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Alix Mankelow was Benedicta Berryman’s best friend at the start of WW1

11 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

off Sardinia. 11.Oct 14

Dear Mother

I don’t know quite when this letter will reach you. I sent one home to you by Ben which I gave her at P. Said to take home to you, but whether this letter or she will get home first I don’t know. Well, here we are, on our way to Marseilles, where we arrive tomorrow & where I hope I shall be able to post this. I don’t quite know what we do or where we go when we land, but in any case we’ll have to keep quiet for a bit, as we’ve been a month on this voyage and of course men and animals are very soft in consequence. You will have seen by the papers that some Indian troops have already landed in France, but that was the 3rd divn, & I was wondering if you thought by any chance that we were with that lot. Ben will explain when she get s home exactly how things are, & to what Brigade & Division we belong, so I won’t go into any elaborate explanations now. We have had quite a good voyage from P. Said, 18 transports escorted by the French Battleship “Jaure Guiberry” awful name is’nt it.

Ben & I had most awful fun at Port Said, & sent you some p.c’s from there which I expect you have got by now. I went & got her off the Dilwara, & we went ashore & made a whole lot of purchases, & wandered about seeing sights generally. And it was a sight! Nothing but officers in uniform and crowds of them, also hundreds of French sailors all waving little union Jacks. Ben & I kept on saying “vive l’entente” to them, & they were fearfully pleased always. There were 2 French battleships at P. Said, & two or three British cruisers & torpedo boats, but the old Gloucester was’nt there; I wonder where she is. After we had walked all over the place, we foregathered with Alix & some pals & had a tremendous dinner at the hotel, where we met everyone we’d ever met in India, & I kept on introducing Ben to officers who had just rejoined from leave, & I think she’s met everyone in the regiment now, we had quite a good dinner, with a little French tricolour stuck in the flower pot on the table. I had to be back by 10, so we wandered off, & rowed back & then sent old Ben off to the Dilwara. It was a gorgeous day & I can’t remember having enjoyed anything so much for years.

It has got much colder of course since we started, & today there is really a biting wind, & we are all fugged* up in the saloon, and the deck is quite deserted.
*”cubbed” is the word I was trying to think of, Ben always uses it.

We get scraps of war news by wireless occasionally, & today we hear about the Zeppelin being burnt by our navy airmen, & the siege of Antwerp. There is of course much speculation as to where we are going. At last after many guesses, rumours, & hopes & fears, we know we are going to Marseilies; then we go to a concentration camp near Paris, and after that, heaven knows where they will send us, where we are most wanted. It will be pretty cold on the continent this time of year, so could you send me along a khaki muffler some time, a nice soft light but warm one if you can get one, also a pair of warm gloves leather lined wool sound all right, size 8. Ben has got my address, but I’ll give it you again, unless of course you’ve had any other address given by the India or War office.

CAPT E.R.P. BERRYMAN
2/39 GARHWAL RIFLES
20th INDIAN INFANTRY BRIGADE
MEERUT DIVISION
I.E.F. “A”
FRANCE

You see I’m not allowed by regulations to tell you where I am, or mention any towns etc, only just the barest items of news can be sent, otherwise one’s letters are liable to censorship and much delay, & very often destruction. But of course you can send me what you like to the address above, & say what you like in your letters, as they are not censored.

I have got a lovely Jersey Ben gave me in Lansdowne which is ripping & warm, tell her it is the buzz of the ship, and I get thoroughly ragged about it, as it’s a most gorgeous blue colour, & everyone else has khaki ones! By the way, can you send me 2 pairs of warm drawers, not too thick, but thick-ish, short ones reaching to the knee, as I know it will be most infernally cold all the winter. But don’t send too many things, as one’s kit is limited in weight of course, and I’ve got as much warm kit as I can carry almost. Doubtless a little baccy & cigarettes would not be out of place sometimes. But I leave it all to you. I expect everyone is making clothes etc for the troops, & so we should be plentifully supplied if only the things roll up.

