Category Archives: Primary source

30 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

S. S. Concordia
Red Sea

Dear Mother

Here we are, well on our way to heaven knows where! All sorts of rumours where we are going to land of course, England, Southampton, Marseilles, Boulogne, everywhere in fact one can think of, but no one knows at all, it’s being kept an absolute secret. My last letter was from Karachi I think, when I told you I had met Ben, & she wrote and told you I expect, & you must have got those letters by now. We had awful fun there, she & I, as we were in dock for about 4 days before we sailed. I used to be fairly busy all day on the ship, but always managed to get off in the evening & go up & have dinner on the Dilwara & sit & talk to Ben till far into the night. Well, one day we got orders to leave the wharf, & next day, the 21st Sept, we sailed, so I have’nt seen Ben since then.

This is a huge convoy of transports, 4 – in all, & we have cruisers & battleships escorting us.  The old Dilwara used to be just alongside of us, but too far off to distinguish people. But ½ way across the Indian ocean she went gadding off on her own, with a small cruiser as escort, most exciting for Ben, was’nt it. She went on to land troops at Aden, & pick up some fresh ones, & this morning I can see the old Dilwara tearing along to catch us up. You see the Konigsberg, that small German cruiser, is still knocking about in these waters somewhere, hence the elaborate precaution of escorts.

Well, we ought to reach Suez in a day or two, but we shall take about 3 days getting through the canal at least, with all these ships, so I don’t suppose we shall leave Port Said till about 4th or 5th October, & then perhaps we may know more where we are going. The Dilwara I know is going to Southampton, & should arrive there I should think – this is only my own idea – about 25th Oct, but no doubt Ben has told you something more definite than this. I expect you could find out from the India office when she is expected if you want to run down and meet old Ben- of course there is just a chance that we may stay a day or two at Suez or Port Said, waiting while we all get through the Canal, in which case I may be able to get over to pay the Dilwara a visit, I hope so. What fun it wd be if Paul & the Gloucester were at Port Said too, & were part of our escort through the Mediterranean, & then we’d be quite a family party on the high seas. We met a small 4-funneled cruiser last night, but could’nt make her out, & I was wondering if she was the Gloucester ordered off East somewhere. Ainsly Talbot was on board the Dilwara, but has been landed at Aden. But Ben will have told you all the Dilwara news I expect.

It was a rough-ish, choppy sort of weather for the first 3 days out of Karachi, & I expect old Ben had to stick to her cabin. Our men, who of course have never seen a ship or a sheet of water bigger than a bucket before, were fearfully ill poor devils, but are much better now. Since the first 3 days we have had a gorgeous voyage, sea like glass, & cool breeze. The first day in the red sea was hottish, but since then it’s been lovely; hot of course, but a good strong head wind to keep us cool. I want to see Ben at P. Said or Suez to see how she stood the voyage so far.

Field lantern with talc sidesBy the way, I want you do to something for me, I want a camp lantern, to take candles, something after this style. If talc sides not procurable, glass will do, but I’d rather have talc if you can get em. You can get them at the [Army Navy] Stores or Harrods or any stores like that I think. They are generally made of black tin, with talc sides which slide in & out, & weigh about 1 lb. If possible I should like a folding one, but never mind if it does’nt fold up, an ordinary one will do. But it should be square shape, as above, & please send out one or two extra talc slides with it to replace hem if they get broken. Anyhow the A & N stores camp furniture dept: would know the thing exactly if you ask them, as I know they keep them, but I expect there’s been a run on them lately. Anyhow, have a shot will you at getting one, p’raps some military stores in Aldershot wd have one. Well, having got it please pack it up ready to send it to me when I can give you an address- of course wherever we land we are bound to sit down for a week or two to get men & animals fit after this long voyage, as we shall all be pretty soft, so we shant go gadding off at once, & there will be lots of time to send it to me. P’raps the India office will publish an address, but if they don’t & if we’re not allowed to tell you where we are (quite possible, this, as they keep things so secret) then you might ask the India office what address to send things to. But they are sure to let you know some address.

