Captain Ralph Horsfield’s letters from Gallipoli 1915
My Grandfather Ralph Horsfield, a Regular Officer with the 9th Worcesters, was sent on the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 as part of the 13th Divison. He wrote back the following letters - that have been transcribed by my brother Hugo - to his wife Morah who was expecting their first child. Their first son Nigel was born on 19 September 1915. Incidentally, Ralph’s first name is pronounced ‘Rafe’ - you probably knew that anyway - but in the family he was known as ‘Gaffer’.
Crispin Horsfield 2014
Index of letters by date
3PM Monday 21st June H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
You see we are on the ‘Cawdor Castle’ as I spected [sic] & I’m hoping to get a wire from you this evening. I don’t know when we sail, possibly we may be here a day or two, so try addressing a letter to the ship as soon as you get this. It already seems about 6 months since we said “goodbye” this morning. I hated the drive into barracks. I don’t think I had properly realised before that we were parting for some time & when I did I very nearly broke down. Everything was in a state of chaos when I arrived. At 4.30 the men were nowhere near ready for parade & their rooms were filthy. Everyone seemed dazed or drunk & it was almost impossible to get anything down. No other officer of the Company was on parade till after 4.45 & Moss [Major E. W. Boyd-Moss] came on cursing everything & particularly his fate for having to go on service with such a crowd. The Mess Staff had failed to get up & no breakfast had been got ready for the officers. However we got on parade with most of the Company about 5 o’clock & arrived at Frimley about 50 minutes later, with the Horse Cart, which ran away & broke itself on something, the only casualty. And I don’t think anything essential is broken in that. The wait at Frimley was a very dull affair, but I managed to supplement my breakfast with a glass of milk & a slice of cake. We started off in the direction of London & passed Weybridge by which time I was sure we were going via Town & didn’t look out of the window till someone said we were at Virginia Water. Hence we went by Ascot to reading, where we got on to the G.W.R. & arrived here a little before 1 o’clock. We were very crowded as we only had two 1st class carriages & there were 9 officers in the one I was in. However I had a single corner seat and was fairly comfortable & slept a good deal. This ship hasn’t good accommodation for officers – nothing but a Saloon (no smoking room) & not much deck space. I am in a cabin with 2 others, Gibbon & Carter, the latter one of our lately imported Captains. By the way, did you notice that your husband is no longer a Temporary Captain. I was in the Gazette this morning, dated 24th May. My Baggage has arrived safely & I am having the two handsome green suit cases in my Cabin. So far I have not discovered any deficiencies in my Kit. While on the subject, will you send me ‘HB’ pencils please. The ones I have are ‘B’s & rather soft for writing clearly.
The ships officers think we shall go straight out to Gallipoli & land where the others did. That points to our taking over the trenches form the troops now holding them. All of which seems to make for a safe show for us, as in addition to a peaceful landing, ‘the push’ will most likely be made by the other divisions when they come. Otherwise no news or rumour of our doings. John solved his car difficulty by selling the faithful animal for £25, it seems a rotten price. Since writing the above I hear that the name of ship must not be mentioned in letters. So write to me “c/o Embarkation officer, Avonmouth”. It is now nearly 5 o’clock, so I expect you are near your journey’s end. I hope you’ve had a good trip without puncture or other troubles and that you are not too frightfully tired. I don’t know for certain if I shall be able to send this, but you know I’ll try my hardest. With oceans of love, my dearest dear, your loving husband
Tuesday . 11.30 AM H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
We are here until mid-night to-night at any rate & how much longer no one knows. I want to get off as soon as possible as this ship does not provide much comfort, being overloaded both with troops& officers. I am in the 2nd class, right aft, as there are only twelve first class cabins & most of these are appropriated by the gunners, with whom we share the ship. The cabin is not so very small & I have drawn the best bunk, an upper one just under a porthole. Meal time overcrowds the small saloon several times over & there are not sufficient Stewards to cope with the needs of the feeders. The food isn’t too appetizing & the ‘butter’ is uneatable. Last night I went to bed about 8.30, as I had a headache. A long nights sleep quite cured me & I’m feeling quite healthful to-day. This afternoon we are going to take the troops ashore to stretch their legs, I expect they will be very pleased to get off as they are so cooped up. I’m very glad I got that deck chair, its going to make a heap of difference to my comfort. The last sentence is the first written by the agency of the ink-tablets, which have come in sooner than I expected as there is no ink about, tho’ I expect there is some hidden away in some corner of this tramp. When I unrolled my hold-all this morning I found the Vaseline all over it, the tube have burst, so Mrs Walker is evidently right about the fickleness of tubes. I have put the Vaseline or what remains of it in my soap box, as I don’t require that during the voyage. Otherwise no casualties. My slacks were in my valise, but North got them out before stowing it away. I have got both my green boxes in my cabin. I didn’t get a wire from you last night, as I hoped. Hiscock got one from his Mrs addressed simply to 9th Worcestershire Regt. I hope I shall get a letter from you before we sail. I found more money in my purse than I thought, nine pounds in gold. I expect that will last me a very long time. The poor ‘Pole’ came to see us off yesterday morning, very down on his luck. He has been sent to the 12th Battalion. This ink seems rather inclined to clog my pen, perhaps I have made it too strong. Well I will close this as I don’t think as I don’t think I’ve anything more of interest to report. It seems years since I said good-bye to my dear wife & I don’t at all appreciate my return to a bachelor existence. I’m very glad to have the photograph to remind me of your dear face, not that I really need reminding at all. Anyhow I have many reminders in the many things I should not have thought of taking if it had not been for you.
With heaps & heaps of love
Your loving husband
Please give my love to your Mother
Wed 23rd H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
My Dearest One
I’ve just heard that we probably go out on the mid-day tide, but can’t find out for certain. We’ve just been on shore for a bit of a march, stopping in the village on the way back to let the men buy things. While waiting there I was hailed by a very old looking subaltern , who turned out to be a fellow called Croker-Fox whom I knew well at Worcester, where he was in the Agricultural Department. He was now in the Remounts here & asked me to dine to-night if we are still here. He & his Mrs are great friends of the Wodehouses. By the way you might let Mrs W know that I have gone as I have not done so. I started reading the book about the German Court by the governess, it isn’t very exciting stuff. I don’t think any shorts have turned up for me, will you please send me off a pair as soon as possible. Otherwise I seem complete in every detail. I have not heard from you yet, perhaps they won’t let letters on board, but I still hope to see my dear girl’s writing before I go. I wish we’d hurry up & start, it seems as though I am delaying my return by stopping here doing nothing, the one thing that interests me at present is not the war & my part in it, but how long it is to be before I see Morah again. Talking of war reminds me that we are shipping a lot of steel a lot of steel plates about one foot by eighteen inches, with handles at each side & a opening with a sliding cover, to fire from. They look a very safe defence& I mean to make very good use of them. We played Bridge last night & I won two rubbers & lost two & was a little down on the transaction. After we leave port no lights are to be allowed, so late nights will not be frequent. However with dinner at 6.30 we shall get some chance of playing before dark. I’ve just heard that we don’t sail anyhow before 6, which means we are unlikely to sail before mid-night as the tide isn’t high enough after 6 o’clock, till about midnight. Whilst we are in this dirty Dock we can’t get baths, as bath water is obtained only from the water in which we happen to be floating. Gibbon found an interesting animal known as a ‘bug’ on his shaving brush yesterday morning. We have bought a large stock of Flowers of Sulphur to frighten off such gentry from our proximity. I must send this off now as someone is just going off who will post it for me.
With ever so much love, my Darling, your loving husband
Wed. June 23rd H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
My dearest Morah
It is only about a quarter of an hour since I despatched a letter to you, but that short space of time has made it necessary to write again. Firstly I have got a letter from you, one addressed c/o Embarkation Office & dated Tuesday evening & the two letters you wrote before that one have not turned up. Secondly the Captain has just got orders to sail to-night, which means that we shall sail about 1a.m. I was delighted to get your letter. It was very annoying for you not to be able to start on your journey till so late, you must have hated waiting, but bad luck was certainly followed by good, in that you got to Ringwould without mishaps on the worn-out foot gear of the faithful Ford. I quite understand that the way was long and tiring, having to drive all the way yourself, when you can’t have been feeling in the least in the mood for a sustained effort. I’m glad you are going to have a boy to look after the car. I hope you’ll get a strong one, who won’t ruin his young life by too arduous cranking. I wonder at it being so cold down at Ringwould, as it stuffy & hot here & a breath of sea air will be very refreshing. Send me some putties, Indian ones if possible. The new ones are cool but very hard to put on without indecent exposure of leg as they are rather too short. Have the shorts made rather on the long side as then I can easily have them shortened, whilst the other process wouldn’t be so easy. This letter is rather jerky as I am taking sentences from your letter & answering them. I don’t wonder that you feel disinclined to make much effort at present. You’ve had a very time the last few days & probably a rest is what you want more than anything. I got rid of one of my golden sovereigns to-day. The Coy-Sergt Major, whom you met on Sunday, wanted some money. When we arrived on Monday a wire , which had been forwarded from Blackdown, informed him that he had become a father; he told me that this event had been monopolizing his money for some time, & he rightly guessed that I should prove sympathetic. So much for that. This will be the last letter you get for some weeks. But I’ll write a little every day, so that you may know that your husband is thinking of you & writing to you even tho’ you can’t read the result for some time. And I’m sure my wife will do the same, with regard to thinking at any rate. With heaps & heaps & heaps of love, your ever loving husband.
Thursday 24th H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
My Darling Wife
We moved out of the Docks last night & are now lying a few miles away, waiting for an escort. I may be able to send this off by the pilot when we do move. To-day we got a taste of the weather you’ve been having – very cold indeed. We did some physical exercises during the morning, which set the circulation going a bit. I am “Captain of the Day” to-day. That doesn’t seem to mean very much. So far all I have done is to go round the ship with ‘Grand Rounds’, when a huge crowd starting with the Captain of the Ship & the O.C. Troops & ending with the various Serjeants on duty. The Colonel of the Gunners is O.C. Troops & John is Adjutant of the Ship. I am wearing the life-saving waistcoat to-day for warmth. They say we shall have passed all danger from submarines by the time we pass Ushant, & it will probably be cold enough to make me want to wear the waistcoat till then. I thought the water would be clean enough to bathe in now that were out of the docks, but as it turned out it looked more like ink than anything else, so I had to satisfy myself with a tub in the small foot-bath of fresh water they provide to wash the salt off. I looked for the name on the towel I thought was mine & found that it was marked “R.E. Vyvyan”. Did you see that a Company of our 4th Bn had helped to capture a trench from the Turks, after the Brigade whose business it was had failed to get it? Also a large number of the 1st & 2nd mentioned in despatches yesterday. Am just going to have lunch & will finish this afterwards.
Afterwards. I’ve just heard that we leave at 3 o’clock – in an hour’s time. I’m very glad to be getting a move on, but not half so glad as I shall be to get back again. Well, look after yourself, my dearest & don’t (you?) forget your husband. With ever so much love.
Your devoted husband
Friday 25.VI.15 H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
My Dearest Morah
Yesterday our escort came up about 3.30 pm & away we went on our adventure. The escort consisted of two Destroyers, which zig-zagged about on our bows. We kept them till about 10 o’clock this morning, when they turned about, presumably to bring another Transport through unseen dangers. The pilot left about 5.30 pm, opposite to Barry Dock, in Wales, so probably any last letter before this was post-marked there. At night we sailed without lights & also without air as the port holes were screwed down with their iron blinds. The night passed without misadventure, except for the smell in the cabin, & we were allowed light & air again about 5.30 am. I braved a cold sea-water bath when I arose, & very cold it was, but strange to say it did not get on my liver, as in theory a cold bath always does. In fact I’ve felt far less ‘liverish’ to-day than usual, which desirable state may be due to my exercises. I did exercises again after breakfast, under Inwood, the Quartermaster’s instructions – performing exercises to remedy any present round-shoulderness & to stimulate the various breakfast dishes which reside in the middle of my person. Then we got ‘the morning paper’ in other words our Marconi news, which told us of the taking of Lemberg by the Germans & of the torpedo-ing of the Roxburgh. At rounds at 11 o’clock every officer & man had to parade in a life-belt. They seem very good things, & are made of slabs of cork sewn into a sort of double bib, which you put over your head so that it fits round your neck. At rounds I managed to get rid of the vast sum of Company money which I have been carrying for the last week. The day has been a very nice one after a cold start & the sea is smooth but rather ‘swellish’. Several gallant officers are cabin-bound, tho’ that must be due to the vividness of their imaginations. I am eating enormous meals & expect to weigh a bit more by the end of the voyage.