Well, we live in stirring times, so don’t expect to hear from me again till you do hear from me: the Indian troops should be a good deal in the limelight, so you will probably see references to their doings in the papers occasionally. So wish me luck, & dont worry about me. Best love to all the family; I have’nt had any letters for ages! Ben will tell you a lot of my news first hand, I would’nt have missed that day at Port Said for Worlds! I wonder if she’s got home yet.

Tons of love from your loving son

Ted


Again, this was written as one long paragraph and has been split into several to make it easier to read.

 

4 October 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Postcard from Port Said

Quite a family meeting. Both fearfully fit. Just off to dinner. So long.

Ben & I having a great time here! Don’t tell me it’s a strange place to meet. We go on tomorrow I expect.

Ted.

PC Port Said 14 10 14 Address

PC Port Said 14 10 14 Picture


In his diary he said:

Went straight through to Suez, through the canal and coaled at Port Said – here I met Ben again, & we had a most cheery time, & bought half the place & finally had dinner at the great Eastern Hotel with Alix M, Nobbie Clarke & Archie M. great rag.

According to Drake-Brockman, they were at Port Said on the 4th October. Archie Mankelow and Nobbie Clarke were fellow officers in the Garhwalis, Nobbie was to marry Archie’s sister Alix.

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4 October 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Suez Canal.

Posted Port Said

Nov 4th 1914

Dear Mother.

We get to Port Said today sometime I believe so I am going to post this, as the mail will get home before we do I fancy, if we hang about as we are now.

I hope I may see Ted at Port Said, after that I think we may leave the convoy & go on, on our own. Anyway I hope so because it seems to be endless this voyage, I’m dreading the part after this too because it’s all the worst; I was ill the 1st go off tho’ it wasn’t really rough, & in the Red Sea we had it like a mill pond.

At Aden Alix & I went ashore but it was boiling hot; now at last it is cooler, & soon we shall feel it awfully not being used to it. We are about 50 transport going along together, we have been quite near Ted’s ship once or twice & at Suez yesterday, we were in harbour together but no one was alowed off. After Port Said we get to Malta & then Gib, they say we shan’t be back till almost the end of the month but you can expect me any time after this.

We’ve heard very little news but I see in one list of casualties that Laurence Russell is wounded. I did not find anyone else I knew, but that was some time ago of course. I want to get back quickly now, once we leave the convoy as they will be in France fairly soon. I don’t suppose our people will go straight into it, they are sure to let them climatize at first. I shall hear from Ted at Port Said anyway even if I don’t see him.

The Irish Rifles are an awfully nice lot, Alix & I are having a very good time; they have a band too on board which plays twice a day, & we dance in the evenings. The Irish Rifles are only going home to get some warm clothes & then straight to France, so of course they are in good spirits. There was a Tommies concert last last night, there was quite a good deal of talent.

This is my last time of peace I fear, for the Mediterranean is so rough, Alix had a bad go of fever after we left Karachi. Our cabin was a sort of hospital, but everyone was awfully kind.   I had my rotten Lansdowne inside once again to add to the comfort of things, & I lived on Alen & Hanberries food for 3 days but have been eating again now, tho’ the food is frightfull & not getable mostly as they have so few waiters, but we are all getting used to the discomfort & are more or less cheerfull, under all the hopeless circumstances. I really wonder that we are, because of course there’s not one single person on this ship who has not a husband at the war, bar Alix & I & we’ve brothers & her fiancé.

I’m going through the canal, it’s so peacefull;  I hope we are able to land at Port Said. I want to get one or two things there, though now we are to pay for our messing & they are keeping us so long on this voyage. I shall have to be carefull with my money

I do hope you are allright. I’m longing to get back to you again. I hope you are doing that press clipping scheme for Ted. I live in hopes of seeing the Gloucester somewhere, there may be a chance perhaps.

Did I tell you in my other letter which I think will arrive the same mail as this, to post me a letter when you get this c/o Cox Southampton S.S. Dilwara to wait arrival. I shall get it allright I expect when I arrive. Heaps of love to all

Your loving

Ben


Although this is dated November,we know that Ben was in Port Said in October, she must have got the date wrong when writing her letter.

