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Author Archives: Ted Berryman

3 April 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

April 3/18

 

Dear Mother

I’ve no letter of yours to answer as we’ve had no mail in for 10 days, though I believe one is due, as last time it arrived very late. But we are right in front of everyone now and they have a difficult enough job in getting rations up to us, so I don’t suppose there is any chance of a mail being sent up for some time yet.

I scribbled you a line on Saturday (this is Wednesday) just to tell you all was well and the fighting safely over, & even now I’m afraid I can’t tell you any more about it. We are staying up here for a bit, and shall eventually march back to our hot weather quarters somewhere further back when we’ve finished all there is to do up here & when someone comes to take our place. Ever since Sunday night we have had wretched weather, A real hurricane sprang up that night & the wind blew with tremendous violence, & rain fell in torrents.

We had managed to put up 3 Turkish Bell tents which we had captured, but they were wretched affairs, & the one I was sleeping in blew down in the night, & we could’nt possibly put it up again in that gale so we just lay where we were & got wet.

All Bank holiday was wet & stormy & the wind did not drop at all. Yesterday was windy with frequent showers, & last night it blew another gale & poured all night. Today we have had wind & rain all the morning, & the camp is a quagmire, but the afternoon promises to be finer. However we are all very cheery & fit & none the worse. It is of course awfull raw & cold, & on our limited kit we find it very cold at times. So different to this time last year at Basrah.

I had a wire from Jim on Sunday saying he was coming out here early this month. I wonder if I shall see him, but there are so many places he might be sent to off the beaten track that it’s as likely as not we shall miss each other. However I expect we could both wangle leave to Baghdad sometime perhaps.

We got our first news from France for 3 days this morning. It seems good, though the fighting is terrible, but from what we can gather from the vague wires we seem to be getting along all right.

The country up here is ever so much nicer than it is lower down the river where we have been all the winter. There is more rock & stone about here, & the hills are covered in wild flowers of every kind, and there is a certain amount of grass growing too. And the villages are much prettier, with crops & date palms in any quantities, and generally speaking the aspect is not so barren & repelling as it is lower down the river. We have a ripping little camp here, & I fancy it would be a very good place to spend the hot weather.

I went on a reconnaissance across to the other side of the river yesterday. We visited a perfectly charming little village, all surrounded by palm trees & growing wheat. We were received by the Sheikh under the village mulberry tree, where he placed rugs & cushions for us to sit on- and then he gave us coffee, very nice indeed & made from fresh baked & ground coffee beans. He said he was delighted we had driven the Turk out, as they hate the Turk and his cruel ways, & he seems to treat the arab very badly.

Eventually we left him and he gave us eggs & fowls & dates and a nice big fat sheep as parting presents- most welcome, as rations are short up here & they have some difficulty in getting them up as there is a broad “wadi”, or usually dry ravine, in full flood (thanks to the rain) behind us & it’s fairly cut us off temporarily from our friends & supplies lower down, though they do manage to get things across somehow-

It’s a long way from here to home, & I should think it would take at least 6 weeks from the time I started. But at present I have no news about leave. It begins for the men next week, but I’m afraid ours won’t be able to go yet, as we are up here and probably can’t be spared for the present.

I’m sorry for such a scrawl but it’s jolly hard to find anywhere to write. We managed to find a few rough Turkish tables, made of old boxes, which we use in the mess, & use old battered & leaking oil tins to sit on. But it’s all great fun really, especially as it has all been so successful.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted

 
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Posted by on 3 April, '18 in About

 

30 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 30/18

 

Dear Mother

Just a scribble to say I’m all right. I suppose in the midst of all the terrific fighting in France they have found room in the papers for a brief reference to our little show out here- The regiment has been in it: we were’nt in the actual fighting, but took part in the pursuit which was a great show.

We followed the retreating Turks for miles at a tremendous pace & roped in hundreds of prisoners and got any amount of booty in the shape of ammunition and kit and guns of every kind. I expect it has been in the home papers, and the amount of stuff that was captured. The sight along the road which the Turks retreated along was a wonderful one, strewn with kit & equipment & wounded & prisoners all the way along, and it has been a really wonderful experience to follow a beaten army in retreat. We are busy collecting all the captured material now and sending off prisoners. I am quite all right and very fit and well.

Today is a dusty boisterous day, a howling southerly gale and impenetrable dust everywhere- And here we are at the end of March and it’s still nice & cold, and a night you want all your bedding. This last week has been a strenuous one for us all, but it has been so completely successful that we are all fearfully pleased with ourselves-

We get regular news of the terrible fighting on the Western front: how ghastly it all is, and at the moment of writing things seem to hang in the balance a bit, but the powers that be all seem confident that we shall hold them and I’m sure we shall.

