RSS

Author Archives: Ted Berryman

30 October 1918 – Ted to Nell

Nell was Ted’s fiancée whom he had not seen since the end of 1915 – almost three years before.  Ted had written to her almost daily during this time.  The conversational detail of this letter shows how they had maintained and developed their relationship even though at times it took up to four months to send a letter and then receive a reply. 


30th Oct/18

Darling Child   just a scribble as near “the day” as I can get it – Honestly old lady I simply have’nt had a minute since 21st of the month to write to you in- for 9 days we have been marching hard & long, & the last 5 have had fighting in addition- heavy fighting too, but the Brigade did splendid work- tho I say it as should’nt- and we had some hard fights with the Turk and some stern chases after him – into bivouac after dark at 7 or so, then on again at midnight, fighting early next morning, perhaps all day, that’s been our programme- But it has all ended very happily-

You will have seen by now how many prisoners were captured, I have’nt the vaguest idea, but I saw several thousands this morning- It’s been hard work & we are all pretty well done, but the final success is worth anything. My brigade was on the Right bank of the river & we had as much fighting as we wanted, & it was all most awfully interesting for me of course in my new job- and very frightening at times too! However no harm done, except some splinters of shell in my arm & hand, as one burst rather unpleasantly close one day, but beyond being rather painful for a day or two it was nothing-

Anyhow old lady here’s to yesterday – the great 29th October, the greatest day of my life in lots of ways- 29th Oct 1914 I first went into the trenches in France: 29-10-15 I spects you remember rather well don’t you dear!- & then 29th Oct 1918 I finish (I hope!) with the War, for there was no fighting today, just huge mobs of surrendering Turks-

I suppose Jim has been in the show too, anyhow his regiment has, but on the other bank of the river, but we’ve heard precious little about what’s been going on there-

Well I’ve got heaps to do dear heart- we have come miles & miles from our nearest post office, over very bad roads, so heaven knows when this will get posted- However so long as it does reach you it does’nt matter much when does it dear- I’ll write again just as soon as ever I can, but we are very busy still, finishing things off, & we have practically no kit, & are oh so dirty! I have’nt washed for a week, & I’ve got some sleep to make up too-

I am so glad we’ve done something out here at last, & you’ll be glad too, won’t you darling; I know you will. All my love for ever & ever

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 30 October, '18 in About

 

17 October 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 17/18

 

Dear Mother, very many thanks for two letters from you which I got 2 days ago, also several papers and things- The letters were dated 28th & 21st August, so I think there must be still one mail to come – These two I got were addressed direct 34th Bde- By the way while I’m on the subject, please address as under

MAJOR E.R.P.B.

HD:QRS: 34TH INF BDE

or “Bde Major” instead of “H.Q.”

M.E.F.

 

Don’t put the regiment & don’t put “Brigade-Major E.R.P.B.” It’s not done! I know my cable gave you that idea, I meant you to put Brigade-Major after my name: that’s all right, anything but “Brigade-Major Berryman”,  I got an awful shock when I saw your letters!

Some more papers have just come in from Cox, about mid-August, but no more letters yet- I wonder what’s happened to them, & I’ve got none from Nell at all, either today or with yours 2 days ago! I suppose she’s come a fearful toss over the address, & put the regiment, Cox, and 34th Bde on the envelope, so no wonder the post office is a wee bit confused.

I had rather a krewst 2 nights ago- I suddenly got a wire from Jim to say he was dining with Col Lumb in the 1st Bn! & would I go down & stay the night. Of course I had’nt the vaguest idea where anyone lived or was in camp, as they are nothing to do with us, but after much telephoning & enquiry I found out where they were & wangled a car, stuck a bed & some bedding & kit into it & dashed off.

I found them eventually after wading through seas and fogs of dust and we had a very cheery evening. I stayed the night with Lumb as he had more room in his tent than Jim had, Jim being in a little tiny thing as wide as Dick’s motor bike garage & about half as high! I saw Jim for a few minutes next morning, but he was rather busy & I had to get back to camp, so we did’nt have much time. He was looking very fit & well & seemed very happy. He said I was looking ever so much fitter than when he last saw me in June I think, & I certainly feel much fitter in myself.