(Saturday. June 26th) I stopped writing yesterday evening to listen to our drums, which perform from 7.30 to 8.15. After that the troops started singing their old favourites, the ones you know so well, such as ‘Down by that Stream’ & “You ought to join Lord Kitchener’s Army”. Only a few of them are sick & the others are full of buck & quite delighted with their ‘cheap sea-trip’. This morning there was rather a swell & several of our faint-hearted men considered breakfast too great an adventure. (George Rolph has just come up and wants me to say how much he misses the bottle of beer from the White House, & that he hopes you’ll be able to provide him with another before very long). Last night I played Bridge till nearly 11 & then came up to the Quarter deck for a breath of air, & there met John. It was a perfect balmy evening with a shinning on the water. He said how ripping the voyage would be if we both had our “Mrs’s” on board, & I cordially agreed with him. And so to bed. We are really having quite a cheery time. I sit at the head of one of the tables in the 2nd Saloon & have Gibbon, Sanderson, Tree, & Pearson about me. Dull Care is a very bad second to Frivolity. In the other Saloon, Moss(?) tells me, Dull Care is an easy first, so after all I am glad not to be there. My most serious trouble is a burned tongue & I have, once more, to think seriously of giving up smoking. I am feeling extraordinarily fit & that in spite of the fact, that tho’ most abstemious still I am considerably less so than I was at C.H.G.C. I have finished the Rider Haggard book, not a good sample, & have lost the German Court one, when about ¾ through it. The loss is rather fortunate than otherwise as I was bored by it. I’ve now started on the “Cloister and the Hearth”, which I have read before, but a long time ago. And that I find quite satisfying. It does seem an age since Monday morning. A week ago from this moment my going was still slightly indefinite & I certainly hadn’t realized what our parting would mean. I suppose Mrs Walker is with you to-day. I wonder if she will be a social success at Ringwould. Also I expect you’ve got the car palaver under way. I shall be very interested to hear about that. The ship is now steady as a rock. We are going to far out to sea to encounter the delights & splendours of the Bay of Biscay. As yesterday was a good deal warmer, I did not wear any inflatable waistcoat. When I came down in the evening I was amused & also rather touched to notice that Mr North had inflated it according to your orders! It would have to be an extraordinarily lucky submarine that struck us to-do. We’ve been so much out of the ordinary course that we have not sighted a thing all day – not even a porpoise. Yesterday evening a few of the latter consented to amuse us by their merry leaps. We also met, at the same time, a couple of homeward bound ships escorted by a lively destroyer, which signalled to us to zig-zag, altering our course two points every 10 minutes.
A glorious day, blue sea & cloudless sky. We had a short service in the morning, conducted by a very young padre. He is a South of Ireland man whose speech makes one think he must be a Catholic as his Irish is strong (though pleasant) & all except the Olympians in the South of Ireland are Catholic. His principal characteristic is a liking for my chair. This afternoon I hadn’t the heart to turn him out of it as he looked so comfortably sleepy. Later on I pulled his leg about his liking for my chair, but nevertheless he was comfortably ensconced in it this evening, so I had to take stronger steps. We are in the midst of a historic ‘Bridge’ struggle, ‘A’ Company v ‘D’. The match is a best of 5 rubbers, the two winners to stand the losers a bottle of Champagne. We have drunk the Champagne, tho’ the payment there for is still in the balance, we having won two rubbers, & they one, whilst they are frame up in the fourth. So we while away the time. Gibbon came in the cabin to-day as I was looking at your photo, so I showed it to him & he thought it very nice. I am wearing ‘drill’ to-day & so clad the temperature is a very agreeable one. Mr North is going strong & to-morrow is to turn washer-man, so that I shall not have to draw greatly on my reserve of clean clothes. I believe we may get a chance of posting letters to-morrow, at a place that I will not mention, but which will be fairly obvious, if you think of us as mooching along leisurely at about 12 knots & taking rather a circuitous course. We’ve seen nothing to-day but a couple of sea-gulls, about which there was such a shout that everyone but myself went to see what was up. Everything is the very acme of peace, & I’m sure we shall not feel in the least in the mood for slaying anything when we land. Our wireless news tells us that the German Socialists are anxious for peace, I don’t think it will be many months before the war is over. Everyone is well again now, so we are rather crowded, a slight roughness would rather please me than otherwise.
This letter is going to close to-day as a mail is being made up in the hope that we can get rid of it to-morrow. Last night we played Bridge for some hours in very stuffy atmosphere, & for that reason I simply couldn’t get to sleep when I turned in. I’m sure if my Darling wife had been there it would have been a different matter. To-day has been another lovely day, perhaps a little on the hot side. I’m very fortunate to have drawn the bunk by the port hole as I always get a current of moderately fresh between that & the electric fan. Otherwise our cabin is decidedly aromatic, a delicious blend of apples & socks. Sanderson & I won the Bridge contest last night but didn’t get much out of it as they had one very fat rubber. We are playing another today& at present are 2 rubbers all & they are one game up in the deciding one. I have written a short note to Father to-day, just to let him know I’m still flourishing. Letters are ‘censored’, but with officers it is only a form, so no-one will have read this scribble till it reaches my darling. I’m afraid we shall no chance of getting a mail to-morrow. I fancy we put in at the Rundle’s late abode in about a weeks time & possibly I shall get something there to gladden my eyes & heart. Now I must close this up. Look after yourself well, my darling, & don’t take all your exercise in the car! With all my love, my Love.
Your loving husband
(Received July 5th)
Tuesday 29th June H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
We left our mails behind this morning very early, passing ‘Gib’ & we are now in that sea that is so difficult to spell. Another beautiful day, with a sea like a pond. With you this would be a perfect life. As it is it is kept from boresomeness only by frequent Bridge & the boisterous humours of Sanderson. We are bound for Malta, & know nothing of our movements after that. I was careful not to mention names in my last effusion, but now there can be no harm, as whatever we’re going to do we shall have done more than is now known, by the time you read this. The days are closing in very fast as we move more Eastwards, only a few days ago it was light at 9 o’clock & to-night it is already dusk, tho’ only7.45. Still that has its compensations, as the nearer the equator we get, the less is the sun a pure delight. I expect it is just lovely at Ringwould now & hoping you are doing your best to enjoy it. What with the car, & making preparation for ‘another matter’, [Nigel’s birth] your mind should be well occupied. And there is nothing like having business that must be done to occupy the mind, when fate does not seem to be distributing her favours too bountifully. Likewise, the past six months are very pleasant to dwell upon. And six months more perfect still to look forward to when the magic called ‘leave’ will give us each other more than ever before.
It is blowing a bit this evening& the ship isn’t steady enough for the best writing. This morning we had a mild excitement. A biggish ship was sighted going the opposite way to ours. Shortly afterwards it turned & came up to within half a mile, & we all wondered what was up. However, after exchange signals she went on her course again, & as we have not been told what the signals were, our excitement was without climax.
The atmosphere in our 2nd class saloon gets more & more awful, playing Bridge there I got quite faint, but was quickly revived by the fresh air on deck. We have far more people there than it was built to carry & no fan. The cabin we manage to keep fresh & and that is something to be thankful for. I won’t write any more to-night, as the circumstances are too adverse. How I long for my darling to be at my side.
Thursday 1st July
The wind has dropped & it is the sea is almost smooth once more (sic). In the night it must have rolled a good deal as I felt myself drifting from one side of my bunk to the other several times. After playing Bridge at night I always go up to the bow & enjoy the beauties of the sea by moonlight, for we’ve had a generous supply of that every night since we started. I think there is nothing so pretty as watching a ship cut her way through the water, churning it into driven snow with her prow. Sometimes there are flecks of phosphorus to increase its beauty. How we should both love crossing the Mediterranean together.
I’ve just finished the ‘Cloister & the Hearth’, over 600 pages of really good reading. Its theme is the parting of lovers by wicked persons & it is rather like melodrama, but very good melodrama. I feel rather lost now I have finished it as it has been my standby for the last week. I have plenty of time on my hands as we only work about 1½ hours a day. At 11 we have to fall in on deck & remain there for about ½ hour while ‘Grand Rounds’ inspect the ship. During this time we have any inspections we want & tell off any accused persons there may be. The other parade is an hours physical culture. Otherwise there is nothing to do but read, play Bridge and sleep, but still the days seem to go quite quickly. To-day we have been just in sight of the North coast of Africa – generally the course steered is much closer the shore, but there is nothing to see but barren looking hills. I have been smoking the compressed Tobacco we bought at Camberley, as the ship doesn’t have any I like. It is rather too strong. If you send me any tobacco I should like some “Plug Cut Mixture” put up by the Army & Navy Stores. Talking of the ‘Navy’ I wonder if Jeph [his brother Joseph] got his leave & Floy her wish. The question of a Wedding Present seems to be a difficult one. To give him back the £10 he gave us doesn’t seem strikingly original & to give him something in kind not too easy as he wont want to be burdened by household goods.
(Friday July 2nd). I had to break off suddenly yesterday as a squall suddenly attacked us. It didn’t last very long but was fairly brisk while it was on. Now the sea is ‘rollerish’, but we don’t feel it much as we’ve a following wind. Last night was beautifully cool, I wanted all the blankets I had got. We’ve just been censoring the Company’s letters, not very severely as there is really nothing they know that could be the least use to anyone. We are getting close to Malta & hope to go on shore; but we don’t know even if we are to go into the harbour till we get outside & receive further orders. I hope to get a letter from you at M but I don’t think it is very probable. I expect they will all be sent to our base, where ever that may be. If you are up in town & see any of my grandmothers or aunts or cousins, please tell them I sent them my love. Love to Mother & give Isla Many Happy Returns when her birthday comes around, I can’t remember exactly when it does but think it is in the latter half of this month. I hope you are taking plenty of exercise & thinking of other things beside your husband – not but that he wants most of your thoughts. Our Marconi news yesterday told us of a success in the Dardanelles, I suppose they wanted to make room for us. Wireless is an extraordinary affair. If you send an ordinary telephone message along a wire on board a ship, it can be read by a wireless instrument on a ship 15 miles away. We were practicing telephones & were told to be very careful what we sent on this account. The message can also be read by the Marconi operator on this ship. I don’t know when my next letter will be posted or where, but it probably wont be more than 4 or 5 days after this one. There ought to be a fine budget waiting for me somewhere from you. Well my dearest, I’ve nothing more to tell you except that you are always in my thoughts & I long for the time when you are also in my arms.
With heaps & heaps of love
Your devoted husband
(Received July 11th)
Saturday. July 3rd H.M.T. C.C.
On the High Seas
We arrived opposite Malta* rather before 4 pm yesterday, not knowing whether we were to go in or not. A pilot boat came out to us and told us thro’ a megaphone to stand by as our berth was still occupied. Fortunately our ‘standing by’ only took an hour as it was rough enough to make that operation that operation uncomfortable. When we got in the harbour proved a magnificent sight. It is an enormous place surrounded by cliffs, walls & houses all of the same colour. A sort of cream. We steamed past many huge Battleships belonging to an allied power, & just as we got to our berth another transport with some of the 39th & some Gunners passed us. We had to wait till 7 o’clock before getting leave to go on shore. I was guided by Barker, who had been stationed there some years ago. We were taken ashore by a small boat called a ‘dica’, or more accurately pronounced like that as it is really spelt with double that number of letters [dghajsa, pronounced dysa]. After the usual arguments about payment, we went up the cliff in a lift & so to the ‘Strade Reali’, the principal street. A band was playing in the square in front of the Governor’s Palace. I think the first military Band I have heard since the war. We then went into the officers room in the guard House. The walls of that are covered with paintings done by officers in command of the guard. Many of them are I should think very good art & all are interesting. There is only one by an officer of ours, the Regtal crest done by one Pat Hamilton, who was killed in the early days of flying. After that we had a look at the other harbour, visited a tobacconist & a paper & postcard shop, from which I sent off 3 postcards & bought the Daily Mail of Thursday, Friday & Saturday of last week. Then to the club where we drank old Marsala & back on Board at 11 pm. Today we had some odds & ends of things & people to take on board & moored out about lunch time. It was quite a ceremonial departure as all the crews of the Allied Battleships turned out to give us a send-off. A crowd of half-naked urchins on the shore to enliven us with quite a good rendering of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’
(Sunday July 4th)
It is now getting quite tropical & the sun has to be treated with great respect. We had a service this morning, one of the hymns turned into a solo by the padre, as he gave out the wrong number for the hymn Books we had & also set it to an Irish tune which we didn’t know. The other was ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, which was well-voiced by the earthly soldiers. Our time has gone forward about 3 hours, so I expect you are just about having your breakfast as it is 12.30 here. We’ve had it very calm yesterday & to-day. Last night I couldn’t get forward to my favourite place in the bow as the deck was crowded with the sleeping forms of the soldiery. However it was a very pretty evening and the stern wash was alight with phosphorescent flashes. We got no mail at M, but I expect a really fat one in a few days. I did physical exercises with the men after Church Parade & found it somewhat warm work. So I followed that up by a second bath & a change of underclothing. I am not so short of the latter as you might expect as I have had some washed by one of the Stewards. Our stewards are a very good lot of fellows & do us very well, they seem to be always at work from 5 in the morning to 11 at night.