I’m very busy just now and have only time for a short scribble. Awful luck the regiment getting in for 2 such successful shows as Ramadie & this one have been.

Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted.


meanwhile…

“No prisoners” scene from Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

 
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Posted by on 30 March, '18 in About

 

25 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 25/18

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for 2 letters which I got from you by rather an unexpected mail 2 days ago- They are dated 16th & 22nd Jany. You said a lot about Paul’s wedding in them and it seemed very uncertain when it was eventually. I could’nt send him a cable, as I had’nt the vaguest idea when it was. No Fortnum & Mason boxes have arrived yet, I am afraid they must have been stolen, as they are so much overdue. We could do with them now, as we are on very short commons just at present.

We moved from our last camp a day or two ago, marched 15 miles, and then came on another 9 the same night, reaching camp eventually at 1.30 in the morning! A longish day, 24 miles in marching order- We have once more bid farewell to tents for a few days, but it is slightly warmer now, though still cloudy, and very cold at nights. We have heard very little news lately, except that the Boche seems to have launched his big offensive on a 50 mile front in France.

I am sending some photographs along, chiefly of me, which were taken for Nell’s benefit. Also some shooting groups, & camps, now broken up. They are’nt so bad. I hope you got the last lot from the stores, & I hope to have some more to send you shortly. Films seem very hard to get nowadays, and I have only one roll left, so am preserving them most carefully.

Meat appears hard to get at home, but I am sure it’s a good thing to have compulsory rationing, & from the papers it seems to be successful. If I come home I suppose I shall have to have sugar cards & meat cards & I’m sure I shan’t know how to use them, & I hope I shan’t be put in prison for eating too much!

So specs is still exempt! Ah well, I expect he will be roped in before long- How he can – well, never mind, I suppose he knows best- I do believe it’s going to rain for a few minutes, a huge black cloud has turned up so I may have to stop while it goes on-

I wonder what Dick’s surprise for you was. Yes he’ll be glad indeed that the cold weather is over. I have seen lots of pictures of the snowbound western front in the papers this week, & it certainly does look fearfully chilly. I see Sir Douglas Haig has mentioned the Indian Cavalry specially; good-

Re the Saturday Review; you need’nt renew the subscription, as I may be coming home on leave- so leave it for the present will you? We get the Spectator in the mess, & the S.R. gives another point of view, so I—- interval here for ¼ hour heavy rain, jolly! – think I should like it continued eventually. Your letter of Jan 15th says you had just got my letters of Nov 7 & 11th; what years ago! What a lot of new jobs for women there seem to be now, the “Waacs” & the “Wrens” an’ all, I think it’s splendid they all set to work.

The miners don’t seem very keen on a “comb-out” do they, but they would get heaps of men if they did- I see too we have been bombing German towns a lot lately, with a good deal of success too, & our air corps seems to be always downing a lot of their ‘planes with very little loss to themselves. We were wondering if Rosslyn Wemyss’ appointment as 1st Sea Lord means more naval activity.

Another interval for rain and lunch, and now the sun is out again, lovely and warm.

I don’t know when the mail goes, but I suppose this will catch something if I post it today.

Must end up now

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


I do wonder who “Specs” was and what he did – and didn’t do – during the war to earn so many mentions from Ted.

Haig’s despatch 20/2/18

Article on Miners’ ballot against combout for national service, allusions to Bolshevism

 

 
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Posted by on 25 March, '18 in About

 

22 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 22/18

 

Dear Mother

No mail in yet, though I believe it is quite close by; but of course they are using all available transport to bring up rations & supplies & ammunition etc, so the poor old mail is left to look after itself pro tem. I expect you have seen the Reuters in the papers about events in our part of the world lately. There has been no real excitement yet, except for our aeroplanes, who go raiding, but there may be some goings on shortly I believe. Anyhow we are still well back, though we go on a bit tomorrow.

It’s still very cold here, especially when that N.W. wind blows, it’s really awfully cold then. And we have had a fair amount of rain, I got wet through and dry again 3 times the other day! Road-scraping & mending is still the general order of the day, though I trust our march tomorrow will give us a bit of a rest from this rather dull job. We leave our tents here tomorrow & probably won’t see them for a week or so. I do hope it keeps fine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ben all this week, and I’m longing to get letters telling me all the news. We seem to be doing wonderful things in the air on the Western front, & have bombed Coblentz I see, very successfully too it appears. Paris has been the centre of attraction from the Hun lately it seems.

Excuse a short scrappy letter, but there’s no news, & I must leave you to guess where we are. It should’nt be hard, if the telegrams are the same in the home papers as in the “Baghdad Times” out here, as several places you know I have been in & around all this winter are mentioned-

Very fit & well- Leave opens on 7th April, but no further news about English leave yet, so I can tell you nothing about that either!