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15 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

On the way to Karachi

Tuesday Sept 15th 1914

Dear Mother

I must just send you a line now in case I don’t get time before we sail. Alix & I are on our way to Karachi, we’ve got passages in the Dilwara (you will have had my cable which I am sending before I sail) & you will also have had my mail letters, telling you I had a good chance of a passage. We had a dreadfull rush, only 12 hrs’ notice & everything to pack & see to, goodness I don’t know how we did it. Mr Fox ran all the travelling part you see, it isn’t quite like starting from Guildford; we were 30 miles from a station! and coolies carry your luggage down, we had 20!

Alix & I are awfully lucky to get these passages & together too, we are the only two from Lansdowne this time; the others have to wait till end of Oct. Now we go along with the 7th Division under the same escort, so shall be more or less with the 39th till they get to France, an historical voyage anyway. We travel with warrants marked “War 1914” in red ink, everything free, so I’ve saved £10 or more in railway fares & it wasn’t right to spend about £30 or more to get to Dick for a month, as he is giving up Lahoal then, so I’m very lucky.

I shall get my P. & O. refunded when I get back, no time this end and I can never discribe this journey; it is dreadfull frantic heat, well over 100 in our carriage & we are crossing the Sind desert, & the whole carriage is really inches in dust & we ourselves are absolutely black & pour with perspiration the entire day.

Well it’s good training for the red sea, which will be alarming, & we are only going 8 knots an hour all the voyage, it will take us nearly 5 or 6 weeks, so I am sending this by the mail this week, which will overtake us but I shan’t be far behind. I’ll wire the day I land & come along. I’ve got tons of luggage, 3 packing cases – I’ve brought all the china Ted & I had back, rather a nice dinner service & tea set, & all his books.

The discomfort of this journey is beyond discription, but I shall be glad to get home so I don’t mind. Ted will be glad to know I’m safe & on my way back before he sails too, & don’t think he quite like leaving me stranded you see, four days’ journey which one can’t do alone, from Dick makes one rather alone. I don’t suppose I shall see Ted as they have embarked but he will know I’m there, but I hope I may get a glimpse if we stay a few days before sailing, I expect we shall.

Yesterday we spent at Lahore, you have 22 hours’ wait! & you sleep in the waiting room, goodness it was a nightmare, so hot & mosquitoes, flying ants all over the place. My mosquito bites swell up to an enormous size, I suppose my blood isn’t in a brilliant state. This journey & voyage won’t do me much good, I look like nothing on earth but a few days at home will put that allright.

Really the war news is better isn’t it, how thankfull I am, & I hope & pray the fighting won’t be so fierce; by the time our lot get there it will take another 6 weeks, & lots of things can happen in that time. I do hope Willie & George are safe, I don’t know for certain if Willie has gone. I’m afraid such a heap of our friends must have been killed, it’s too dreadfull.

It would be nice if the Gloucester formed part of our escort, I hope we go to Malta; we shall I expect. This train is full of “families” of the Expeditionary force, going into the Dilwara, but Alix & I with our usual luck have a carriage (2 berths) to ourselves. We were packed in last night all under one punka in the waiting room, your nightdress was the only thing you could face near you!

The Dilwara is either a hospital ship, or we are going with some of the Rifle Brigade or Lancashire Fusiliers. I may be able to tell you later, anyway it’s not a pack of females as was expected. There are three troopers with females in.

Poor Ted is very much fed they’ve been kept so long waiting, & are in a very dirty camp. They are longing to get off, he tells me he’s very fit tho’ & looks so well everyone remarks. In Lansdowne he looks dreadfull, so white & pasty.

I really must thank you most awfully for the gorgeous box of things I just got before I came away, they are all too ripping & so much what I wanted. Please tell the girls how much I loved their little contributions, all so dainty & all but they’ll all be useful at home & NO waste; I shall want no overclothes, bar a rough skirt, the dress is sweet & fits beautifully & the little ninon coat I can’t get over at all, I’m dotty on all the things.

You have been ripping sending me all the things I’ve wanted out here, everyone has spoilt me, the family I mean. Ted & Dick I can never thank enough; they vow they can never thank me enough for coming, but that’s rot, I’ve loved it. I’m so longing to see you all again, & I’d so hate to be so far away with Ted in the show.

