3 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

May 3rd 1919.                                 Ismailia


Dearest Mother

Many thanks for your last 2 letters dated April 9th & 22nd. Owing to the fact that last week’s mail was lost for several days, both arrived together, which is rather a nuisance. Your letter was most interesting, I was glad to have all the news, about Ben, Paul & Ted. How splendid for Ted and how excited Nell must be. I am thinking of putting in for urgent leave on the grounds that Jane & Ted are going to be married and Ted to receive the D.S.O. Leave is open again now and several fellows have already gone. The unrest has quietened down again but various precautions have still to be taken

Fearfully sorry to hear about Murray but pleased to hear he is better. I have been feeling rather dicky for the last few days, but am all right again now, one has on and off times out here merely on account of the climate I suppose.

I went sailing on the lake the other day, great fun; I must go again some old day. I am also thinking of joining the tennis club when I can buy some flannels and a tennis racket, the one I had before I sold for 2/- less than I gave for it, because it was such a rotten one. The cheaper ones out here are the best I think. What is Paul doing with a shore job, and how long has he got it for.

I enclose some photos, not very good, the one on the P.C. Is absolutely awfull, taken for a joke at some poky place here. I can’t think what they have done to my face, considering that I am nearly as black as an Indian it is rather absurd.

What with all these people getting married what will happen next, Dick & I will have to buck up. How amusing about all his pets, how he must have laughed when the birds flew away. That muzzling stunt of the dogs is a bit of a nuisance I should imagine. I have a dog called “Ginger”, I have had him since he was a month old, he is very naughty and eats sponges and various other things. I don’t think any of those golf clubs belonged to Jane, because I bought 3 new ones while I was at Fleet, the putter may be hers.

No more news, best love to all

ever your loving son


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Posted by on 3 May, '19 in About


Ted and Nell

In May 1919, Ted came home and a month or so later he married Nell.

They had met on the 7th September 1915 when she was a couple of months shy of her 18th birthday and he was in his early 30s. He proposed to her at the end of October, and received his marching orders at the end of November not quite 3 months after they first met.

Gladys Fielding, Ted Berryman, Nell Fielding, Jane Berryman, Belinda Fielding
Autumn 1915

They did not meet again until May 1919, almost four years after that whirlwind three month romance. They wrote to each other constantly, and their relationship intensified over the years.

Damaged by Immersion in Sea Water
Letter from Ted to Nell – Damaged by Immersion in Sea Water

Ted couldn’t look happier at their wedding though he is painfully thin considering his robust frame in other photographs.

Ted and Nell at their wedding in 1919

Nell is excited but nervous.

After their wedding, Ted spent some time in London with his bride.

Nell on the left and Ted in the centre

On one occasion, they met Paul and a Navy friend of his in London, and poor Nell stood up greet them scattering the contents of her handbag at their feet. Which is why the future King George VI came to be on his knees looking under chairs for her lipstick and hairpins.

Telegram from the Duke of York (later George VI) to Paul

Ted took Nell to India during the 1920s where he was one of the more senior regimental officers and she was one of the youngest wives. They had two children, Martin and Félicité, who spent their first six or seven years with Ted and Nell in India and were then sent home to be raised by their grandmothers alongside their cousins, Paul’s daughters, and to go to school. Ted retired in the mid-1930s as colonel of the regiment and he and Nell built a home in Guildford.

Martin joined the Garhwalis just in time for the Second World War and was killed in Malaya. Félicité worked at Blechley and met and married one of Martin’s brother-officers after the war.

During the 1950s and 60s, Ted and Nell lived with Félicité’s family. They were devoted to each other and at last they had family living with them they could be devoted to.

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

Ted died in the mid 1960s and Nell died a dozen years later, both surrounded by family.

In the 1980s Félicité took the letters and published them in a book “Socks, Cigarettes and Shipwrecks” and between 2014 and 2019 I published them here online.

I have said it several times already, but the unexpected joy of this project has been getting to know Ted and see something of Nell

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Posted by on 29 April, '19 in About


27 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

S.S. “Suevic”.