Last night we threaded our way through the massed forms of the sleeping soldiery & took up our position in the bows. The moon has ceased to gild our nocturnal picture, but to make up for her absence, the stars were certainly doing there utmost. There were more shining, I think, than I have ever seen before, certainly far more than are ever seen in England. The Milky Way was marvellous. We saw a light on our port bow just over the horizon. Gradually it got higher & higher & we thought it must be getting very close & be carried on a very high mast. Finally the light got so high that it could have been carried by no earthly mast, & we had to acknowledge that our light was a celestial & not a maritime one. Our saloon attains a most poisonous heat now and quite merits its title “the opium den”. Luckily the cabin still gets quite cool at night. I was up at 6 o’clock this morning & did ½ hours physical culture with the men. When it is really hot it is no hardship to have to get up early as doing so you get the best of the day; also in a hot climate it is easier to get up than it was some of those mornings at the hermitage, or The White Horse, or Trevilla(?). We’ve had a following wind for the last 2 days, so we are experiencing the ‘hottest’ possible for these latitudes. We hear from some men who came on at Malta that they do not wear drill at the D – as they found it was too conspicuous. I believe they had to give it up in S-Africa for that reason & also because it gave men chills when they had to sleep in it after getting hot & ‘moist’ during the day. I think this will be the last day of this epistle, as we should get to A [Alexandria] early to-morrow morning. After that I hope to have many letters of yours to answer. What our movements will be no one knows, but I expect we shall not move on quite at once. It is a fortnight to-day since we set off on this expedition, & it has been about the least eventful fortnight I have ever known. I wonder how our Pass book looks. I don’t suppose there was much in hand when I left, but two lots of £25 & £14 Field Allces & any July pay ought to have come in since then, so the financial outlook should be fairly bright. I expect you’ve got the car its new feet by now & that other improvements will be underway when your father returns from Bath. I hope his visit did him some good. Let me know what news you have of Roy, also if you have anything of Bill. I saw one of the 5th Shropshires in the Casualty list the other day; the only casualty that I have recognized as belonging to a unit of the ‘New’ Army.
Tuesday 9.30 AM We are now only a few miles from shore & still in glorious uncertainty as to what we shall do when we get there. I am Captain of the day & so will not be able to go sight seeing even if leave is granted to do so. I have to close this now, but expect to be able to write again before leaving ‘A’. With heaps & heaps of love, my Darling
Your loving, devoted husband
(Received July 21st)
‘A’ H.M.T. C.C.
Wednesday 7th July
Yesterday I had a great disappointment – no mail. It has been sent on to our next stopping place, a very careless business. A mail arrives from England to-day & we hope to get that before leaving. We got into the harbour here about 11 o’clock but didn’t get up to the quay till 5.30. The troops were then taken out for a march, I had to stay behind as I was Captain of the day. In the evening nearly everyone went out, but I couldn’t for the aforementioned reason. This morning we went for a short march, the enjoyment of which was considerably marred by bad smells from tanneries & some considerable place. That was before breakfast, since then we have been paying out the men, a most arduous process under active service methods. I expect I shall be able to get off this afternoon & see the town & buy some odds & ends. Hope to be just going off (8.15 pm). Many of the men got out of the quay, where they were allowed to go, & got into Alexandria, where some of them are still. So there have been roll-calls & excitement galore. No time for more, my dearest, your loving husband
(Received July 20th)
Thursday July 8th H.M.T. Cawdor Castle
Owing to various circumstances, my letter to you yesterday had to be completed in a hurry. In the afternoon we went out to find a batheing [sic] place for the troops & ourselves. We wander for miles without finding anything at all suitable & the suddenly came on a little bay, which seemed to be “just the thing the Doctor ordered”. On further inspection it proved to be paved with pork! Whether it had been put there to cure, or washed ashore from a wreck, I don’t know, anyway it made bathing impossible. So we wandered still further, without any success. It was now nearly 6 o’clock & we were very bored with walking & far from home, so I suggested taking a tram. Luckily one came along at once, so we put the Company, which ??? consisted of 50 men, on board & returned to the ship. There we found a great shortage of men, so Moss in the absence of the Colonel and Major Crofton, ordered a roll call. This disclosed the fact that a very large percentage had gone off. About which there has been some excitement, concerning which I will inform sometime by word rather than by writing. Anyway this greatly delayed our getting off to Alex and it was after 8 before I left the ship, accompanied by Gibbon. We drove into the town, about 3 miles & went first of all to get a parcel which Gibbon had promised to bring back for one Carter, the 3rd partner in our cabin. Of course the parcel wasn’t made up, so we ordered it to be sent to the Khedival Club, where we went for dinner. Dinner was a great success. Served on a large balcony overlooking the principal square, it tasted better than the best effort of London town. We had a bottle of Perrier-Jouet to wash it down with, a liquor brandy & an excellent cigar & the whole thing only came to about 13 shillings each. The wretched parcel had not come, so we went back to the shop, which was luckily still open tho it was by now 10.30. After some delay we got the parcel & proceeded to the ‘Kursaal’ to see a game called Pelota played. This interested us for ½ hour & then we thought we ought to see some more Alexandrine life, so out we went, only to discover that Gibbon had left the Parcel behind. By this time this parcel was a perfect night mare. And so back to the Kursaal where the parcel was recovered Then to the “Moulin Rouge”. In spite of its lurid name, this proved deadly dull, the performance was ended & a vain pretence of gaiety was kept up buy some ladies of little attraction dancing a sort of tango in a very proper & indifferent fashion. And nothing to drink but coffee & ‘soft’ drinks. So we didn’t stay there long, but embarked in a carriage & got back to the ship about 12.30. Today we expected to move early, but did not do so till lunch time. Whilst at Alex the ship got chock-a-block with flies & we still suffer a good deal from them, but I expect they will die off now we are at sea. I sent off for mails before going, as there was a rumour that they were to come this morning. No success. Anyhow I shall get a good budget when we arrive at an island near the ‘seat of hostilities’, the day after to-morrow.
Friday 9th July. Nothing much doing today. Played Bridge with very bad cards. My luck has been right out lately. Perhaps unlucky at cards, lucky in war, will prove true. Mr north washed my drill coat to-day, with moderate success. An iron would have helped him to make s better job of it. The ship is gradually getting free from flies & on the whole it is getting a bit cooler. I think the climate at the place we are going to will be quite passable. We ought to arrive to-morrow evening too late to land. Then we shall know how comfortable our next fortnight is to be, as we are unlikely to move to the fighting till after that. It is possible that we may use the ship as a Barracks, which will be more comfortable than bivouacking on shore. We were supposed to leave our base kit at Alex, but I’ve taken all mine on with the hope of using it for the next fortnight. Moss has told me his wife has cursed him for only writing once before leaving Avonmouth, whilst I wrote 7 times – an exaggeration as far as I remember. His Mrs. & child both have measles. I think your subscription to the W.R.C.F. quite good. Violet hasn’t much news. Of course she was very interested about the coming event [Nigel’s birth] & very sorry that I cannot be with you at the time. Every one has been down with “loosinatiousness”. I am having my share of it to-day & so had to sample some more of my drugs. By the way, I got our Dr to tell me the uses of the various things the other day. I don’t know if I will be able to post this before leaving the ship but I will close it on the chance, even if it can’t go & has to wait for another letter. I don’t suppose you will much mind seeing your name in my writing on two envelopes. My dearest girl, good luck to you & keep your spirits up, for your sake, my sake & one other’s. With heaps & heaps of love
Your loving boy
(Received Aug 7th)
Monday July 12th H.M.T. C.C.
My Dearest Girl
Contrary to expectation we are not to move to-day. I suppose that is due to the fact that everything happens to us on the 13th. Mr North packed all my stuff in its various boxes last night, but I think I shall be able to live on my pack & so not have to distort his arrangements. Several officers have got some stocking puttees, which seem to be rather the goods. Will you please send me a pair. They are obtained from a firm calling itself Turnbull & Asser, who advertise in Land & Water. Half the officers are in complete ‘Tommy’ kit, I rather wish I had a Tommy’s Coat & shall get one as soon as possible. I am not taking any breeches, I shall either wear shorts or trousers with puttees. I am taking a coat & trousers of English Pattern Service dress, it will be warmer to sleep in even if I never wear it by day. I developed a headache at about lunch time to-day & so had to recourse to my medicine chest for 2 Aspirins. This remedy proved quite successful & taken in time sated me from one of my really bad efforts. Perhaps the trouble was due to a somewhat trying mixture of beverages last night. Moss & Rolph & one or two kindred spirits sometimes assemble in the Chief Steward’s Cabin & use that as a smoking room & ‘bar parlour’. Last night I was of the company for some time. The C-S is a very friendly person, who embellishes each word with about 3 others of the type usually termed ‘profane’.
Tuesday July 13th. We got another mail in last night, four letters from you dated from 24th to 28th June, a letter from Violet and one from Doris Lloyd. The 1st letter from you contained two snapshots of you, one, the full length one, very good & the other, ¾ length, rather Amazonian. Your arrangements regarding the car seem highly satisfactory, I should think you might have the electric lights at once. I’m glad Jeph has decided against being married in a hurry, his case is by no means on all fours with ours. The next letter has two ‘snaps of me & one of the Club house, we were unlucky not to get a good one of the latter. I can’t quite place the Sergt Clarke whom you saw at the Hospital. There was one who was a very good football player & boxer, but I believe he went into some Indian volunteers as Sergt-Major. The only other Clarke I remember was in the band. I talked it over with Sergt-Major Brown & he couldn’t remember any others. By the way he has good news about his wife & child. We have got our orders now. We leave this ship at 3 o’clock this afternoon to embark on something smaller, which will land us on the famous peninsula, as usual we had to wait for the 13th! It is sad to hear that the Red X business is having a bad effect on the simple Ringwould ‘Misses’. Are they becoming “fluffy nosed”? Your Saturday letter says you sent out a parcel. It has not arrived yet, perhaps parcels come separately from letters. I will ask North about the box he took to Worcester. I’m sorry the Higgins prevented you writing on Sunday, but you gave me a good portion on Monday. I must hurry home to see the new Mrs Higgins – she sounds just my sort! (According to your idea of ‘my sort’ anyway) I wonder if the Lce-Cpl Ward is a man who used to be in ‘G’ Coy, he was a very quiet, respectable man with rather a surly manner. I’m glad you read my diary as it proved entertaining. I will ask North about the gold links. I expect you’ve got my Malta letter by now, & the Alexandria letter must be close to home. I believe if one’s lucky in striking the mail it is only about 5 or 6 days from Alex.
