Category Archives: dentist

7 November 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 7/17


Dear Mother

I seem to have a lot of letters from you to answer – we got 3 mails altogether a few days ago, & I got 4 from you dated 5th 12th 13th & 19th September. Thanks most awfully for them, also for the papers which always turn up safely (tap wood) & are most welcome.

I have’nt much news for you. I had to go down to Feluya for a day last week to have my tooth finished off [presumably Fallujah]. He only had to put the stopping in so it did’nt take long & he did’nt hurt, it’s so difficult to get about in this country, you have to wangle lifts in various cars etc. I stayed with Sam Orton at Feluya, I was only there one night & I came back next day. A vile day to day: SE wind and the air thick with dust. Yesterday we went out on a reconnaissance about 5 miles beyond the outposts but saw nothing.

In to-day’s communiqué I see we have got Tekrit, north of Baghdad. I wonder what our next move will be. I am sending along a card which they give us out here, a ghastly production but I’m afraid it’s the best I can do. We just got Ramadie in time to appear in the card as you can see- all the other names are former scraps out here-

Yes I see London has been raided a good deal lately, but Ben writes to say how wonderfully calmly people take it all. So glad to hear the specialists’ opinions on Capon are so hopeful but as you say it must be awkward having him on the sick list. I do wish old Nell could manage to get up to Delaford for a bit, but she writes to say she is very busy nowadays as her sister Gladys is not very fit & she has to do more Red X work in consequence. However I expect she’ll be able to manage it someday. I’m very anxious to hear what job Topher has managed to get, whether he got gunners or tanks. Really awfully good of Genl: Robertson to take such an interest in him.

Ben told me Romer had been wounded & she saw him one day in town I believe. I hear he’s not bad, though still on crutches- You say you had 2 letters from me one day, 11th Sept, so glad they arrived safely- one was written in hospital, & one just after I came out. Thanks most awfully for writing to the matron & sending her a parcel, I know she will appreciate it so. Certainly the things you put in sound most alluring & I think you couldn’t have chosen better. Lucky getting that bit of sandal wood soap!

There is another excellent article in the “Field” of ? (I’ll look it up in the mess & tell you later) on the I.A. in France, & it has some nice things to say about us. So if you can get a copy anywhere, as I think it will interest you- I had a line from Jim a day or two ago, & he tells me he expects to be sent out here soon, but has to go to India first. I wonder if we shall meet! Specs still exempted! Disgraceful I call it. Surely he can hold a gun straight in a trench, or do something to finish the war-

You seem to have had another letter from me on 13th Sept: are’nt the mails erratic these days. I have’nt had a parcel from you for sometime now. There must be 2 on the way I fancy, but parcel mails, once they are landed out here, are very erratic as transport is so scarce & parcel mails are the last things they send up. Our letter mails are really wonderfully good.

I can’t remember Jerreland at the R.M.C somehow. I wrote & told Nell she could put our engagement in the paper if she liked. Several people have seen Paul’s, & asked if it was my brother, Spens of Frimley Hall for one.

It has been awfully cold lately, right up to 10 o’clock or so every day: but today with this S.E. wind it’s quite hot again & last night was not nearly so cold as usual either.

No more news for the present: I’m very fit & well.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


“The Card” is the 1917 Christmas Card for the Mesopotamia Campaign. While the verses in greetiings card are always in a genre of their own, this one is very much of it time. This, more than any other artifact we have from Ted, reminds us how much the events of 1914-1918  shaped the world we live in now with its mentions of Basrah, Ramadi and Baghdad.

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign - listing the battles

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign – listing the battles

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign - greetings from Ted

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign – greetings from Ted

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign

The Christmas 1917 card from the Mesopotamia Campaign

THIS medal of ours with its ribbon and bars
Tells of crushing defeats of the Crescent and Star,
‘Tis a pleasant reminder to friends far away
That more than one Turkey is rueing “The Day”.

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Posted by on 7 November, '17 in About, dentist, Ramadi


26 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude


Oct 26/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter of yours yesterday dated Aug 29th. I got it on my return from Baghdad. Did I tell you, by the way, of my going there. I had awful toothache, so I got a week’s leave to go and see the dentist. The journey takes 4 days, 2 days each way, over most appaling roads with 2 foot ruts and clouds and clouds of dust, really quite indescribable. You have to get down as best you can, as there is no regular means of course, I mean no railway or anything like that. But there are motor lorries going backwards & forwards with rations etc & you have to pick up lifts here & there in those. It’s a very rough & jolty journey & very tiring as you may imagine. We are about 70 miles out, & you do about ½ the journey each day, an experience I can tell you!