It seems as if I was sort of rushing home but I find there’s not more than a month before my original time of sailing in November, I’d add more if I’d time. I must try & collect a few presents at Port Said!! I’m living on Ted’s pay at present!! Dick wired did I want money, so I wired back No I’ve got heaps!! So he wired back if you are so rich I’ll be on the borrow.

Rather sickening for Alix, she was out here for another year but she wants to get back before Nobbie Clarke or her brother get to France. She will come to Delaford soon. I feel sorry for her, she & Nobbie were only engaged a week before he went, & being only 22 & 23 they take it rather hardly.

Your loving

Ben

Heaps of love to everyone.

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15 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

ERPB Letterhead 10th Sept

SIND CLUB,

KARACHI

Sept 15th.

Dear Mother

Still here! we are however embarking tomorrow and sail probably on the 18th or 19th, but our destination is unknown at present, but, as you must have seen in the papers, is somewhere in Europe. Ben is supposed to have got a passage in a trooper called the Dilawara, at least she told me her name had gone in for that boat, & Mankelow, Alix’s brother, wrote to me from the docs on Saturday (today is Tuesday) to say they (Ben & Alix) had got passages on the Dilwara, & he had wired to them to start on Sunday, that wd land them here tomorrow. But I have had no wire or anything from Ben & so I don’t know if she’s coming or not! Anyhow as we embark on our boat tomorrow, & Ben probably only arrives tomorrow, it’s extremely unlikely we shall meet! However you’ll probably hear from her too, as to whether she is coming on the Dilwara or not. If she does, she comes with our convoy of ships taking the 7th Division, so we shall more or less be coming home together. Rather less than more with me at present I’m afraid! But I’ll get 10 days leave & come over & see you all from Berlin some day! If Ben gets the Dilwara she ought to be home about middle or third week in October, if not she’ll probably be coming home in the officers’ families’ boat leaving India about Oct 18, which would land her home about Nov 20th or so I suppose. In any case she’ll be all right as its a Govt: boat, & she’ll come under escort if necessary, but I should hardly think it would be.

Better news today, & I see the Germans are retreating hard, but there’s a lot to be done yet before we’ve finished them off. There’s no doubt, however Brutal it sounds, that they must be wiped out & sat on once & for all; they are only savages apparently, & as such have no place in Europe.

Still very hot here, but I’m very fit & well. I’ll try & write & let you know where we are going, as soon as we know ourselves!! Love to all

yr loving son

Ted.

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10 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Sept 10th 1914

Dear Mother. I got your mail letters today. I was waiting for them to answer, also I did think I’d be able to tell you for certain about my passage on a trooper; there’s a good chance of our getting passages in one leaving Karachi on the 18th, 10 of us from here are moving heaven & earth to get it. Otherwise they say we are sure of one in late Oct.

I shall be tempted to use my P. & O. before then I feel sure, but otherwise I find I can save about £50. Staying on here of course means using Ted’s money so I am wanting to get back, also I can’t bare the idea of being up here, it’s miserable, and Dick only within 4 or 5 days’ journey, and that impossible to do alone; but he advises me to take this trooper as he has given his service to government in November, so it would be sheer waste of about £20 to get to him for so short a time. Shillong is off, needless expense and certainly I don’t feel like going anywhere for enjoyment these days; and without Ted or Dick I should hate it.

It was all going to be so different before with them both; it seems so funny in your letters to hear you say how sick Ted must be to be out of it, when he’ll be so very much in it. At present the 7th Division is still at Karachi and they don’t sail till the 18th, and then only go 8 knots so won’t be on the continent till almost the end of Oct. Then they won’t put these Indian troops straight into it if they can help it, they’ll want to climatize ‘em a bit, so one hopes & prays that the fighting won’t be so fierce as it has been, or is now, by then.

So relieved to hear about Paul. If we get this trooper on the 18th we go under the same escort as the 7th Division, but of course I don’t suppose we shall see anything of our friends & relatives; it will be a historical voyage anyway. Oh, but the heat in the red sea, people say it will hardly be possible! And a frantic journey to Karachi, about 10 of us are trying for it from here; the people with kids of course can’t go, it would be too hot. So that leaves us more chance of getting passages. We are on the end of a wire & hope to hear any minute; such a packing there will be as we only get about a day’s notice, it takes more than 2 days to get to Karachi.