It’s still unusually hot for some unknown reason, 96° or so by day – much cooler of course than it has been, but it should’nt be by rights even as warm as this-

The news continues wonderfully good, & we are all wondering of course what will be the outcome of all this peace talk. It seems we are going to be firm, & accept nothing but complete & absolute surrender, backed by guarantees that Germany will be powerless to continue hostilities. In either case it seems Turkey is likely to chuck up the sponge soon, & Austria evidently longs to end the struggle- So much will have happened by the time you get this that it seems idle to speculate, but it seems more than probable that Turkey & Austria will be out of it & Germany still fighting- She’s doing her cause no good is she, by such crimes as sinking the Leinster & by the wanton way she is destroying the fair land of France as she retires.

I did send a line to say you could get that watch that Aunt Edward’s left me, a most legal document, I remember writing it in Baghdad – However it may have been sunk, so I’ll send you another-

I know Nepean quite well, an awful nice fellow & got a D.S.O on the field for gallantry at Ramadie, badly wounded & stuck to his job like a man. But I think he’s laying it on a bit thick about me, & I don’t think you ought to have told me all that! However, no harm done, as most of it or all of it if you like is I’m sure quite untrue- At anyrate it’s nice to know people say they appreciate you, anyhow.

No, I never got your cable, I got one from Nell, (addressed Cox & Co & it came on from them by post!) but yours has never arrived.

I’m most awfully glad Topher has passed out & done so well, & I hope he’ll get a good job somewhere now. He seemed to be on the verge of going to Egypt in your letter.

I’m sure I paid Hacker’s Bill, I distinctly remember asking Cox to send him £3/3s, you might ask. I am sending along £1-7-6 for Savage; so sorry you’ve been worried with these Bills- Hacker’s is for a pair of riding breeches I lost with all my kit at sea, so I don’t score much there! Thanks awfully for the new woolly which you say you are sending, if it’s anything like as useful as the last one it will be tremendously so. Best love to all

Yr loving son               Ted

I think my legal wording of the enclosed document is rather good don’t you- I hope the solicitors don’t think I’m ragging them, tho’ of course I am really!

 

I, Edward Rolleston Palmer Berryman, Major, of His Majesty’s Indian Army, do hereby authorise my mother, Mrs C.P. Berryman, of Delaford, Guildford, in the county of Surrey, to receive on my behalf one WATCH, which I am informed was bequeathed to me by the late Mrs Edward Gibbs, of 25 Old Gravel Lane, London E, in her will-

Dated this seventeenth day of October, nineteen hundred and eighteen.

E.R.P. Berryman


Major

Col Herbert DHY Nepean

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 17 October, '18 in About

 

10 October 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 10/18

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for an unexpected letter from you yesterday dated July 23, it seems to have come a long way round somehow & been considerably delayed as I have letters up to Aug 12th from you & Nell. I got 2 letters from Nell yesterday too, & a London Magazine from you for which many thanks, most welcome.

So glad your rest and change at Totland were so pleasing & good for you, I knew they would be and you wanted and deserved a few days off- Coo – as Nell says – what would’nt I give for even one day’s real loaf on the sands. However that’ll all come someday, & meanwhile I suppose we must all get down to it & finish off this little matter we’ve got in hand. Not that we seem to be doing nuch towards it out here! But we are ordered to be here, so that’s that.

Meanwhile what wonderful things the Allies are doing in France, truly marvellous performances which we read of with tremendous admiration and envy out here. The troops are magnificent are’nt they and no obstacle seems to stop them. And now the Boche is beginning to squeal & this peace offensive is a sign of the times. Of course by the time you get this it will be a thing of the past – one way or the other. It sounds attractive in its way, but somehow I feel sure the allies will have nothing to do with it. Wilson is the big man now on the allies’ side, & he is all out to have the Hun out of France & Belgium by force of arms, & I don’t think he will listen to any peace proposals till the Allies are in a position to dictate terms.

And we can do that, true at the cost of more lives and money and still greater sacrifices than we have made already, but it’s worth it, & besides I’m sure it’s our duty to ourselves, to the world, & to posterity to finish this thing off for once & for all and not give the Hun a loop-hole or a chance to set the world ablaze again, and to make such an example of him that no nation will ever attempt world conquest again-

Wilson says you can’t trust the Boche, and he’s quite right too. Look how the exchange of prisoners fell through because the Boche did’nt fulfil his part of the bargain so the French dropped the negotiations at once. You simply cannot put any faith in his spoken & written word. It’s his own fault, & he must stand or fall by what his enemies think of him, opinions formed on his behaviour in this war, where he has shown such utter disregard for what we call “playing the game” for want of a better expression – and so my contention is don’t let’s listen to any of these specious proposals for peace conferences etc- Let’s go on till we can say what we want & with the power & victory behind us to enforce our wishes.

