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Author Archives: Ted Berryman

22 June 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

June 22/18

 

Dear Mother

I can’t remember if I’ve written to you lately, I know I’ve been most frightfully busy with this old school and have’nt had much time. My diary says I had 2 letters from you on 4th & one again on the 19th but I think I must have answered the 4th ones.      the one that arrived 19th was dated             & very many thanks for it.

It has got a lot hotter since I last wrote anyhow, & the last week or so has not been very pleasant. We had it 110° in the shade [43° C] 2 days ago & it’s usually 105 or 106. However living in a house with Electric fans makes a lot of difference. We still lead a very strenuous life here, up at 4 & work outdoors 5-8, & lectures etc 9.30-1 & afternoon work as well & we generally go to bed tiredish. The course ends next week & then we have a week off, & the next one begins.

I hear from Jim very often. He wants me to get him a lot of things like hair oil & writing paper. There is an officer from his rgt: on the course so I’ll get him to take a box up to Jim for me, though I may be able to manage a visit myself in the “holidays” but I don’t know yet. He seems very fit & enthusiastic.

Col Hogg has I hear gone to hospital with a pain inside but I don’t know how bad he is or whether he will have to go on sick leave or anything. We had a great dinner party 2 nights ago, about 60 people dining here, & a concert afterwards, rather a late night but we persuaded the colonel to let us get up an hour later next morning which was’nt much, but still it was a little better than usual.

Sam Orton has gone home on a special mission, fearfully secret and all. He went at 2 days’ notice so I did’nt have much time to see him. He took a wee present for Nell home with him, very kindly, so I did’nt like to load him up too much otherwise I might have sent you something along.

Your letter of April 16th said no mail had come in. I had a line from Nell dated 22nd April & she had had some letters from me, so I expect yours rolled up all right. I’m afraid I was rather optimistic & hopeful about leave then. But if there was a chance at all I simply had to sort of warn Nell did’nt I, and I’m afraid I raised the poor child’s hopes too much. I feel rather angry with myself for ever having done so, & there still seems practically no chance of my getting home this year.

I am sorry to hear about Major Thornton. I know how much Rosamond liked him. I wrote to Rosamond some time ago asking her seriously about the farm, & if there was any chance of my joining as a partner etc after the war, but I’m afraid she never got the letter as I never heard anything from her about it. And now I suppose things are all changed, so I hope she won’t bother about it. From Ben’s description of the place when she stayed there it sounded most fascinating, & she wrote & told me how suitable she thought it was for me, as apparently a good bailiff is the chief necessity & I suppose one would manage to learn the difference between a plum and an apple oneself in time.

I had a line from Dryden & she & Sheima seemed mightily pleased with their Pitney visit. I met Cocks Cowland- Cicely’s brother- here the other day & we dined & yarned over old times together : sounds rather spinky does’nt it. There is one Major Radwell of the Hants rgt here on this course who used to go to old Quentin’s place at Liphook & play raquets with him in the old days; the place was burnt down you remember & Bunchie often used to go & stay there, but neither he nor I can remember the name of it.

So you’re going to keep a bee. Good, only do mind he does’nt sting you. I always have a horror of them as you know, but I must say honey is good- “and is there honey still for tea” as Rupert Brook says. I am glad to see Lloyd George & Geddes & everyone saying definitely that we have got the submarine situation well in hand now, & also the food man says that you won’t be asked to go through such rotten times as you have been – most cheering news, and I think nowadays they are very careful when they make public statements to tell the truth.

I have a lecture now so I will end up. I see letters from London up to mid May about have arrived in Bombay so I suppose we expect them here in 10 days or so.

Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted


Noel Thornton was married, so his friendship with Rosamund was not a romance. However, the context implies that Rosamund’s plans after the war depended on Major Thornton surving it, and that Ted might buy into a venture with Rosamund. Perhaps she was considering becoming a tenant farmer. 

Major Noel Shipley Thornton, 7th Rifle Brigade

His father died 4 weeks later

Betchworth memorial

Auckland Geddes

Honey still for tea

 
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Posted by on 22 June, '18 in About

 

2 June 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

June 2/18

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter dated March 25, which I got on my return from my visit to our 1st Bn: last week. The letter also had 2 really excellent snap shots of Ben & James, & Dreda & the best man, I’m most awfully glad to have them, & incidentally I’m jolly proud of my sisters. (I wonder if specs took one of Nell, by the way? I know she was only a guest at the show & not a performer, but I should love to have a real good snap of her.)

