Monthly Archives: December 2018

Happy new year


This is the last Christmas and New Year that I will spend with my Berryman ancestors, reading their letters, adding photographs and links, selecting a couple of hundred characters to tweet.

We have about 45 letters to go as the Berrymans ease into peace: some from Ted as he tries to get home to marry Nell, a few from Topher as he waits to be demobbed, and some from Paul in the late 1920s which suggest General Swan was right to be cautious entrusting him with Nancy’s happiness.

I will miss them. It’s not given to us to know our grandparents as peers, and working with these letters has enabled me to get to know my grandparents and their siblings as young men and women.

One thing I have learned from Ted’s time in Mesopotamia (Iraq) is that the decisions made by politicians cascade down the centuries. There is a straight line, drawn by Sykes and Picot, from the end of WW1 to the terrorists we are dealing with now and the wars they have involved us in. So…. Brexit. There are many opinions on Brexit, but the perspective of these letters makes it clear that our children will be living with the consequences – whatever they are – for centuries. And that in the words of the RAF, poor planning makes for piss poor performance. We have elected politicians on all sides who play games as if they have no consequences when their actions are very consequential indeed.

On the domestic level, may I share a picture I found last year showing me as an infant, locking eyes with Ted as an elderly man and doting grandfather, while my sister looks on. I did not know if any picture existed showing the two of us together and as the project progressed it became more and more important for me to find one. This gives me a deep and warm delight.

Let me wish you and everyone you love the happiness and safety in 2019 that Ted and his brothers fought for 100 years ago.

Ted holding me as an infant, while my sister looks on.
Ted, holding me as an infant while my sister looks on.

Posted by on 31 December, '18 in About


31 December 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Indian Comforts for the Troops Fund.

Recreation Hut.

Dec 31/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 3 letters from you, dated 22nd Oct Nov 5th & 18th. So they did wire home officially about me. I was so afraid they might & yet I hoped so much they would’nt. I’m so awfully sorry to have given you such a shock, just when everything seemed so safe and certain too. By now you will have got my letters telling you all about the show, but I’m glad the India Office got news of my being only slightly hit. It was nothing really, only some shell splinters & they only caused a little inconvenience for a day or two-

Of course the letters we have been getting from home lately have been gorgeous, so happy & optimistic, and now we have your ‘peace’ letters, written after Nov 11th. Many thanks for the Evening Standard of the 11th, I expect all the morning papers next day quite lost their heads with excitement. Well, there was a good excuse for them at anyrate. I see they are resuming a weekly mail steamer home from Bombay now, & letters will travel by the normal Marseilles route, so you may get a regular mail now. It does’nt seem to matter much when we post out here still.

So glad my Babylon letters arrived safely. Yes, it was an awfully interesting trip, & I’m glad I went though it was frightfully hot and a great rush. I have’nt been able to get any more prints of Babylon done yet, but I hope to someday & will send them along to you-

Nell was delighted with the scarf you sent her on her 21st birthday, it was most awfully good of you to send her such a ripping present. And what a lovely present Peace was was’nt it! She was tremendously pleased too with all the things the rest of the family sent, how awfully good you all were to the dear child: thanks so much. She of course is tremendously pleased about peace, but is keeping her head splendidly, & does not expect me to come “clattering home”  -as Ben calls it! at once. But I certainly do hope to manage to put a few weeks in at home during 1919-

Many thanks for sending along Ben’s new address. I had a short line from her last mail- We got 2 mails in two days! One belated mail of mid-October that was very much overdue, & 2 days later one of mid-November which took about the normal time to arrive-

What a lovely parcel you sent me at Christmas, ever so many thanks for it. The things were all most welcome & a great change in the usual mess diet. The Bath oliver biscuits were much appreciated, but everything was tremendously acceptable. I am to thank you in the name of the Brigade mess-

We had a great day out shooting yesterday & got 50 black partridge & one or two other odds & ends like quail & pigeon. They are lovely days those – an early start & we generally cross the Tigris in pontoons – great fun- & shoot from about 9 till 1 – then lunch in the open, & very hungry we are too- Shoot again from 2 till 4, row back home, tea, bath & change, & then a slack till dinner. It’s such lovely weather, cold brisk days & champagne air as good as anywhere in the world. One gets gorgeously tired after a long day like that, for it’s hard work trampling over scrub & plough- But alas! Such days are few & far between, but all the more enjoyable when they do come-

Today was the first day of the Babylonian Race meeting, as they have styled the Tekrit Races – quite good fun, & some quite exciting races- I came off the course 10/- to the good, so did’nt do so badly. Immensely proud of myself because I chose my horses which I thought likely winners when they were on show in the paddock. A bit of a judge of horseflesh I think! There is another day’s racing day after tomorrow, & things are very cheery as one meets so many fellows, because people crowd in from all parts to these meetings. This one is awfully well run, nice railed off paddocks & rails, a grandstand made of sandbags (no fear of that collapsing anyhow!) and all the paraphernalia of a real race course.

