14 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Jan 14/18


Dear Mother

Very many thanks for your letter of 13th Nov, which arrived today, so you see you were just getting my rather few and far between letters I’m afraid while we were on the march up here from Baghdad, but really we had practically no time for writing & usually nowhere to post them. However by now I hope you have begun getting my letters regularly again-

This last week has been wet and fine in turns and today is lovely: cold, you know, but a cloudless sky & fresh & clean, & very English. I go about in a small cap all day, no need to wear a helmet, so this gives you some idea of the tremendous change in the sun’s power from the hot weather, when to stay a minute in the sun without a helmet would be disastrous.

The river has risen a lot these last few days owing to the rain presumably, and before much longer I expect it will get much higher. It is rushing past us now in a swirling flood, and sometimes when the wind is blowing up-stream, it breaks into waves and white horses just like a choppy sea and it’s lovely to watch it, but cold work- we have’nt had any actual frost lately & those biting N. winds have not been so bad either, but it’s awful cold at nights still, & I did’nt sleep at all last night as I was so cold. But it’s hopeless to try and get things like blankets etc, as by the time they arrive here it will be warm again. If I’m out here next cold weather I shall know what’s in store for the cold weather. I have’nt got any warm khaki yet, & there seems little prospect of getting any. However I am very fit and well and it’s all part of the day’s work so I’m not worrying.

Yes I saw in Punch that another Lloyd had been wounded, and that Major Bryant had been killed. How sad, I’m most awfully sorry as they were so good to me at the R.M.C. & I should like to write to Mrs Bryant if I could get hold of her address. Arthur Lloyd was reported badly wounded I see, & I do hope he’s all right. Is Kitty married yet I wonder, & what’s Johnnie doing? These things sort of flash across one’s mind when any news of the family crops up.

We’ve been nearly 3 weeks without a mail now, so today’s letters are most welcome. I got such a nice writing pad thing from the Dudmans & 2 lovely pairs of socks, both extremely useful & most opportune- I also got some nice things from Fortnum & Mason from the girls which are very tastey & welcome; they arrived quite safe. But the other F. & M. things have never arrived: held up somewhere I suppose-

I hope Topher manages to get over his stammering. It at anyrate means he will be at home for sometime does’nt it. You ask if we have been in any scrapping since the Ramadi show, we have’nt been in any real fighting, only a few odd shots when out on reconnaisance now and then-

I have’nt heard from Jim for some time though last time he wrote he seemed to be on the point of starting from Singapore. Yes indeed the woolly has been useful and is rather the worse for wear but still serviceable & warm & always worn. Those little split-rings which keep our buttons in our khaki jackets, you know, “little men” you call them I think, are always catching in it when I put my coat on so it suffers somewhat but is lasting wonderfully well.

Mail goes out today though I really don’t think it matters very much here; as often as not the cars can’t move owing to bad roads, and I expect my letters lately have been rather erratic.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Probable Major Bryant

Report of his death in Volume VII of The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, 1914-1918 (10th edition, 1941)

Chapter 29 – Nahr Auja and El Burj (pdf)




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Posted by on 14 January, '18 in About


7 January 1918 – Ted to Gertrude

Jan 7/18


Dear Mother

No more mails in since Dec 27th in fact we’ve had no mails of any sort for the last 3 days owing to the weather. It has been wet and cold & the motors simply can’t get along the none too good roads here – Last night at about 2 a.m. it began to rain & went on till 12 noon today & the whole camp is one mass of greasy glutinous mud.

There is a nasty wind blowing & the conditions are by no means nice- However we are very cheery & as comfy as possible, & are keeping very fit- I never feel quite sure that my tent won’t be blown away though- It is very raw & Novembery nowadays, we have had no frost for a long time, & the N. wind has given place to a South one which always brings the rain with it. But I expect we shall have some more of that biting N. wind before the winter’s done-

No sign of any of the good things from Fortnum & Mason yet, & I have had no Christmas parcels from Nell & the girls, though they all said they had sent them. We are out of the world here, & things take simply years to reach us. Very much “at the front”, no one else seems able to get here!

War news is not very exciting as I write is it. We had done wonderfully well in Palestine and it should have a splendid effect all round here, as it ought to fair put the lid on any Turkish thoughts of offensive movements here. He would make peace tomorrow I’m sure if he got the chance but I suppose Germany has got him too well in hand.

