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Category Archives: India

8 December 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

UNION-CASTLE LINE
S.S. “GRANTULLY CASTLE”

[Incorrectly dated Nov 8th, presumably Dec 8th].

My dear Mother.

Here I am yer see in Bombay on board a transport. I believe we are coming to England, Brighton or the New Forest or somewhere. I dunno’ if this’ll get home before I do, I expect so anyhow. Crowds on board, Hospitals, Regiments, Rats, Ladies, & Stewards.

I’m a Lieut in the I.M.S! [Indian Medical Service] hot stuff in uniform, at present more “hot” than “stuff”.

I daresay Topher is anxious to get back & fight but I imagine from there they have to pay their own passages. I should say stop where he is, there will be plenty of vacancies out in the Argentine nowadays.

I got a letter from you today. Just luck as I got some mail sent to the Taj Mahal Hotel here. They would not tell us where we were going, so I could give no addresses & had all my letters sent home again. I hope I shan’t be very ill on this ship! We’ll probably be a long time getting home.

Well best love to all

yr loving son

Richard.


The Taj Mahal Palace is still one of the most prestigious hotels in Mumbai. According to Wikipedia, it had been built some 12 years before in 1902. It is situated on the waterfront, next to the Gateway of India, itself built only three years before in 1911. In 2008, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was one of the targets of co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

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22 November 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Nedon’s Hotel

Lahore.

24th Sunday after Trinity.

Dear Mother.

I expect I’ll be busy this week so I will write now. I am on my way to Quetta to report myself! Luckily I reported myself in Calcutta too & they told me of another man going up, so we are going up together. Rather nice. We’ve already had 3 nights in the train from Calcutta & have got one more.

It’s awfully cold here & tonight I am having a fire in my room. A bit different to when Ben was here I expect. I see today a brother officer of Ted’s was wounded, so I am afraid you must be a bit anxious. I think I shall get a lieutenant’s commission in the I.M.S., but I shall not know for certain till I am in Quetta.

I hope you did’nt have a fit when you got my cable, but it’s a waste of time to go on writing.

This should arrive about Christmas so I hope you all have a happy one. Wonder where I shall be!

Well best love to all

ever your loving son

Richard.


Gertrude, a life-long christian and the widow of a clergyman, would know exactly which was the 24th Sunday after Trinity, the date of which changes each year because it’s related to the date of Easter.

I can’t find any reference to Nedon’s Hotel in Lahore, but given Richard’s preference for the finer things in life, it seems likely he was staying at the Nedous Hotel. In between the wars, the Nedous was to have an unexpected association with T E Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia.

The I.M.S. was the Indian Medical Service. Richard spoke at least one and possibly several Indian languages, and as a doctor it made sense for him to put his skills to service in this way.

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22 November 1914 – Paul to Gertrude

Sunday 22th Nov

Dear Mother.

You’ll never realize where I’ve been during the last month – right out to Bombay and back & really it was such a rush thro’ – one had no time for writing or anything. I sent you a p.c from Port Said & I wrote a[t] Bombay – but I expect you’ll get this letter first. Well – we went Emden hunting – only to find after about a 4 days look she was finished – we were sick & annoyed – so we went to Bombay & an ill wind sde [said?] we had an excellent 21/2 days there. I met – of course – heaps of people I knew who looked after me very well. Now we are coming back again & hoping we shall be sent out to chase somebody else – who knows. At Aden I heard of Ben & Ted from Ainslie Talbot – he looks just the same & I could’nt fail to recognise him: also I met one of the Lloyd boys. Arthur I think – he’s in the R.A.M.C [Royal Army Medical Corps]. I did’nt know him ‘cept by his name, but of course it all came out fairly soon that he was my god-mother-.[This makes no sense, the original may be illegible.]

We got a vast mail there – first one for a month & I got your two letters of Oct 20th & 25th telling me of Bens safe arrival. I am glad she has got home safely. Ainslie told me she was in an awful ship. My luck is badly out because, I missed somebody by a day at Aden, coming out in a P. & O., a girl I know very well – well of course you know of her – I think she’s been to Delaford. Mona Griffin. She’s going out to India with the “Grotesques” also of course the Percies – Billie Maude & Co. we passed them last night – so if we had only left a day later I might have met them all.

I’ve hardly had time to read all our papers yet – we got such heaps yesterday – but I am glad to see George was mentioned in despatches. I had a Field Service Post card from Ted too which pleased me immensely dated 20th. Yes I saw in the paper about Dr Rayner & am very sorry. He was always so nice to us. So you are housing some officers – I hope you get some nice ones & not as you say some old Colonel fellow.