Not much news here. We are all anxiously awaiting further news of the German offensive on the Aisne. It’s simply hopeless to comment on these things at this distance, & considering the time this letter will take to reach you, but one can at least continue to express the utmost admiration for those troops withstanding those terrible odds, to have absolute confidence in them and the final outcome of it all.

I heard from Nell too of course, all about the wedding & her visit. She did enjoy it so, & I’m sure it did her all the good in the world to get away from frowsty old Gloucester for a bit. I’m so awfully glad the dear child was looking so pretty & well, but I have’nt heard half enough about her yet. You see I seldom if ever get a description of her & just this glimpse of her I have got from you & Ben has made me wild to hear more. However another mail is on its way upstream I believe, so perhaps I’ll be satisfied in a day or two.

My peaceful visit to the 1st Batt. was somewhat rudely disturbed the last morning at 4.a.m. by the arrival of a Turco ‘plane who dropped bombs about, but no harm was done though it was somewhat alarming.

Our week’s rest is over now, & the new class begins tomorrow & we have a strenuous month ahead of us. There is an officer from Jim’s regiment here & he brought news of him & various messages, I had a line too from Jim himself today, he seems very contented with his lot & has fallen among a nice lot of fellows apparently.

You refer to “rather a friend of Jane’s” in your letter, by name Garden, who is I gather the “Murray Gordon” of her wire; am I right? I wonder, as beyond the wire & the slight reference to him in your letter I am completely in the dark regarding the whole affair. Perhaps next mail will enlighten me somewhat.

I say mother I don’t think you need worry to send the Pink Papers any more, thanks very much; they are’nt worth the paper they are printed on. I like the Spectator now that I’m away from the rgt, & also the daily sketches & things and of course the weekly times. An occasional bystander or tatler or sketch is always welcome. Yes I got the surrey times with the account of old Ben’s wedding in it, or rather of her & the bridesmaid’s dresses, but I suppose this is inevitable. However, better describe their dresses than, as I saw the other day in an Indian paper, the bridegroom “looked very smart in his khaki uniform”, awful is’nt it!

I went to the French convent here yesterday, they have an orphanage for Armenian & other kiddies, & they are fearfully pleased to see anyone there. They were very good to our wounded after Kut, as I think I must have told you. I went last Sunday & again yesterday, & made a few purchases of silk etc, they really have some marvellous work there, but it’s all very expensive.

Must end up now. A boisterous windy day but cool.

Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted


 

 
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Posted by on 2 June, '18 in About

 

28 May 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

May 28th/18

 

Dear Mother

It seems a long time since I wrote to you, but mails are so erratic & they don’t even let you know when they do leave Bombay, so one simply can’t judge when to write. In any case I have long since ceased to worry about mail days & generally write once a week & trust to luck. I have’nt had much time these last 2 weeks, as this old infantry school has kept me very busy. It ended on 25th,  & we have a week before it begins again, and I have managed to get away for 2 days of that week.

I have come up the line a bit to stay with Fred Lumb in the 1st Battn, and to see how things are getting on. I only know one or two of them now but it has been a very pleasant change besides being a new part of the world to see. I go back tomorrow, as I have lots of things to get ready for the next course.

I believe there is a mail in Baghdad today, from London up to 29th March, so I ought to get letters giving accounts of old Ben’s wedding, and also descriptions of how Nell looked. I did just get one letter from you last mail saying she looked thin but well, but I hope to get more detailed news of her when I get back.

This old infantry school is most awfully strenuous. We work 5-8 every morning outdoors, lectures 10-30 to 1 & private work for students & correcting papers etc for us in the afternoon. And as the weather is warming up a bit now it takes it out of one a bit. However I must say it is remarkably cool for the time of year, & besides we have electric fans at the school which helps a lot.