Two or three of us went for a long walk yesterday, ostensibly to shoot geese on a big lake about 8 miles from here. Really we went just for the walk. It was a coldish damp & misty day, but it was nice to get out of camp for a bit of exercise; we took our lunch out & had a most pleasant day-

Last Monday there was a race meeting here. I arrived in time for the last 2 races- I won £1 on the first one, & lost it all on the next one, so came off the course all square-

Afraid there’s no news here & I have no letters of yours to answer. Everything is horribly wet here, tents soaked through, & mud everywhere- But at least we are not in trenches-

Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 7 January, '18 in About


1918 – 2018

Hello, dear friends of the Berrymans, and a happy New Year.

I am very fortunate: I get to spend every Christmas and New Year with my 100-year-old family.  I feel like a Time Lord living in multiple time-streams at once (yay for Jodie Whittaker!) as I schedule the next year’s letters and tweets and spend a few days diving deeply into the vivid details that the Berrymans bring us about the past.

The last two weeks have been a treat for me – I’d forgotten how fond I am of them all: lovely Ted, always putting a happy spin on whatever circumstances he’s in; Paul charming his bride but not entirely convincing her family that he’s a good bet; Jim, getting an office job in Singapore; Richard, fussy and bossy on paper, but clearly another Berryman charmer in real life; and poor stammering Topher, outshone by his glamorous and heroic elder brothers. Let’s face it, who could compete with them?

We know that 11th November 1918 was Armistice day but of course the Berrymans didn’t, so the year ahead will bring us their excitement as the tide started to turn in Europe and the Middle East.  You may remember that the highlight of the 1914 letters was Ted writing home about the Christmas Truce, Nell’s brother stole the show in 1915 when he crashed his car, it was good to hear Paul’s voice in 1916 telling Ted about Jutland, and Ted’s account of the battle of Ramadi in 1917 reminds us that what they did then still echoes for us now, though I am also fascinated by his trips to the dentist. You will be pleased to know that the accounts of the Armistice are brought to us with typical Berryman vigour and wit.

The letters continue for a few months after 11th November and we can stay in their company until the summer of 1919 as they ease into peacetime life. And I’ve included a set of letters from the mid 1920s which were also donated to the IWM – these will go out at the rate of two per week, so time will speed up for us in 2019 as we finally leave the Berrymans to their post-war lives.

So thank you all for your company and your patience. If you want to catch up, check the summary of the story so far, soap-opera style,  If you want to share the letters, please forward this email to your friends and encourage them to sign up themselves in the form on the site. The Berrymans themselves are @BerrymanLetters on Twitter and I am @FamilyLetters. Re-tweets and shares would be kind. I’ve also re-launched the page at so please like and share that as much as you can.

If you are curious to  know why I got so behind with the 1917 letters, then take a quick peek at our new project at and let us know if you would like to take a break there.

With warmest regards

Family Letters

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Posted by on 6 January, '18 in About


Ted to Nell – Dawn in Bivouac

A flicker of dawn in the reddening East;
A cluster of clouds in the melting grey-
A quickening stir amongst man and beast,
Drowsily conscious of coming day-

A sentry’s challenge- a stray dog’s bark
Cut the silence- from where we lie
The guns stand out in the lessening dark
In grim silhouette against the sky-

A whistle shrills through the cool, sweet dawn;
The camp is astir as the thin note dies-
An oath – a jest – and a laggard’s yawn
From his rough warm blankets unwilling to rise.

A shouted order, a snatch of song-
Smoke from the camp-fires hanging low-
In a jingling column, ghostly, strong
Down to water the gun-teams go

Two hours later the camp is bare-
High overhead a bullet sings-
(There’s a sniper up in those hills somewhere)
Into the desert the rear-guard swings

(Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force)


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Posted by on 1 January, '18 in About


30 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 30/17


Dear Mother

A mail in at last! on 27th, after we had been exactly a month without one. It was ripping such a heap of letters all together, I got 37! and heaps of papers. There were 3 mails in together, Oct 24, Nov 1, & Nov 7, and as one was the Christmas mail you can imagine what heaps we all got. I got 3 from you, of the above dates, and thanks most awfully for them, and the little diary which will of course be fearfully useful, one always wants to scribble down notes and odd things these days.

We spent a very quiet Christmas here. It was a raw cold day, but we managed to make merry in the evening with crackers & plum pudding and various luxuries specially ordered from India. The Fortnum & Mason things have’nt turned up yet, and I don’t know when they will. The recent rain has made the roads almost impossible, and we can hardly get our rations up. I have only had one Christmas parcel so far, & that is a lovely tin of nuts from Rosamond which arrived this evening, a very welcome gift indeed. On Christmas and Boxing day we had holidays, and sports too, which were coldish to watch, but not bad fun – otherwise we had no excitements.

