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Category Archives: Antwerp

18 October 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Sunday Oct 18th 1914.

Lahoal

My dear Mother.

Very many thanks for your letter. It seems so funny that you do not realize Ben is on her way home, but I daresay if I get a letter on Tuesday you will say something about it. We have during the last few days heard of the fall of Antwerp. I wonder what everyone thinks of that at home. We also hear of awful cruelty to Nurses, cutting their hands off & poking their eyes out. Funny Jim meeting Cyril Manders, I expect he will be quite happy in that Corps amongst decent men. May see Craigie this week, I must tell him. Your apples and pears sound lovely, we can get them from orchards in the hills out here, but they are not up to much. I am getting quite interested in my kitchen garden here. Now is the time we plant out our seeds and the vegetables grow very well, the soil in this garden is good. Of course the drawback is I do not reap the benefit of it as by the time the things are ready to eat I shall have gone. I can’t say definitely what I am going to do. I may possibly join the army! On the other hand I may go to Calcutta & join a man in practice there. I have not heard yet when this other man is coming out, I hope he writes next mail. I have two ponies down here now and am trying to sell them, but no one seems inclined to buy a racehorse nowadays!

Its quite cold in the mornings now and one is glad of a blanket at night, so nice, I think I will start a fire tonight.

Well I hope everyone is fit. Best love to all. Go on writing here, the letters will be forwarded.

Yr loving son

Richard

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17 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Oct 17.

I couldn’t send off the letter I began yesterday or when-ever it was as I’ve been too busy. And the weather! Well, it’s been raining hard for 3 days & nights, so you can imagine the state of our camp. Feet, simply feet deep in mud, and all our kit wet & horrible; rather a nuisance this, before we have actually started. I sent you one of those p.c.’s a day or 2 ago, saying I was all right. I fancy we leave the place in a day or two – so silly it seems not being able to say where we are; but I don’t suppose it will tax your guessing powers much to find out! Anyhow we are off somewhere I know but when and where I don’t know.

We had all our photographs taken this morning and I’ll try and send you a copy if they come in time. I have lost my reserve supply of Colgates tooth paste, 2 tubes, I can’t think what’s happened to it; so you might send me a tube about once every 3 weeks or month or so. Everyone seems to be sending us warm kit etc, but as our kit is only 35 lbs I don’t know how we are going to carry it all unless we wear it. One can get precious little into 35 lbs, it’s a choice between warmth & dirt, i.e. whether to take more blankets etc, or a good supply of soap etc. Of course everyone goes for warmth, as it’s impossible to keep really clean once we’ve really started.

We have two French interpreters attached to us, each regiment has, as our French is very rocky, but we ought to be quite good after this show. All the letters have to be censored, hence my lack of news, not that I’ve got much to tell you anyhow. Today is a ripping day & quite a hot sun, which is a good thing & gives the kit a chance to dry. We get French papers & the Paris daily mail here, but there is precious little news in them. Send along a picture paper occasionally will you, a daily sketch or something, they are always amusing.

I have’nt been back into the town since we came out here to camp, but the people were very enthusiastic when we marched through the other night, little boys & girls darted up & seized your hand saying goodnight, & cheering & shouting; most amusing.

I wonder if old Ben has rolled up, I hear she had a nasty toss down companion on the Dilwara, but is quite all right. She can tell you all my news I think. I have got 2 or 3 letters from you all at home, & you must excuse my not answering them all. I’m awfully fit & feeling as well as well. My poor pony got “laminitis”, a foot disease, on board & had to go to a vet: hosp: here, so I’ll never see him again. However govt is buying all our horses, & I shall get a remount as soon as I can. No more just now

Yr loving son

Ted


This is a continuation of the letter Ted started on the 14th October, 1914.

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14 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

This letter was written just outside Marseilles on some scrappy paper.

Oct 14th

Dear Mother

Just a line to say we’ve landed in France – not allowed to say where! – and am absolutely all right. We disembarked 2 days ago; marched out 10 miles to camp (no joke after a month on board ship!) and got to camp at 12.30 at night, & to bed by 3 am, when it began to rain, & it’s been raining ever since! We are camped in some meadows, rather swampy, so you can imagine the state of the ground. However we are all in high spirits & it would take a lot to damp them. Excuse a scrawl, but am writing in my tent on the floor. We have all our kit – such as it is – at present, but we shall soon have to be on 35 lbs only; The A.S.C. are feeding us like fighting cocks here.

