Monthly Archives: March 2019

28 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

Colaba War Hosp


28th March 19


Dear Mother

I posted a letter to you at Karachi I think, or was it here I wonder? Anyhow we arrived here on the 24th & are now installed in this hospital. Colaba is a sort of suburb of Bombay, about 4 miles out, on a tongue of land jutting out into the sea, so it gets a good breeze from both sides.

The hospital was formerly the ordinary military hospital for troops in the Bombay area, & of course during the war has always been full: though now it is fairly empty. There are about 50 of us here, & I know several of the other patients. We are very comfortable, but this is a much stricter hospital than any of the others I have been in & very military altogether! I think I am much the same as I was, nothing definitely wrong you know, but just run down & a bit war-worn. I don’t know what they will do to me, but some day I shall come up before a board and they will decide. It’s very hot & steamy here, just the sort of weather I loathe! So I hope they won’t keep me long.

We are allowed out into Bombay, & I have been in twice: Yesterday I went to tea with the Australian Sisters of the “Varela”, in their shore quarters down at the docks, very nice- But the doctors here say I am not to take too much walking exercise, which seems rather silly, but I suppose they know best. However there are lots of taxis to be had so that’s all right. I have been to one or two clubs in Bombay & met heaps of fellows I know,  mostly on their way home on leave or demobilisation.

There was a mail in yesterday, & I have tried to stop my letters going on to M.E.F. so perhaps I may get some today. I told you, I think, that I had’nt cabled, as really private cables are not worth the money, they take I’m told as long as a letter, as there is so much government work to be got through, & a great many of the lines are interrupted. I wonder if they’ve informed you officially of my admission to hospital & if so I hope they have not sent any very alarming wires.

Jellicoe’s ship, the New Zealand, is here just at present, & he himself came back from a trip up-country yesterday. They go to Karachi today & then come back here again. I must try & get aboard for a look round if I’m still here. People are simply flocking home to England, & every ship is full of women & children I believe and passage rates are exorbitant, though I think they are reducing them a bit now- I am sending you a ‘Basrah Times’ (Topher & Dick seem to be sending you Egyptian Gazettes so I thought I would too!) but this one has the extra interest of having a word to say about us at Ramadi, so I thought you might like it for your book-

Is’nt this wretched paper, it’s like writing on blotting paper. Nell writes long letters from Delaford, & obviously enjoyed herself tremendously. I wonder if Jim & Topher have arrived home yet; & Murray too. Despite labour troubles & strikes & difficulties of travel the one word ‘home’ seems to be on everyone’s lips!  What ever disillusionment- if any- awaits them there, the fact remains that nearly everyone wants to go there.

Being in hospital certainly has its advantages, one meets so many fellows from all sorts of odd corners. I have had most awfully interesting talks with a man who has been buying mules in China most of the war, being unfit for service owing to a jab in the tummy from a Prussian lance at the Marne in ’14: & while in China he was hung by some brigands but cut down just in time when they searched his pockets & found an Imperial passport or something which frightened them out of their lives. Fellows from Persia, where all sorts of things have been going on that have never reached the papers: & one man from there who was alone in a fort miles from anywhere with a man called Cumming, who shared a room with me at Sandhurst. He died of influenza there, poor chap, & this other fellow tells me he burnt his body & brought the ashes back 150 miles for burial, as the Persians would have desecrated any grave in those wild parts.

In fact you can get thrilling stories almost every 5 minutes of the day – and I don’t think they are liars, as they only speak under compulsion & with much questioning. There is one Gardner too here, who was on the ‘Persia’ with me; I have met nearly all of the officer survivors now in my wanderings, all except 2 in fact-

I must write to Ben & Nell sometime today. I am going out to tea at the Yacht Club this afternoon, it’s the star-turn club of Bombay & all the best people belong to it. One day I must overhaul my Kit which I left at Cox’s when I first went to Mesopotamia. I don’t suppose 2 years in this damp Bombay heat has done it any good.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 28 March, '19 in About