Yesterday the Gunners had some mounted sports, & in the evening they had a revue “Ramadi 1950” which was rather funny- I dined with a pal in the Gunners after the sports & we went on to the show in the evening.

Today some of us went out shooting, & got a lovely fat goose, and 9 partridges, a most pleasant outing & good exercise to walk off these Christmas meals! Tomorrow there are races, & on New Year’s day we have a holiday, & I fancy we are getting up a shooting party for the occasion though cartridges are woefully short.

It has been a lovely day today, the first sunny day we have had for 2 weeks nearly – otherwise the weather has been rotten, raw windy misty & cold, though we have had no frost for a week or more. Typical English weather in many ways, but not at all suitable for camp life! However we are all very fit & getting used to this sort of thing now.

Your letters are, as I say, dated Oct 24, Nov 1st & 7th – very many thanks indeed for saying such nice things about the regiment, and it is very gratifying to feel one’s little efforts are appreciated, not only by relations & friends but also at the India office, where it is just as well to get known, though I rather fancy the 39th are already pretty well known there. It is nice however to know that their expectation has been kept up. You all said much too nice things, but if you are pleased then I’m pleased, so that’s all right.

Genl Cox seems to have been very mysterious about it all, saying you were’nt to see anything etc, but by now I hope you will have got fuller details from me, though even my letters were a bit sketchy I fancy. I know Nell would wire on to you, or at any rate let you know if I cabled to her: the wires were naturally somewhat congested out here just then, & I did’nt like to worry them with more private wires than were really necessary-

You seem to have gone some time without a mail too. Dr Scott dead at last, as you say- I can only dimly recollect him. Yes, good work the French bringing all those Zepps down. We have pictures of them in some of the papers that arrived last mail. Pity we did’nt do it. I hear from all sides of the bomb in Picadilly & how                          & Edgars were strafed; a good shot was’nt it, though I don’t suppose they do much actual aiming. I heard from Jim a day or two ago, he says his relief is on his way out, & as soon as he arrives Jim will probably go to India, en route for this country.

I saw a notice of Stephanie’s wedding in the papers; yes rather I remember her, though I was never at home when she used to come and stay, Jinny & I used to go & see them outside Paddington on our way to Gloucester.

So glad my description of Baghdad pleased you, & by now I hope you have some photographs of it which I took, also of the journey upstream & various other interesting places. I was half afraid the letters I wrote about them had been destroyed at sea, by fire, between Basra & Bombay, but it appears they were fortunate & went by another boat.

Yes, I know nearly all the Queens now, & the two regiments are great friends, & the name Garhwal should not be unknown in Guildford after this. They are an awful nice lot of fellows and we get on awful well together- Poor Dick; yes he would hate the mud & cold I know, and now he’s losing Topher he won’t be any better off. As regards Topher’s commission, I expect poor boy he has had more than enough in the ranks, though as you say he was well enough off as Dick’s groom; all the same if he wants the commission it seems hard on him not to let him get it and he’ll be home some time training now. His stammer would certainly seem a difficulty & I hope he manages to do something for it.

I wonder if Specs has been roped in yet- I have glanced through the daily sketch with George’s picture in it, at his wedding, but I should’nt know him from Adam, not having seen him since 1902 or so. I was’nt home when he was so much with the family.

As you say, the war news is not very happy these days, but I fancy it’s only a phase and things will buck up again soon. Italy seems to be standing her ground, & there is no one in Russia to make peace with, & America must be nearly ready now.

Poor Capon seems to get no better, & from your description the garden wants some work on it. I don’t suppose Capon will ever be fit for work again, he will be a great loss I’m afraid but I suppose it can’t be helped. Please let me know if I can do anything for him: I think we boys ought to buy him an annuity or something as he has served us faithfully & well all these years. If you are writing to the others you might suggest it to them, & meantime make enquiries as to what’s the best thing we can do for him- There are many calls on our pockets nowadays, but I think this is a special case.

Must write to Ben now. We posted our English mails last Monday here, but they never reached the railway, as the road was too bad for cars to come & fetch it, so presumably they missed the mail. In any case, it’s only a fortnightly mail home and out now, & living in these outlandish parts one is never certain of anything.

Best love to all

yr loving son


Photo of bomb damage at Swann & Edgars in Picadilly, 20/10/17

Followed by

Christmas card (unsigned and undated) depicting the British Residency at Baghdad with map of Mesopotamia

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Posted by on 30 December, '17 in About


24 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Christmas Eve/17


Dear Mother

Still no mail in, though I believe tis quite close up now, and may possibly arrive tomorrow, and very appropriate if it does. They say there are 3 mails all due together, and we certainly deserve some letters as we have had none since Nov 28th.

