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Category Archives: Specs

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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