Saturday July 10th. I am writing in the morning to-day as I may not have much time later. I am on a Regtal Court Martial with 8 accused & Major Crofton as President. We are now steaming through the Greek Archipelago & passing small islands every few moments. I heard the Captain say that the coal we got on at Alex was bad stuff & wouldn’t make the ship go at all, so we shall not get in till to-morrow mid-day, instead of tonight as I expected. My Basingstoke pipe has gone & broken its mouthpiece, so will you please send me another – a moderate-sized bulldog for choice. The Staffords came into Alex the day after we did, I saw Heyworth on one ship, but we went off before I managed to have any words with him. It is quite cool to-day, with rather a strong breeze, but still a calm sea. We’ve had a remarkably steady voyage. I wonder what’s happening in the war now. We are out of range of Marconi messages now & so hear nothing.
Sunday July 11th. At 7 o’clock this morning we dropped anchor in ------ Bay, a fine natural harbour in an Island about the size of the Isle of Wight. We have no orders except to be ready at an hours notice. No mail has been brought on board, but I don’t think our luck will be bad enough to make us miss our letters again. It is a perfect day, just like a July day in England at its very best. Bright sunshine with a breeze that is just cool. There was a magnificent sunset last night, & a grand sunrise this morning – the former I saw, the latter I know only from hearsay evidence. (A little later)Our mails are coming on at 3 o’clock this afternoon, so I shall see my loved one’s writing & hear how she is managing to get on without her little husband. We stay here to-night & to-morrow ‘change’ into smaller craft, which take us to the ‘theatre of operation’. It is now almost certain that we go on the beaten track & don’t make a new landing. Anyhow we ought to make matters move & help a bit towards ending this war We get letters off either to-day or to-morrow morning. After this I doubt whether it will be possible to keep up my “Daily Mail” but I will do my ‘bestest’. So far I’ve not missed a day – it is 3 weeks exactly since we were in a frenzy of packing preparatory to leaving the delights of C.H.G.C. I wonder if you have remembered to write a daily screed.
5 pm. I have just read my mail, three letters from you & one from Mother. I can’t say how delighted I was to hear from you. I was greedy for more than I got, but it certainly wasn’t my Dear Girl’s fault, but the fault of the mail, as the last date was June 23rd, well over a fortnight ago. Before I forget there is a bill from T. White, Aldershot for packing our things & storing them. I am tearing it up, so will you please send for the bill & deal with it as suits you. To take your letters in detail. The 1st is a sad one written on the day we parted. You must have felt in the very depths when Keith’s failure to turn up added to your other troubles. Thank goodness the car behaved itself, even so it must have been a tiring & tedious effort to have to drive 120 miles on a hot day. I am very glad you wrote just as you felt – however cheerfully you had written, it wouldn’t have deceived me.
(June 22nd later) I’m sorry playing golf is not to be allowed. It looks as tho’ my Darling is not having many things to occupy her mind or body. I’m sure to [sic] ought to take a certain amount of walking exercise, it is quite a played out idea that you should do nothing under the present circumstances. I expect Isla will drive the car – perhaps you had better give it to her as a birthday present. I hope you have got a satisfactory youth. There’s no doubt you’ll have to take some car-menial, even if he’s a Mighty Chauffeur in faultless uniform. I’m sorry to hear that Charlie Higgins’ marriage is not approved of, but all sorts of unlikely ‘unions’ turn out well. I am almost certain your letters to me get through uncensored, but I am not sure that my letters do. I didn’t get any ‘fun’ out of the spelling or the ‘Grammer’ in your letters. They are all delightful & the only spelling mistake I noticed was the above quoted word, which your return drew attention to! Your last letter contains a charming snap shot of my darling girl. I think it is excellent & it goes in the case with the Minature. The shorts ought to arrive in a day or two if Bradshaw fulfilled his promise. Sorry to hear of the two ‘casualties’ in the packing, I hope our old friend the egg boiler is repairable. The ink tablets work very well now, I made the mixture too strong to start with, one tablet is quite enough for a pen-full. I should like violet to know of the coming ‘event”. I wrote to her from ‘Alex’ & thought of telling her myself, but did not in the end. I hope you see something of her as I know she’d like to see you & to talk about that delightful subject – myself! She is a splendid person & a very faithful friend. Fancy Keith proving so indiscreet. But on the whole it is a good thing for people to know or otherwise they might possibly – just possibly – say that my dear girl was getting rather fat! The word for M.N. was quite as new to me as it was to you. – I wonder what you decided about the Ford’s new wheels. It sounds a very good egg to have £4 extra to spend on improvements. Owing to Bridge misfortunes I shall be drawing on the account for about £5. I have still plenty of hard cash to carry me on & don’t seem likely to have many possibilities of spending in the near future. It is very kind of the Lloyds to think of writing to me, I meant to answer Kitten’s letter before I came away, but of course did not. Sorry to hear of Roy’s misfortune & of the unattractiveness of his photo! Will you please thank Mother for her letter & tell her I am writing to her shortly. I am writing this in the 1st Saloon, which has fans & is almost comfortable. It seemed almost a sin to come below, it was such a perfect twilight. A large bay, with gleaming, silvery water, bounded by black hills outlined against a sky of many colours varying from a bright pink in the West to pale blue in the East. Some of the ships are lit up as though for a fête. These are Hospital Ships, such is the irony of war, with green lights along the sides & a crimson cross in the centre. I have had to make an entire re-construction of my kit. To-morrow we take on shore just a parcel, composed of a blanket & a few odds & ends in a waterproof sheet. Later we get our valises. So I have washed out one of my beautiful suitcases, packed the other with things I am sending home, & stuffed my valise with every thing else. This rather reduces my reserve of Kit, but I don’t think that can be helped as it didn’t appear likely that anything I left at Alex would ever get on to me. – To-morrow we are going to the Peninsula, but seem likely to have a quiet time there for a bit before things start to go with a hum. I have great hopes that the war will be over in the early autumn. If only I could get back before The Event I should be happy. The thing I dislike above all others in our separation is that you won’t have me with you when the time comes for you to have pain for the sake of our love. Poor dear Girl, your’s is far the harder part as I have duties & new experiences to make one forget at times how much I miss you. I hope you’ll be able to read all this most of it is written sitting on my deck chair & I’m a very bad writer away from a table. When you send me out writing paper, I should like a soldier block & some more substantial envelopes than the present ones. I have plenty of paper at present as I have only finished half one block. Well my Darling, it is time to finish. I now have to censor heaps of letters for the Company. I hope to have a week’s mail from you in a very few days & then you will have a long letter from me. When we are stationary & on land I doubt if I shall have much to tell you. Good-night , my dear brave girl. With heaps & heaps of love, my Darling, your loving Boy.
(Received Aug 4th)
Wed 14-VII-15 on shore
My dearest Girl
Yesterday I wrote you from the pleasant & peaceful deck of the Cawdor Castle. To-day I am writing in an inferior dug out in a trench – only a support trench, it is true, but with only a few hundred yards from persons bent on our undoing. We didn’t leave the Cawdor till 6.45. I was with the second half Bn, ‘C’ & ‘D’ Companies, this curious fact being due to Major Barker developing a very bad attack of Colli-wobbles the result of which was that I was told to command his Company. I came very near to beginning my Command inauspiciously, after getting the company on board I went back to the Cawdor Castle with Tree for a farewell beverage. The Beverage was a long time in coming & when I went to get on board I found the boat moving off & the gang-way removed! However I just managed to spring on board & so did Tree. We were far from comfortable on our New Boat, & could get neither food nor drink – we had bought from the C.C. [Cawdor Castle] a few sandwiches & these proved to be absolutely uneatable. About 11.45 we reached a spot where we had to change into still smaller boats. The first, we had to have two, didn’t arrive till after 1 o’clock & the second, for which I had to wait , came about 2.45 AM. We landed just before dawn on a most desolate sandy waste. Hence, much laden, we had to walk 4 miles over sandy tracks to our camp. Hungry & tired, not having had a wink of sleep, we arrived there about 5.30, to find that it consisted of a cliff by the sea, in which very shaky terraces had been dug to accommodate the Companies. Not a very high standard of Comfort. ‘A’ Coy had to parade for the trenches at 8 AM, ‘B’ at 10 & ‘C’ at 12 mid-day. I will tell you about our movements to-morrow. It is dark & my torch may excite the wrath of the foe.
Thursday 15th. We paraded at noon yesterday & were led by a guide to our trench home, by sandy tracks, through an almost blinding sand-storm. There was a strong wind against us& we were almost blinded. The trench we were to take over belongs to the Brigade commanded by Colonel Cayley, of the 4th Bn. I had to report to him. He seemed quite pleased to see me & looked very fit. Soon after that we arrived at the trench, & I proceeded to take it over from a major of the Loyal North Lancs, Col Levinge’s Bn. [Levinge was killed on 10th August during the August Offensive] I enquired after the latter & was informed that he was quite fit. The flies & the sand made our home by no means a delight, but it was solidly built, (by the Turks before we turned them out of it) & deep. The afternoon & evening passed without incident, except for the visit of some 4th Bn men who are in a trench close by. These told us a good many wrinkles, & some of the inner history of the Campaign. Neame & I live in a ‘dug out’ at one end of the trench & the platoon officers are spaced out along the trench. At night the temperature got just right, & the flies ceasing from troubling, all was jolly & bright. There was a good deal of firing going on both gun & rifle, but it wasn’t very close & didn’t disturb us. Also we were in good form for sleep. About 1AM I woke up & couldn’t think where the blazes I was, until the sound of firing kindly informed me. Shortly afterwards one of the telephone operators called out to someone ‘Where are you’? Neame waking up at that moment answered him “Where am I? Why on deck of course”. He used to sleep on deck on the C.C. The poor telephone operator didn’t know what to make of it all & rather suspected foul play somewhere. I didn’t get much more sleep as we have to stand to arms before daylight. However I got a bit more after dawn, before breakfast. To-day it is much more pleasant, no wind or dust, but multitudes of flies. I went to see ‘A’ Coy this morning, all seemed cheery. They are in the Firing line& their trench isn’t as deep as ours, but they are fast improving that. We shall be joined up with them by a communicating trench shortly, we are each sapping toward the other. On the whole it is not unpleasant & I think one is as well off in the trenches as anywhere in the Peninsula.
Friday, Jul 15th [sic, should be 16th] I have had a very tiring day, with no time for writing to my dearest till now, after 8 o’clock. I was ordered to leave this trench & take my company to another as soon as I was relieved. I had to trek into our Headquarters for orders, then go over to the trench I was to relieve, then back to my Company no relief turned up & I kept on being sent for all over the place & getting different orders. Finally I remain where I am for the night. Net result, I feel I’ve done quite enough & have a slight headache. I mean to get a fair night’s rest. I don’t think I’ve had 3 hours at a stretch since Monday night, but strangely enough I have not really felt tired till to-night, in fact I’ve felt very fit. You must excuse a very short effort to-day, my dearest girl, I hope to have more time to-morrow.
Saturday July 17th. Early morning. I had a fairly good nights rest & feel quite fit this morning. A Company of N.S. [North Staffordshires] have relieved our ‘A’ Coy in the Fire Trench in front of this. I went over to see them yesterday evening & found Major Edwards, “Colley” & one of the Robinsons there. They have been here longer than we have as they came faster from Alex. One of my most necessary comforts has ‘gone sick’ – to wit, my air cushion. I may be able to get it mended, anyway please let me have new in your next parcel. Other kit tragedies are the breaking of the watch glass, (the stop watch) & the melting of half a packet of chocolate in my pocket – a horrible mess. I have had no mail or parcel since getting here. I asked North about the links & he says they were in a shirt when last he saw them. The leather box was sent from Worcester empty. It is very quiet this morning, one only hears about one shot a minute. Most of the night there was a furious fusillade, but that doesn’t mean anything as the Turks always make at night, probably to frighten the ghosts away. We get a News paper here – the Peninsula Press. It consists of wireless reports & some extracts from newspapers. I have only seen one number, from which it seemed that the Russians were doing better. I am connected up with Bn Headquarters by telephone. This has disadvantages as well as advantages. I get called up at all hours, very often about nothing, & I have to send down reports at fixed hours every day. So far I have not failed once tho’ the flurryings of yesterday afternoon cause one to be a little late. I have now shifted some of the responsibility onto the Telephonist on duty by ordering him to remind me in plenty of time to send the reports in. ‘A’ Coy had a bit of an exploit the night before last. They sent out a party & collected 13 Turkish Rifles they had spotted in the day time. No one was hurt.
