Author Archives: Ted Berryman

23 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 23/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter dated April 11th which I got today. Also the Pink Papers & the Sat: R which I have’nt had time to read yet. No news from here. We are still sitting here & have had no further word about our going on. It’s not unpleasant, hottish at midday, but we keep to our tents & so manage to keep coolish, but I should think the troops who have been fighting in all this heat of late with no shade & very little water must have had a very hard time & it makes their performance all the more wonderful.

Yes, bad luck old Nell could’nt manage to get up to Guildford for Easter; she was awful disappointed herself, but I hope she’ll manage to get up later. She writes this week to say that she’s free  from measles.

Yes, I’m afraid I don’t profit much by the accelerated promotion in the I.A., as I don’t get 15 years in till August 1919! So unless the war goes on till then I can’t score by it, as it only lasts for the duration of the war; and I sincerely trust the war will be over long before then.

Dick & Topher seem to have had a hardish time lately, & I’m glad they are back in rest for a bit. I had a line from Jim at Singapore yesterday; he did’nt say much, but seemed quite pleased with the place. I think he always hankered after the East a bit.

The land krewst you say has come to nothing; I’m very sorry, as I’m sure it would do Dreda all the good in the world to get out of that old bank.

I dined with our new general last night. He has just come down from commanding his regiment in all their recent fighting, & has been promoted General to command our brigade. He was very pleasant & put one quite at ease in conversation, a thing some generals have’nt got the knack of at all.

Some of us – all officers from various regiments here – are getting up a pierrot troupe to give concerts to the various hospitals & depots here. We have been busily rehearsing today & hope to open on Monday this being Wednesday. We have rather fun, & some of the troupe are really 1st Class, especially the pianist who can play any blessed thing under the sun. They have made me stage manager, as I’m the senior in the troupe; you can imagine our difficulties, as we have very little music & each has to sort of dip into the past & rake up some songs he knew years ago, hum the tune over to the pianist, & then sing it!

We are going to be black & white pierrots; another difficulty there, as the arab tailors in the bazaar here are hardly up to making pierrot costumes unless one of us sits over them & watches every stitch! However I expect it will be all right on the night. If you could send me one or two George Robey albums, or those 1/- albums of the latest songs occasionally it might be useful, though heaven knows where we shall be when they come out, & by that time the troupe will be much scattered I expect, but we may have another one going.

Must catch the mail. I’m sure I’ve got some more letters to come, but our Brigade post office has only just arrived up here from Basrah so I expect things are a bit higgledy-piggledy at the present.

Love to all

yr loving son


Krewst was family slang for a jaunt or adventure

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Posted by on 23 May, '17 in About


9 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 9th/17         Wednesday         Amara.


Dear Mother

I wrote you a hurried scrawl on Saturday – in bed I think- hoping to catch the mail in time to tell you of our move up here, but whether the special messenger I despatched arrived in time or not I cannot say. Anyhow we were ordered to move up here at very short notice, 24 hours, and some of us have already arrived as you see, & the rest of the regiment is arriving in bits later on.

We embarked on a river steamer at 8 o’clock on Sunday morning & the trip upstream was most awfully pleasant. We went about 40 miles upstream to a place called KURNAH where the Tigris & Euphrates join. All the way up on either side were date palms with occasional glimpses of desert & marsh through the gaps in the various palm groves. It was beautifully cool and there was a nice breeze all the time.

We reached Kurnah at 2 o’clock where we got off the boat and waited till 9 o’clock when we came on here by train. Kurnah of course is the traditional site of the Garden of Eden, and I fancy all the authorities of any importance have come to the conclusion that it was there or thereabouts that Adam & Eve were domiciled. Certainly to the weary traveller from the desert Kurnah must indeed seem a garden, for there are numerous palm groves there, & pomegranate trees, & a kind of willow growing along the river bank, and the whole place all round is green with marsh and reed-beds which makes things very restful for the eyes after the glare of the sun in the desert.

The Euphrates is a nice clean blue-water river, while the Tigris comes down in a very strong current of horribly muddy water, completely overwhelming the poor little Euphrates and discolouring the rest of the river on its way to the sea. The whole scene was most awfully pretty in the evening light as I saw it and a worthy setting for the Biblical romance.

