attached a huge flat barge, which is filled with stores, rations, men, animals, transport carts, guns, in fact anything & everything that requires conveyance up river.

As you may imagine a big paddle steamer with a big barge tied on each side is a very unwieldy craft, & the navigation of this river is none too easy owing to its extraordinary winding course & the speed of the current. The river bed varies a lot too in depth, & we run aground on uncharted sandbanks frequently, but it’s never serious, & a little puffing & jerking on the part of the engines & we are off again.

Well old “P 93” (one of the latest                    by the way, cabins, dining saloon, electric lights & fans, lots of deck space for officers & men & “very modern improvements”,  including a lovely bath room with a full size lie-down splash-all-over-the-place English bath, gorgeous) came alongside our camp at 7 yesterday morning & we commenced loading her up with tents, ammunition, rations and all the hundred and one things that a regiment carts about with it. Every single ounce had to be manhandled and taken & loaded on the ship from the camp, as of course there are no cranes or such luxuries.

It was a piping hot day, one of the hottest we’ve had, & the N.W. wind that had brought such relief the previous day after the heat of the week changed to a S. wind, which was just what we did’nt want, as this brings a damp & sticky atmosphere with it, & is trying enough to sit still in, much more so to do manual labour in, & very strenuous labour at that! However the men tackled the job with their usual good spirits & by 11.30 we were finished and off up the river.

I have told you how winding and tortous the river is, & the country on either side is dead flat, most uninteresting & monotonous. To the East we can just see the dim blue outline of the Pusht-i-Koh hills, on the Persian border, but the other side runs away to the horizon in one bare, flat, featureless plain. Every few miles you come across a small barbed-wire encampment, a few tents & matting huts on the river bank, apparently tenantless except for a sentry with a fixed bayonet in his little shelter. These are the “marching posts”, or camps where troops who are marching, & not going by steamer, rest for the night.

Occasionally you see a bigger encampment & more troops, & there are posts guarding the long line of communications from Basra to Baghdad & beyond. A dreary life this must be for the troops on the line of communications – for they are miles from anywhere, & can only watch the steamers bearing their more fortunate companions up the river to where things happen, or down stream on leave, or on transfer to some base hospital, though perhaps it’s better to garrison an L. of C. post than to be sick & wounded : a choice of evils! Still the L. of C. must be kept intact, & doubtless we shall all get our turn of this uninteresting duty someday.

It has been a hot voyage, as the wind is in the South & it is muggy & sticky. But we are doing it in great comfort, & the old Tigris must indeed marvel at the great change that has come over her traffic in the last year.

We reach Kut tomorrow – I trust I am giving nothing away! – and from there go on by train. I should like to put in a day or two at Kut, to have a look round, though I believe it has altered beyond all recognition since the days of the Siege.

The country we are passing through now as I write, though dull & uninteresting to the eye, is all the same of historic interest. For it was across these dry dusty plains that all the fighting took place in 1916 during the ineffectual effort to relieve the Kut garrison; and again more fighting took place in the winter of 1916-17 all round here, when Kut was re-taken & the way to Baghdad opened. But there is little to indicate that anything ever happened here, at anyrate nothing can be seen from the steamer.

Well, that’s all for the present. I’ll see if I can post this at Kut & then I’ll write again when we reach our destination.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


 

Photo of P-Boats

http://m.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205024104

It’s likely he meant Poshtkue, Western Iran – not to be confused with Pusht-e-Koh, Afghanistan.

http://aroundguides.com/12624146

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 25 August, '17 in About

 

22 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 22/17

 

Dear Mother

No mail in yet and I hear it won’t be in for some days as it has only just reached Bombay. There is I’m afraid no news to tell you. Since I last wrote it has been frightfully hot, still muggy days & 115° in our tents, most awfully trying. Still the nights are fairly cool & the v. early mornings when we go on parade, but the rest of the day after about 7.30 is rotten.

However we are all keeping fit, though feeling very limp & slack of course, it’s absolutely impossible to feel otherwise. We just sit & drip & lose weight all day till the evening & long for the sun to go down. But I expect there are people a good deal worse off than us, right up at the front, in small tents & not so many comforts easily obtainable such as ice, which we have.

