Monthly Archives: December 2017

30 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 30/17


Dear Mother

A mail in at last! on 27th, after we had been exactly a month without one. It was ripping such a heap of letters all together, I got 37! and heaps of papers. There were 3 mails in together, Oct 24, Nov 1, & Nov 7, and as one was the Christmas mail you can imagine what heaps we all got. I got 3 from you, of the above dates, and thanks most awfully for them, and the little diary which will of course be fearfully useful, one always wants to scribble down notes and odd things these days.

We spent a very quiet Christmas here. It was a raw cold day, but we managed to make merry in the evening with crackers & plum pudding and various luxuries specially ordered from India. The Fortnum & Mason things have’nt turned up yet, and I don’t know when they will. The recent rain has made the roads almost impossible, and we can hardly get our rations up. I have only had one Christmas parcel so far, & that is a lovely tin of nuts from Rosamond which arrived this evening, a very welcome gift indeed. On Christmas and Boxing day we had holidays, and sports too, which were coldish to watch, but not bad fun – otherwise we had no excitements.

Yesterday the Gunners had some mounted sports, & in the evening they had a revue “Ramadi 1950” which was rather funny- I dined with a pal in the Gunners after the sports & we went on to the show in the evening.

Today some of us went out shooting, & got a lovely fat goose, and 9 partridges, a most pleasant outing & good exercise to walk off these Christmas meals! Tomorrow there are races, & on New Year’s day we have a holiday, & I fancy we are getting up a shooting party for the occasion though cartridges are woefully short.

It has been a lovely day today, the first sunny day we have had for 2 weeks nearly – otherwise the weather has been rotten, raw windy misty & cold, though we have had no frost for a week or more. Typical English weather in many ways, but not at all suitable for camp life! However we are all very fit & getting used to this sort of thing now.

Your letters are, as I say, dated Oct 24, Nov 1st & 7th – very many thanks indeed for saying such nice things about the regiment, and it is very gratifying to feel one’s little efforts are appreciated, not only by relations & friends but also at the India office, where it is just as well to get known, though I rather fancy the 39th are already pretty well known there. It is nice however to know that their expectation has been kept up. You all said much too nice things, but if you are pleased then I’m pleased, so that’s all right.

Genl Cox seems to have been very mysterious about it all, saying you were’nt to see anything etc, but by now I hope you will have got fuller details from me, though even my letters were a bit sketchy I fancy. I know Nell would wire on to you, or at any rate let you know if I cabled to her: the wires were naturally somewhat congested out here just then, & I did’nt like to worry them with more private wires than were really necessary-

You seem to have gone some time without a mail too. Dr Scott dead at last, as you say- I can only dimly recollect him. Yes, good work the French bringing all those Zepps down. We have pictures of them in some of the papers that arrived last mail. Pity we did’nt do it. I hear from all sides of the bomb in Picadilly & how                          & Edgars were strafed; a good shot was’nt it, though I don’t suppose they do much actual aiming. I heard from Jim a day or two ago, he says his relief is on his way out, & as soon as he arrives Jim will probably go to India, en route for this country.

I saw a notice of Stephanie’s wedding in the papers; yes rather I remember her, though I was never at home when she used to come and stay, Jinny & I used to go & see them outside Paddington on our way to Gloucester.

So glad my description of Baghdad pleased you, & by now I hope you have some photographs of it which I took, also of the journey upstream & various other interesting places. I was half afraid the letters I wrote about them had been destroyed at sea, by fire, between Basra & Bombay, but it appears they were fortunate & went by another boat.

Yes, I know nearly all the Queens now, & the two regiments are great friends, & the name Garhwal should not be unknown in Guildford after this. They are an awful nice lot of fellows and we get on awful well together- Poor Dick; yes he would hate the mud & cold I know, and now he’s losing Topher he won’t be any better off. As regards Topher’s commission, I expect poor boy he has had more than enough in the ranks, though as you say he was well enough off as Dick’s groom; all the same if he wants the commission it seems hard on him not to let him get it and he’ll be home some time training now. His stammer would certainly seem a difficulty & I hope he manages to do something for it.

I wonder if Specs has been roped in yet- I have glanced through the daily sketch with George’s picture in it, at his wedding, but I should’nt know him from Adam, not having seen him since 1902 or so. I was’nt home when he was so much with the family.

As you say, the war news is not very happy these days, but I fancy it’s only a phase and things will buck up again soon. Italy seems to be standing her ground, & there is no one in Russia to make peace with, & America must be nearly ready now.