Yesterday I started at 6.30 & got in here at 11, driving through a bitter cold N. wind all the way. I had 3 days in Baghdad, & the dentist – a very good one – found a wisdom tooth badly gone & so he killed nerves & things & sort of ½ finished it, but I have to go & see him in about a week’s time again to be finished off. This time however he is coming to ½ way house, so I shan’t have to go so far thank goodness.

I had quite an amusing time in Baghdad, though I did’nt have much time to do anything except see the dentist & do some shopping – of course we are clean out of all luxuries etc up here so I had heaps of commisions to do for lots of people, & that took up a good deal of time, – I know several people on Maude’s staff, so I went round & saw them occasionally, & had’nt much time to spare, still there’s no harm done in going to see them.

It’s very pleasant up here now, and really cold nights & mornings. The flies have been almost unbearable at times, but an organised campaign against them has had excellent results and they are not so bad now. I see Paul’s engagement in the Times, also in the Tatler, so I presume old man Swann has consented to the wedding.

I got a cable from Nell yesterday. I cabled to them 2 or 3 days after the fight last month, saying I was all right, & that the regt: had done well, & I imagine there is an answer to it. It takes long enough these days does’nt it? I see Genl: Brooking our General, has been given a K.C.M.G as a reward for his services in the capture of Ramadi, so they are evidently very pleased with him & all he did. It’s good to have been in such a successful show.

So glad Dick managed to get home on leave. Topher too you say was expected. Now that the push in Flanders is definitely over I suppose they will give leave more freely. Everyone seems very satisfied with the results of the year’s fighting, & I suppose we have made a lot of difference, for we have all the best & highest ground, though we have not gained very much actual area. Still I presume we shall go on hammering the Boche all the winter with artillery and give him no rest, & then the Americans coming in next March or so ought to help a lot, especially with their air fleet. Did’nt the French do splendidly the other day strafing all those Zeps! A wonderful piece of work.

I had’nt seen Romer Baggallay’s name in the roll of honour. It’s so dreadfully long nowadays that I’m afraid one often misses a name, & very often whole lists. I do hope he’s all right. Charlie Anderson a Col: too! As you say, at last. Has he been out to the front at all? As far as I remember he had’nt when I last heard.

No news out here, & you get all there is in the papers I expect. We get little or none out here, even of the doings of our next door neighbours.

I’ve got all the magazines you’ve sent out – very many thanks for them, they are most acceptable.

I believe this is the Christmas mail, but it seems very uncertain- However I may as well send along my greeting in this letter. I believe there are some Christmas cards available, & I’ll try and send you some of those if I get hold of any.

All going strong here and nothing much doing round our way, except digging trenches-

Best love at all, & “that old wish”.

Ever yr loving son



Major-General H T Brooking, commanding 15th Indian Division, third in this film of Mespot General Staff

Eleven Zeppelins Raid France – Four brought down (Auckland Star, 22/10/17)

Lt Col Richard Romer Claude Baggallay

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Posted by on 26 October, '17 in About, dentist


17 October 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 17/17


Dear Mother

I got no letter by last mail from you, but I expect I shall get one in a day or two, as everyone is the same, a lot of letters missing still. But you see we are somewhat far away from civilisation and the roads are bad up to here, in fact there are no real roads yet: transport is short, and all there is is being used for more important things like food & ammunition.

However I must say they are doing wonders & we have had 3 mails altogether since we left Baghdad just a month ago, 2 together & one a day or two ago. We have had a few parcels too, but these I suppose will take longer to arrive – otherwise all goes well here.

I forget if I told you we have moved to another camp, just behind our outpost line & we are busy now digging our new defences. We have got our tents now, which is a blessing but we are still on 20lbs kit; another 20lbs which we left in Baghdad is on its way up, but I am quite content with what I’ve got really, though it means sleeping in your clothes & nothing much in the way of a change. But one gets horribly used to pigging it & everyone is just as dirty as everyone else so it does’nt matter- all the same, if you think of it, a cake or two of soap & some cigarettes are always welcome.

It is really delightful here now. Gorgeous fresh mornings after really cold nights. In the daytime it is 92° or thereabouts in the shade, nice warm days: at night it drops down to 50°, a tremendous contrast is’nt it. But we are all very fit & getting nice & hard.- of course this open air life leaves nothing to be desired & I love every minute of it. All the same I long to get home again to see you all once more & dear old England. But as long as I’m here I feel much happier than if I was in India, doing something to help possibly, but not in the line I want.

