Monthly Archives: August 2018

26 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 26/18


Dear Mother

I have’nt the foggiest idea when mails go out up here, nor has anyone else I fancy, but as I have’nt written a line since I arrived to take over my new job I thought I’d do so now. I arrived just over a week ago after a rackety train journey & then 4 hours in a car, thanks to engine trouble & burst tyres. I did’nt get here till after 9 at night & the Brigade had quite given me up! Anyhow I arrived safely with all my goods & chattels, which after all is the main thing.

I have settled down more or less & am getting over the initial strangeness of things, though of course I find office work quite familiar after I have done so many years of it in the regiment as qr master & adjutant. My general, Genl Wauchope, is at present commanding the Division while the Divn General is away on leave, and a Col Wolff-Flanagan of the Royal West Kents is commanding the Bde temporarily- Buckle, Nance Swann’s brother in law who was killed early in the War, was in the R.W.K & Col W-F speaks very highly of him & knows Mrs Buckle well. I thought this might interest Paul & the Swann family generally. I like Col W.-F. very much, a charming man to work with- What with Col Keen on the Divl  staff, & Col W-F in the Brigade, I seem to be fairly moved up with Paul’s in-laws & their friends.

This brigade is the end of all things on this front. Beyond us is the desert and – presumably! – the Turk, but where heaven knows, except that it’s a very long way off- So life is fairly peaceful, though it promises to be strenuous when the colder weather sets in & training & possibly active operations begin- on the whole it is very pleasant even now, with cold nights necessitating a blanket, & one night I found I wanted 2.

The river here is a lovely clear sea-blue, beautifully clean & running over a sandy shingly bed. On our side there are cliffs 60 to 90 feet high, but not on the other, which is flat and runs straight off into the desert.  There is lots of grass & greenery round here, dried & burnt now after the summer, but I believe it is lovely in the late winter & early spring after rain, very like the higher reaches of the Euphrates where we went last March, lots of wild flowers, poppies & clover. But the river is the thing that delights me so; to see the lovely crystal-clear stream, blue as the Mediterranean, is a perfect joy after being on the banks of the same river lower down where it runs thick and dirty thanks to its muddy & silted-up bed.

Is’nt the news from France good & reassuring nowadays? I am so glad for all your sakes at home, after all the anxious times you had in March April and May. Has the turning point in our favour been reached I wonder? It seems almost safe to say so. In any case the news is the best we’ve had for many long weary months, and especially so coming so rapidly on the top of the depressing events of the earlier part of the year. Meanwhile things are at a standstill here – as usual! – except up the Caspian sea way, which I see Reuter refers to vaguely in his wires, so I presume it is permissible to mention it in our letters.

Rumour has it that the mails of London the latter ½ of June have been lost, but there is no confirmation of this yet. But it’s 3 weeks since we had a mail, & the next one is advertised to reach Bombay on 29th August. This they say has mails up to July 18th, & as our last letters from home are dated June 15th or so it seems that something has happened to the remaining June ones: as there is such a big gap-

A Turk’s ‘plane occasionally pays a visit, but has dropped no bombs so far. I shall be awful disappointed if the latter-half-of-June mails have been lost, as they wd contain Ben’s letters telling me of Nell’s stay with her, about which I have heard nothing yet. I’m afraid I put the poor child to a lot of worry and expense for nothing-

Have’nt seen or heard from Jim lately. He is on this line somewhere but someway back.

Love to all

yr loving son


Major Buckle DSO above Paul’s brother-in-law Charles Swan and Paul himself on the Sausthorpe village hall Roll of Honour

Died at Neuve Chapelle

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Posted by on 26 August, '18 in About


20 August 1918 – Richard to Gertrude

20 August


Dear Mother

Many thanks for your letter from the Isle of Wight. I do hope you had a good long time there & feel the better for the change. Poor Jim getting sand fly fever. Lots of it here too, but so far I think I have escaped. Tap wood. Arthur Morse must have been lucky not to have been wounded before. I wonder what his son & daughter are like. I remember his daughter quite well. Such a ripping little girl. I met her in Scotland about 10 years ago, & of course she must be quite grown up by now, and as tall as Arthur Morse I suppose. Give her my love when you write.

