I believe a mail of sorts goes out tomorrow so I must try and drop you a line in time to catch it. Not much news from here, we are still in camp down here at the base, & have orders to move anywhere. It’s beastly, this sitting down waiting, we did exactly the same in France in ’14. They always seem to hurry one out so, & then we hang about doing nothing. However we shall be moving sooner or later, I suppose.
We are being equipped with a few things specially required for campaigning in this country, coloured glasses, spine-pads & helmet-flaps & a few odds & ends like that. All our men are wearing pith helmets, as it is so hot later on they find the slouch hat is really not enough protection, even for a native. Of course Gurkhas & ourselves are the only regiments that wear the slouch hat, all other regiments wear turbans which are quite enough protection. We are filling up our time doing parades etc, & are ready to move whenever they tell us to.
Still lovely & cool at night here, but the days are warm, today particularly so as we did’nt get the breeze that usually blows.
Yesterday I met Bampton, a friend of Dick & Ben’s, also mine, as I met him on board the Muttra when we were coming back from Egypt last year and also in Lansdowne. He is here now building huge electric works to supply the whole base with fans & electric light, & is also fixing up plant to make ice, & is building a huge cold storage to hold 250 tons of ice. So you see everything possible is being done now to make the life of troops here more comfortable, and to improve conditions generally, & I must say there is a great air of permanency about everything that is being done here & we have evidently come to stay.
Of course Mesopotamia is an extraordinarily rich country and only requires scientific irrigation to make it one of the richest in the world. The water is here all right, tons of it from the Tigris & Euphrates, but they require to be induced to flow in the right directions & water the country properly. The current saying out here is that the British are going to make Mesopotamia pay for the entire war! And certainly it ought to repay any money spent on it ten thousand fold.
I saw all about the ‘Tyndareus’ in Reuters wires a day or two ago, the first I had heard of or seen about it. When I say ‘all’ I mean just the brief wire saying what had happened & that she had got safely into Simonstown. It was an awful shock when I read the first few lines, but a tremendous relief as I read on & saw that everything was all right. I do hope old Jim is all right & none the worse; what a terrible experience & how magnificently they all behaved, well worthy, as I see the King said, of the ‘Birkenhead’ tradition.
Curious is’nt it that one of the Emperors of Germany (was it the man’s father?) when the Birkenhead sank, had the story of the gallant behaviour of the soldiers on board read out to the German troops on parade as a magnificent example of courage & discipline. You know the picture of course, & I rather think this little story is printed under the title in most reproductions, at least that is I know where I read it. I wonder what will happen to them now.
I am anxiously waiting fuller accounts which will I suppose appear eventually in the papers & you will get the full story from Jim sometime I expect. No letters from you yet; I had some from Nell yesterday, dated 11th Feb! But none from you or any of the family. I have’nt the foggiest idea when we move from here, so I can’t possibly say whether I’ll be able to write again before next mail. But please don’t worry if you don’t hear, it will only mean I’m on a river journey & away from posts & things. Oh I say, a gorgeous Shetland woolly rolled up today, light & handy & ripping to have in one’s kit, especially as further north the cold weather is by no means over, & next cold weather anyhow it will be lovely. Thanks awfully for it.
Must change for dinner now. We are getting splendid rations here, frozen Argentine meat, sterilized milk, tinned fruits, green vegetables an’ all – Wish they’d send us up country all the same –
Best love to all
Yr loving son
Ashburton Guardian article, 30/3 mentioning King William of Prussia having story read to troops