5th. Somerset L.I., Jubbulpore, India
Nov. 18th. 1914
My dear old Elsie,
At last I am able to sit down to write you a decent letter but you will be surprised to see that it is addressed from Jubbulpore. When we arrived at Bombay we were told that our plans were altered and that after all we were not going to Jhansi.
We thought ourselves awfully lucky as this is a fine station and one of the most coveted in India but to day we hear that we are shortly to be moved up into the Punjab and that Umballa will probably be our station – at first we were told that it would be in six weeks time but now I hear that it may be as soon as 10 days time. The Government seem to think that if there is any trouble in India it will come from the North West frontier and so most of the available troops are to be concentrated in the Punjab. But perhaps in case these orders are changed again you had better address letters here – marked “please forward” with the regiment marked very distinctly. I hardly know where to begin this letter but first of all I must thank you ever so much for your two letters and the four papers which reached me from Jhansi two days ago – they were my first letters from England and youve no idea what a joy it was to get a mall again. It was awfully sweet of you to think of sending the papers – thank you so much dear. It is sad so many fine men are being killed in the war and your friend Lieut. Rushton looks such a nice chap – I can quite realize how busy your days are now with such a large family and the nurse* gone away but I hope you will keep fit for this winter and not get any throat trouble.
I am so well and up to now the climate suits me down to the ground – I was always a hot weather man! The officers are good chaps and we have great times together – there is a certain exclusive comradeship among soldiers which is delightful – they have knick-named me “Uncle” – I am so much older and fatter than the other subaltems and I sometimes have to fight their little battles for them. I fancy the last letter I sent you of any length was from Port Said after that we were quite cut off from the world and the strict orders were that we were not to write to our friends or relations any particulars whatever of our whereabouts. We were lucky in being allowed to land at Port Said – it was fascinating and wonderfully picturesque but so smelly that we were thankful to get aboard ship again – there is a peculiar smell in the East but I suppose we shall get used to it – In the native quarters here it is just as bad. I shall always remember my trip down the Suez Canal – we passed partly at night & partly by day. At night each ship had a huge search light at her bow lighting up the sandy barren dessert for miles around – it was very weird.
Half way through we had to pull into a siding to let a lot of transports pass us with Indian troops on board bound for the front (and some days later in the Red Sea we passed close to 40 more transports with their battleship protectors – all with Indian troops for France – it was a great sight and British hearts felt very proud – there was a cheering and counter cheering and some one would shout “are we down hearted” and the stentorian reply would come back “No oh oh” – and then to the singing of “Tipperary” and “God Save the King” we passed on!) At last we reached Suez and here it was we were stopped for five days. At this time the Allies were clearing all the Austrian German shipping out of the canal & its ports and it was most exciting – also the trouble with Turkey§ was getting acute and already they had threatened to destroy the entrance to the Canal. We were kept under arms and were spoiling for a fight but more Indian troops came up and were landed and put on guard and so we were sent on into the Red Sea. It was frightfully hot here – it was impossible to stay in ones cabin and sleep was out of the question except in a camp chair on deck. At last we came to Aden and we were able to land here and see the sights while some of the transports coaled. I was laid up for two days here – the effects of vaccination – I had such a bad arm. Here I got some ostrich feathers for you – I am wondering how to get them to you or whether I shall keep them and bring them back?† I wonder if you can ever make use of them – if they are not fashionable now perhaps some day they may be! We steamed into the Indian Ocean at last and did not see land again for a week but then to our great joy we sighted Bombay and I am sure everyone was delighted and thankful for we had been just five weeks at sea.
Bombay gave us a great reception – in fact I cannot speak too highly of the reception we have been given everywhere – it is really splendid and makes our job much more pleasant. We were three days in the troop train and this was the worst part of the whole journey – we reached Jubbulpore thoroughly dirty and tired.‡ I must tell you next more of my work and daily doings but you can think of me comfortably settled in a bungalow with four other fellows and we share all the expenses – I will send you along some snap shots as soon as I can. We have some lovely shady trees and a large compound all our own. Lovely little grey squirrels run up and down the trees (the Hindus worship these) and there are monkeys who throw things at you coming up the drive, at night the jackals come round and make a horrid noise. The only thing I fear is the mosquitos & they are very deadly here & carry malaria with them – already some of our Tommies are laid up. I sleep under a mosquito net at night and they buzz buzz round it all the rime.
Today my Indian uniforms have come thank goodness and I discard my thick English khaki. The new things are made of khaki drill and we even wear short trousers like hockey shorts – it is so cool with bare knees but we all felt quite shy for a day or two (I dont think), Every day I have an hours lesson in Hindustani & I hope to pick up the language very soon – it may be useful some day. We get the war telegrams each day – I wish the news was better – the progress seems so slow doesnt it!
Thank you again ever so much for your letters & papers & I am longing to hear from you again soon. With best love & all good wishes for Xmas dear old thing.
*Barbara Brown was born in September 1914 and the ‘monthly nurse’ would have gone leaving Elsie to care for the baby as well as Ronald aged 18 months.
§ Germany had for some years been putting pressure on Turkey to align herself against Britain. Great Britain declared war on Turkey on November 5th 1914.
† The ostrich feathers were stolen from his kit in India but later replaced (Letter May 25, 1917). The replacements were received by Elsie and worn on her hat on her wedding day.
‡ Stanley remembered that when the Battalion reached Jubbulpore it did not make a good initial impression. Accustomed to the Light Infantry’s 140 paces to the minute the Battalion was confused when led from the station to the barracks by the band of another unit which played at 120 paces to the minute.
Next letter Dec 3rd.
These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
Twiga Books, ISBN 978 09528625 2 9 £9.50 + p&p
Available from http://twigabooks.co.uk/