4.30 P.M. Have just been ordered to send Neame & 2 platoons off somewhere else. I remain here with the other two. I am sorry to lose Neame as he is the only officer of the present company at all congenial to me. However it will probably be for a very short time as I expect to be relieved soon. Also it’s about time Major Barker got well & came here, & when that happens I shall go back to ‘A’. for many reasons I shall be glad to do so but I shall be sorry to give up an independent command. Sanderson will be glad when I go back, so that he can look after me! I wonder if you would recognise me now – I almost doubt it. To start with I’m almost black from sun & dirt. I’ve a 5 day’s growth & my moustache scarcely exists, being clipped as short as scissors will do it. My kit is a shirt & a pair of very sloppy trousers, without putties. I don’t know when Mails go, but I am going to send this down on the chance of one being soon. Good luck my dear one& keep your pluck up. Your husband is doing very fairly well under the circumstances & is being very careful.
With heaps & heaps of love, my Darling.
Your loving Boy
(Received Aug 4th)
Sunday July 18th. Somewhere in Europe
My Darling girl
We are still in the trench from which I wrote my last letter. Our relief is said to be on its way, in fact it is supposed to have been all the afternoon & it is now 5 o’clock. So we are standing by in readiness to quit. It would be a relief to quit if we had anywhere better to go, but I fear we have not. We go into reserve where I suppose our chief amusement will be to make up arrears of sleep. Last night was a very disturbed affair. I turned in at 9.30, but couldn’t get to sleep owing to the noise. At 11.30 a message came through telling me to be in readiness to move at a moments notice. We waited most expectantly for nearly an hour, when a message came to “resume normal rest”. That wasn’t much good to me as I had arranged to take a watch from 1.30 to 3.30, & by the time that was done it was time to ‘stand to’, a process which is always gone through just before dawn. I turned in about a quarter to five, but couldn’t get to sleep for an hour & a half, after which I slept for about an hour. Strangely enough I don’t feel tired. I’m beginning to think that an hour’s sleep on hard stone is worth 10 hours in a bed. Never-the-less I have developed no craving for stone beds & wont ask you to buy one against my return. I shaved any beard off in preparation for making myself look like a human being when I get down to the shore. I’ve got quite used to being dirty & thank goodness I’ve no live-stock at present.
Monday July 19th. To continue my narrative, the Brigade Major arrived when I broke off yesterday. He sent a message through to the Brigade office & the answer was that my relief would come sometime & I must wait for it. Ultimately it arrived about 8 o’clock & after handing over we got away about 8.45. So we had to march down to the shore on darkness, luckily the way was easy to find. We arrived shortly before 10 & were met by John who asked me to dine at Headquarters & indulge in a bottle of the ‘Boy’, after which we sat up talking & whisky-soda-ing till midnight. Our quarters here are on a cliff, my own nook being 10 yards from the sea. The comparative comfort here is delightful as is the open space after being cooped up for four days, & the absence of war-noise a great relief. I have found all my kit, in which I am more lucky than many people. The only grouse is no mail. There is a rumour that a large number of mail bags have been sent to the bottom of the sea. I’ve had two bathes to-day, one before breakfast & the other just before tea. We are only here for 48 hours & then go back to a trench of some kind. I am certain not to be of in the same one as before. We had an officer killed the night before last – Bourne, the boy who beat me in the officers race the other day. Tree has been accidentally hurt by one of our own men, who put a bayonet into him. He is expected to be all right in a fortnight. I am just going to dine with ‘A’ Coy. They are all very cheery & pleased with themselves. They were 3 days in the Fire Trenches & didn’t have a single Casualty. There is no news about Major barker. I am beginning to think that my billet as Skipper of ‘C’ will be a permanent one.
20th July Tuesday. We had some very bad news early this morning, poor Tree died of his wound in the night. He is a great loss both as a soldier & socially. I saw a great deal of him on the ship & got to like him immensely. He was Gibbon’s right hand man as well as John’s understudy. I had a cheery dinner with ‘A’ troop last night. Afterwards the men went to bed & Moss & I talked of our experiences & Gibbon came in & gave his. It was a perfect moonlight evening & after bathing Moss, Gibbon & I walked up & down the shore for some time. After a bit the Doctor came along & told us there had been a small mail. After a considerable search I found two letters from you & one from Mother, the dates covered being June 29th & 30th. Your Mother told me that you were being very brave & cheerful & were looking very pretty, which was unusual for people expecting the Happy Event. Your letter of 29th contained 3 photos of myself, all rather good. But I wish I had taken more of you. Have you sent all those I did take. It does seem a stupid thing for them to take your gardener. I expect they will keep him just long enough to spoil the garden & then send him back as medically unfit. Sorry to hear that Keith is knocked up, give him a smack from me if he’s strong enough to stand it. It’s bad luck not being able to get a boy as I expect you will want to use the car when you’ve finished with the clothes problem. I can’t think of any books I want except ‘The Newcombes’ [Newcomes] by Thackeray. As a matter of fact there isn’t much chance of reading as the flies are such a nuisance that any spare time during the day is spent in trying to sleep with ones face & hands covered over. I think those mosquito-netting gloves like Mrs Walker made would be useful, & some gauze to put over my face. The mosquito net would have been useful this afternoon, but unfortunately we had to pack up as we were supposed to be moving; we are not doing so till to-morrow morning, our orders being changed about an hour ago. I don’t think the total secured for the comforts Fund was very good. The men don’t seem to want for much out here with the exception of cigarettes & they can do with millions of those. They are full of buck except when they are short of a smoke & one of them said to me “most of us fellows would sooner do without our grub than our cigarettes”. Apparently you had got no letter from me since the Avonmouth ones by the 30th, I posted one from Gib, so you probably got one soon after. Sanderson is going to get this one by some special measures from Alex, where he has friends in High Places, so you will probably read this before you get the one I posted two days ago.
I doubt if you will get another letter from me before your birthday. Very, very many Happy Returns on the 15, my Darling, & may we always be together for them. We never have been together yet on your birthday, tho’ last year it seemed almost certain we should be. You must buy yourself a present from your ‘hubby’ & mind that it is a good, fat, handsome one. I suggest the Regtal Crest in brilliants as the advertisements say. I believe that costs about £8 nicely done. It ought to have the Naval Crown above the star, so don’t let any mischievous jewel-factor do you in. That is only a suggestion, if you like anything else better don’t consider it. Don’t get anything to our mutual advantage, get something personal to yourself. I don’t want to be like one of my Uncles, who is a pianist. He bought my Aunt Margaret, who never plays, a grand piano for a present! I have not heard from my Pa yet, if you see him tell him off for his neglect of his First Born. I expect you’ve had experience of the delights of Town & Mr Baker by now. We’ve been parted a whole month now & it seems longer than the whole of the rest of our married life. It would be a great thing if one only knew how long our parting has to be. I still think the war will end in the Autumn & our part of it may finish before that. I’ve at last managed to find a shady spot in which to write – the Quarter master’s store where they have zipped up a shelter with water proof sheets. There is no shade anywhere after the sun gets over the cliff as we face about West. There was rather an amusing repartee at dinner last night, made by Bond, Sanderson’s servant. Sanderson took a long drink & exploded, as the drink consists of neat gin. “Who put that gin in my tumbler etc.” “You did, Sir,” says Bond, “just after you told me to wake up!” One of ‘A’ Company’s men put in a letter which he knew that one of the officers would censor “We have had no casualties in ‘A’ Company. This is entirely due to the coolness of our officers”!
With heaps & heaps of love my Darling F B, & more Happy returns.
Your ever loving husband
(Received Aug 5th)
Wed. July 21st.
My Darling Morah.
This morning we left the beach about 7 o’clock for a turn in the trench. I found that one immediately in front of the support trench I was in before had been allotted to me. Soon after I arrived Major Walker came along & chatted for a few minute. He told me he should right to his wife that I looked ‘Rosie’ in countenance. He looked much as usual & said he was foot except for a foot of coating to his tongue – a complaint I also suffer from. The day has been quiet but rather busy as there are a good may things to see to when taking over a new trench. I am in a dug out about 3 ft by 4 & moderately comfortable except for these accursed flies. They make eating a horrible ordeal & are so persistent that even waving ones hands about violently over the food will not keep them off. I met Capt Coates, the tall man of the Warwicks this afternoon. He is commanding a Company as major Fullerton his O.C. Coy has secured a comfortable job somewhere. He gave me some large, solid lime juice tablets, wh: were very comforting.
Last night & early this morning we were hard at work on a Communication Trench, the Company did well after the slow start which seems inseparable from them. I didn’t get any sleep till dawn, when I had a couple of hours & I had an hour since breakfast. I find I can escape the flies by hiding my face & hands under a silk handkerchief, but of course that process is no good when I want to read or write. Major Barker turned up a couple of hours ago, not looking any too fit. It is a pity he has come as a trench isn’t quite the spot to convalesce in. I don’t know what I shall have to do , probably remain with the Company till we are relieved, which will be to-morrow or the next day. The C.O. is coming round shortly, & I suppose I shall hear my fate then.
Friday 23rd. When I saw the colonel yesterday he told me to remain in command as I knew the trench, so he put Barker in support. Some excitement was expected – I had all sorts of preparations to make & hadn’t a moment to go on with my letter. The night was spent in expecting something to happen, but nothing did. I suffered from bad looseness as did two of my officers, I don’t feel very bright to-day, tho’ something I have had from the doctor has stopped the looseness. A certain amount of excitement is again expected tonight. I have had a fine mail the last 2 days, yesterday I got letters dated July 4 & 5 & to-day those of 1st, 2nd, & 3rd from my dear girl. I will answer them all when I get into reserve. I have no time at all whilst up here. The N.S. on my left were attacked this afternoon, they beat the Turks off but had some casualties in doing so. Major Edwards was slightly wounded & one of his privates badly wounded.
Sat 24th 6 pm. I am now in the comparative comfort of Divisional Reserve & the congenial company of ‘A’. in spite of expectation to the contrary, last night passed uneventfully. There was a good deal of firing from 2.15 to 2.30, but otherwise things were unusually quiet & I managed to get a good many hours sleep in short periods. This morning news came through that we should be relieved before noon & my relief actually turned up by 11. so ended a period that was expected to be exciting without a single casualty. We have not come down to the Beach this time. ‘A’ Coy are occupying a line of old trenches now some way behind the present firing line, ‘C’ Coy are on the inevitable hill-side. Soon after getting down here I saw the Colonel & asked him if I was to go back to ‘A’, he said, yes temporarily till he had another command ready for me. I don’t know if he meant that for anything definite or just a bit of general pessimism. So I lunched with ‘A’ troop & enjoyed a meal for the first time for several days, partly due to an improvement in stomachic condition & partly to not disliking my fellow-feeders. I am in the pleasantest spot I’ve struck for a long time. It is an old observation post on top of a hill, where there is a soothing breeze & less trouble from flies. There are several rumours as to our future movements, one says we are going back to the Island where we stayed a few days in harbour before coming on to the scene of operations. Now I will take the fine budget of letters I received yesterday & the day before & answer them. The first one is dated July 1st. your father seems very unlucky over the houses he sees. When it is the right house, it is the wrong price. It must be very tantalizing at times not to be allowed to start the car. It is a good thing you have some ‘fussers’ to look after you, or I expect you would yield to temptation more often. I hope Isla’s spirits have calmed down by now. The Hospital business must be a bit of a trial after so long. It is very nice of Aunt Lena to offer anything we want in the way of baby-dresses. It seems a great thing to be the first baby of a generation. (July 2nd.) it was a great performance to wash your hair after talking about it for only 2 days – previously it has always required at least 2 weeks talking before any action took place. Mrs Noah looks very pouter-pigeonish in the photo you sent. The hay field one is very good of Mother & Keith. I was much amused with your quotation from Mrs Romaney Betne [? ?]. He is a very nice boy, more of a dreamy scholar than a soldier. We’ve a Cheshire Bn in the Division & they are in the 40th Bde.