As you may imagine, Eve’s tree is still shown to the traveller, or at anyrate a tree that satisfies his curiosity sufficiently to say he has seen the Tree of knowledge of good and evil. That it is not an apple, nor anything like it, matters not; it is enough to have seen it, & to imagine that the translators of the bible could get no nearer than “apple” to the particular fruit mentioned in Genesis. In any case, I picked some leaves off it, (I am told this is quite the thing to do!) & am sending them along herewith; they are at least interesting, even if they cannot claim to be genuine. You can at anyrate shew them to your more credulous friends as the real thing, & leave the sceptics to draw their own conclusions. All I can guarantee is that they do come from the tree that rightly or wrongly is known as Eve’s.

We strolled around Kurnah, meeting various people, & then I went & had dinner with a railway man who runs the railway there. After dinner we all climbed into open trucks & started off for this spot at about 9 p.m. It was awfully cold in the train, open trucks an’ all, & at 4 a.m. next morning when we got up I had to put on your Shetland woolly to keep warm! Fancy Mespot on the 6th of May, & Shetland woollies! Not the usual kit you acquaint with this country at this time of year; it’s a fact all the same, & you see your little gift has already come in useful. However it was hot enough in the daytime, it’s just the nights & early mornings that can be so cold here.

We had some breakfast by the side of the line, there are no stations of course yet, as the line has only just been finished, & marched out to camp here. We have quite a nice camp on the banks of the Tigris, & this is a very pretty place & such a pleasant change after Basrah. I have no notion how long we shall be here, perhaps a month, perhaps two or more, or we may be here for only a week or so; I am rather inclined to think it will be longer, more like a month or so. Anyhow it’s a step in the right direction.

This place is very much like Basrah, & I fancy is typical of all towns in the country. Very pretty surroundings, it couldn’t be otherwise with a great broad river & palm-lined banks, but the town is rather dirty & squalid, with the usual narrow bazaars, which are fascinating in their own peculiar way. The river-scene is just as busy a one as at Basrah & innumerable boats & craft of every kind are constantly moving up & down, from monitors flying the white ensign & fresh from the fighting up Baghdad way down to a frail cockleshell of a canoe which some picturesque arab laboriously paddles across the stream, dodging motor boats & steam launches & battling doggedly against the swift current.

Amongst other things, Amarah is noted for a special kind of silver work, on which they engrave pictures of the river front, boats & scenes from Arab life. They make coffee pots with fascinating long spouts, napkin rings, buttons & all sorts of jewellery and I must try & get you some as it’s most awfully nice work, though I believe the men who make it are few while the demand is enormous.

I have met several pals here, & in particular one Lloyd whom I knew in India some years ago. He was a schoolmaster in Allahabad & joined up for the war, & now is doing A.D.C. to the General commanding the Tigris defences, with whom (thanks to Lloyd) I have been lunching today. It is hot here in the day & just “tops the century” in our tents at midday; but this is only to be expected & is nothing to worry about; we shall have it much worse than that later on. For the present we have no complaints however.

There is a club here, & of course a pretty big permanent garrison, being one of the big places on the lines of communcation. Hospitals & store depôts of all kinds abound, & so in some respects it resembles a station in peace time. Hence they have tennis & golf here, & I expect boating parties & picnics, to which the river particularly lends itself.

I am very fit & well; the C.O. is still away & is I hear going to India, but I think I told you this last week. The mail goes out tomorrow, but I am writing this today to ensure catching it. I don’t know when the next mail reaches us here, but I expect in a day or so. I am seriously thinking of studying Arabic while out here; one feels so handicapped not being able to speak to the inhabitants, even to swear at them, though possibly this can be done equally effectively in English. Tea time so will close down.

Best love to all

ever your loving son


Silverware towards bottom of page



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Posted by on 9 May, '17 in About


6 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 6/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 3 letters and various papers- including the Saturday review – which I got from you yesterday. I am arranging with Cox to send you £5 to pay for all the various papers you are constantly sending; as you have sent me the weekly times & the pink papers all along so I must owe you a good deal. I find the Saturday Review most refreshing, & it seems a nice straight forward sensible paper.