News is good all round is’nt it, & we continue to push on in Belgium & I should’nt be surprised if by the time you get this the Belgian coast & submarine bases are ours. A mutiny in the German navy too, distinctly a sign of the times.

Since our great battle the 29th we have’nt seen a Turk. They put me in command of a mixed force the other day, cavalry & guns & infantry, & we went out & reconnoitred 10 miles or so in front of our line but never saw a sign of anything, bar a Turkish aeroplane, which must have wondered what we were doing- I also had some armoured cars with me & they went out about 20 miles but saw nothing- A most desert country this, simply miles & miles of sand & low hills – all sand – wherever you go or look.

The banks of the Euphrates produce a little greenery, reeds & palm trees, & the bedouin Arabs raise scanty crops here & there, & then wander on to a fresh camp: for the rest, it is one howling waste. So you may imagine an army operating here can’t go very far from the river, as this is absolutely the only water supply. We were fighting 4 miles from the river the other day & got thirsty enough, & the supply of water to us in the firing line was a very difficult matter.

I had long letters from Paul & Dick last week – Paul is getting married soon I see; & a very sensible thing to do too I think. I see no chance of mine being a war wedding, I’m too far off to hope for anything of that sort I’m afraid. I might manage a month in England next summer, but it’s doubtful. But the war should be over by then.

What a lot of air raids there have been lately. But reprisals are in the air (very much so!) I see, & I must say I agree. In fact that, combined with America’s entry & her air fleet, will go a long way towards finishing things off I think.

Two of the Turkish guns we captured on the 29th are being used as anti-aircraft guns here. I have had them engraved with the regiment’s name etc, so we can claim them after the war for the mess. They are most certainly ours – I’m afraid I gave you a very brief account of the fighting the other day. I have written a longer one to Nance as a matter of fact, but one can’t say much on these occasions. Anyway it was a great day, & the regiment’s fame has increased a whole heap- I cabled to Nell too, but I don’t know if it ever arrived- I expect the cables are pretty busy these days. The last letter I got from her was August 11th, & yours was  a week before that I think, so I’ve got some more to come I expect. By the way the mails leaving Baghdad 8 & 9 September have been burnt at sea, so I’m afraid you’ll lose my letters telling you about Baghdad, as we had just arrived then. Is’nt it a nuisance.

I am ever so fit now though it was’nt till we had been in Baghdad about a week that I began to really pick up. Praps I came out of hospital a wee bit soon, & it was difficult to get really well in camp in all that heat & scratch food etc. I tell you because your last letters were written just as you got my cables saying I had left hospital. However, I assure you that no one  could have gone through all that heat & dust & marching & fighting we had in the last fortnight of September, unless he had been absolutely well, as fit as a fiddle & as strong as a horse. I did, so I am, if you follow me! So rest assured that I have completely recovered & am as well as ever, in fact perfectly fit.

The only thing is my last remaining molar in my left jaw, bottom row, is aching like blazes & it has been stopped once, but wants looking to. I don’t want to have it out, or else I could have that done here, sitting on a biscuit box, & letting a shoeing-smith from a cavalry regiment pull it out with a pair of pantomime tweezers, or something equally painful. So I have shoved in to be allowed to go to Baghdad where there is a real dentist. There is’nt much going on now, and though I hate having to go away for a day or two, still I feel it will make me much fitter to do my work properly so I think it’s the right thing to go. Of course I may not get leave, but I sincerely trust they grant it me. I had a horrid cold the other day, chiefly sand & dust irritation I think, & I felt rotten for a day or two, but the excitement of battle proved a splendid cure. A tip for the future!

Desmond Gabb hopes to go to Hong Kong I hear & get Maggie Davids out to him, he does’nt seem to know that this is impossible now. I met a fellow in the Queens the other day – name unknown – who has been staying with Lil Davids, that was, in India. He said she was awfully fit & well & happy, & he had had an awful good time. Lil still has her nice English colour he says, & I’m very glad to hear it. It does’nt last long generally in the plains of India, especially down Madras way where she is. Desmond has “Mesopotamia heart” (whatever that is!) I hear, & is unfit for service at present.

I heard from D.B. last mail – he does’nt seem to know if he’s coming out or not. Anyhow his time of command is up on Nov 22nd, so unless they give him an extension, I don’t think we shall see him again. I hear Lyell is due to come out with the next draft, and he is senior to me, it would mean his taking over command from me. But I can’t complain can I! I’ve had the regiment 6 months, I’ve commanded it in action; the men & officers were splendid & did awfully well, so what more can I expect? I think you thoroughly understand the situation, as I have so often explained it, & after all it’s only fair that the senior ones should get the good jobs. So don’t be surprised if I get relegated down to my real rank as Captain, if Henderson & other senior officers come out. But it’s rotten if it happens, ‘cos people who don’t know will wonder why.