How splendid Jim enlisting, what a sportsman; I expect we shall meet some day, hope so. I got lots of letters from you Jane & Dryden, all the ones you posted to India office. Thanks awfully for them. Very busy, as I have to get acquainted with all the thousand and one orders of the force. So glad to hear you are all right at home. Please send me a khaki muffler, lightweight but warm. Tell Ben the blue jersey is the warmest thing in Europe & the buzz of the force; really, no rotting. Past 10 o’clock, so I must go to sleep. Still raining hard. Not very cold here, but damp and miserable, very muddy & dirty-

I got another letter from Jane today, I must try & answer them all tomorrow. I wonder if old Ben’s arrived home yet. She’ll tell you all my news. I posted a letter in a french post office to you, but now I hear they will not be forwarded. I also want some thick pants, to the knee, but not too solid, light but warm style if obtainable. I would’nt mind some cigarettes & baccy occasionally- I am going to try & keep a diary through the war, but I expect it will be a pretty scrappy one when once we get to the mysterious “front”! We get a few papers occasionally, & I see Antwerp has fallen; I wonder what their game is.

By the way, send along a few picture papers occasionally Daily Sketches etc, they all help to amuse us. And I want a pair of thick gloves, 8’s, leather lined wool or something warm; and a folding lantern, for candles, with talc sides; you can buy them at the Stores I think. Old Ben will tell you all about our escapades at P. Said, I would’nt have missed that day for worlds. All our letters are censored, so I can tell you nothing, not even where we are or where we are going; don’t worry we’ll be all right, but wont it be cold! Ugh.. When you write, enclose a card, or p.c. then I can write back at once; or enclose an envelope, anything so as I can get some news back to you soon, as these things are always handy.


This letter was continued on the 17th October.

The rain seemed to annoy Drake-Brockman more than it annoyed Ted.

The route lay for a part of the way through Marseilles town, and the inhabitants, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, opened their windows and clapped and cheered us all the way. The journey was mostly uphill, and the cobbled streets made one’s feet rather tired towards the end of the march. Camp was reached at midnight. After some difficulty our exact part was located, camp pitched and kits sorted out, and such arrangements made as were possible in the darkness. Luckily, though it was rather threatening, it did not rain on the way, but at 5.30 a.m. it began to come down and rained heavily, with the result that the camp, which was situated a bit low in some meadows soon got terribly muddy. It was wet and miserable all next day, the 14th, and the day after. An intermittent drizzle made it very cold and damp.

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11 October 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Oct 11th.

My dear Mother.

Very many thanks for your letter. Things don’t seem to be improving much. We have just heard out here that Antwerp has fallen.

I was surprised to hear Jim has come home to volunteer. I hope to hear in your next letter what he intends doing. I somehow feel I ought to come back & help, & when this man turns up if I don’t get a decent job I shall come home & think. I suppose a doctor is sure to be wanted. It’s anxious time for everyone, the Gabbs must be on tenderhooks. I am wondering if Ben has left for England yet. She was waiting in Karachi when last she wrote, & I’ve not heard since.

We’ve practically done with the hot weather now thank goodness, and you could not want for better climate.

I was away in Shillong & I think the change did me good. I got back here to find a fair amount of cholera about, but thank goodness it’s better now, and not so many coolies are dying.

I had a long letter from Winnie Johnson. You remember she lives near Topher. She says his stammering is still bad, I always thought he had got rid of the habit.

I am going to sing one of the songs Jane sent at a concert next week for the war fund. Have you any money nowadays? I am afraid people are very hard up who depend on dividends eh?

Well I must stop.

Best love to all

your loving son Richard.

(on back of envelope)
Yes that must be Killby’s father.


And again we have the casual racism that shows how long ago it was. It is unclear whether or not the ‘coolies’ who were dying of cholera while Richard was at the races were Chinese.  Wikipedia says the word may have originated in India and that it was a generic term for asian agricultural workers, but then discusses indentured workers shipped from China to work elsewhere. Richard worked in Assam, a tea-growing region at the eastern edge of India near to south western China, so perhaps they were using Chinese labour.

Jim (James) and Topher (Christopher) were his brothers, neither of whom was involved in the War at this time.