Your letters were dated March 28th & April 4th, the latter being addressed direct here, c/o India office. I think I have told you since then have’nt I that M.E.F. is sufficient, at least it’s best to put it in full, otherwise it might get mixed up with the Mediterranean E.F.

Many thanks for the Easter Card, and the accounts of the Tyndareus. They behaved magnificently those men did’nt they and you must be proud to have a son in the regiment; all such new soldiers too I suppose, & I think their discipline was wonderful. Fancy Jim going to Singapore after all; praps he’ll wander into India from there, in fact I think it counts as part of India for Garrison duties.

Yes poor old Nell writes to say that Gladys got measles which effectively prevented her from going to you at Easter, but I hope she’s managed to fit in a visit since. Really everyone seems to have measles nowadays and everyone writes & comments on it.

I see in the papers they mention the great scare there was when all those officers were recalled suddenly, & rumours of raids and invasions were rife. It seems that the people in the know are fully alive to the possibilities of an attempt at invasion; not that it would come to anything if they do land, as they would soon be cut off from all supplies, though they might do a certain amount of damage for a short while. But I think you can trust the navy & the East coast defences to see us through all right.

I have’nt much news to tell you; we are still in camp here, and are quite comfy, though it is beginning to warm up a bit now. This year they are taking no risks and they are building lots of huts for troops to live in during the hot weather, and have given us all big tents like we had in Delhi last cold weather, which of course is much more comfortable & healthy, as they are much cooler.

The air is rife with rumours of our marching on to Baghdad soon, but I don’t know how much truth there is in it. I don’t think I’m giving away military information in saying this, as after all we had got Baghdad & there’s precious little elsewhere to go is there! I should like to march up very much, as we should go all over the ground made famous by Townsend & his defence of Kut, and where all the fighting in the attempted relief of Kut last year took place, & where the successful advance by Genl Maude’s army was made quite recently, & it would be most awfully interesting to see all the places one has read so much about.

Many thanks for sending off the parcel you say you have despatched: It has’nt turned up yet but I’m sure it will be most welcome when it does, but I believe parcels always take a long time reaching us out here. The cable I sent you was sent from KIAMARI which is really Karachi, it’s the name by which the docks are known. I sent it just before we sailed on the 23rd, so it took its time about reaching you; what a funny way to send it by post from Gib, but I believe all the cable lines are frightfully blocked nowadays.

Another noticeable thing in all home news nowadays is the severity of the winter. Falls of snow and hard frosts seem to be the order of the day, and Nell writes of some glorious bright winter days down in her part of the world which made me feel very envious. Dot Massy was most amused when I told her you remembered her skirts, & said she remembered them too; she’s very dressy nowadays, a trifle outrée at times I thought, but quite smart.

There seems to be a lot of fighting going on in France nowadays, & especially in the air. Germany is evidently very anxious about the Western Front, & seems to be doing her utmost to keep us from breaking through. The slaughter must be appalling, but we simply must kill them off & so end the war quicker.

I see Prince Albert [the future George VI] has been appointed to the Malaya, so she’s evidently a star turn in the fleet.

Much love to all

Yr loving son

Unveiling war memorial in 1920 –

JG Cliff-McCulloch with Prince Albert (supposedly on HMS Malaya)

JG Cliff-McCulloch with Prince Albert (L)(supposedly on HMS Malaya)

George VI on HMS Malaya, 1942

George VI on HMS Malaya, 1942. © IWM (A 18624)

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Posted by on 6 May, '17 in About


5 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 5/17


Dear Mother

Just a line to tell you we have got preliminary orders – which will probably hold good – to move up river, starting tomorrow. We move up in 3 parties, as far as Amarah for a start, where we shall stop for a bit I expect & I’ll be able to drop you a line from there I hope, but I’m trying to catch the mail with this letter, a pal of mine is sending it to the Base P.O. by special orderly, as the mail went from here 2 days ago. Whether it will succeed or not of course I can’t say, but it’s worth trying. But I thought I’d try & let you know as if we are on the move it may be difficult to catch mails.

