4 May 1915 – Ted to Gertrude

04 May

May 4th

Dear Mother

Just a scrawl. No news; all serene and quiet here. We have been in these trenches just a week now, and I believe are being relieved tomorrow night.

It was ripping weather up till today when it began to rain & has made everything beastly & muddy now

The cake has nearly all been eaten now & was voted a complete success in our dugout; it was’nt a bit heavy but just right.

I see a book advertised called “The Indian Army ABC” by Captain Aliss; rhymes & pictures I think, published by Thacker @ 1/-; I thought it might be amusing, so could you send me one please.

Good north sea news I see by the paper; any news of Paul by the way.

Just had a whole lot of mouth organs sent to us! Imagine our men playing, they don’t know one note from another.

A packet of Pink’ uns etc has just come by post, looks like Jane’s writing; many thanks.

Post just off; the dugout is beginning to smell damp & fuggy, I shall be glad to get out of it tomorrow.

Love to all yr loving son


The Indian Army ABC scanned – –

Warning: this includes the n-word used in the the context of someone who is offensive because they show a lack of respect for “our Sepoys”, ie our soldiers. The booklet is racist, but it also shows the pride that the Indian Army officers had for their troops and the distaste they had for the more extreme racism of those British who had no experience of Indian soldiers. 

It’s naive to think of the Indian Army officers as not being racist: whatever their personal views, the army they held a comission in was structurally racist because it was impossible for an Indian to become a comissioned officer and because it enforced a racist imperial regime. However, the racism in the Indian Army had a certain paternalism to it and I am willing to speculate that in practice it may not have differed much from the class-divisions in the regular British Army with the ambiguities that implies. I suspect that things may have been different in the Imperial civil service, the diplomatic and the plantations.

“Pink ‘uns” are explained in the next letter.


Posted by on 4 May, '15 in About


2 responses to “4 May 1915 – Ted to Gertrude

  1. Tamsin

    6 May, '15 at 17:31

    But there were Viceroy commissioned native officers and the booklet itself refers to a Subedar Major. The paternalism of officers in the army to the men under their command “You were only their fathers,/I was their officer” – gets very complicated when you add in issues of race. Dad learnt to eat stew with his fingers hunkering down with his men (and passed it on to me one messy Saturday lunchtime when Mum was out) and told me that the British (in the ICS as well as the Indian Army) would speak to Indians in their own language. However the subtext of that was if the conversation was in English it implied the Indian was better educated than the Englishman – and so even if the Indian spoke flawless English you would, in public at least, struggle along in Hindustani.

  2. WW1 Family Letters (@FamilyLetters)

    11 May, '15 at 10:26

    It’s extraordinarily complicated. Think through the implications of this story about a memorial to Scots killed in the Uprising of 1857.


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