Monthly Archives: April 2019

Ted and Nell

In May 1919, Ted came home and a month or so later he married Nell.

They had met on the 7th September 1915 when she was a couple of months shy of her 18th birthday and he was in his early 30s. He proposed to her at the end of October, and received his marching orders at the end of November not quite 3 months after they first met.

Gladys Fielding, Ted Berryman, Nell Fielding, Jane Berryman, Belinda Fielding
Autumn 1915

They did not meet again until May 1919, almost four years after that whirlwind three month romance. They wrote to each other constantly, and their relationship intensified over the years.

Damaged by Immersion in Sea Water
Letter from Ted to Nell – Damaged by Immersion in Sea Water

Ted couldn’t look happier at their wedding though he is painfully thin considering his robust frame in other photographs.

Ted and Nell at their wedding in 1919

Nell is excited but nervous.

After their wedding, Ted spent some time in London with his bride.

Nell on the left and Ted in the centre

On one occasion, they met Paul and a Navy friend of his in London, and poor Nell stood up greet them scattering the contents of her handbag at their feet. Which is why the future King George VI came to be on his knees looking under chairs for her lipstick and hairpins.

Telegram from the Duke of York (later George VI) to Paul

Ted took Nell to India during the 1920s where he was one of the more senior regimental officers and she was one of the youngest wives. They had two children, Martin and Félicité, who spent their first six or seven years with Ted and Nell in India and were then sent home to be raised by their grandmothers alongside their cousins, Paul’s daughters, and to go to school. Ted retired in the mid-1930s as colonel of the regiment and he and Nell built a home in Guildford.

Martin joined the Garhwalis just in time for the Second World War and was killed in Malaya. Félicité worked at Blechley and met and married one of Martin’s brother-officers after the war.

During the 1950s and 60s, Ted and Nell lived with Félicité’s family. They were devoted to each other and at last they had family living with them they could be devoted to.

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

Ted died in the mid 1960s and Nell died a dozen years later, both surrounded by family.

In the 1980s Félicité took the letters and published them in a book “Socks, Cigarettes and Shipwrecks” and between 2014 and 2019 I published them here online.

I have said it several times already, but the unexpected joy of this project has been getting to know Ted and see something of Nell

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Posted by on 29 April, '19 in About


27 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

S.S. “Suevic”.

April 27 1919


Dear Mother

Just a line to say we are approaching Suez & they tell us we can post letters on board today & they will get home a day or two before us. At present we have no idea when or where we disembark. It may be either Plymouth, Southampton or London. In any case I shall go to London straight, to meet Nell & do some shopping. As far as one can see, we shall get home about 12th May, & more than that I can’t tell you.

I will try & wire if we land at Plymouth or Southampton, & tell you what time I arrive in London: but I don’t think it’s much good looking so far ahead, so all I can advise you to do is to look out for news of me about 12th May. I may possibly get home before this letter. We are going all round by sea, not overland. I’m rather glad, as it makes very little difference really & is much more comfortable. My present idea is to stop in town a day or two, then down to Delaford, & then on to Broadground-

A good steady old boat this. You remember her don’t you; she ran aground on the Lizard some years ago, & was cut in half, & had a new front half built on to her. A fine big boat, 12,000 tons, & very steady. I’m feeling much fitter already & I’m told I’m looking very well indeed. Rather a hot voyage so far, but an almost English day today.

I’ll cable Nell from Port Said & keep you informed as much as I can : but it seems you can’t send wireless off this boat in the Channel, it’s a prohibited area or something. Anyhow I hope to be in England round about 12th May, & after all, that’s good enough is’nt it!

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 27 April, '19 in About


20 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

Easter Day -19


Dearest Mother

Very many thanks for your last letters. It’s a funny thing that I only get letters every other week, usually 2 at the time from you, but papers come regularly every week. It must be something to do with the posting I think at your end. We have now moved from Kantara & now at Ismailia, a very pretty little place on the Canal, also a very big lake. We have some lovely bathing here and is quite a change from previous camping places. We are supposed to be here until the breaking up of the Army of Occupation.