After all we’ve made tremendous sacrifices to get thus far, and we have got on so magnificently lately and really turned the corner at last, that it would be wrong I feel sure to stop now. It means more sorrow, more sadness I know to go on, but as I say I think it’s our duty to go on & finish the thing off properly- otherwise it only means a repetition of it all someday, and a thousand times more sorrow and sadness and sacrifice then than a completion of the job now will involve-

What a dissertation! But I do feel so strongly on these points, & I’m sure everyone feels the same. I say you got at Teddy Darwen all right, & quite right too I think – unless he can produce good sound reasons I don’t see why he should’nt shoulder a gun & go to the wars- And fancy not wanting to do something for old England, instead of making cardboard or something! However, p’raps he’s gone now. Anyway you are indeed in a position to criticise- Talk about your sons, my dear mother, you are doing splendid war work yourself, and anything we do or achieve we owe to you & you only just because you are our Mother-

The news is so consistently good nowadays that the crowd round Reuters’ daily wire & the war map in the mess is huge daily here! I’m afraid it’s costing us a lot, as you can’t break through these highly organised defences for nothing.

I am writing this before breakfast, a lovely fresh morning, & thank heavens the hot weather is done now. It hung on & hung on all through September in a most trying way, just at a time when you begin to think it’s all over & every extra hot day makes you feel more weary & faded than ever.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Ye gods, the irony. Of all Ted’s letters, this passage is probably the most painful to read 100 years on: 

“I’m sure it’s our duty to ourselves, to the world, & to posterity to finish this thing off for once & for all and not give the Hun a loop-hole or a chance to set the world ablaze again”

The Treaty of Versailles – so vindictive and punitive – gave us an even greater conflagration in WW2, whereas the Paris Peace Treaties of 1947 have given us over 70 years of peace in Europe. Yalta, of course, was another matter.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 10 October, '18 in About

 

7 October 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 7/14

 

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter dated 7th Aug which arrived yesterday, quite quick considering it came via Cox Bombay.

I don’t think I’ve much news for you- We are of course all sharing the good news from France & Palestine, & how little we are doing out here to help. There is nothing to do, & one feels somehow there is lots going on that one ought to be giving a hand in – Bulgaria’s surrender & the Turkish defeat in Palestine must sooner or later materially affect our little corner of the stage-

Thank heavens September is over. It was a fearfully hot month, well over 100 every day, & for a fortnight or so in the middle was up to 112° or so daily [45 C]. Last year in September it was a good 10 degrees cooler. Even now it’s up to 99° & 100° in the day, covering everything in a thick layer & making everyone look like Pierrots! However the weather must change soon, & then it is not far off to the cold weather, the only possible time in this country.

I say what fearful lumbago you had- I am sorry, & I do hope it’s all right again. It sounds most alarming. I’ve had twinges at times but nothing so bad as you describe.

I had a line from Dick too. You seem to have been a long time without mails, but I fancy you must have got one soon after you wrote (Aug 6) as Nell said she had got some about the 10th or 12th, her last letter to me is dated 12th. I may be busy these next 2 weeks or so, so may not find much time or opportunity to write.

I had to take a letter for the Turkish C-in-C yesterday under a flag of truce- Awful squeamish marching boldly out beyond our outposts waving a towel on the end of a light tent pole, & hoping no one will have a shot at you! However all passed off well & a Turkish officer came out & I gave him the letter & then came home safely.

I’ve lost my British Warm, my Burberry, a pr boots & about 10 or 12 tins of baccy, & a waterproof sheet & a waterproof cape -! that’s a good bit is’nt it! They were all in a kit bag & somehow or other got mislaid on my way up here; sickening- I hope I’ll be getting a trench coat out soonish, I asked Ben to see about one, but it does take such ages to get things out from home-

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Squeamish-making indeed

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 7 October, '18 in About

 

29 September 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 29/18

 

Dear Mother

A mail arrived 2 days ago, with 3 letters from you, very many thanks for them. They are dated 6th July (2) & 15th. There is another mail due in I believe today & yet another with letters up to Aug 13th very shortly. After that I ought to be getting letters addressed direct here- I got letters from Nell of July 23, a week later than yours – I wonder how. It was officially announced I see that mails for us, between June 19th-26th I think it was, had been lost, but everyone seems to have got them all the same!

