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Category Archives: Aunt Nellie

3 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 3rd! Sudden interruption 2 days ago and I have’nt been able to resume till today, out in the trenches again. How the story goes, or what I was going to say I have’nt the faintest idea! Anyhow, after being taken & retaken several times, the Germans at last established themselves, fairly strongly, & put machine guns. Our troops tried several times to retake them with no success, & then it was that our Brigade was called up, all except ourselves as I say whom the ADC could’nt find. So off they went, and our 1st Bn: covered themselves with glory, recapturing the trench, & getting a lot of prisoners, & capturing 2 machine guns, and they have made quite a name for Garhwalis, which is a good thing as they certainly deserve it.

After capturing this trench they stayed there one night, and then we came up and relieved them, as they had had a pretty hard time for 2 days. The trenches were in an awful state when we got into them, but that was after they had been cleaned up; what they must have been like when our 1st Batt: captured them after all that fighting I cant imagine; I heard some pretty ghastly descriptions. We went out, ostensibly for 24 hours, but stayed there eventually 3 days & nights! Another instance of elastic time. The enemy’s trenches were in parts on 20 yards off ours, & never more than 100, so you can imagine we had a lively time, & so did they. It was like this.

Map - Ted 1914 12 01

This is very rough, I’ll draw a proper one, & show you exactly, as it’s really most awfully interesting. And my dear in one part of the line the Germans & ourselves were actually occupying the same trench, with a barricade & a bit of empty trench between us! We spent the days throwing bombs at each other, nights too; bombs made of a bit of gun cotton inside an old jam tin, which you throw, & they go off with a huge bang. They did’nt shell us at all there thank goodness, as then our trenches were so close they would probably have hit them.

Well, we had 3 days & nights of this, & just before we left we got orders to exhume all the bodies from the trenches, & bury them behind, which we began to do, & got 40 odd out before we left, but there were lots more, all buried in the bottom of the trench, in the walls & parapet, in fact it’s no exaggeration to say that in one part you could’nt put a spade into the ground without finding a body. Excuse this ghastly description, but I think it’s as well to tell you some of the things that happen.

After 3 days and nights of this we were relieved, & went back into billets, that was on a Saturday, & we stay- in billets till yesterday Wednesday, so had a good rest, except for me as I was fearfully busy with office work & writing up records etc & never got a minute to send you a line. I am afraid I have several letters of yours to answer- one I have here is dated 26th Nov, in which you say you see the Indians have captured some trenches; yes, that’s the show of our 1st Batt: I told you about in the beginning of the letter, but I wish they’d give the name of the rgt. But you see it was really a bad show at first, till our 1st Batt: came up & sloshed them, so I expect they don’t say much about it in the papers.

You seem to have large parties of soldiers in Guildford, but what a shame that big lot did’nt turn up when all preparations had been made for them. Yes I wonder what Dick is doing, & whether he is on his way home yet. ½ a mo, just going to have Breakfast, & will finish later. It’s a wet miserable day, just our luck as soon as we get into the trenches again! Now to fry some bacon for the Colonel [Drake-Brockman] & me-
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We are in the same trenches now as we first came into on 29th October, so this is our third whack in trenches. But then there’s nothing else doing of course, it’s all trench work nowadays. But I expect the great Russian success will make some difference this side, at least I hope so.

You say in one of your letters that you got a p.c. from me of 24th, & your letter is of 26th. That must be the one I sent by King’s Messenger, You see each Tuesday a certain number of F.S.P.C’s from each regiment are sent by King’s Messenger, who carries despatches home to the King I suppose, & he arrives in a few hours of course, and so the p.c.’s get home much quicker. But I have several letters of yours to answer I’m afraid. I wonder if you got my requests for uniform; I do hope he makes the coat nice & big, as one wears such a heap of things underneath; if you have’nt sent 2 coats yet, better send only one, at first, to see if it fits.

