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Category Archives: 39th Garhwal Rifles

12 March 1915 – 2/39 Garhwal Rifles – Unit War Diary

12-3-1915
LA COUTURE and CROIX
MARMEUSE, and RICHEBOURG
St VAAST.

LA COUTURE was reached by the last Company about 3.a.m., on the way back the Regiment had to march down a road which was being heavily shelled all night by the enemy, and 3 men of the Dogra Company were hit. The road was much congested with traffic, as the Sirhind Brigade were marching up it in one mass into the trenches to relieve the Dehra Dun Brigade. It was afterwards stated that some 300 casualties occurred on this road during the night from shell fire. On the way back the men collected as many of their great coats as they could find, which had been left in the 6th Jat trenches on the morning of the 10th previous to the attack.

The men had hardly settled down in LA COUTURE when orders were received to march early next morning to billets near L’ESTREM. Battalion marched at 7.30 a.m. and reached billets at CROIX MARMEUSE at 10.30 a.m after a long wait on the road for the billetting officer.

The march as necessarily a slow one as the men were much fatigued after their strenuous efforts of the last 3 days. Billets were much scattered here.

At 4.40 p.m. orders were received to march at once to RICHEBOURG St VAAST. the men were cooking at the time, and most of the food had to be thrown away and the Regiment fell in immediately and marched off. The march was very slow, and several men wanted to fall out owing to bad feet. In fact the feed of all the men were in a very bad way and the regiment was in no condition to do any more hard work till it had a day or two’s good rest and food. CROIX MARMEUSE was left about 5.45 p.m., and RICHEBOURG reached at 9.5 p.m. and on arrival their billets were allotted but proved difficult to find as there were so many troops in the village and no Staff Officer to show us till he was seen and fetched out. However sufficient rooms were eventually found and the men got what rest they could.

All ranks heard with the deepest regret this day that Major MacTier had been killed in action while commanding the 1/39th G, Vice Colonel Swiney, wounded.


The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. Ted was Adjutant and often wrote them, but they are typed and it’s not possible to tell if he wrote them. In this case I wonder if Drake-Brockman wrote or dictated the diary.  Major “Mac” was a close friend of Ted’s.

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11 March 1915 – 2/39 Garhwal Rifles – Unit War Diary

11-3-1915
Trenches

At 5.a.m. orders were received placing the Battalion at the disposal of the G.O.C Dehra Dun Brigade, in connection with operations to be under-taken on the morning of the 11th. The Battalion was ordered to support the Right flank of the Dehra Dun Brigade, which was to attack the BOIS de BIEZ that morning. Accordingly the Battalion marched off once more and reached their appointed position on the R. flank of the Dehra Dun Brigade at about 6.30 a.m. The morning was foggy and cold. The Battalion took up a position in the open ground in front of trenches captured the previous day and now occupied by the 2/Leicester Regiment and the Seaforths. Touch was gained with the 2nd Gurkhas on our left and all as in readiness to support them when they advanced. The prospect was not a pleasing one as, the ground was absolutely open for 800 yards, and it was across this that the Battalion would have to advance, as it was, the battalion lying out there in the open suffered a good many casualties from rifle fire and snipers, and eventually the C.O. ordered their withdrawal into and behind the trenches, where some dead ground in an orchard afforded a certain amount of cover. here the Companies entrenched themselves, A report was sent into the G.O.C. Dehra Dun Brigade explaining the situation and pointing out the extreme difficulty of the task allotted to the Battalion, i.e. to advance under fire from 3 sides across the open ground. Meantime our guns shelled the BOIS de BIEZ heavily the enemy replying occasionally with rifle and machine gun fire. Considerable movement was seen in the German trenches opposite the Battalion, and it was evident that a good number were collecting there. the Bombardment of the BOIS de BIEZ continue practically all day, till about 4.p.m. Rations were brought up for the men by a party fo the 28th Gurkhas, the first food the men ha since leaving RICHEBOURG St VAAST, except what they had in their haversacks with them.

The Germans opened a fairly heavy shell fire all along the line from 4 to 5.30 pm, but no much [sic] damage was done.

At 12 midnight orders were received from G.O.C. Dehra Dun Brigade to march to billets at LA COUTURE. Which was reached at 3.a.m.

Casualties during this day.

Casualities - 11th May 1915

Casualties – 11th May 1915

Captain J F Parkin, 113th Infantry (attached) had been wounded on 10th instant while doing duty as Brigade Bomb gun officer through the busting of one of his own bomb gun while assisting in the attack on NEUVE CHAPELLE.


