3 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 3rd


A mail did come in yesterday evening just after I had finished writing to you, & I got a letter from you dated March 21st, in which you had just got my letter saying we were coming out here. Very many thanks for your letter, I think somehow there must be one missing, as you mention Jim having lost only his fountain pen, & that you are sending me an account of it all. I suppose you mean the Tyndareus business, but you refer to it as if you had mentioned it to me in a previous letter, & that’s what made me think there must be another somewhere.

Many thanks for promising to send along a few papers, etc, they will be most welcome, but they are so expensive at home now; so please don’t worry about it too much; one wants really a weekly budget of news & some criticisms on things generally by people who know things, for which purposes the Times & the Saturday Review are excellent. Pictures of “Society” walking down Picadilly with broad & ugly grins, or of the latest revues may be amusing, but they are certainly not necessary, & possibly these hard days such papers as Tatlers & Sketches are an extravagance.

However – Yes, Desmond Gabb is just up the line here, A.D.C (I’m told) to our general. His regt is in the same brigade as we are, so we are bound to meet sooner or later. I’m almost sure I wrote & thanked Bee Dudman for “at the Front” but I will send her another letter to make sure. I think it wd be a good thing   if Miss Meade when writing to her brother happened to mention that I am out here with the 39th; I don’t want anything in particular, but he might remember the name if he saw it again so to speak.

Yes I wonder if the “back to the Land”            of those three will come off; jolly good thing for them if it does, especially Dryden who must be so heartily sick of the bank; I trust she did’nt “contract” measles. Nell writes & says her sister Gladys has it, so I do hope she did’nt get them too; everyone seems to be getting it.

The concert last night was quite good & I quite enjoyed it. The wind has dropped this morning thank goodness & it is nice & cool; it’s a mercy to get away from that impossible dust for a bit. I heard from the C.O yesterday & he tells me he is being invalided to India, which means he will be away 2 or 3 months I suppose at least, so I shall be in command for some time with any luck, unless, as I say they put anyone else in.

Best love to all

ever yr loving son


A search for Measles 1917 produces more results from the medical literature than from social history or contemporary accounts. It seems there was an epidemic in the US Army Recruitment camps, but the Berryman letters indicate that it had spread to the Royal Navy (see Paul’s letters of April 1917) and British civilians (Nell’s sister, Gladys). 

Measles is often now seen as an innocent, even comic, childhood illness (look! spots!) but it is dangerous to the immuno-compromised (children too young to be vaccinated, cancer patients, recipients of donated tissue, people with immune-system disorders) because it compromises their ability to fend off other infections like pneumonia which may then be fatal. Reading of Paul’s friends and Nell’s family remiinds us that community-immunity prevents the spread of infectious diseases and protects the vulnerable. 

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Posted by on 3 May, '17 in About


2 May 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Wednesday. 2nd May


My dear Mother-

Thank you very much for your letters – glad you liked the photograph. Our weather is gradually getting better thank goodness – not nearly so cold – but still plenty of rain & wind.

I say how awful about your purse – I am sorry Mother – but awfully lucky you did’nt lose all your money.

Nothing much doing up here – except we’ve been fairly busy during the last 3 or 4 days & working a bit late – but we’ve managed to get a couple of rugger matches in. We are rather keen on it in this ship – but with not much success in our matches as yet.

An awful lot of casualties still are’nt there – a necessary sacrifice though I suppose- & really the amount of prisoners – 40-000 odd altogether now. They must eat up such a lot of our food I always think.

So Dollie Darwen’s baby has arrived – and a son too – good – They seem to have had rather a rotten time of it lately in that house – what with measles an’ all – I must write her a letter of congratulation. I heard from Ben the other day. I wonder if she & Sheina have had any luck over finding a flat yet-

Am very much looking forward to seeing Topher’s letter. I don’t suppose they have much time for writing these days.