I love all the crowd & noise & excitement & ripping horses all nicely groomed & prancing about & the jockeys in their bright colours- shocking is’nt it! But it is fascinating all the same to watch, though I don’t as a rule care for your racing man. Anyhow I’ve promised to take Nell to the 1919 Derby; remember how we boys used to go with the Drews in the days of old?

It has been blowy & cold today, with a little rain, & I think we are in for some more rain- My bath is ready so I must stop- Best love to all & all good things in 1919 for all at Delaford, & may I be there to share some of them!

So sorry about the wire re me: but, as I told Nell, you’ve had your 3 shocks (they generally come in 3’s) about me, my voyage out & its excitements, my Amara foolishness in going to hospital, & now this latest little matter – so let’s hope the next Cable will contain far more acceptable news!

Yr loving son


I played cricket on boxing day & made 7 & 0! Have’nt touched a bat for 6 or 7 years, but I am awful glad to get a game, as you know I am rather fond of it- I hope to get some more games soon- Christmas passed off quietly enough here





Christmas Card from 34th BRIGADE MESOPOTAMIA

a bit late I’m afraid



(card showing British residency Baghdad & map)

You will recognise lots of places on this map

I expect. I’m close to Tekrit now, but heaven

knows where we will be when you get this-

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Posted by on 31 December, '18 in About


24 December 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Indian Comforts for the Troops Fund.

Recreation Hut


Dec 24/18

Dear Mother       The missing mail turned up yesterday- I think I told you we had got letters up to the middle of October, then there was a gap and the next ones were about the 28 Oct- But now the middle lot have arrived safely, they somehow got put on board a later steamer- I had a letter from you yesterday dated 22 Oct. Many thanks for it. You had got letters from me of August 6th 11th & 16th, what a lot I seem to have wrtten about then! But I had lots to say it seems as I had just been on that Babylon trip & was on my way up here too. Yes, I was only 10st 3 at the end of last hot weather, but I’ve got all my weight back now & am feeling most awfully fit (tap wood!)

Still very mild weather here, no frost to speak of yet, but last year at this time we were having it bitterly cold. It’s very raw & cloudy today & I’m sure it’s going to rain all tomorrow, so jolly for Christmas! We are’nt doing much for Christmas, I suppose the general & I will go round the men’s Dinners, & make a few seasonable remarks, but otherwise I don’t think there’s much on. I do hope the rain keeps off.

I have been rather busy lately, I don’t know exactly what about, but I seem to have a good deal of work to do. Several lucky officers & men have already gone home, as they are specially required for demobilization purposes, a few seem to be sent for almost daily.

I see Wilson has been having great receptions in Paris & rightly too. We are fortunate having such a strong & far-seeing man to act as sort of dictator to the world. Would you believe it, here we are on Christmas Eve & we have’nt heard one single word about the election results yet! We presume Lloyd George & his coalitionists have got in alright, but people are beginning to wonder now what has really happened-

I had a line from Topher yesterday in Egypt: he seemed very cheery & had been to Jerusalem on leave, which sounds really rather comic somehow! We are rather badly hit by Spanish flu, & had one Indian regiment so reduced in numbers that it was left behind in these last operations & had to come on later. Our British troops all had it too, & it ran through the regiments like wild fire once it got a good hold. I think I had a slight touch after I had been scratched by those shell splinters, & I think that gingered things up a bit, anyhow I felt rotten for 2 or 3 days, & had fever at night.

It’s just got much cloudier & colder and it looks very black all round. It’s miserable weather for camp life, but up till today it’s been really wonderful, cold but sunny & mild, ideal weather in fact, & you can wear a small hat all day- We had a very good day’s shooting on Sunday, & got 47 partridges, some of which we are having tomorrow, as we could’nt get a Turkey or a goose.

Our big parade went off  very well and the aeroplane “flew past” General Cobbe, a most novel performance. Afterwards they gave a display of dives & loops and wonderful things, really most thrilling to watch. It was a colossal parade, miles & miles of troops it seemed, horse, foot, & guns, & big tractor caterpillar engines drawing the guns. We had no tanks, as there are’nt any out here, but it was a good show of modern arms taking it all round.

I wonder if you ever retrieved that watch from Aunt Edward’s executors? You said in one of your letters you were going to try & get it next time you went to town. So glad Jinny got over her flu alright. It has been bad has’nt it everywhere, & I see in S- Africa the insurance companies have paid out more over that than over war casualties. I can’t quite connect Geraldine Kelway and sanitation somehow (sounds as if I thought she was insanitary!) but I mean I thought a sanitary inspector’s job would hardly suit a pretty girl like that. I always connected it with very dull & uninteresting men.