Not much news here. This past week has shown us what Mesopotamia can do in the way of rain and mud. We had 24 hours’ rain last Wednesday (this is Monday) and the whole camp was turned into a quagmire; but it dried up in the wind of the next few days, though the weather remained raw and very cold. We had one fine day since then, and last night down came the rain again so the mud and slush are once more in full swing.

It is cloudy & cold again today with a promise of more rain. Rather a pity as we have had to postpone the Brigade sports on account of the mud: we were going to have races & football matches and all sorts of frivolities but heaven knows when we shall be able to have them now. All our men have got warm clothing and they need it badly, but officers are still without it, except one or two lucky ones who happened to have some.

Today my one and only pair of riding breeches has gone to the wash – fancy washing clothes in the icy Euphrates this weather! I’m glad I’m not a dhobi – so I am shivering in shorts and a greatcoat. We are getting some thicker khaki from government stores, but it has’nt turned up yet.

We have a holiday tomorrow and boxing day, & originally we were going to have the sports and races, but now we must be content with the holiday only, which will be very welcome as we have had only 3 Sundays off from digging since last September. Two years ago today I left England to join the rgt: in Egypt; and I certainly never expected to be away as long as this! This weather is most awfully English in every way, & we had a good old November fog all yesterday.

Best love to all   yr loving son


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Posted by on 24 December, '17 in About


17 December 1917 – Ted to Gertrude

Dec 17/17


Dear Mother

No mail in yet, not had one since the 28th November, & we shan’t get one for another 5 or 6 days I hear, & then we get 2 or 3 together. Besides I suppose they are extra heavy just now with Christmas mails an’ all.

Since I last wrote we have had a good hard frost each night, 7 degrees generally & water in our basins frozen solid. And all day this bitter wind goes on & cuts through you like a knife, & we have’nt got any thick khaki yet, only the drill stuff. Fortunately I have the shetland, & a great coat but it’s still cold for all that. And of course by the time you get this it will be warming up again or at anyrate not so cold as it is now.

One hears such a lot abut the hot weather out here, but not a soul ever told me of this really bitter winter. Consequently we all made preparations for the summer & none for the winter. After all you can do with very few clothes in the summer, but you want a whole heap & lots of blankets too in the winter, especially as the contrast is so great. One hears that the weather is exceptional & nothing like it occurred last year, but we are rather far up north & may expect really cold weather for some time yet.

I suppose we shall have snow too if there is a frost about. However I personally am keeping very fit on it & so are we all I think, but we all find the cold keeps us awake at night, in tents you see, & the only possible time to have a bath is midday, when there is a tiny bit of heat in the feeble sun.

Day before yesterday we had to go out on a 15 miles reconnaissance, stay out one night, & we came back yesterday. Two Turkish deserters gave themselves up to us, they were rather miserable specimens, & seemed absolutely fed up, & complained of ill-treatment, scanty food & clothes, & no pay, so let’s hope this represents the general condition of their army out here. We had to bivouac the one night we spent out, no tents, so you can imagine how cold it was, & there were 7 degrees of frost that night too! But I suppose one is fairly hard nowadays & can stand a good deal.

Col Hogg rolled up last Tuesday & so I am no longer in command, but am an acting Major & 2nd in command now. Lyell has gone back to India on a month’s leave. Hogg was very interested to hear I know some of his sisters, & that his people knew you, but I’ve told him this often before when I met him in India, but he’s a casual sort of person & does’nt take the trouble to remember people much I think. He is an awfully nice man of course, but likes his creature comforts & we are certainly not indulging in any luxuries up here just at present!

We ate your plum pudding the other day, as we are getting so many for Christmas, & as yours had arrived I thought we had better get through it now. It was voted excellent, & so it was, & I did’nt get the sixpence though I had a good old try!

I have just been round the battlefield of Ramadi with Col Hogg, & he was very interested an’ all. My hands get frightfully cold, hence my bad writing! I have no gloves, & it’s awful, Nell tells me she has sent a pair & I’m longing for them to arrive. Hogg knows Mr Kirwan well of course, & we discussed him last night. He is a widower, & has 3 sons, one has just gone to Rugby this term.

So if anyone is coming out here my advice is- never mind about the hot weather, you want no clothes for that: but mind the cold, take every warm thing you’ve got, or have warm things sent by post to arrive about November-

No more news – Best love to all

Yr loving son


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Posted by on 17 December, '17 in About

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