With much love to you all-

from your ever loving son


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Posted by on 2 May, '17 in About


2 May 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

May 2/17


Dear Mother

Mail’s late this week so I have’nt had a line from you yet, but it ought to be in tomorrow or next day but I’m afraid it will be too late to answer it by this mail. Not much news this week. Still here! & likely to remain here I’m told till mid-June, not a very pleasing prospect, as we are in a very dusty camp & there’s nothing doing here. In any case we shan’t see any of the scrapping this spring, as the hot weather is coming on now & they don’t & can’t do much while that is on.

I hope you have’nt been wondering too much if I’ve been round about all this fighting they’ve had lately up north of Baghdad; well, anyhow you know by now that I’ve been no where near it, but have been sitting quietly at the base all the time. However I suppose we shall go up sometime and shall probably be in time for some of the fun next autumn – if the war is’nt over by then!

The weather has been truly varied in the week since I last wrote. We have had one or two piping hot days, but the last two days have been the worst, a howling gale with a perpetual sandstorm day & night. Really it’s been most trying & one’s eyes get so sore & the air is full of flying sand & you simply can’t get away from it, tents are no good as sand easily defeats them & the whole of one’s tent gets smothered in it too. The temperature dropped into the 80’s, thanks to the wind, but I would much rather have the higher temperature & no wind. It has made a valiant struggle to rain tonight, but it ended in a miserable failure, though it made a great exhibition & we had lots of thunder & lightning.

The Colonel has gone to hospital with a touch of dysentry; he was’nt at all well when he went, & I had a line from him yesterday saying he felt very weak & could’nt eat anything, & how thankful he was he had got away from the hot & dusty camp into a nice cool & clean hospital. So he evidently was’nt feeling up to much. I don’t know how long he will be away, but these things always take some time to get right, especially in countries & climates like this. Meanwhile I am commanding the regiment while he is away, & unless they think I’m too junior I suppose they will leave me in command till he comes back, & also if he is invalided to India for any length of time which I imagine is quite possible.

I have been out to dinner once or twice with various pals, & I have also been to one or two concerts given by amateur troups here, exactly the same sort of thing as you see photographs of in ‘the Sketch’ etc occasionally, performing in France or elsewhere. I must say they are awfully good, much the same as amateur pierrot shows always are, they seem to enjoy it as much as the audience, who are always most enthusiastic, & are obviously all out to enjoy themselves. I am going to one tonight at a hospital near here; I have got to know some of the doctors & nurses through various pals whom I’ve met & one of the nurses asked me to go tonight; since when I hear she has gone on a month’s leave to India!, but I’m going to the concert all the same.

Capt Fox has just come in to my tent & said the mail may be in this evening so p’raps I may get a letter from you today after all; but all these things are always very “p’rapsy”.

It’s turned out a lovely evening, after the awful squalls of the last 2 days & the wind has dropped a lot thank goodness. Fox & I went into the town yesterday, to do some shopping; we went down by the river, & as there was this strong wind blowing, we sailed down in a very crazy craft, & I’m sure we nearly upset heaps of times, though the boatmen said it was all right : at least I imagine they said that, though I did’nt understand a single word really! Anyhow it felt very unsafe as the river was really quite rough & choppy in the wind. But we fairly whizzed along, so different to the usual method of progression by being punted & paddled, which is deadly slow. I’m having an early dinner with my friend in the wireless mess to get to the concert in time, so I must wind up.

Best love to all

Yr loving son



Samarrah offensive north of Baghdad, April 1917

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Posted by on 2 May, '17 in About


30 April 1917 – Richard to Gertrude



Dear Mother.

Many thanks indeed for parcel cake porridge etc. The crême-de-menth sweets are awfully good. The armlets too are quite alright, the rest you say will roll up allright. Did I tell you I wanted 16. If you could sew a biggish red S.B. on to them it would be nice, cut the SB out of a bit of stuff       no desperate hurry

Lovely now, so warm & I wish I was at home. I had a long letter from Ben. Tell her when you see her. I wonder if you have seen about the tent.

post going more later

yr loving son


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Posted by on 30 April, '17 in About


26 April 1917 – Paul to Gertrude

c/o G.P.O.