 

The Unit War Diaries are held at the National Archives. This time I find myself hearing echos of Drake-Brockman’s voice in the understandable irritation in this account and its overview of the day, and I find myself wondering if he dictated it. 

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1 January 1915 – Ted to Jane – Christmas Truce 1914

Jan 1st/15

Find I’ve used two bits of
paper by mistake! Sorry

Dear Jinny

Thanks most awfully for your 2 or 3 letters you have written lately. So sorry old thing, I have written but have had very little time. We are out of the trenches now after 25 days on end, & the whole corps is now resting, & we are all – as many as can – getting LEAVE. Is’nt it ripping & all being well I’ll be home today week, on the 8th, sometime during the evening. So anything I don’t tell you in this letter I can tell you then. Your concerts seem to be a great success; if you get any up while I’m at home I’ll help you like a shot. I’ll be home in the evening of the 8th, & leave again on the morning of the 14th, just 5 full days at home.

I’ve got my uniform now & have had a bath – in an old dustbin – but still it was a bath, & I feel so clean & smart, you would’nt know me. Of course I grew a beard in the trenches, & did’nt shave for just a month, but it was’nt exactly a success, & it looked exactly as if I was’nt shaving & not as if I was trying to grow a beard!

I’ve got new news to tell you I think. We are billeted in a little village, very dirty & muddy & fairly comfy; but we were in better billets before. We took 3 days to march here from the trenches, about 5 miles a day, as after standing in water & mud all that time you can’t imagine the state your feet get into, soft & swollen & no good for walking on, just good enough to stand upon & no more.

Going into the trenches.... coming out

Going into the trenches   coming out

Told Mother about our palling up with the Germans on Christmas day. It was most amusing & so utterly out of keeping with the rest of the show that one can hardly realize it happened.

Christmas Day Truce 1914

The above is – liar [sic]  – what happened; but I’ll tell you all about it when I see you. I have’nt seen anything in the papers about it yet. I’m afraid this is a very dull letter but I really can find nothing to say, & I may’nt say it anyhow.

It’s a real miserable day today, cold and wet and miserable, thank goodness we are in houses and not out in those bally old trenches still. I suppose this will all turn to snow soon, & I wish it would freeze or something & dry up the roads a bit; at present the mud is awful, but we are fairly used to that now. I hope you’ll have a nice hot bath waiting for me, as I don’t think I shall have another before I come home, it’s so cold washing in bits. And don’t send anything more out just at present as I shall be starting home before it arrives.

I got a long letter from Paul, he seems very cheery & cold & hints darkly at great goings on in the North Sea. He’s in the middle of the show now anyhow. There has been a lot of heavy fighting lately round here, & some of the Indian troops have suffered very heavily, but we were’nt in it, so are all right, at least fairly so. Tons of love & keep smiling

yr loving brother  Ted

According to Drake-Brockman, the Garhwalis were in billets at Hurionville near Lillers which was the Indian Army Corps Commander’s headquarters at the time as well as their railhead. They arrived there at 2:30pm on December 30th.

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This is Ted’s second mention of the famous Christmas Day Truce of 1914; his first description is in his letter to Gertrude of 31st December 1914.  

The original of this letter is in the Archive of the the Imperial War Museum: Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel E R P Berryman DSO –  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030021700

 

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31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude – Christmas Day Truce

Dec 31 / 1914

Dear Mother

Thanks most awfully for your last few letters. I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in answering them, but I have’nt had a moment really. We came out of those old trenches on the night of the 27th, after doing 25 days & nights there, pretty long time was’nt it. We were glad to be relieved as you may imagine, the men were all absolutely doggo, as they had to work day & night to keep the trenches for from falling in, because the weather was so wet & beastly that the earthy all got sodden & soaked & had to be simply propped up, & our trenches were simply lined with boards & old doors & anything we could get hold of. I am writing this in nice comfortable billets miles away from the firing line where the whole Indian Army Corps has come for a rest for 3 weeks or so.

I have’nt much news to tell you except an extraordinary thing which happened on Christmas day. To begin with on Christmas eve all the German trenches were lined with little lights, which we afterwards discovered were Christmas trees. Well next morning we heard them singing & shouting in their trenches, and about midday they began lifting up hats on sticks and shewing them above the trenches, then they shewed their heads, & then bodies & finally they climbed out of their trenches into the open! Of course one could’nt shoot them in cold blood like that, tho’ one or two shots were fired; and after a bit we also scrambled out of our trenches, & for an hour both sides walked about in the space between the two lines of trenches, talking & laughing, swapping baccy & cigarettes, biscuits etc. They were quite friendly & genuine, & our Col: who talks German had a long conversation with them, & asked them how they were & everything, & you would never believe that we had been fighting for weeks. After about an hour their officers shooed them back to their trenches, and we came back to ours, but for the rest of Christmas day & night, & all next day, 26th, I dont suppose 2 shots were fired hardly by either side! Was’nt it weird?

