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Category Archives: Topher Berryman

20 January 1915 – Paul to Gertrude

H.M.S. Gloucester

20.1.15

Dear Mother,

Just got your Sunday’s letter- very many thanks for it. I am so glad you like the gramaphone records. I somehow knew you’d like the organ ones.

It’s most awfully kind of you to say you’ll give me ½ my Burberry- I should like it very much. The Burberry has just arrived – lovely.

So glad to hear Ben is all right again – I had a letter from her yesterday – which I must answer soon.

I went over & saw Digby again yesterday & had a long talk with him, he was ever so interested to hear of all our doings- & he is writing to you.

How sad about Charlie Moodie. I wonder whether he was at the front or not. He was only 24 too. Poor Charlie. I am sorry – always such a great friend of all of us.

Yes. I got Ruth’s sox all right & have written thanking her. I really am fitted out now. So you are all busy doing Hospital work at last-.

How perfectly extraordinary about that servant Beatrice- what a little rotter she must have been- & then bringing back those parcels next day. I can imagine how infused with laughter you must have all been.

Where is Topher stationed – I don’t think you have told me – only his Regt.

We are still waiting – very dull & monotonous it is too – & our spirits not vastly improved by the weather – which is fairly rotten – always blows & rains fat hailstones.

With ever so much love to you all-

from your ever loving son

Paul

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January 1915 – Benedicta to Gertrude – Engagement to Wiggs

Tuesday

I got your letter last night thank you so much. You seem certainly to have had rather a strenuous day on Sunday. Isn’t it sickening the weather has been so alarming. I can’t describe the rain and wind yesterday and really last night it didn’t seem possible for the house to stand much longer but today so far is ripping so Wiggs and I are going over to Rye to lunch and down to Cumber if the little trains still go in the winter. I heard from Dreda this morning about Willie being ill, I do hope he’ll be all right for the dance if we manage tickets, anyway I suppose Marjorie and I can go with Topher & Wiggie but we shall be disappointed if so many of us can’t go, sickening for Jane but I really don’t suppose Eric will have gone!

I don’t know whether you’ll be pleased No I don’t suppose for a moment you will be I can’t quite expect it but Wiggs and I have decided that it’s best to be engaged. The unsatisfactory way in which we were going on was NO good, it isn’t all done on the spur of the moment, much thinking has been done & I’m sure it’s best. There are to be no great shoutings about it but anyone who wants to know can, you will I fancy think we are doing right, the other situation was rotten for me but I didn’t want to sort of rush Wiggs into anything so things had to wait. If the dance is off I am going to stay here till Thursday so will you send me a line either here or Dollie’s as that is where I shall be on Wednesday night for the dance, see? Will you give the enclosed to Dreda, I wonder if either of your billets will come back, on wednesday or is the scare sill on. Have a rest when you can I expect you were awfully tired after christmas & it was all rather a rush

Love to all,

your loving Ben

You’ll iron my frock won’t you, the ninon at the top too.

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Ben and Wiggs got engaged within weeks of her return from India and when she told her mother she was clearly on the defensive about it and maybe about him. My mother was puzzled by the whole thing: when she edited the letters in the 1980s she asked “who was Wiggs?” and added “there was certainly no ‘shouting’ about the engagement. No one else mentions it.”

Wiggs’ real name was Ivan Bennett and, at 25, he was some 6 years younger than Ben, which may explain her defensiveness and the disapproval she seems to have expected. 

Ben certainly knew Wiggs before going to India because she corresponded wiith him with while she was away. She mentions him in a letter in September when he appears to have joined up early but critically:

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.

She may have been encouraged to go to India in 1913 to get over her feelings for him. In October Paul says:

Re – Ben & Mr Bennett – as you say a rather difficult question – and I must say that I should rather be inclined to let him come back to Delaford, because they will be bound to meet elsewhere & that sort of deception from your point of view I’m sure you dont like. Much better let them more or less carry on openly. It sounds ridiculous I know Wiggie 22 & Ben 28 or whatever her age is, but these days nature does funny things – & I also don’t think Wiggie is worthy of Ben, her due is someone much more perfect- In any case now they won’t have heaps of chances of meeting – I wonder what you have done, because I expect Ben is home by now anyhow! I hope she has arrived safely & is well-

He seems to have been a friend of the family, in November Ted had mentioned Wiggs as a friend of Gertrude’s.

He was clearly accepted by the family, however reluctantly, as we can see in this photograph taken in the spring of 1915, which we can date because of the brothers who were in England at the same time.