The sea here in the Red Sea is a most gorgeous colour, deep blue, & a gorgeous wind blowing. I am feeling most awful fit & well, & so much better than I ever did or do in Lansdowne. I can see the old Dilwara just off our starboard quarter, fearfully nautical these days, but its too far off to distinguish people easily, even with [field] glasses. Funny to think how hot we are now, & in about a weeks time we shall be shivering with cold I expect. We’ve only got think khaki drill kit, so lets hope they give us some warm clothes before we start. I’ve got lots of warm cardigans etc, but our kit is limited to 35 lbs!! So we can’t take much. Ben gave me a lovely Cashmere cardigan jersey, a blue one. I thought my yellow one was too good for this show, so Ben has got it & I’ll wear it all right after it’s all over. She tells me she got the lovely purple scarf you sent, & is very envious, but she’s going to keep that too for me. Thanks awfully for it, I’m simply longing to get hold of it & wear it, as I love those scarves. It arrived after I’d left Lansdowne. I hope you are all fit & well at home. we have’nt heard much war news, just a few spasmodic wireless messages; but what we have heard seems favourable; I wonder what the situation will be when we get there. I will stop this letter for a bit now, & finish it off later, when we reach Suez or P. Said.


3rd Oct.

Am sending this home by Ben. I believe we are going to Marseilles, but dont know for certain. Awful hurry. Tons of love from


Note – the first part of this was written entirely as one paragraph, though presumably on several pages of note-paper.  It has been split into paragraphs to make it more legible.


15 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

ERPB Letterhead 10th Sept



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



10 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude


10th Sept

Dear Mother

Still here you see, waiting to embark. We hear now we don’t sail till the 18th, so are stuck here for another week. Very trying all this waiting and knocking about doing nothing, & we’ve got very little kit. However it’s all part of the day’s work I suppose. Still I wish we could get off, we shan’t arrive in Europe till mid October now. It will be coldish I expect then. Ben has sent you an address she tells me, but it’s an Indian one, I expect. The War office has issued an address though as well, as it seems rather nonsense to have to send a letter all the way out here because it’s only got to come all the way back again.

Fairly hot here, but a nice sea breeze blows all day. There is no news, as we do nothing here all day, nothing to do, except a few parades. If you want to send me anything when we get out there, don’t forget some soap! as I expect that will be the most necessary thing. But at present I’m fairly well equipped, but as we are only allowed 35 lbs kit in the field, you can imagine we can’t take much.

I suppose all our friends in the Services have gone flying off, I hear all Guildford is out there, & people enlisting right & left.

Look out for us in the papers when the Indian expeditionary force lands, we’ve no idea where we are going to land at present, but it won’t be as I say till some time in October – Dont forget we are in the 20th Brigade 7th Division, I dont expect you’ll hear much about individual regiments when such large forces are engaged.

I’ll be able to write another mail before we leave here I expect.

Love to all

yr loving son


We are living in camp & messing [ie eating] at the club here. Very expensive! Have’nt had any mail for a long time: Ben should be getting her free ship home soon but we’ve heard nothing yet.

The trooper we are coming on is the COCANADA.


3 September 1914 – Ted to Gertrude


Dear Mother

of course you have seen that 2 divisions are coming from India to help in this show, and you must have guessed by now from what Ben & I have already told you that we are coming. Anyhow, we have got as far as this, & embark in a day or two, & ought to land in Europe somewhere about the end of this month, where, I don’t know. But it’s all so secret, & we are not allowed to tell you anything, so I’m afraid you’ll have to go with little or no news of me for some time, except what you can get from the papers. I’ll write whenever I can of course, but I don’t know how often that’ll be, My address will be as under:

39 Garhwal Rifles
20th Infantry Brigade
VII Division
*Indian Expeditionary Force A
c/o Presidency postmaster

(* or you can shorten it by putting I.E.F.A) but ALWAYS put rgt, Brigade & division, to ensure arrival of letters.

And keep all press cuttings you can get about Indian troops in the war, & the Gloucester; I see she has already distinguished herself. I’m in an awful hurry, & in haste to catch the post. I expect I’ll be able to post you a letter somewhere en route, & I’ll try when we land, but it will be all hurry scurry I expect, & I’m a busy man as adjutant.

So wish me luck, & don’t worry about me please mother. You’ll be having Ben home soon I expect, she’ll have told you all the news. Lovely sea breeze here, & I’m as fit as a fiddle.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


Ted wrote on a piece of paper torn from a Field Service Pocket Book. The letter was delayed, possibly by censorship, and took a month to reach Gertrude, whereas Ben’s written on the same day from Lansdowne, arrived on the 25th September.

According to Drake-Brockman, they had arrived at Karachi the previous day. Drake-Brockman also says:

En route we had a minor accident which fortunately was not worse. Our engine went through a small low culvert, derailing a couple of carriages. As we were going dead slow at the time, being close to Lahore, no one was hurt. Another engine and carriages were soon obtained and we continued our journey.

It’s possible Ted wrote about this from Lahore and the letter was lost, or maybe he didn’t have time to write about it at all.


