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Category Archives: Rosamund Berryman

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

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18 August 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

I’m very busy these days, & have
got my hands full getting
the rgt: ready to get off, &
myself! But Ben is a tremendous
help

18th August/14

Dear Mother

Just a line to catch this mail. We are off somewhere with the other troops from India to help old England. Where we are going I don’t know. They are sending 2 divisions from India, & we are lucky enough to be one of the regiments going. It’s hard to sit at home & wait, for you, I know; but we men have good reason to be proud of our womenfolk on these occasions. So don’t be anxious about me will you, though I know it’s very hard, especially in these days of censorship & lack of news.

I don’t know when we leave here, in a day or two, anyhow before next mail day; so please don’t expect another letter from me till you get one, because I shan’t be able to post it anywhere yet awhile. But I assure you I’ll try & write as often as I get 1/2 a chance, even if it’s only half a line. As regards old Ben. I often wonder how I managed before she came to stay; how really dreary life must have been. She’s a perfect little person, & her staying here has been too charming & delightful for words. She is a great favourite with everyone & has made one or two real friends I think. But to me she has been perfectly sweet, & I can never thank her too much for all she has done for me. It has all been perfect, absolutely, and I can never thank her enough. My only regret is that I could not give her a better time, but amusements here are limited, & I am a busy man. If she has derived one quarter of the pleasure from her visit that I have, well I am more than amply repaid.

I have fixed her up all right after I’ve gone, & I hope she’ll be all right.

Well, goodbye for the present mother. Expect a letter when you get one, I’m afraid I can promise no more than that; wish me luck & a happy return; but remember I am but doing my humble duty like thousands of others. Best love to Dryden & Jane, & Rosamond & Ruth & lots to you mother

ever your loving son

Ted.

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12 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.
Aug 12th 1914

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter & much news. I expect you hear, ere you get this, or you will know that the 39th Gurhwalis are ordered to mobilize for active service; they are part of the 7th Division & the 3rd & 7th are going from this country. The order came a day or two ago, this time next week Lansdowne will be left destitute; each regiment leaves an officer and a certain amount of men at each depot, and that’s all.

All three regiments go from here; Friday the 14th the 8th Gurkas go, & Tuesday & Wednesday the 3rd Gurkas, & the 39th Guhrwali. At present only ordered as far as Kodwara, the railway at the bottom of the hill (28 miles down) & then to Bombay to embark. The worst of it is they’ll go under sealed orders, so we shall never know where they go till they arrive. You will know before us I expect as you are so [illegible] for news. Some rumours say Egypt to wait, some Havre & yet again England. Everyone dreadfully excited at going of course & they’ll die of disappointment if they don’t get into the thick of it.

Ted is worked off his feet being Adj: I can’t tell you the things he has to see to, he leaves the house at 10 & I haven’t seen him again for three days till 5-30 or 6-30 when he comes back for lunch. They are only allowed 60lbs kit so for himself there is little to see to really, I’ve to make karki pillow cases & small hold alls, that’s all.

This war is so absolutely dreadfull. I’ve told you all about here first, because you will want to know about Ted but I can realize how dreadfull it must be at home; you are safe I suppose but I’m naturally very worried & we get so little news, it shows how sudden it all was, because your mail mentions not a word and yet it was dated July 24th. Our mails will be more or less allright, but they go round by sea which takes a week longer so there’ll be a gap at first. We don’t get a mail on Aug 21st, it will be a week late I see. That’s your mail dated Aug 6th, the very one we want badly to hear how you are (this will be your end too). Still send my letters here till I tell you, I hope & pray I shall still get a mail, for one clings to that so.

Don’t worry about me as I’m more or less allright, as I’ve got Dick thank goodness out here, tho’ at present 4 days’ journey away. Alix & I will stay together in this bungalow for about a month & then I shall go to Assam again, either meet Dick at Shillong as arranged before or go straight to him by the middle of Sept. It will be cool enough for me, even if I go to him but I expect & hope it will be Shillong, tho’ if the race meet & all is off he may not be able to get leave. I should go down to him now, but it would be foolish in a way for I’ve got this house & I couldn’t stand the heat & poor Alix is so stranded, I feel I must see her through a bit at first. Heaven knows when I shall get home now, we can’t tell yet but if Dick has to give up his job & has no other I can always go to the Nobles for as long as I like. But I’m hoping I shall get back to you all before Xmas anyway.