April 27 1919


Dear Mother

Just a line to say we are approaching Suez & they tell us we can post letters on board today & they will get home a day or two before us. At present we have no idea when or where we disembark. It may be either Plymouth, Southampton or London. In any case I shall go to London straight, to meet Nell & do some shopping. As far as one can see, we shall get home about 12th May, & more than that I can’t tell you.

I will try & wire if we land at Plymouth or Southampton, & tell you what time I arrive in London: but I don’t think it’s much good looking so far ahead, so all I can advise you to do is to look out for news of me about 12th May. I may possibly get home before this letter. We are going all round by sea, not overland. I’m rather glad, as it makes very little difference really & is much more comfortable. My present idea is to stop in town a day or two, then down to Delaford, & then on to Broadground-

A good steady old boat this. You remember her don’t you; she ran aground on the Lizard some years ago, & was cut in half, & had a new front half built on to her. A fine big boat, 12,000 tons, & very steady. I’m feeling much fitter already & I’m told I’m looking very well indeed. Rather a hot voyage so far, but an almost English day today.

I’ll cable Nell from Port Said & keep you informed as much as I can : but it seems you can’t send wireless off this boat in the Channel, it’s a prohibited area or something. Anyhow I hope to be in England round about 12th May, & after all, that’s good enough is’nt it!

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 27 April, '19 in About


20 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

Easter Day -19


Dearest Mother

Very many thanks for your last letters. It’s a funny thing that I only get letters every other week, usually 2 at the time from you, but papers come regularly every week. It must be something to do with the posting I think at your end. We have now moved from Kantara & now at Ismailia, a very pretty little place on the Canal, also a very big lake. We have some lovely bathing here and is quite a change from previous camping places. We are supposed to be here until the breaking up of the Army of Occupation.

Leave is still closed, but demobilization has started again. No doubt you saw in the paper that a Major Cecil Jarvis  of the  20th Deccan Horse had been murdered by the Egyptians down south. I knew him and he was a friend of Dick’s. I was only speaking to him a few weeks before he was murdered.

We all have to walk about armed these days, which is a bit of a nuisance. Yes I remember Doris Pearce very well. I must write and congratulate her, she is awfully pretty, least I always thought so. I don’t think much of the girl who won the 1st prize, do you, I think Miss Marsh is much nicer. I had a letter from Dick the other day, he has at last moved into his bungalow and he seems very pleased with it. I am sorry to hear about Ted, now they will surely give him leave.

I feel so sorry for Nell. Sorry such a dull letter, but there is absolutely no news. I have been to church today, in a Y.M.C.A. which is just near our camp.

Best love to all, ever your loving son


Murdered on the Assiut-Minia train


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Posted by on 20 April, '19 in About


13 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

April 13/19.                 Bombay.


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter dated Feb 18th, which I got a few days ago- the last mail I got. Mails up to March 20th have arrived in the country; tho’ I tried to stop mine still it seems they must have gone on to M.E.F., as I’ve had none later than this letter of yours of Feb 18. Jim had just arrived home & there were great goings on. It’s very nice of him to say nice things about me: it was so ripping to meet him in Mesopotamia & have some good old talk & hoots with him: he is one of the best & I wish I could see more of him.

Such hot stuffy weather here. Another man here & I took 2 V.A.D’s for a joy ride in a car on Thursday to a place called Santa Cruz, about 15 miles out. A lovely bay with gorgeous sands & cocoa nut palms all along the edge of the shore. I think they enjoyed it: poor dears they have to slave away in this rotten climate & they like going out, though of course it’s strictly forbidden to go out with patients! One day last week we took these same two out for a sail to an island about 4 miles off, & if you please got sort of becalmed on the way home! & finally landed at 10pm & reached hospital 10.30! Awful scandal is’nt it & we were fearfully ragged when we got back. As we have to be in by 8 o’clock, it was really very naughty of us: however, no one seemed to mind. They went home yesterday as their time is up.