July 3rd. Very sorry to hear my dearest one has been feeling the heat. However one never gets many hot days running in England. I wonder who has been getting at my frock coat. It was alright at the Depot. You sent off your second parcel that day, by the bye I have not had the first one yet. Pickles are very necessary out here. At present we have some in our Mess stores, I expect they will be exhausted soon. I want tobacco sent as it is scarce here at present. It is not use sending chocolate except in tins as it melts. If we have any money lieing [sic] about I think it would be a good idea to buy war loan. Ask my father about it. Sanderson says I am to tell you I look an awful tramp, with a half inch beard & a handkerchief tied round my neck & much dirty. I’ve no doubt that I do. Gale & Polden, Aldershot, did the Battalion photo, write to them if it has not come. (July 4th) What a good thing it is there is so much of cousin Muriel. You’ll find another dress very useful & it should save altering others. It looks as tho’ my father has forgotten all about us. You hadn’t heard from him up to the 4th & I have not heard from him since I left. The car must be almost as grimy an object as its master, I wonder Futcher has not insisted on making it as bright as a new pin. (July 5th) The day you got my letter posted in Gib. After that there ought not to have been very long interval without letters. Sorry you had such a bad night with heat & Tiger & imaginary Zeppelins to disturb you & no husband to comfort you. (July 6th) So Mrs Moss has the measles. I wonder if the Major knows – he did when we were on the beach. Sorry it has given you so much extra work. (July 7th) Certainly if the Germans get to Calais, Ringwould will not be a healthy occupation. But I don’t think they will. It was a great performance on the car’s part to go up Dover Hill the way she did. Sunday 23rd. I had to leave off for dinner at that point last night. The lavender water will be very welcome as with defunct Turks & other sources of perfume the air in the trenches is no treat to the nostrils. I hope you managed to get a peaceful night after your last letter apparently you hadn’t had one for a week when you wrote last. One gets quite used to the noises of shells & rifles here & they don’t interfere with ones sleep at all. Last night was rather cold & I had nothing but my waterproof sheet. After a time my eye caught sight of something whitish in the moonlight. I went & investigated & found it to be a blanket, quite a substantial one & unlike one of ours, so probably left there by some Turk who had had to leave in a hurry. This letter is going off to-day. If by chance it does reach you before or on your birthday, let it wish you many more Happy Returns. Don’t forget to buy yourself a present. To-day is a most peaceful Sabbath. My only trouble is my tummy, which is also everyone else’s trouble. I have just been to the Doctor for a dose. The censor now has to write his name at the foot of the text as well as on the envelope. But that doesn’t make any difference to the privacy of my letters. Well, au revoir till next letter. Keep fit & cheery for all our sakes.
With Heaps of Love, Darling F.B.
Your ever loving Husband
E H Hiscock [censor, but as a Lt. junior in rank to Gaffer]
(Received Aug 7th)
Tuesday. July 27th
My dearest Morah
Your first parcel has at last arrived, having taken over a month to get here. I have not tried on the shorts yet, they look about right. Thank you very much for the book & the chocolate. The ink pot looks extraordinarily cute, but the tablets have been working so well lately that it does not fill a long felt want. Yesterday for the first time my intention to write to you daily was frustrated. My Field Message Book has got mislaid & I had no note paper up here. So I will continue from where I sent my letter off last Sunday. That was a very restful & peaceful day, quite without incident. Next morning we had to shift up into the trenches about 9. Soon after we’d got settled down a telephone message came through to tell me to go to ‘B’ Coy. So I went & found Rolph [Capt. G. W.] who was just on our left. He was reduced to one officer, so the Colonel thought he ought to have me to assist. To-day another has joined him from hospital, but we are staying with him till we move. We leave the Peninsula to-morrow & go to the Island at which we stayed just before landing here. The why & wherefore of our going no one knows nor do we know anything of the duration of our stay there. The only reason I am glad to leave is that I hope to leave my ‘colli-wobbles’ behind me. They have been very troublesome the last few days. Nearly everyone has them, it is only a question of degree, & my degree has been a very persistent one lately.
Moss is in great form out here. Very fit, very capable, very cheery & very pleased with the Company & himself. Yesterday evening he was helping the Engineers to throw out some barbed wire entanglement over the parapet, he was working like a navvy, & was as pleased as a child with a new toy. All ‘A’ Coy officers seem to enjoy it, & young Hiscock more than any of them. Rolph doesn’t like it much. He looks most extraordinary as his hair has been clipped so short that he looks absolutely bald all over.
I was on a Court Martial this afternoon. Having with some difficulty found the place of Assembly I discovered that major Walker was President. He looked much as usual, but told me that he’d been suffering from the Local Universal Complaint (not the most distressing & almost universal complaint!) Yesterday I showed North all the photos you have sent me. He was very interested & thought they were very good. I don’t think he much cares for changing his Company so frequently. Bond, Sanderson’s servant, & North are great friends. Bond looks up to North as a soldier & North looks up to Bond as a servant.
Wed. July 28th. Last night, & our last night in the trenches for a time, passed quietly. The Turks threw a few bombs at our trench, but only scored one outer, when they hit the parapet & knocked down a few sandbags. In the morning we were supposed to be relieved about 5.30, so breakfasts were not to be till we got down to the beach. However our relief didn’t arrive till very late & then took a dreadful long time to take over, so that it was 9 o’clock before we left & 10.30 before we got to the beach. In peaceful times it is sometimes very nice to breakfast about 11, but when one has been up the greater part of the night it is extremely trying. When we did get here ‘B’ Coy didn’t show many signs of getting anything to eat, so I slept for an hour & ultimately fed with ‘A’ about a quarter to twelve. It was the limit on the beach, very hot & the air so thick with dust one could neither see nor breathe. Soon after 1 o’clock Rolph & I got away from the madding crowd & had a most cleansing & refreshing bathe, which considerably cheered our outlook. It is now about 6.30 & we are getting heartily sick of the beach. We move off a couple of miles & embark about 10 to-night. I’ve had two bits of good fortune to-day. Firstly, I believe I’ve cured my tummy-trouble. The night before last I gave up taking the Doctor’s stopping medicine & took an aperient [laxative] instead, to try & get rid of the source of the trouble. My state in the early part of yesterday was far from enviable. In the afternoon I thought I had got rid of every bit of my inside, so I started on chlorodyne [contains opium & cannabis] , taking a dose every 4 hours up to midnight. And to-day I am quite alright, tho’ I am anxious to see how I am to-morrow in order to be satisfied of the permanence of the cure. My other bit of good luck was finding my pack, which has been missing for the past week. I was particularly glad to see it as I had run through my tobacco supply & my pack has a quarter pound tin in it. I have been wearing my shorts to-day & they are an excellent fit. I can’t suggest any improvements for the next pair. Unfortunately it has been a trying day for knees & mine look as though they will be very painful to-morrow. however I have the new pot of Vaseline you sent to cure them.
Poor colonel Palmer, c.o. of the Warwicks was killed on Sunday. I’ve heard various stories of how it happened, I believe the correct one is that he was hit through the head when looking over the parapet by night. He was firmly convinced that he wouldn’t come out of the war alive. Our first spasm of fighting has been quite satisfactory. The men have done well & had few casualties. The only bad part is losing two officers, & one of them such a splendid one as poor Tree.
It is nearly a week now since I have heard from my darling; not that that has been any fault of hers as no one has had any mail. I expect there will be a good fat one awaiting us at the island to which we are going. We can’t hear anything of our future movements, any-how I expect we shall kick off with a few days rest. Thursday, July 29th. Leaving the beach , at 9 last night, we disembarked here about 7 this morning. I was very bad with the old complaint this morning & decided to go sick & have myself put right. So I am now in a tent calling itself a hospital. Already I feel a good deal better. I was given a dose of castor-oil when I came in this morning & am on a diet of arrowroot. I have a very slight temperature, 99.2 morning & evening, & feel extremely slack 7 weak, but otherwise alright. It is rather an effort even to write to my dearest, so I will continue this to-morrow.
Friday. July 30th. I had a very good night last night & woke up feeling quite well but frightfully weak & lethargic. I stayed in bed dozing till 5 this evening & then had to make a move. I am writing this sitting up in a deck chair & am feeling a little stronger. This morning my temperature was normal & I have no symptoms except weakness. I had nothing to eat but arrowroot till 5 this afternoon when I broke out into tea & rice pudding! They sent 3 out of this tent to Alexandria this morning. None of them were at all serious, but they were very run down & the doctors say people pick up very slowly here. Some of the men had a concert just outside here yesterday evening. The music may not have been of the best, anyhow it made a very pleasant change to the noise of the Peninsula. There is a piano quite close by & one of the doctors plays it extremely well. His favourite item is some cheery stuff from “The Passing Show”. Sanderson joined us this morning. He fell down about a week ago& broke the skin on one of his knees, & the place wouldn’t heal up. The Doctor gave him a dose of Castor-oil, in spite of much protest. He will tell the story to his dying day of how he came into hospital to be treated for a cut knee & was given a dose of castor-oil, but nothing done to his knee till long afterward. No mail has come to-day, it is over a week since I last heard. I must try & find out when there is a mail going from here as it is nearly a week since I posted my last letter.
Sat. July 31st. This morning I again had no temperature & no tummy trouble. The Doctor told me that if I would take it easy for the next few days I could leave the hospital in the evening. So I am now waiting for it to get cool & for North to come & help me move. All I want now is feeding up & they don’t seem to have much stuff to do it with here. I had nothing to eat this morning but a cup of milk as I was still on milk diet, but since then I’ve had two good meals & feel a good deal stronger. A mail came in to-day, but it was disappointingly small – only two letters July 11th & 12th. I have so far had none for 8th, 9th & 10th. You enclosed 3 very refreshing batheing [sic] photos of Mrs M, Elinor & Bridget, the one of Bridget & Elinor together being particularly good. Tiger is most lifelike. I’m very glad to hear my wife manages to look ‘tidy’ – I expect it is the reward of having thought out the clothes programme beforehand. It is very nice to hear that you are fit & can walk uphill without getting out of breath. Mrs Wodehouse will get a Lt-Col’s widow’s pension. She knew of his promotion some time ago. I am going to close this letter to-day & Sanderson is going to send it thro’ his friends in High Places, so my Darling may get it quite quickly. I’m glad you got my Malta letter, from then onwards you should get letters with fair frequency. Apparently the parcel service out here is very bad indeed 7& I have been very lucky to get the one I did. I hear that even when parcels do arrive they come minus cigarettes & food stuffs, which get pilfered on the way. There is still no news of how long we remain in inactivity here. No doubt there are big things in the air, tho’ what form they will take I have not the remotest idea. Most people think the war is nearest its finish & I certainly hold that idea, hope to get back before all the best of the autumn is over. Capt Coates, the tall man of the Warwicks, who frequented the C.H.G.C is here. We often talk of that spot with longing. He is a very nice person 7 I’m sorry we didn’t get to know him then. There was no news of the car in the letters I got, perhaps there is some in the intervening letters. I wonder if you went up to St J. C. & entertained Papa. North has gone to fix my bivouac & as soon as I finish this I take off the cool pyjamas provided by the Hospital & put on my dusty Khaki Kit. I am glad to say I still have a pair of silk pyjamas of my own to get into in unstressful times. To-day has been the hottest we’ve yet had, there seems to be a little moisture in the air to make the heat more trying. I believe there is no shade in our Camp, so it’s bound to be just about the limit. The nights are a little cooler, in fact they are perfect at present.
Well, my Dearest Love, good luck to you & keep fit & cheery & ‘tidy’!
With heaps of Love
Ever you loving Husband
R.B. Horsfield [Self censorship this time]
[Received Aug 26th]
Sunday. Aug 1st.
Shortly after finishing the letter I despatched yesterday I strolled across to join ‘A’ Coy, whom I found about half a mile away. There I found 6 more letters of the same mail as the 2 I had just got from you. There were 3 from you which made me complete up to date & one each from Father , Jeph & my Aunt Alice. Two day [sic] another small mail came in, containing two letters from you & one from Mother written in Bath. Today I have spent in absolute idleness. North has rigged up my Bivouac & Mosquito net complete & it is a great success. There are no mosquitos but the net is invaluable against flies. Generally my Bivouac would be impossibly hot during the middle of the day, but to-day there was a fresh breeze which made it quite pleasant. We are camped in the middle of some cultivation, with no shade whatever. To-morrow I believe we are going to have some sort of shelter for the mess. I feel decidedly stronger to-day, but have not yet felt any temptation to exert myself. Luckily my stomach has kept quite right & I have a food appetite. I’ll now go through your letters & see what wants answering. About my Brown Coat. I left that at the depot. Another thing I’ve thought of is my hunting crop. Has that turned up? It was rather a nice one. Perhaps Violet might be able to do something if you sent her a list of the things I am short of. I don’t know what the animals are but I expect they are black buck, which have horns 18 to 20 inches long & straight & black. There ought to be an animal called an Ibex with a box to itself, but that would be complete with horns. I’m not sure whether the Clarke who was killed was Gwen’s brother or not. Her brother had 3 initials as had the one in the Casualty list, but I think one of his initials was a T, which the one in the c. l. had not. So sorry to hear you have the leaking trouble so badly. It is not for long now though. So far I have kept all your letters, but I am going to tear them up before we leave here as they are getting too many for my pocket & I don’t want to leave them behind in my valise in case they get into any one else’s hands.