Can you or any of you enlighten me who this person is, who is thinking of me. I’ve wracked my brains all day to think who it is but I dont know – cant place her or him anyhow – I enclose the card as I got it – I am awfully interested to know.  I dont even know the writing – I dont want it back as I’ve kept a copy.

How you must have laughed over that waistcoat. An “inflated collar” & looks much more simple. Will you send me one I want to see what they are like.

I have got heaps of letters to write – so I must stop. I do hope you are all well. It’s so hot where we are – I am sitting in a vest & trousers under a fan – I like the hot weather tho’.

with very best love to you all
Your ever loving son
Paul.


It’s not clear where Paul and the Gloucester were at this time.

I’m not sure if Billie Maude was one person, or if Billie Percy and Maude Percy were two separate people, presumably a couple. I am also not sure who or what “the Grotesques” were. 

 

17 November 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

En route Calcutta.

Nov 17

My dear Mother.

Many thanks for your letter. Sorry you had had no mail when you wrote. I think I remember the time I missed. I hope you did not have 50 fits when you got the cable I sent yesterday. Such a pity to go on writing when I am not here & I can’t at present give you any other address. I told you last week about the wire I had, well another came yesterday saying “Please proceed forthwith Quetta and report Asst Director Medical Services for duty, pay etc now under reference to Secretary of State”. Result – I am now on my way to Quetta. Far at all? I suppose it means about 10 days journey! Of course I am missing this mail as it arrives at Lahoal today, a nuisance.

I wonder how you are getting on with the two officers, I hope they are nice men & clean. Many thanks for Long way to Tipperary, I think it’s farther to Quetta!

I had intended coming home with Craigie Manders. He leaves shortly & I will write to him & ask him to go and see you. I saw him only 2 days ago & he can tell you the news.

Old Russell his wife & kid arrived the other day. I fancy he was glad to get back. He’s quite a decent sort of man, but rather an old fool & I could not stay in their bungalow for long. I have not sold “Summer” or “Tu-Tu” but they are being looked after for me by 2 men, & should be alright. You see “Summer” being a race ‘oss & there being no races, no one wants her much, she’s worth £100 but I am afraid I shall not get that.

I shall post this in Calcutta when I arrive, I heard from Paul the other day, he says when he saw the Breslau last she had all her funnels!

Are’nt you glad the Emden is caught, everyone here is of course.

Well cheerioh, sorry I can’t tell you what I am going to do exactly.

Yr loving son

Richard.

Oh by the way, I’ve sent my old bicycle home to you, & a big box full of all sorts. They are to go by the cheapest so I expect they will take a longish time.


£100 in 1914 was worth between £8,068 and £9,769 now, depending on the calculator you use.

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16 November 1914 – Paul to Gertrude

Royal Bombay Yacht Club

Royal Bombay Yacht Club

ROYAL BOMBAY YACHT CLUB

Bombay.

Tuesday 16th

Dear Mother,

It’s ages since I wrote & I am sorry – but you see where I am, so you can perhaps realize the wanderings we have done-. I have been here 2 days- two lovely days I’ve had- as I know a soldier & his wife very well here & they have looked after me-

I’ve just missed Ted & Ben coming home at Port Said – Aden side.

We were sent out in search of the “Emden“. but we were forestalled as you have heard. By the time you get this I shall be miles nearer home- In the Mediterranean somewhere tho’.

I do hope you are all well. We have had no mails for a month now.

Gorgeous weather here – I am so burnt – having been on an all day bathing picnic yesterday.

With ever so much love from your ever loving son

Paul


The Royal Bombay Yacht Club still exists, though it moved premises in 1948.

This letter is dated “Tuesday 16th” but the 16th was a Monday. The Imperial War Museum placed this in November 1914 so I am following suit. The mention of the Emden also suggests that this was written in November 1914. The first “Tuesday 16th” of the war was February 1915.

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9 November 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Lahoal
Nov 9th.

My dear Mother. I don’t think I got a letter from you last week. I heard from Jane and one from Ben from Malta, which had been opened under martial law! I wrote to the girls last night & told them I expected to be coming home. But this morning I got a telegram from Simla saying “Your services may be required military duty abroad very shortly please wire definitely if you will be ready proceed.” I have wired them I’ll be free at the end of this week as my old man is on his way up. Goodness knows what abroad may mean, Egypt or Africa I expect, so there’s no need for you to panic. The worst of it is I shall probably not be allowed to tell you. I fancy I am lucky, as crowds of men are frightfully keen on joining the service in one capacity or another & no one had heard anything yesterday. It’s so lucky it’s come now, as I am just free, but I am sorry not to be coming home.

I wonder if Ben is home by now. She should be & I expect she is glad if she is. Craigie Manders sails on the Kaiser-I-Hind on the 28th, I would have come with him I think if I had’nt been called elsewhere.