I expect they will pack us into the ‘city of the Caliphs’ from Amarah as soon as they can; at anyrate it is a welcome change & we are all very pleased at the idea of moving. So don’t be surprised if you don’t hear next mail, you’ll know I’m moving or can’t catch the mail for some reason; this is just to let you know of our leaving here.

Lovely day yesterday, cool though a wee bit dusty, but the evening & night might have been spring in England; & this morning – I am writing in bed at 6 a.m. – is simply gorgeous.

Must get up now as we have a busy day.

Love to all

yr loving son



The City of the Caliphs (Cairo) book of 1897



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Posted by on 5 May, '17 in About


3 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 3rd


A mail did come in yesterday evening just after I had finished writing to you, & I got a letter from you dated March 21st, in which you had just got my letter saying we were coming out here. Very many thanks for your letter, I think somehow there must be one missing, as you mention Jim having lost only his fountain pen, & that you are sending me an account of it all. I suppose you mean the Tyndareus business, but you refer to it as if you had mentioned it to me in a previous letter, & that’s what made me think there must be another somewhere.

Many thanks for promising to send along a few papers, etc, they will be most welcome, but they are so expensive at home now; so please don’t worry about it too much; one wants really a weekly budget of news & some criticisms on things generally by people who know things, for which purposes the Times & the Saturday Review are excellent. Pictures of “Society” walking down Picadilly with broad & ugly grins, or of the latest revues may be amusing, but they are certainly not necessary, & possibly these hard days such papers as Tatlers & Sketches are an extravagance.

However – Yes, Desmond Gabb is just up the line here, A.D.C (I’m told) to our general. His regt is in the same brigade as we are, so we are bound to meet sooner or later. I’m almost sure I wrote & thanked Bee Dudman for “at the Front” but I will send her another letter to make sure. I think it wd be a good thing   if Miss Meade when writing to her brother happened to mention that I am out here with the 39th; I don’t want anything in particular, but he might remember the name if he saw it again so to speak.

Yes I wonder if the “back to the Land”            of those three will come off; jolly good thing for them if it does, especially Dryden who must be so heartily sick of the bank; I trust she did’nt “contract” measles. Nell writes & says her sister Gladys has it, so I do hope she did’nt get them too; everyone seems to be getting it.

The concert last night was quite good & I quite enjoyed it. The wind has dropped this morning thank goodness & it is nice & cool; it’s a mercy to get away from that impossible dust for a bit. I heard from the C.O yesterday & he tells me he is being invalided to India, which means he will be away 2 or 3 months I suppose at least, so I shall be in command for some time with any luck, unless, as I say they put anyone else in.

Best love to all

ever yr loving son


A search for Measles 1917 produces more results from the medical literature than from social history or contemporary accounts. It seems there was an epidemic in the US Army Recruitment camps, but the Berryman letters indicate that it had spread to the Royal Navy (see Paul’s letters of April 1917) and British civilians (Nell’s sister, Gladys). 

Measles is often now seen as an innocent, even comic, childhood illness (look! spots!) but it is dangerous to the immuno-compromised (children too young to be vaccinated, cancer patients, recipients of donated tissue, people with immune-system disorders) because it compromises their ability to fend off other infections like pneumonia which may then be fatal. Reading of Paul’s friends and Nell’s family remiinds us that community-immunity prevents the spread of infectious diseases and protects the vulnerable. 

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Posted by on 3 May, '17 in About


2 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 2/17


Dear Mother

Mail’s late this week so I have’nt had a line from you yet, but it ought to be in tomorrow or next day but I’m afraid it will be too late to answer it by this mail. Not much news this week. Still here! & likely to remain here I’m told till mid-June, not a very pleasing prospect, as we are in a very dusty camp & there’s nothing doing here. In any case we shan’t see any of the scrapping this spring, as the hot weather is coming on now & they don’t & can’t do much while that is on.

I hope you have’nt been wondering too much if I’ve been round about all this fighting they’ve had lately up north of Baghdad; well, anyhow you know by now that I’ve been no where near it, but have been sitting quietly at the base all the time. However I suppose we shall go up sometime and shall probably be in time for some of the fun next autumn – if the war is’nt over by then!