By the way, leave is now open, & 3 of our fellows have gone on leave. I am, I hope, arriving in London about 3 o’clock on the 8th, if all goes well, as my turn is next; so you can expect me home, with a fair amount of certainty, on evening of the 8th, probably by a train leaving Waterloo about 5-6 o’clock. So if anyone likes to hang about Waterloo anytime about then they are fairly sure to meet me. Is’nt it GORGEOUS!!

Happy New Year to all

yr loving son

Ted


Ted described the truce again to Jane the following day, this time illustrating his letter.

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The original of this letter is in the Archive of the the Imperial War Museum: Private Papers of Lieutenant Colonel E R P Berryman DSO –  http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1030021700 

 

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8 November 1914 – Ted to Ben

I’ve put 1d stamp on, & enclose an envelope

Nov 8th

Dear Ben

Very many thanks for your nice long letter full of most interesting news. So glad you’ve got home at last, you must be thoroughly relieved too I should imagine. It must as you say be truly funny seeing all your friends dressed up as Tommies and going about with them all, Wiggs is an awful swell being an officer of course; no I had’nt heard it before, the others had’nt told me about it. Yes the “historic” voyage in the old Dil Dil, however unpleasant and trying at times, will surely live in your memory as quite a good show on the whole, and as you say you probably made some good friends on board & saw some new life. I expect you can put em all in their places when it comes to soldiers, eh, even Jim & Wiggy! Mother says Jim expects to be out here very soon, but he seems to have had very little training; I’m not crabbing the show, only I should imagine they’d want some more yet.

I expect those terriers & Gabbs & people are all going to Egypt, I don’t think they’d send em out to India; they may, of course.

It is most awfully cold here my dear as you can imagine. And we are still in thin khaki drill; what a contrast to that day at Karachi! You remember, in the first cabin you had on the Dilwara, when we simply bathed in good honest sweat. I don’t really think I’ve got enough on, but I cant get any more gear at present. You see we came out to occupy the trenches on 29th Oct, & are still here; that makes 10 days. Not very long under some circs, but devilish long to be in cold damp trenches with only the kit you stand up in! You see we left all our kit behind, & heaven knows when we shall see it again„ I hope we shall soon, as it’s very trying, this sort of work. You see we have’nt a a thing off for the whole tirne, boots, clothes or anything, nor a wash nor anything like that. We are all filthy, black grimy hands & faces, but we are all the same so it does’nt matter.

I read a glowing account in the “Standard” a day or two ago of life in the trenches, but it was very misleading. First of all it talked about “spade hewn, straw-spread” trenches; true in a way, but all our digging has to be done at night, as it would be impossible to dig by day, as the enemy’s trenches are only 300 yards off, & his little advanced trenches, in which snipers sit & pick you off if you show a finger, are only about 150 yards; so the digging is’nt very grand, though I must say our men have done wonders, & have made the trenches quite comfy- And there is some straw, but it’s mostly trodden into the mud. Again he says we do 3 days in the front trench, 3 days in the support, & 4 days rest. Divil a bit, this is our 10th day in the front trench, & no hope of relief yet awhile. Still it’s all part of the day’s work I suppose. These dam Germans seem to think the barn, where we have – or rather used to have – our Battalion headqrs is a most important place, because they persistently shell it. Every day for the last 4 days we had a whole lot of Jack Johnsons all round us, & they’ve knocked the farm buildings to hell. Such a pity, as “its a nice little farm”, & has a lovely orchard, & looks lovely in the evening sometimes. But of course it’s absolutely wrecked. I don’t think one can imagine these things unless you see them. One Jack Johnson wrecked the entire side of the house – it’s a sort of square with a courtyard in the middle – and all the rest is knocked to hell too. And all the furniture, crockery, clothes everything lying all over the shop anyhow. I dont know what the poor people will do when they come back after the war.

Last night, in fact all yesterday, the Germans were very active. For some reason or other they seem very anxious to break through our line just here, where we and the Seaforths are. Yesterday began by a furious shelling all the morning and then they attacked the Seaforths, and there was the hell of a battle, but they managed to keep ’em off, though the Seaforths had a lot of casualties. Our left joins up with the Seaforths, so we came in for it too. They again made a special effort against our Bn head quarters, & dropped shrapnel & howitzer all round, but we were quite safe in our trenches, though of course we had a few men hit. Poor Nain Sing was hit in the head by a piece of shell a few days ago & died shortly afterwards; I’m awful sorry as he was such a good chap, & had done me most awfully well on this show.

