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Category Archives: Benedicta Berryman

Benedicta Berryman; daughter of Gertrude and Charles

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-
___________________________

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

 

22 November 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 22/1914

Dear Mother

I can now snatch a few minutes to write you a line and tell you all about it. First of all I really must tell you how much I appreciated that ripping parcel you sent. You remember I told you I got it in the trenches a long time ago, but I could’nt open it there, so sent it right back to our kit with the transport miles away. That was nearly 3 weeks ago and I managed to retrieve the parcel on the night of the 17th, when we came out of the trenches. It was a ripping parcel, & full of surprises. The Shetland woolly is topping, & I wear it all day, & could’nt do without it. All the little food things are lovely too, and I have them all carefully tucked away in my haversack to use when occasion demands, as doubtless it will all in good time.

At present we are feeding like fighting cocks so there is no point in using up little things like you sent, which will come in much more useful in an emergency. I like the little writing case awfully too, & have sent you a p.c. out of it, which I hope you got. The lamp has arrived too, & is most useful, in fact I am using it now. Please thank the fairy who knitted the Balaclava cap; it’s lovely, & one wants one badly this weather. Jane’s chocolate was ripping too and the dubbin, & the new batteries for the torch were just in time to replace my last exhausted one. The warm pants I have’nt got into yet, as I still have a pair I bagged from Bobby Reed, but I will be wearing them soon. The pillow I sleep on every night, lovely, & it’s so awfully neat the way it folds up. So you see the parcel was most acceptable, & thanks most awfully for it.

Before I forget, I will note down one or 2 things I want you to get for me; I’m afraid I am asking now for some rather expensive things, but I will arrange with Cox to send you the money if you will let me know what they cost.

(1) A small Flask, metal, curved shape, to carry in pocket to hold Rum etc… I have already asked for this in a p.c.

(2) A light chamois-leather waistcoat, if obtainable, to keep the wind out.

(3) A map case. These are made of leather, & have a talc slide inside through which you can read a map, & a leather cover over the talc slide, otherwise the sun glints on the slide & the enemy shoots you! Obtainable at A[rmy] & N[avy] Stores.

Also some uniform. They are issuing us with thick khaki sometime, but only Tommies coats, so please send me the following:-

2 officers F[ield].S[ervice]. jackets, regulation khaki pattern, Captain’s badges of rank.

1 pair Bedford cord Riding breeks, same colour as jacket.

xxxx

As regards fit: I suppose I’m about the same size as Jim, anyhow I should think you could fairly judge, say 38″ chest & 34 waist, height 5-9, ordinary length of arm; I have put chest & waist measurements on the big side so as to allow

(1) making to fit if necessary

(2) wearing lots of warm clothes underneath,

xxxx

Tell the man to sew no buttons on the jackets, but just to make holes to take moveable buttons, ones you fix in with a split ring & remove for washing, same like we have in our Indian khaki, Ben will know. You see we wear Black buttons, that’s why, & I have the buttons here with me & can stick em in myself. Breeches: I have rather a big calf, somewhere about 15 inches, so tell him to make them that size, with sufficient turn-in to allow to make larger if necessary: also allow to make larger round the knee if necessary. Finally, go to MOSS Covent Garden, he makes coats in 48 hours, & may even have some in stock, & send along 1 coat as soon as ready, & don’t make parcels too big.

Then all around the margin he added:

Tagany & Randall, 10 Simons St, Sloane Square, has my measurements. But do allow for warm clothes to be worn underneath!!! Ask them for my measurements & give them to Moss. Don’t forget to leave lots of room in the uniform for warm clothes; allow for a thick flannel shirt, a cardigan, & a shetland! I wear all 3!!

I’m afraid I’m asking an awful lot, but I’ll try and not ask for so much in future.

The second page of this letter was written on proper writing paper, probably from the writing case in the parcel.

Now for such news as I can give you. We have come out of the trenches after 20 days – just 3 weeks – in them, and quite long enough too. Every day was much the same, perpetually shelling us, and rifle fire all day, Some days they would give us more shelling than others, & some days were comparatively quiet. And how it all used to get on one’s nerves. We had a good many men killed and wounded, and it’s most awfully trying sitting in trenches and being shot at all day, & shooting back of course, but with no known results. Still there are so few troops here that we can only just hang on and not attempt anything else.