You must be so worried about everything & I suppose the prices of everything are dreadfull, even out here they’ve gone up already. We hear of a great Naval victory off the Dogger bank but NO details, if Paul had been in the Channel Fleet I fail to know how I could have stood the suspense. Such heaps, in fact everyone must be involved in some way or another, as I suppose all the Aldershot division have gone. We know very little. I shall be feeling very miserable & sort of stranded till I get to Dick but thank goodness I’ve got Alix, & I shall have to look after myself a bit, but you know what it’s like to feel stranded.

I can’t think what it will be like on Wednesday when the 39th Gs go. Apart from having Ted going which I refuse to even think of, every officer one knows & some of them so awfully well somehow; I feel so sorry for the poor wives, & the station has many brides. We shall all stay up for a time I suppose, till things calm down & then they’ll all try and get home, that is if the regiments don’t come back here for sometime. Two officers have gone today under sealed orders, to catch Sat’s mail; they will go to the place where the regiments go eventually, but that doesn’t help us knowing. It makes it all the worse not knowing where they go, as there can be no letters or anything. Ted is wild with excitement & so are they all, we poor females are supposed to be the same. But it’s jolly hard & I find I can’t inwardly get the right spirit.

Parcils will get to me in time, with a certain amount of safety, our mail won’t really come to any harm unless by an accident, see? So I shall get the things you sent allright, I expect. As regards money don’t you worry, because I’m going to draw on Ted’s pay; he’ll want very little & Dick will see to that part when I get to him, Ted says I shan’t be left short in anyway & Alix & I can certainly live on very little the time we are together. My getting to Dick will cost a lot but that will be allright. I’m going to have King Hamilton Calcutta as my agents.

Your day at Hartley Row must have been nice, you seemed to get a great deal into one day! The girls didn’t tell me anything about the day & yet they were hard up for news! I wonder if you went to Selsey, I sent two mails there. I can imagine your feelings at being away from home at this time. The Territorials are getting a look in I suppose, I was wondering about Willie but I suppose they won’t be sent out of England. There is no fear of air invasion thank goodness but you must all be in a dreadfull state of worry, I wish we could know more, our mails will tell us most & we will have to wait another 2 weeks before you mention much.

I’m glad you are to be Kathleen’s kid’s godmother, she ought to call her Felicia if it’s April, a ripping name & every other odd name is so common nowadays. Please tell Rosamond I may miss the mail with her letter this mail, & also tell her the bracelets arrived perfectly safe & beautifully packed. Thank her please, the other girls I’ll write to next week.

Nothing doing here, I don’t go out expect just to Alix & back & she here, because messages & things are going the entire day & I never know when Ted may want a meal. I must go and have a bath now, I missed mine this morning as Alix & I went for a walk before breakfast; such a gorgeous really English morning & not too hot, the sun is out for the first time for weeks, it makes all the difference in the world. Let’s hope it’s fine when we are alone, that everlasting rain & mist I could not endure.

I’m very fit these days which is a blessing (tap wood), I was so sick of having an “inside”. We appear to be going to be left minus an doctor but I do hope not, such lots of people are always ill too. About 5 or 6 of our officers are on leave at home, they’ve been recalled but they won’t be out in time; they’ll pick up the others I suppose somewhere, but no war kit whatever. Capt Lumb will only just get back in time to start, he’s got 12 days marching. He was miles away on the snow line & had started before the war was thought of, so the wire must have been rather a shock.

I must end now, do please take care of yourselves. I wish I was home, one feels so stranded somehow away from one’s people. Over having Dick I’m only too thankful, with any luck I shall be with him in about 6 weeks. Tons of love your loving Ben

I don’t suppose Ted will be able to write & if you ever can write to him you must remember to be pleased that he’s going, they can’t understand our feelings of fear one bit. You may hear where they are sooner than I.


Again, this has been split into paragraphs for legibility. It seems that Ben couldn’t spell Garhwal despite living there. This may be a quirk of her hand-writing rather than a misspelling  but given how poor the rest of her spelling is, it seems probable that the error is hers not the transcriber’s.

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