Poor Capon seems to get no better, & from your description the garden wants some work on it. I don’t suppose Capon will ever be fit for work again, he will be a great loss I’m afraid but I suppose it can’t be helped. Please let me know if I can do anything for him: I think we boys ought to buy him an annuity or something as he has served us faithfully & well all these years. If you are writing to the others you might suggest it to them, & meantime make enquiries as to what’s the best thing we can do for him- There are many calls on our pockets nowadays, but I think this is a special case.

Must write to Ben now. We posted our English mails last Monday here, but they never reached the railway, as the road was too bad for cars to come & fetch it, so presumably they missed the mail. In any case, it’s only a fortnightly mail home and out now, & living in these outlandish parts one is never certain of anything.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Photo of bomb damage at Swann & Edgars in Picadilly, 20/10/17

Followed by

Christmas card (unsigned and undated) depicting the British Residency at Baghdad with map of Mesopotamia

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Posted by on 30 December, '17 in About


24 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Christmas Eve/17


Dear Mother

Still no mail in, though I believe tis quite close up now, and may possibly arrive tomorrow, and very appropriate if it does. They say there are 3 mails all due together, and we certainly deserve some letters as we have had none since Nov 28th.

Not much news here. This past week has shown us what Mesopotamia can do in the way of rain and mud. We had 24 hours’ rain last Wednesday (this is Monday) and the whole camp was turned into a quagmire; but it dried up in the wind of the next few days, though the weather remained raw and very cold. We had one fine day since then, and last night down came the rain again so the mud and slush are once more in full swing.

It is cloudy & cold again today with a promise of more rain. Rather a pity as we have had to postpone the Brigade sports on account of the mud: we were going to have races & football matches and all sorts of frivolities but heaven knows when we shall be able to have them now. All our men have got warm clothing and they need it badly, but officers are still without it, except one or two lucky ones who happened to have some.

Today my one and only pair of riding breeches has gone to the wash – fancy washing clothes in the icy Euphrates this weather! I’m glad I’m not a dhobi – so I am shivering in shorts and a greatcoat. We are getting some thicker khaki from government stores, but it has’nt turned up yet.

We have a holiday tomorrow and boxing day, & originally we were going to have the sports and races, but now we must be content with the holiday only, which will be very welcome as we have had only 3 Sundays off from digging since last September. Two years ago today I left England to join the rgt: in Egypt; and I certainly never expected to be away as long as this! This weather is most awfully English in every way, & we had a good old November fog all yesterday.

Best love to all   yr loving son


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Posted by on 24 December, '17 in About


17 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 17/17


Dear Mother

No mail in yet, not had one since the 28th November, & we shan’t get one for another 5 or 6 days I hear, & then we get 2 or 3 together. Besides I suppose they are extra heavy just now with Christmas mails an’ all.

Since I last wrote we have had a good hard frost each night, 7 degrees generally & water in our basins frozen solid. And all day this bitter wind goes on & cuts through you like a knife, & we have’nt got any thick khaki yet, only the drill stuff. Fortunately I have the shetland, & a great coat but it’s still cold for all that. And of course by the time you get this it will be warming up again or at anyrate not so cold as it is now.

One hears such a lot abut the hot weather out here, but not a soul ever told me of this really bitter winter. Consequently we all made preparations for the summer & none for the winter. After all you can do with very few clothes in the summer, but you want a whole heap & lots of blankets too in the winter, especially as the contrast is so great. One hears that the weather is exceptional & nothing like it occurred last year, but we are rather far up north & may expect really cold weather for some time yet.

I suppose we shall have snow too if there is a frost about. However I personally am keeping very fit on it & so are we all I think, but we all find the cold keeps us awake at night, in tents you see, & the only possible time to have a bath is midday, when there is a tiny bit of heat in the feeble sun.

Day before yesterday we had to go out on a 15 miles reconnaissance, stay out one night, & we came back yesterday. Two Turkish deserters gave themselves up to us, they were rather miserable specimens, & seemed absolutely fed up, & complained of ill-treatment, scanty food & clothes, & no pay, so let’s hope this represents the general condition of their army out here. We had to bivouac the one night we spent out, no tents, so you can imagine how cold it was, & there were 7 degrees of frost that night too! But I suppose one is fairly hard nowadays & can stand a good deal.

Col Hogg rolled up last Tuesday & so I am no longer in command, but am an acting Major & 2nd in command now. Lyell has gone back to India on a month’s leave. Hogg was very interested to hear I know some of his sisters, & that his people knew you, but I’ve told him this often before when I met him in India, but he’s a casual sort of person & does’nt take the trouble to remember people much I think. He is an awfully nice man of course, but likes his creature comforts & we are certainly not indulging in any luxuries up here just at present!