23 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

S.S. Varela                    March 23/19       Sunday


Dear Mother

We reach Bombay tomorrow, & go into hospital at Colába, a sort of suburb as it were of Bombay. There, I’m told, I come before a medical board, who decide what’s to be done with me- We left Basra last Monday, & reached Bushire in the Persian Gulf next morning, & stayed there all day, embarking patients & supplying the force there with a barge load – 600 tons – of fresh water: as there is no fresh water at Bushire & their own condensing plant was temporarily broken down (awful writing, but the ship is rolling & very shaky!) We reached Karachi yesterday, & stayed there a few hours. I met Nepean, of the 5th Gurkhas, you know, he knows Miss Loder(?) Ruth’s friend & was nursed by her I fancy in London- His regiment was disembarking on return from Mesopotamia.

We left again at midday & are now rolling about on the high seas again. I always associate Karachi with our embarkation there in Sept 1914, when it was fearfully hot, & Ben was there too, in the “Dilwara”; I don’t think she will ever forget it! It’s been quite a nice voyage, not too rough, & I think it’s done me good, though I don’t feel quite up to form yet.

An Indian patient fell over board today, so we had a little excitement. He was very difficult to see – such a tiny speck in a huge expanse of water – but we turned round at once & went back on our tracks, lowered a boat & he was back on board 20 minutes after falling in, really quite a smart piece of work. He swam vigorously all the time – he was in the water about ¼ hour I suppose- & missed the lifebuoy which was thrown to him; but seems none the worse now. Hardly the thing to do is it, to fall overboard if you’re being invalided to India! It’s the first time I’ve known it happen on a voyage, & it was quite exciting while it lasted-

I’ll post this at Bombay tomorrow. But I’m afraid it’s missed the mail, if it still goes out on Saturday as it used to. I’ll have to use stamps again now! I’ll write again as soon as I know my fate

Best love to all             yr loving son



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Posted by on 23 March, '19 in About


16 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

March 16/19


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter from you today dated 12th Feb, only just a month ago; splendid is’nt it. I also had 5 letters from Nell, all written while the dear child was staying at Delaford. How awfully good to her you all were, & ever so many thanks for it all. She thoroughly enjoyed herself & loved being with you – and she appreciated so tremendously the little things you gave her, that purple & white shawl, & that stool with “Teddie” on it (in daisies is’nt it?) I know it so well. She writes ripping letters about her visit, & let’s hope I’ll be there next time.

How cold you have been, frost an’ all, and skating. Here it has been, as I’ve told you I expect, very mild all the winter. It is lovely just now, & just perfect on the banks of the river here. The orange blossom is just coming out & the air is quite heavy with the smell of it. They got a lovely crop of oranges here, & we have lovely home-made marmalade for breakfast every day. You can see all the trees in front of the building in this photograph-

Mr Robbins been to see you! Talk about raking up the past! And now you mention Michael I remember him being born & called after the church was’nt he? or rather after the Saint, via the church, would probably be more accurate. I wonder if he’s had any more news of him.

So you’ve got on to Jim at last, & you say you think he might have been home in a fortnight after writing your letter. Perhaps by this time he has come & gone again. It seems I’ll be the last to get home, if Topher gets home in April- Dick & I came out here more or less the same time in ’15 did’nt we, but he’s been back since of course, so I think it’s really time I came back for a bit-

Yes, England seems a sorry place at the moment, strikes an’ all, & I’m sure we never get one quarter of the news in the papers. One hears stories of street fighting, complete with casualties, in Glasgow, & various other disturbances everywhere. But let’s hope it’s only the work of a few scatterbrained agitators, & that soon the British workman – a good fellow at heart, I firmly believe, but easily led by attractive impossibilities & a glib tongue- will settle down to his normal life. I hope too he gets better housing & possibly shorter hours.