There have been various riots in Bombay lately & a few broken heads; but the more serious trouble is up country, in the Punjab, where some white people have been murdered. But I don’t think it will spread, as there are plenty of troops out here.

You wrote when Nell was with you; I’m awfully glad she was there such a nice long time. I suppose my tit-bits of news is about my coming home. I am trying (with poor success!) not to show any wild excitement. I cabled to Nell yesterday, & she will have told you. By the way I had a cable from you, asking how I was. Ever so many thanks for it, I did’nt cable back, as by then you would have got my letter saying I was allright. I’m much fitter, but a nice rest & change will do a lot of good.

I can’t imagine I’m really coming home. I don’t know when I sail, sometime this week, but I should be home about the middle of May sometime. I don’t see what I can do except just arrive home, do you! I mean I can really make no arrangements about the wedding. I suppose a rough scheme will have been outlined by the time I arrive home. No mail is leaving till the 19th from here, so this will arrive just before I do, I expect, so taking things all round, I’ll be home to discuss matters almost as soon as a letter can arrive, & one gets very little forrader in a letter. I suggest June for the wedding. I’m not sure whether 4 months include the voyage home & out again; I rather think it means 4 months in England, excluding the voyages. But in any case, if it included a month’s voyage either way, I should still get 2 months at home which is more than I ever expected.

Anyway I’m most awfully happy & excited & I’ll be seeing you in no time now.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 13 April, '19 in About


9 April 1919 – Topher to Gertrude



Dear Mother

No letters from you by last mail save some papers for which many thanks. We have moved since I last wrote, down nearer Kantara which is much better in every way. As we can bathe every day in the canal it really is lovely, and at present it is very hot. I shall be left here on my own till the 16th as the other half company moves down to Ismailia on the 10th and I join them later.

Very little news this week, the unrest has quietened down since the return of General Allenby. One has to walk about armed with a revolver these days. No chance of any leave yet as it is all stopped, also demobilization

So Eleanor is engaged, no luck you see. Who is the fellow she is engaged to, do I know him. Paul again on leave, same as he was before the war always on leave.

Nice for him being at Portsmouth, I suppose Nance will be going down there now.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


Finally – after the war is over, we hear from Topher. Previously we have only heard from him once, writing to his sister Dreda

Topher had a hard time in the War, and that followed on from his hard time at school – his school-day letters tell us he suffered from headaches and his reports show he was consistently at the bottom of what was an admittedly small class. I suspect he had undiagnosed and unsupported dyslexia, but he could have just been socially anxious and had less aptitude than his peers.  In some ways, Topher’s difficulties show us more than anything else in these letters how much the world has changed in the last 100 years. Now a child who struggled as Topher did would have strong support from worried parents and probably have a statement of special needs to show for it, though of course whether those needs were met would be another matter entirely. 

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Posted by on 9 April, '19 in About


5 April 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

April 5/19                     Bombay

Dear Mother

No mail in yet, except a few papers of about Feb 20th which arrived last night- They had been up to M.E.F, & returned here, so I may get some letters by tonight’s post-

It’s rather warm here, in spite of sea breezes: a very sticky muggy atmosphere which I simply hate & it makes you feel very limp & unenergetic. 45 patients sailed for home this morning in the Syria, so the hospital is quite empty now, only about 40 or so left, but I expect we shall get some more in every day. Otherwise there’s no news, absolutely none. And there’s very little to do here really so the time passes none too quickly. I thought I’d be up before a medical board yesterday, but I did’nt go, so I hope to get one on Monday & see what they decide to do with me.

I had a line from Topher this morning, he seems to think he’ll be kept on for some time yet- And he wants to start farming, either at home or E. Africa. I should think the latter would suit him best. His letter was marked “E.E.F aerial post” so I suppose it came by Aeroplane – they are expecting a certain amount of “passive resistance” here tomorrow, the same sort of thing they have been having in Delhi lately- D.B [Drake-Brockman?] by the way is commanding the Delhi Brigade, it’s an awful shame giving that man anything except the boot!