This morning I met the Russian General Baratoff, who used to command the Russian troops who were working with us out here. But of course that’s all bust up now & he has come in to us. Sam Orton is taking him round to see all the sights & he suddenly rolled up here this morning – with all his staff & several generals etc. He was dressed just like a cossack out of a book, double-breasted coat an’ all & medals & swords & a very hot-looking sheepskin hat, most unsuitable for the weather I should think, in fact his whole get up was. It was interesting to meet him, though of course our conversation was limited!

I did’nt see Jim again after that Sunday I saw him in hospital. He got all right again & then went off pretty soon to join his regiment, & I have heard from him once since then.

I went to see the Nuns at the French convent in Baghdad on Sunday. They take in Armenian girls there & other refugees. They wear convent kit of course with that funny starched white cap. They are dears, & always awfully pleased to see one. They make all sorts of things, these lovely silk cloaks & scarves, lace & underclothes and sell them to help towards the upkeep of the place. They are all French, & were most awfully good to our wounded after Kut fell in April ’16, & 3 of them were decorated by Genl Maude with the Royal Red Cross. I must go & see them again some day.

Col Keen, who runs our school, funnily enough knows old Col Swann intimately, & the family too, in fact he married one of the family who lived next door to Sausthorpe. He is in the 45th Sikhs, & was awfully interested about it all. He knew Nance was engaged to a Navy man, but was’nt sure of the name.

I was interviewed by General Marshall one day last week, but we had’nt much to say to each other!

Will write more next time. Hope to hear from you tomorrow

Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted


Nancy Swann had married Ted’s brother Paul.

 
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Posted by on 28 May, '18 in About

 

14 May 1918 – Ted to Getrude

May 14/18

 

Dear Mother

Supposed to be mail day tomorrow but they are so erratic that it really does’nt matter much. We have had no mails in yet of course, as it’s only 10 days or so since our last one, though I believe one has arrived in Bombay.

You will probably have heard from Jim & how he had to go to hospital with sandfly fever, but he is all right again now & ‘phoned me today to say he was leaving the hospital tomorrow. I did’nt even know he had gone there till he had been there 2 days, & then one of the students on the class said he had seen his name there so I rung up & found out. I went & saw him once or twice there & he seemed very fit each time & had got over the worst of it, but I was too busy to go oftener. However he’s all right now & I expect I’ll see him tomorrow.

I’m all right again too now & am back to work once more. I had 3 days in bed last week, but I could’nt spare any more as there’s such lots to do on this class & there are only 3 of us instructors.

Warmer now & the hot weather has fairly started, but it’s quite bearable at present. And a week ago, when I had fever an’ all, I was wearing the old Shetland & sleeping under a blanket!

I’m longing to get the next mail as it ought to have accounts of Ben’s wedding & of old Nell too. You did just write a wee line to say it went off all right & Nell looked thin, but I hope for more details later.

What wonderful things the Navy has been doing has’nt it, I think it’s truly marvellous, and I am so glad they’ve had a chance to show some definite results to the public. It was really magnificent the blocking of Zeebrugge & Ostend harbours. I do hope it will materially affect the submarines & you’ll be able to get more food now.

You poor folk at home are getting very little to eat I’m afraid & not very nourishing at that. I do hope things are better now. What awful prices things are too & the meat allowance seems ridiculously small. So sorry to hear Nance has jaundice, lucky she was home as you say & not stuck up in rooms at Queensferry.

Yes, those cuttings about Hit I got allright. You will know by now that we were in that show, & chased the Turk for miles & miles after the battle of Khan Baghdadi. You saw I expect that “our troops have occupied Ana” well we got right up to there, simply miles & miles ahead of anybody! We did’nt have much fighting, but we had a strenuous time on the whole, but it was quite good fun. There has been more rounding up of Turks up the other side, but of course I was’nt in that.

A lovely parcel came from you 2 or 3 days ago with soap & bath salts & chocolate, thanks awfully. I gave one of the pieces of soap to Jim in hospital. I got a line from the Mess president to say the F & M boxes had arrived & were very much appreciated. He said he was writing to you.

I must get ready some work for tomorrow. We get up at 5 every day, outdoor work 6-9, indoor (lectures etc) 10-30 -1, & preparation for next day during the afternoon, so we are pretty busy, especially in this climate!

Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted


If Nancy was living some of the time “in rooms in Queensferry” that means Paul was probably at Rosyth. I would dearly love to know if they lived in North Queensferry or South Queensferry. North would be nearer Rosyth, South is more usually referred to as “Queensferry” or “the ‘Ferry”. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeebrugge_Raid

 
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Posted by on 14 May, '18 in About

 

8 May 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

May 8th/18

 

Dear Mother

A lovely mail arrived yesterday with 3 letters from you, dated 5th 13th & 20th March, all very welcome, and very many thanks indeed for them- of course the prevailing topic was old Ben’s wedding, & in your last letter you just mentioned it had gone off all right, and I am longing to get next mail’s letters with fuller descriptions. Your letter too is the only one that mentions Nell, you say she is “very pretty” – I’m sure of that, the dear child – but thin – Well, as far as I can make out everyone at home is thin nowadays, & Nell says she is very fit & well. All the same I am longing for letters from you all next mail, as they all promised to write & tell me all about old Nell, and of course I’m  wildly delighted to hear. I had a wee note from her at Delaford, very hurriedly written, but she seemed very full of life-

My chief news is of course about having met Jim. He was living in camp the other side of the river, and as there is only one bridge, supplemented by a spasmodic ferry, it was rather hard for him to get across. And I was awfully busy too with the class, and had’nt much leisure, so our meetings were necessarily curtailed. However we saw a good deal of each other, and had great talks over old times, & he told me a good deal of stop press news, tho’ I was able to put him wise on a good many points, as he had been without a mail for a long time. He is most awfully fit and well, & it was ripping seeing him again.

He has gone off now to meet his regiment. We had several dinners together at the club here and he may try and wangle it to be sent on this course later on, in which case I should have to lecture to him!

Your latest letters were posted just before the big offensive, and of course contained no reference to it. A lot has happened since then, has’nt it, and I’m afraid the British public has been called upon to show more grit & determination during these last few weeks than at any other period of the war- But at the time of writing the papers & all telegrams strike a much more hopeful note, with much more confidence and a brighter outlook all round.

We simply must put implicit confidence in those wonderful troops, it’s the one & only thing to do, & indeed they have not failed us so far- It must be terribly hard for all you at home, but I do hope by now confidence is restored – if it ever failed, which I rather doubt. I like to think the Britisher is capable of putting up with far worse than this, he is capable of making greater sacrifices yet and willingly too. His heart is in the right place, if only the government will tell him what to do, he’ll do it.

He hates, I always think, to be asked to do things voluntarily, he seems shy at starting,- but frame a line of action for him, ration him, tax him, cut up his daily life into little bits for him, & he will submit loyally so long as it means victory. I’m sure of it – and behind it all is the wonderful patience & courage & sacrifice of the women, to say nothing of the hard manual labour they do- No, there’s not much wrong wth the rank & file of England. He will submit to good management as willingly as he does to bad, and now that is just a question of “sticking it”.

I feel sure in my own mind who can go on longest. Hard times I know for us all, especially for all you at home, but we have the example set by the women of England to follow, and thank God we are far from going under yet, a long long way from it.

Really the rationing in England does’nt seem a great success at present. I quite agree with you, it should have been started 2 years ago. Everyone would have played up I’m sure, they only want to be asked, & told what to do, and they will willingly do it. A few might have groused, but only a very few, & they would’nt have mattered. But it seems wrong that the food should contain so little nourishment, & I do hope that things will improve when the machine works a little more smoothly. The conditions in Germany & Austria, especially the latter, must be terrible if ours are as bad as you say.

Lovely & cool here, & here we are the 8th of May! And this time last year at Basra it was well over 100! We have had fearful gales & storms too, and altogether the weather is quite unusual, & long may it continue so- you sent me one or two cuttings about Hit and the fighting up there. Yes we were in that, but there was’nt much doing,  except our pursuit of the Turk, which was most exciting. But I wrote & told you we had been up there, did’nt I.

So glad the photographs arrived – what exciting adventures my last lot of letters seem to have had! Both Ben & Nell say they were stamped “damaged by sea water”, so I expect they could a tale unfold. However it’s a comfort to think they did roll up eventually. I think the mails are marvellous; irregular of course, but at least they arrive nearly always; I have the greatest admiration for the mail service.