Mail goes out tomorrow, so they say, & I must scribble a line to Nell. Best love to all

yr loving son


Article referencing the Indian soldiers’ Comfort Fund

Geraldine of the Langport Kelways, after whom a peony is named


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Posted by on 24 December, '18 in About


18 December 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 18/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for several letters which have arrived from you, one which was dated Oct 16, & which you thought would’nt catch the post but somehow did, though some bright person had scratched out “34th Inf Bde” & put “not known here”! I suppose it got into a Salonika bag or something & there is no 34th Bde there presumably. Anyhow it turned up quite safely. You have the address absolutely right now: I often wonder if M.E.F. is enough or if it’s better to put it out in full. But it seems sufficient-

I got 2 letters from you 3 days ago, one dated 16th Oct again & one of Oct 30th– all letters between these two dates- at any rate from 18th-28th Oct – are missing so far, no one has got any of them, but I imagine they will turn up eventually- I got long letters from Ben & Rosamond this mail, & I owe Jane & Dreda letters too, but I seem to have been so busy lately that I have’nt had much time-

We have had a lot of rain these last few days, & it rained hard all last night. We have rather a good camp here from that point of view, as it dries very quickly and is not muddy. & certainly this rain keeps the dust down. We have only just touched freezing point once so far, & the winter this year has up till now not been anything like so severe as it was when we were up at Ramadi this time last year- Perhaps we’ve got a cold January in store for us.

I am writing this before getting up, as the post goes out at 8, supposed to be an English mail, but I doubt if that really matters very much yet. What about these big aeroplanes cruising about the world now? I did’nt see the one that flew from Cairo to Damascus & then on to Baghdad- A wonderful flight was’nt it- And they say London to Calcutta in 4 days, for the mails, & it can’t be a very far cry from that to passenger carrying. The war has certainly advanced flying beyond all knowledge-

We have not yet heard the election results! And polling day was on Saturday & this is Wednesday! It seems pretty certain that Lloyd George will get in, but we are all wondering with what majority, and how many labour candidates got in and all sorts of things like that. So far Reuter has told us very little, but it seems all the women voted eagerly under the new electoral scheme, many more women than men voted it seems. Also election day seems to have passed off very quietly, it was received almost with apathy, Reuter tells us- P’raps he’ll have something to say this morning-

I don’t seem to have got on with answering your letters much, I’ll tackle them another day- one or two officers have been granted leave home, but only on very urgent grounds- In any case I’d prefer to wait till April or May before starting so as to dodge the hot weather. But so far there is not even a rumour as to what leave will be granted. But one likes to think they will be generous- However, expect me when you see me, & not a minute before- I’m making no rash promises this time!

Must get up & also send this to the post.

Best love to all

yr loving son


1918 had worst GE turnout for at least the next 97 years, 57%.

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Posted by on 18 December, '18 in About


8 December 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 8/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 3 letters from you which I got 3 days ago- They were dated Sept 30, Oct 1st & 9th. You seemed perturbed about the way you had been addressing my letters, about putting the rgt’s name in. I don’t think that matters much though, but it’s better to leave it out. By now of course you will have started addressing me correct, as I hope my letters of last August with the correct address in have arrived safely. The only fly in the ointment now is “Brigade Major ERPB” which still appears, but I have no doubt that will go next mail I get. The main thing is that the letters are arriving safely so nothing else much matters.

We are having cold raw November days now with a good deal of rain. A good opportunity to wear my trench coat, which is the envy of all beholders. We were going to have that big parade I told you of, but rain put that off and it’s taking place next week some time.

No news as to our movements or chances of leave or anything. Even Rumour is silent once more, after being particularly active and unreliable a few days ago. I got a lot of Nell yesterday; she still goes the whole hog, Brigade-Major, the rgt, c/o Cox, Bombay and 34th Bde! so the poor post people must get a bit bewildered at times. However hers always arrive eventually, so it does’nt really matter.

One of your letters had a ripping little calendar in it; thanks awfully, and another a little card with a calendar on it, both most useful and acceptable. Thanks too for sending a few good things to eat as you say you have done: I’m sure we shall thoroughly enjoy them. How hard things seem to get: Nell said the same about some things she tried to get me in Cheltenham.