Leave is still closed, but demobilization has started again. No doubt you saw in the paper that a Major Cecil Jarvis  of the  20th Deccan Horse had been murdered by the Egyptians down south. I knew him and he was a friend of Dick’s. I was only speaking to him a few weeks before he was murdered.

We all have to walk about armed these days, which is a bit of a nuisance. Yes I remember Doris Pearce very well. I must write and congratulate her, she is awfully pretty, least I always thought so. I don’t think much of the girl who won the 1st prize, do you, I think Miss Marsh is much nicer. I had a letter from Dick the other day, he has at last moved into his bungalow and he seems very pleased with it. I am sorry to hear about Ted, now they will surely give him leave.

I feel so sorry for Nell. Sorry such a dull letter, but there is absolutely no news. I have been to church today, in a Y.M.C.A. which is just near our camp.

Best love to all, ever your loving son


Murdered on the Assiut-Minia train


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Posted by on 20 April, '19 in About


13 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

April 13/19.                 Bombay.


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter dated Feb 18th, which I got a few days ago- the last mail I got. Mails up to March 20th have arrived in the country; tho’ I tried to stop mine still it seems they must have gone on to M.E.F., as I’ve had none later than this letter of yours of Feb 18. Jim had just arrived home & there were great goings on. It’s very nice of him to say nice things about me: it was so ripping to meet him in Mesopotamia & have some good old talk & hoots with him: he is one of the best & I wish I could see more of him.

Such hot stuffy weather here. Another man here & I took 2 V.A.D’s for a joy ride in a car on Thursday to a place called Santa Cruz, about 15 miles out. A lovely bay with gorgeous sands & cocoa nut palms all along the edge of the shore. I think they enjoyed it: poor dears they have to slave away in this rotten climate & they like going out, though of course it’s strictly forbidden to go out with patients! One day last week we took these same two out for a sail to an island about 4 miles off, & if you please got sort of becalmed on the way home! & finally landed at 10pm & reached hospital 10.30! Awful scandal is’nt it & we were fearfully ragged when we got back. As we have to be in by 8 o’clock, it was really very naughty of us: however, no one seemed to mind. They went home yesterday as their time is up.

There have been various riots in Bombay lately & a few broken heads; but the more serious trouble is up country, in the Punjab, where some white people have been murdered. But I don’t think it will spread, as there are plenty of troops out here.

You wrote when Nell was with you; I’m awfully glad she was there such a nice long time. I suppose my tit-bits of news is about my coming home. I am trying (with poor success!) not to show any wild excitement. I cabled to Nell yesterday, & she will have told you. By the way I had a cable from you, asking how I was. Ever so many thanks for it, I did’nt cable back, as by then you would have got my letter saying I was allright. I’m much fitter, but a nice rest & change will do a lot of good.

I can’t imagine I’m really coming home. I don’t know when I sail, sometime this week, but I should be home about the middle of May sometime. I don’t see what I can do except just arrive home, do you! I mean I can really make no arrangements about the wedding. I suppose a rough scheme will have been outlined by the time I arrive home. No mail is leaving till the 19th from here, so this will arrive just before I do, I expect, so taking things all round, I’ll be home to discuss matters almost as soon as a letter can arrive, & one gets very little forrader in a letter. I suggest June for the wedding. I’m not sure whether 4 months include the voyage home & out again; I rather think it means 4 months in England, excluding the voyages. But in any case, if it included a month’s voyage either way, I should still get 2 months at home which is more than I ever expected.

Anyway I’m most awfully happy & excited & I’ll be seeing you in no time now.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 13 April, '19 in About


9 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude



Dear Mother

No letters from you by last mail save some papers for which many thanks. We have moved since I last wrote, down nearer Kantara which is much better in every way. As we can bathe every day in the canal it really is lovely, and at present it is very hot. I shall be left here on my own till the 16th as the other half company moves down to Ismailia on the 10th and I join them later.