Thursday. 26th


My dear Mother-

Very many thanks for your letter – & I am ever so glad to hear your cold has gone & that you are quite fit again.

We only seemed to have a very few days of fine weather as to-day it’s gone back to its old habits again – very cold – windy and heaps of rain.

Yesterday we had a great rugger match ashore against another ship – but we were beaten.

So glad you’ve heard from Ted at last – I suppose by this time he is miles up in land somewhere. Dick’s given you a large order about a “tent”- I expect the people in the shop will know what sort of thing he wants.

Rather a fine show I thought that Dora raid – & I think our fellows did marvellously well – Really the casualties these days in the papers are sadly long are’nt they – seem to be hundreds of officers every day.

I am wondering how you like that book – really rather dreadful is’nt it – but of course it ends allright.

I enclose a snapshot of me taken the other day – just before a game of deck hockey.

Very best love to you all from

Your ever loving son


So Richard’s request for a tent does seem to have exasperated the inexhaustable Gertrude.

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Posted by on 26 April, '17 in About


24 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

St Mark’s day.

April 24/17


Dear Mother

Very many thanks indeed for 2 letters from you last mail, dated Feb 28th & March 7th which I got 2 days ago. How truly amusing the extracts from the Chronicle are, & I must really write to Ricketts & tell him he caught me out in a match 20 years ago! He will be vastly amused, and Miles will be too when I tell him of his mention in the acting. Thanks awfully for sending along the extracts, they are really most awfully interesting.

Glad the parcel arrived; those funny little Indian toy animals are rather fascinating are’nt they, & I thought those monkeys were ripping sort of hanging on to any old place by that long crooked hand of theirs. I have heard from the girls & the rugs seem to be a success, though I must say I did’nt do much choosing once they were sewn up; I just took up the parcels one by one any old how & addressed them, so can claim no credit for sending Rosamond a pink one on purpose, it was a fortunate fluke.

Nothing much doing here at present. We seem to be stuck here indefinitely, & there appears to be no chance of our moving just yet. Rather sickening & we are missing all the fun – interesting & successful fun too – up at the front & as the hot weather is now coming on, the prospects of our seeing anything for some months to come at anyrate is not very hopeful. However, we can but sit & wait in patience & doubtless we shall get as much as we want all in due time.

The camp here is getting horribly dusty & dirty. There are a good many troops here & lots & lots of transport animals, who simply churn the whole place up into dust & as there is always a good strong breeze blowing, so this dust is all over the place & it makes it very unpleasant, especially as it all blows into our tents.

Yes it was lucky Dick & Paul just managing to meet was’nt it. I wrote Dick a long letter from Karachi telling him all about June, but of course I have’nt had time to hear from him yet. I had a very long & interesting letter from Paul too last week; he is awfully pleased with life is’nt he, & he told me all about his romance & his Nance, most interesting. He also sent me typed accounts of the story of Tony Farrer & the little Ashburnham girl; really it makes the most splendid reading, & the way those two stuck to each other was really magnificent was’nt it. I shewed it round the mess & all were tremendously impressed with the story.

I have met a man called Searle here who lives near Hackney Row; I don’t suppose his people were there in your day, I fancy they have only arrived fairly recently. Anyhow he knows the place well, & knows the Maturins, Walkinshares & Seymours & Balgarnies (familiar old names!) so I thought p’raps if you happen to run across any of the people you might mention the fact. He is with his regiment (Indian Army) up in Persia somewhere, & is here doing a signalling course. He was with the Berkshires in France & got an M.C; a nice chap, quite young, only 21 I think.