What awful nuisances these railway strikes at home are- I see the railways have all been nationalised now & yet they are still striking. I suppose there will be no competition on lines now with the government taking them all over, so train services will be a bit different & probably not as convenient-

The war news at the time you wrote was indeed wonderful, especially the triumph in Palestine- But no one in their wildest dreams seem to have dared to put the end of the war bare 6 weeks after that! You all talked of “this ought to make the war end next year” (& so did we!) & all the time Germany was cracking & toppling over with incredible rapidity. How awfully interesting your next lot of letters will be, & the next after that containing the incredible series of events beginning with Turkey’s capitulation on Oct 30th, & ending 11 days later with that of Germany. I’m longing for those mails to come along-

I see all home letters are stamped with “Feed the Guns” & encouraging  to buy war bonds, & really we seem to be raising an extraordinary amount every week. The world’s casualties in the war make dismal reading don’t they- And yet a nation that can make the sacrifices we have in the cause of right has something to be proud of – and so have the allies too. What wonders the French did, & how marvellously they hung on till the end-

I see the world at large seems to demand the trial of the Kaiser & the Crown prince, & of all the generals who sanctioned atrocities & brutal treatment of prisoners. And quite right too I think, if they escape the vengeance of their own countrymen, who seem to be in a chaotic state just at present. It looks as if there would be a revolution in Germany soon, as no order seems to have been established yet, & there’s no stable government to make peace with-

And what terrible things are going on in Russia, far far worse it seems than the French revolution at its height. Truly the world is all at sixes & sevens for the present, but at least we can look forward to permanent & lasting good coming out of it all- Such upheavals are always followed by long periods of world peace & world prosperity- Tennyson was wonderfully right was’nt he, “the old order changeth, yieldeth place to new”. It’s just got to be, & things will adjust themselves in time. But for the present generation it is far from a peaceful existence.

I got the Academy pictures alright: nothing very striking I thought, the one picture everyone commented on – that Tube scene during a raid – is not in the book! There are one or two splendid portraits I think, especially those by John Lavery: of course one does’nt know if they are like the originals, but they look so awful natural.

Yes Jack Fielding was home about the middle of October, I suppose he just got out in time to be in at the death on Nov 11th.

Please don’t worry about the address, it’s perfectly alright & as I say, as long as I get the letters it does’nt much matter.

Ugh, it is cold & raw today, & there’s more rain about I’m thinking. I wonder what’s happened to Jim, I have’nt heard of or from him since he left last week. Letters take a huge long time to arrive anyhow so I expect I’ll hear in a day or two-

Best love to all

Yr loving son


I sent you a little packet of pictures of Mesopotamia yesterday. They are’nt bad, best by artificial light I think. I like the mosque ones best, & the ones of Hit & Feluya.

Walter Bayes’ The Underworld (Tube painting)

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Posted by on 8 December, '18 in About


2 December 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 2/18


Dear Mother

No more mails in since I last wrote, but they say there’s one coming up on the 6th, I hope so anyhow. Since I last wrote we have moved further down the line & are back nearer comparative civilisation again- We are in camp near Tekrit, but I don’t know how long we shall be here- Gorgeous weather now, lovely warm days but quite a cold feeling in the air & nice & chilly at night. We have’nt had any frost yet, though this time last year we had some by this time-

I had Jim to stay a day & a night last week. After many wires (he got most of his after he had met me!) we eventually met at railhead, in fact we arrived there from two different directions at precisely the same time- He as you know of course was on his way to Salonica- He arrived about 10 one day & went about 10 the next. I was most awful pleased to see him looking frightfully fit & well, & full of his experiences in the last show up the Tigris.

We had some good old talks & hoots about everything & generally swapped lies about things in general- I was so glad one of the family has had a chance to meet my present mess-mates- I wish he could have stayed longer, but he had a party of men with him so I don’t quite know how he managed to wangle even a day off! He said I was looking very well, & certainly I am very well, now the reasonable weather has started and we shall be able to live sensibly for a bit.

We are back in the same old camp which we were in before the scrapping the other day. The flies are simply awful, & nearly send one crazy; they crowd round one at meals in an indescribably horrible fashion, literally in millions. I wish a snap of frost would come along and kill ’em off. And to think that one was brought up & taught not to hurt a fly or even kill one!

We are still all ignorant of our fate, but I suppose we can expect nothing definite to be decided just at present- Everyone of course is asking about leave & chances of getting home, and the whole place is a mass of the most impossible rumours. We had some good days’ shooting last week in our last camp, 30 & 50 partridges & suchlike! Ripping it was, & I hope we get some more nice days here. At present we are busy polishing up & practising for a ceremonial parade in a day or two, when the corps commander is presenting some awards given for this last fighting we’ve had-

Jim had his first potatoe for months with us the other night! We had only had them the first time for 6 months the previous day- We gave him a great feed of partridge & mashed potatoes which I think he will remember for many days!

A mail is supposed to go out today for home, but I really don’t know if it will catch anything special. Wonder when they’ll start regular mails from home again.

Best love to all

yr loving son


It took Jim a long time to become a soldier and it is good to see he finally settled to it. He joined up in September 1914, but didn’t see action until 1918. He didn’t settle well to soldiering, to the point where one senior officer in 1915 asked to have him removed from his command. 

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Posted by on 2 December, '18 in About