Ivan Bennett, Ted Berryman, Richard Berryman<br/>Christopher Berryman, Jim Berryman

Ivan Bennett, Ted Berryman, Richard Berryman
Topher Berryman, Jim Berryman
Spring 1915

 

 

16 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 17

Dear Mother Very many thanks for your letter of the 13th, arrived today, but as this won’t be posted till tomorrow I have put 17th on it. Your letter was full of ripping news, especially the old war being over by the New Year! The story of guessing the amount in the purse is truly convincing. Of course the Stock Exchange betting is on the war being over by Christmas, so we hear, & they generally know what’s going on, quite apart from military point of view. I still say by Easter, but it’s of course useless speculating- Anyhow I hope they hurry up now & send out K’s [Kitchener?] army & push things along a bit on this front; I’m fed up with sitting in trenches. From your letters you seem to think I was in that recapturing trench show, when Derwan Sing got the V.C., but alas! I was’nt. Well I can say is that we were supposed to be there, but in the muddle of war couId’nt be found at the time.

We went in a day later, & even then the situation was fairly exciting. There has been a bit more rifle & machine gun fire here these last 2 days, I dunno why, & it’s not very safe exposing yourself too much, at all in fact, above ground. I’m rapidly turning into a mole! Thanks awfully for sending on the cakes, I hope they arrive all right; I have sent Dryden a secret code whereby I hope to ensure the safe arrival of cakes etc. I should like some cigarettes occasionally, Abdullas will do, in tins, as cardboard boxes break so.

Colder again today, but no snow yet. My uniform has rolled up I believe, but I can’t get at it very well in the trenches. Wish I could as it wd be warrner than this. We have been in these trenches 15 days now, & since we first arrived here on 29th October we’ve had 35 days in trenches & only about 10 out, out of which were 5 in reserve and so we have only had 5 days’ so called rest, & were busy the whole of that. However it’s all part of the show. Tell people to write to me a whole lot, as I love getting letters, but the only drawback is I cannot guarantee to answer them, though I do my best. It’s a good thing to enclose a letter card or a folding up envelope thing which you can write inside, & then I can answer them easier- Tell Ben poor Major Young has died of his wounds. She will be awfully sorry I know, so are we all. What a beastly war this is. He was standing in the road, a long way from the firing line & a stray bullet hit him; most awful bad luck was’nt it.

Mud is still as bad as ever, chronic. No chance of leave just at present. I’m awful keen to know what Topher’s doing- Don’t send too many warm clothes, except mitts & socks, & gloves & hankies, in small quantities, as one can dispose of such things fairly easily – Looking forward to your parcel of cakes etc, most welcome.

No more news just now. What awful ROT the papers talk about the Indian troops’ “stealthy forms” “panther springs” & all that absolute tosh. It makes us all look such idiots. We’re no better than anyone else after all, & not nearly as good as some. Why can’t the papers be reasonable, & treat Indians as ordinary human beings

Really the nonsense in the papers about the Indian troops is making us all awful angry; we’ve done no more than was asked of us, and all that appalling balderdash about Gurkhas & Kukris, & “grinning faces” – oh law, it makes me SICK!

(unsigned)

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8 December 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

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

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

My dear Mother.

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

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

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

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

Well best love to all

yr loving son

Richard.


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

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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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11 August 1914 – Richard to Gertrude

Lahoal.
August 11th.

My dear Mother.

Very many thanks for your letter. The song arrived safely & many thanks too. I forget if I told you I had had a fever. Funny it was’nt malaria what one generally gets, but a different kind, not so bad really. I have been really very lucky not having had malaria yet, everyone seems to get it. Am writing in the train so it’s a bit shaky when we are moving. I suppose you are at Selsey now, unless the war has interfered with everyone’s arrangements. We get a lot of good news, but we never hear any of the English or French losses. I hope it is soon over, and if the Germans are getting beaten as they seem to be I should think they will soon give in.

Fancy pickling 400 walnuts, you will use a fair amount of vinegar I should fancy. That was’nt Leonard Pullman after all then. I thought you’d remember the Parsy boy, Ben said you were rather friends with Mrs Parsy. One of the sisters is being married out here. I wonder how Holmwood looked, have you arranged to leave the estate to the eldest son. Remember how we used to argue about it. It’s been raining here now for about 16 days on end to make up for a drought we had in July, & June. Wish I had some gooseberries!

Wonder how Paul is getting on in the Mediterranean, he surely must be in a scrap somewhere, he will be pleased I expect. I wish I was at home, it must be so exciting & we who are abroad will never realize what it was all like. I have’nt heard from Topher for a long time, he said he was going to write & tell me where to send some shirts to. No one I suppose talks anything else but war. The last we heard was that 19 German ships had been sunk or captured in the North Sea. Fancy hearing all the firing, it must be very awe inspiring. I am afraid Ted may not get his leave now, but nous verrons.

Well I must stop
Best love to all yr loving son

Richard

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