I must end up. An erratic mail leaves today & I am catching that. No time to write to the others yet. I must try next mail.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Ted at this time is 34, but he refers to “my last remaining molar in my left jaw, bottom row”. I don’t know if his teeth were partcularly bad, if dentistry in India was particularly poor, or whether this was standard in the late 19th and early 20th century. I suspect the latter. Rather him than me.



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Posted by on 17 October, '17 in About, dentist


11 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

April 11th/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for the letters I had from you last mail – on the 8th – the first I have had from you since March 5th! So you can imagine how pleased I was to get them. What splendid news about old Paul; I am glad, & I must try and send him a cable. I somehow did’nt imagine there was anything in the wind, though he told me he had met a niece of the Conway Gordons a long time ago, & you mentioned her once or twice in your letters. Your two letters were dated Feb: 14 & 21st, but all our mails are rather out of step now as we have been moving about a bit. Not here, by any means, for we are still stuck at the base in camp awaiting orders to go up the line.

It seems we shall be here for a long time yet, ten days or more, as there is so much stuff to be sent up, stores & rations etc, that they are rather hard put to find ships & boats to carry all they want to. However I expect we shall be going up before long now; at anyrate I hope so, as it’s not much fun sitting in this rather dusty camp. America has at last come into the war I see, and about time too, though I can’t help thinking there must be some jolly good reason for her not having done so before, & I suppose all the allies are pulling together and are making their plans in consultation with each other  Dick seems to have had no luck about his leave, I wonder if he managed to get away in the end; awfully bad luck his having to go back after he had started an’ all.

I have been meeting old friends out here. Gaskell, an R.E., who was in Lansdowne when Ben was staying with me, and Gaskell & Mrs Gaskell were great friends of ours. He was in France with the Indian Corps, & came out here with them when they left France & has been out here ever since. Sam Orton is also here, on the staff of our division, and he has been along today to see us; he is very cheery. Curiously enough the 1/5 Queens are in the same Brigade as we are, & I hear the Gabbs are with them – are’nt two of them out here   Harold & Desmond? Anyhow I’m bound to meet them soon, as we are gradually concentrating & as they are in the same brigade I ought to see a good deal of them. I wonder if any other Guildford people are in that Battalion, I’ll probably be able to let you know next letter I write.

Weather still quite all right here, hottish days but quite pleasantly cool nights, & we generally get a haze all day which makes a lot of difference. I have been out a certain amount here, shopping in the town, & to visit the native arab bazaar here. Curious places, roofed in for a great part of the way with planks & matting, to keep out the sun which must be unbearably hot in the summer here. In the better part of the town – the residential part – several English shops have been stocked to supply the needs of the large crowds of officers & men now in the country, & you can get almost anything you want here now.

The gold crown of one of my teeth came off last Sunday & I went in & had it put on again. There is a Base Dentist here who does all that sort of thing, so you can see all our wants are anticipated & catered for. On Sunday Bampton took us for a joy ride in a motor launch on the river here, that was very pleasant, barring a slight accident on returning when he ran hard into the jetty, as the man working the engine failed to turn it off in time! However no damage was done, though we went a fearful bump into it.

So glad the rugs are all right & are approved of. It seems years since I sent them off. So sorry to hear Billie Barlow is so bad; what a truly awful time that man has had with his arm.

I wonder if you managed to get old Nell to come & stay for Easter. She writes very cheerfully & talks of getting a job with her sister Louie in a hospital at Chelmsford, but I have’nt heard any more about it.

Not much news here, we don’t get hold of mail close up to things like this. I wish we could get out of this camp though, as I’m rather sick of it & it’s rotten having to sit here & wait. However I expect we shall be in heaps of time for any fun that’s going.

I must try & write to Paul & Ben this week if I have time, but we are fairly busy with parades & things.

Lots of love to all

Yr loving son


Ted’s congratulations for Paul seem to confirm that Paul and Nancy had got engaged during his Leave in February.  As Ted suggests, Paul and Nancy Swan were increasingly close during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, with the possible connection being an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.

We will hear more of Ted’s visits to dentists during his time in Mesopotamia. As a side-note, my dentist once told me that she had offered Nell an anasthetic for a filling and Nell had replied that she only bothered with anasthetics for extractions. My eyes water in sympathetic pain whenever I think of my grandparents and their teeth. 

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Posted by on 11 April, '17 in About, dentist