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Category Archives: The Dudmans

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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18 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 18/14

Dear Mother I got a tiny parcel from you today containing some curiously strong peppermints, & some oxo & bivouac cocoa, most acceptable & thanks awfully for them. I’m waiting for the Colonel to go to bed, & then I’m going to eat one! It seems colder today, but it was quite fine. Our aeroplanes were very busy all morning. Tell Ben I’m keener than ever to take up flying now, & tell Jane I’m not so much Mr Stare-Stare as I used to be! Have you read about these small steel arrows they are supposed to drop from aeroplanes? We have heard that both we and the Germans have them; they drop about 500 or so at a time, & they come whizzing down point first; jolly is’nt it!

Biplane dropping steel arrows onto troopsYes we’ve heard all about the oId Kaiser being ill, & he’s dead, & better, & worse, & everything. I wonder which is true. I got a letter from Jim today, he seems very cheery; tell him I’ll write when I have time. He tells me the Gloucester is the Buzz of the fleet, which is a good thing. The enemy have been very noisy today, making a beastly noise shooting, & all last night too; very trying to the nerves. One of our scouts got right up to the enemy’s trenches the other night, & heard them laughing & talking; then he peeped over the parapet & saw them all sitting round a fire, & they never saw him! And 2 nights ago one of the 1st Bn scouts got onto the enemy’s parapet, but they suddenly got frightened, & started firing, & he lay flat between 2 loopholes till they finished & then crawled back to his own lines unhurt.

The pencil I asked for has never rolled up, the one I’m using now is nearly used up, I can only just hold it. Got a long letter from Mabel yesterday, she seems very full up with Red Cross work. What have you done with Topher? Is he going to the RMC, & going to take up soldiering as a career? It’s worth considering I think.

Mabel said in her letter that Christmas letters for us had to be posted on the 13th, but I got hers yesterday, so they only take 3 or 4 days- I must write to the Dudmans, but I have no paper. A few things like this or some notepaper & envelopes all in one wd be very acceptable, something small & handy. I’ll send you an F.S.[Field Service] post card tonight, just to see which gets home quickest. Glad you like my letters, but I’m afraid my last one or two have been very dull, but nothing much has happened. No news of being relieved from these trenches, this is our 15th day now- only a week to Christmas, it does’nt seem like it somehow. I have’nt spent Christmas in Europe since 1903! when I was a spotty cadet! Best love to all & again many thanks for the parceI. Send along the pencil & notepaper sometime.

Yr loving son

Ted

I meant to send the Davids a p.c. [post card] for Xmas but I can’t remember their address!!!

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10 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 10th

Dear Mother I got a ripping parcel from you today, with some cigarettes from Aunt Edward in it, some dubbin & some ripping milk chocolate, Thanks most awfully for it, especially the cigarettes, of which I have just run out. I also got a letter from the Dudmans, sending me a Christmas card, & saying they were sending some socks and mitts for the men. It’s very raw weather nowadays, cloudy & cold, & a cutting wind. But we are living underground a good deal so manage to keep fairly warm. I see by some papers we got today that our 1st Bn: man was not the first man to get the V.C. in the Indian Army, but another man got one on the 31st October apparently. Jolly sporting of the King to come out here was’nt it; I see great stories of his going into the trenches, but I wonder if they are true or not, as it would be very risky with all these odd bullets flying about.

We have got a Iittle bomb gun now in our trenches, which throws a biscuit tin bomb about 200 yards & goes off with a tremendous bang. We landed a bomb on the roof of one of the German dug-outs a few days ago & it exploded there, and huge beams & planks were thrown all over the place. I fancy it must have been very uncomfortable for the people inside!

I see French’s despatches in last week’s weekly times, which arrived yesterday. What splendid reading they make- I saw the othor day that they had been published in book form, his first ones, & I should rather like a copy if you could raise one. It’s been too bad weather for aeroplanes lately so they have’nt been about much. They are most awfully pretty sights in the air, especially against a blue sky with little puffs of smoke from bursting shells all round them; very pretty to look at, but not so nice for the people in the aeroplane! A man called Parkin has been attached to us for duty; I think he must be a Parkin of the lot who used to live up the avenue? He’s dark, & red in the face.