Monday. August 2nd. Bank Holiday I suppose at home. To continue answering your letters. Very good of Keith to give the infant a present so early in its history. I suppose he’ll insist on being godfather & christening the infant Archibald! I think it would be an excellent thing to put all the money we can find into the war loan. We need not leave much margin at Cox’s as that Gentleman doesn’t mind my overdrawing. If my 90 days field allowance is not in the Pass Book, write & inquire about it. It is what everyone is entitled to on going on Active Service& come to about £14. I hope the house at Bradford on Avon is taken by now. What about The Cottage? Am I to find my wife ensconced there when I come back? I hope Keith manages to score a bull with his drawing of you this time. He’s had enough tries, has not he? Your drawing of his hair looks most comic. No one would believe him when he said how bald he was, so now he nearly has gone bald to spite every one.
When I was lying down yesterday afternoon I suddenly heard Graham’s voice calling my name. So I emerged from my hutch & heard how the poor cyclists had been on the island ever since we’d been here & had done nothing but fatigues. Graham himself had done nothing (as usual). He didn’t look very fit & had been suffering from the Universal Complaint, but hoped he had cured it. It’s very difficult to see where his Cyclists are coming in as there are no roads in this part of the world. We have no definite news about moving but expect to in 2 or 3 days. We move absolutely without Transport. I think it will be a huge show & perhaps go a long way towards ending the war. Anywhere this part of the contest must end shortly as in Sept the roughness of the sea makes landing impossible. I should think there is every chance of my being home again quite early in October, which means that half my separation is over. I am going to send this off to-day as I expect my Dearest would sooner have her letters little & often. I think the weather’s getting cooler. The nights certainly are, a couple of folds of blanket over me was my portion last night & I wasn’t too hot. I was very glad to hear from Mother that my Dearest had been behaving most sensibly & was very fit & not depressed.
With heaps & heaps of Love, Dearest
Your loving husband
R. B. Horsfield [more self censorship]
Rec. Aug 24th
Tuesday. Aug 3rd. On a Destroyer on the briny
My Dearest Girl
We are off on our new adventure. We are to land to-night at a different place on the Peninsula, you will no doubt be pleased (& I am too) that it is to be a peaceful landing. We got some orders last night after my letter to you had gone off & I expected to start from our camp in the afternoon. However this morning we were told to be on the beach at 10.15 AM & there we remained without a scrap of shade from the burning sun until 4 pm. We then came aboard this destroyer in a string of small boats towed by a small launch & were very grateful for tea which the ships officers at once offered us. I am writing this in the Ward Room as the smuts are so thick on deck it is impossible to remain there. I am back again in command of ‘C’ Coy, Major Barker having again gone sick, I doubt if he comes back again this time. You know that I’m not particularly fond of ‘C’ but it can’t be helped I always thought I should get ‘A’ soon after war came out, but our senior officers are keeping very fit. Old Crofton is about the fittest of the lot. Thank goodness my own affair of health has taken a very decided turn for the better & to-day I feel quite strong again. Yesterday I was rotten & had a good deal of indigestion & I wasn’t at all sanguine about myself. Sanderson is left behind with his knee cut, but hopes to come on in a couple of days. Moss now has only the two Hiscocks to help him, but ‘A’ Company has been well brought up & now almost commands itself. These destroyer people are very good, they are even now laying a meal for us. This morning I had a very pleasant surprise – a mail with letters up to 18th July (only just over a fortnight ago) & a parcel. The latter I have been carrying about all day, in addition to a lot of odd parcels of stores for our mess. I must have looked just like an old woman after a days bargain-hunting! Talking of how I look, I caught a sight of myself in a decent sized mirror & my hair gave me some shock. It has grown quite long & hasn’t been brushed for weeks, & is just the mat you might imagine.
Wed. Aug 4th. We landed without incident last night& staggered up to our camp, where we arrived about 11.30. We are in a large gully, ourselves on one side & the N. Staffords on the other. This morning I saw both Major Walker & Heyworth. The latter looked quite flourishing & the former said he was in the ‘pink’ – he looked much as usual. It has been a very hot day, we don’t get any breeze at all. This afternoon at the hottest time we were taken out (Company Commanders) & shewn the lie of the land. We were taken up hill & down dale for miles & shewn very little either interesting or instructive. Finally Gibbon & I lost our guide & came home on our own. Your parcel came at a good time. So far we’ve had plenty of pickles but we’ve nothing here, so the onions have come in very useful. It is too dark to write any more to-night, my darling. I’ve been trying to sleep all day when I’ve not been working as I didn’t get much rest last night.
Thursday afternoon. Aug 5th. Still in the same Gully & without orders as to when we move. I expect you’ll get the first news of our move from the papers as it is going to be a big one & on a new plan. It has been cooler to-day, quite cloudy & with a breeze. ‘A’ Coy lost one of their few remaining officers last night. The elder Hiscock had been seedy for several days, but stuck it till yesterday when he got a bad crack on the knee from a falling rock. He is now on a Hospital Ship. I had a fairly good night last night, only upset by a coughing fit lasting ¼ hour & probably due to the dust. My stomach is quite itself again & I’ve a good appetite, but still I don’t feel as strong as I should like to. Now to answer your last mail. I’ve been thro’ the entries in the Pass Book & think they are all right. The Field Allowance is there. I think I would not pay any more bills at present, but try & collect £50 for the War Loan. I don’t think we get any more dividends till October. I spoke to young Hiscock, who lives at Bath, about Bradford-on-Avon – he says it is a ripping place, so I hope they’re settled in the House there. No, A.G. Horsfield is no relation. I saw the Casualty List on the one mentioned is a Territorial & Guy is in the regular R.F.A. Sorry to hear poor Marmie is still big, I expect you’ve had plenty of chat about matters maternal with her. I’m very surprised that you hadn’t got my Alex letter when you wrote, it must have got held up somewhere. However I expect you are getting a fairly regular flow of letters long before this. It is very sad to learn that your poor father is no better & that his troubles are affecting his temper. He sounds most trying to live with. I’m glad it is all fixed up about the cottage. Why not keep the car there when the move takes place. Perhaps I shall be back in time for us to drive the car down together. I can quite imagine how Rory’s & Marmie’s happiness must have brought home our unlucky lot to my Darling. But cheer up, I’m sure a good of our parting must be over. Seven weeks nearly since saying goodbye, but it seems ages more. You had arranged a very busy time for yourself in town. I hope it went off as planned. There is a mail going in a few minutes, so I must end my dearest F.B. It may be some days before I can get another letter off. So love & cheers my dear, brave girl. With heaps & heaps of love.
Your loving Boy
R. B. Horsfield [censor’s signature]
Rec. Aug 18th
Your birthday [14th August] Hospital Ship ‘Neuralia’
My dearest Girl.
I have not written to you for nearly ten days – firstly because when we moved from the place from which I wrote my last letter we were not allowed take any writings with us & secondly because since I’ve been wounded I have not felt inclined to write. But to-day, being my dear ones birthday is an excellent day to break out again. To begin at the wrong end, we are expected to make Alexandria about 2pm to-morrow. I have already written off a cable to set my dear ones mind at rest. I’m awfully sorry I have not been able to get a cable off before as I am afraid this one wont reach you till several days after you hear that I am wounded & of course you are bound to be anxious. The poor 9th had a dreadful time last Tuesday. On Sunday evening I was sent back into Brigade Reserve with ‘C’ Coy & the rest of the Battalion was to help another battalion to dig themselves in & then join me in the Morning. They did not join me next day, but in the evening I had orders to move up to where I had been the previous day. Just before I moved Major Barker arrived & took over the company. We went up & slept in a Gully behind the firing line. In the morning the Turks attacked & about 6 AM we were told to reinforce the left of our position. So we went up & as we had little information I pushed on to see what was put. I lay down on the extreme left for a minute or so & then got up to move more to my right . immediately I felt a great sting in my left hand & looking down I saw that I had been very badly hit in the wrist & fingers, I think by the explosion of a bomb. There was nothing to be done but get back & have it bound up. I then had miles to walk & after passing through various clearing hospitals I arrived on board here about 2.15. I had been marked down for an operation as soon as possible, but it was about 10 pm before my turn came. I hoped that they would be able to save some of my hand, but it was not to be & they amputated at the wrist. Next morning the Surgeon told me it would have been frightfully risky to try & save any of my hand, at best it would have been only a claw. I have healed up marvellously well & the doctors always speak of me as their ‘show case’. One cannot pretend that it is nothing to lose a hand, but it is a great deal to be thankful for that I still have my right, & that I have a loving wife who will delight in helping me & who won’t love me a bit less on account of my misfortune. I don’t yet know the extent of the casualties to the poor 9th but I’m afraid there are a few left except those who were sick at the time. Poor Moss got killed shortly before I was wounded. John was wounded, not seriously I think, a couple of days before. Heyworth was killed by a shell in the Rest Gully, before we started on our last expedition. I have not heard about Major walker, but I know the Staffords were very unfortunate – indeed I’m afraid the whole Division were.
I don’t know what they’ll do with me when we get to Alex. Of course I hope they will send me home – I should think that is not unlikely. In which case my dearest we may be together by the end of the month – which is something to look forward to indeed. I am still supposed to be a ‘cot’ case, & at the present moment I am breaking bounds to write this in the Dining room. The sister thought I might be let loose but the doctor thought I was better where I was till Alex. I am really very fit indeed, tho’ probably a bit weak from lying abed. Good-night my little birthday girl. I’ll drink your health in good honest beer to-night. I’m allowed that beverage to comfort me.
I happened to see an old paper yesterday & there was Roy’s name amongst the wounded. I hope it is nothing much. There were no other 9/Cameronians in the list so I suppose he must have been struck by a chance shell.
I’ve just had lunch & we are outside Alex. I wonder when I shall know if I’m for home. My arm was dressed this morning & is very satisfactory. Now, my dearest, I think I will close this as I may get a chance of sending it off very shortly. With all your boy’s love, my Dearest, your loving husband
RB Horsfield [Censor’s signature]
[Received] Aug 26th
Sunday Aug 22nd Ras-el-tin Military Hospital Alexandria
My dearest girl!
I have not written to you before as I was told that I should be sent home in a few days. Likewise I did not cable again as I hoped to be able to say that I was about to start home. However there seems to be great difficulty about getting a ship, so it may be some time yet before I start. Your cablegram has just this instant arrived. I hoped not to have to cable the news about my amputation, as I thought I could break it better in a letter. But I think I shall cable you the news now, as Mrs Wodehouse cabled out to a friend of hers here to ask about me & he telephoned back that my hand had been amputated, so you may hear it from her if you don’t from me. I am getting on most awfully well – my arm is almost healed. It isn’t quite comfortable, but it is nothing to trouble about. Now for some account of my doings. The Hospital ship arrived here on Monday, & I was brought to this hospital by a motor ambulance that night. I had no clothes but a loan of pyjamas supplied by the ship, my helmet & boots. On Wednesday, the elder Hiscock, who is convalescing from a bad knee, came to see me. He promised to order me some clothes & next day arrived with a complete gents outfit, wh: fitted me well, except that the trousers are some what short in the leg. So on Friday I was able to dress myself & make an excursion into the town, where I did some shopping & then met Hiscock at the club & had a very good early dinner. It was nice to get away from Hospital surroundings which are beginning to get on my nerves, rather. On Thursday I had a very kind visitor, Lady MacMahon [McMahon, wife of Sir Henry McMahon], the wife of the British Resident. She is a great friend of Sandersons, & when we went thro’ Alex before, he gave her my name & Gibbons to look out for in the Casualty list. She brought flowers & stayed & talked most kindly for quite an hour. Yesterday she rang me up on the ‘phone & asked me to come for a sail with herself & her husband & tea at the yacht club. I went & enjoyed the sail, tho’ it was to rough to go outside the harbour. After tea she pressed me to come to dinner, so they motored me out & made me very comfortable & gave me an excellent dinner, which was a great change to the food here. She suggested that I should move to a convalescent home till my ship was ready, & as I liked the idea she telephoned as soon as we got to their house, arranged that I should be taken in to one if my doctor permitted it. (I do not yet know whether I am to go or not). This letter is going in their private mail bag, so it will be quite safe from the censor. Lady MacMahon has promised to drop you a line herself, so that you may know from an independent source that I am going on well.