The relief from war-strain must be so great, that the masses – with their lesser education and new-found pocket money – naturally suffer from a strong reaction, & I don’t think there’s any fear of Bolshevism at home.  I may be quite wrong, as one gets so out of touch with things, & the papers hide the truth so & serve up strike pills in such liberal helpings of jam that it’s very hard to arrive at the real truth. Whatever it is, & however long it lasts, it must indeed be very inconvenient for you all-

How you made me laugh about Nell’s ration book being left at Tyler’s! She’s always leaving things about, remember she lost a bag in a train or taxi one day in London with me! I must come home & look after her, I can see that-

Sorry to hear old Drew has got so old. He’s certainly not spared himself in the war, & he’s had a good many anxieties I expect, so I’m afraid it’s inevitable that he should have aged a bit.

It’s lovely here on the river front, sitting in the shade of the orange trees, with lovely flowers all round, sweet peas, cornflowers, & great tall hollyhocks. And we can watch the big ships go by, coming up the river empty & going down a day or two later with cheering crowds of demobilized Tommies aboard. And the river is full of fussy little motor-boats too, containing joy-riders mostly I fancy but they make the scene a lively one.

Well, I start for India tomorrow, in the hospital ship VARELA- We get to Bombay in about 6 days I think, & then go into hospital there, & there we are “boarded” & they decide what to do with us, sick-leave, or back to duty, or whatever it is. I am, I hope, saying goodbye to Mesopotamia, at anyrate for the summer. Being invalided out of the country means, I suppose, that I lose my job. I’m sorry in a way, but it is made easier by the fact that the whole brigade is now – all the regiments whom we fought with in that last show have gone back to India, & all my friends have left.

And on the whole I want to get back to the regiment. I think I’ve been long enough away. I should like to get home for a bit this summer, & then bring Nell out to Lansdowne to a nice peaceful existence after the strenuous life of the last few years- But “Man proposes” etc, & I’m too old a plaything of Fate to make anything in the way of elaborate plans as far ahead as this.

So don’t expect a letter from me yet awhile, as these moves always interfere with one’s posts a bit. Write in future c/o Cox Bombay. I expect you will get a W.O. or I.O. wire saying I’ve been invalided; I’m not cabling as it takes nearly as long as a letter for a cable to reach home. I’m feeling alright, but not very strong, but am much better all round & only want a good rest to put me right.  I simply could’nt stand another hot weather here. There goes the tea gong – it’s like boardship life here, we live from meal to meal!

Best love to all

yr loving son



Goodbye Mesopotamia!!

Varela (half-way down)

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Posted by on 16 March, '19 in About


3 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

March 12/19

Beit Nama



Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 2 letters from you which I got yesterday, dated 29th Jan & 5th Feb- We got 2 mails quite close together, & another is expected shortly I think. I had heaps of letters from Nell, & lots of papers from you, for all of which many thanks.

I arrived here about 5 days ago- It is an officers’ hospital and convalescent home & there is room for 200 officers here, & it was generally pretty full when a large force was maintained out here, but now there are only about 30 of us here. It is a large house about 5 miles South of Basra, & is most awfully comfortable. Nice big rooms & wards, nice sisters -and very pretty! – & nice doctors. I am in the hands of a man called Felling, a consulting physician in peacetime with a house in Harley St. A Barts man who knew Uncle Will very well- However he can make nothing much of my case, bar that I am unfit to serve out here another hot weather. He thinks I’m worn out & have been too long at it without leave.

I am therefore being invalided to India in a day or two. They won’t send me home from here, as I am Indian Army, & I have to go to India- Is’nt it sickening, as I don’t know what will happen now & my chance of leave home seems to be dwindling away once more. I have’nt had a day off for 3 years & it’s rather a blow to have to come to hospital & be invalided.

But if I stayed here in my present condition it would do me no good, I should only become a worse – possibly a permanent – crock, as I am sure to get touched up with dysentery again- I don’t feel it’s my duty to you or Nell – now that the war’s over – to run unnecessary risks of health now that what one may call “the Imperial need to stick it” is not so strong: I feel my duty is to myself & my relations now and I should only ‘go sick’ sooner or later if I stayed on out here, & so become useless to the Empire & a nuisance to everyone else.