I hear from Ted most days, and several of the others of course, they hate these delays. Ted’s Trooper is the “Coronader” No. 39th transport, he embarks today. They’ve been in camp in the docks so far, and better off than most because the regiments who have embarked aren’t allowed ashore at all!

Will you get and send to Ted under the address I gave you last week with aditions found out by you, 3 refills (batteries) for an Ever Ready Baby Electric torch & one new bulb. He gave me one of these, a ripping thing but I gave it back to him to take, and by the time the parcel reaches him he’ll want new refils. Just risk sending them because there’s a chance of them reaching him, but you’ll know more your end about that.

Thanks for the cutting & intercession paper. They had a service here last Sunday (no parson) but I couldn’t go. I’ve been pretty rotten again, yet another chill, & those frantic pains in my back, but I stayed in bed & sat up at a huge fire for 2 or 3 days & caught the rotten complaint in time. I’m getting more experienced in it! It’s lucky for we’ve only a Black Doctor now up here and I couldn’t have him.

You say there won’t be a man left anywhere in Guildford, well that’s just what happen here, there only officers left at the Dept, no more men of any sort. It’s the oddest place in the world these days. I do so wonder where Willie is, he is in it by now I feel sure, the casualty list must be dreadfull. We haven’t had one at all yet – I shall hear a little news, when once I start that I shall dread landing.

The troopers arrive at Southampton, I don’t suppose anyone will be able to meet me – it’s a long journey & you may not know exact date, tho’ you can more or less find out – but I shall be quite allright and if  I can’t get on (arriving late or anything) I can go back with Alix for the night, she lives close by.

Anyway I’ll wire directly I land but it would be waste of money to meet me, since it’s so different to what my original homecoming was to have been. The girls tell me they do heaps of work in the house, I suppose most people are grabbed for nursing. I think I might help with the cooking as well.

Splendid you being able to put your art to such good use, I feel as useless as they make ‘em now, so stranded and Ted having gone, I’m no good to anyone & it all means spending money being up here alone with this house & servants, you see one can’t do without certain number out here, living is so different to at home. Cooking for instance one couldn’t do, the kitchen is hardly human to start with, some way away from the kitchen always! Does that mean Mr Kirwan will go to Europe if the terriers go, I suppose so as they always take a chaplin.

Will you when you get this join some “Press Clipping Agency” & get them to send you all cuttings about the INDIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE and “The Gloucester”. Ted tells me to tell you this, you send them a sub & they send you the cuttings & that way you miss none. I’ve some to keep till I get back, Ted says this is very important so start at once see? You may not hear much from him he says.

He wants me to get home as soon as I can, and you are not to worry about him, easier said than done isn’t it. Anyway I’ve got a lovely lot of praise from him in his letters which has made me glad to have been here, tho’ it was so very awfull the very fact of seeing him off  & all- it ended such a ripping time with him here somehow that I hate being here without him & longing to get away.

Please tell the girls they’ll get no letters I’m afraid this mail but I loved them. I’ve so little time these days & there’s no news. Nothing happens here. You must read them out this & give them my love. I’m expecting the parcel any day now.

Tons of love your loving Ben.

The buckles are sweet, I’ll keep them because I haven’t had the shoes made of course. Dreda’s birthday tomorrow. I’ll remember it, so I did Peter yesterday. Lovely for Ruth to get such a gorgeous chance of nursing, she must be pleased.

I wonder if the little book turned up I sent for your birthday, I expect so. Billie Maud is fine isn’t he & the Yomanry is so rough too! I wonder what Specs has done. Wiggs tell me he was inlisting into Kitchener’s 2nd Army, well it obvious the right thing to do, however much against soldiering one is. I do consider the civilians are fine all the same, as it’s not their job- after all one expects a soldier or sailor to live for a chance of active service, their whole training leads up to it, but with a civilian he has all the roughest part & none of the nice.

You will have got Ted’s name on the intercession list now.


Intercessions are formal prayers in church where someone is prayed for by name.