I should like another tin of Bivouac Cocoa, which is top hole stuff & very handy; also some Oxo cubes. The little extra Balaclava cap you sent out is most useful, & I always wear it as it’s so light and handy. I’ve just been reading again your letter written “behind the Bar”, what a sporting effort! Yes, is’nt Bob’s death sad, but what a gorgeous end; a wonderful man; if only the public had listened to him! And he was such a gentleman that when the crash came he never turned round and said “I told you so!”

By the way could you send out 2 more refills for “Torchers” as Ben used to call him in Lansdowne; he’s absolutely indispensable. [Presumably batteries for a pocket torch].

Weather much milder nowadays, & the snow has all gone, but the state of the roads round here is chronic, mud everywhere. I wonder if I ever wrote and thanked Aunt Nellie for some cigarettes she sent; will you thank her if you see or write to her, & explain things; they were most welcome.

Things seem fairly quiet here today, very little rifle fire, I suppose both sides are having breakfast! By the way address me now as “GARHWAL Brigade” & not “20th Bde”, rest of address as before-

I really must try and get some more correspondence off now. I hope my letters are interesting, but it’s rather hard to make ’em as most days are the same. Do you keep ’em, at all, as they might form a sort of diary of the show afterwards.

Lots of love to all, yr loving son

Ted

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11 November 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Nov 11th

Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your last letter. We are still in these trenches and no sign of being relieved yet, and we are all very tired and weary as the continual strain takes it out of one a lot. Shell & rifle fire goes on all day, and one has to be very wary walking about the trenches by day, as the Germans have special picked shots posted in houses, trees etc who poop off at anything they see moving about. So it does to exercise a certain amount of caution, even if it involves a hands & knees crawl for a few yards over any bad place. But as we have now been 13 days & nights in the trenches we have of course burrowed about and made quite a rabbit warren of them. Still if one does get careless & show oneself a bit too much, as sure as fat ‘zip’! comes a bullet whizzing along from somewhere. We sent out 50 men the other night under Major Taylor (Ben knows him) to round up some Germans in a trench close to us. We cleared them out of the trench, & bagged six prisoners; they seemed quite cheery & not at all downhearted at being captured.

While this was going on, all the rest of the enemy let us have it very hot, & we had a very hot ½ hour, but were fairly safe in our trenches & did’nt suffer much; I don’t know what the German loss was, but I fancy we did some damage. Last night all our heavy guns bombarded for 3/4 hour a little village in front of our position where the enemy are very fond of collecting and annoying us. So we turned all our guns on to it and you never heard such a din. The whole sky was lit up with bursting shells, & an appalling noise, & heavy rifle fire going on at the same time. This morning the village is just a blackened heap of ruins, & the trees (you can see through your glasses) are all bust & stripped of branches. Does’nt it seem an awful shame that a ripping little village like that should be so ruined, and a French village too, as we are still on French soil; but I suppose such things are necessary in war.

We are all very fit up to date, though tired & sleepy. But every day they try and attack us to break through, & every night too, in fact one is always on the alert, & one simply longs to get out of these trenches & go for somebody; but our orders are just to sit tight here and hang on till all’s blue while bigger things develope elsewhere. We are much too weak a force to advance, & only just able to keep off these attacks; our line is appalling thin in parts, and we can only hang on with difficulty. Old sportsman Bobs is out here, & has sent for 3 men from each regiment in the trenches to see & talk to them; jolly sporting of the old man is’nt it.

I have had several papers from Rosamond I think, & some cigarettes from Aunt Nellie; please thank her, & I will write when I have time; her gift was much appreciated by the men.

So glad old Ben’s arrived home safely. I had a long letter from her a day or 2 ago. Can you send me a weekly newspaper, say the weekly times, as we never hear any news of the outer world here, & I don’t know in the least what’s going on, I wish they would relieve us; the regiment we relieved in these trenches were here 12 days & said they never wanted to see a trench again; it’s this awful waiting, doing nothing but sit still & get shelled daily as regularly as clockwork that palls so; if we could only advance or get a move on of sorts it would be an improvement. The farm we are round about is full of apples potatoes cabbages etc, so we go round at night & loot the garden for our meals, as we get no fresh vegetables from the commissariat, only tinned meat, jam, bread & cheese, so one wants a little green food occasionally.