28 August 1914 – Ted to Gertrude


Aug 28th

Dear Mother

Just a line this week. We left Lansdowne a week ago, & have been sitting here at this railway ever since waiting to entrain. We go to Karachi, & embark there for an unknown destination, most people have their own ideas as to where we are going, but no one knows really I think. It’s awful hot & stuffy waiting here, but I hope we shall move off tomorrow, or next day at the latest. Of course we have had lots of rain here & one or two uncomfortable nights, and we are thoroughly sick of waiting & inaction.

Stirring times these are’nt they & very anxious ones, I wonder what will have happened by the time you get this. I’m afraid my letters will be erratic after this, as I don’t know where we are going or when I’ll be able to write next. So don’t worry about me, I’ll write whenever I get ½ a chance. Ben is applying for a free passage home, as I have been ordered off, & should easily get it, also a free rly fare from Lansdowne to Bombay. I have fixed her up all right, & she ought to be home soon. I expect she has told you all about it. Excuse a short scrawl, but I’m fairly busy & its fearfully hot

Love to all yr loving son


D H Drake-Brockman, Ted’s commanding officer who wrote a history of the Garhwal Rifles’ experiences during the Great War, was splendidly furious about the delay:

This delay at Kotdwara in the middle of the hot season and rains was unfortunate and quite unnecessary. It was a malarious place, and at this time of the year alive with mosquitos… Altogether we were nine days in this delightful spot and, considering the further long wait we had at Karachi, it was quite unnecessary for us to have been sent out of Lansdowne till practically three weeks later if just a little forethought and common sense had only been exercised by the authorities in Simla…. Why the authorities at Simla were in such a great hurry to get us out of Lansdowne it is difficult to imagine. One would have thought that nothing would have been easier for them than to have enquired first whether the transports were ready for us or not, and then sent us off just in time to embark on them and so avoided these long waits in tents during the monsoon. … At Karachi we were once again detained for fifteen days in camp, so there could not have been any real urgency to get us out of our station in such haste. We could have remained comfortably and with considerable advantage.


18 August 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

I’m very busy these days, & have
got my hands full getting
the rgt: ready to get off, &
myself! But Ben is a tremendous

18th August/14

Dear Mother

Just a line to catch this mail. We are off somewhere with the other troops from India to help old England. Where we are going I don’t know. They are sending 2 divisions from India, & we are lucky enough to be one of the regiments going. It’s hard to sit at home & wait, for you, I know; but we men have good reason to be proud of our womenfolk on these occasions. So don’t be anxious about me will you, though I know it’s very hard, especially in these days of censorship & lack of news.

I don’t know when we leave here, in a day or two, anyhow before next mail day; so please don’t expect another letter from me till you get one, because I shan’t be able to post it anywhere yet awhile. But I assure you I’ll try & write as often as I get 1/2 a chance, even if it’s only half a line. As regards old Ben. I often wonder how I managed before she came to stay; how really dreary life must have been. She’s a perfect little person, & her staying here has been too charming & delightful for words. She is a great favourite with everyone & has made one or two real friends I think. But to me she has been perfectly sweet, & I can never thank her too much for all she has done for me. It has all been perfect, absolutely, and I can never thank her enough. My only regret is that I could not give her a better time, but amusements here are limited, & I am a busy man. If she has derived one quarter of the pleasure from her visit that I have, well I am more than amply repaid.

I have fixed her up all right after I’ve gone, & I hope she’ll be all right.

Well, goodbye for the present mother. Expect a letter when you get one, I’m afraid I can promise no more than that; wish me luck & a happy return; but remember I am but doing my humble duty like thousands of others. Best love to Dryden & Jane, & Rosamond & Ruth & lots to you mother

ever your loving son



13 August 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

13 Aug 14


Dear Mother

Just a line as I am frightfully busy & have’nt a minute to spare. The air is full of rumours, & I don’t know where or when we are going, I expect Ben will have told you all the news. However I’ll fix her up all right before I go, but I’m afraid you won’t hear much of either of us owing to delayed mails etc & censorship.

Anyhow we’ll both be all right so don’t worry. I do hope you’ve not had too much to worry but these are anxious times, but I think England is as good a place to be in as anywhere though I expect you are a bit un-comfortable owing to rising prices. But there is nothing to be frightened of, so don’t let Dreda & Jane get in a panic!!

Love to all

yr loving son



6 July 1914 – Ted to Gertrude

Ted's First Letter of the War

Ted’s First Letter of the War


Dear Mother

Just a line- Exciting times are they not, & heaven knows what may have happened by the time you get this, if you ever do. But you must’nt mind mother; I know the state of mind you must be in. Dont be frightened. War is a horrible thing & this was bound to come, & the sooner the better. It could’nt have come at a better time for England, & you need have no fear at home, you wont be troubled there.