Very little news this week, the unrest has quietened down since the return of General Allenby. One has to walk about armed with a revolver these days. No chance of any leave yet as it is all stopped, also demobilization

So Eleanor is engaged, no luck you see. Who is the fellow she is engaged to, do I know him. Paul again on leave, same as he was before the war always on leave.

Nice for him being at Portsmouth, I suppose Nance will be going down there now.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


Finally – after the war is over, we hear from Topher. Previously we have only heard from him once, writing to his sister Dreda

Topher had a hard time in the War, and that followed on from his hard time at school – his school-day letters tell us he suffered from headaches and his reports show he was consistently at the bottom of what was an admittedly small class. I suspect he had undiagnosed and unsupported dyslexia, but he could have just been socially anxious and had less aptitude than his peers.  In some ways, Topher’s difficulties show us more than anything else in these letters how much the world has changed in the last 100 years. Now a child who struggled as Topher did would have strong support from worried parents and probably have a statement of special needs to show for it, though of course whether those needs were met would be another matter entirely. 

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Posted by on 9 April, '19 in About


5 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

April 5/19                     Bombay

Dear Mother

No mail in yet, except a few papers of about Feb 20th which arrived last night- They had been up to M.E.F, & returned here, so I may get some letters by tonight’s post-

It’s rather warm here, in spite of sea breezes: a very sticky muggy atmosphere which I simply hate & it makes you feel very limp & unenergetic. 45 patients sailed for home this morning in the Syria, so the hospital is quite empty now, only about 40 or so left, but I expect we shall get some more in every day. Otherwise there’s no news, absolutely none. And there’s very little to do here really so the time passes none too quickly. I thought I’d be up before a medical board yesterday, but I did’nt go, so I hope to get one on Monday & see what they decide to do with me.

I had a line from Topher this morning, he seems to think he’ll be kept on for some time yet- And he wants to start farming, either at home or E. Africa. I should think the latter would suit him best. His letter was marked “E.E.F aerial post” so I suppose it came by Aeroplane – they are expecting a certain amount of “passive resistance” here tomorrow, the same sort of thing they have been having in Delhi lately- D.B [Drake-Brockman?] by the way is commanding the Delhi Brigade, it’s an awful shame giving that man anything except the boot!

All those lovely pictures of the navy & the “Vindictive” which were on view in London sometime ago are on view here now, I went to see them and really I thought they were marvellous, & so fearfully interesting. I have met a man here who paints portraits & exhibits them & other pictures at the Academy: his name is W.E. Gladstone Solomon, so look out for his pictures in this year’s Academy- one is called “The Passing” – a picture of a man being shot while digging trenches, an allegorical picture: & another a portrait of “Joan Heffer”: & we have arranged to meet when I come home: I must bring him down to Delaford someday. It seems he has often exhibited at the Academy & won the Gold medal there once, so he must be some good as a painter.

Topher tells me Jim got home: wish I could get some letters: my last were dated Feb 13th

Best love to all

yr loving son


I went to the zoo here a day or 2 ago: quite a good show with some really lovely lions & tigers who seemed to be quite enjoying life.

If the D-B is Drake-Brockman, who was Ted’s commanding officer in France, then this is the only example in the letters that I can think of where Ted is waspish about anyone; we expect this kind of remark from Paul or Richard, but not from diplomatic, patient Ted. It’s not otherwise surprising; Drake-Brockman was a very different kind of soldier from Ted, and his own account of his time in France in 1914-1917 shows a fussy officer, more concerned about drills, discipline and his own status than the effectiveness or morale of his officers and men.

His father

Jeanne (exh. 1903-1940) sold for £2,750

The Bombay Revival of Indian Art (no date)

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Posted by on 5 April, '19 in About