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Category Archives: 39th Garhwal Rifles

12 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.
Aug 12th 1914

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter & much news. I expect you hear, ere you get this, or you will know that the 39th Gurhwalis are ordered to mobilize for active service; they are part of the 7th Division & the 3rd & 7th are going from this country. The order came a day or two ago, this time next week Lansdowne will be left destitute; each regiment leaves an officer and a certain amount of men at each depot, and that’s all.

All three regiments go from here; Friday the 14th the 8th Gurkas go, & Tuesday & Wednesday the 3rd Gurkas, & the 39th Guhrwali. At present only ordered as far as Kodwara, the railway at the bottom of the hill (28 miles down) & then to Bombay to embark. The worst of it is they’ll go under sealed orders, so we shall never know where they go till they arrive. You will know before us I expect as you are so [illegible] for news. Some rumours say Egypt to wait, some Havre & yet again England. Everyone dreadfully excited at going of course & they’ll die of disappointment if they don’t get into the thick of it.

Ted is worked off his feet being Adj: I can’t tell you the things he has to see to, he leaves the house at 10 & I haven’t seen him again for three days till 5-30 or 6-30 when he comes back for lunch. They are only allowed 60lbs kit so for himself there is little to see to really, I’ve to make karki pillow cases & small hold alls, that’s all.

This war is so absolutely dreadfull. I’ve told you all about here first, because you will want to know about Ted but I can realize how dreadfull it must be at home; you are safe I suppose but I’m naturally very worried & we get so little news, it shows how sudden it all was, because your mail mentions not a word and yet it was dated July 24th. Our mails will be more or less allright, but they go round by sea which takes a week longer so there’ll be a gap at first. We don’t get a mail on Aug 21st, it will be a week late I see. That’s your mail dated Aug 6th, the very one we want badly to hear how you are (this will be your end too). Still send my letters here till I tell you, I hope & pray I shall still get a mail, for one clings to that so.

Don’t worry about me as I’m more or less allright, as I’ve got Dick thank goodness out here, tho’ at present 4 days’ journey away. Alix & I will stay together in this bungalow for about a month & then I shall go to Assam again, either meet Dick at Shillong as arranged before or go straight to him by the middle of Sept. It will be cool enough for me, even if I go to him but I expect & hope it will be Shillong, tho’ if the race meet & all is off he may not be able to get leave. I should go down to him now, but it would be foolish in a way for I’ve got this house & I couldn’t stand the heat & poor Alix is so stranded, I feel I must see her through a bit at first. Heaven knows when I shall get home now, we can’t tell yet but if Dick has to give up his job & has no other I can always go to the Nobles for as long as I like. But I’m hoping I shall get back to you all before Xmas anyway.

You must be so worried about everything & I suppose the prices of everything are dreadfull, even out here they’ve gone up already. We hear of a great Naval victory off the Dogger bank but NO details, if Paul had been in the Channel Fleet I fail to know how I could have stood the suspense. Such heaps, in fact everyone must be involved in some way or another, as I suppose all the Aldershot division have gone. We know very little. I shall be feeling very miserable & sort of stranded till I get to Dick but thank goodness I’ve got Alix, & I shall have to look after myself a bit, but you know what it’s like to feel stranded.

I can’t think what it will be like on Wednesday when the 39th Gs go. Apart from having Ted going which I refuse to even think of, every officer one knows & some of them so awfully well somehow; I feel so sorry for the poor wives, & the station has many brides. We shall all stay up for a time I suppose, till things calm down & then they’ll all try and get home, that is if the regiments don’t come back here for sometime. Two officers have gone today under sealed orders, to catch Sat’s mail; they will go to the place where the regiments go eventually, but that doesn’t help us knowing. It makes it all the worse not knowing where they go, as there can be no letters or anything. Ted is wild with excitement & so are they all, we poor females are supposed to be the same. But it’s jolly hard & I find I can’t inwardly get the right spirit.

Parcils will get to me in time, with a certain amount of safety, our mail won’t really come to any harm unless by an accident, see? So I shall get the things you sent allright, I expect. As regards money don’t you worry, because I’m going to draw on Ted’s pay; he’ll want very little & Dick will see to that part when I get to him, Ted says I shan’t be left short in anyway & Alix & I can certainly live on very little the time we are together. My getting to Dick will cost a lot but that will be allright. I’m going to have King Hamilton Calcutta as my agents.

