Monthly Archives: January 2018

27 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Jan 27/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter of yours dated Nov 21st, which I got just after I had written to you last week. I got one from Dryden dated a week later, saying you had got my letter telling you about the Ramadi fighting, but that was the only one I got of so late a date – Nov 27th – so I expect yours must be wandering about looking for me somewhere-

In your letter you had just heard of Sir Stanley Maude’s death. Yes it was very sad and we can ill afford to lose so good a man. I am awfully glad I served under him, and as I told you I met him personally when he came to say pretty things to us after the Ramadi show-

Our long spell of really nice weather has broken up at last- We have had nearly a fortnight of really perfect weather, absolutely cloudless skies, brisk bright and very cold days & frost at nights- generally a cold wind too, but on the whole it could’nt have been nicer or more bracing. But today it has begun to rain, and I think we shall have 2 or 3 days of it now.

No news from here. We have had one or two visits from Turkish aeroplanes, and our guns fired at one but he got away. And a few days ago one of their machines had to come down behind our lines owing to engine trouble, & we got the pilot and observer. We also hear that those two airmen of ours who were lost the other day had had to come down owing to engine trouble & were captured by Turks, though they got back to within 14 miles of here. Bad luck was’nt it.

You were writing of Paul’s wedding which I suppose is a fait accompli now. I had a long letter from him last mail and he seemed very excited about it all. I also had a line from Jim, in India, but of course you will have heard from him too. He says he has not heard from me for ages, but I have written several times. His being on the move so much has made it difficult for letters to reach him I expect.

Very glad to hear Topher is having something done for his stammering and I do hope he gets a good long time in England now. I think it’s splendid the way he has stuck it so long- Yes we get rotten matches out here too, Japanese mostly and they won’t strike very often & the boxes are very weak & wobbly.

But we are being wonderfully well fed, and our rations supplemented by what we can buy at the M.E.F. Canteens, are really extraordinarily good. We get fresh baked bread, ample, bully beef & sometimes frozen meat, jam, bacon, cheese & sometimes butter- Then we can buy practically everything that was ever put in a tin at the Canteen, not regularly certainly, but remarkably often. Vegetables too we get, turnips, beans, & salad, and sometimes potatoes. At anyrate what we do get to eat is ample & good, & you would hardly know there was a war on if you came to lunch in our mess!

Of late we have had heaps, really a dozen or more, Christmas cakes, sugar, sultana, almond paste an’ all, and just as rich as any pre-war Buzzard! All from India of course, but still, marvellous is’nt it when we come to think of how hard it is to get things at home. Really you are having a much harder time than we are, taking it all round I think- We have’nt had any mail lately, at least since the 21st, but I see English letters of 4th & 8th December have arrived in the country & are on their way up.

Very few boats have been sunk at home these last 3 weeks. I do hope it means the thing is being really got in hand at last- And we read of strikes in Hungary & Austria, & of another in the German navy & perhaps this accounts for fewer ships being sunk as there may be fewer U-boats about. In any case, it’s a good sign and I sincerely trust it continues as low & lower-

It’s raining tonight & I can see we are in for a wet spell. It got a bit dusty the last fortnight, rather recalling the hot weather, but the rain ought to give us some respite yet.

Must go to bed. I have managed to wangle another blanket out of the quarter master, so I am warmer in bed now.

Love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 27 January, '18 in About


24 January 1918 – Ted to Jane

Jan 24/18


Dear Jinny

Very many thanks indeed for a letter from you which I got about Christmas time, but I’ve been that busy I have’nt had much time for writing, except to old Nell, ha ha – I’m still very ill, with Nellitis, I mean: and I see no chance of ever getting any better – a hopeless case, I’m afraid- and to think I have’nt seen the dear child for over 2 years. I do loathe this war-

We have had a simply gorgeous fortnight of lovely crisp cold weather, but night before last we got a gale o’ wind with rain and the whole place is one big marsh now, & it’s very raw & novembery-

Nothing very exciting has been happening here lately, a Hun ‘plane or two has been over but otherwise no alarms. We had a strenuous week training all last week, & thought it might mean something, but nothing has happened yet- We have been in the front line now for nearly 5 months, & we are getting rather tired of it, for though we are not in actual touch with the enemy, yet we have done a colossal amount of digging, and generally speaking we are very much out of the world in this remote corner.