I will cable you tomorrow not to write anymore here, it’s better if I can cable you a definite address later.

Awful nuisance trying to sell ponies & everything all of a sudden. I’m afraid they will have to go at a loss. You see there will be no racing this season, so no one is keen to buy a race ‘oss.

I see Dr Baker is commanding the Indian Ambulance Corps. How fat he looks in the photographs, of course if I had been home, he’d have given me a job in that. The casualty lists are dreadful nowadays, I was telling Ben she must know quite a lot of people having been so mixed up in things.

I hope by tomorrow morning’s mail I shall here if she is home or not.

Paul must be more or less in it now, only no one seems to understand exactly what Turkey is doing. I fancy I would rather have been a sailor than a soldier.

I am sorry for you, a poor anxious mother, but I suppose there are crowds of others, & you ought to be very proud if you get 4 sons all more or less fighting for their country.

Best love to everyone

yr loving son

Richard

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8 November 1914 – Ted to Ben

I’ve put 1d stamp on, & enclose an envelope

Nov 8th

Dear Ben

Very many thanks for your nice long letter full of most interesting news. So glad you’ve got home at last, you must be thoroughly relieved too I should imagine. It must as you say be truly funny seeing all your friends dressed up as Tommies and going about with them all, Wiggs is an awful swell being an officer of course; no I had’nt heard it before, the others had’nt told me about it. Yes the “historic” voyage in the old Dil Dil, however unpleasant and trying at times, will surely live in your memory as quite a good show on the whole, and as you say you probably made some good friends on board & saw some new life. I expect you can put em all in their places when it comes to soldiers, eh, even Jim & Wiggy! Mother says Jim expects to be out here very soon, but he seems to have had very little training; I’m not crabbing the show, only I should imagine they’d want some more yet.

I expect those terriers & Gabbs & people are all going to Egypt, I don’t think they’d send em out to India; they may, of course.

It is most awfully cold here my dear as you can imagine. And we are still in thin khaki drill; what a contrast to that day at Karachi! You remember, in the first cabin you had on the Dilwara, when we simply bathed in good honest sweat. I don’t really think I’ve got enough on, but I cant get any more gear at present. You see we came out to occupy the trenches on 29th Oct, & are still here; that makes 10 days. Not very long under some circs, but devilish long to be in cold damp trenches with only the kit you stand up in! You see we left all our kit behind, & heaven knows when we shall see it again„ I hope we shall soon, as it’s very trying, this sort of work. You see we have’nt a a thing off for the whole tirne, boots, clothes or anything, nor a wash nor anything like that. We are all filthy, black grimy hands & faces, but we are all the same so it does’nt matter.

I read a glowing account in the “Standard” a day or two ago of life in the trenches, but it was very misleading. First of all it talked about “spade hewn, straw-spread” trenches; true in a way, but all our digging has to be done at night, as it would be impossible to dig by day, as the enemy’s trenches are only 300 yards off, & his little advanced trenches, in which snipers sit & pick you off if you show a finger, are only about 150 yards; so the digging is’nt very grand, though I must say our men have done wonders, & have made the trenches quite comfy- And there is some straw, but it’s mostly trodden into the mud. Again he says we do 3 days in the front trench, 3 days in the support, & 4 days rest. Divil a bit, this is our 10th day in the front trench, & no hope of relief yet awhile. Still it’s all part of the day’s work I suppose. These dam Germans seem to think the barn, where we have – or rather used to have – our Battalion headqrs is a most important place, because they persistently shell it. Every day for the last 4 days we had a whole lot of Jack Johnsons all round us, & they’ve knocked the farm buildings to hell. Such a pity, as “its a nice little farm”, & has a lovely orchard, & looks lovely in the evening sometimes. But of course it’s absolutely wrecked. I don’t think one can imagine these things unless you see them. One Jack Johnson wrecked the entire side of the house – it’s a sort of square with a courtyard in the middle – and all the rest is knocked to hell too. And all the furniture, crockery, clothes everything lying all over the shop anyhow. I dont know what the poor people will do when they come back after the war.

Last night, in fact all yesterday, the Germans were very active. For some reason or other they seem very anxious to break through our line just here, where we and the Seaforths are. Yesterday began by a furious shelling all the morning and then they attacked the Seaforths, and there was the hell of a battle, but they managed to keep ’em off, though the Seaforths had a lot of casualties. Our left joins up with the Seaforths, so we came in for it too. They again made a special effort against our Bn head quarters, & dropped shrapnel & howitzer all round, but we were quite safe in our trenches, though of course we had a few men hit. Poor Nain Sing was hit in the head by a piece of shell a few days ago & died shortly afterwards; I’m awful sorry as he was such a good chap, & had done me most awfully well on this show.