Your day at Hartley Row must have been nice, you seemed to get a great deal into one day! The girls didn’t tell me anything about the day & yet they were hard up for news! I wonder if you went to Selsey, I sent two mails there. I can imagine your feelings at being away from home at this time. The Territorials are getting a look in I suppose, I was wondering about Willie but I suppose they won’t be sent out of England. There is no fear of air invasion thank goodness but you must all be in a dreadfull state of worry, I wish we could know more, our mails will tell us most & we will have to wait another 2 weeks before you mention much.

I’m glad you are to be Kathleen’s kid’s godmother, she ought to call her Felicia if it’s April, a ripping name & every other odd name is so common nowadays. Please tell Rosamond I may miss the mail with her letter this mail, & also tell her the bracelets arrived perfectly safe & beautifully packed. Thank her please, the other girls I’ll write to next week.

Nothing doing here, I don’t go out expect just to Alix & back & she here, because messages & things are going the entire day & I never know when Ted may want a meal. I must go and have a bath now, I missed mine this morning as Alix & I went for a walk before breakfast; such a gorgeous really English morning & not too hot, the sun is out for the first time for weeks, it makes all the difference in the world. Let’s hope it’s fine when we are alone, that everlasting rain & mist I could not endure.

I’m very fit these days which is a blessing (tap wood), I was so sick of having an “inside”. We appear to be going to be left minus an doctor but I do hope not, such lots of people are always ill too. About 5 or 6 of our officers are on leave at home, they’ve been recalled but they won’t be out in time; they’ll pick up the others I suppose somewhere, but no war kit whatever. Capt Lumb will only just get back in time to start, he’s got 12 days marching. He was miles away on the snow line & had started before the war was thought of, so the wire must have been rather a shock.

I must end now, do please take care of yourselves. I wish I was home, one feels so stranded somehow away from one’s people. Over having Dick I’m only too thankful, with any luck I shall be with him in about 6 weeks. Tons of love your loving Ben

I don’t suppose Ted will be able to write & if you ever can write to him you must remember to be pleased that he’s going, they can’t understand our feelings of fear one bit. You may hear where they are sooner than I.


Again, this has been split into paragraphs for legibility. It seems that Ben couldn’t spell Garhwal despite living there. This may be a quirk of her hand-writing rather than a misspelling  but given how poor the rest of her spelling is, it seems probable that the error is hers not the transcriber’s.

Get Directions
 

Letters and photographs

Letters and photographs

My great-grandmother was a true family historian. As well as her sons’ First World War letters, she kept diaries going back to the 1820s, family photographs of when she was a child in the 1860s, her children’s letters from school, their school reports, and photographs throughout the first four decades of the 20th century. I don’t know how many boxes there are altogether, a good half dozen or so, and a couple of trunks.

It’s daunting. As I teenager I sometimes felt that dead people were more important in my family than live ones were.

Having said that, this doughty group are now my Windows Desktop. The child is my great grandmother, the one who kept all the letters. I love her hand-on-hips stance and the way her head-tilt echoes her own grandmother’s. I just find it very odd to realise that I share so much DNA with these people when I can see their faces but I’ve no idea of their names.

Assorted Ancestors, mid 19th Century

Assorted Ancestors, mid 19th Century. 

Back to the First World War. Here are some things I took photos of at the weekend to blog about and to share on twitter.

 

We found several blank envelopes pre-printed:

“I certify on my honour that the contents of this envelope refer to nothing but private and family matters”.

Spies don’t lie, obviously. Hmm.

Private and family matters

 

We also found several blank cards for sending from hospital, but this one had been completed and posted to my grandmother from my grandfather telling her he was sick. And how extremely English he was: “I am quite well, I have been admitted into hospital sick”.

Ted Sick 1917

 

This is the envelope of a letter which has been damaged by immersion in sea-water. Several of their letters were on ships which were torpedoed, as indeed were two of my great-grandmother’s sons.

Damaged by imersion in sea water

 

I’m taking the photographs to be scanned on Friday, but here is one I photographed at the weekend. It shows soldiers of the 1st Btn the 39th Garhwal Rifles, probably during World War One. The question in my mind is are they in India, France, Egypt or Mesopotamia? I think the latter, but am happy to be told otherwise.

Soldiers of the 1st Btn 39th Garhwal Rifles with Lewis Gun, World War 1

Soldiers of the 1st Btn 39th Garhwal Rifles with Lewis Gun, probably during World War 1

I photographed this photograph to find out what kind of gun it was. Such is the power of twitter, that within five minutes, I had this answer:

I’m very excited by the photographs I’ve got for scanning and I’m looking forward to beign able to share really good photographs of the five brothers, their sister Ben and most of the rest of the family over the next few weeks and months.

 

 
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Posted by on 20 March, '14 in 39th Garhwal Rifles, About

 

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