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Category Archives: Guildford

3 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 3rd! Sudden interruption 2 days ago and I have’nt been able to resume till today, out in the trenches again. How the story goes, or what I was going to say I have’nt the faintest idea! Anyhow, after being taken & retaken several times, the Germans at last established themselves, fairly strongly, & put machine guns. Our troops tried several times to retake them with no success, & then it was that our Brigade was called up, all except ourselves as I say whom the ADC could’nt find. So off they went, and our 1st Bn: covered themselves with glory, recapturing the trench, & getting a lot of prisoners, & capturing 2 machine guns, and they have made quite a name for Garhwalis, which is a good thing as they certainly deserve it.

After capturing this trench they stayed there one night, and then we came up and relieved them, as they had had a pretty hard time for 2 days. The trenches were in an awful state when we got into them, but that was after they had been cleaned up; what they must have been like when our 1st Batt: captured them after all that fighting I cant imagine; I heard some pretty ghastly descriptions. We went out, ostensibly for 24 hours, but stayed there eventually 3 days & nights! Another instance of elastic time. The enemy’s trenches were in parts on 20 yards off ours, & never more than 100, so you can imagine we had a lively time, & so did they. It was like this.

Map - Ted 1914 12 01

This is very rough, I’ll draw a proper one, & show you exactly, as it’s really most awfully interesting. And my dear in one part of the line the Germans & ourselves were actually occupying the same trench, with a barricade & a bit of empty trench between us! We spent the days throwing bombs at each other, nights too; bombs made of a bit of gun cotton inside an old jam tin, which you throw, & they go off with a huge bang. They did’nt shell us at all there thank goodness, as then our trenches were so close they would probably have hit them.

Well, we had 3 days & nights of this, & just before we left we got orders to exhume all the bodies from the trenches, & bury them behind, which we began to do, & got 40 odd out before we left, but there were lots more, all buried in the bottom of the trench, in the walls & parapet, in fact it’s no exaggeration to say that in one part you could’nt put a spade into the ground without finding a body. Excuse this ghastly description, but I think it’s as well to tell you some of the things that happen.

After 3 days and nights of this we were relieved, & went back into billets, that was on a Saturday, & we stay- in billets till yesterday Wednesday, so had a good rest, except for me as I was fearfully busy with office work & writing up records etc & never got a minute to send you a line. I am afraid I have several letters of yours to answer- one I have here is dated 26th Nov, in which you say you see the Indians have captured some trenches; yes, that’s the show of our 1st Batt: I told you about in the beginning of the letter, but I wish they’d give the name of the rgt. But you see it was really a bad show at first, till our 1st Batt: came up & sloshed them, so I expect they don’t say much about it in the papers.

You seem to have large parties of soldiers in Guildford, but what a shame that big lot did’nt turn up when all preparations had been made for them. Yes I wonder what Dick is doing, & whether he is on his way home yet. ½ a mo, just going to have Breakfast, & will finish later. It’s a wet miserable day, just our luck as soon as we get into the trenches again! Now to fry some bacon for the Colonel [Drake-Brockman] & me-
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We are in the same trenches now as we first came into on 29th October, so this is our third whack in trenches. But then there’s nothing else doing of course, it’s all trench work nowadays. But I expect the great Russian success will make some difference this side, at least I hope so.

You say in one of your letters that you got a p.c. from me of 24th, & your letter is of 26th. That must be the one I sent by King’s Messenger, You see each Tuesday a certain number of F.S.P.C’s from each regiment are sent by King’s Messenger, who carries despatches home to the King I suppose, & he arrives in a few hours of course, and so the p.c.’s get home much quicker. But I have several letters of yours to answer I’m afraid. I wonder if you got my requests for uniform; I do hope he makes the coat nice & big, as one wears such a heap of things underneath; if you have’nt sent 2 coats yet, better send only one, at first, to see if it fits.

I should like another tin of Bivouac Cocoa, which is top hole stuff & very handy; also some Oxo cubes. The little extra Balaclava cap you sent out is most useful, & I always wear it as it’s so light and handy. I’ve just been reading again your letter written “behind the Bar”, what a sporting effort! Yes, is’nt Bob’s death sad, but what a gorgeous end; a wonderful man; if only the public had listened to him! And he was such a gentleman that when the crash came he never turned round and said “I told you so!”

By the way could you send out 2 more refills for “Torchers” as Ben used to call him in Lansdowne; he’s absolutely indispensable. [Presumably batteries for a pocket torch].

Weather much milder nowadays, & the snow has all gone, but the state of the roads round here is chronic, mud everywhere. I wonder if I ever wrote and thanked Aunt Nellie for some cigarettes she sent; will you thank her if you see or write to her, & explain things; they were most welcome.

Things seem fairly quiet here today, very little rifle fire, I suppose both sides are having breakfast! By the way address me now as “GARHWAL Brigade” & not “20th Bde”, rest of address as before-

I really must try and get some more correspondence off now. I hope my letters are interesting, but it’s rather hard to make ’em as most days are the same. Do you keep ’em, at all, as they might form a sort of diary of the show afterwards.

Lots of love to all, yr loving son

Ted

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3 November 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Nov 3rd 1914.

Dear Mother.

Very many thanks for your letter. Please thank Jane for hers. I am wondering if Ben has arrived; today the mail comes in but I don’t think you will have had time to write. Yes everyone seems quite pleased with the Indian troops, I suppose Ted is there by now. Yesterday we heard Turkey were at war, everyone will join in sooner or later I suppose, it’s dreadful.

I am glad to hear George was not badly wounded. The Pringles’ son is dead I see, he’s an only son.

Bob & Ethel I suppose are fairly close to Guildford. Do you know some people Jacks in Guildford, the son is up here somewhere, I met him the other day. I do remember the Charringtons at Winchfield.

I was staying with Craigie Manders last week end. He is off home shortly & hopes to go to the front, but will return to tea when it’s all over. I hope the Turkey business does not upset shipping or mails will take a long time going round by the Cape.

Don’t know yet what I am going to do, will let you know as soon as I decide.

Best love to all

Your loving son

Richard.

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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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