No news here; it’s fairly quiet except for this incessant sniping and bombing, which gets on one’s nerves. So glad to hear the uniform etc is coming- It will he ripping to have it. I see Sonnie Gabb’s rgt, the Worcesters, got specially mentioned by Sir John French. Dinner time.

Love to all

yr loving son

Ted


One of the things I found fascinating when I got the chance to look at the original letters was the sheer variety of stationery. This is a letter and envelope in one.

Ted to Gertrude

Ted to Gertrude


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9 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 9th

Dear Mother, better start here on 2nd thoughts, though I’ve put the date t’other way up. Is’nt it simply splendid, & you must have seen it by now, a man in our 1st Battn: has been given a V.C. the first ever won by a native in the Indian army What a gorgeous thing for the regiment, and it will make people know us now, & no one can say “oh, yes 39th, never heard of them, who are they-” We are all, as you may imagine, most fearfully pleased. The King pinned it on himself, & said “Let’s see, this is the first one in the Indian Army, is’nt it.” You see, the V.C. was only allowed to be won by natives after the Durbar, it was one of the Durbar concessions to India; and to be the first to win it is indeed an honour.

I enclose two cuttings from papers which you have doubtless seen, but it will tell you where we are, or whereabouts, anyhow! It was at F—–t [Festubert] that the man got the V.C. From what I hear it was as follows: after 2 frontal attacks had been made on some trenches captured from us by the Germans (I told Ben all about this) the 1/39th came in from the flank and fought their way yard by yard down the trench. You must remember a trench is only a narrow little thing, 3 feet broad, so anything you do fighting down one you’ve got to do alone, or nearly so, as there’s no room for anyone else. Well trenches are made with things called “traverses” in them, that is, pieces of the ground, in which the trench is dug, left there, & the trench runs round it, so:-

ERPB to GFB 1913 12 09

in this plan the dots being men in the trench. The idea of these traverses is that if a shell bursts in the trench, it’s effect is only local, & only hurts the men in that part of the trench, as the traverses stop the flying bits from going into other parts of the trench, see? F’instance: a shell bursting in trench A might kill all the men there, but men in B would be saved by the traverse; & vice versa of course. Well, fighting down a trench, the enemy can of course hide behind these and it’s exciting work running round them.

That’s what the chap got a V.C. for, for being in front all the time, and running round each traverse as he came to it & bayonetting the Germans in the next bit of trench; does’nt sound much, but it’s jolly plucky and 16 men were killed like this before the trench was taken. Still in these muddy trenches, mud is simply awfuI. Tell the Dudmans I should like a waistcoat pocket Kodak for Christmas, & please send some films. No news much, but I thought I must tell you about the V.C. Ben will be fearfully interested.

Love to all

Ted

Send me any papers or pictures you can about this V.C.

I hear the Stock Exchange are betting the war will be over before Christmas


A Durbar was a ceremonial occasion. Ted is probably referring to the 1911 Durbar which celebrated the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary.

A Naik was the equivalent of a Corporal in the Indian Army. Naik Darwan Sing Negi was the first Indian to be awarded the VC, though the action for which Khudadad Khan was received his VC took place earlier, and Khudadad Khan, who came from what is now Pakistan, is recognised as the first member of the Indian Army to win the VC. 

Naik Darwan Sing Negi Clearing the Trench

Naik Darwan Sing Negi Clearing the Trench

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7 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

-Monday-
Dec.7. Trenches

Just a line to say all’s well. A beastly day today, wet and windy and trenches in an awful state in consequence. Very good of Dudman’s to ask what I want, I will let them know when I’ve made up my mind, I can think of nothing at present. Have got a letter from you of 29th, so must answer it when I have time.

Not much chance of home leave just at present, but I’ll seize the first opportunity. I hope Ben & Jim fixed up my uniform all right. It’s ever so much warmer today, but I s’pose this rain will turn to snow soon. I’ve thought of a good thing the D.’s might give me; but I won’t tell you on here, the censor might’nt like it! Let me know the dates of my letters & p.c’s you get.

Love to all

Ted


The D’s were the Dudmans. The right to appoint a clergyman as parish priest did not always lie with the church authorities, in many parishes it lay with a local landowner. The Dudmans were patrons of the living of Pitney in Somerset. and had given Ted’s father, Charles Berryman, his first appointment as Rector there.