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Category Archives: Jim Berryman

Gertrude to General Stopford (Draft)

Dear General Stopford

My son Jim is desirous of getting a temporary commission in the Army. Since September he has been in the Public Schools Battalion of the Middlesex Regt so has done a certain amount of training. I wonder if you could help him in any way. I believe the War Office are badly in need of Officers.


Unfortunately this draft isn’t dated. After this time, it’s impossible to know why the General might have helped Jim get a commission. Maybe he was a family friend. Jim was settled in the wine trade in Oporto in Portugal, and it must have been disruptive to his employers or business partners having him up and off to the War like that.

 
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Posted by on 16 February, '15 in About, Jim Berryman

 

18 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 18/14

Dear Mother I got a tiny parcel from you today containing some curiously strong peppermints, & some oxo & bivouac cocoa, most acceptable & thanks awfully for them. I’m waiting for the Colonel to go to bed, & then I’m going to eat one! It seems colder today, but it was quite fine. Our aeroplanes were very busy all morning. Tell Ben I’m keener than ever to take up flying now, & tell Jane I’m not so much Mr Stare-Stare as I used to be! Have you read about these small steel arrows they are supposed to drop from aeroplanes? We have heard that both we and the Germans have them; they drop about 500 or so at a time, & they come whizzing down point first; jolly is’nt it!

Biplane dropping steel arrows onto troopsYes we’ve heard all about the oId Kaiser being ill, & he’s dead, & better, & worse, & everything. I wonder which is true. I got a letter from Jim today, he seems very cheery; tell him I’ll write when I have time. He tells me the Gloucester is the Buzz of the fleet, which is a good thing. The enemy have been very noisy today, making a beastly noise shooting, & all last night too; very trying to the nerves. One of our scouts got right up to the enemy’s trenches the other night, & heard them laughing & talking; then he peeped over the parapet & saw them all sitting round a fire, & they never saw him! And 2 nights ago one of the 1st Bn scouts got onto the enemy’s parapet, but they suddenly got frightened, & started firing, & he lay flat between 2 loopholes till they finished & then crawled back to his own lines unhurt.

The pencil I asked for has never rolled up, the one I’m using now is nearly used up, I can only just hold it. Got a long letter from Mabel yesterday, she seems very full up with Red Cross work. What have you done with Topher? Is he going to the RMC, & going to take up soldiering as a career? It’s worth considering I think.

Mabel said in her letter that Christmas letters for us had to be posted on the 13th, but I got hers yesterday, so they only take 3 or 4 days- I must write to the Dudmans, but I have no paper. A few things like this or some notepaper & envelopes all in one wd be very acceptable, something small & handy. I’ll send you an F.S.[Field Service] post card tonight, just to see which gets home quickest. Glad you like my letters, but I’m afraid my last one or two have been very dull, but nothing much has happened. No news of being relieved from these trenches, this is our 15th day now- only a week to Christmas, it does’nt seem like it somehow. I have’nt spent Christmas in Europe since 1903! when I was a spotty cadet! Best love to all & again many thanks for the parceI. Send along the pencil & notepaper sometime.

Yr loving son

Ted

I meant to send the Davids a p.c. [post card] for Xmas but I can’t remember their address!!!

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7 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

-Monday-
Dec.7. Trenches

Just a line to say all’s well. A beastly day today, wet and windy and trenches in an awful state in consequence. Very good of Dudman’s to ask what I want, I will let them know when I’ve made up my mind, I can think of nothing at present. Have got a letter from you of 29th, so must answer it when I have time.

Not much chance of home leave just at present, but I’ll seize the first opportunity. I hope Ben & Jim fixed up my uniform all right. It’s ever so much warmer today, but I s’pose this rain will turn to snow soon. I’ve thought of a good thing the D.’s might give me; but I won’t tell you on here, the censor might’nt like it! Let me know the dates of my letters & p.c’s you get.

Love to all

Ted


The D’s were the Dudmans. The right to appoint a clergyman as parish priest did not always lie with the church authorities, in many parishes it lay with a local landowner. The Dudmans were patrons of the living of Pitney in Somerset. and had given Ted’s father, Charles Berryman, his first appointment as Rector there.

 
 

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.

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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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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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14 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

This letter was written just outside Marseilles on some scrappy paper.