I dont know if you’ve seen any casualty lists, perhaps you have; I’m not supposed to mention them I believe, but I’m sure they must have been published by now. Poor Stack has been killed, I dont know what Mrs Stack will do; I’m most awfully sorry. Wright has been killed too, & Davidson & Hayes Saddler, & 2 more in the 8th; Maclean wounded (he’s gone home) & Col Morris, in fact they had a rotten time the 8th, though they did’nt lose many men. Awful is’nt it-

I got a huge parcel from Mother, it arrived up here in the trenches, but I could’nt possibly open it, as I’m sure I could’nt have kept all the kit. So I sent it back to the baggage, & am longing to get at my kit again & have a look at it, I want a balaclava cap, so if anyone wants to do anything say that; it’s bitter at night, sleeping in just one’s kit & no blanket or anything- I cover myself over with sacks and straw & so keep fairly warm. You remember that warm coat I had made; well I’ve had that on all the time & its ripping and warm; but I believe mother said she had put in a sweater in that parcel, & that will be lovely. She sent me a gorgeous silk muffler, much too good for these shows, but it’s been an absolute blessing & I could’nt have got on without it. And as for the blue jersey, well saved me life, & causes a great stir among the troops!

I have picked up several German helmets, rifles, uniform, shells etc, but I can’t sent them home as I should like too, so it’s no good. I must try & collect a few trophies of the campaign before we’re done.

We are just hanging on here while bigger developements take place elsewhere, & never a day passes without a furious shelling and an attack or two, & bullets go whizzing all over the shop; most exciting.

There are hundreds of Aeroplanes about, &, as you know, I’ve never seen one before. Col D[rake].B[rockman] & I were standing in a trench the other day quite still, as the orders are to do so when “hostile aircraft” (that’s good & will make your soldier friends sit up!) are about, & a German Taube was careering about overhead; you see it’s awful hard to spot people except by movement. Anyhow we suddenly heard a little shrill hissing sound and an explosion in the turnips in front; this happened 3 times; & the stinker had been dropping bombs! But they did’nt do any damage.

I am quite well, fit as seventy fiddles, filthy, & a 10 days beard, I shall be glad to be relieved from this trench work as it’s very trying & one gets little sleep. I hope these blighters keep quiet tonight! Write again soon. Tons of love

Ted

What I shd have done without “torchers” in the trenches I don’t know! He’s been absolutely invaluable and you shall have him back after the war as a trophy.


This letter was written in pencil on paper torn from a Field Service Pocket Book.

‘Terriers’ were members of the Territorial Army, ie part-time volunteers who were also reservists.

D H Drake-Brockman wrote a book With the Royal Garwhal Rifles in the Great War 1914-1917 which provides a lot of background information to Ted’s letters. Drake-Brockman also mentioned the difficulties of not being able to wash saying “The worst of a long period in the trenches without relief is that you cannot get clean and the men are apt to get verminous”.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

Wiggs was Ivan Bennet, whom Paul mentioned on 30th October and who seems to have been a special friend of Ben’s at that time.

Ben mentioned Mrs Stack as one of the new mothers in Lansdowne and it seems possible she was still there rather than risk the voyage with a new baby. It’s not clear whether she also lost the baby, assuming we’ve read Ben’s letter right and there was one. Either way, future letters show she was almost demented with grief.  

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20 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

S.S. Dilwara Karachi

Tuesday Sept 20th

we ought to arrive about Oct 15
or thereabouts but I don’t know.

 

Dear Mother

A very few minutes to write to you in, just to tell you that we sail tomorrow after all. Go out into the sea to wait in a few hours, tossed about all night I suppose.

Ted’s ship went out this morning early, there will be about 40 of us all together in three clumps, divided by our cruiser escort. I’m sure there’ll be a good old muddle as these ships so very unused to going at close quarters.

Very uncomfortable on this old barge, full of babies who scream all day- Look here I’ve no time for much of a letter, they are taking the letters ashore. Write me when you get this C/o Cox Agent Passenger S.S. DILWARA, Southampton. Wait arrival. & I shall get it when I land, it will only be a few days after this.

I am dreading this voyage, because it’s sure to be rough & very hot. I got your mail letter but have no time to answer, I only knew today there was a chance of getting the mail next week.

I’ve seen quite a lot of Ted’s & the others’ & we shall see the 39th Gs’ ship all the way along, because it is in the same block as ours. I must end & post this.