I had a long letter from Paul describing the wedding an’ all- and of course I got your letters too all about it. He seems deliriously happy, & his letter was most enthusiastic. I am being left are’nt I! Three members of the family engaged and married since I set the fashion – in engagement anyhow, tho’ Ben was engaged then of course- and I expect & hope Jinny will not wait long. Poor old Nell, I am so sorry for her, & she’s so awfully plucky & patient about it all. But what can one do? There seems no chance of leave except on very urgent affairs, & they don’t count marriage urgent enough- However we must just wait & hope for the best; things happen so unexpectedly & suddenly nowadays that one never knows where one may be next.

I am so glad my cable to Ben hit off the exact day. I must confess it was’nt meant to, but it was rather hard to send off private wires just then, as we were right up at the front – during the Hit business it was – however I managed to persuade the field telegraphs to take it, & I’m extra pleased if Ben was so anxious to hear from me. I had letters from her this week, but I doubt if I can answer them today.

Yes that Mrs Lumb at Horsely is Fred Lumb’s sister, she married a cousin of the same name. I know her slightly, do go & see her if you can, or write to her as Fred Lumb & I are great pals, & it would be a good thing I think. Fred Lumb’s mother always sends me a Christmas card; you remember I went & stayed with them when I was on leave in 1910, up in Norfolk, perchance-

So glad to hear Capon is so much better & can do a little work now. You seem to have discovered a wonderful doctor in London for him- How sad about Dr Lerick, I did’nt know him to speak to, only by sight. You talk of taking his house, and I suppose with all the family getting married you would be more comfortable in a smaller house, but when the family comes to stay it will be rather a problem-

Well, the old home is beginning to break up- sad but inevitable I suppose- But we have no complaints – we have been together a tremendous lot despite our scattered professions. And we could’nt have had a finer training ground than we have had, or a finer example than you, mother, and we all owe you a very deep debt of gratitude for all you have done, and I only hope our own homes will be as happy and comfortable and well-managed as the one we have known so long has always been-

So Aunt Edward’s left you £1000; how generous of her, a handy sum these days; I wonder if it was in war loan or stock of any sort. You say I have got a watch, quite exciting, & I am daily expecting a very stiff & formal letter from the solicitors. Yes, you had better stick to the watch pro-tem-

My news is little enough I’m afraid. I have been in bed these last 3 days. It appears (Capon!) that I had a “sharp attack” of sand-fly fever, but I did’nt worry much about it. Anyhow about a week ago I began to get something really saucy in the headache line, & on on Sat: & Sun: it felt as if someone was making a tank inside my head, & I thought it was going to burst. Jim was here, & was awfully good to me, & got doctors & medicine etc; I’m afraid he was rather worried but of course I’m perfectly all right really; Sand-fly fever always leaves you with heads like that, & they are getting less every day now & will probably be quite gone by tomorrow. But they won’t let me do any brain work or lecturing for a day or two. However, don’t worry, I’m as right as rain really, & it will be a thing of the past when you get this. The work here is strenuous, so I have to go easy for a day or so. Mail goes today.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


A long chatty letter, full of family gossip and morale-boosting encouragement, and then Ted finishes up with the news he’s got Sand-Fly Fever and is too ill to work. Love him to pieces, but really, he is upper lip is a bit too stiff at times.  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pappataci_fever

 

 
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Posted by on 8 May, '18 in About

 

30 April 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

April 30th/18

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for several mail letters from you. Our long lost mails have at last turned up & I have letters from you dated 30th Jan 13th Feb 20th Feb 26th Feb. I’m afraid I’m most awfully busy nowadays and I have only just time for a bare scribble to you.

My chief news of course is that I have met Jim. He turned up one day and rung me up & came & stayed with me that night & is here again to-night. He is most awfully fit & we have had great talks on things & people. He does’nt seem to have changed a bit since I last saw him.

I have been so busy that I really can’t remember when I last wrote, but anyhow I have got this job as instructor at the Infantry School, and I shall be in Baghdad all the hot weather probably. We are in a house, with electric light & fans, so we ought to be comfortable anyway for the summer. But starting off the school of course involves a whole heap of work, and I literally have’nt had a minute to spare, & what I have had I have spent with Jim.