(Later) I have not answered your cable to-day as I found I had not enough money; to-morrow I must try & get some from Cox. Perhaps I may hear something of how long I shall have to wait for a Ship to-morrow. to-day they took particulars of my case in order to have a ‘Board’ on me to-morrow. There’s no doubt that the verdict will be that I am to be sent home. You can guess how dreadfully sick I am of kicking my heels here when for all the good I’m doing anyone I might just as well be with my darling. This afternoon I saw Hiscock off to return to Gallipoli. He told me to tell you that he quite envied me going home even under the circumstances. There’s no doubt it is a fatal spot & the only chance of getting away alive is to be wounded badly enough not to have to go back again. I need not close this till to-morrow & perhaps I shall have some more news by then. Good-night my dearest girl.
Monday Afternoon. My affairs are fixed up . I am going to a convalescent home called Brindle-nagle House [Bindernagel Villa] in an hour or so, that has the reputation of being a most comfortable place. I am to go home as soon as a ship is available, which they tell me is almost sure to be during the week. I have sent off a cablegram to you, telling you that my hand has been amputated, but I hope you already have my letter breaking the news. I have just dressed myself with the sole exception of tying my tie & boot laces, so you won’t have such a very helpless husband after all. I’m afraid I shall fail in one of my husbandly duties, that is doing up the hooks & eyes at the back of the wifely evening dresses. But perhaps even that may be managed when I get my artificial hand fixed on. I am glad to get away from here, where I am in a ward with 14 others, some of them quite bad cases. This does not make for restful nights. Also the feeding is very poor. But nothing matters much compared with getting home, I shall have a fit [?]from joy when I get orders for embarkation. I have heard nothing about North but Hiscock has promised to let me know about him as soon as he gets back to G.
Tuesday. No 1 Convalescent Hospital (Syman). I arrived here in time for dinner last night. It is a magnificent house & the highest site in Alex. What adds to the satisfaction is that it belongs to a German, Bindlenagle by name, who is failing to appreciate the discomforts of an internment camp in Malta. Everything is quite regardless, & staircases & floors are of marble. There are 40 convalescent officers here, a good many of whom appear quite well enough to take the field again. The feeding is excellent & the chef said to be the best in Egypt. I hope he will succeed in fattening your attenuated husband up a bit, for at present he is even thinner than usual. The beds are a dream of comfort & last night I went to sleep about 10.30 & woke up, expecting to find my watch say about 11.30, but to my relief it was past 4. you’ll be pleased to hear that the ring you gave me didn’t get lost or damaged. My fingers got so thin that I took to wearing it on my right hand as that little finger was a little bigger than the other. There are two lads of the 9th Bn here, Rawle & de Blaby. Neither of them particular pals of mine, but I was quite pleased to see them here. Young Rawle has been very attentive & helpful in the way of putting me on my feet here. After lunch the MacMahons are going to take me sailing again. They hope to be able to go to an island & have tea there. The other day it was too rough to go outside the harbour. Well my Darling, I think that’s enough scribble to tire your eyes out. When I know when I am coming I will cable the day I start & the name of the boat if they will allow that to pass. Then you may be able to find out when & at what port I arrive. I am afraid they will insist on keeping me in Hospital for a day or two before giving me leave. Tho’ of course I should just love you to meet the ship, don’t think of doing so if it is getting too close to your time to be advisable. I hope you have fixed up about the Monthly Nurse all right & that you are going to get Nurse May. I am awfully pleased to think that with any ordinary luck I shall be back for the Great Event. I ought to get a nice wack of leave. Of course they may give me ‘permanent leave’, with a wound pension, but I should think it more likely they would keep me on. You must not expect me home for some time after you get this , as I have not got my ship & when I do I shall travel a good deal more slowly than the mail. Anyhow, it wont be so very long before we are in each others arms. So really we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. I wish I could get some of your letters. There must be stacks of them hung up somewhere. With all your Boy’s love, dearest F.B.,
Your loving husband
[Received] Sept 4th
Wedn. 25th Aug No1 Conv. Hospital
My dearest Girl
Still no news of a ship. This afternoon I went into Alexandria, which is some 7 miles from here by tram. I got some allowances out of the Paymaster for ‘fuel & light’ & also a couple of pounds from Cox. Then had rather a rich tea & drove out to the Hospital I was lately in to get my Field Glasses & found them there alright. Coming back I went into the Club & saw Broadwood of the Loyal North Lancs. He has not been beyond here as he is Transport Officer & all T.Os are here with the horses. It was the same story about his Regt. They have lost all their officers. Colonel Levinge is wounded & missing, one of the Manns is killed & another missing. I was awfully sorry to hear about Colonel L, as there is very little chance for people reported missing. The sacrifice of life out here has been simply ghastly, the results gained practically nil. We get no news here & the few rumours I’ve heard have been far from reassuring. Still I think the war won’t go on so very much longer, Germany seems to be getting broke & hinting at peace. I called at the Post Office this afternoon, but got nothing for my pains. All the mail bags go straight to the Regiment without being opened. But I should have thought it was time of my letters were getting back to me.
Thursday. 26th. To-day a merchant was allowed to show off his wares in the hall of this place. He had some of the dress lengths you like & so I conversed with him regarding them during the day. In the end I got 10 ½ yards at 3/3 per yard in a pretty brown, unfortunately rather like the dress you bought at Easter. After tea I went into Alex & bought a couple of Collars (I had only one) & then looked at papers in the club. Still no word about a ship, its really sickening. The life here, tho’ of course far preferable to the hospital, is not such that one yearns for much of it. Nothing to do except go into Alex in the afternoon. Not that I should have the energy. It is pretty hot tho’ there is frequently a cool & pleasant breeze.
Friday. 27th. A fellow I knew at the Ras-el Tin came in here to-day. He told me that the Doctor there had told him that a boat was sailing for home in a few days. But I have hear nothing officially I will cable you the date of sailing & it will be about a fortnight after that before I get home. This afternoon Rawle & I went for a drive in a carriage lent to the Home by some Syrian gent. We went to see some roman Catacomb or underground burial places, not too interesting. Afterwards we drove to the Union Club where I met a couple of fellows I knew. I rather dread meeting people I know as the talk is always of Casualties. Our list was in the local papers to-day, also the North Lancs. I see that Colonel Levinge & several others are put down simply as missing, so there is just a chance that he may be a prisoner. It must be a dreadful time for poor Mrs L. as far as I can make out Major Walker is still unhurt. We are having a concert this evening, the performers come from outside, but who they are I don’t know. I spent a large part of the day sleeping, having over an hour in the morning & ½ hour in the afternoon. At night my sleep is so disturbed by dreams that it is scarcely restful at all, but by day I sleep dreamlessly & awake refreshed.
Saturday. 28th Aug. Had a very pleasant surprise this evening for on going to the post office I found two letters from my dear girl, besides one each from Father & Violet. They had gone out to the Bn & been returned. The first one from you was dated 19th July, the day after the last letter I had from you, but there were a couple missing as the other was dated 22nd, you had just arrived in London when you wrote the 1st. I suppose one of the missing letters has news about Roy, as your 2nd letter doesn’t say anything about his wound tho’ you must have known buy then. Father’s letter filled in that gap, telling me that Roy had been wounded in both his ankles, which sounds nasty but not serious. I think Isla’s “decent for London” remark was very unnecessary & nasty, quite her very worst form. So glad you got my Alex letter at last. I can’t understand why it was so long, unless letters are kept back as a means of censoring, they ought only to take a week. I’m glad you’ve finished with friend Baker for a time. I shall have to give him some sittings when I get back. I heard to-day that some one in another hospital had been warned to be ready to embark on Monday. I’ve had no orders but I feel as tho’ there is some hope. This is a most sickening, purposeless sort of existence. Yesterday I asked the doctor to give me a tonic as I did seem to be getting strong very quickly. He said it wasn’t much good use trying to pick up in this climate, however to please me he has given me a tonic. I feel better to-day tho’ I only started the tonic to-night, but possibly a couple of glasses of the ‘woman’s drink’ last night helped. The concert was fairly good, the people were very ugly & looked like half-castes mostly. One woman sang “Oh Moon of my Delight” very well indeed. This morning I managed to draw a soldier’s overcoat from the Base Store. I expect I shall need all the warmth I can muster as the high seas won’t be superheated in the vicinity of England in the middle of September.
Sunday. Aug 29th. Did nothing to-day till 6 PM when I set out with some others for the English Church, about a mile away. We had a very enthusiastic old bloke as parson. He preached on the Holy Communion, an extempore sermon. Unfortunately he got side tracked so often that in 20 minutes he hadn’t progressed with his subject at all & had to announce that he would go on with it next Sunday. No news about a ship for home. Myself & several others are going to try & get permission to go home P&O at our own expense if we don’t get a boat in the next few days. Its past endurance staying here under present circumstances. Anyhow I expect I shall have some news for you before I post this letter.
Monday 30th Aug. I mentioned the P&O idea to the Sister to-day when she was dressing my arm. She said it was no good for me to entertain such a notion as my arm would require dressing for some time to come. This evening I went down to the embarkation Staff Office & there got the information that there would be no Hospital Ship sailing this week, but there would be two next week. About Transports they did not know. I might be sent home on a Transport as they are used for such patients as myself & have a sister on board to do dressings. I must make up my mind to staying here another week, & my dear girl must make up her mind to not seeing her Ralph till the 20th of Sept at the earliest. I think we shall have just three months separation, & then we ought to be together more than we ever have been before. This delay means that I am running it rather close to ‘The Day’, but I really think I ought to be back in time for that. I don’t suppose my arm will be quite healed up for another 3 weeks so perhaps they would have kept me in Hospital in England even if I had got home earlier. But what is so annoying is that if I’d had any idea I was to have been hear so long I could have given you an address & had several letters from you by now. I must go & talk to the one congenial fellow I’ve found here, an Irishman of 49 who is a temporary Capt in the Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was a leading light of Ulster in the Home Rule question & has some very interesting talk on that subject to let loose. For the last few nights we have always forgathered just before bed time & he has a Whisky & Soda with me whilst I smoke on of his cigars.
Tuesday Aug 31st. This letter has to go off to-day & it will have to do so without any further news about my departure from here. I am going to ‘tennis’ at the Residency, the MacMahon’s place, in a few minutes & I shall ask her to send this in her private mail bag. I’ve just heard that the cab or gharry drivers refuse to come up here as they say they don’t get paid enough. Unluckily for them their fares are printed on a plate inside each cab, so they cannot make even the ignorant officers give what they would like. As it is I suppose I shall have to walk, it is only about a mile away. I had quite an energetic morning, this morning, as I actually answered two letters, father’s & Violet’s. by the way, I should like you to make up a parcel of clothes to send down to the ship for me when I arrive. A suit of English uniform & a few underclothes as I shall be too lightly clad for England, perhaps my British Warm also to enable me to dispense with my Tommy’s overcoat. And so here endeth a dull letter. I wonder if your people have moved from the rectory yet. Au revoir, my darling, even tho’ it is being put off in a most sickening way, it won’t be long before we’re together again. I do so hope you are keeping well & that your coming Motherhood is not inconveniencing you too much.
With heaps of Love
Ever your loving Boy
[Received] Sept 10th.
Ralph Horsfield was born on 13 March 1887, was wounded on 10 August 1915 aged 28, continued his career as a Regular Officer in the Army, retiring with the rank of Major in 1934. After retirement he and his wife Morah ran a garage and café in Benson that was demolished to make way for the extension of the Photographic Reconnaissance Unit runway during WWII. At the end of his life, he lived in Rye, Sussex where he died 31 October 1966 aged 79.