Tons of love to everyone

Your loving Ben

I shall be very much on the lookout for the dear Gloucester all the way home.

dreading the next 3 weeks.

Ainley Talbot is with the Lancashire Fusiliers on board, we’ve had an FF. Also Capt Farmer who lived up the Avenue.

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15 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

On the way to Karachi

Tuesday Sept 15th 1914

Dear Mother

I must just send you a line now in case I don’t get time before we sail. Alix & I are on our way to Karachi, we’ve got passages in the Dilwara (you will have had my cable which I am sending before I sail) & you will also have had my mail letters, telling you I had a good chance of a passage. We had a dreadfull rush, only 12 hrs’ notice & everything to pack & see to, goodness I don’t know how we did it. Mr Fox ran all the travelling part you see, it isn’t quite like starting from Guildford; we were 30 miles from a station! and coolies carry your luggage down, we had 20!

Alix & I are awfully lucky to get these passages & together too, we are the only two from Lansdowne this time; the others have to wait till end of Oct. Now we go along with the 7th Division under the same escort, so shall be more or less with the 39th till they get to France, an historical voyage anyway. We travel with warrants marked “War 1914” in red ink, everything free, so I’ve saved £10 or more in railway fares & it wasn’t right to spend about £30 or more to get to Dick for a month, as he is giving up Lahoal then, so I’m very lucky.

I shall get my P. & O. refunded when I get back, no time this end and I can never discribe this journey; it is dreadfull frantic heat, well over 100 in our carriage & we are crossing the Sind desert, & the whole carriage is really inches in dust & we ourselves are absolutely black & pour with perspiration the entire day.

Well it’s good training for the red sea, which will be alarming, & we are only going 8 knots an hour all the voyage, it will take us nearly 5 or 6 weeks, so I am sending this by the mail this week, which will overtake us but I shan’t be far behind. I’ll wire the day I land & come along. I’ve got tons of luggage, 3 packing cases – I’ve brought all the china Ted & I had back, rather a nice dinner service & tea set, & all his books.

The discomfort of this journey is beyond discription, but I shall be glad to get home so I don’t mind. Ted will be glad to know I’m safe & on my way back before he sails too, & don’t think he quite like leaving me stranded you see, four days’ journey which one can’t do alone, from Dick makes one rather alone. I don’t suppose I shall see Ted as they have embarked but he will know I’m there, but I hope I may get a glimpse if we stay a few days before sailing, I expect we shall.

Yesterday we spent at Lahore, you have 22 hours’ wait! & you sleep in the waiting room, goodness it was a nightmare, so hot & mosquitoes, flying ants all over the place. My mosquito bites swell up to an enormous size, I suppose my blood isn’t in a brilliant state. This journey & voyage won’t do me much good, I look like nothing on earth but a few days at home will put that allright.

Really the war news is better isn’t it, how thankfull I am, & I hope & pray the fighting won’t be so fierce; by the time our lot get there it will take another 6 weeks, & lots of things can happen in that time. I do hope Willie & George are safe, I don’t know for certain if Willie has gone. I’m afraid such a heap of our friends must have been killed, it’s too dreadfull.

It would be nice if the Gloucester formed part of our escort, I hope we go to Malta; we shall I expect. This train is full of “families” of the Expeditionary force, going into the Dilwara, but Alix & I with our usual luck have a carriage (2 berths) to ourselves. We were packed in last night all under one punka in the waiting room, your nightdress was the only thing you could face near you!

The Dilwara is either a hospital ship, or we are going with some of the Rifle Brigade or Lancashire Fusiliers. I may be able to tell you later, anyway it’s not a pack of females as was expected. There are three troopers with females in.

Poor Ted is very much fed they’ve been kept so long waiting, & are in a very dirty camp. They are longing to get off, he tells me he’s very fit tho’ & looks so well everyone remarks. In Lansdowne he looks dreadfull, so white & pasty.

I really must thank you most awfully for the gorgeous box of things I just got before I came away, they are all too ripping & so much what I wanted. Please tell the girls how much I loved their little contributions, all so dainty & all but they’ll all be useful at home & NO waste; I shall want no overclothes, bar a rough skirt, the dress is sweet & fits beautifully & the little ninon coat I can’t get over at all, I’m dotty on all the things.

You have been ripping sending me all the things I’ve wanted out here, everyone has spoilt me, the family I mean. Ted & Dick I can never thank enough; they vow they can never thank me enough for coming, but that’s rot, I’ve loved it. I’m so longing to see you all again, & I’d so hate to be so far away with Ted in the show.