Of course we are all fearfully anxious for news from the Western Front; none too good it seems just at present, but I think the army is doing wonders against such terrific odds; & the line is’nt broken yet by any means. We simply must & will stick it out. How helpless one feels out here, but what can one do. We can only sit & marvel at the wonderful things being done in France and at you people at home waiting anxiously for news & being so wonderfully plucky all the time. We are up against some serious problems now, but we’ll get through all right in the end.

It’s so worth it, to win now, and it’s just a question of endurance, & surely we can hold out as long as anybody. It’s hard to say cheer up I expect, but I do say it all the same. Mother I’m so sleepy & I have’nt written to Nell for a week & she must have a line. Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Jim and Ted last met in the summer of 1915 when Jim was in camp in Salisbury Plain and Ted was training recruits in Gloucestershire just before he met Nell. Ted had not met Jim’s wife Sheina by 1918 though it is likely that Jim met Ted’s fiancée Nell.

 
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Posted by on 30 April, '18 in About

 

24 April 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

April 24/18

 

Dear Mother

After a lapse of a month we have once more got a belated mail. One arrived 2 days ago, and in it I got 2 letters from you for which many thanks. Your letters were dated 30 Jan & Feb 5, but I believe there are mails of a much later date in the country somewhere and they may turn up at any minute.

A good deal has happened to me since I last scrawled a few lines during & after the Khan Baghdadi fighting. I have’nt told you much about it I’m afraid. Truth to tell there is’nt very much to say about it. Besides when one reads of all this terrific fighting in France our rotten little side shows seem so absurd as to be hardly worth mentioning.

Of course the whole topic of our thoughts & conversations for the whole of the past 4 or 5 weeks has been the Western Front. It seems useless to comment on it, except to read with pride & amazement of the wonderful things the British Army has once more done. What terribly anxious & critical times these have been lately, and of course we are by no means out of the wood yet. But at the time of writing there is a lull, preparatory only of course to further terrific attacks. But the general situation – whatever it may be when you get this – would seem to be satisfactory. After all the German plan was immediate & rapid success, the breaking of the line, and the dividing of the French & British armies, none of which things he has accomplished.

But what a terrible time the army must have been through. We hear a great deal about the German losses, which have no doubt been almost incredibly big, but we hear nothing of ours, or of our loss of guns and material of all sorts. I simply can’t write much about all this, but please don’t think I’m dismissing the subject lightly. We are all of us deeply concerned and I’m afraid a little worried at times. It comes I fancy from a feeling of absolute impotence, of “not-being-there” sort of feeling; not from any pessimism or lack of confidence in those wonderful troops who are going through it all. One feels so absolutely helpless, so powerless to help out here. We all know & realise it must fall to some one’s lot to serve in these parts, & that in reality we are serving our country just as much out here as anywhere, but it is very very hard to get rid of the feeling that the Western Front is where men are wanted, & the Western Front is where we all would be if we had our wish.

I hope & think you will understand what I mean. It is no desire to appear as desperate ‘fire-eaters’, so to speak, but just the feeling that it seems wrong somehow that so many of us should sit by & watch while poor old England is getting hammered so. I know it’s unavoidable, but so too is the feeling of helplessness. I personally have long since ceased to worry about missing any little “show” there may be out here, but this of course is something far more critical & important, & after all we all like to help in the most practical way possible.

I have been given a job for the hot weather, instructor at an officers’ school, sort of teaching young officers & getting them in touch with the latest ideas. I did not apply for it but they just ordered me to come & take up the appointment. It is only temporary of course, for about 4 months I suppose. We are in Baghdad, or about 2 miles from it; in a house with electric light & fans, so we ought to be fairly comfy for the summer anyhow. I think I told you to address c/o Cox Bombay sometime ago; if not will you please do so, as once one gets on these uncertain & temporary jobs away from the regiment I think it’s better to do so. It means I get my letters a wee bit later perhaps, but it makes very little difference in the long run.

My other news is that my leave has been refused, as so very few are being given home leave this year, except on very urgent affairs. Mere marriage apparently does not come under this head, so poor old Nell & I must possess ourselves in patience for a little longer. Poor child, I feel so frightfully sorry for her, & somehow it seems to be all my fault for coming out to this rotten country & getting stuck here. As it is I don’t think I shall bother about taking leave to India this year, even if I could get it, which seems doubtful now that I have got the job.

