30 December 1916 – Ted to Gertrude

30 Dec

Dec 30/16


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter last week, which I got sometime ago, & I’m afraid I’ve been sometime answering. However I hear the mail leaves later this week so I can – officially – catch it by posting tonight, but they seem to be so erratic that it really does’nt matter when one posts letters this end.

I have’nt done much this week. I had a very homely Christmas with a family called France; he used to be our bandmaster, but got a commission when the war began; very nice & Christmassy & I quite enjoyed myself. I have also had Frederic Villiers, the war correspondent, to dinner, since I last wrote; he was giving a war lecture here, & happened to mention the regiment in the course of it, so I thought I would ask him to dinner.

After many adventures, thanks to a hired chauffeur, who deposited us in the hedge amongst other things, we eventually managed to get here, ½ an hour late! However he was fortunately used to these little contretemps, and I think he quite enjoyed his dinner, as we were all in mess kit, and he was in a regular star-turn war correspondent lecturing kit, khaki & a loose cloak & field glasses etc, just like he is in his pictures. It was’nt a bad lecture, but like all war-correspondents he was a bit of a liar, for he described several incidents that I knew from personal experience, & his facts were’nt quite accurate. However, of course that’s part of his business, & he was very interesting to talk to.

The Somme films have been here this week too, & I went to them one night. I think they are rather too good, & recalled horrors that one has so far managed to forget; but otherwise they were splendid. I arranged a special matinée for our men one day & they thoroughly enjoyed it. Last night I dined with Ricketts (you remember him in the Hockey XI at Sandhurst I expect) and went on to a concert given by the Wiltshires next door here, quite a good show. Today the Wilts have had their sports, & I have just come back from them; quite amusing.

Your letter was chiefly about your will; and I quite agree that it is much better to face these things out & discuss them from a family point of view.

First of all let me tell you that I quite agree with the principle you are working on, that the girls should be provided for first, & if investments have fallen in value, I don’t see why the girls should suffer. I think it’s best to tabulate my reasons:-

  1. The Boys are all provided for, except perhaps Topher; but the rest have all got jobs etc which at anyrate can keep them going.
  2. In educating us boys – thereby enabling us to get a start in life & to fend for ourselves – a great deal of money must have been spent. This initial outlay would correspond to any income the girls will get, on whom so much money has not been spent originally. I think you follow me – provision for the girls is the same as money spent on the boys in fitting them for a career & finding that career for them – e.g. Dick’s medical fees, which must have been considerable, & my R.M.C fees ditto.
  3. All girls can’t get married, & one simply must take that into consideration. A spinster with – say – £120 a year can at anyrate live by herself or with another friend and a girl with £120 a year if she gets married at least has some income to help things along.
  4. If you provided more for the boys, it would mean less for the girls of course, & that would mean someone would have to give them a home, if they did’nt marry. So – to take an extreme case – if you gave the girls less each, in order to give the boys more, & if none of them married, it would mean that one of us would have to give them a home, & would therefore spend the little extra – so very little – we got, by their having less, in keeping them. So why not let them have it straight away? Don’t think I’m hard or cruel, as I know any of us would be only too delighted to keep any of our priceless sisters, besides it would be our duty, but what I say is, let the girls be provided for first, & then let the boys have anything that’s over, which, after all, is what you suggest yourself.

So if it means selling Holmwood, well I say sell it, because I do think the girls have first claim, for the reasons I have given; the boys are all well started, & it is up to us now to see we make the most of the start we have got. I’m not sure about Topher, he is the only difficulty I can see. I rather think he ought to have some capital reserved for him, so as he can start a show of his own when opportunity offers, even if it means cutting the other 4 boys down. As I say, after all we have all had a good start, & it’s our job now to watch our own interests.

Them’s my sentiments, but my dear mother please don’t think of dying yet! You have lots of years before you I hope and we can ill spare you just now. But if you frame your will on these lines, I at anyrate shall be fearfully satisfied. Must write Ben now. Lots of love & wishes for 1917 – will it see the end I wonder? –

Yr loving son


Topher was younger than the others and hadn’t established himself in a career at the start of the war but Ted’s letter may reveal a deeper concern. Topher was not as well equiped to deal with the world as his dashing and heroic brothers. His school reports reveal he was always at the bottom of the class, his one surviving letter is simple and almost child-like compared with those of his brothers, and he didn’t get a Comission. He had bad headaches as a child so he may have missed a lot of schooling, he may have had a difficulty such as dyslexia, he may just have not been very bright.

Days of Glory; the sketch book of a veteran correspondent at the front (1920)

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