We have had a taste of hot weather this last week, & the thermometer touched 111º in our little 40 lb: tents one day. But that was unusual for the time of year, & it’s generally about 95º or so in the day, dropping to 64º or so at night. Now we are getting a breeze pretty regular, sometimes quite a strong wind & that makes a lot of difference to the temperature. Today is quite nice & cool, comparatively.

I told you I think I had met one Wilkinson of the Wireless telegraph station here? He was an engineer on the Dufferin when we came home for the Coronation in 1911. Anyhow his headquarters are here & I             go across & see him; & on Sunday he took me down to one of the many hospitals here, where he knew some of the nurses, & then we all went for a joy ride in one of the Red X launches. It was lovely, & it was 5 o’clock & in the cool of the evening; the river here is about ½ a mile broad or so, & always full of all kinds of shipping, as I think I described to you, cruisers, gun-boats, transports, fussy little motor boats & lots an’ lots of native craft of all shapes & sizes.

We went down the main stream a bit & then wandered off up a side creek, which was really gorgeously peaceful & quite English to look at, but for the dark palms which came down to the water’s edge on each side. We went a long way down this creek & I thoroughly revelled in the pleasure of it all.

At one place on this creek an Arab sheikh had his residence, & growing all over his verandah was a lovely climbing rose, pink & in full bloom. Close by was a huge splash of colour in the form of a big cluster of oleanders (? oleanda) & it was too much for us, so we landed & made friends with the sheikh by signs & broken conversation carried on in English, Hindustani and a few words of Arabic, & came away armed with huge handfuls of flowers, which subsequently I expect went to brighten up the wards at the hospitals. We came back in the dark almost, & the river was awfully pretty with all the ships lighted up.

I hope those 4 girls managed to get onto the land, especially Dreda who must be heartily sick of the bank & who really & truly deserves a change I think, & it would be so much better for her would’nt it. I think it’s splendid the way she’s stuck to the bank, loathing it as she must. Things seem to be fairly scarce at home now, potatoes & all that sort of thing; but I think the people will play up all right & back up the food controller don’t you. And with the Submarine show well in hand – though it is a very serious matter – & america coming into the war, things ought to improve in a few weeks, & get correspondingly bad for Germany.

Yes, India is bucking up quite a lot is’nt she, what with war loan & national service for Europeans. I must get some money into the Indian War loan I think.

I must censor some of the men’s letters now; they seem to write such a lot, but there is never much in their letters beyond messages to various relations to say they are well & flourishing! I hope you are getting my letters regularly, though I suppose they are bound to be erratic from here. Thanks again for the bound volume of the daily Sketch, much appreciated.

Very fit & well.

Best love to all

Yr loving son


We no longer know what details of Paul and Nancy’s romance merited the underline saying they were “most interesting”. Paul had become  increasingly close to Nancy Swan during the summer of 1916 and early 1917, possibly via an existing friendship with her aunt by marriage, Mrs Conway-Gordon.

Nancy’s father was Colonel Charles Arthur Swan C.M.G., M.A., J.P., and her mother was Ethel, only daughter of Colonel F.I. Conway-Gordon. Her brother was brother was Major Charles Francis Trollope Swan MC who was born in 1887 and her sister Marjorie was born in 1886.

Nancy herself was born in 1895, making Nancy 22 in 1917 to Paul’s 28.


Doreen Ashburnham, 11 and Anthony Farrer, 8, fought off a cougar in British Columbia and were awarded the Albert Medal

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Posted by on 24 April, '17 in About


19 April 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

April 19/17


Dear Mother

No letter from you last mail which we got last Sunday; but I heard from several members of the family, & the pink paper & Daily Sketch turned up, for which many thanks. We are still waiting down here at the base, & have no news as to when we are to move or likely to do so.