The weather has been truly varied in the week since I last wrote. We have had one or two piping hot days, but the last two days have been the worst, a howling gale with a perpetual sandstorm day & night. Really it’s been most trying & one’s eyes get so sore & the air is full of flying sand & you simply can’t get away from it, tents are no good as sand easily defeats them & the whole of one’s tent gets smothered in it too. The temperature dropped into the 80’s, thanks to the wind, but I would much rather have the higher temperature & no wind. It has made a valiant struggle to rain tonight, but it ended in a miserable failure, though it made a great exhibition & we had lots of thunder & lightning.

The Colonel has gone to hospital with a touch of dysentry; he was’nt at all well when he went, & I had a line from him yesterday saying he felt very weak & could’nt eat anything, & how thankful he was he had got away from the hot & dusty camp into a nice cool & clean hospital. So he evidently was’nt feeling up to much. I don’t know how long he will be away, but these things always take some time to get right, especially in countries & climates like this. Meanwhile I am commanding the regiment while he is away, & unless they think I’m too junior I suppose they will leave me in command till he comes back, & also if he is invalided to India for any length of time which I imagine is quite possible.

I have been out to dinner once or twice with various pals, & I have also been to one or two concerts given by amateur troups here, exactly the same sort of thing as you see photographs of in ‘the Sketch’ etc occasionally, performing in France or elsewhere. I must say they are awfully good, much the same as amateur pierrot shows always are, they seem to enjoy it as much as the audience, who are always most enthusiastic, & are obviously all out to enjoy themselves. I am going to one tonight at a hospital near here; I have got to know some of the doctors & nurses through various pals whom I’ve met & one of the nurses asked me to go tonight; since when I hear she has gone on a month’s leave to India!, but I’m going to the concert all the same.

Capt Fox has just come in to my tent & said the mail may be in this evening so p’raps I may get a letter from you today after all; but all these things are always very “p’rapsy”.

It’s turned out a lovely evening, after the awful squalls of the last 2 days & the wind has dropped a lot thank goodness. Fox & I went into the town yesterday, to do some shopping; we went down by the river, & as there was this strong wind blowing, we sailed down in a very crazy craft, & I’m sure we nearly upset heaps of times, though the boatmen said it was all right : at least I imagine they said that, though I did’nt understand a single word really! Anyhow it felt very unsafe as the river was really quite rough & choppy in the wind. But we fairly whizzed along, so different to the usual method of progression by being punted & paddled, which is deadly slow. I’m having an early dinner with my friend in the wireless mess to get to the concert in time, so I must wind up.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



Samarrah offensive north of Baghdad, April 1917

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Posted by on 2 May, '17 in About


24 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

St Mark’s day.

April 24/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 2 letters from you last mail, dated Feb 28th & March 7th which I got 2 days ago. How truly amusing the extracts from the Chronicle are, & I must really write to Ricketts & tell him he caught me out in a match 20 years ago! He will be vastly amused, and Miles will be too when I tell him of his mention in the acting. Thanks awfully for sending along the extracts, they are really most awfully interesting.

Glad the parcel arrived; those funny little Indian toy animals are rather fascinating are’nt they, & I thought those monkeys were ripping sort of hanging on to any old place by that long crooked hand of theirs. I have heard from the girls & the rugs seem to be a success, though I must say I did’nt do much choosing once they were sewn up; I just took up the parcels one by one any old how & addressed them, so can claim no credit for sending Rosamond a pink one on purpose, it was a fortunate fluke.

Nothing much doing here at present. We seem to be stuck here indefinitely, & there appears to be no chance of our moving just yet. Rather sickening & we are missing all the fun – interesting & successful fun too – up at the front & as the hot weather is now coming on, the prospects of our seeing anything for some months to come at anyrate is not very hopeful. However, we can but sit & wait in patience & doubtless we shall get as much as we want all in due time.

The camp here is getting horribly dusty & dirty. There are a good many troops here & lots & lots of transport animals, who simply churn the whole place up into dust & as there is always a good strong breeze blowing, so this dust is all over the place & it makes it very unpleasant, especially as it all blows into our tents.

