Author Archives: Topher Berryman

27 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

Damascus 27/5/19


Dear Mother

Don’t be alarmed at the above address, but I am on a trip to Assyria. And various other parts. Fearfully interesting but what a strenuous journey. Nothing but change trains and packing and unpacking one’s kit. Sometimes one might thank you for an active service again. I have bought various things, two rather nice rugs, which I will try and send home, they can be used but not given away to Ben or others for there new houses etc. I shall have them in mine when I get one. Also some other small things, an Arab head dress which is rather curious, also two brass plates inlade with silver & copper, really beautiful work.

I go on to Beirut tomorrow for a day and then back to Ismailia. I met some friends from the 20th Deccan Horse tother day up here, just off down to Egypt to be demobilized, they all enquired tenderly after Dick. The scenery here in the train over the Lebanon Hills is marvellous, and I have taken umpteen photos so if they are any good I will send some along. Mountains covered with snow, while in the train it is so hot one can hardly breathe. All this show is worth seeing, and one does’nt always get such a chance.

I have heard no more about leave, they have treated the R.A.S.C badly it’s absolutely disgracefull. Some officers here came out here in 1915 and have been retained for the Army of Occupation. If you look at the map of Palestine you can see where I have been, by my rough sketch below

I have only marked the important stops, I will send a better sketch later on.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


And that’s the last letter we have from Topher.

He was made a Captain before he was demobbed. He moved to Kenya after the First World War and in the 1920s and ’30s the Kenya Gazette lists him as a “Settler P.O. Mukuyu”. At one point he and Paul registered the patent for an oil lamp with a rubberised base which was supposed to prevent it tipping over. At another time he bred “barkless dogs” for people in towns, presumably the African Basenji. This venture fell through with the news that “one of Topher’s barkless dogs has barked”. In 1952 Topher married Elizabeth Metcalfe Llewelyn. He remained in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprisings between 1952 and 1959 and after Independence in 1963. The Kenya Gazette records his home as being in Timau at the time of his death in in Mombassa in 1964 when he was 71.

In the letters, Topher is an elusive and sometimes pitiful figure, lacking the agency, charisma and good luck of his elder brothers. He’s even harder to see once he’s gone to Kenya. To my regret, I did not realise that Rosamund’s youngest son, Peter had stayed with Topher in Africa after the Second World War and I did not take the time to ask him about his impressions of Topher. I feel sorry for young Topher in France, but I wonder if I would have found adult Topher in Kenya rather a difficult man. 


Posted by on 27 May, '19 in About


13 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

May 13th 1919


Dearest Mother

Very many thanks for your last letters. The lost mail turned up a day before last week’s so I have had quite an array of letters. Since writing quite exciting things have happened. I have saved a man from drowning during some aquatic sports which we held the other day. I was one of the judges in the novices race, and was out in a boat at the time. The race started all right, but one fellow got into difficulties about 30 yrds from my boat, and being the only swimmer in the boat I had to dive in with all my clothes on, I just caught the fellow when he was going down the 2nd time.

This is the 3rd time in about a month that I have gone in the sea with all my clothes on, the 2 previous time accidents of course. While sailing the other day, we had to pull up the centre board because we were in shallow water, but of course forgot to put it down and over we went, luckily quite near in land, and really it was funny. I swallowed practically the whole lake through laughing. And what’s much more annoying is that I have spoilt 2 watches, I must send them home to you to get mended. The other time I think I told you, was when I walked on to a disused spring board on the edge of the Canal and it gave way and in I went, fully clothed.

Would you send me that pair of Binoculars belonging to Dick I think which were when I last saw them in Rosamond’s room, also his Prismatic Compass, which was in the sideboard in the new boudoir. I must have them, and I’m not going to buy them when things are so near the end, also very expensive. Send them by registered post. They will be taken great care of, in fact I shall hardly ever use them, but I have to be fully equipped in case of emergency.

No news of leave, but it has really started, 3 officers have already gone, they have extended the leave to a month now, which is rather pleasant. I have bought some aerial photos of various places out here which I will send along soon, some of them are taken by Germans themselves.

Lovely weather we are having now, which is more than you can say. What with snow & blizzard it must be terrible at home these days, I shiver to think of it. I’ve played a few games of tennis lately, but realy people do play badly these days out here, they seem to have no idea at all. Well no more news, many thanks for the papers & Home Chat, quite interesting, Love to all and Sheina

Ever your loving son


Topher received a Testimonial from the Royal Humane Society for saving the man from drowning. 

1918 Christmas edition


Posted by on 13 May, '19 in About


3 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

May 3rd 1919.                                 Ismailia


Dearest Mother

Many thanks for your last 2 letters dated April 9th & 22nd. Owing to the fact that last week’s mail was lost for several days, both arrived together, which is rather a nuisance. Your letter was most interesting, I was glad to have all the news, about Ben, Paul & Ted. How splendid for Ted and how excited Nell must be. I am thinking of putting in for urgent leave on the grounds that Jane & Ted are going to be married and Ted to receive the D.S.O. Leave is open again now and several fellows have already gone. The unrest has quietened down again but various precautions have still to be taken

Fearfully sorry to hear about Murray but pleased to hear he is better. I have been feeling rather dicky for the last few days, but am all right again now, one has on and off times out here merely on account of the climate I suppose.

I went sailing on the lake the other day, great fun; I must go again some old day. I am also thinking of joining the tennis club when I can buy some flannels and a tennis racket, the one I had before I sold for 2/- less than I gave for it, because it was such a rotten one. The cheaper ones out here are the best I think. What is Paul doing with a shore job, and how long has he got it for.

