Happy new year

31 Dec


This is the last Christmas and New Year that I will spend with my Berryman ancestors, reading their letters, adding photographs and links, selecting a couple of hundred characters to tweet.

We have about 45 letters to go as the Berrymans ease into peace: some from Ted as he tries to get home to marry Nell, a few from Topher as he waits to be demobbed, and some from Paul in the late 1920s which suggest General Swan was right to be cautious entrusting him with Nancy’s happiness.

I will miss them. It’s not given to us to know our grandparents as peers, and working with these letters has enabled me to get to know my grandparents and their siblings as young men and women.

One thing I have learned from Ted’s time in Mesopotamia (Iraq) is that the decisions made by politicians cascade down the centuries. There is a straight line, drawn by Sykes and Picot, from the end of WW1 to the terrorists we are dealing with now and the wars they have involved us in. So…. Brexit. There are many opinions on Brexit, but the perspective of these letters makes it clear that our children will be living with the consequences – whatever they are – for centuries. And that in the words of the RAF, poor planning makes for piss poor performance. We have elected politicians on all sides who play games as if they have no consequences when their actions are very consequential indeed.

On the domestic level, may I share a picture I found last year showing me as an infant, locking eyes with Ted as an elderly man and doting grandfather, while my sister looks on. I did not know if any picture existed showing the two of us together and as the project progressed it became more and more important for me to find one. This gives me a deep and warm delight.

Let me wish you and everyone you love the happiness and safety in 2019 that Ted and his brothers fought for 100 years ago.

Ted holding me as an infant, while my sister looks on.
Ted, holding me as an infant while my sister looks on.

Posted by on 31 December, '18 in About


3 responses to “Happy new year

  1. Mrs L

    31 December, '18 at 16:28

    That is the loveliest of photos, and how apt. Thank you so much for sharing the letters – fascinating in their own right, they have also helped me enormously through the last few difficult years. I’m glad to know there are still a few to go. Best wishes for 2019, Mol x

  2. Family Letters

    31 December, '18 at 17:12

    Thank you so much, Mol. Ted and Nell, and my own father and mother, get me through difficult times and it’s touching that they have helped you too.

    It’s the sheer intensity of the look in that photograph which amazes me. Probably no focus and lots of wind.

    Big hugs. B.

  3. Anne and Tony Boden

    7 January, '19 at 20:02

    Ben, you have put so much love, research and application into this amazing 4 year project. Thank you for sharing these family letters with us all, they really bring that dreadful world war alive again.
    The humanity, warmth and concern for the family and special loved ones at home is very moving.

    How patient and supportive they were especially Mrs Berryman who must have been filling and wrapping up parcels every day of the week!

    Tony and I thought your ‘farewell piece’ was beautiful composed and the photo of you and Ted ‘locking eyes’ is most beautiful. We are so glad it came to light. He was indeed a very special gentleman, and I am so pleased that I knew and loved him when I was a child, He was wonderful with children and his “Gloucestershire Rhymes” are still selling. They remain a wonderful memoir of a remarkable and very brave man.

    With our love,
    Anne and Tony Boden


Write a reply.....

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.