Not much news here. September – always a bad month east of Suez – has been particularly rotten, very hot, with an average of well over 110° daily [43° C] for the first 3 weeks, & a slight improvement now. October really should be cooler & I have no doubt it will be. This time last year we were scrapping at Ramadi & I’m sure it was’nt as hot as this-

The news is good is’nt it. What a sweeping success from Palestine, it simply must affect the situation here sooner or later, as the entire Turkish army seems to have been utterly routed and rounded up for the chief part & they must be completely disorganised & have lost all their guns. Salonika too sends out refreshingly good communiqués almost daily. If I had stayed with the rgt – and I would have if they had treated me fairly (I mean the authorities, not the rgt!) – I should be on the way to S. now. So they ought to be well in it as there’s lots to do there yet.

I had a line from Dick in Egypt: he seemed very happy and not over keen on getting back to the rgt- I wonder if he did, because I expect they were in the last round up all right.

What an extraordinary epidemic of flu there has been at home- of course we all say it’s good old sand fly fever same as everyone gets out here; it sounds just the same- it seems most likely does’nt it that that is what stopped the Boche offensive in the end, either that or some epidemic. You were writing just at the time of the big lull when everyone was just waiting for the Boche to begin again, but he never did and our & the French extraordinary run of successes began soon after.

How cheering and refreshing your next letters ought to be after the depressing months of March up to July. But one simply can’t help thinking we really have turned the corner now, and that things will go in our favour on the whole. I like the way the Allies are donning all peace feelers and are out for a complete & lasting victory-

So glad you were able to get away to Totland Bay for a bit of a rest and change; the Morses seem so remote these days though of course I remember ‘Dumps’ as well as anything, and ‘young Morse’ as Paul called him one day years ago in Camberley – enormously tall is’nt he, so I don’t see how he could help being wounded sooner or later. I hope he’s allright-

I got a lovely bit of seaweed in your last letter, it smells gorgeously of the sea and sand and beach. Yes of course I remember Janet Ryder as a kid – red hair I remember well, probably very pretty too- and of course Mrs Ryder with specs & lots to say always          Wish I could put in a fortnight at Totland Bay with the Darwens. The house you got for them sounds lovely and I’d just love to sit on a beach again & throw stones into the sea and eat buns covered in sand!

A whole big bunch of fellows have been given leave home to England suddenly, even fellows right down low on the list who never expected to have a dog’s chance. If I had been on the list I should have been offered a chance I think, but of course I could’nt have taken it, as I have only just taken over this job & my general would hardly send me off on leave at once. However he has promised to help me all he can next year, all being well, & if leave continues on this liberal scale I really think there is a good chance- But don’t count on it at all please– Meanwhile I’m going to apply so as to get on the leave list & my general will add that I can’t be spared yet awhile- Besides I don’t think one ought to go away just now when there is a chance of things happening, & also going home now means coming out just in time for the hot weather again – and after all that’s one of the chief things to dodge.

I know there’s Nell waiting the other end, bravely as ever poor dear child, and some people may think I ought to get home just as soon as ever I can. I know there is that point of view and I’m dreadfully sorry about the whole thing, but she & I have exchanged long correspondence about it all, & if we are both worth the other’s waiting for – in our own opinion I mean! – (and we’ve come to the conclusion we are, you’ll be glad to hear!) – well we must just wait till the Empire can spare us, that’s all- And it certainly does look more hopeful all round now.

I’m writing this before breakfast so I must get up now-

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


There is so much that is interesting in this letter: the sense of momentum towards a conclusion (coloured with our hindsight, of course), the foreshadowing of the post-war ‘flu epidemic which killed more people than the war itself, the hints of regret at taking the staff job and missing out on another “show” in Salonika, and the real regret on missing the chance of leave to go home and marry Nell. By September 1918 they had not seen each other for almost three years; they met early in September 1915, got engaged  in late October, and Ted had to leave a month later at the end of November 1915. An extraordinary relationship, maintained entirely by letter, where a letter posted in July would be replied to in September and that reply presumably not received until November. How do you maintain a conversation like that?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 29 September, '18 in About

 

9 September 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 9/18

 

Dear Mother

Quite unexpectedly a mail turned up yesterday, at least I never thought I should get any letters. But I did, including one from you of July 2nd, for which many thanks. I think the last one I had from you must have been about June 15th or so & there are probably some on the way still. I had a line from Ben too, & one or two letters from Nell.