I cannot imagine what Janet Ryder must be like. I do wish I had gone to see the Morses when I was at home.

We’ve just had a convoy in & being registrar I have to receive them an’ all.

Did Ruth ever apply to go to Marseilles? I wrote and told her where to write to.

I’ve written to Evelyn this mail, I wonder if she has been to see you again.

Nancy’s brother is near here I hear. I must go over & see him tomorrow. I only heard yesterday he was in the offing & I’ve been wondering how we are related, & I have decided that we are no relation at all until Paul gets a baby, then we shall both be uncles to the same child, so must be related somehow.

A mail has come I believe, but my letters got to Alex first, so I have’nt got mine yet.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



Found my grey suit?


Nancy’s brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC of the 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade –

Sausthorpe roll of honour, immediately above Paul

MC award notice in Edinburgh Gazette, 29/6/15

Mentioned on pages 60 & 67 of The Rifle Brigade: A Memoir by Andrew Buxton (1918)

Search for information on forum by her daughter Clara

Nancy’s brother is 3rd from the left in this 1909 photograph:

Captain Somerville- Lt D Ovey - 2Lt C F T Swan - Lt T Baring - 3rd Bn RB -winners of the Officers' Challenege Cup and the Wellington Cup - Aldershot Command Rifle Meeting 1909

Captain Somerville- Lt D Ovey – 2Lt C F T Swan – Lt T Baring – 3rd Bn RB -winners of the Officers’ Challenege Cup and the Wellington Cup – Aldershot Command Rifle Meeting 1909

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Posted by on 20 August, '18 in About


18 August 1918 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother. Just got a letter from you dated July 8th. Very many thanks. That crop & glasses turned up the other day, but some of those letters have been lost I am sure. I never got Paul’s for instance, you remember he said he had sent me an important letter, & you forwarded it to Cox Alexandria. My eye-glasses must have been sunk I think. I hope you have had a nice time at Totland Bay with the Morses, and the rest has done you good. Fancy Willie Wessel having been at Cordwalles. I am so glad Ben likes the little dog.

I have’nt tried to get back to Marseilles yet, doubt if I can manage it. Mrs Tudor sent me those photographs. Very good are’nt they, I must write & thank her. I had some to be developed & sent them to Cairo ages ago but they have not sent them back yet. Don’t let old Gabb fool around too much with the spot on your nose, he may burn your whole nose off. Tell him you’d like to see a skin specialist & ask him to recommend one. I know a young man who is very good, F.C. Macdonough, I think he’s in Harley Street, but I am not sure of his initial. Go to him if it does’nt get better & say, I sent you. He knows me.

I met Eric & Stella at lunch one day before I left England. He is an ass to have married her, he told me he was actually married then! I am sorry for Mrs Henderson.

It’s still very hot here. I’ve written for some bulbs & flowers to grow in the sand here! & the figs are just getting ripe. I eat them all day, you know how fond I am of them, don’t you.

The war news seems very good nowadays. I hear one of the Rgt oficers has been taken prisoner and one wounded. Good thing I am out of it eh? I got Dreda’s & Jane’s letters. I shall be writing to them soon. I want Dreda to send me a referee.

I had that racquet I told you of restrung out here. 16/- it cost, very dear eh, but much cheaper than buying a new one. I wish I was home in this lovely weather. I shall never take leave again unless it’s summer time.

Best love to all

yr loving son



Can you pay Kings’ bill?


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Posted by on 18 August, '18 in About


16 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

August 16/18


Dear Mother

No more mails in yet & so far no news of any. I see some of ours of June & thereabouts have arrived home safely which is a good thing. I hope you got my wire about my new address, also my letter telling you all about my new appointment.

