Category Archives: About

18 July 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

No 2 B.G.H

18th July 17


Dear Mother

Such a pleasant surprise this morning, after a wash & brush up early & my bed had been made up, I sort of dozed off again till breakfast time & woke up to find a whole heap of letters and papers on my bed, including 2 from you dated May 30th & June 6th. I had thoroughly made up my mind to get no letters from home for 3 weeks or a month, as the mail leaving London on 31st May had been sunk (by a mine, I hear, only 60 miles from Bombay if you please!) & with this fortnightly krewst beginning I could’nt hope for a mail I thought for a long time. Thanks awfully for the letters & papers, which I have not had time to peruse yet, but they are MOST WELCOME, as the trash in the hospital library nearly turns one silly to read.

Also thanks awfully for 2 cables, received 3 days ago, on the 14th to be strictly accurate, both exactly the same, I got one in the morning & one in the evening. As they were addressed direct to the hospital, I imagine you had received a W.O. or India O. wire saying I had been admitted to hospital. The O.C. hospital said he had worded the official wire so as to make it as all right as possible and not to make it too alarming for you. He was a charming man, Col: Hefferman by name, and died suddenly 2 days ago from cerebral malaria, brought on by the great heat of the past few days I fancy. He always used to come & talk to me morning & evening on his sort of semi official rounds. I wired you “going on well”. I wonder if you ever got it? They said it would take 2 or 3 days, possibly more.

Well, I’m much better, though by the time you get this it will be such stale news. I’m allowed up, & today I’m allowed out for a breath of fresh air; I am on good solid diet, chickens, eggs, an’ all, I drink whiskey & soda for dinner, & in myself I feel as fit as a fiddle, a wee bit “leggy” perhaps, but that’s only incidental on being in bed for 10 days or so. The doctor is quite pleased with my progress, & practically every day I’ve been in here I’ve been promoted to some extra diet or privilege, & my progress has been systematic & regular.

You see, I went on a milk & rice pudding diet at once in camp, a week before I came into hospital, when the first symptoms were apparent, and then I thought it best to come into hospital as there is’nt very much doing nowadays & it’s as good a time to “go sick” as you could find, ‘cos in hospital they treat you proper & one gets fitter so much quicker than if you let the disease hang on till you drop. Of course if we had been doing any soldiering, up at the front & all that, I would’nt have dreamt of coming in here, but would have managed to get fit again somehow, as I’ve never really felt absolutely rotten, I could always have carried on. So taking things all round, if I’ve got to have dysentery, better have it now. And now I hope to get absolutely rid of it & to be out and about again & rejoin in 2 or 3 days.

Everyone is most awfully nice & kind here, doctor awfully good chap. Sisters perfect darlings & look after you like mothers; brother patients very nice, & I get heaps of visitors from the regiment & pals in Amara every day, so the time passes pleasantly enough.

This last fortnight has been terribly hot. In here of course we have electric fans & my ward is particularly cool. But outside & in camp temperatures have been running up to 118° in the shade, & not a breath of air to relieve things. Cases of heat stroke are common among “Tommies”, but they have little “aid-posts” dotted about all over the place, with a canvas trough full of water, into which you hurl any unfortunate fellow who goes down with heat-stroke till medical aid can be summoned. The great thing is of course to bring down the patient’s temperature, by cold water, ice etc. Poor Col: Hefferman went up to 110°; think of it! It sounds incredible, but the doctor here took it himself & vouches for the truth of it, & he tells me temperatures of 108 & 109 are common in cases of heat stroke. Of course they get ’em into hospital with all possible speed & treat them with ice & wet towels etc & most of ’em recover.

I hear the regiment is keeping wonderfully fit, despite our men being hill men & not used to great heat. One man has died of heat-stroke, & we’ve had no more cases of it. All other officers are very fit & cheery & drop in to see me often; they say it’s “devilish hot” in camp but they keep smiling, & so shall I when I go back, so don’t worry about me. Besides there’s only about another month of this preposterous weather, & after that it begins to come within reasonable limits once more.