Your letter was July 2, and you had just got a swarm of bees from old Savage- and you had recently had my letters saying my leave had been refused and that I was going to that school in Baghdad- what years ago now it all seems, and it will be months I suppose before I hear from you about this job, though this time I sent you a cable which I hope turned up safely.

It’s still very hot all day, with nice cool nights & fresh mornings. But the day heat is very trying, damp south winds and still sticky days with intermittent dust storms of some violence, very unpleasant as you may imagine. This damp season is called, as I think I must have told you, the date-ripener, and is doubtless excellent for finishing off the dates, but I don’t know that I can find much to say in its favour- But there can’t be much more of it anyhow. September is always a bad month in the East, as one feels very flabby & jaded after the hot weather, & really it’s just as hot as July & August though one likes to think not.

Things seem to be going well still in France – Your letter was written just in the lull when things were neither good nor bad, though a fresh German attack was expected, which fortunately did not come off.

I did’nt get all Nell’s letters, but some of them referred to my leave being refused- Poor child, but she is wonderfully plucky as usual and seems very cheery & confident that I’ll be home sometime sooner or later. Dreda seems to have managed to hit off a Gabb invitation after all! I wonder if Desmond has wangled home leave yet- which reminds me, was’nt that Gordon Campbell’s exploit of throwing the bomb-baby into the submarine & blowing it up? It must have been I think, I read all about it in Reuters wires & the “Baghdad times”.

Ben seems very happy & comfy in her little suburban house, I got a very cheery line from her condoling with my refused leave – especially after she had taken such a lot of trouble to help Nell an’ all-

Hope you managed a visit to Totland Bay, I expect you wanted a breath of sea air. I suppose Jim is still knocking around these parts, though I have’nt seen or heard of him since I came up here-

I am very busy just at present, & got up early to go all over the place with the General: but his other staff officer is sick this morning & in bed, so the General has gone off by himself & left me behind to see to things if necessary. However as nothing is happening I thought I’d write to you. I can scribble a line to Ben too. The English mail is supposed to go out from here today, but really I don’t think it matters very much. Anyhow I never let it worry me & just post when I feel inclined.

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 9 September, '18 in About

 

5 September 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Sept 5/18

 

Dear Mother

No mail in yet, the last letter I got from you was just a month ago but it seems much longer somehow. A mail is expected today, but of course mine will be a day or two later from Cox. Tremendous rumours about mail having been sunk, and it seems something must have happened to the one we are expecting today as it is dated, I believe, June 19 & it took over two months to reach Bombay! They say it was torpedoed but they managed to beach the ship at Malta & save the mails. I believe mails up to mid-July from home have also arrived in India, so we ought to make up for all this long time without one. There are rumours of homeward mails being sunk too, but as usual no confirmation of this, & probably you know better than I do!

I am fairly busy up here, & picking up my new job gradually – Did you ever know a Col Stockley, – a sapper, at Camberley? He has had various jobs out in India at Simla & at a Cadet College somewhere, & is now with our Divn. I seem to remember the name, though he has never suggested having known any of us when he has met me.

What really splendid news comes in almost hourly from France, it is nearly impossible to keep pace with it, & they seem confident enough to predict more and continued success. It really is most heartening and I am so glad for all your sakes at home, after the gloomy & depressing summer you have been through- But things are looking ever so much brighter now are’nt they and I really think a definite turning point in our favour has been reached now

What you must think of all us out here doing absolutely nothing while all that fighting is going on at home, I can’t think. There seems to be practically no enemy to fight here, & whenever we make a move he retires. I wish we could feel we were really doing something to help, but it’s very hard to imagine one is.

The nights and mornings here are really lovely, cool and dry and fresh, and since I’ve been here I’ve felt ever and ever so much better. Baghdad did’nt suit me at all, & that, coupled with the strenuous work we were doing there and the hot weather, made me feel rather run down & tired. But since being here I have bucked up no end & feel much better.

Well, the hot weather is practically over now, though it’s still hot at midday & we stroll about in short sleeves mostly. I have got some rather good films of Babylon which I took the other day, I must send you some prints as soon as I can get them done. I have’nt heard of Jim for years, I told him I was coming up this way, but it does’nt seem to have interested him much!

