12 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

12 Aug.


S.S. Wanhie.




Dearest Mother,

Am gradually getting nearer the Widgeon. We are well up the River now – really only a day from Chnngking- where the Widgeon is – but we have to stay at anchor down here as the river is so high & flooded that we can’t get through the rapids – we might be here for days!!-

Most interesting & impressive trip this has been from Hankow – and the magnificence of the scenery – in the gorges and rapids far exceeds anything I read or was told. It really is simply marvellous- the river is very turbulent – full of whirlpools etc etc. All dark brown muddy colour – & in the gorges the mountains rise up to about 3000 feet – right along side – & the colouring is so beautiful- The pity is that I shall only see this all once more- when I come home – because it is all below my beat- If you ever get hold of a map – my beat is between Chunking and Wanshien – & occasionally higher up than Chunking- It has been terribly hot all the way up the river  -but here it is not so bad – as there had been such masses of rain.

I have been ashore at one or 2 places- Hankow was very Englishised- a large sort of Country Club there – & I watched a polo match. I’ve met several Gunboats & heard all the news- a terribly unsettled country this – & all these passenger ships are continually being fired on with rifle fire – by odd soldiers.- We have been lucky so far – only a few stray bullets- Apparently it’s our job out here to endeavour to stop this sort of thing & write threatening letters to the local Chinese Generals – but it still goes on – And our Foreign office are loath for us to go along fire back – but I can see a balloon going up one day-! I am feeling quite fit again now – having had a wee bit of exercise now and again-

Hope you’re all very fit at home- expect you are away at Seaview or some place. Don’t forget to put “Via Siberia” on your letters – they get here about a fortnight sooner-.

My best love to you all

from your ever loving son




Presumably the Wahine

Number 8: “Fung Tu” means “Wind and soil”.

Wanhsien incident for which Paul was mentioned in despatches


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Posted by on 10 June, '19 in About


2 August 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

Aug 2nd.


S.S. “Shanking”

Nearly at Hangkow.


Dearest Mother.

Well I am getting along gradually – and am now about 500 miles up the River – I spent about 4 days in Shanghai – & met one or two friends and also one of my “Gunboats” – so I was able to glean a goodish deal of information about the upper River. I left there on Thursday on this ship- very small river steamer – but quite comfortable – full of Chinese – and I and another passenger are the only British passengers – dreadfully dull – but the sights and scenes on the River are most interesting really –

We have stopped at a good many places – but I did not go ashore – they all looked so filthy. We arrive at Hangkow tomorrow morning – where I change into another smaller steamer & go about 500 miles in her & then change again into an even smaller one, I suppose for our last 500 miles.!! I hear the Widgeon is at “Chunking” – about another 10 days!! I am getting terribly bored with this travelling & living in suit cases-

I hope it does not get any hotter than this – really it’s been terrible – and no wind to cool it down – though an occasional very severe thunderstorm-.

Hope everyone at home is very well. I find it difficult to write letters these days – having had no home news. Tell Ruth & Jack I am collecting a few matchboxes now and again – when I remember!!

My best love to you & very many happy returns of your birthday – though I fear rather late.

Your ever loving son



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Posted by on 6 June, '19 in About


25 July 1926 – Paul to Gertrude

P & O.S.N.Co.




25 July


Dearest Mother-

We hope to get into Shanghai tomorrow – but I expect it will be at least another fortnight or so before I find the “Widgeon”.

Great excitement when we were nearing Hong Kong last week – as they had a Typhoon – & so we had to turn back and steam away – we arrived safely in the end. I met several friends of mine – who showed me round

A mere handful of people left on board – and it is rather lonely – and very hot.

Hope everyone is very fit and well at home. I am wondering if there will be any letters tomorrow for me on arrival at Shanghai-!

My best love to you

from your ever loving son



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Posted by on 3 June, '19 in About


Paul Berryman

The remaining letters are from Paul in the 1920s, but before we start reading them let’s catch up with him.