And of course you are proud of having a son in the navy who is a member of the finest Service the world has ever seen, and whatever else you must be glad that he’s to have a chance of doing his duty & distinguishing himself. So dont be anxious; rather consider him lucky to get his chance; & I know Paul will play the game when it comes to the real thing.

I feel very out of it here; you can quite understand my anxiety as a soldier to be where the show is, but I dont see much chance. They may call on the Indian army for help, but I dont know what they are going to do. Anyhow I repeat I do feel most awfully not being on the spot, & I envy those who are getting their chance at last. I fully realise somebody has got to stay behind, & look after England, India, Egypt, & the rest of them, but it galls just the same, I would give anything to have a look in in this war.

I’m afraid we are all going to go through a trying time, but you must be brave, mother; I know you will be, &. dont be frightened or let the girls get frightened, there’s nothing to be afraid of; the Fleet will see to that. I only wish you had a son at home to help you through it all.

Best love to all & wish your service sons the best of luck,

Yr loving son


There is more information on each of the brothers on their pages; see the menu at the top of the site (if you are reading on a Mac or PC) or at the side of the site (if you are using a mobile device).

Ted and his sister Ben(edicta) were in a Hill Station in India at the start of the War. Lansdowne is in Uttaranchal in the Himalayas, and is still the headquarters of the Garhwal Rifles.


31 December 1914 – Ted to Gertrude (Christmas day truce)

Dec 31 / 1914

Dear Mother

Thanks most awfully for your last few letters. I’m afraid I’ve been very remiss in answering them, but I have’nt had a moment really. We came out of those old trenches on the night of the 27th, after doing 25 days & nights there, pretty long time was’nt it. We were glad to be relieved as you may imagine, the men were all absolutely doggo, as they had to work day & night to keep the trenches for from falling in, because the weather was so wet & beastly that the earthy all got sodden & soaked & had to be simply propped up, & our trenches were simply lined with boards & old doors & anything we could get hold of. I am writing this in nice comfortable billets miles away from the firing line where the whole Indian Army Corps has come for a rest for 3 weeks or so.

I have’nt much news to tell you except an extraordinary thing which happened on Christmas day. To begin with on Christmas eve all the German trenches were lined with little lights, which we afterwards discovered were Christmas trees. Well next morning we heard them singing & shouting in their trenches, and about midday they began lifting up hats on sticks and shewing them above the trenches, then they shewed their heads, & then bodies & finally they climbed out of their trenches into the open! Of course one could’nt shoot them in cold blood like that, tho’ one or two shots were fired; and after a bit we also scrambled out of our trenches, & for an hour both sides walked about in the space between the two lines of trenches, talking & laughing, swapping baccy & cigarettes, biscuits etc. They were quite friendly & genuine, & our Col: who talks German had a long conversation with them, & asked them how they were & everything, & you would never believe that we had been fighting for weeks. After about an hour their officers shooed them back to their trenches, and we came back to ours, but for the rest of Christmas day & night, & all next day, 26th, I dont suppose 2 shots were fired hardly by either side! Was’nt it weird?

By the way, leave is now open, & 3 of our fellows have gone on leave. I am, I hope, arriving in London about 3 o’clock on the 8th, if all goes well, as my turn is next; so you can expect me home, with a fair amount of certainty, on evening of the 8th, probably by a train leaving Waterloo about 5-6 o’clock. So if anyone likes to hang about Waterloo anytime about then they are fairly sure to meet me. Is’nt it GORGEOUS!!

Happy New Year to all

yr loving son


Ted’s CO, Colonel Drake-Brockman, gives a more detailed account of the Christmas Truce in his memoirs.

The cartoon below comes from Ted’s letter to his sister Jane, also about the Christmas Truce. It shows a Garhwali soldier saying ‘Bonjour Fritz’ to a German who’s wearing his pickelhaube and saying ‘Salaam Salaam’ back.

Christmas Truce Cartoon

Christmas Truce Cartoon


Posted by on 24 December, '12 in About, France, Primary source, Waterloo



About this project: I’ve received the letters

I got the CD in the post from the Imperial War Museum on Wednesday, and spent a chunk of time copying the files onto my hard drive, my external hard drive, another CD and another CD.  These are precious data.  I’ve also posted a copy to my brother and my cousin.

They are fascinating, of course.  I feel rather odd reading them though; these are my relatives, but they are also strangers and foreign: the past is another country, and all that.

The next task is to convert them from PDFs to text files and after some searching I’ve downloaded ABBYY pdf transformer, and it’s not doing a bad job, though they do need some tidying up.