I have had a 3 days jaunt, sight-seeing. One Gibbon, a fellow-instructor here, and I have been round to all the local sights ancient and modern. The first day we went 60 miles along a railway in a motor trolley, which we wangled out of a pal in the railways, and then went by car over a most appallingly bumpy and dusty road for 18 miles or so to a place called Kufah* on the Euphrates. Here a pal of mine, by name Fisher, is political officer & we stayed with him. We had been travelling since 5.30 a.m. & reached his house about 3 am & so were very tired & hungry – not to say thirsty! – especially as it is August and none too cool as you may imagine, 110º in the shade about, & travelling in the back of a ford van with no hood over a bad road is no joke! However we had come out to enjoy ourselves & enjoy ourselves we meant to whatever happened.

Kufah is a really charming place. Built along the river bank it is nice & cool & refreshing, with green palms & willows everywhere, & green scrub & thorn all round. About 6 miles off, bang in the middle of the desert, is a place called Nejef, the 2nd most holy Mohamedan city in the world, the first of course being Mecca. Here the prophet Mahomet’s son Ali is buried, & his mosque is a magnificent affair with a dome of gold – real gold, thin plates of it fastened over a brick-work mold – Ali is supposed to have been wounded in battle at Kufah, & then crawled away to die, & there right out in the desert where he died they buried him & the city of Nejef rose round his tomb.

*rhymes with Loofah

It lies right out in the desert, absolutely alone, & the golden dome sticks up out of the drab-coloured mud houses and is visible for miles and miles round. It is a lovely sight, with the sun shining on it, as it does all day out here, and on the horizon it shows up as a pin-point of light in the middle of the bare brown parched desert.

Thousands and thousands of Mohamedans are buried here every year, & they bring their dead from hundreds of miles, from all parts of India & Persia.

At Kufah there is Jonah’s mosque, on the traditional site of the spot where the whale deposited him. In those days I suppose seas & lakes existed round about here and after all it is only a traditional spot. We saw all these places of course, & went round Kufah bazaar, the usual arab covered in affair, & the usual mixed crowd and smells, and funny pokey little shops. The river is most awfully pretty there, with islands & creeks, & any amount of willows. But the surrounding country is all a howling waste, and in time with irrigation & improved conditions large tracts of it will become cultivated land once more.

All this land teems with history of course, Biblical, classical, mythical, and romantic. On our way back yesterday we came part of the way by car, about 37 miles over awful roads again. En route we passed the reputed site of the Tower of Babel, a huge mound with a ruin on the top. The mound must be 200 or 300 feet high, & is composed of ruined masonry and cement sort of stuff, which all looks as if at one time it had been subjected to tremendous heat of some sort, a colossal fire or something like that. Considerable doubt exists as to whether it has any real claim to be Babel, but there it is & it is certainly the ruins of some big building and it is visible for miles and miles.

We then went to Hillah, the centre of a very fertile district & sometimes called the Granary of Mesopotamia. We are making tremendous improvements there, irrigating it & sowing acres of grain and in time it will be restored to its former prosperity no doubt. It is extraordinarily rich soil all round there and anything & everything will grow there, with remarkable rapidity, & 2 or 3 crops a year are possible. Irrigation & science will work wonders, for the water is there in the Euphrates, but millions & millions of tons of it runs to waste into the sea every year instead of being used to make this wonderful soil productive. But we are rapidly changing all that & already a big harvest has been reaped this first year.

Near Hillah are the ruins of Babylon. I know very little about them, it seems there are several cities buried one on top of the other, as successive conquerors destroyed the place & rebuilt it. The mounds under which all this ancient civilisation lies stretch for miles, but it is only in one place that any attempt at excavation has been made, by a Boche archeologist who was here for 17 years before the war.

There is not much to be seen but it is I think extraordinarily interesting, even to people like ourselves entirely ignorant of Babylonian history. As I say the ruins are all buried & a series of huge mounds of masonry & broken pottery marks the spot. To reveal the old buildings it has been necessary to dig down deep into the earth 30 or 40 feet in places, & doubtless there is lots more below. So far several walls & ruined buildings have been brought to light, in wonderful state of preservation too. Paved roads are visible in parts, & the shells of houses, showing windows & doors, with weeds & scrub growing all over them. In one place they unearthed a remarkable well-preserved granite statue of a lion, which has been mounted on a pedestal in the midst of the ruins.