It’s awfully cold here, especially in this thin Indian khaki. But thank goodness we are going to get the warm kit soon, at least we have been told to apply for it, but when we shall get it I don’t know. I wish I could get at my kit to get that sweater out; I want another warm thing to wear, especially at nights. I have got a lovely Jaeger Balaclava cap, just like the man in the picture in the Stores list! So tell Ben I shan’t want one now. The gloves you sent are gorgeously warm; you see it’s so raw nowadays, & very damp living underground such a lot. But on the whole we have been very lucky in the weather, we had all our worst time before we came here, & heavy rain in these trenches would be awful. ‘Jack Johnson’ just beginning his daily visits; yesterday they shelled us all the morning but without much result except noise. Very heavy firing going on up north, so I expect there’s a big battle going on up there, but we never got any news. Matches are always welcome, as there is an appalling slump on them just now. Love to all your loving son

Ted

Just had a top hole breakfast bacon cabbages & ‘tatoes all fixed up together & some lovely slices of French Bread & butter. I don’t quite know what I should do without your lovely silk scarf. So glad Jim is so fit, I wish he wd hurry up & come out. I wonder if we shall meet, hope so.


Written in indelible pencil on leaves torn from a signal pad.

Major G. H Taylor was killed two days later on the 13th November 1914.

‘Jack Johnson’ was slang for artillery shells.

“Old Bobs” was Lord Roberts, a retired general who had launched the Comfort Fund for Indian soldiers. His visit was to prove fatal: seeing that the Indian troops did not have great coats, he took off his own. The visit took place on the 12th November (the day after Ted’s letter) and the next day Lord Roberts contracted pneumonia, dying on the 14th a few miles from the Front. 

Ted to Gertrude - written on leaves torn from a field signals pad

Ted to Gertrude – written on leaves torn from a field signals pad

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5 August 1914 – Benedicta to Gertrude

Benedicta's first letter of the war

Benedicta’s first letter of the war

August 5th 1914

Lansdowne U.P.

Dear Mother, Very many thanks for your long letter, I must get my mail all off today so as to make more or less sure of catching the train down below. The dress you have got for me sounds ripping thank you ever so much, I shall hear if you’ve sent the box to Calcutta or here but it doesn’t matter much. I can get King Hamilton to send it along if I should still be here as it seems I am for life, the dreadful war has & will upset most things I expect, one can’t make any sort of arrangements, and all leave from here is stopped unless within 48 hrs recall, so at present Ted will not get his for Shillong, but I expect I shall go at the end of Sept now & meet Dick & then go on to him till he is houseless, & if I can’t get home in November I shall go to the Nobles, they will always have me. We hear very little up here of course in a way of what is going on, but it seems pretty dreadfull & at home you must all be in a fuss. I don’t suppose any officer will go from here but there is a chance of course, & they are all of course dieing to be off & everlastingly grumble at being so poked away, it’s all very cheery for us poor females but at the most they’ll be ordered to stations down below to take places of other officers gone, Alix & I can see ourselves stranded but I shall go to Assam, I feel more at home there and & it won’t be too hot by the time anything does happen.