It seems as if I was sort of rushing home but I find there’s not more than a month before my original time of sailing in November, I’d add more if I’d time. I must try & collect a few presents at Port Said!! I’m living on Ted’s pay at present!! Dick wired did I want money, so I wired back No I’ve got heaps!! So he wired back if you are so rich I’ll be on the borrow.

Rather sickening for Alix, she was out here for another year but she wants to get back before Nobbie Clarke or her brother get to France. She will come to Delaford soon. I feel sorry for her, she & Nobbie were only engaged a week before he went, & being only 22 & 23 they take it rather hardly.

Your loving

Ben

Heaps of love to everyone.

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3 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Sept 3rd 1914

Lansdowne.

Dear Mother.  I got your letter last week, I was so thankfull to get a mail as I’d had to wait more than a fortnight, and just at a time when one wants to hear so much.

All your letters were of course full of the war, it was so funny reading your remarks about Ted being out of it; I expect you gathered the Indian troops were being taken by the papers & Lord Kitchener’s speaches, before you got our letters saying they were mobilizing here.

You will also know by now that the 3rd & 7th Divisions are going straight for Europe; the Egypt affair is quite off, so by the time you get this Ted will be very near the front.

I fancy they’ll keep them a bit to get the men climatized. I’m afraid you’ll be very worried but I’m praying hard that the worst may be over by the time they get there, you see it will be almost another 5 or 6 weeks. They sail from Karachi now, in a few days.

I heard from Ted nearly every day and apart from being very hot & a dreadfull journey he seems very cheery and fit- I’m so awfully glad I was here to send him off.

Look here, this is how you will know what the 39th Garhwals belong to – they belong to the 20th Brigade, 7th Division, Indian Expeditionary Force. A. and you can use this as an address. Put the name & Regiment very clear, we from our end send them to the Post Office at Bombay but you would either put C/O G.P.O. or war office I should think, you must find out. Letters to Ted ought to get to him sometime addressed like this, when once he gets to Europe.

He wrote to you last mail from Kotdwara he said & I’ve told him to be sure to let you know anything there was to know; he’s got so used to me telling you things, you know what I mean. No more definite news re the trooper, we may go now in lots of about 100 with the reinforcements from this country. There are rumours that the 1st lot sail about the 19th of this month, there have been 700 applicants from both divisions but they cut out any that are not genuine.  I should think Alix & I are almost sure for one.

It seems I can get practically my full return fare back from the P. & O. which will be a great save, as you only pay your messing on a trooper, about £5, & very small tips & no railway fares.

I haven’t heard really from Dick since I told him I shouldn’t go to him again but it would be a hopeless running away of money, the journey alone being close on £10 or 11. And it seems it would only be till November & he will get home I expect, as ship’s doctor or something.

He says he will send me to Shillong to the hotel there if he won’t go as it costs such a lot; but I don’t want to go alone after it was all going to be so ripping with him & Ted, besides I’m longing to get back, & it seems it will only be a month or perhaps not even that, earlier than I intended, & it seems too foolish & wasteful to spend Ted’s money & Dick’s just for the sake of a little gadding about, which one doesn’t want these days.

I can imagine it must have been dreadfull for you, everyone going off. Willie & all too but when you wrote the expeditionary force hadn’t gone, and with the first lot no territorials went, did they. But by now I suppose they’ve had a chance. Splendid Paul having that go at those German cruisers, I don’t quite know why they didn’t finish them off more; it must have been gorgeous for Paul. Now I hope there won’t be much more, he’s had his little go, hasn’t he.

I suppose George was in with the Scots Greys, I do hope he’s allright. It must be dreadfull for you, as I daresay you have casualty lists by now; I doubt if we get them at all. I shall so dread landing in a way, as one gets so little news on board. I shall be thankfull to get home, one feels so useless out here and I suppose everyone is doing something at home.

Alix has had 6 months’ hospital training which ought to come in usefull, we feel fearfully useless with nothing to do in the usefull line out here. And besides, being so far away now all our people have gone to Europe.

It’s gorgeous weather here & I hope the rains are over, we can have all our meals in the garden as it’s not too hot, & we’ve a nice shady place. We can play tennis again but ladies’ fours seem so odd, especially out here. There are always more men  than girls. There will be about 23 females from here, not counting the children, to go home. Everyone is going now, as if anything should happen to one’s people, they’d send them to England to be nursed you see.

My box of things ought to come along next week. I shall keep all the things, they won’t be in any way wasted. We are busy at present packing all Alix’s things from her bungalow, so that if we go off suddenly we can have plenty of time for mine; I hardly know what belongs to me & what doesn’t, I shall have heaps & heaps to see to. What with money & servants & accounts my brain has never had to work so hard!