I’m longing to get some letters, as I’ve not had any news from Ben or Nell about Nell having been staying there. But I’m afraid this mail may also be in answer to mine saying my leave was off for this year, so it may be rather depressed. Poor old Nell, it is a shame, & I am so sorry for her

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Probable cause of mails almost lost

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 5 September, '18 in About

 

26 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Aug 26/18

 

Dear Mother

I have’nt the foggiest idea when mails go out up here, nor has anyone else I fancy, but as I have’nt written a line since I arrived to take over my new job I thought I’d do so now. I arrived just over a week ago after a rackety train journey & then 4 hours in a car, thanks to engine trouble & burst tyres. I did’nt get here till after 9 at night & the Brigade had quite given me up! Anyhow I arrived safely with all my goods & chattels, which after all is the main thing.

I have settled down more or less & am getting over the initial strangeness of things, though of course I find office work quite familiar after I have done so many years of it in the regiment as qr master & adjutant. My general, Genl Wauchope, is at present commanding the Division while the Divn General is away on leave, and a Col Wolff-Flanagan of the Royal West Kents is commanding the Bde temporarily- Buckle, Nance Swann’s brother in law who was killed early in the War, was in the R.W.K & Col W-F speaks very highly of him & knows Mrs Buckle well. I thought this might interest Paul & the Swann family generally. I like Col W.-F. very much, a charming man to work with- What with Col Keen on the Divl  staff, & Col W-F in the Brigade, I seem to be fairly moved up with Paul’s in-laws & their friends.

This brigade is the end of all things on this front. Beyond us is the desert and – presumably! – the Turk, but where heaven knows, except that it’s a very long way off- So life is fairly peaceful, though it promises to be strenuous when the colder weather sets in & training & possibly active operations begin- on the whole it is very pleasant even now, with cold nights necessitating a blanket, & one night I found I wanted 2.

The river here is a lovely clear sea-blue, beautifully clean & running over a sandy shingly bed. On our side there are cliffs 60 to 90 feet high, but not on the other, which is flat and runs straight off into the desert.  There is lots of grass & greenery round here, dried & burnt now after the summer, but I believe it is lovely in the late winter & early spring after rain, very like the higher reaches of the Euphrates where we went last March, lots of wild flowers, poppies & clover. But the river is the thing that delights me so; to see the lovely crystal-clear stream, blue as the Mediterranean, is a perfect joy after being on the banks of the same river lower down where it runs thick and dirty thanks to its muddy & silted-up bed.

Is’nt the news from France good & reassuring nowadays? I am so glad for all your sakes at home, after all the anxious times you had in March April and May. Has the turning point in our favour been reached I wonder? It seems almost safe to say so. In any case the news is the best we’ve had for many long weary months, and especially so coming so rapidly on the top of the depressing events of the earlier part of the year. Meanwhile things are at a standstill here – as usual! – except up the Caspian sea way, which I see Reuter refers to vaguely in his wires, so I presume it is permissible to mention it in our letters.

Rumour has it that the mails of London the latter ½ of June have been lost, but there is no confirmation of this yet. But it’s 3 weeks since we had a mail, & the next one is advertised to reach Bombay on 29th August. This they say has mails up to July 18th, & as our last letters from home are dated June 15th or so it seems that something has happened to the remaining June ones: as there is such a big gap-

A Turk’s ‘plane occasionally pays a visit, but has dropped no bombs so far. I shall be awful disappointed if the latter-half-of-June mails have been lost, as they wd contain Ben’s letters telling me of Nell’s stay with her, about which I have heard nothing yet. I’m afraid I put the poor child to a lot of worry and expense for nothing-

Have’nt seen or heard from Jim lately. He is on this line somewhere but someway back.

Love to all

yr loving son

Ted


Major Buckle DSO above Paul’s brother-in-law Charles Swan and Paul himself on the Sausthorpe village hall Roll of Honour

Died at Neuve Chapelle

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 26 August, '18 in About

 

16 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

August 16/18

 

Dear Mother

No more mails in yet & so far no news of any. I see some of ours of June & thereabouts have arrived home safely which is a good thing. I hope you got my wire about my new address, also my letter telling you all about my new appointment.