Peter, whose birthday Ben remembered so briefly near the end of the letter, was a younger brothers who had died at school of meningitis aged 16.

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3 September 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Sept 3rd 1914

Lansdowne.

Dear Mother.  I got your letter last week, I was so thankfull to get a mail as I’d had to wait more than a fortnight, and just at a time when one wants to hear so much.

All your letters were of course full of the war, it was so funny reading your remarks about Ted being out of it; I expect you gathered the Indian troops were being taken by the papers & Lord Kitchener’s speaches, before you got our letters saying they were mobilizing here.

You will also know by now that the 3rd & 7th Divisions are going straight for Europe; the Egypt affair is quite off, so by the time you get this Ted will be very near the front.

I fancy they’ll keep them a bit to get the men climatized. I’m afraid you’ll be very worried but I’m praying hard that the worst may be over by the time they get there, you see it will be almost another 5 or 6 weeks. They sail from Karachi now, in a few days.

I heard from Ted nearly every day and apart from being very hot & a dreadfull journey he seems very cheery and fit- I’m so awfully glad I was here to send him off.

Look here, this is how you will know what the 39th Garhwals belong to – they belong to the 20th Brigade, 7th Division, Indian Expeditionary Force. A. and you can use this as an address. Put the name & Regiment very clear, we from our end send them to the Post Office at Bombay but you would either put C/O G.P.O. or war office I should think, you must find out. Letters to Ted ought to get to him sometime addressed like this, when once he gets to Europe.

He wrote to you last mail from Kotdwara he said & I’ve told him to be sure to let you know anything there was to know; he’s got so used to me telling you things, you know what I mean. No more definite news re the trooper, we may go now in lots of about 100 with the reinforcements from this country. There are rumours that the 1st lot sail about the 19th of this month, there have been 700 applicants from both divisions but they cut out any that are not genuine.  I should think Alix & I are almost sure for one.

It seems I can get practically my full return fare back from the P. & O. which will be a great save, as you only pay your messing on a trooper, about £5, & very small tips & no railway fares.

I haven’t heard really from Dick since I told him I shouldn’t go to him again but it would be a hopeless running away of money, the journey alone being close on £10 or 11. And it seems it would only be till November & he will get home I expect, as ship’s doctor or something.

He says he will send me to Shillong to the hotel there if he won’t go as it costs such a lot; but I don’t want to go alone after it was all going to be so ripping with him & Ted, besides I’m longing to get back, & it seems it will only be a month or perhaps not even that, earlier than I intended, & it seems too foolish & wasteful to spend Ted’s money & Dick’s just for the sake of a little gadding about, which one doesn’t want these days.

I can imagine it must have been dreadfull for you, everyone going off. Willie & all too but when you wrote the expeditionary force hadn’t gone, and with the first lot no territorials went, did they. But by now I suppose they’ve had a chance. Splendid Paul having that go at those German cruisers, I don’t quite know why they didn’t finish them off more; it must have been gorgeous for Paul. Now I hope there won’t be much more, he’s had his little go, hasn’t he.

I suppose George was in with the Scots Greys, I do hope he’s allright. It must be dreadfull for you, as I daresay you have casualty lists by now; I doubt if we get them at all. I shall so dread landing in a way, as one gets so little news on board. I shall be thankfull to get home, one feels so useless out here and I suppose everyone is doing something at home.

Alix has had 6 months’ hospital training which ought to come in usefull, we feel fearfully useless with nothing to do in the usefull line out here. And besides, being so far away now all our people have gone to Europe.

It’s gorgeous weather here & I hope the rains are over, we can have all our meals in the garden as it’s not too hot, & we’ve a nice shady place. We can play tennis again but ladies’ fours seem so odd, especially out here. There are always more men  than girls. There will be about 23 females from here, not counting the children, to go home. Everyone is going now, as if anything should happen to one’s people, they’d send them to England to be nursed you see.

My box of things ought to come along next week. I shall keep all the things, they won’t be in any way wasted. We are busy at present packing all Alix’s things from her bungalow, so that if we go off suddenly we can have plenty of time for mine; I hardly know what belongs to me & what doesn’t, I shall have heaps & heaps to see to. What with money & servants & accounts my brain has never had to work so hard!