I say, I told you did’nt I how fearfully bucked Nell was with the undies you made her; thanks awfully for making such ripping ones. I got some very old letters of hers last week, dated last July! In those she said Mrs F. had said she thought she ought to be getting her trousseau, & they went off & bought some Japanese silk for undies on the strength of it! Mind you help like hell in getting Nell’s things for the wedding, trousseau an’ all : the child is to be clothed perfectly right down to her nethermost garments: she’s such a dear that nothing but the best is good enough for her- (so you see I’m still pretty bad!) I don’t trust Mrs F. & the F. family as regards trousseau, though I expect Louie & Marjory would be all right. I often hear from Louie, rather a friend of mine it seems. And from Marjory too, though of course I’ve never met her.

I hear Geoff Houghton is “covered in red tabs”, what job’s he wangled pray? And I’m most awful pleased to hear old Topher is on his way to get a commission & I do hope his stammering course does him some good.

So I suppose old Paul is married now. Lucky devil, I say- and I hear you were b’maid, so I ought to be getting long descriptions of the show in a few weeks. Letters take 6 weeks or more now to reach us up in these parts from home. Those ripping Fortnum & Mason things turned up last week for me from you girls: thanks most awfully for them, they were most acceptable. The Dudmans sent me rather a nice writing pad, with this paper in it, but it’s good enough to get refills for.

Your letter is dated Tuesday, somewhat vague- but I see the post mark is 31st October. (Remember 31st October 1915? We went over to C’ham, to look for rooms, & found 30; I had been engaged 2 days then!) Yes I saw Stephanie’s wedding in the Tatler- remember how we used to invade their house on our way down to Gloucester always? My dear well can I picture the Babs-Jack wedding: old Davids looking an awful old cad I suppose: Maggie on the complete fuss, and I hear the mystery V.C. was there an’ all. I should like to know how many more honours and stars and bars that man’s going to get!

Well so long old bird & the best of luck

Lots of love

from Ted

Dear Ted. “Ripping” is perhaps not the best way to describe silk undies. Now we know why Mrs Fielding might have been shocked though. It’s interesting he asks Jane to make them, she was a great flirt and probably the naughtiest of the sisters.

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Posted by on 24 January, '18 in About


21 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude


Jan 21/18


Dear Mother

No more mails in since I last wrote but we don’t expect them nowadays much under a fortnight, or 3 weeks interval. It’s been cold again this week, with frost and North winds. But it has been fine and cloudless though the sun has not been over-strong. All the same it’s good clean honest cold weather, not raw and misty like it was when it rained such a lot a week or so ago.

Our only excitement lately – yesterday in fact – was one of the very rare visits of a Turkish aeroplane. He was very high up, barely distinguishable, and I think he must have been on his way somewhere else. Anyhow he was’nt stopping here, and our “Archies” shelled him – unsuccessfully – to speed him on his way and he disappeared into the distance- one of our ‘planes, which fly round here pretty well every day, has not returned and they can get no news of him. A rotten country to get lost or stranded in, this, I should think as it is very sparsely inhabited, and then mostly by unfriendly arabs.

I got a wire from you a day or two ago, just one word “congratulations”; very many thanks : the general wired & told me they had given me a brevet so I suppose you have seen it in some list. I do hope they give some of the other officers & men something. They are sure to of course, later on I suppose, as of course they did all the dirty work and deserve a reward. But they run these things in their own way, & the method is only known to themselves. I fancy a good many decorations & rewards are bagged by higher officials which only leaves a very few for the rank & file who deserve at least as many, if not more than the “gilded staff”. However it’s not for me to criticise.

A very dull letter I’m afraid but there’s nothing to write about. I’m very fit & well.