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


 
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Posted by on 22 March, '18 in About

 

17 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 17/18

 

Dear Mother

I believe an English mail goes out today, so I’ll write on the offchance anyway. We are still in the same camp as I wrote from last time – no we are not, as I see from my diary I wrote to you just before we moved a few miles further on. We had 2 nights here without tents, but have got them up now. The last week has been very wet and boisterous, howling gales & winds, and very cold too. I believe we are going on farther in a day or two.

I see in Reuters wires that mention is made of the occupation of Hit, but of course there has been no fighting as the Turks discreetly retire as soon as we show any signs of concentrating or advancing. I have seen a good many prisoners & deserters coming through and they all look pretty miserable, ill-clad and hungry and thoroughly fed up with everything. The roads as you may imagine are none too good here, as they are only glorified tracks. What with all the rain and constant motor traffic up and down them they soon get hopelessly cut up, & we have spent most of our time in trying to keep them in something like a decent condition, though this is somewhat difficult as there is nothing to mend them with & I’m sure I should’nt know how to mend a road if there was!

We don’t seem to be getting much war news nowadays, & what there is is rather dull. Russia & Roumania now definitely out of it, and things in a hopeless muddle there. But we seem to be doing well in the air, and the Boche seem still to be hesitating where to attack in the west. Unfortunate about Sir W Robertson & his resignation, but I suppose it was inevitable under the circumstances.

I’m longing to get the next mail, we have’nt had one for just a fortnight now. It ought to tell me if Paul’s wedding came off all right as it had been arranged for 17th Jan when I last heard. I ought to be getting a line from him too as I have’nt heard for a long time. I wonder if old Nell has found time to go to Delaford for a bit. I do hope so. Then there’s old Ben’s wedding, I’m longing to hear all about that, and there’s all sorts of news I want to hear. A very dull letter I’m afraid but there’s nothing to tell you. I’m very fit & flourishing.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Commons discussion on Sir W Robertson’s resignation

 
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Posted by on 17 March, '18 in About

 

8 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 8/18

 

Dear Mother

Just a line to catch a doubtful mail and to thank you most awfully for a gorgeous parcel which arrived 2 days ago containing soap, malted milk & chocolate, every one of them absolutely the thing at the moment. Thanks most awfully for them, it’s ripping getting a surprise packet like that when one is out on trek as we are at present.

Tomorrow we march 18 miles, after a few days’ stay here, and after that I dunno what happens. It’s been still and warm today, with clouds about and a distinct promise of rain. I suppose we shall march clean away from our tents – as usual! – though we have stayed long enough here to let them catch us up, but they can never move us on the light “operation” scale with our tents, we always pick em up later. But it does no harm and after all it’s part of the show, but it’s unpleasant when it rains-

I don’t know when we shall be able to catch a post again, but with these fortnightly mails from India & a weekly one from here- or so-called weekly – one never knows how many mails one is catching! I mean this may turn up by the same mail as the next letter I write, maybe 10 days hence, though I don’t anticipate such a long wait as that. You had been a long time without a mail when you last wrote – about 10th Jan, Nell said so too, I do hope they were’nt sunk-

All well here. Our ‘planes have been bombing the wretched Turk today, their usual daily amusement! We have had no Hun over lately – tap wood! – but I don’t think he’s very well off for ‘planes or very enterprising either.

Dinner time & I must post this.

Love to all

yr loving son      Ted

 

Fortnum & Mason’s things have’nt turned up yet, no sign of them & no letter to the Mess President from them saying they are coming- Could you enquire? It is so disappointing

 
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Posted by on 8 March, '18 in About

 

4 March 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

March 4/18

 

Dear Mother

A gorgeous mail arrived yesterday, somewhat unexpectedly, and in it were 3 letters from you, dated 24th Dec, 2nd & 9th Jan. Thanks most awfully for them, and today is supposed to be a mail day, though I fancy we have got rather out of step in the matter of mails of late, but I will send off a last letter on the off chance.

I have been wondering if I was surprised when I got James’ wire containing the really splendid news of his & Ben’s forthcoming wedding. Looking back and remembering various things in Ben’s letters of late perhaps I ought not to have been. Be that as it may, the fact remains I am more glad than I can say and it’s one of the best bits of news I’ve heard for a long time. It’s a real comfort to know dear old Ben has found happiness again and she deserves some indeed. She will make James a splendid wife and he is indeed lucky, as also is she. For we all know James, and taking it all round it is as Shakespeare is, a consummation devoutly to be wished. At least that’s my opinion, & I feel sure it is shared by us all.

We are still living a Bedouin life, and have got our tents up now, after a week in the open. Things hung fire for some reason  or other and we are remaining halted in the desert, making roads etc. Whether anything is going to happen or not I can’t say, for I don’t know.