We ate your plum pudding the other day, as we are getting so many for Christmas, & as yours had arrived I thought we had better get through it now. It was voted excellent, & so it was, & I did’nt get the sixpence though I had a good old try!

I have just been round the battlefield of Ramadi with Col Hogg, & he was very interested an’ all. My hands get frightfully cold, hence my bad writing! I have no gloves, & it’s awful, Nell tells me she has sent a pair & I’m longing for them to arrive. Hogg knows Mr Kirwan well of course, & we discussed him last night. He is a widower, & has 3 sons, one has just gone to Rugby this term.

So if anyone is coming out here my advice is- never mind about the hot weather, you want no clothes for that: but mind the cold, take every warm thing you’ve got, or have warm things sent by post to arrive about November-

No more news – Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 17 December, '17 in About


10 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 10/17


Dear Mother

We’ve had no mail for a fortnight now and there seems to be no news of one either just yet. I believe the English mail goes out today but one can never really be certain. Today is a most awful day, there is a howling gale – nothing else will describe it – from the north west and it is bitterly cold. A feeble winter sun is giving a certain amount of light, but no warmth, and there is’nt a cloud in the sky. It’s impossible to get warm, & we are sitting huddled up in coats! I really believe the best & only thing to do is to go to bed! As I have told you before I think, it never seems to be able to do anything in moderation in this country, it either is blowing a gale or too hot or too cold, there seems to be no happy medium.

Yesterday 4 of us went out shooting and took our lunch out with us. We had quite a pleasant outing, and got 10 birds- We have only a very limited supply of cartridges and it’s hard to get any more. It rained quite hard for ½ an hour or so on our way back yesterday, cold driving rain that soaked us through in no time.

Col Hogg has arrived at Baghdad, but I don’t know when he will be coming on here. I expect he’ll put in a few days there first to look round. They are having a great show in Baghdad for Christmas, all kinds of sports & races, polo tournaments & dinners & duck shoots & general frivolities. We are having a few sports & football & hockey tournaments here, also a race meeting I think after Christmas.

I saw a “Surrey advertiser” I think it was in the Queen’s mess the other day, with an account of the part they took in the Ramadi battle in it. I also saw an appeal from Mr Kirwan for funds to send them Christmas presents, & they all ragged me & said that of course I as a Guildford resident must be in the subscription list!

There is practically no news here nowadays. All seems fairly quiet & no one knows quite what is going to happen I fancy. The rainy season is on us now which always rather interferes with things. Excuse a short letter but I have nothing to tell you & no letters to answer, & it is so cold in a tent in this wind! Thank goodness I’ve got that Shetland!

Best love to all

yr loving son      Ted

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Posted by on 10 December, '17 in About


9 December 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

Sunday 9th


My dear Mother

Thank you & the girls most awfully for that lovely box. It arrived most opportunely too. Thoroughly wet, tired, bored, & with no prospect of anything for dinner but bully & lo & behold that box of delicacies. We’ve been living like dukes. Too good of you to send it & it was like a conjuring trick, things never seemed to end coming out. We’ve eaten all the almonds, & that butter is lovely, & the mince pies too.

Did you have all that frost? We were sleeping in the fields then. Awfully cold but really not so terrible as it sounds. I have hopes of being home soon. Perhaps for Christmas but anyhow we have no interest till 15th so I hear. I enclose a cheque for £60 & Cox will change it.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



My mother says that Richard was back in France when this was written, and that Topher wasn’t with Richard by this time. “We” are Richard and his fellow officers, not Richard and Topher.

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Posted by on 9 December, '17 in About


1 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 1st/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 2 letters from you which arrived 2 days ago, dated 10th & 17th of October. In the 10th one you had’nt heard from me for some days & the 17th one was in answer to some of mine written just before we left Amara & on the boat up to Baghdad. I’m so glad you liked them, & the journey is well worth describing – one is apt to forget that scenes & sights & incidents which seem trivial to us maybe of great interest to you, so I always try & tell you as much as possible.

It has been very cold here lately, due to a biting NW wind which nothing will keep out. It seems to cut through all one’s clothes, & as we only have thin khaki drill you can imagine it’s a bit parky. I have found that Shetland woolly most frightfully useful, I simply don’t know what I should have done without it. The nights of course are very cold indeed, down to 40° sometimes, & it’s never above 80° in the shade by day now. So you see we are indeed subjected to extremes in this weird & wonderful land. However we are getting some warm clothing from Government soon I hope, so that’s all right. And by the time I get an answer to this letter it will be February, wet & horrid, & a month later that infernal hot weather will begin again. But we are all very happy & thrive on this open air treatment; personally I feel and am particularly fit & well.