I enclose some photos, not very good, the one on the P.C. Is absolutely awfull, taken for a joke at some poky place here. I can’t think what they have done to my face, considering that I am nearly as black as an Indian it is rather absurd.

What with all these people getting married what will happen next, Dick & I will have to buck up. How amusing about all his pets, how he must have laughed when the birds flew away. That muzzling stunt of the dogs is a bit of a nuisance I should imagine. I have a dog called “Ginger”, I have had him since he was a month old, he is very naughty and eats sponges and various other things. I don’t think any of those golf clubs belonged to Jane, because I bought 3 new ones while I was at Fleet, the putter may be hers.

No more news, best love to all

ever your loving son


Leave a comment

Posted by on 3 May, '19 in About


20 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

Easter Day -19


Dearest Mother

Very many thanks for your last letters. It’s a funny thing that I only get letters every other week, usually 2 at the time from you, but papers come regularly every week. It must be something to do with the posting I think at your end. We have now moved from Kantara & now at Ismailia, a very pretty little place on the Canal, also a very big lake. We have some lovely bathing here and is quite a change from previous camping places. We are supposed to be here until the breaking up of the Army of Occupation.

Leave is still closed, but demobilization has started again. No doubt you saw in the paper that a Major Cecil Jarvis  of the  20th Deccan Horse had been murdered by the Egyptians down south. I knew him and he was a friend of Dick’s. I was only speaking to him a few weeks before he was murdered.

We all have to walk about armed these days, which is a bit of a nuisance. Yes I remember Doris Pearce very well. I must write and congratulate her, she is awfully pretty, least I always thought so. I don’t think much of the girl who won the 1st prize, do you, I think Miss Marsh is much nicer. I had a letter from Dick the other day, he has at last moved into his bungalow and he seems very pleased with it. I am sorry to hear about Ted, now they will surely give him leave.

I feel so sorry for Nell. Sorry such a dull letter, but there is absolutely no news. I have been to church today, in a Y.M.C.A. which is just near our camp.

Best love to all, ever your loving son


Murdered on the Assiut-Minia train


Leave a comment

Posted by on 20 April, '19 in About


9 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude



Dear Mother

No letters from you by last mail save some papers for which many thanks. We have moved since I last wrote, down nearer Kantara which is much better in every way. As we can bathe every day in the canal it really is lovely, and at present it is very hot. I shall be left here on my own till the 16th as the other half company moves down to Ismailia on the 10th and I join them later.

Very little news this week, the unrest has quietened down since the return of General Allenby. One has to walk about armed with a revolver these days. No chance of any leave yet as it is all stopped, also demobilization

So Eleanor is engaged, no luck you see. Who is the fellow she is engaged to, do I know him. Paul again on leave, same as he was before the war always on leave.

Nice for him being at Portsmouth, I suppose Nance will be going down there now.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


Finally – after the war is over, we hear from Topher. Previously we have only heard from him once, writing to his sister Dreda

Topher had a hard time in the War, and that followed on from his hard time at school – his school-day letters tell us he suffered from headaches and his reports show he was consistently at the bottom of what was an admittedly small class. I suspect he had undiagnosed and unsupported dyslexia, but he could have just been socially anxious and had less aptitude than his peers.  In some ways, Topher’s difficulties show us more than anything else in these letters how much the world has changed in the last 100 years. Now a child who struggled as Topher did would have strong support from worried parents and probably have a statement of special needs to show for it, though of course whether those needs were met would be another matter entirely. 

Leave a comment

Posted by on 9 April, '19 in About


11 November 1916 – Topher to Dreda

Nov 11th


Dearest Dreda

Ever so many thanks for your last letter. We are stll back from a rest but go up again on Tuesday worse luck. My dear yesterday I met old Dick, hooting an’ all. Apparently we have been quite near each other all the time, when we were up in the trenches. His lot has been ordered back suddenly. And the lot that took over from him were the 18 Middlesex, and they told him where I was, he motored over yesterday to see me.

He was looking fearfully well & in a very cheery mood. We had tea together; He’s pretty good at french, but his accent makes me laugh. We had some good laughs together. He went in to see my C.O. and asked him if he could take me as his groom. (Because an elder brother can claim a younger brother if he wants). The C.O. was awfully nice & told him to write to him putting in his claim and he would do all he could. So with any luck I may go with him, what fun eh. but mum’s the word. I wish I had met him up the line. I can’t think how I did not, because he was quite near me, sickening was’nt it. But it was fine meeting at all. He has grown a moustache, a very nutty one. He thinks it is better than mine. He hopes to come in again this morning. I hope he does.

We have had two air raids over here these last two nights, one night a Zeppelin came over, and did a lot of damage. I hope the oily paint arrives all right, because the coat neets it badly. Those papers you send daily have all got mixed up & now arrive in batches because they have been held up. So if you would stop sending them for a week, they might get it right. I was a whole week without any letters or papers not long ago. Then they all arrived together. Our T.O is on leave, and he is going into the shop to see Jane. I have written to her telling her so.

Well dear no more news.

best of love, yr loving brother.


We have very few of Topher’s letters surviving which is frustrating, especially since he seems to have had a much harder time than his more robust elder brothers. This one to his sister Etheldreda was presumably mis-filed which is why we still have it.

1 Comment

Posted by on 11 November, '16 in About