I feel dreadfully sorry for Gossie, but I suppose most of the naval show is over; it was gorgeous that we did so well, but a fearfull suspense all that time with NO news, only rumours. I was so thankful Paul was not there, and he hasn’t been out of it either. I suppose Specs has now inlisted as everyone has, but they won’t send any of that lot out till they had at least 6 months training, will they.

Fred Lumb got back in time, but only just; he’d gone over the border into Tibet, so never got any of the wires recalling him. He did 35 miles a day over impossible country for 7 days. I just saw him & had tea with him in the mess the few hours he was here, he had to go straight on; too thin for words and fearfully tired, but only too thankfull not to have been left behind. It was touch & go if he’d catch ‘em up.

I must end now. Please give my best love to the girls, I’ll write to them next week

Your loving daughter

Ben.

Just heard from King & Hamilton that your parcel has arrived so will send for it.

I somehow thought you wouldn’t go to Selsey even if the girls did. I sent two of my mails there, but I suppose you got them.

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25 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Aug 25th 1914

Dear Mother

I must be getting a letter off to you today, to be sure to catch the mail. It seems since Ted went off on Friday, I haven’t had a moment; there have been such tons of things to see to, packing away everything of his. We are now left destitute, the station seems saddest place & of course the regiments absolutely made the place, there are no civilians there at all you see.

Ted went off in very good spirits on Friday, seeing the regiment off was rather a struggle as all that cheering & band playing is unhinging enough at any time. When the 39th went off I didn’t go off to the parade beforehand but Alix & I went down the road & saw them all pass. Ted marches at the head of the regiment with the Col: all the officers fell out as they passed, and we wished them luck. I did feel so dreadfully sorry for the poor wives, especially the several brides but I must say they all kept wonderfully brave.

At present the three regiments are no further than Kotdwara, the base of the hill here waiting to entrain for Karachi. It is sickening for them being kept down there because it’s frightfully hot & unhealthy but we can send them things & hear from them, in spite of the fearfull discomfort they seem fairly cheery. At present, the idea of Egypt is very much to the fore, I only hope & pray it is true and for the moment they will be more or less safe there.

I may be home now earlier as I’ve chance of a free passage, journey from there to the port as well, in the trooper they are chartering for families of officers gone on service. I’ve been thinking things out & if I get a passage it’s well worth it. I can get a third of my P&O passage back, about £12 & the tips in a P&O come to well over £5 extra & on a trooper very little. Also I shall have no railway fare – the thing is I shan’t get to Assam or see Dick again out here, but originally I was not going to Assam at all after here. It was only when Ted could get leave & go too that it was to have been so ripping, so under the circumstances I think I may as well come home a month sooner, & save about £30 or so more. My journey to Assam would be at least £12, as I should have to go right up to Dilmgarh now, as Uncle James is under orders to move from Shillong; and then all that journey for only about a month, as I want to get back in November anyway, especially if Dick doesn’t get another job. That staying about with people costs no end of money.

So if I get the passage, I will cable you the date of sailing & ship & you must then find out the sort of time I may arrive in England. You may not see it in the paper, but I suppose from the war office one would get news. This was all decided yesterday when we got the application forms. All the families of the two divisions have a claim. It will be a funny voyage, all women & children – anyway I shall be more or less sure of getting home by the trooper but in a P&O one may be held up for weeks at Gib[raltar] & places, we shall be under escort if necessary. If I do get the passage it will probably be end of Sept or some time in Oct, the latter I should imagine as at present all available ships are being taken for these troops.

Go on addressing my letters here after all, until I do sail earlier I shall hardly get an answer to this – our mails take 3 weeks to go & come. But you will get a cable if one can be got through, otherwise I may sort of suddenly turn up but not before end of Oct some time. I don’t think I’ve explained this at length so that you understand.

Alix will come home too. We are allright up here tho: it seems very lonely & deserted without any of our men kind. Alix is engaged to Nobbie Clarke in the 39th. It is rather dreadful for her his going off, but he is very lucky because he is only 22 & so will see some service early in his career. We’ve got 11 dogs with us, (how you’d enjoy them!) 4 of mine, 4 of Alix’s, 2 of Nobbie’s, 1 of Molly O’s, so you can imagine the pack they are. We have to be fearfully careful after tea because the panthers swarm here, now the place is empty; this sounds alarming but they wouldn’t hurt us really, but they take the dogs before you know where you are.