Paul and Nancy had two daughters, Joan and Paddy (Patricia). When we pick up Paul’s letters in 1926 he has a command of his on in China and Nancy and the girls are in England and Nancy is trying to buy a house. When they were older, the girls were sent to school in England and lived with their grandparents during the holidays.

Paul’s letters skip through the 1920s, a few from 1926, a handful more from 1927 and three from 1928. They start out with a Naval engagement Paul was involved in in China, and then move on to his relationship with Nancy and his daughters.

Paul, escorting one of his daughters as a bride

Paul spent a lot of his naval service in the China seas, and retired in due course from the Royal Navy but my brother remembers visiting him in London and seeing his bedroom, separate from his wife’s, and little more than the size of a cupboard; the room of a man who spent most of his life in enclosed spaces on board ship.

Paul, in his naval greatcoat, on board ship. Undated.

Paul and Nancy divorced in the late 1920s and he married Amy Ida Anna Lyndrajer in 1938. They must have separated during the Second World War because he married Elizabeth Louisa Margaret Eden (“Peggy”) in 1946.

These emails from Paul’s grandson tells the story of his three marriages and post-war years better than I ever could:

I suspect you might be right that Paul was difficult to live with. Peggy seemed to be his match as ‘Number 3’. I do recall being at a family function with Paul’s 2 exes and Peggy and he spoke to them as No 1, No 2 and No 3! No names. Nancy took it in her stride. When I drove him around London, on more than one occasion, on seeing an attractive young lady he would shout, ‘Stop the car. There goes Number 4’

He was a good-looking man throughout his life.

Paul in later life.

His grandson continues:

Growing up in Rhodesia as it was, I only had the fortune to get to know my Grandfather Paul in 1968 (me being 17 years old) and then of course my Grandmother Nancy Swan.

I, like you, had a great fondness for Paul and he embarrassed me unashamedly as his Grandson from Africa and forced vast quantities of beer down me in a very short space of time. We did our utmost to make up for missed time and I spent many nights at 59 Redcliffe Road and still recall the telephone number as Flaxman 2015. There was far too little time to really catch up but I was always very proud of my ‘Pa’ Berryman.

He and I were both keen that I should join the Royal Navy for which I applied. I was not accepted for being ‘Rhodesian’ with whom after the Unilateral Declaration of Independence Britain was seriously contemplating War, my loyalty was questionable! Paul was livid and I fear made his feelings known and felt!

I was also able to share two Christmas’s with Granny Nancy.

Sadly over a period of only 5 short years, Paul, my Aunty Ben, Nancy and my Mother Joan died.

I have memorabilia of  a few telegrams and letters from HRH Prince Albert to Paul. These letters clearly indicate a warm friendship between them. Albert was my Mother Joan’s Godfather and we have a lovely signed silver christening mug from Albert to my mother on her christening in 1919.

Prince Albert Duke of York, of course, became King George VI who was King during WW2 and was father of the present Queen.

I am grateful to my cousin for these sharp memories of Paul. I do not remember him now, but Paul died when I was 7 years old and my parents did not bother to tell me about the death of so elderly and distant a relative. I was outraged when I found out and exclaimed “My own BLOOD! And you didn’t tell me!”.


Posted by on 30 May, '19 in About


27 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

Damascus 27/5/19


Dear Mother

Don’t be alarmed at the above address, but I am on a trip to Assyria. And various other parts. Fearfully interesting but what a strenuous journey. Nothing but change trains and packing and unpacking one’s kit. Sometimes one might thank you for an active service again. I have bought various things, two rather nice rugs, which I will try and send home, they can be used but not given away to Ben or others for there new houses etc. I shall have them in mine when I get one. Also some other small things, an Arab head dress which is rather curious, also two brass plates inlade with silver & copper, really beautiful work.