Yes the air raid on Folkestone was a bad show. All the same- it’s only a very minor thing in the war, & makes absolutely no difference to the result- I know it’s time we might be able to keep off these raids, but it would mean a constant day & night patrol of several hundreds of miles of E. & S. coast, & it would be playing into Germany’s hands to keep back all the hundreds of ‘planes & pilots for this purpose when they could be far more profitably employed on the Western front, where things matter & where after all the war is going to be decided. One simply must look at these things broadly & comprehensively; very unpleasant for the raided town I know, but we must not let little -(they are little, compared with the big things happening elsewhere)- raids like this turn us from our main purpose, killing Boches & winning the war on the Western front-

What a terrible thing the Vanguard being blown up like that: evidently done by spies I suppose, though I fail to see how it is ever to be found out what really happened- In your letter you were rather depressed about the Russians, but certainly since then they seem to have girded on their armour in fine style, & I see in today’s wires they claim to have captured nearly 40,000 prisoners in 12 days, to say nothing of numerous guns & much booty. I only hope we can really trust these reports, it means a lot if we can. By the time you get this I expect things will be moving again in France.

I’m very glad to hear you say you think of taking a rest, & I think it’s the best thing you can do. What’s Jane going to do? I’m weekly expecting to hear of her taking up some war work, as apparently there’s lots to do.

I can hardly credit your story of Hart’s men actually funking that ladder business; I can forgive him for funking perhaps, but not for saying so & not having a try anyhow. There must be very few men left in England now. Good old Capon, he deserved a pat on the back- & you too for holding the ladder, though as you say, Heaven knows what would have happened if it had slipped! I trust Specs will turn out a reliable defender of England- he may yet have a chance to prove his mettle. Dick & Jim both seem to like hot climates, of course I simply loathe them, especially when they are damp & sticky, as Singapore must be. Cheery weekends at Delaford lately you’ve been having.

Well, I must end up- I’m ever & ever so much better, nearly well in fact, & I’m awful sorry to have been such a nuisance, as I’m afraid you must have wondered what’s really the matter, as I expect all official wires are very bald & sketchy.

Best love to all

Yr loving son               Ted


Lt Col Francis Joseph Christopher Heffernan

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Posted by on 18 July, '17 in About


14 July 1917 – Richard to Gertrude

Gertrude clearly consulted Richard as the family’s doctor about Ted’s time in hospital with dysentery.




Dear Mother

Your wire & letter arrived by same post today. I am sorry to hear Ted is down with dysentery. What bad luck & just as he had a chance [of active service]. Anyhow let’s hope he’ll soon be well. He’s sure to get good attention nowadays, & no one ever pegs out with dysentery. “Seriously” only means rather bad, it’s not like “dangerously”. Very difficult to write much nowadays. More in a few days. Best love to all. Don’t worry.

Yr loving son


I’ve not been able to track down where Richard was in France at this time. However, this picture provides a dramatic counter-point to the little information he gives his mother about catching fish and harvesting their garden of beans, lettuces and vegetable marrows.

An Advanced Dressing Station in France, 1918 by Henry Tonks (Art.IWM ART 1922) image: A dressing station sited by a ruined church. The scene is crowded with casualties, many being brought in by stretcher-bearers. The men have bandaged limbs and some have head wounds. In the sky above there are dark grey clouds, possibly of smoke, in the left half of the composition, and patches of blue on the right. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

An Advanced Dressing Station in France, 1918 Henry Tonks
(Art.IWM ART 1922)  Copyright: © IWM.
Original Source:

Text from the IWM Site: “Henry Tonks is perhaps better-known for being the drawing master at the Slade School of Art and teacher to the likes of Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and CRW Nevinson. He also was a surgeon and during the First World War served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Therefore, Tonks was an apt choice for a commission from the British War Memorials Committee to depict an advanced medical dressing station. The painting captures a scene amid a German offensive in 1918, within which Tonks makes full use of his medical expertise to showcase a wide range of injuries, treatments and field dressings. The finished painting was intended to be hung in a purpose built Hall of Remembrance, to celebrate national ideals of heroism and sacrifice. However, the Hall was never realised after the First World War and Tonks’s painting, along with other commissioned works, were transferred to the Imperial War Museum..”

I am greateful to @ArtIstWar for the image. If you are on Twitter, do follow them.

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Posted by on 14 July, '17 in About


12 July 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

July 12th

The Doctor has just been round and has now promoted me to fish diet, the one next above “semi-solids” but he says I’d better not get up yet. So evidently everything is going on all right & I’m feeling as fit as a fiddle.

By the way do you remember I told you our C.O. was giving me a picture of N. Chapelle as a wedding present? Did it ever turn up? as he said it was being sent straight to Delaford. I seem to remember you saying it had arrived one day. Do let me know what happened to it & if it’s arrived.

Best love to all, & I’m going along fine so don’t worry

Ever yr loving son


Ted’s picture of Neuve Chappelle did eventually turn up.