Oct 14th

Dear Mother

Just a line to say we’ve landed in France – not allowed to say where! – and am absolutely all right. We disembarked 2 days ago; marched out 10 miles to camp (no joke after a month on board ship!) and got to camp at 12.30 at night, & to bed by 3 am, when it began to rain, & it’s been raining ever since! We are camped in some meadows, rather swampy, so you can imagine the state of the ground. However we are all in high spirits & it would take a lot to damp them. Excuse a scrawl, but am writing in my tent on the floor. We have all our kit – such as it is – at present, but we shall soon have to be on 35 lbs only; The A.S.C. are feeding us like fighting cocks here.

How splendid Jim enlisting, what a sportsman; I expect we shall meet some day, hope so. I got lots of letters from you Jane & Dryden, all the ones you posted to India office. Thanks awfully for them. Very busy, as I have to get acquainted with all the thousand and one orders of the force. So glad to hear you are all right at home. Please send me a khaki muffler, lightweight but warm. Tell Ben the blue jersey is the warmest thing in Europe & the buzz of the force; really, no rotting. Past 10 o’clock, so I must go to sleep. Still raining hard. Not very cold here, but damp and miserable, very muddy & dirty-

I got another letter from Jane today, I must try & answer them all tomorrow. I wonder if old Ben’s arrived home yet. She’ll tell you all my news. I posted a letter in a french post office to you, but now I hear they will not be forwarded. I also want some thick pants, to the knee, but not too solid, light but warm style if obtainable. I would’nt mind some cigarettes & baccy occasionally- I am going to try & keep a diary through the war, but I expect it will be a pretty scrappy one when once we get to the mysterious “front”! We get a few papers occasionally, & I see Antwerp has fallen; I wonder what their game is.

By the way, send along a few picture papers occasionally Daily Sketches etc, they all help to amuse us. And I want a pair of thick gloves, 8’s, leather lined wool or something warm; and a folding lantern, for candles, with talc sides; you can buy them at the Stores I think. Old Ben will tell you all about our escapades at P. Said, I would’nt have missed that day for worlds. All our letters are censored, so I can tell you nothing, not even where we are or where we are going; don’t worry we’ll be all right, but wont it be cold! Ugh.. When you write, enclose a card, or p.c. then I can write back at once; or enclose an envelope, anything so as I can get some news back to you soon, as these things are always handy.


This letter was continued on the 17th October.

The rain seemed to annoy Drake-Brockman more than it annoyed Ted.

The route lay for a part of the way through Marseilles town, and the inhabitants, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, opened their windows and clapped and cheered us all the way. The journey was mostly uphill, and the cobbled streets made one’s feet rather tired towards the end of the march. Camp was reached at midnight. After some difficulty our exact part was located, camp pitched and kits sorted out, and such arrangements made as were possible in the darkness. Luckily, though it was rather threatening, it did not rain on the way, but at 5.30 a.m. it began to come down and rained heavily, with the result that the camp, which was situated a bit low in some meadows soon got terribly muddy. It was wet and miserable all next day, the 14th, and the day after. An intermittent drizzle made it very cold and damp.

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11 October 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Oct 11th.

My dear Mother.

Very many thanks for your letter. Things don’t seem to be improving much. We have just heard out here that Antwerp has fallen.

I was surprised to hear Jim has come home to volunteer. I hope to hear in your next letter what he intends doing. I somehow feel I ought to come back & help, & when this man turns up if I don’t get a decent job I shall come home & think. I suppose a doctor is sure to be wanted. It’s anxious time for everyone, the Gabbs must be on tenderhooks. I am wondering if Ben has left for England yet. She was waiting in Karachi when last she wrote, & I’ve not heard since.

We’ve practically done with the hot weather now thank goodness, and you could not want for better climate.

I was away in Shillong & I think the change did me good. I got back here to find a fair amount of cholera about, but thank goodness it’s better now, and not so many coolies are dying.

I had a long letter from Winnie Johnson. You remember she lives near Topher. She says his stammering is still bad, I always thought he had got rid of the habit.

I am going to sing one of the songs Jane sent at a concert next week for the war fund. Have you any money nowadays? I am afraid people are very hard up who depend on dividends eh?

Well I must stop.

Best love to all

your loving son Richard.

(on back of envelope)
Yes that must be Killby’s father.


And again we have the casual racism that shows how long ago it was. It is unclear whether or not the ‘coolies’ who were dying of cholera while Richard was at the races were Chinese.  Wikipedia says the word may have originated in India and that it was a generic term for asian agricultural workers, but then discusses indentured workers shipped from China to work elsewhere. Richard worked in Assam, a tea-growing region at the eastern edge of India near to south western China, so perhaps they were using Chinese labour.

Jim (James) and Topher (Christopher) were his brothers, neither of whom was involved in the War at this time.

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