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Category Archives: P&O

16 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Wednesday evening    Sept 16th 1914

Karachi

Dear Mother

Well we arrived this morning after the most impossible journey; I’ve never been so dirty, one large mass of dust. Archie Mankelow & we had breakfast on this ship, the City of Lahore; the “Dilwara” isn’t in yet so we are messing on here at present.

Look here, after all you will not have had a cable because it’s not much point; I can’t tell you the date we leave or anything because cables are so heavely censored, so you’ll get this before I do arrive as we are sailing either 18th or 19th Sept see. I shall be home in about a month or 5 weeks I suppose, so any day after you get this you can expect a wire from me saying I’ve landed, that’s all I can do coming officially like this. Everything is very strict & NO information can be given outside without trouble.

Ted came along for a few minutes at lunch time, his ship is also in the docks here but they can’t get off much. He is looking most awfully well & very cheery. Such heaps of troopers here, the dock is full and we have three or four Cruisers to escort us. We are hoping that one may be the Gloucester as then perhaps we should see Paul. It does seem funny going really with the expeditionary force. We go in the Dilwara from here with the Lancashire Fusiliers, as far as Aden & then the Irish Rifles go to England with us from Aden.

I dare not think of the heat, it will be dreadfull; here it is too awfull. The state everyone in it, dripping wet & outside there is a plague of locusts, a mass all flying in the air. It seems now an order came into that people belonging to the expeditionary force, families I mean who had P. & O. tickets could use them & get the money refunded by government, but of course I haven’t done this as I’d already got this passage. It seems it’s jolly hard to get your P. & O. refunded but I must when I get back, anyway some of it, & I’ve had a free railway journey which has saved at least £10 allready.

We embark tonight, I see the Dilwara has just come in. Alix & I have a cabin together, that we do know so we do hope it’s a 2 berth one. It does seem funny that I’m really starting home; they say we are not in for a bad voyage, bar the heat, as the monsoon is over. We all go two by two with certain spaces between, in among the war at all should you say.

Well there’s no more I can tell you at present so I will stop. You won’t hear again till you get my wire. I don’t know if I shall see Ted after we once sail, because I don’t suppose we land at many ports en route but we hope to see something of them.

Tell the girls I’m longing to see them again & you all. I can’t sort of realize that I’ve been here a year in this country. Just had a wire from Dick, I must write to him tomorrow. He says “What about being alone in India” but he’ll be home soon I feel sure. Too hot to write anymore. How cold I shall be when I get back, I shall sit in the kitchen all day. I don’t suppose there will be much in the fire line will there.  Heaps of love

Your loving daughter

Ben

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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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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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25 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Aug 25th 1914

Dear Mother

I must be getting a letter off to you today, to be sure to catch the mail. It seems since Ted went off on Friday, I haven’t had a moment; there have been such tons of things to see to, packing away everything of his. We are now left destitute, the station seems saddest place & of course the regiments absolutely made the place, there are no civilians there at all you see.

Ted went off in very good spirits on Friday, seeing the regiment off was rather a struggle as all that cheering & band playing is unhinging enough at any time. When the 39th went off I didn’t go off to the parade beforehand but Alix & I went down the road & saw them all pass. Ted marches at the head of the regiment with the Col: all the officers fell out as they passed, and we wished them luck. I did feel so dreadfully sorry for the poor wives, especially the several brides but I must say they all kept wonderfully brave.

At present the three regiments are no further than Kotdwara, the base of the hill here waiting to entrain for Karachi. It is sickening for them being kept down there because it’s frightfully hot & unhealthy but we can send them things & hear from them, in spite of the fearfull discomfort they seem fairly cheery. At present, the idea of Egypt is very much to the fore, I only hope & pray it is true and for the moment they will be more or less safe there.