Neuve Chappelle by James Prinsep Beadle

Ted’s picture of Neuve Chappelle by James Prinsep Beadle

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Posted by on 12 July, '17 in About


11 July 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother

Glad you got the watch safe. I have’nt sent off that big parcel yet, it’s all ready, but has never been directed. I do hope Capon will get better, but I suppose he has the same thing as Mabel Jones’s mother & must be a cripple for the rest of his life more or less. Whatever will you do without him.

You watch the stocks, in the papers. I have some Nobel’s Explosives bought at 58/6, only 30 shares worst luck wish I had more, but they seem to be going up, so each time they go up a bob I make 30/-. Anyhow do write to Williams, it would be interesting.

Our seeds back here HAVE grown. Veg marrows climbing all over the place, & of course the lettuces are lovely, & all the messes in the rgt come & get them, Topher & I are so popular. Topher says he hopes to be home soon.

Awful these raids. I’m glad to be away from the shells.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 11 July, '17 in About


11 July 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

No 2 British Genl: Hospital

July 11/17


Dear Mother

Please don’t be alarmed at the address, as it only means I’m in here for a few days to get over a slight go of dysentery, & I ought to be fit again shortly & back with the regiment, certainly easily by the time you get this. I felt rotten all last week in camp & had symptoms of dysentery, but I did’nt want to come to hospital & our M-O- treated me in camp. But I got no better, & after all it’s the wisest thing to get these things treated properly early, before they get a hold of you, then they are much more easily cured. So on Sunday (this is Wednesday) I came in here, & am now under treatment. I am much better, even in these three days; they won’t let me out of bed, but that is the usual thing I believe, rest & quiet, & injections of stuff called “emitine” which is certainly marvellous in its results.

The first 3 days I was here I was on “fluid” diet, milk & egg flips & weak soup, a very dull affair! But today I have been promoted to “semi-solid”, which means custard for lunch & an egg for breakfast & tea – I hope they did’nt send any alarmist wires home about me. Dysentery I believe is always reported as a “seriously ill” case, & I asked the Doctor here not to be too depressing, but he has to wire home about all officers admitted to hospital- I am thinking of wiring to you also, to say I’m all right, which I really am – I fancy I have a very mild go, & have caught it early in its career, so I shall soon be back with the regiment again. This emitine takes 10 days through, & by the time that’s finished I ought to be quite fit again. So don’t worry in the least about me please; I’m perfectly all right, & am feeling most awfully fit, & very hungry! as all last week I was on slops, milk & eggs etc, & they cut your food down here too, & I’m told it’s a good sign to be hungry. Anyhow the doctor was fearfully pleased with me this morning, & as I say, promoted me to semi-solids, so I’ll be all right again in no time-

Thanks awfully for a mail letter which I got yesterday, most opportunely on my birthday. It was dated 23rd May- The matron here gave me a few hankies & a writing block & some shaving soap from the Red X as presents, & everyone was very nice. The sisters are perfect darlings of course, & treat one like mothers; they are simply magnificent, & it’s impossible not to get well quickly under their treatment. I do admire them so, working in all the awful heat. Of course we have electric fans in hospital here, & it’s most awfully comfortable, just like home.

The actual building is the former residence of the Turkish governor of Amara, before we drove them out of it in 1915; it is built on the banks of the Tigris, & is a big square building, 2 storeys, with a courtyard place in the middle, & can accomodate about 60 patients, all officers: the men are all accomodated in the old Turkish barracks close by. At present there are only about 30 patients, & only 2 of us dysenterys, my stable companion being an army vet: quite a nice person. Fox & our doctor strolled in to see me last night, as it’s only about 2 miles to camp. They were surprised to see me looking “so well”, as they said, & told me I looked a hundred times fitter than when I came in on Sunday.

It’s been very hot these last 3 days, up to 118º in the shade, but these fans cool the place a lot of course: still it’s hottish o’ nights, & hard to get to sleep sometimes. They have just brought me my evening basin of water, so I must perform that very unsatisfactory duty of trying to wash in bed; useless I call it!

I have’nt yet met Desmond Gabb, as you see we (our brigade, that is) have been split up so far, & we shan’t all meet till we all collect at Baghdad sooner or later. When we do collect I must certainly go over to the Queens & see if I can find any old pals or if I know anyone by name.

We get no more mails now for a month, as the ones we got yesterday were the 24th May, & the 31st May ones were sunk- By the way, the ship was sunk sixty miles from Bombay! By a mine, dropped by some neutral I suppose, or possibly a raider. Sickening is’nt it getting so near as that and then being sunk.