All those lovely pictures of the navy & the “Vindictive” which were on view in London sometime ago are on view here now, I went to see them and really I thought they were marvellous, & so fearfully interesting. I have met a man here who paints portraits & exhibits them & other pictures at the Academy: his name is W.E. Gladstone Solomon, so look out for his pictures in this year’s Academy- one is called “The Passing” – a picture of a man being shot while digging trenches, an allegorical picture: & another a portrait of “Joan Heffer”: & we have arranged to meet when I come home: I must bring him down to Delaford someday. It seems he has often exhibited at the Academy & won the Gold medal there once, so he must be some good as a painter.

Topher tells me Jim got home: wish I could get some letters: my last were dated Feb 13th

Best love to all

yr loving son


I went to the zoo here a day or 2 ago: quite a good show with some really lovely lions & tigers who seemed to be quite enjoying life.

If the D-B is Drake-Brockman, who was Ted’s commanding officer in France, then this is the only example in the letters that I can think of where Ted is waspish about anyone; we expect this kind of remark from Paul or Richard, but not from diplomatic, patient Ted. It’s not otherwise surprising; Drake-Brockman was a very different kind of soldier from Ted, and his own account of his time in France in 1914-1917 shows a fussy officer, more concerned about drills, discipline and his own status than the effectiveness or morale of his officers and men.

His father

Jeanne (exh. 1903-1940) sold for £2,750

The Bombay Revival of Indian Art (no date)

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Posted by on 5 April, '19 in About


28 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

Colaba War Hosp


28th March 19


Dear Mother

I posted a letter to you at Karachi I think, or was it here I wonder? Anyhow we arrived here on the 24th & are now installed in this hospital. Colaba is a sort of suburb of Bombay, about 4 miles out, on a tongue of land jutting out into the sea, so it gets a good breeze from both sides.

The hospital was formerly the ordinary military hospital for troops in the Bombay area, & of course during the war has always been full: though now it is fairly empty. There are about 50 of us here, & I know several of the other patients. We are very comfortable, but this is a much stricter hospital than any of the others I have been in & very military altogether! I think I am much the same as I was, nothing definitely wrong you know, but just run down & a bit war-worn. I don’t know what they will do to me, but some day I shall come up before a board and they will decide. It’s very hot & steamy here, just the sort of weather I loathe! So I hope they won’t keep me long.

We are allowed out into Bombay, & I have been in twice: Yesterday I went to tea with the Australian Sisters of the “Varela”, in their shore quarters down at the docks, very nice- But the doctors here say I am not to take too much walking exercise, which seems rather silly, but I suppose they know best. However there are lots of taxis to be had so that’s all right. I have been to one or two clubs in Bombay & met heaps of fellows I know,  mostly on their way home on leave or demobilisation.

There was a mail in yesterday, & I have tried to stop my letters going on to M.E.F. so perhaps I may get some today. I told you, I think, that I had’nt cabled, as really private cables are not worth the money, they take I’m told as long as a letter, as there is so much government work to be got through, & a great many of the lines are interrupted. I wonder if they’ve informed you officially of my admission to hospital & if so I hope they have not sent any very alarming wires.

Jellicoe’s ship, the New Zealand, is here just at present, & he himself came back from a trip up-country yesterday. They go to Karachi today & then come back here again. I must try & get aboard for a look round if I’m still here. People are simply flocking home to England, & every ship is full of women & children I believe and passage rates are exorbitant, though I think they are reducing them a bit now- I am sending you a ‘Basrah Times’ (Topher & Dick seem to be sending you Egyptian Gazettes so I thought I would too!) but this one has the extra interest of having a word to say about us at Ramadi, so I thought you might like it for your book-

Is’nt this wretched paper, it’s like writing on blotting paper. Nell writes long letters from Delaford, & obviously enjoyed herself tremendously. I wonder if Jim & Topher have arrived home yet; & Murray too. Despite labour troubles & strikes & difficulties of travel the one word ‘home’ seems to be on everyone’s lips!  What ever disillusionment- if any- awaits them there, the fact remains that nearly everyone wants to go there.

