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Category Archives: Bobby Reed

20 December 1914 – Ted to Ben

Dec 20th

Dear Ben

Thanks most awfully for the parcel of mitts etc; they are lovely, and much appreciated and quickly found takers. That’s the best of those small parcels, you can dispose of them easily and they are most frightfully useful to fill up losses and things which have got torn or worn out-

Nothing much doing at present. The weather is fairly miserable, very damp and raw, & it keeps on raining on and off. However, tap wood, the men are keeping wonderfully fit, & they’ve certainly got enough clothes on. Bobby Reed went in to officiate for poor Young – I told you he had died of his wounds, did’nt I? – for a day or two at Brigade H.Q., and while there managed to get his parcel of uniform, & now sides about in it! He says it’s so much nicer than this thin stuff, as being warm, you dont have to wear such tons of stuff underneath.

Poor Young you know was just standing on the road by our 1st Bn Head qrs, behind the trenches about 1/4 mile or so, & a bullet came along & hit him. It’s the same road that Nobby has to come up every night with our rations, & it is very unsafe altogether, a lot of chance shots, which miss the trenches & come over & some aimed shots too, as I’m sure they can see the road in places. Was’nt it rotten luck, & we are all most awfully sorry, as I’m sure you will be.

My dear “Torchers” won’t work, so I am sending him in tonight to Major Stewart to see if he can do anything as I can find nothing very wrong. We have had disturbed nights these last 2 nights, a devil of a lot of firing & searchlights all over the place. My dear Guy Mainwaring has got mumps! and has I hear gone home, but whether the latter part is true or not I don’t know. Archie is doing Adjutant now. Stewart has got brigade major in Young’s place.

A fearful heavy fire suddenly broken out down on our right now, but all seems fairly quiet in front of us at present, & I trust it will remain so; heavy guns & shrapnel going off too, a most awful din! Thank goodness I’m in the dugout! Last night there was a lot of artillery fire to the north of us, & the whole sky was continually lighted up by flashes of the guns, & bursting shells, but it was a long way off, as the sound took a long time to reach us. Two of our aeroplanes have been very busy today; it was quite a clear morning, blue sky & all, & there mono planes looked gorgeous; the Germans fired one or two shrapnel at them too, which looks awfully pretty, little puffs of smoke against the blue sky. I’m frightfully keen on flying now. I hear Mac is going into the flying corps, lucky devil.

Tons of love Ted

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20 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 20th

Dear Mother  I got your little parcel of peppermints and stuff 2 days ago, I seem to remember having told someone in a letter that I had received them. They are most acceptable, and all the little oxos & cocoas I have put in my haversack as an emergency ration. Our Government rations still continue as good as ever. Bobby Reed & I have great cooking every morning here, frying bacon & mashing potatoes. He’s an awful good cook, & this morning he had a tin of sausages sent him which we fried with great skill! I got 2 lovely boxes of Biscuits from a friend of the Dudmans for whom I got a Derby sweep ticket last year; very nice of her was’nt it, Bee’s or Katie’s nurse I think it was. Just got 2 Daily Sketches & a Daily Mail, please thank Dreda for them, & for the one which contains a picture of Darwan Sing’s V.C. especially.

Still damp & raw here with lots of rain at intervals. Somebody swore they saw snow this afternoon but I don’t think so; but I suppose we are bound to get it soon. Vanity Set
By the way, can you get me something of this sort, a little pocket mirror & comb, sort of thing one wd never dream of using in peace, but in this show, where one is days without one’s kit, it would be most useful. If you could do this:- get the above, & a tiny toothbrush, (ordinary size with handle cut off will do) & a small size tube of tooth paste, & put the whole in a small, tin box about the size of one of those of one of those bivouac cocoa tins if possible, nice & handy to “slip in the pocket!” The Col: [Drake-Brockman?] had an awful nice little case, about 2½ inches square, folding flat like an envelope, containing a little glass, tiny comb, & a toothpick I think! But it does’nt matter about the latter. I should think Boots wd have one-

Could you do that for me please, as I like to do a little toilet when I can- [ie wash and tidy up]
I hope the cake rolls up soon, thanks awfully for it, it will be most acceptable, & disappear in no time I expect. Tons of love to all your loving son Ted

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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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