That is how I have sized up things, & my general & all my friends & the doctors too tell me it’s no good staying on if it means running a risk of getting really ill; in fact they tell me it’s not right that I should, now. So I have thrown myself on the mercy of the doctors, & they are sending me to India. What happened there I don’t know, nor can I find out. Whether I shall be able to get home from there or not I can’t possibly say- I have by no means lost hope, but the uncertainty is rather trying-

I am feeling much better now, & the aches & pains have gone & I’ve had no more fever. But I am rather a crock still & not up to anything very strenuous. Today I am going in to Basra by launch & shall have tea with Mrs Macfarlane, you remember, the Matron at Amara who was so kind to me in ’17, & to whom you very kindly wrote & sent some Red X things. She has a job as Matron in a hospital in Basra now, so I must try & see her if I can- I expect I shall sail for India in a day or two. I’m not sending any cables at present, but shall wait till I get there & see what happens. My letters are all being stopped at the base, so you can stick to the same address, unless before then I cable any instructions – or 2nd thoughts though, as I am definitely going to India, perhaps Cox & Co is best, so will you do that, in default of other instructions?

So that’s that, & I suppose I have to chuck my job – but one must give up something. I’m sorry in a way, though I think I’ve had long enough away from the rgt & I feel I want to get back. The wrench is not very great, leaving the Bde I mean, as all the old regiments have gone & it is entirely new altogether. I lose pay of course- but… que faire?

Your letter of Jan 29 was a lovely long one & very many thanks for it. What a tremendous lot of trouble you’ve had to find Jim! But you seem to have run him to earth at Salonika at last, & I expect he’s home by now, or at anyrate on his way. (The “Sicilia” has just gone by with 21 lucky ones invalided home from here: they only embarked this morning)

So glad you have retrieved my gold watch at last. I wonder if you managed to get a leather travelling case for it & gave it to Nell? I think I asked you to do this in one of my letters. It sounds a lovely one. I see, by the way it’s a hunter, so it won’t do for a stand-on-the-table one will it after all. But it will do very nice for evening dress if it is a nice thin one as you say. Indeed you had a lot of daughters-in-law staying with you at the time. Nell writes very cheery letters of her visit to Delaford, I am so awfully glad she has been again & she loves being there. I’m so glad she is fit & well, & you all tell me how pretty she is- “It appears” she’s much thinner than she was, but that’s just her growing up I suppose, & she seems very fit & well, so I’m not alarmed-

England seems in a bad way over strikes and things. Really the times are out of joint & I’m thinking India will be quite attractive by compariason for the next 3 or 4 years- It takes such a lot to change the East or to have the slightest effect on age-long customs & traditions, that even a war like this has hardly touched India or its ways & means-

There is a lovely garden here, just along the river front & full of hollyhocks cornflowers & sweetpeas, lovely they are just now. And then there are a whole heap of orange trees, with the orange blossom just coming out, & soon they will be thick with lovely yellow fruit, a wonderful sight. We have lovely home-made marmalade here, made from these oranges. Patients like me who are up and about are roped in every morning to help sisters pick flowers for the wards-

Yes, I got that parcel of good things from Lazenby’s, years ago, & I know I wrote and told you, but perhaps the letter was lost. Anyhow they were awfully good & tremendously appreciated in the mess, & thanks most awfully for them- Rather curious in your letter of Feb 5 you say you are glad I’m so fit, “and mind you keep so” you add. Very sorry, but I’m afraid I failed to carry out your instructions. I’m much fitter than I was when I first came into hospital, but I think a week’s work would bowl me over again. They have not yet managed to give a definite name to my fever!

How I laughed at Dick’s collection of beasts he took to Assam with him! No one but he would dream of doing such a thing & how he explained to everyone in the train I can’t imagine! How he dare! as we used to say. A “Minah” (Rhymes with liner) is a small bird about the size of a starling, & they can be trained to talk just like parrots & are generally supposed to be more amusing-

How I hate all the uncertainty- I mean about being able to get home this year. It’s no good denying it, & I’ve simply got to face facts it is uncertain whether I’ll be able to manage now. Poor old Nell, I am frightfully anxious about it all, & she’s such a dear & so splendidly patient. However it’s good to be alive and well, there’s always that to put in the balance on the other side, & someday things will straighten out I suppose-

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 3 March, '19 in About