One night we sent a party of about 300 men out to try and rush one of the enemy’s trenches; it was a mixed party, some of our men and some of the 3rd Gurkhas. You see all along our front the Germans had sapped up and had trenches only 50 yards off in some places! Imagine it, only 50 yards away, & men sniping at you all day, so that you could’nt put a finger up above the trench without getting a bullet at it. Well, they trled to rush this trench, but the Germans spotted them, & I’m afraid we had very heavy casualties. They got a searchlight on to our position which lighted up the whole place like daylight, & it was impossible to move out into the open, the place simply hummed with bullets- Some of the party managed to get into the trench and accounted for about 30 Germans, but the whole show was very unsatisfactory. But I think it had a good effect on the whole, as the Germans have evidently had the Jabbers ever since, and fire wildly all day & night from that trench, in an awful funk evidently that they are going to be attacked again.

One day, as usual, they started giving us our daily ration of Jack Johnsons & shrapnel, & the shrapnel were bursting all round our headquarters where the Colonel and I were sitting in a little dug-out underground. All the shells burst quite close, & one knocked a huge branch of a tree down right on the top of our dug-out, busting in the roof a bit, and setting fire to a haystack just outside, so we stood a good chance of being roasted alive; so we cleared out into a neighbouring trench, but the poor old farm where we were living was burnt down, and for the next two nights the whole place was lit up, & of course one could’nt move about much then, as it was just like daylight. So we had lots of adventures you see, & no day or even hour passed without an exciting moment.

At last on the 17th we were relieved, and not too soon either. Work in the trenches is most frightfully trying & wearing; one gets little or no sleep, and the continual banging of shells & rifle fire all day gets on your nerves after a bit. On the night we were relieved, while the actual relief was being carried out, I mean while the regiment who was relieveing us were just coming into our trenches, the Germans started an attack, of course! But we were up to all their little games, and nothing much happened, & it did’nt last long, but the bullets were flying about pretty thick. We came out of the trenches weary & worn, & oh so dirty! And the poor men were very tired too, and had done awfully well, & we have been congratulated by 3 generals on our work.

We had a particularly hard section of trenches to defend, as it was very weak, so the Germans paid particular attention to it- But 3 weeks is a lot to do on end; we went back out of the firing line for 2 days, & on the second day we were sent up here in reserve, & have to remain in a “state of constant readiness” to support any part of the line in case of need, so don’t really get any rest now, Last night we got orders to stand by as the Germans were wearily attacking a French Brigade not far off, but we were’nt wanted in the end. However tomorrow we go back about 2 miles for a rest, which we badly need. I will write more fully from there. Meantime send along those things, especially the uniform, & theres something else, but I can’t remember it! I’m awfully well & don’t worry about me. Best love to all your loving son-

Ted

23rd Nov later [at La Couture]

Just posting this. All well. It looks like more snow today.

Ted


‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

11 November 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 11th

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your last letter. We are still in these trenches and no sign of being relieved yet, and we are all very tired and weary as the continual strain takes it out of one a lot. Shell & rifle fire goes on all day, and one has to be very wary walking about the trenches by day, as the Germans have special picked shots posted in houses, trees etc who poop off at anything they see moving about. So it does to exercise a certain amount of caution, even if it involves a hands & knees crawl for a few yards over any bad place. But as we have now been 13 days & nights in the trenches we have of course burrowed about and made quite a rabbit warren of them. Still if one does get careless & show oneself a bit too much, as sure as fat ‘zip’! comes a bullet whizzing along from somewhere. We sent out 50 men the other night under Major Taylor (Ben knows him) to round up some Germans in a trench close to us. We cleared them out of the trench, & bagged six prisoners; they seemed quite cheery & not at all downhearted at being captured.

While this was going on, all the rest of the enemy let us have it very hot, & we had a very hot ½ hour, but were fairly safe in our trenches & did’nt suffer much; I don’t know what the German loss was, but I fancy we did some damage. Last night all our heavy guns bombarded for 3/4 hour a little village in front of our position where the enemy are very fond of collecting and annoying us. So we turned all our guns on to it and you never heard such a din. The whole sky was lit up with bursting shells, & an appalling noise, & heavy rifle fire going on at the same time. This morning the village is just a blackened heap of ruins, & the trees (you can see through your glasses) are all bust & stripped of branches. Does’nt it seem an awful shame that a ripping little village like that should be so ruined, and a French village too, as we are still on French soil; but I suppose such things are necessary in war.