Being in hospital certainly has its advantages, one meets so many fellows from all sorts of odd corners. I have had most awfully interesting talks with a man who has been buying mules in China most of the war, being unfit for service owing to a jab in the tummy from a Prussian lance at the Marne in ’14: & while in China he was hung by some brigands but cut down just in time when they searched his pockets & found an Imperial passport or something which frightened them out of their lives. Fellows from Persia, where all sorts of things have been going on that have never reached the papers: & one man from there who was alone in a fort miles from anywhere with a man called Cumming, who shared a room with me at Sandhurst. He died of influenza there, poor chap, & this other fellow tells me he burnt his body & brought the ashes back 150 miles for burial, as the Persians would have desecrated any grave in those wild parts.

In fact you can get thrilling stories almost every 5 minutes of the day – and I don’t think they are liars, as they only speak under compulsion & with much questioning. There is one Gardner too here, who was on the ‘Persia’ with me; I have met nearly all of the officer survivors now in my wanderings, all except 2 in fact-

I must write to Ben & Nell sometime today. I am going out to tea at the Yacht Club this afternoon, it’s the star-turn club of Bombay & all the best people belong to it. One day I must overhaul my Kit which I left at Cox’s when I first went to Mesopotamia. I don’t suppose 2 years in this damp Bombay heat has done it any good.

Best love to all

yr loving son


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Posted by on 28 March, '19 in About


23 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

S.S. Varela                    March 23/19       Sunday


Dear Mother

We reach Bombay tomorrow, & go into hospital at Colába, a sort of suburb as it were of Bombay. There, I’m told, I come before a medical board, who decide what’s to be done with me- We left Basra last Monday, & reached Bushire in the Persian Gulf next morning, & stayed there all day, embarking patients & supplying the force there with a barge load – 600 tons – of fresh water: as there is no fresh water at Bushire & their own condensing plant was temporarily broken down (awful writing, but the ship is rolling & very shaky!) We reached Karachi yesterday, & stayed there a few hours. I met Nepean, of the 5th Gurkhas, you know, he knows Miss Loder(?) Ruth’s friend & was nursed by her I fancy in London- His regiment was disembarking on return from Mesopotamia.

We left again at midday & are now rolling about on the high seas again. I always associate Karachi with our embarkation there in Sept 1914, when it was fearfully hot, & Ben was there too, in the “Dilwara”; I don’t think she will ever forget it! It’s been quite a nice voyage, not too rough, & I think it’s done me good, though I don’t feel quite up to form yet.

An Indian patient fell over board today, so we had a little excitement. He was very difficult to see – such a tiny speck in a huge expanse of water – but we turned round at once & went back on our tracks, lowered a boat & he was back on board 20 minutes after falling in, really quite a smart piece of work. He swam vigorously all the time – he was in the water about ¼ hour I suppose- & missed the lifebuoy which was thrown to him; but seems none the worse now. Hardly the thing to do is it, to fall overboard if you’re being invalided to India! It’s the first time I’ve known it happen on a voyage, & it was quite exciting while it lasted-

I’ll post this at Bombay tomorrow. But I’m afraid it’s missed the mail, if it still goes out on Saturday as it used to. I’ll have to use stamps again now! I’ll write again as soon as I know my fate

Best love to all             yr loving son



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Posted by on 23 March, '19 in About


16 March 1919 – Ted to Gertrude

March 16/19


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for a letter from you today dated 12th Feb, only just a month ago; splendid is’nt it. I also had 5 letters from Nell, all written while the dear child was staying at Delaford. How awfully good to her you all were, & ever so many thanks for it all. She thoroughly enjoyed herself & loved being with you – and she appreciated so tremendously the little things you gave her, that purple & white shawl, & that stool with “Teddie” on it (in daisies is’nt it?) I know it so well. She writes ripping letters about her visit, & let’s hope I’ll be there next time.