We are in big tents, the same kind as we were in in Delhi last cold weather; all troops have them out here now & they are really essent if you want troops to keep fit. We have a little thermometer in ours so’s we can keep a daily record of the temperatures; & just now we put it in a little light tent which we were living in when we were at Basra & which we now use as a sort of bathroom attached to our big tent, & in there it registered 125°! So we can thank our stars we have big tents to live in & not the small ones, which are really no protection whatever. The light tents are for use when “active operations” are in progress & you can’t cart the big ones about, but by that time the weather will be much more reasonable.

We are sort of on the end of a wire about our move up river, & we may more or less get orders to go any day now. Personally I don’t want to move in this heat. It means a big business, unpitching & packing all the tents, loading them all up on barges & all our heavy kit & stores & rations as well. You see all this would have to be done by hand, as we have no cranes or appliances of that sort of course. However if it’s got to be done it’s got to be done & we’ll do it of course, so that’s that.

I have had long letters from Col D.B. There seems little or no likelihood of his returning. He is not fit yet & I fancy his medical board will give him an extension. Then his time in command is up in November, so it’s hardly likely they’d send him out to finish it off. I rather fancy he hopes to get a job in India, so I gather from his letters.

As regards my prospects, this means – silly as it sounds! – that I shall keep the command till some one else gets it. I mean Henderson, our 2nd in command & on sick leave at home, may come out & take it on, or some senior fellow in the 39th or any other rgt – they are not particular nowadays – may be put in. Impossible to say; but don’t count on my keeping it; I may do so, & I may not; I’ve got it by a piece of luck, & it will be luckier still to keep it. How I should love to command it in some fighting, & to see the results of one’s efforts this hot weather. For indeed we have been working hard to get the regiment as efficient as possible & in good fighting trim & I should be grievously disappointed if they failed in any way. But I know they won’t, I’m confident they will do their very very best.

Such sad news from Lansdowne, Mrs Bobby Reed died the other day, having given birth to triplets, all girls, & all doing well I believe. They arrived 7 weeks before they were due it seems, so her death I suppose is not surprising. Poor Bobby, he’s awfully cut up of course, & the regiment has lost one of the best & brightest women members. She was one of the best, & as you know a great friend of mine & her loss will be felt by us all. Personally I can hardly realise it: one gets used somehow to hearing of the death of one’s men friends nowadays; but it does’nt seem right that people like Mrs Bobby Reed should die.

I must struggle to write to some more people, but I don’t feel in the least energetic. Excuse this rotten letter, but I’m sure you will understand. Heat, no news, & no letter of yours to answer, 3 very just causes for a short note, are’nt they…

Best love to all

yr loving son                Ted


Edith Giles, wife of Capt Henry Robert Baynes Reed CIE DSO MC

http://www.thekingscandlesticks.com/webs/pedigrees/482.html

Only one of the triplets, Jocelyn, survived and lived to 78.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 22 August, '17 in About

 

19 August 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

19.8.17.

 

Dear Mother

I hope perhaps to be home on 25th. Wonder if you have found the blue coat. I am telling Lesley Roberts to send my clothes to Guildford, and another small parcel will arrive with some collars. I shall come home on Sat.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Richard.


 

And here Richard disappears from view until mid 1918 apart from one letter in December 1917. Perhaps he was transferred to work as an army Medic in an English hospital for a while. We know from when he was at the Mont Dore Hospital in Bournemouth in 1915 that either he didn’t write when in England, or that he or Gertrude didn’t think it worth keeping the letters. 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 19 August, '17 in About

 

14 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 14/17

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 2 letters from your last mail, which arrived 2 days ago, somewhat unexpectedly as we were not hoping to get it till 2 days later. Your letters were dated June 20th & 27th, long long ones & I loved getting them. Two mails arrived together & they are the first we’ve had for 3 weeks. I’m afraid I got no letters off the old Mongolia; only 11 bags for M.E.F. were saved but it appears nothing for us was amongst them. They talk glibly of salving some more bags, but I should think the letters would be ruined by now. I lost one or two parcels from Nell on board which is somewhat annoying. You seem to have got a whole budget of letters from me all together, 4 you mention in one letter and 2 in the next, most erratic the posts appear to be. However we have been very lucky so far – tap-wood – losing so few.

