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30 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

S. S. Concordia
Red Sea
30.9.14

Dear Mother

Here we are, well on our way to heaven knows where! All sorts of rumours where we are going to land of course, England, Southampton, Marseilles, Boulogne, everywhere in fact one can think of, but no one knows at all, it’s being kept an absolute secret. My last letter was from Karachi I think, when I told you I had met Ben, & she wrote and told you I expect, & you must have got those letters by now. We had awful fun there, she & I, as we were in dock for about 4 days before we sailed. I used to be fairly busy all day on the ship, but always managed to get off in the evening & go up & have dinner on the Dilwara & sit & talk to Ben till far into the night. Well, one day we got orders to leave the wharf, & next day, the 21st Sept, we sailed, so I have’nt seen Ben since then.

This is a huge convoy of transports, 4 – in all, & we have cruisers & battleships escorting us.  The old Dilwara used to be just alongside of us, but too far off to distinguish people. But ½ way across the Indian ocean she went gadding off on her own, with a small cruiser as escort, most exciting for Ben, was’nt it. She went on to land troops at Aden, & pick up some fresh ones, & this morning I can see the old Dilwara tearing along to catch us up. You see the Konigsberg, that small German cruiser, is still knocking about in these waters somewhere, hence the elaborate precaution of escorts.

Well, we ought to reach Suez in a day or two, but we shall take about 3 days getting through the canal at least, with all these ships, so I don’t suppose we shall leave Port Said till about 4th or 5th October, & then perhaps we may know more where we are going. The Dilwara I know is going to Southampton, & should arrive there I should think – this is only my own idea – about 25th Oct, but no doubt Ben has told you something more definite than this. I expect you could find out from the India office when she is expected if you want to run down and meet old Ben- of course there is just a chance that we may stay a day or two at Suez or Port Said, waiting while we all get through the Canal, in which case I may be able to get over to pay the Dilwara a visit, I hope so. What fun it wd be if Paul & the Gloucester were at Port Said too, & were part of our escort through the Mediterranean, & then we’d be quite a family party on the high seas. We met a small 4-funneled cruiser last night, but could’nt make her out, & I was wondering if she was the Gloucester ordered off East somewhere. Ainsly Talbot was on board the Dilwara, but has been landed at Aden. But Ben will have told you all the Dilwara news I expect.

It was a rough-ish, choppy sort of weather for the first 3 days out of Karachi, & I expect old Ben had to stick to her cabin. Our men, who of course have never seen a ship or a sheet of water bigger than a bucket before, were fearfully ill poor devils, but are much better now. Since the first 3 days we have had a gorgeous voyage, sea like glass, & cool breeze. The first day in the red sea was hottish, but since then it’s been lovely; hot of course, but a good strong head wind to keep us cool. I want to see Ben at P. Said or Suez to see how she stood the voyage so far.

Field lantern with talc sidesBy the way, I want you do to something for me, I want a camp lantern, to take candles, something after this style. If talc sides not procurable, glass will do, but I’d rather have talc if you can get em. You can get them at the [Army Navy] Stores or Harrods or any stores like that I think. They are generally made of black tin, with talc sides which slide in & out, & weigh about 1 lb. If possible I should like a folding one, but never mind if it does’nt fold up, an ordinary one will do. But it should be square shape, as above, & please send out one or two extra talc slides with it to replace hem if they get broken. Anyhow the A & N stores camp furniture dept: would know the thing exactly if you ask them, as I know they keep them, but I expect there’s been a run on them lately. Anyhow, have a shot will you at getting one, p’raps some military stores in Aldershot wd have one. Well, having got it please pack it up ready to send it to me when I can give you an address- of course wherever we land we are bound to sit down for a week or two to get men & animals fit after this long voyage, as we shall all be pretty soft, so we shant go gadding off at once, & there will be lots of time to send it to me. P’raps the India office will publish an address, but if they don’t & if we’re not allowed to tell you where we are (quite possible, this, as they keep things so secret) then you might ask the India office what address to send things to. But they are sure to let you know some address.

The sea here in the Red Sea is a most gorgeous colour, deep blue, & a gorgeous wind blowing. I am feeling most awful fit & well, & so much better than I ever did or do in Lansdowne. I can see the old Dilwara just off our starboard quarter, fearfully nautical these days, but its too far off to distinguish people easily, even with [field] glasses. Funny to think how hot we are now, & in about a weeks time we shall be shivering with cold I expect. We’ve only got think khaki drill kit, so lets hope they give us some warm clothes before we start. I’ve got lots of warm cardigans etc, but our kit is limited to 35 lbs!! So we can’t take much. Ben gave me a lovely Cashmere cardigan jersey, a blue one. I thought my yellow one was too good for this show, so Ben has got it & I’ll wear it all right after it’s all over. She tells me she got the lovely purple scarf you sent, & is very envious, but she’s going to keep that too for me. Thanks awfully for it, I’m simply longing to get hold of it & wear it, as I love those scarves. It arrived after I’d left Lansdowne. I hope you are all fit & well at home. we have’nt heard much war news, just a few spasmodic wireless messages; but what we have heard seems favourable; I wonder what the situation will be when we get there. I will stop this letter for a bit now, & finish it off later, when we reach Suez or P. Said.


Suez

3rd Oct.

Am sending this home by Ben. I believe we are going to Marseilles, but dont know for certain. Awful hurry. Tons of love from

Ted


Note – the first part of this was written entirely as one paragraph, though presumably on several pages of note-paper.  It has been split into paragraphs to make it more legible.

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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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