How cold you have been, frost an’ all, and skating. Here it has been, as I’ve told you I expect, very mild all the winter. It is lovely just now, & just perfect on the banks of the river here. The orange blossom is just coming out & the air is quite heavy with the smell of it. They got a lovely crop of oranges here, & we have lovely home-made marmalade for breakfast every day. You can see all the trees in front of the building in this photograph-

Mr Robbins been to see you! Talk about raking up the past! And now you mention Michael I remember him being born & called after the church was’nt he? or rather after the Saint, via the church, would probably be more accurate. I wonder if he’s had any more news of him.

So you’ve got on to Jim at last, & you say you think he might have been home in a fortnight after writing your letter. Perhaps by this time he has come & gone again. It seems I’ll be the last to get home, if Topher gets home in April- Dick & I came out here more or less the same time in ’15 did’nt we, but he’s been back since of course, so I think it’s really time I came back for a bit-

Yes, England seems a sorry place at the moment, strikes an’ all, & I’m sure we never get one quarter of the news in the papers. One hears stories of street fighting, complete with casualties, in Glasgow, & various other disturbances everywhere. But let’s hope it’s only the work of a few scatterbrained agitators, & that soon the British workman – a good fellow at heart, I firmly believe, but easily led by attractive impossibilities & a glib tongue- will settle down to his normal life. I hope too he gets better housing & possibly shorter hours.

The relief from war-strain must be so great, that the masses – with their lesser education and new-found pocket money – naturally suffer from a strong reaction, & I don’t think there’s any fear of Bolshevism at home.  I may be quite wrong, as one gets so out of touch with things, & the papers hide the truth so & serve up strike pills in such liberal helpings of jam that it’s very hard to arrive at the real truth. Whatever it is, & however long it lasts, it must indeed be very inconvenient for you all-

How you made me laugh about Nell’s ration book being left at Tyler’s! She’s always leaving things about, remember she lost a bag in a train or taxi one day in London with me! I must come home & look after her, I can see that-

Sorry to hear old Drew has got so old. He’s certainly not spared himself in the war, & he’s had a good many anxieties I expect, so I’m afraid it’s inevitable that he should have aged a bit.

It’s lovely here on the river front, sitting in the shade of the orange trees, with lovely flowers all round, sweet peas, cornflowers, & great tall hollyhocks. And we can watch the big ships go by, coming up the river empty & going down a day or two later with cheering crowds of demobilized Tommies aboard. And the river is full of fussy little motor-boats too, containing joy-riders mostly I fancy but they make the scene a lively one.

Well, I start for India tomorrow, in the hospital ship VARELA- We get to Bombay in about 6 days I think, & then go into hospital there, & there we are “boarded” & they decide what to do with us, sick-leave, or back to duty, or whatever it is. I am, I hope, saying goodbye to Mesopotamia, at anyrate for the summer. Being invalided out of the country means, I suppose, that I lose my job. I’m sorry in a way, but it is made easier by the fact that the whole brigade is now – all the regiments whom we fought with in that last show have gone back to India, & all my friends have left.

And on the whole I want to get back to the regiment. I think I’ve been long enough away. I should like to get home for a bit this summer, & then bring Nell out to Lansdowne to a nice peaceful existence after the strenuous life of the last few years- But “Man proposes” etc, & I’m too old a plaything of Fate to make anything in the way of elaborate plans as far ahead as this.

So don’t expect a letter from me yet awhile, as these moves always interfere with one’s posts a bit. Write in future c/o Cox Bombay. I expect you will get a W.O. or I.O. wire saying I’ve been invalided; I’m not cabling as it takes nearly as long as a letter for a cable to reach home. I’m feeling alright, but not very strong, but am much better all round & only want a good rest to put me right.  I simply could’nt stand another hot weather here. There goes the tea gong – it’s like boardship life here, we live from meal to meal!

Best love to all

yr loving son



Goodbye Mesopotamia!!

Varela (half-way down)

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Posted by on 16 March, '19 in About