The camp we are in is very dusty & there are a whole lot of troops here now. However the weather is none too bad and we have had a cool breeze every day so far, & lovely cool nights. The hottest we’ve had it is 100° in our tents at midday & it drops into the sixties at 6 a.m. so there’s a bit of a difference is’nt there. A good many flies about, but we strafe thousands every day at meals with fly swats so manage to wreak our vengeance on them.

Good news from France is’nt there. I hear from the girls that Dick managed to get home after all, & even to get one evening with Paul. But they had’nt seen much of him, especially as they are so much away from home themselves.

I have met more old friends. Sam Orton is on the staff of our Division, & he came along to see us the other day. He has now gone on up river, but I shall see a good deal more of him I expect. Also one Gaskell, who with his wife was a great friend of Ben’s & mine in Lansdowne; he too is on our divisional staff.

Then I met a man in the S. in-S who used to be our doctor, one Newland by name; he is in a field ambulance here. And also two of the ship’s officers off the Dufferin, you remember, the ship we came home on for the Coronation in 1911. One has a job at the Docks here, & the other has chucked sailoring & taken up wireless telegraphy. They have a very comfy little wattle & daub mess here & have their wireless going & pick up various messages from all over the place, Berlin & Malta, & sometimes from the Eiffel Tower wireless in Paris, if the weather conditions are favourable, and so they get news sometimes well in advance of official communiqués. Rather marvellous is’nt it, especially as the apparatus here is only a travelling one, & can be packed up & taken away in Motor lorries & on pack horses & put up somewhere else in no time!

I have been down into the town several times, just to get a change from the dusty old camp. On Sunday we had a tremendous dust storm which was very unpleasant, & the air was thick with dust for 2 or 3 hours; beastly, as of course in tents everything gets smothered in a thick coating & you think you’ll never get clean again. However as our normal condition is one of dust, a sandstorm or two does’nt really make much difference.

Bampton took Fox & I out for a joy ride in a car last Sunday. We went all through the native bazaar, & it was very quaint & curious. As a rule Eastern Bazaars rather bore me; when you’ve seen – and smelt one, you’ve seen & smelt them all. But this one is rather different, some parts of it are roughly roofed in with planks & matting, & the sun’s rays sort of break through in between the cracks & the beams of sunlight coming into the crowded streets are really awfully pretty. Shops line each side, each little shop only 6 or 7 feet square, with the arab squatting in the middle surrounded by his wares.

The streets are full of all sorts of people, chiefly arabs of course in their picturesque biblical robes, but one sees also types of almost any race from Egypt to China; also negroes from the West Indies, to say nothing of Tommies & officers wandering about sight-seeing. Truly nothing could give a better example of our cosmopolitan Army, or of how the war has affected the uttermost parts of the earth and has dug out people from most unexpected and unheard of corners.

There does’nt seem to be much to buy in the shops, very little home-made stuff so to speak, though I daresay one could pick up a few curios if one knew where to look. They display a great deal of cheap Manchester & Birmingham goods, a few native cloths & such like articles, but otherwise the shops are not very interesting. Fruit – except dates of course – is frightfully expensive, oranges for instance being 3d each, and only very poor ones at that. The bazaar struck me as being considerably cleaner than most eastern bazaars, & generally more attractive.

I met an old Canterbury boy here, but he was there long before my time, so of course I did’nt know him. Somehow he knew me by name & wrote to me & I went & had lunch with him. He has a job at the base here, but I have’nt seen him since so perhaps he’s moved off somewhere. People have a habit of disappearing a hundred miles or so in any old direction at a moment’s notice.

Mail goes out tomorrow & I have several more letters to write so I’ll stop this one. I expect we shall be still here by next mail, & anyhow I’ll drop you a line before we leave, if that much-longed for event happens before next mail goes.

Love to all

Yr loving son


TS Dufferin

Photo of guard outside Eiffel Tower wireless station, 1914/15

WWI Wireless pack set

Photo of Iraq bazaar taken in 1932

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Posted by on 19 April, '17 in About