I have had a 3 days jaunt, sight-seeing. One Gibbon, a fellow-instructor here, and I have been round to all the local sights ancient and modern. The first day we went 60 miles along a railway in a motor trolley, which we wangled out of a pal in the railways, and then went by car over a most appallingly bumpy and dusty road for 18 miles or so to a place called Kufah* on the Euphrates. Here a pal of mine, by name Fisher, is political officer & we stayed with him. We had been travelling since 5.30 a.m. & reached his house about 3 am & so were very tired & hungry – not to say thirsty! – especially as it is August and none too cool as you may imagine, 110º in the shade about, & travelling in the back of a ford van with no hood over a bad road is no joke! However we had come out to enjoy ourselves & enjoy ourselves we meant to whatever happened.

Kufah is a really charming place. Built along the river bank it is nice & cool & refreshing, with green palms & willows everywhere, & green scrub & thorn all round. About 6 miles off, bang in the middle of the desert, is a place called Nejef, the 2nd most holy Mohamedan city in the world, the first of course being Mecca. Here the prophet Mahomet’s son Ali is buried, & his mosque is a magnificent affair with a dome of gold – real gold, thin plates of it fastened over a brick-work mold – Ali is supposed to have been wounded in battle at Kufah, & then crawled away to die, & there right out in the desert where he died they buried him & the city of Nejef rose round his tomb.

*rhymes with Loofah

It lies right out in the desert, absolutely alone, & the golden dome sticks up out of the drab-coloured mud houses and is visible for miles and miles round. It is a lovely sight, with the sun shining on it, as it does all day out here, and on the horizon it shows up as a pin-point of light in the middle of the bare brown parched desert.

Thousands and thousands of Mohamedans are buried here every year, & they bring their dead from hundreds of miles, from all parts of India & Persia.

At Kufah there is Jonah’s mosque, on the traditional site of the spot where the whale deposited him. In those days I suppose seas & lakes existed round about here and after all it is only a traditional spot. We saw all these places of course, & went round Kufah bazaar, the usual arab covered in affair, & the usual mixed crowd and smells, and funny pokey little shops. The river is most awfully pretty there, with islands & creeks, & any amount of willows. But the surrounding country is all a howling waste, and in time with irrigation & improved conditions large tracts of it will become cultivated land once more.

All this land teems with history of course, Biblical, classical, mythical, and romantic. On our way back yesterday we came part of the way by car, about 37 miles over awful roads again. En route we passed the reputed site of the Tower of Babel, a huge mound with a ruin on the top. The mound must be 200 or 300 feet high, & is composed of ruined masonry and cement sort of stuff, which all looks as if at one time it had been subjected to tremendous heat of some sort, a colossal fire or something like that. Considerable doubt exists as to whether it has any real claim to be Babel, but there it is & it is certainly the ruins of some big building and it is visible for miles and miles.

We then went to Hillah, the centre of a very fertile district & sometimes called the Granary of Mesopotamia. We are making tremendous improvements there, irrigating it & sowing acres of grain and in time it will be restored to its former prosperity no doubt. It is extraordinarily rich soil all round there and anything & everything will grow there, with remarkable rapidity, & 2 or 3 crops a year are possible. Irrigation & science will work wonders, for the water is there in the Euphrates, but millions & millions of tons of it runs to waste into the sea every year instead of being used to make this wonderful soil productive. But we are rapidly changing all that & already a big harvest has been reaped this first year.

Near Hillah are the ruins of Babylon. I know very little about them, it seems there are several cities buried one on top of the other, as successive conquerors destroyed the place & rebuilt it. The mounds under which all this ancient civilisation lies stretch for miles, but it is only in one place that any attempt at excavation has been made, by a Boche archeologist who was here for 17 years before the war.

There is not much to be seen but it is I think extraordinarily interesting, even to people like ourselves entirely ignorant of Babylonian history. As I say the ruins are all buried & a series of huge mounds of masonry & broken pottery marks the spot. To reveal the old buildings it has been necessary to dig down deep into the earth 30 or 40 feet in places, & doubtless there is lots more below. So far several walls & ruined buildings have been brought to light, in wonderful state of preservation too. Paved roads are visible in parts, & the shells of houses, showing windows & doors, with weeds & scrub growing all over them. In one place they unearthed a remarkable well-preserved granite statue of a lion, which has been mounted on a pedestal in the midst of the ruins.

