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Category Archives: 7th Division

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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10 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Sept 10th 1914

Dear Mother. I got your mail letters today. I was waiting for them to answer, also I did think I’d be able to tell you for certain about my passage on a trooper; there’s a good chance of our getting passages in one leaving Karachi on the 18th, 10 of us from here are moving heaven & earth to get it. Otherwise they say we are sure of one in late Oct.

I shall be tempted to use my P. & O. before then I feel sure, but otherwise I find I can save about £50. Staying on here of course means using Ted’s money so I am wanting to get back, also I can’t bare the idea of being up here, it’s miserable, and Dick only within 4 or 5 days’ journey, and that impossible to do alone; but he advises me to take this trooper as he has given his service to government in November, so it would be sheer waste of about £20 to get to him for so short a time. Shillong is off, needless expense and certainly I don’t feel like going anywhere for enjoyment these days; and without Ted or Dick I should hate it.

It was all going to be so different before with them both; it seems so funny in your letters to hear you say how sick Ted must be to be out of it, when he’ll be so very much in it. At present the 7th Division is still at Karachi and they don’t sail till the 18th, and then only go 8 knots so won’t be on the continent till almost the end of Oct. Then they won’t put these Indian troops straight into it if they can help it, they’ll want to climatize ‘em a bit, so one hopes & prays that the fighting won’t be so fierce as it has been, or is now, by then.

So relieved to hear about Paul. If we get this trooper on the 18th we go under the same escort as the 7th Division, but of course I don’t suppose we shall see anything of our friends & relatives; it will be a historical voyage anyway. Oh, but the heat in the red sea, people say it will hardly be possible! And a frantic journey to Karachi, about 10 of us are trying for it from here; the people with kids of course can’t go, it would be too hot. So that leaves us more chance of getting passages. We are on the end of a wire & hope to hear any minute; such a packing there will be as we only get about a day’s notice, it takes more than 2 days to get to Karachi.

I hear from Ted most days, and several of the others of course, they hate these delays. Ted’s Trooper is the “Coronader” No. 39th transport, he embarks today. They’ve been in camp in the docks so far, and better off than most because the regiments who have embarked aren’t allowed ashore at all!

Will you get and send to Ted under the address I gave you last week with aditions found out by you, 3 refills (batteries) for an Ever Ready Baby Electric torch & one new bulb. He gave me one of these, a ripping thing but I gave it back to him to take, and by the time the parcel reaches him he’ll want new refils. Just risk sending them because there’s a chance of them reaching him, but you’ll know more your end about that.

Thanks for the cutting & intercession paper. They had a service here last Sunday (no parson) but I couldn’t go. I’ve been pretty rotten again, yet another chill, & those frantic pains in my back, but I stayed in bed & sat up at a huge fire for 2 or 3 days & caught the rotten complaint in time. I’m getting more experienced in it! It’s lucky for we’ve only a Black Doctor now up here and I couldn’t have him.

You say there won’t be a man left anywhere in Guildford, well that’s just what happen here, there only officers left at the Dept, no more men of any sort. It’s the oddest place in the world these days. I do so wonder where Willie is, he is in it by now I feel sure, the casualty list must be dreadfull. We haven’t had one at all yet – I shall hear a little news, when once I start that I shall dread landing.

The troopers arrive at Southampton, I don’t suppose anyone will be able to meet me – it’s a long journey & you may not know exact date, tho’ you can more or less find out – but I shall be quite allright and if  I can’t get on (arriving late or anything) I can go back with Alix for the night, she lives close by.

Anyway I’ll wire directly I land but it would be waste of money to meet me, since it’s so different to what my original homecoming was to have been. The girls tell me they do heaps of work in the house, I suppose most people are grabbed for nursing. I think I might help with the cooking as well.

Splendid you being able to put your art to such good use, I feel as useless as they make ‘em now, so stranded and Ted having gone, I’m no good to anyone & it all means spending money being up here alone with this house & servants, you see one can’t do without certain number out here, living is so different to at home. Cooking for instance one couldn’t do, the kitchen is hardly human to start with, some way away from the kitchen always! Does that mean Mr Kirwan will go to Europe if the terriers go, I suppose so as they always take a chaplin.

Will you when you get this join some “Press Clipping Agency” & get them to send you all cuttings about the INDIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE and “The Gloucester”. Ted tells me to tell you this, you send them a sub & they send you the cuttings & that way you miss none. I’ve some to keep till I get back, Ted says this is very important so start at once see? You may not hear much from him he says.

He wants me to get home as soon as I can, and you are not to worry about him, easier said than done isn’t it. Anyway I’ve got a lovely lot of praise from him in his letters which has made me glad to have been here, tho’ it was so very awfull the very fact of seeing him off  & all- it ended such a ripping time with him here somehow that I hate being here without him & longing to get away.

Please tell the girls they’ll get no letters I’m afraid this mail but I loved them. I’ve so little time these days & there’s no news. Nothing happens here. You must read them out this & give them my love. I’m expecting the parcel any day now.

Tons of love your loving Ben.

The buckles are sweet, I’ll keep them because I haven’t had the shoes made of course. Dreda’s birthday tomorrow. I’ll remember it, so I did Peter yesterday. Lovely for Ruth to get such a gorgeous chance of nursing, she must be pleased.

I wonder if the little book turned up I sent for your birthday, I expect so. Billie Maud is fine isn’t he & the Yomanry is so rough too! I wonder what Specs has done. Wiggs tell me he was inlisting into Kitchener’s 2nd Army, well it obvious the right thing to do, however much against soldiering one is. I do consider the civilians are fine all the same, as it’s not their job- after all one expects a soldier or sailor to live for a chance of active service, their whole training leads up to it, but with a civilian he has all the roughest part & none of the nice.

You will have got Ted’s name on the intercession list now.


Intercessions are formal prayers in church where someone is prayed for by name.

Peter, whose birthday Ben remembered so briefly near the end of the letter, was a younger brothers who had died at school of meningitis aged 16.

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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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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.

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