It’s been very hot this last week, & hardly any breeze. Trying weather, especially if one has been a bit off colour as I have, it takes so much longer to pick up. However the cold weather is not far off now, & then I shall be as fit as a fiddle. Besides the nights are nice & cool now, I pulled up a blanket over me about 2 o’clock this morning & slept quite comfortably under it; before I had nothing on me.

Yesterday I went out to tea with the matron of No 2 B.G.H, Sister Macfarlane to whom I asked you to write. A very pleasant little tea, with ices to wind up with! Gorgeous they were, as it was fearfully hot & I could have eaten hundreds! How ever I thought one was all that was good for me. I went into the hospital to see my friends the sisters who were all very cheery, and it was quite a pleasant afternoon despite the heat. How I sigh for a nice cold winter day again; the other members of the family, especially Dick & Jim, seem to revel in the hot weather, but I’m afraid I have no use for it.

Otherwise we have been leading our usual humdrum life. No news of a move yet & I don’t suppose we shall move for a fortnight yet.

There seems to be some doubt as to my rank, quoting from your last mail letters. I see the letter in which I told you I had been promoted to tempy. Lt Col has been sunk, at least I work it out to have been so. Anyhow, things are as follows; on active service, if acting as 2nd in cmd & you are under the rank of major, they promote you to tempy: major, as long as you are 2nd in command & with the rgt; if anyone senior comes in, you of course revert to your permanent rank.

So when I came out here I became a tempy: major, or rather 15 days after we’d been out, which is the rule, but it took such a long time to be gazetted in orders that I only got news of it a few weeks ago. I was made a tempy: Major on April 8th; then D.B. went sick, & 15 days after he had gone sick and I took on command, I became entitled to be promoted to tempy: Lt Col, but this again took ages to appear in orders; my date of promotion to Lt Col is May 14th, just 3 months ago, but it only appeared in orders about 6 weeks ago.

Similarly I revert to my lower rank in the event of D.B. coming back, or if they put anyone else in command, which is quite likely as I am somewhat junior and there are any amount of fellows in other regiments who are senior to me but who have not got even temporary commands. However they may let me keep it on; anyhow I’ve had it 3½ months now, & I’m drawing Lt Col’s pay so I’ve not done so badly. So don’t be alarmed or despondent if one day I write and say I’ve been demoted! I hope I’ve made this quite plain. The India office would always be able to tell you what I am, if you’re ever in doubt! It’s something to have risen to even tempy: Lt Col, in these days when all sorts of odd people get such rapid promotion.

No have’nt seen any Gabbs yet. I heard Desmond had gone on leave to India, but did’nt know he’d gone to stay with Lil. Rather a good idea, I must remember that if I get any leave next year! I had a brief note from Dick last mail, talking glibly about “my last letter” which I presume went down in the Mongolia, sickening is’nt it as I suppose it was in answer to one I wrote from Karachi after meeting all his friends there. Really I don’t know what’s best for Topher. I sympathise with him immensely, he must be so heartily sick of being a Tommy, & besides I expect he’d like to earn a little more pay. Surely a commission in the A.S.C. [Army Service Corps] would not be impossible, a stammer would’nt matter there, & he’s seen enough scrapping to warrant his going into the A.S.C.

So glad you like Eve’s leaf! It’s interesting certainly, but now I hear they think the Garden of Eden was more up Baghdad way! However, Kurnah will do very well for the present. I chucked learning Arabic several weeks ago. I found it very hard to begin with, & no one decent to teach you. The man I had was an Armenian coffee-shop keeper, who spoke English, but of course had no idea of teaching; he sad “Yes sir” to everything you said, right or wrong. Besides, I’ve got heaps of other things to do, & it’s too hot to sit down and work. Very unenterprising perhaps, but I found I was making practically no progress, so thought it best to chuck it in altogether.

Things seem to be in a good old muddle in Russia don’t they. Really it is amazing the way she’s behaved. We’ve financed her & fed her & munitioned her & done everything for her, & now she’s let us down badly like this. Thank heavens I’m English, for truly we & the French are the only people worth being in Europe just now. The rest are useless.

Piping hot day & not a breeze of any sort. I’m sitting – dripping positively – & yet I am stripped to the waist & only a towel on, & yet I’m boiled alive.