It is believed that there were 50 of these, covered in precious stones, lining each side of a triumphal road in the old days, but no trace of this has yet been unearthed. Then there are some extraordinary mural decorations on the walls of an old triumphal gate. Weird beasts & horses in bas relief, about ¼ – ½ life size, not carved in one piece of stone, but a little bit of each picture on each separate brick, so that they have to be buiilt into the wall like a puzzle; it must have been tricky work building those walls!

Beyond those few odds & ends there is nothing for the casual visitor to see, though doubtless there is enough material there to keep the world’s archeologists busy for centuries. But I thought it was all very impressive, & one could’nt help thinking & wondering what Nebuchadnezzar & his court and all the millions of inhabitants were doing 3000 years ago on the very spot where we stood yesterday-

We came back by motor trolley & reached home at 9.30 a.m. thoroughly tired & weary. Not a bad day the last one, Nejef, Jonah’s mosque, Ezekiel’s tomb, Babel, Babylon & Baghdad – for we saw all of these in the course of the day – a grand round tour with a vengeance. I forgot to mention Ezekiel’s tomb, it is at a place called Kifl*, one of the places we passed both on our journey out & home. Of course it was a rush, & we had a lot to see, but we did it in true American style; there was no other way to do it in the time at our disposal. But I thought I could’nt leave the country without seing Babylon & Babel at one’s front door so to speak – & one might’nt get another chance. I go to join my new brigade tomorrow. I’m still tired after my strenuous days!

Best love to all

yr loving son

Ted

I took some photos of Babylon   I hope to send some along some time, if they ever come out


*rhymes with ‘piffle’

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

Site of the Imam Ali foundation

Archaeology projects in Iraq (map locations lead to photos)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 16 August, '18 in About

 

11 August 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Dear Mother

Just a line to confirm my wire which I hope you got & understood to say I have been given a staff job. Brigade Major 34th Bde. I’m delighted with the appointment, as a Brigade Majorship is undoubtedly a good job, & I am lucky to get one first go off so to speak. I applied for staff employ 3 or 4 months ago, on the advice of Genl Brooking, & others, and after all, after dropping from C.O. to a company commander where I had the same work & responsibility as officers of 2 or 3 years’ service, I thought it better all round to try & improve my prospects in the service. You see I’ve got somebody else to think of now!

It is a splendid job, & you will find most staff officers who have gone on to higher appointments look back on their days as brigade major as the best. I must explain what it is. A Brigade (Infantry) is as you know commanded by a Brigadier general, who has two staff officers under him, a Bde-Major & a staff Captain. The B.M does all operations training & fighting, & the S-C all the administrative & disciplinary work of the Brigade, so obviously B-M is more interesting & it is the senior job of the two. My general is one Wauchope, a charming man & a very good soldier & a glutton for work. So I am indeed lucky to serve under him. I knew him in Amara last year, so I’m not quite in such a funk as I might be.

Of course it’s only a job, I am not leaving the regiment for good; normally a staff billet lasts 4 years, but one can’t tell nowadays. It may lead to other & better jobs later on, that remains to be seen. In any case rest assured I am mighty pleased with the appointment. I am sorry to leave the rgt: in many ways, having been so long with them & all through the war so far with them. But there are wider views to take & broader issues to consider; & after all my little experience & knowledge – if I may say so – stand more chance of use & development in my new job than in the comparatively narrow confines of a battalion.

My address will be

Major ERPB

BRIGADE MAJOR

34th INFANTRY BDE.

M.E.F.

So cease sending c/o Cox, & don’t put the regiment now; just as I have written it above is correct.

The 3rd course at the school here finished yesterday, & I am not sorry. I have had valuable & interesting experience here, & have met a lot of good fellows, & I do not in the least regret my stay here; far from it, it has been most useful & I have benefitted a great deal from it I know. But in my heart of hearts I don’t care for “school mastering” & I’ve just been here long enough to escape boredom: I go to my new job with pleasure.

I have got a week’s leave, & I am going down to Hillah to stay with a pal. The ruins of Babylon are there, & the tower of Babel, & Ezekiel’s tomb, & a host of other “sights”, so I should have an interesting – if rather hot – time. The average temperature of July was 109, & it’s been about that all along, hot, but not too bad. This is only a scribble to let you know my movements. My new Brigade is on the same “front” as Jim’s rgt, but not the same division: but we shan’t be very far off each other & I expect we shall meet.

Best love to all   yr loving son

Ted


Actually 34th Indian, part of 15th Indian Division

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 11 August, '18 in About