Meanwhile our aeroplanes are busy all day and night bombing the unfortunate Turk, and he tries to retaliate occasionally, but he is hopelessly outnumbered in the air so can’t do much. We have had raw windy days, cold & wet, & two wet nights, and more rain threatens. Hardly ideal weather for bivouacing but we are all very fit & cheery. We are much further north you see than we were at Basra this time last year, so it will be cold yet awhile, at anyrate at nights, though certainly the sun, when he does condescend to shine, is getting more power now.

I have applied for leave home, but if I get it and when lies on the knees of the Gods. I can say nothing for certain. You will have got my letters telling you to send letters to Cox Bombay, just to be on the safe side, and when I wire that my leave is granted – if it ever is! – then you can start addressing “P & O Port Said to await arrival” straight away. I reckon it will take 6 weeks from here to London. A long journey at all! But it’s worth it.

I hope Paul managed to fit in his wedding all right. In your letters you say his leave was doubtful, at least the exact date was. As you say Lincolnshire is a long way off, especially in these days. What will you say to Gloucester I wonder! But I suppose Nell & I will be married there and of course you MUST BE THERE. I have perforce to leave all arrangements entirely in the Fieldings’ hands, as I can only suggest a few things – as I have already done – and it’s otherwise impossible to communicate except by uncertain & expensive cables. So I have asked Ben to act as “agent” for me & have asked Nell to refer all questions on which there is doubt to her.

And now Ben is going to get married & I’m sorry I asked her simply because she will have lots of affairs of her own to think about. Perhaps you could help if required? I do hope old Nell managed to go & stay with Ben for a bit too, though of course I have’nt the foggiest idea what their plans are.

My scheme in outline is as follows – arrive home about mid-May or later, to be married beginning of June, & leave again mid-June or so. I shall go straight to town, & meet Nell there, stay one or two days there as I have one or two articles of trousseau to get (my kit is so shabby out here!) then 2 or 3 days at Delaford, & then to Gloucester I suppose, presuming the wedding is down there-

If you want to communicate with me you can write to Cox, 16 Charing Cross & leave any messages there, as I will call there as soon as I can after arriving. Be very careful about my rank, initials, & Regt, as both Dick & Jim bank there as well I believe, & Cox has already muddled us up once or twice. My idea in suggesting this method of communication is that I shall probably not be able to give the exact date of my arrival in town, so if I arrive any old day (I can tell you approx: I expect) I can always pick up any news at Cox’s & find out what’s happening.

In your letters you seem to have been a long time without a mail, but it’s always the case these days is’nt it. I’m glad to hear that Topher’s stammering is so much better. He does’nt seem to have struck a very bright spot at first, but I expect by now he has joined his cadet school & things will probably be better there. Rosamond too I am glad to hear is so fit. I wrote to her a serious letter the other day about farming & was wondering what sort of show hers is. Very nice of you to entertain the Canadians & your kids’ party must have been fun.

How amusing about the “bring your own sugar”  to the wedding! I wonder if I can bring a bag home with me, but I believe it’s not allowed. Yes, a good thing we don’t take sugar in our tea, but you know what pigs we all are about bread-and-butter-and-sugar! We still get real butter occasionally in our rations, & have had margarine too. I must say the latter seems pretty all right, & you say you have had nothing else for 2 years. We had potatoes last night for the first time in many months. Our rations are wonderfully good here.

Poor old Loudwater going to the dogs. I am sorry, but perhaps Mr Hunt is taking rather a gloomy view, it seemed flourishing enough when Dick & Paul & I went there in ’15, though it was’nt quite the same of course.

Fancy old Parker wanting to write to me! So far nothing has arrived but I shall appreciate it immensely when it does come, even if it makes me smile a bit. As I told you before I think, Garhwalis should not be unknown in future in Guildford & other places roundabout, as I know all the Queen’s men here are most enthusiastic about us.

I have to write Ben & Nell today; I had letters from Dreda & Jinny too yesterday, please thank them & I will write when I find time. I had hopes our promised rest would give us ample opportunities to write, but that has been somewhat rudely interrupted by this krewst. I had a long letter from old Ben & there are one or two rather important things I want to say to her.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


James Tucker was a friend of the family and a regular visitor when Ted, Ben and the older children had been in thier teens. We don’t know if he  harboured an unrequited love for Ben during her engagement to Wiggs or if he fell in love with her when they met as adults in London. Either way, the family saw him as an eligible suitor for Ben and warmly welcomed him in a way that contrasts with their views about Wiggs. James had a successful post-war career in the Law and provided Ben with the stability and prosperity which it seems doubtful poor Wiggs, with his disrupted education and difficult childhood, could have managed. Their marriage was certainly stable and I have no reason to think it was unhappy. 

Loudwater probably in Herts

 
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Posted by on 4 March, '18 in About