Thank you ever so much for the ninon coat, I’m sure to love it. Jane and Eric don’t seem to have been over successful at Broadwater, but they had fun I expect. Ripping wizzing over in the little car; Jane will be one up on me in driving by the time I get back, as I have forgotten all about it I’m sure. A good idea going to Holmwood I’d love to see it again, the girls won’t remember much at least of course Dreda ought, & I can hear Jane making wild shots & pretending she does! I suppose you did alter that part in our will (nice subject?) didnt you, but you certainly ought to make some sort of compensation for us girls & go on Grandmother’s scheme of the female being provided for! Glad Fay & Mamie have been down- You do seem to have been doing a lot with jam & pickle walnuts & I hope you do the cherries, I rather like brandy cherries. I don’t hear from Burdice, she owes me two letters too, yes Diana seems not on the robust side which is a pity, she’s such a well looking child at least she was, I wonder if Aunt Mary will send her to Margate again. I wish Aunt Nellie could have got the Rowans, it would be nice to have someone we knew there. I am surprised about the Masons, awfully sad for the family, I always thought Mrs Mason looked so sad, as you say they’ll probably be smarter than ever.

I’m glad my room is to be papered, I should like it a plain white if I can, but it will have been started on or rather finished by the time you get this & it doesn’t matter a bit really. I expect it’s the same as Dreda’s as there was some over wasn’t there, I suppose you’d better leave the pictures for me, but I feel I shall never have a moment once I get back! & may I please have the gass taken away & electric light put. I feel I used much more gass as I never turned it down hardly.

Ted is very well but has lectures etc today but I daresay he will write tomorrow, he’s very distressed he can’t be in this war & swears all day, well so does everyone at not being on the spot. What about Paul, I suppose he’ll get in for some of it. tho’ I suppose the Home & Channel Fleets will get most of anything there happens to be. The rains here never cease, I didn’t think it could be as bad as it is, really it’s awfully depressing it gets on your nerves after a bit & we’ve now had it for nearly 3 weeks, we just had two more or less fine days & that’s all, & more rain during July alone, than there is in England in a year. Nothing going on, I don’t see anyone but Alix & even we can’t get to each other some days tho’ we are so near, it means changing both times as no umbrella or coat keeps this rain out, & after a lesson or two one fights shy of chills. I have a fire going, you have to watch your things so carefully, all my shoes go mouldy in one day, I find my brand new soft leather today a mass of mildew!

I am sending off today the little book I got for you, some of the stories are rather nice I think & so quaintly written, its for your birthday & many happy returns of tomorrow Aug 6th your wedding day, I expect the girls won’t forget some flowers, Dreda generally remembers, the excitement of Selsey may have put it out of their head. I do hope you have a nice time. Everything has gone up in price I suppose, one doesn’t in any way realize how dreadfull a war can be, wish we heard more, we get only summaries in the Pioneer & they are never satisfactory somehow.

All leave has been stopped out of this country, I do pity the poor officers who were just sailing for home. We have some kids coming to tea this afternoon so I must make some cakes but I don’t suppose they’ll be able to turn up. Two babies born here last week, oh I told you this before, Mrs Stack is rather a friend of Ted’s & she writes yesterday to say she is going into the drawing & is ready to receive visitors, also Mrs Archie Grey in a rapid recovery!

I would love to be with you at Selsey, I cant say life is very enjoyable up here at present I shan’t be sorry for a change, & I shall be too disappointed if I can’t get home this year as it will also mean I sort of stay about as both Ted & Dick will be houseless! Something of course will turn up & I’ve plenty of friends to go to but I’d set my heart on November, but one can’t tell how bad things will be as yet. Well I must end.

Heaps of love your loving daughter

Ben.

go on addressing here for the present.

(On back of envelope)
I have addressed the book to Delaford it will take longer than this, B.


Benedicta, known as Ben, was staying with Ted in regimental station in India. As we shall see, she was getting over an unhappy romance and had plans to visit Richard in Assam, but when war broke out she decided to come straight home.

She seems incapable of using fullstops let alone paragraphs and her spelling is poor.  This has been split into paragraphs to make it easier to read, but some of her spelling has not been altered.

Holmwood, near Hartley Witney, was their mother Gertrude’s old family home. It had been let since her mother died, but several of the children had been born there, and it was not far from Laverstoke, where their father had been rector before going to Camberley.

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