We are all very fit up to date, though tired & sleepy. But every day they try and attack us to break through, & every night too, in fact one is always on the alert, & one simply longs to get out of these trenches & go for somebody; but our orders are just to sit tight here and hang on till all’s blue while bigger things develope elsewhere. We are much too weak a force to advance, & only just able to keep off these attacks; our line is appalling thin in parts, and we can only hang on with difficulty. Old sportsman Bobs is out here, & has sent for 3 men from each regiment in the trenches to see & talk to them; jolly sporting of the old man is’nt it.

I have had several papers from Rosamond I think, & some cigarettes from Aunt Nellie; please thank her, & I will write when I have time; her gift was much appreciated by the men.

So glad old Ben’s arrived home safely. I had a long letter from her a day or 2 ago. Can you send me a weekly newspaper, say the weekly times, as we never hear any news of the outer world here, & I don’t know in the least what’s going on, I wish they would relieve us; the regiment we relieved in these trenches were here 12 days & said they never wanted to see a trench again; it’s this awful waiting, doing nothing but sit still & get shelled daily as regularly as clockwork that palls so; if we could only advance or get a move on of sorts it would be an improvement. The farm we are round about is full of apples potatoes cabbages etc, so we go round at night & loot the garden for our meals, as we get no fresh vegetables from the commissariat, only tinned meat, jam, bread & cheese, so one wants a little green food occasionally.

It’s awfully cold here, especially in this thin Indian khaki. But thank goodness we are going to get the warm kit soon, at least we have been told to apply for it, but when we shall get it I don’t know. I wish I could get at my kit to get that sweater out; I want another warm thing to wear, especially at nights. I have got a lovely Jaeger Balaclava cap, just like the man in the picture in the Stores list! So tell Ben I shan’t want one now. The gloves you sent are gorgeously warm; you see it’s so raw nowadays, & very damp living underground such a lot. But on the whole we have been very lucky in the weather, we had all our worst time before we came here, & heavy rain in these trenches would be awful. ‘Jack Johnson’ just beginning his daily visits; yesterday they shelled us all the morning but without much result except noise. Very heavy firing going on up north, so I expect there’s a big battle going on up there, but we never got any news. Matches are always welcome, as there is an appalling slump on them just now. Love to all your loving son

Ted

Just had a top hole breakfast bacon cabbages & ‘tatoes all fixed up together & some lovely slices of French Bread & butter. I don’t quite know what I should do without your lovely silk scarf. So glad Jim is so fit, I wish he wd hurry up & come out. I wonder if we shall meet, hope so.


Written in indelible pencil on leaves torn from a signal pad.

Major G. H Taylor was killed two days later on the 13th November 1914.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

“Old Bobs” was Lord Roberts, a retired general who had launched the Comfort Fund for Indian soldiers. His visit was to prove fatal: seeing that the Indian troops did not have great coats, he took off his own. The visit took place on the 12th November (the day after Ted’s letter) and the next day Lord Roberts contracted pneumonia, dying on the 14th a few miles from the Front. 

Ted to Gertrude - written on leaves torn from a field signals pad

Ted to Gertrude – written on leaves torn from a field signals pad

 

Tags:

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

 

5 November 1914 – Ted to Jinny (Jane)

Nov 5th

Dear Jinny. Thanks most awfully for the ripping box of cigarettes matches toothpaste etc & chocolate, they were most welcome, & the men loved the cigarettes – Lovely day today & very quiet at present, such a contrast to the usual banging that goes on all day and night; I wonder what’s up, they were particularly active yesterday and we had a merry time from 10 to 4, Jack Johnsons paying us particular attention & falling all round us. Tell Ben my orderly Nain Sing was killed by a shell yesterday; she’ll be awfully sorry I know, so am I, as he was such a good little chap. Aeroplanes buzzing all round today, making an awful noise. Hope you can read this. Thanks again. Ted.

Ted to Jane 14 11 05


And here we have an example of the paternal racism of the time. Ted and Ben clearly liked Nain Singh but from our perspective it is easy to see the patronising nature of their genuine affection for him.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

 

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.