Many thanks for Printer’s Pie which came yesterday, I have’nt read it yet, but have had a good laugh at some of the pictures. Several other papers also turned up, for which very many thanks, but I have’nt had time to read them yet. I will finish this off tomorrow, & give you the latest news of my condition after the Doctor’s made his morning rounds. I’m certainly feeling very fit this evening. Good-night.

He continued the letter the next day

Probable location of Hospital, scene of further siege in 2004

SS Mongolia, sunk 23/06/17

Images from Printer’s Pie

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Posted by on 11 July, '17 in About


6 July 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother   Many thanks for your letter. Sorry to give you so much trouble about the ties. Never mind if you cannot get them. I thought you’d easily get them at a poky little drapers. Topher’s present has arrived, it’s lovely and he’s awfully pleased.

I hope Dreda will have a good time at Bognor. Will she live at the farm.

I was wondering if Paul would have an ff with the King. Yes the Mesopot report was disgraceful. They ought to be hung.

Here’s the address of a good stockbroker. I wish you’d write to him & tell him how your capital is invested & ask him how it could be improved upon. He’s absolutely sound & you need not do anything even if you are allowed to. Tell him your son is a friend of Major Dykes.

C.S.Williams Esq.
Messrs Herbert Davies & Co.
20 Copthall Avenue
London E.C.

You’ll realize how badly you are off considering the capital you’ve always had. He may want paying for his information, I will do that.

We all hope the war will end in August!

Best love to all

Yr loving son


Had Dreda passed the request for the pre-tied bow ties on to their mother? I can’t think of anything else that Richard had asked for recently that would come from “a poky little drapers”.

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Posted by on 6 July, '17 in About


5 July 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

July 5/17


Dear Mother

No mail in from you this week of course under the new fortnightly show, and I see that the letter mails leaving London on 31st May & parcel mails of 24th of May have been “lost at sea” as the official wording is. Sickening is’nt it, I think it’s the mail after next, as I got letters dated 7th by last mail, so we ought to get 24th May letters next mail, but after that I’m afraid we’ll have to go a whole month without any.

No news much here. Everyone seems to be on the move nowadays, up river, so I expect we shall get our orders shortly. Meanwhile we are very comfy here, though we have had one or two real big days of wind and dust, and it has been hottish, 107 or 108 every day on an average in our tents. The last 2 days have been quite still with no wind; it does away with dust of course, but it makes it a wee bit hotter.

We had a wonderful eclipse of the moon last night, a total one, lasting about 2 hours. I had’nt noticed it in my diary though I see now it is down there. Of course we saw it soon enough as soon as it began at about 11 p.m. as the moon was full, and in about ½ hour or ¾ hour it was entirely blotted out, and only glowed a dull crimson like a cinder, a most impressive sight. It stayed like that for about 2 hours or so & then got all right again. I’ve never seen such a good eclipse and of course we had a splendid view of it. I was sleeping out in the open, as I always do nowadays, and kept on waking up & having a look at the show.

I’ve not been very grand these last few days, “liver” I think the doctor has put it down as; but he has treated me with various dopes and things & I’m ever so much better now, in fact practically well again. In these hot climates I suppose one has a day off occasionally.

We had some swimming sports here the other day for the men, who, as I have told you I think, spend most of the day bathing and we thought we would encourage them by having a few sports, especially for those who have learnt to swim here. The diving was most amusing, as our men are not natural divers, & have only learnt a bit here under our instruction, so you can imagine their efforts off our spring board were amusing to say the least of it.

There seems to be a bit of a lull in France now at the time of writing. What a wonderful show that Messines business must have been, with 19 mines going up, & what a tremendous success it was. On the whole things seem to be going well; the submarine figures are keeping fairly low and level, Russia appears to be going to do an advance, & America’s help in money ships & aeroplanes should be of inestimable value. And perhaps our Salonika army may be able to move more freely now Greece is out of it. But by the time you get this I expect lots of things will have happened so it’s not much good speculating.

The flies seem to have got worse here in the last few days, I spent most of the day swatting them in my tent. They were’nt so bad at first, but seem to have got worse lately.

No news of my socks from the G.O.C! so I expect he’s bagged em himself. However praps I’ll be seeing him in a week or two, though of course I should’nt dare ask him about them!

I’m writing this before breakfast & it looks like another warmish day as there is’nt a breath of wind, though it may get up later of course; I trust it will.

Must end up now. Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 5 July, '17 in About