I may be home now earlier as I’ve chance of a free passage, journey from there to the port as well, in the trooper they are chartering for families of officers gone on service. I’ve been thinking things out & if I get a passage it’s well worth it. I can get a third of my P&O passage back, about £12 & the tips in a P&O come to well over £5 extra & on a trooper very little. Also I shall have no railway fare – the thing is I shan’t get to Assam or see Dick again out here, but originally I was not going to Assam at all after here. It was only when Ted could get leave & go too that it was to have been so ripping, so under the circumstances I think I may as well come home a month sooner, & save about £30 or so more. My journey to Assam would be at least £12, as I should have to go right up to Dilmgarh now, as Uncle James is under orders to move from Shillong; and then all that journey for only about a month, as I want to get back in November anyway, especially if Dick doesn’t get another job. That staying about with people costs no end of money.

So if I get the passage, I will cable you the date of sailing & ship & you must then find out the sort of time I may arrive in England. You may not see it in the paper, but I suppose from the war office one would get news. This was all decided yesterday when we got the application forms. All the families of the two divisions have a claim. It will be a funny voyage, all women & children – anyway I shall be more or less sure of getting home by the trooper but in a P&O one may be held up for weeks at Gib[raltar] & places, we shall be under escort if necessary. If I do get the passage it will probably be end of Sept or some time in Oct, the latter I should imagine as at present all available ships are being taken for these troops.

Go on addressing my letters here after all, until I do sail earlier I shall hardly get an answer to this – our mails take 3 weeks to go & come. But you will get a cable if one can be got through, otherwise I may sort of suddenly turn up but not before end of Oct some time. I don’t think I’ve explained this at length so that you understand.

Alix will come home too. We are allright up here tho: it seems very lonely & deserted without any of our men kind. Alix is engaged to Nobbie Clarke in the 39th. It is rather dreadful for her his going off, but he is very lucky because he is only 22 & so will see some service early in his career. We’ve got 11 dogs with us, (how you’d enjoy them!) 4 of mine, 4 of Alix’s, 2 of Nobbie’s, 1 of Molly O’s, so you can imagine the pack they are. We have to be fearfully careful after tea because the panthers swarm here, now the place is empty; this sounds alarming but they wouldn’t hurt us really, but they take the dogs before you know where you are.

Phyllis Moss’s birthday today, we are going to dine with her; she was to have given a dance but of course that’s out of the question now. We are very lucky to have Mr Fox at the 39th Depot, he is looking after me very well as he never minds being worried over anything. On your own like this, one has to have a head of sorts & you know how good I am at money matters at any time & when it’s not English money, I’m more of a fool than ever. You needn’t worry about money for me because I can draw on Ted’s pay, but with this trooper business I shan’t want any hardly as Alix & I will stay on here till we sail, & living up here as we do doesn’t come to very much; anyway I’ve got it all fixed up & Ted made every arrangement necessary.

I wonder how you all are, the papers say that England is very peacefull, but the expeditionary force going off must have made things seem very close. How splendid all that arrangement was; the staff out here ought to take a lesson, for they are making such muddles & cancel orders 12 hrs after they’ve made them. I hear from Ted that he is very fit, he may write to you this mail.

I must go and make some more cakes, & some famous cheese biscuits he likes to send down tomorrow, one of the dogs ate all the ones I made yesterday, I was sick.

I daren’t think of the packing I shall have to do, because I’ll bring home lots of Ted’s boxes & things & we have collected such a lot of odds & ends somehow. They give you such short notice with these troopers too, but this one will be different I expect & it is just for the families & no one else, they won’t send us either till it’s quite safe from these dreadfull mines.

I suppose you’ve no news of Paul. No mail to answer, we expect one on Sunday. I am longing to hear again, I do so hate the mail going wrong. I shall be able to tell you more re my passage in the next mail or two. I must try and write to the girls tomorrow. Heaps of love

Your loving daughter

Ben

There’s no news from here, we do nothing these days there being nothing to do, & the rain still persists.

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