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11 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

off Sardinia. 11.Oct 14

Dear Mother

I don’t know quite when this letter will reach you. I sent one home to you by Ben which I gave her at P. Said to take home to you, but whether this letter or she will get home first I don’t know. Well, here we are, on our way to Marseilles, where we arrive tomorrow & where I hope I shall be able to post this. I don’t quite know what we do or where we go when we land, but in any case we’ll have to keep quiet for a bit, as we’ve been a month on this voyage and of course men and animals are very soft in consequence. You will have seen by the papers that some Indian troops have already landed in France, but that was the 3rd divn, & I was wondering if you thought by any chance that we were with that lot. Ben will explain when she get s home exactly how things are, & to what Brigade & Division we belong, so I won’t go into any elaborate explanations now. We have had quite a good voyage from P. Said, 18 transports escorted by the French Battleship “Jaure Guiberry” awful name is’nt it.

Ben & I had most awful fun at Port Said, & sent you some p.c’s from there which I expect you have got by now. I went & got her off the Dilwara, & we went ashore & made a whole lot of purchases, & wandered about seeing sights generally. And it was a sight! Nothing but officers in uniform and crowds of them, also hundreds of French sailors all waving little union Jacks. Ben & I kept on saying “vive l’entente” to them, & they were fearfully pleased always. There were 2 French battleships at P. Said, & two or three British cruisers & torpedo boats, but the old Gloucester was’nt there; I wonder where she is. After we had walked all over the place, we foregathered with Alix & some pals & had a tremendous dinner at the hotel, where we met everyone we’d ever met in India, & I kept on introducing Ben to officers who had just rejoined from leave, & I think she’s met everyone in the regiment now, we had quite a good dinner, with a little French tricolour stuck in the flower pot on the table. I had to be back by 10, so we wandered off, & rowed back & then sent old Ben off to the Dilwara. It was a gorgeous day & I can’t remember having enjoyed anything so much for years.

It has got much colder of course since we started, & today there is really a biting wind, & we are all fugged* up in the saloon, and the deck is quite deserted.
*”cubbed” is the word I was trying to think of, Ben always uses it.

We get scraps of war news by wireless occasionally, & today we hear about the Zeppelin being burnt by our navy airmen, & the siege of Antwerp. There is of course much speculation as to where we are going. At last after many guesses, rumours, & hopes & fears, we know we are going to Marseilies; then we go to a concentration camp near Paris, and after that, heaven knows where they will send us, where we are most wanted. It will be pretty cold on the continent this time of year, so could you send me along a khaki muffler some time, a nice soft light but warm one if you can get one, also a pair of warm gloves leather lined wool sound all right, size 8. Ben has got my address, but I’ll give it you again, unless of course you’ve had any other address given by the India or War office.

CAPT E.R.P. BERRYMAN
2/39 GARHWAL RIFLES
20th INDIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE
MEERUT DIVISION
I.E.F. “A”
FRANCE

You see I’m not allowed by regulations to tell you where I am, or mention any towns etc, only just the barest items of news can be sent, otherwise one’s letters are liable to censorship and much delay, & very often destruction. But of course you can send me what you like to the address above, & say what you like in your letters, as they are not censored.

I have got a lovely Jersey Ben gave me in Lansdowne which is ripping & warm, tell her it is the buzz of the ship, and I get thoroughly ragged about it, as it’s a most gorgeous blue colour, & everyone else has khaki ones! By the way, can you send me 2 pairs of warm drawers, not too thick, but thick-ish, short ones reaching to the knee, as I know it will be most infernally cold all the winter. But don’t send too many things, as one’s kit is limited in weight of course, and I’ve got as much warm kit as I can carry almost. Doubtless a little baccy & cigarettes would not be out of place sometimes. But I leave it all to you. I expect everyone is making clothes etc for the troops, & so we should be plentifully supplied if only the things roll up.

Well, we live in stirring times, so don’t expect to hear from me again till you do hear from me: the Indian troops should be a good deal in the limelight, so you will probably see references to their doings in the papers occasionally. So wish me luck, & dont worry about me. Best love to all the family; I have’nt had any letters for ages! Ben will tell you a lot of my news first hand, I would’nt have missed that day at Port Said for Worlds! I wonder if she’s got home yet.

Tons of love from your loving son

Ted


Again, this was written as one long paragraph and has been split into several to make it easier to read.