It is believed that there were 50 of these, covered in precious stones, lining each side of a triumphal road in the old days, but no trace of this has yet been unearthed. Then there are some extraordinary mural decorations on the walls of an old triumphal gate. Weird beasts & horses in bas relief, about ¼ – ½ life size, not carved in one piece of stone, but a little bit of each picture on each separate brick, so that they have to be buiilt into the wall like a puzzle; it must have been tricky work building those walls!

Beyond those few odds & ends there is nothing for the casual visitor to see, though doubtless there is enough material there to keep the world’s archeologists busy for centuries. But I thought it was all very impressive, & one could’nt help thinking & wondering what Nebuchadnezzar & his court and all the millions of inhabitants were doing 3000 years ago on the very spot where we stood yesterday-

We came back by motor trolley & reached home at 9.30 a.m. thoroughly tired & weary. Not a bad day the last one, Nejef, Jonah’s mosque, Ezekiel’s tomb, Babel, Babylon & Baghdad – for we saw all of these in the course of the day – a grand round tour with a vengeance. I forgot to mention Ezekiel’s tomb, it is at a place called Kifl*, one of the places we passed both on our journey out & home. Of course it was a rush, & we had a lot to see, but we did it in true American style; there was no other way to do it in the time at our disposal. But I thought I could’nt leave the country without seing Babylon & Babel at one’s front door so to speak – & one might’nt get another chance. I go to join my new brigade tomorrow. I’m still tired after my strenuous days!

Best love to all

yr loving son


I took some photos of Babylon   I hope to send some along some time, if they ever come out

*rhymes with ‘piffle’

Site of the Imam Ali foundation

Archaeology projects in Iraq (map locations lead to photos)

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Posted by on 16 August, '18 in About


11 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Dear Mother

Just a line to confirm my wire which I hope you got & understood to say I have been given a staff job. Brigade Major 34th Bde. I’m delighted with the appointment, as a Brigade Majorship is undoubtedly a good job, & I am lucky to get one first go off so to speak. I applied for staff employ 3 or 4 months ago, on the advice of Genl Brooking, & others, and after all, after dropping from C.O. to a company commander where I had the same work & responsibility as officers of 2 or 3 years’ service, I thought it better all round to try & improve my prospects in the service. You see I’ve got somebody else to think of now!

It is a splendid job, & you will find most staff officers who have gone on to higher appointments look back on their days as brigade major as the best. I must explain what it is. A Brigade (Infantry) is as you know commanded by a Brigadier general, who has two staff officers under him, a Bde-Major & a staff Captain. The B.M does all operations training & fighting, & the S-C all the administrative & disciplinary work of the Brigade, so obviously B-M is more interesting & it is the senior job of the two. My general is one Wauchope, a charming man & a very good soldier & a glutton for work. So I am indeed lucky to serve under him. I knew him in Amara last year, so I’m not quite in such a funk as I might be.

Of course it’s only a job, I am not leaving the regiment for good; normally a staff billet lasts 4 years, but one can’t tell nowadays. It may lead to other & better jobs later on, that remains to be seen. In any case rest assured I am mighty pleased with the appointment. I am sorry to leave the rgt: in many ways, having been so long with them & all through the war so far with them. But there are wider views to take & broader issues to consider; & after all my little experience & knowledge – if I may say so – stand more chance of use & development in my new job than in the comparatively narrow confines of a battalion.

My address will be

Major ERPB




So cease sending c/o Cox, & don’t put the regiment now; just as I have written it above is correct.

The 3rd course at the school here finished yesterday, & I am not sorry. I have had valuable & interesting experience here, & have met a lot of good fellows, & I do not in the least regret my stay here; far from it, it has been most useful & I have benefitted a great deal from it I know. But in my heart of hearts I don’t care for “school mastering” & I’ve just been here long enough to escape boredom: I go to my new job with pleasure.