Phyllis Moss’s birthday today, we are going to dine with her; she was to have given a dance but of course that’s out of the question now. We are very lucky to have Mr Fox at the 39th Depot, he is looking after me very well as he never minds being worried over anything. On your own like this, one has to have a head of sorts & you know how good I am at money matters at any time & when it’s not English money, I’m more of a fool than ever. You needn’t worry about money for me because I can draw on Ted’s pay, but with this trooper business I shan’t want any hardly as Alix & I will stay on here till we sail, & living up here as we do doesn’t come to very much; anyway I’ve got it all fixed up & Ted made every arrangement necessary.

I wonder how you all are, the papers say that England is very peacefull, but the expeditionary force going off must have made things seem very close. How splendid all that arrangement was; the staff out here ought to take a lesson, for they are making such muddles & cancel orders 12 hrs after they’ve made them. I hear from Ted that he is very fit, he may write to you this mail.

I must go and make some more cakes, & some famous cheese biscuits he likes to send down tomorrow, one of the dogs ate all the ones I made yesterday, I was sick.

I daren’t think of the packing I shall have to do, because I’ll bring home lots of Ted’s boxes & things & we have collected such a lot of odds & ends somehow. They give you such short notice with these troopers too, but this one will be different I expect & it is just for the families & no one else, they won’t send us either till it’s quite safe from these dreadfull mines.

I suppose you’ve no news of Paul. No mail to answer, we expect one on Sunday. I am longing to hear again, I do so hate the mail going wrong. I shall be able to tell you more re my passage in the next mail or two. I must try and write to the girls tomorrow. Heaps of love

Your loving daughter

Ben

There’s no news from here, we do nothing these days there being nothing to do, & the rain still persists.

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19 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Aug 19th your Birthday

Dear Mother. Thank you ever so much for your letter, I must try and get a letter off to you today, & will you please tell Dreda & Jane that I may not be able to catch the mail this week but they shall hear next; I’ve so little time for writing, there are such heaps of things to do and see to.

Here is all bussell & fuss as the two regiments leave tomorrow & the 2/39th on Friday; they’ve been all ready for some days & very anxious to get off. Alix & I have been awfully busy making & mending, but the little they are allowed to take is awfull I consider, only 60lbs personal kit & the lord knows when they’ll get back.

I’ve got all Ted’s things packed up in tin-lined cases, I wanted to get it done before he left; I’d so hate doing it after. I simply won’t realize that he is going off to war, they all seem to think in time & if it lasts they see some fighting. I am so glad that one of the family is here to see him off. I rather expect our letters will be the first you’ll hear of their going, or the officers on leave who’ve of course been recalled & are to join at the destination (no-one knows where that is), so you may hear through that.

They are to be at Bombay early next week. In the 2 division there will be about 50 regiments & that means about 30 transports. I suppose they’ll use any old ship they can get. We’ve heard very little news, and it seems it’s scarce even in England. In the next few days we shall know more after this big battle, I hope & pray the worst will be well over by the time any of their people there, & then they’ll have had the excitement of going & all & be more or less safe. I suppose such heaps of people we know and hear of are in the expeditionary force & have gone.

I’ve just heard from Dick, I don’t suppose we shall go to Shillong now unless the Pugras are on because it will cost a lot of money so I shall go straight to him as soon as ever it’s cool enough. Anyway I shall go in a month’s time as I can stand a little of the heat & won’t sooner be with him, but we shall fix that all up & I haven’t had time to hear from him since my letter telling him for certain Ted was going. Dick seems very fit again & cheery.

Thanks very much for saying you’ve sent my parcel, it will arrive some time I suppose & I shall be sure to love all the things. Shillong if it is off and all the things I wanted won’t be of very much use if I am buried with Dick at Lahoal, but I shall have them for when I do get home. I’m hoping it won’t be very much later on than November, as most people will be going home then, I mean the wives & families left here.

How expensive for Dreda’s furs really, it doesn’t seem worth getting them out here because in the summer sales you can get a set for £5. I do hope my leopard skins won’t be so much. Thanks so much for seeing about it. I shan’t get my fur coat now, as Fred Lumb has been recalled from his shoot.

Please when you get this address me c/o King Hamilton & Co. Calcutta, letters & everything, as I shall have left here & I’ll keep them up to my movements.

I heard from Paul from Alexandria, it must have been a day or two before they dashed to Malta. I’m dreading a naval battle with the Austrian Fleet.

I must end up now. I’ve got to go through all the accounts & learn something of this rotten money & business matters. Ted is very flourishing, it’s awfully worrying him going but he is dreadfully lucky to get this chance & being Adj: has a responsible position. I’ll be able to write more next week on my hand then. I’m very fit.

Heaps of love

Your loving Ben.

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