Yes it was lucky Dick & Paul just managing to meet was’nt it. I wrote Dick a long letter from Karachi telling him all about June, but of course I have’nt had time to hear from him yet. I had a very long & interesting letter from Paul too last week; he is awfully pleased with life is’nt he, & he told me all about his romance & his Nance, most interesting. He also sent me typed accounts of the story of Tony Farrer & the little Ashburnham girl; really it makes the most splendid reading, & the way those two stuck to each other was really magnificent was’nt it. I shewed it round the mess & all were tremendously impressed with the story.

I have met a man called Searle here who lives near Hackney Row; I don’t suppose his people were there in your day, I fancy they have only arrived fairly recently. Anyhow he knows the place well, & knows the Maturins, Walkinshares & Seymours & Balgarnies (familiar old names!) so I thought p’raps if you happen to run across any of the people you might mention the fact. He is with his regiment (Indian Army) up in Persia somewhere, & is here doing a signalling course. He was with the Berkshires in France & got an M.C; a nice chap, quite young, only 21 I think.

We have had a taste of hot weather this last week, & the thermometer touched 111º in our little 40 lb: tents one day. But that was unusual for the time of year, & it’s generally about 95º or so in the day, dropping to 64º or so at night. Now we are getting a breeze pretty regular, sometimes quite a strong wind & that makes a lot of difference to the temperature. Today is quite nice & cool, comparatively.

I told you I think I had met one Wilkinson of the Wireless telegraph station here? He was an engineer on the Dufferin when we came home for the Coronation in 1911. Anyhow his headquarters are here & I             go across & see him; & on Sunday he took me down to one of the many hospitals here, where he knew some of the nurses, & then we all went for a joy ride in one of the Red X launches. It was lovely, & it was 5 o’clock & in the cool of the evening; the river here is about ½ a mile broad or so, & always full of all kinds of shipping, as I think I described to you, cruisers, gun-boats, transports, fussy little motor boats & lots an’ lots of native craft of all shapes & sizes.

We went down the main stream a bit & then wandered off up a side creek, which was really gorgeously peaceful & quite English to look at, but for the dark palms which came down to the water’s edge on each side. We went a long way down this creek & I thoroughly revelled in the pleasure of it all.

At one place on this creek an Arab sheikh had his residence, & growing all over his verandah was a lovely climbing rose, pink & in full bloom. Close by was a huge splash of colour in the form of a big cluster of oleanders (? oleanda) & it was too much for us, so we landed & made friends with the sheikh by signs & broken conversation carried on in English, Hindustani and a few words of Arabic, & came away armed with huge handfuls of flowers, which subsequently I expect went to brighten up the wards at the hospitals. We came back in the dark almost, & the river was awfully pretty with all the ships lighted up.

I hope those 4 girls managed to get onto the land, especially Dreda who must be heartily sick of the bank & who really & truly deserves a change I think, & it would be so much better for her would’nt it. I think it’s splendid the way she’s stuck to the bank, loathing it as she must. Things seem to be fairly scarce at home now, potatoes & all that sort of thing; but I think the people will play up all right & back up the food controller don’t you. And with the Submarine show well in hand – though it is a very serious matter – & america coming into the war, things ought to improve in a few weeks, & get correspondingly bad for Germany.

Yes, India is bucking up quite a lot is’nt she, what with war loan & national service for Europeans. I must get some money into the Indian War loan I think.

I must censor some of the men’s letters now; they seem to write such a lot, but there is never much in their letters beyond messages to various relations to say they are well & flourishing! I hope you are getting my letters regularly, though I suppose they are bound to be erratic from here. Thanks again for the bound volume of the daily Sketch, much appreciated.

Very fit & well.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


We no longer know what details of Paul and Nancy’s romance merited the underline saying they were “most interesting”. Paul had become  increasingly close to Nancy Swan during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, possibly via an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.


Doreen Ashburnham, 11 and Anthony Farrer, 8, fought off a cougar in British Columbia and were awarded the Albert Medal

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Posted by on 24 April, '17 in About