I have got a week’s leave, & I am going down to Hillah to stay with a pal. The ruins of Babylon are there, & the tower of Babel, & Ezekiel’s tomb, & a host of other “sights”, so I should have an interesting – if rather hot – time. The average temperature of July was 109, & it’s been about that all along, hot, but not too bad. This is only a scribble to let you know my movements. My new Brigade is on the same “front” as Jim’s rgt, but not the same division: but we shan’t be very far off each other & I expect we shall meet.

Best love to all   yr loving son


Actually 34th Indian, part of 15th Indian Division

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Posted by on 11 August, '18 in About


7 August 1918 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother       Cannot wangle this exchange so I shall be going on some old time I expect. Not yet awhile. Don’t write here anymore anyhow. I shall be able to pick up the other letters later on. Getting hotter here every day. I must go & call for some more letters , I expect there are some

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 7 August, '18 in About


6 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 6/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 3 letters from you today, forwarded from Cox, dated 5, 12, & 19th June. I have only had one letter from Nell this mail, & there seem to be a lot missing, I suppose that’s bound to happen with letters going via Cox, but they generally all turn up in the end.

Not much news here. It seems cooler than it was, though the last month has been rather warm, round about 116° or so in the shade [47° C] & hot muggy nights. I have been buying winter tunics etc, in lots of time this time, as I’m determined not to be caught like I was last time & have to spend the winter in khaki drill. I have had to have some slight alterations made too, as I am on the thin side just at present, what with the hot weather an’ all; I weighed 10 st 3 lbs on Sunday last! & I ought to be 11.7; but I shall get it all back in the winter I expect. But I had to put on woolly waistcoats etc to try on these coats, can you imagine it in the heat!

This is the last week of the class thank goodneess, it has been fairly strenuous & I shan’t be sorry when it’s over. In your letter of June 4th you were saying what ages there had been since you last heard from me. I know; it was the K. Baghdadi show that caused all the delay, we were such miles up the river & then floods & bad roads made things harder, & all this caused the delay. You speak of Nell again having been staying with Ben, & how you tried to get her down again for a week end. I wish she had been able to do so.

c I certainly think I stand a good chance next spring, but I’m not going to be so foolish as to say so or to count on it in the least.

Meanwhile with the cold weather coming on out here, and the fighting season with it, I feel it my duty to stay on & see that through. So I am making no further efforts at getting leave at present. I have no compunction in trying to dodge the hot weather! So I shall begin to worry them again after Christmas.

How awfully good Ben was to Nell, I can never thank her enough, & Nell was most enthusiastic about her visit an’ all. You have all been most awfully good to the dear child, & I know she is being well looked after. I have’nt had a line from Ben yet, but I’m longing to get one. I expect she’s been too busy, getting into her new house, which sounds fascinating. I am so glad too Topher has started on his way for a commission, & think the A.S.C should do him well.

In your letter of June 11 you had got my long delayed mails at last, 3 or 4 letters together, written at odd times & places during that fighting. Yes, they were hard & exciting times, and one feels one is really doing something on those rare occasions out here when we meet the Turk. I’m so glad the photographs turned up O.K., I was rather doubtful as to what would happen to them, as I posted them one night at Hit, where everyone seemed to be in everyone else’s way, on the eve of the advance, & a general muddle all round! However in their usual wonderful way they seem to have reached you safely. Yes, I wore the old woolly a good deal last winter, it was positively the only warm thing I had.

You say you had heard from Jim & that he said he had ‘found me’, I suppose he means by wire, as I did’nt actually meet him till May I think. Rations seem to be more liberal at home now, especially bacon & ham; I see Germany is starting meatless weeks. I wonder if Dick ever managed to wangle that exchange, but I fancy it’s difficult for any one on the Indian establishment to stay in France nowadays.

Many thanks for Ben’s new address: I will try & write to her there this mail. I wonder how Desmond Gabb is managing to get home. Everyone except me it seems!

No more just now. I hope to get some more mail in yet, especially from Nell & Ben.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Did Topher ever get any money from me? I told Cox to send him some, & I was wondering if he ever got it, as I never heard.

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Posted by on 6 August, '18 in About