In your letter of June 27th you say you have had another letter from me. I wonder if you managed to get Topher what he wanted, I see Mark Cross advertises “just the thing” I should imagine, but I’ve no doubt you got him something to his liking.

Fun those flying men must have had who came over for the day from Reading, Ben tells me there’s a Major who came over too with that balloon, Eric; what’s he doing by the way? I thought he was in France somewhere, but he seems to be perpetually at home; sick leave I suppose, at least that’s what he always seemed to be on. I should so hate to be always on sick leave, the very expression is horrible I think.

So specs is now a defender of his country & quite time too. However it’s his show, & his conscience that’s got to be worried, if anyone’s, if he did’nt try & join up before. I am truly thankful to hear Dreda has left the bank for a far more congenial occupation. Does she dress in that saucy farming rig with gaiters an’ all! When I retire & live on my farm I shall have to take lessons from Rosamond & Dreda. I still cling to the idea of retiring as soon as I can (I can get £200 a year in 5 years’ time) & start something of the sort, so I must save up a little capital for investment, & my pension will help along, though I’m afraid taxes will be alarmingly high for many years to come yet. You talk of strawberries & make my mouth water indeed. I trust I shall be home next year to enjoy a few.

Best love to all

ever yr loving son

Ted.


 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Army_Service_Corps

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_Days

 

 

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 14 August, '17 in About

 

8 August 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 8/17

 

Dear Mother

No English mail in this week & I’m afraid we shan’t get one till next week, as the fortnightly krewst is in working order for the present, though it seems it has been stopped again now.

Still very hot, but the nights are getting cooler. It was only 72° at 5 this morning, & it gets up to 112° or so at midday, an extraordinary difference is’nt it. But we are within sight of the cold weather now anyhow & have’nt got much more of this rotten hot weather to get through. How I do hate the heat!

I was out to dinner last night with some pals on the staff of the G.O.C. Tigris Defences, & there I met one Lee, a Captain in the Connaught Rangers. It appears he married a Miss Marks, who used to stay with the Bromley-Bowines, & used to go over to Pirbright with the family & sing at soldiers’ concerts. Lee told me she remembered us all quite well & appeared much struck with us! I can’t quite place her somehow, I seem to have a vague recollection of her name but not her face, but I expect you would remember her all right & the girls too. Where are the Bromley-Bowines by the way? He was a good chap & so was she; is she married yet I wonder? Funny my knocking against Lee like that was’nt it.

There were some swimming sports yesterday which Fox & I went to see. Our men got one or two prizes but on the whole they were rather dull. I paid a visit to my old hospital & met my nurse friends & they were all very nice, & all divided in their opinion as to whether I looked fit or not! Miss Macfarlane, the matron, however, said I looked very well, & so did Bat the doctor, so that’s all right.

No news or signs of our moving yet, though I hear our camp is all ready for us at Baghdad, & we have only to walk into it. Till then I’m afraid I shan’t be able to look up any friends or acquaintances in the Queens.

We still manage to catch a nice lot of fish out of the river which helps to keep the menu going. We shall soon be able to shoot for partridges, & a small bird called a sand-grouse, which fairly swarms out here, there are literally millions of them. I have brought a gun & a few cartridges out with me, but I don’t know really if I’ll have much opportunity to shoot, one is fairly busy nowadays.

A dull letter I’m afraid but it’s not been a particularly exciting week-

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


 

Marched into war to It’s a Long Way to Tipperary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connaught_Rangers

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandgrouse

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 8 August, '17 in About

 

1 August 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

1.8.17.

 

Dear Mother

I am so glad Ted is all right again & has rejoined. I dunno’ if you ever got my letter telling you dysentery was not so dreadful a disease as people at home think.

I hope to be home next month sometime, & shall spend it quietly at Guildford. Rotten weather nowadays, so wet. Best love to all

Yr loving son

Richard.

With a view to my being home in Sept ? perhaps, please have my evening dress shirts sent to the cleaners not the wash

Do you remember that number we worried so much about last time? Paul had one on the ship I know. Those are the ones I want to go & I enclose a cheque to pay for the dressing of them. Don’t please send them to the wash they do spoil them so. There are the ones I bought in London but I’ve no idea which they were, unless they are all in the suit case together. They might go too if you know them

Have you found my blue coat

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 1 August, '17 in About