Today a plum pudding arrived from you, so we are all right for Christmas in that direction anyhow. Our trouble is a Turkey (one is tempted to pun here, but I will refrain!) or a goose, but there appear to be none to be had. Thanks awfully for the pudding, you’ll be glad to hear of its safe arrival I know.

Life is strenuous for us – at least for the men – these days. Dig dig dig all day, but last week we were lucky & went out on a 4 days reconnaissance about 15 miles up the river. “Berryman’s column” it was called, & we had cavalry, infantry, & guns in it, & I was put in command; I rather think I referred to this krewst in my last letter. Anyway we had quite a nice 4 days out; ooo it was cold, no tents & this old wind blowing the whole time.

We came across some Turks one day & they fired a few shots at us, but did no harm. But it was a good training for us all, as we were in hostile country & never knew what might’nt turn up. And it was a very pleasant change too from our life of late, cooped up inside barbed wire an’ all here-

Lyell has’nt joined yet. Yesterday I got a wire asking me to inform him of his wife’s death in Lansdowne. Did you ever hear of anything so tragic? She has just had a son, but from all accounts was going on well. Poor Lyell had to leave Lansdowne a week before the child was born, so perhaps the worry of it all killed her poor woman. I don’t know what Dolly Lyell will do now; I believe he was devoted to her, & it will be such an awful shock to him poor man. I have wired the sad news to him to try & catch him at Baghdad before he arrives here, I think it’s better he should know as soon as possible rather than wait till he gets here.

Later Just got a wire from Lyell to say he is applying for leave-

Jack Hogg is on his way up from Basra too to take over command, but he won’t be up here for a week or two yet.

Topher seems to have had a good leave, I’m so glad he managed to get it at last. News is on the whole good, for I have long since ceased to regard Russia as a country at all, as the Italians seem to have rallied somewhat. Then our big breakthrough on a 10 mile front on the Hindenburg line is awful good news, the tanks seem to have done well there.

Everyone is very optimistic it seems about submarines & air reprisals, & I do hope they start soon, though this is possibly not quite the season for them.

Really Babs Davids being married seems very hard to believe, they both are so absurdly young. As you say it must be hard to feed a sudden inrush of people for a weekend, & even your truly marvellous capacity for meeting these somewhat alarming situations must be taxed these days, but I have no doubt you still succeed in making a little go all the way & I’m sure no one leaves Delaford either hungry or sad.

Whiskey at 8/6 a bottle! My word, we pay 33/- a dozen here, but I suppose we are spoilt children. Sugar seems plentiful & we get enough; tea too, somewhat hay-like as yours is. I’m personally rather lucky, as I still have 2 pounds which Nell sent me, also enough tea tabloids to make over a hundred cups, but I am keeping all these for a rainy day when things fail.

Your second letter of 16th Oct acknowledges 3 of mine. I rather think my letters describing my first impressions of Baghdad may have been lost, as one lot about then was burnt at sea I know, but it’s just possible it may have escaped, I sincerely hope so anyway. So glad you like the links, & how wonderful their arriving safely. I must confess I never imagined they would! They are quite a good example of Amara silver work & I have one or two more odds & ends which I do not care to commit to the care of the post, but I will bring them along some old time.

Yes mother, I have had my wish of leading my men into action, & indeed they did not fail me-

You say Specs you think will be roped in at last, & all the pleadings of Col Perkins will be of no avail. Well, it’s about time, & his work can hardly be put down as one of national importance! I got a lovely box of cigars from old Fielding today, very sporting of the old man. He wrote such a nice letter in reply to my “ultimatum” about getting married next year. I wish you could manage to put in a few days there, but I know it’s difficult, but the rest of the family are all very anxious to meet you, & I’m sure you would like them all most awfully-

Dinner time- Best love to all

Yr loving son


Enclosed shows our casualties in the scrap, underlined. I told Ben I wd enclose it in her letter, but I forgot!


Derivation of tabloid: Henry Wellcome pharmaceuticals

Marriage announcement in Times for Alfred George Lyell, 9/12/15

“A G. Lyell, 39th Garhwal Rifles, Indian Army, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. James C. Lyell, of Heathfield, 68, Upper Richmond Road, Putney, and Dorothy Flora, second daughter of the Rev. Charles Kensington, and Mrs. Foy.”

Hindenburg victory

Garhwalis marching in desert

Garhwalis marching in desert

Garhwalis on the march

Garhwalis on the march

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Posted by on 1 December, '17 in About