I dont know if you’ve seen any casualty lists, perhaps you have; I’m not supposed to mention them I believe, but I’m sure they must have been published by now. Poor Stack has been killed, I dont know what Mrs Stack will do; I’m most awfully sorry. Wright has been killed too, & Davidson & Hayes Saddler, & 2 more in the 8th; Maclean wounded (he’s gone home) & Col Morris, in fact they had a rotten time the 8th, though they did’nt lose many men. Awful is’nt it-

I got a huge parcel from Mother, it arrived up here in the trenches, but I could’nt possibly open it, as I’m sure I could’nt have kept all the kit. So I sent it back to the baggage, & am longing to get at my kit again & have a look at it, I want a balaclava cap, so if anyone wants to do anything say that; it’s bitter at night, sleeping in just one’s kit & no blanket or anything- I cover myself over with sacks and straw & so keep fairly warm. You remember that warm coat I had made; well I’ve had that on all the time & its ripping and warm; but I believe mother said she had put in a sweater in that parcel, & that will be lovely. She sent me a gorgeous silk muffler, much too good for these shows, but it’s been an absolute blessing & I could’nt have got on without it. And as for the blue jersey, well saved me life, & causes a great stir among the troops!

I have picked up several German helmets, rifles, uniform, shells etc, but I can’t sent them home as I should like too, so it’s no good. I must try & collect a few trophies of the campaign before we’re done.

We are just hanging on here while bigger developements take place elsewhere, & never a day passes without a furious shelling and an attack or two, & bullets go whizzing all over the shop; most exciting.

There are hundreds of Aeroplanes about, &, as you know, I’ve never seen one before. Col D[rake].B[rockman] & I were standing in a trench the other day quite still, as the orders are to do so when “hostile aircraft” (that’s good & will make your soldier friends sit up!) are about, & a German Taube was careering about overhead; you see it’s awful hard to spot people except by movement. Anyhow we suddenly heard a little shrill hissing sound and an explosion in the turnips in front; this happened 3 times; & the stinker had been dropping bombs! But they did’nt do any damage.

I am quite well, fit as seventy fiddles, filthy, & a 10 days beard, I shall be glad to be relieved from this trench work as it’s very trying & one gets little sleep. I hope these blighters keep quiet tonight! Write again soon. Tons of love

Ted

What I shd have done without “torchers” in the trenches I don’t know! He’s been absolutely invaluable and you shall have him back after the war as a trophy.


This letter was written in pencil on paper torn from a Field Service Pocket Book.

‘Terriers’ were members of the Territorial Army, ie part-time volunteers who were also reservists.

D H Drake-Brockman wrote a book With the Royal Garwhal Rifles in the Great War 1914-1917 which provides a lot of background information to Ted’s letters. Drake-Brockman also mentioned the difficulties of not being able to wash saying “The worst of a long period in the trenches without relief is that you cannot get clean and the men are apt to get verminous”.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

Wiggs was Ivan Bennet, whom Paul mentioned on 30th October and who seems to have been a special friend of Ben’s at that time.

Ben mentioned Mrs Stack as one of the new mothers in Lansdowne and it seems possible she was still there rather than risk the voyage with a new baby. It’s not clear whether she also lost the baby, assuming we’ve read Ben’s letter right and there was one. Either way, future letters show she was almost demented with grief.  

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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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26 October 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Oct 26th

My dear Mother.

Many thanks for your letter. Poor George, I am sorry. I hope he’s not badly wounded. And all those others, how dreadful their being killed and hurt. Is Charlie Anderson out there.

I wonder if Ben is home by now. I wish I’d told her to cable me. She ought to be with you by now. I hope she gets out of having to pay for her messing. No I suppose you haven’t much to say about the war, but what I really wanted to know was about our friends out there, & now you have told me. so I am quite satisfied.

Jim wrote to me & I have written to him. He seems very happy. Craigie has been down this way lately & we’ve had long talks over everything.

The Germans are cruel. It’s awful. Jim’s address certainly is a bit long. Fancy having all those men like the Drews have. Do they allow you any money for keeping them? Jim must have been pleased with his meat pies. Rather, I know yours & hope to be able to eat ’em again some day.

I dunno’ what I am going to do yet when this man comes out. So far I don’t even know when he arrives. I shall be sorry to leave here, & yet I feel I ought to come & help, no one dependant on me or anything. Most suitable.

I sang one of Jane’s songs at a War fund concert the other night. Quite good the song is. Old Craigie was singing too.

Well I must stop. Am looking forward to your letter tomorrow.

Your loving son

Richard.

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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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