I go on to Beirut tomorrow for a day and then back to Ismailia. I met some friends from the 20th Deccan Horse tother day up here, just off down to Egypt to be demobilized, they all enquired tenderly after Dick. The scenery here in the train over the Lebanon Hills is marvellous, and I have taken umpteen photos so if they are any good I will send some along. Mountains covered with snow, while in the train it is so hot one can hardly breathe. All this show is worth seeing, and one does’nt always get such a chance.

I have heard no more about leave, they have treated the R.A.S.C badly it’s absolutely disgracefull. Some officers here came out here in 1915 and have been retained for the Army of Occupation. If you look at the map of Palestine you can see where I have been, by my rough sketch below

I have only marked the important stops, I will send a better sketch later on.

No more news, best love to all

Ever your loving son


And that’s the last letter we have from Topher.

He was made a Captain before he was demobbed. He moved to Kenya after the First World War and in the 1920s and ’30s the Kenya Gazette lists him as a “Settler P.O. Mukuyu”. At one point he and Paul registered the patent for an oil lamp with a rubberised base which was supposed to prevent it tipping over. At another time he bred “barkless dogs” for people in towns, presumably the African Basenji. This venture fell through with the news that “one of Topher’s barkless dogs has barked”. In 1952 Topher married Elizabeth Metcalfe Llewelyn. He remained in Kenya during the Mau Mau uprisings between 1952 and 1959 and after Independence in 1963. The Kenya Gazette records his home as being in Timau at the time of his death in in Mombassa in 1964 when he was 71.

In the letters, Topher is an elusive and sometimes pitiful figure, lacking the agency, charisma and good luck of his elder brothers. He’s even harder to see once he’s gone to Kenya. To my regret, I did not realise that Rosamund’s youngest son, Peter had stayed with Topher in Africa after the Second World War and I did not take the time to ask him about his impressions of Topher. I feel sorry for young Topher in France, but I wonder if I would have found adult Topher in Kenya rather a difficult man. 


Posted by on 27 May, '19 in About


13 May 1919 – Topher to Gertrude

May 13th 1919


Dearest Mother

Very many thanks for your last letters. The lost mail turned up a day before last week’s so I have had quite an array of letters. Since writing quite exciting things have happened. I have saved a man from drowning during some aquatic sports which we held the other day. I was one of the judges in the novices race, and was out in a boat at the time. The race started all right, but one fellow got into difficulties about 30 yrds from my boat, and being the only swimmer in the boat I had to dive in with all my clothes on, I just caught the fellow when he was going down the 2nd time.

This is the 3rd time in about a month that I have gone in the sea with all my clothes on, the 2 previous time accidents of course. While sailing the other day, we had to pull up the centre board because we were in shallow water, but of course forgot to put it down and over we went, luckily quite near in land, and really it was funny. I swallowed practically the whole lake through laughing. And what’s much more annoying is that I have spoilt 2 watches, I must send them home to you to get mended. The other time I think I told you, was when I walked on to a disused spring board on the edge of the Canal and it gave way and in I went, fully clothed.

Would you send me that pair of Binoculars belonging to Dick I think which were when I last saw them in Rosamond’s room, also his Prismatic Compass, which was in the sideboard in the new boudoir. I must have them, and I’m not going to buy them when things are so near the end, also very expensive. Send them by registered post. They will be taken great care of, in fact I shall hardly ever use them, but I have to be fully equipped in case of emergency.

No news of leave, but it has really started, 3 officers have already gone, they have extended the leave to a month now, which is rather pleasant. I have bought some aerial photos of various places out here which I will send along soon, some of them are taken by Germans themselves.

Lovely weather we are having now, which is more than you can say. What with snow & blizzard it must be terrible at home these days, I shiver to think of it. I’ve played a few games of tennis lately, but realy people do play badly these days out here, they seem to have no idea at all. Well no more news, many thanks for the papers & Home Chat, quite interesting, Love to all and Sheina

Ever your loving son


Topher received a Testimonial from the Royal Humane Society for saving the man from drowning. 

1918 Christmas edition


Posted by on 13 May, '19 in About


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