Best love to all   yr loving son



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Posted by on 21 January, '18 in About


14 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Jan 14/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter of 13th Nov, which arrived today, so you see you were just getting my rather few and far between letters I’m afraid while we were on the march up here from Baghdad, but really we had practically no time for writing & usually nowhere to post them. However by now I hope you have begun getting my letters regularly again-

This last week has been wet and fine in turns and today is lovely: cold, you know, but a cloudless sky & fresh & clean, & very English. I go about in a small cap all day, no need to wear a helmet, so this gives you some idea of the tremendous change in the sun’s power from the hot weather, when to stay a minute in the sun without a helmet would be disastrous.

The river has risen a lot these last few days owing to the rain presumably, and before much longer I expect it will get much higher. It is rushing past us now in a swirling flood, and sometimes when the wind is blowing up-stream, it breaks into waves and white horses just like a choppy sea and it’s lovely to watch it, but cold work- we have’nt had any actual frost lately & those biting N. winds have not been so bad either, but it’s awful cold at nights still, & I did’nt sleep at all last night as I was so cold. But it’s hopeless to try and get things like blankets etc, as by the time they arrive here it will be warm again. If I’m out here next cold weather I shall know what’s in store for the cold weather. I have’nt got any warm khaki yet, & there seems little prospect of getting any. However I am very fit and well and it’s all part of the day’s work so I’m not worrying.

Yes I saw in Punch that another Lloyd had been wounded, and that Major Bryant had been killed. How sad, I’m most awfully sorry as they were so good to me at the R.M.C. & I should like to write to Mrs Bryant if I could get hold of her address. Arthur Lloyd was reported badly wounded I see, & I do hope he’s all right. Is Kitty married yet I wonder, & what’s Johnnie doing? These things sort of flash across one’s mind when any news of the family crops up.

We’ve been nearly 3 weeks without a mail now, so today’s letters are most welcome. I got such a nice writing pad thing from the Dudmans & 2 lovely pairs of socks, both extremely useful & most opportune- I also got some nice things from Fortnum & Mason from the girls which are very tastey & welcome; they arrived quite safe. But the other F. & M. things have never arrived: held up somewhere I suppose-

I hope Topher manages to get over his stammering. It at anyrate means he will be at home for sometime does’nt it. You ask if we have been in any scrapping since the Ramadi show, we have’nt been in any real fighting, only a few odd shots when out on reconnaisance now and then-

I have’nt heard from Jim for some time though last time he wrote he seemed to be on the point of starting from Singapore. Yes indeed the woolly has been useful and is rather the worse for wear but still serviceable & warm & always worn. Those little split-rings which keep our buttons in our khaki jackets, you know, “little men” you call them I think, are always catching in it when I put my coat on so it suffers somewhat but is lasting wonderfully well.

Mail goes out today though I really don’t think it matters very much here; as often as not the cars can’t move owing to bad roads, and I expect my letters lately have been rather erratic.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Probable Major Bryant

Report of his death in Volume VII of The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914-1918 (10th edition, 1941)

Chapter 29 – Nahr Auja and El Burj (pdf)




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Posted by on 14 January, '18 in About


7 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Jan 7/18


Dear Mother

No more mails in since Dec 27th in fact we’ve had no mails of any sort for the last 3 days owing to the weather. It has been wet and cold & the motors simply can’t get along the none too good roads here – Last night at about 2 a.m. it began to rain & went on till 12 noon today & the whole camp is one mass of greasy glutinous mud.

There is a nasty wind blowing & the conditions are by no means nice- However we are very cheery & as comfy as possible, & are keeping very fit- I never feel quite sure that my tent won’t be blown away though- It is very raw & Novembery nowadays, we have had no frost for a long time, & the N. wind has given place to a South one which always brings the rain with it. But I expect we shall have some more of that biting N. wind before the winter’s done-

No sign of any of the good things from Fortnum & Mason yet, & I have had no Christmas parcels from Nell & the girls, though they all said they had sent them. We are out of the world here, & things take simply years to reach us. Very much “at the front”, no one else seems able to get here!