 

3 November 1914 – Ted to Jinny (Jane)

Me having dinner when Jack Johnson is about

Me having dinner when Jack Johnson is about

Nov 3rd

Dear Jinny – sporting effort-

Thanks most awfully for your letter which I got last night. I am I should think the dirtiest man in Europe, filthy, have’nt washed or changed my clothes for a week, & probably won’t do so for another week! Thanks awfully far sending along some cigarettes, I’m sure they’ll be much appreciated. An enorm parcel arrived last night, but I could’nt possibly open it here, but hope to do so when we retrieve our baggage. We came into these trenches just as we stood, and are still in the same condition. My word it is cold at nights, last night we were expecting an attack, so had to keep awake, but I got fed up towards morning & went off to sleep, or tried to, but it was too darned cold. And the enemy never fired a shot, so I was had all round.

The first night we got here I was taking about 40 men from one trench to another smaller one, which we had to enlarge (you have to do most of the digging by night, as they spot you & pip you if they see you by day, snipers all over the place) when suddenly a furious fire opened on our right. We fairly flung ourselves down into this teeny little trench & the fun was fast & furious for about five minutes. Luckily we had no one hit, though they had maxims on us, which make a most horribly alarming noise. The colonel & I have our head quarters in a hole in the ground in a farm yard, supposed to be bomb proof, though nothing is proof against Black Maria, from whom we have had several visits, but she has’nt hit us yet, tap wood.

Tell Ben we are all still in thin Indian khaki, so I leave you to imagine the cold, especially as we have no kit at all, only what we have got on. I’m sorry I can’t tell you where we are, but it’s not allowed. You should see me staring at aeroplanes; Mr Stare has never seen one before, & the first one I saw just dropped a bomb on the station we detrained at, but missed luckily –

We have been congratulated – the 20th Bde I mean – by General Willcocks on our resistance, as these damned Germans have attacked us several times, but we have managed to keep them off so far; also Sir John French has sent his congrats & gratitude to the Indian troops as a whole. So let’s hope we keep it up. I’m doing the real heavy soldier, sitting on an ammunition box, & writing on the lid! Well Jinny I will write again when I can. No more now. Yr loving brother

Ted.


Written on a scrap of paper.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

 

3 November 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 3rd/14

Dear Mother

Thanks most awfully for your letter which I got in the middle of last night! Well, at last we have reached the front. We left [Orleans] on the 26th I think, did a 2 days train journey, marched 10 miles one day, billeted in a village on 28th, marched 8 miles on 29th & relieved a regiment here in the trenches in the night. And we’ve been in the trenches ever since, night & day. The Germans have made lots of attacks on us, & all along the line, but – tap wood – as far as we are concerned have not been successful. We have had few casualties. Anyhow I am all right. Being adjutant I have to be at Bn: Hd quarters with the CO, receive & write messages etc, & generally be in a central position so that all may know where we are & can communicate with us.

All day long incessant artillery & rifle fire goes on between the two forces, & the first 3 nights we were here we were attacked each night, one night we had 5 separate attacks! at 6, 9, 1, 3 & 5; but only two of them were heavy & we managed to keep them off. Lord what a noise goes on on these occasions. Banging & banging, bullets whisking about, & shells bursting, you never heard such a noise. It seems as if there were people firing all round you. Then the attack dies down, & only intermittent rifle fire goes on; but it is incessant. Some of these German heavy shells are real jam, “Black Maria” is a beauty, you can hear her coming for miles, & she falls with an enorm bang, & as the papers say makes a hole big enough to put 3 horses in! And planes buzz about all day; I of course am Mr Stare-Stare, as I’ve never seen one before!

Cold at all, I should think so, & we all dressed in thin khaki drill, Is’nt it wicked, I shiver all night. You see we came in here as I say on 29th (having left our kit & heavy baggage – if you can call 35 lbs heavy baggage! – behind as usual to come on later) in just what we stood up in, & thats what we’ve been in ever since, & are likely to be in for some time, as there seems no chance of getting our kit up. So we’ve all been eating drinking sleeping in our kit as we are, & I have’nt taken a single thing off for 6-7 days, and dirty, well, we are all black! Our headqrs are in a farm here, & the colonel & I live in a little funk-hole underground, out of the way of Maria & J. Johnson & Co. Today is a lovely day, & they are fairly quiet, so we are sitting out in the garden under a haystack out of sight, but the men are all in the trenches ready for anything.

Your parcel came last night too, but I could’nt possibly open it here, so sent it back to my kit; it sounds lovely, & I am longing to open it. All very well here, & things in general are going on all right. Our heavy guns have just started again. Tell Ben the blue jersey has saved my life, I’ve had it on continuously – there goes Maria again! – for a week now. I got a letter from her, postmarked 23rd. I must end now. Best love to all

Yr loving son

Ted


‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.