I hope to meet Jim in a day or two. He is on his way up river from the base, & should be here shortly. I got a wire from him at Amara 2 days ago saying he might be arriving by train yesterday, but he did’nt know that the railway is temporarily bust up here owing to floods, so he must come by boat the whole journey. I shall be jolly glad to see a member of the family again, as Jim has seen you all much later than I have, even though he must have been away more than a year.

Of course the chief item of news in your letter is dear old Ben’s engagement. I wrote of course and told you how genuinely delighted I was to hear the news. I can’t think why she thought it would be a shock to me; I was surprised of course, as not being on the spot so to speak I was’nt in touch with the latest developments. But ‘pleased’ is hardly the word to express my feelings, it’s really one of the best bits of news I’ve heard for a long long time. However all this is ancient history now of course & they are married and settled down an’ all. It’s the very best thing possible that could have happened to Ben, & she thoroughly deserves it, and I’m so glad she’s been so sensible an’ all, as of course we all knew she would be.

Your letters too are full of Paul’s wedding which seems to have gone off with a bang eventually, after having been put off many times. I have’nt had a word from either him or Nance, though I sent them something, or they chose something. Anyhow I have paid the bill! & Ben said my present was a very nice one, though I have’nt the vaguest idea what it was! But nowadays letters so often go astray that I’m not worrying about it. For heaven’s sake don’t tell them this, by the way. I’m sure to hear sooner or later, if it’s not been sunk or lost.

The weather out here is incredible. We had 7 hard days’ marching down the “front” and then I came in here. Those 7 days consisted of  different samples, cold, heat, rain, wind, dust, mud and ordinary, sometimes all at once & sometimes singly or in pairs. And it’s so wonderfully cool. I see this time last year in Basra it was 110° or so in our tents, but really up here it’s no worse than an April day at home! Lovely cool days, with frequent rain showers, and very cold nights still. The temperature can’t have touched 90° in the shade yet, or anywhere near it. Today is cloudy & showery with a south wind which always brings rain, but otherwise nothing to complain of.

Your list of prices at home is most alarming and indeed the meat ration is very low. What a thousand pities as you say we were’nt all put on rations a year or more ago; as it is I suppose all are suffering alike thanks to the self-indulgence and unpatriotic motives (for that’s really what it amounts to) of a few. Of course it’s the munition makers and such like that can afford these high prices nowadays, but with rationing in full swing matters ought to adjust themselves sooner or later. I think it’s wonderful how all you people at home carry on despite all these trying conditions with not over-much excitement to keep you going.

What a mercy there is lots of work for everyone just to keep mind & body employed, though from what one hears & reads there are still many idle hands in the country. All the same there’s not much wrong with old England, & there’s nothing like a crisis to make people pull themselves together. The war was rapidly becoming a part of their daily lives & being treated as such, & I think these anxious times are all for the good in the long run.

I have’nt got any papers or anything yet by post, so have’nt seen the account of Paul’s wedding. But my move down here has temporarily disjointed the mail service as far as I am concerned, & I may get a batch of letters & papers any day now. By the way, on my way down here from the regiment to the rail head I stopped at the letter place one night with a pal who was in charge of all our stores, tents, etc which of course we could’nt get up during the active operations. He was busy sending up as much as he could every day to the regiment up the line as soon as we had come back, and of course a good many things had accumulated there.

I asked him at once if there was a Fortnum & Mason box for the mess there, & he said “Oh yes, I sent it up today!” So I must have actually passed it on the road the very day I left the regiment! So it’s taken all this time to reach us! Doubtless you will get a scrawl from the mess president about it, but I’m afraid I’ve missed all the good things by coming here. However as long as it’s turned up safely that’s the main thing. You were answering letters of mine in the last mail dated last November!

I must really start learning up some of the subjects I’m supposed to teach the class. Please apologise to the others for my not writing but really the excuse “no time” is genuine this time. I can’t remember if I’ve written since I heard of Jinny’s engagement. Anyhow I’m jolly glad to hear it & I’m longing to hear who he is & all about him, as at present he is a mere name to me. Anyhow it’s splendid news, & my advice to them is to get married at once. I’ve tried waiting & it’s not a success!

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted

 
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Posted by on 24 April, '18 in About

 

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