I feel dreadfully sorry for Gossie, but I suppose most of the naval show is over; it was gorgeous that we did so well, but a fearfull suspense all that time with NO news, only rumours. I was so thankful Paul was not there, and he hasn’t been out of it either. I suppose Specs has now inlisted as everyone has, but they won’t send any of that lot out till they had at least 6 months training, will they.

Fred Lumb got back in time, but only just; he’d gone over the border into Tibet, so never got any of the wires recalling him. He did 35 miles a day over impossible country for 7 days. I just saw him & had tea with him in the mess the few hours he was here, he had to go straight on; too thin for words and fearfully tired, but only too thankfull not to have been left behind. It was touch & go if he’d catch ‘em up.

I must end now. Please give my best love to the girls, I’ll write to them next week

Your loving daughter

Ben.

Just heard from King & Hamilton that your parcel has arrived so will send for it.

I somehow thought you wouldn’t go to Selsey even if the girls did. I sent two of my mails there, but I suppose you got them.

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25 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Aug 25th 1914

Dear Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your loving daughter

Ben

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

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19 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Lansdowne U.P.

Aug 19th your Birthday

Dear Mother. Thank you ever so much for your letter, I must try and get a letter off to you today, & will you please tell Dreda & Jane that I may not be able to catch the mail this week but they shall hear next; I’ve so little time for writing, there are such heaps of things to do and see to.

Here is all bussell & fuss as the two regiments leave tomorrow & the 2/39th on Friday; they’ve been all ready for some days & very anxious to get off. Alix & I have been awfully busy making & mending, but the little they are allowed to take is awfull I consider, only 60lbs personal kit & the lord knows when they’ll get back.

I’ve got all Ted’s things packed up in tin-lined cases, I wanted to get it done before he left; I’d so hate doing it after. I simply won’t realize that he is going off to war, they all seem to think in time & if it lasts they see some fighting. I am so glad that one of the family is here to see him off. I rather expect our letters will be the first you’ll hear of their going, or the officers on leave who’ve of course been recalled & are to join at the destination (no-one knows where that is), so you may hear through that.

They are to be at Bombay early next week. In the 2 division there will be about 50 regiments & that means about 30 transports. I suppose they’ll use any old ship they can get. We’ve heard very little news, and it seems it’s scarce even in England. In the next few days we shall know more after this big battle, I hope & pray the worst will be well over by the time any of their people there, & then they’ll have had the excitement of going & all & be more or less safe. I suppose such heaps of people we know and hear of are in the expeditionary force & have gone.

I’ve just heard from Dick, I don’t suppose we shall go to Shillong now unless the Pugras are on because it will cost a lot of money so I shall go straight to him as soon as ever it’s cool enough. Anyway I shall go in a month’s time as I can stand a little of the heat & won’t sooner be with him, but we shall fix that all up & I haven’t had time to hear from him since my letter telling him for certain Ted was going. Dick seems very fit again & cheery.

Thanks very much for saying you’ve sent my parcel, it will arrive some time I suppose & I shall be sure to love all the things. Shillong if it is off and all the things I wanted won’t be of very much use if I am buried with Dick at Lahoal, but I shall have them for when I do get home. I’m hoping it won’t be very much later on than November, as most people will be going home then, I mean the wives & families left here.

How expensive for Dreda’s furs really, it doesn’t seem worth getting them out here because in the summer sales you can get a set for £5. I do hope my leopard skins won’t be so much. Thanks so much for seeing about it. I shan’t get my fur coat now, as Fred Lumb has been recalled from his shoot.

Please when you get this address me c/o King Hamilton & Co. Calcutta, letters & everything, as I shall have left here & I’ll keep them up to my movements.

I heard from Paul from Alexandria, it must have been a day or two before they dashed to Malta. I’m dreading a naval battle with the Austrian Fleet.

I must end up now. I’ve got to go through all the accounts & learn something of this rotten money & business matters. Ted is very flourishing, it’s awfully worrying him going but he is dreadfully lucky to get this chance & being Adj: has a responsible position. I’ll be able to write more next week on my hand then. I’m very fit.

Heaps of love

Your loving Ben.

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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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