War news is not very exciting as I write is it. We had done wonderfully well in Palestine and it should have a splendid effect all round here, as it ought to fair put the lid on any Turkish thoughts of offensive movements here. He would make peace tomorrow I’m sure if he got the chance but I suppose Germany has got him too well in hand.

Two or three of us went for a long walk yesterday, ostensibly to shoot geese on a big lake about 8 miles from here. Really we went just for the walk. It was a coldish damp & misty day, but it was nice to get out of camp for a bit of exercise; we took our lunch out & had a most pleasant day-

Last Monday there was a race meeting here. I arrived in time for the last 2 races- I won £1 on the first one, & lost it all on the next one, so came off the course all square-

Afraid there’s no news here & I have no letters of yours to answer. Everything is horribly wet here, tents soaked through, & mud everywhere- But at least we are not in trenches-

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 7 January, '18 in About


1918 – 2018

Hello, dear friends of the Berrymans, and a happy New Year.

I am very fortunate: I get to spend every Christmas and New Year with my 100-year-old family.  I feel like a Time Lord living in multiple time-streams at once (yay for Jodie Whittaker!) as I schedule the next year’s letters and tweets and spend a few days diving deeply into the vivid details that the Berrymans bring us about the past.

The last two weeks have been a treat for me – I’d forgotten how fond I am of them all: lovely Ted, always putting a happy spin on whatever circumstances he’s in; Paul charming his bride but not entirely convincing her family that he’s a good bet; Jim, getting an office job in Singapore; Richard, fussy and bossy on paper, but clearly another Berryman charmer in real life; and poor stammering Topher, outshone by his glamorous and heroic elder brothers. Let’s face it, who could compete with them?

We know that 11th November 1918 was Armistice day but of course the Berrymans didn’t, so the year ahead will bring us their excitement as the tide started to turn in Europe and the Middle East.  You may remember that the highlight of the 1914 letters was Ted writing home about the Christmas Truce, Nell’s brother stole the show in 1915 when he crashed his car, it was good to hear Paul’s voice in 1916 telling Ted about Jutland, and Ted’s account of the battle of Ramadi in 1917 reminds us that what they did then still echoes for us now, though I am also fascinated by his trips to the dentist. You will be pleased to know that the accounts of the Armistice are brought to us with typical Berryman vigour and wit.

The letters continue for a few months after 11th November and we can stay in their company until the summer of 1919 as they ease into peacetime life. And I’ve included a set of letters from the mid 1920s which were also donated to the IWM – these will go out at the rate of two per week, so time will speed up for us in 2019 as we finally leave the Berrymans to their post-war lives.

So thank you all for your company and your patience. If you want to catch up, check the summary of the story so far, soap-opera style,  If you want to share the letters, please forward this email to your friends and encourage them to sign up themselves in the form on the site. The Berrymans themselves are @BerrymanLetters on Twitter and I am @FamilyLetters. Re-tweets and shares would be kind. I’ve also re-launched the page at so please like and share that as much as you can.

If you are curious to  know why I got so behind with the 1917 letters, then take a quick peek at our new project at and let us know if you would like to take a break there.

With warmest regards

Family Letters

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Posted by on 6 January, '18 in About


Ted to Nell – Dawn in Bivouac

A flicker of dawn in the reddening East;
A cluster of clouds in the melting grey-
A quickening stir amongst man and beast,
Drowsily conscious of coming day-

A sentry’s challenge- a stray dog’s bark
Cut the silence- from where we lie
The guns stand out in the lessening dark
In grim silhouette against the sky-

A whistle shrills through the cool, sweet dawn;
The camp is astir as the thin note dies-
An oath – a jest – and a laggard’s yawn
From his rough warm blankets unwilling to rise.

A shouted order, a snatch of song-
Smoke from the camp-fires hanging low-
In a jingling column, ghostly, strong
Down to water the gun-teams go

Two hours later the camp is bare-
High overhead a bullet sings-
(There’s a sniper up in those hills somewhere)
Into the desert the rear-guard swings

(Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force)


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Posted by on 1 January, '18 in About