Tensions in India

5th.Somerset L.I., In Camp, Ambala
Feb. 23 1915

My dear old Elsie

Here I am in camp sitting in the shade of a friendly palm tree writing my mail. Thank you so much old thing for your last letter and most welcome papers – We are 18 miles from Umbala here and right away from civilisation but there are 400 men and 14 officers so we are a large and very happy family. The letters and papers were sent out to us and we eagerly awaited the messenger. The papers you sent have simply been fought for by the other officers and I have read every word several times over. We are having a slack day today for we have been out all night the last two nights practising digging trenches in the darkness.

I can tell you it has been a job. On Thursday we send our tents back to our base and then for a week we live in our trenches – the nights are still very cold but the days are stoking up and are a good deal warmer than the hottest of our English summer days. I hope you enjoyed your weekend at home – but Im sure you did – I am rather anxious to know why you are on sick leave and suppose it is your poor old throat again perhaps I shall hear all about it in your next letter. Goodness knows what will happen to us old thing – last week we were told to be ready to sail from Karachi on March 19th. and yesterday we heard that the Viceroy* of India refuses to release any more troops from this country and that we are to stay here over the hot weather – Orders seem to change every week. The fact is lots of things have been happening out here which never get into the papers at home and Im not allowed to say much about it – there has been serious trouble among some disloyal Sikhs# at Lahore which is not far from here and we have been warned that we must be ready for any emergency – You cant trust the natives one bit.

I am always wishing this terrible war would cease – it is simply sickening — today news has come of a great Russian+ defeat and another air raid in Colchester and several English merchantmen sunk – it looks very serious but thank goodness we are holding em in the west! My birthday wishes will come very late and Im so very sorry – fancy you 26 now – how old we are all growing! I hope you had a happy birthday dear & lots of presents and good wishes. I must write to the mater now. I do hope Mrs. Hyde is getting on and how was Gretchen – please let me know

Best love and all good wishes

from Stan

*Charles Hardinge, Baron Hardinge of Penshurst, PC, KCMG, KCVO, 1858-1944, Viceroy of India 1910-1916, censured by Commission of Enquiry into Mesopotamia Expedition (DWB) succeeded by Frederick John Napier Thesiger, 1868-1938, 3rd Baron & 1st Viscount Chelmsford, Viceroy of India 1916-1921 (DNB).

#Many Sikhs living and working abroad were lured back to India by the revolutionary Har Dayal with promises of German arms and the understanding that disaffected units in the British Army would defect and kill their British officers. There was a secret meeting in Lahore on February 12th and a plan for a country-wide rising on February 21st, which failed to occur. (On Secret Service East of Constantinople, Peter Hopkirk, John Murray, 1994, pp.68-71, 81 & 82.)

+Russian forces were defeated by a German Army under Ludendorff near the Mazunan Lakes (Russo-German border, East Prussia) in early February 1915

Next letter March 24th 2015

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/

Pipes and Pierrot!

5th. Somerset L.I., Ambala
Feb. 2nd 1915

My dear old Elsie

Ever so many thanks old thing for your last letter dated Jan. 7th. and the Punch and Bystander which are so much enjoyed and for the two lovely pipes which came quite safely last mail – really you are too good to me altogether. I haven’t used them yet for they look so nice in their little case but I have always found you an expert in pipes and Im sure I shall enjoy many many smokes from them. I am so very sorry to hear that your mother* is laid aside with appendicitis and do hope she is stronger now and that if an operation is necessary she will come through all right – It must be an anxious time for you old thing but try to keep cheerful through it all. I believe 1915 is going to be a devil of a year for most people and the ‘cheery’ souls of the world simply must keep their peckers up. I must try to find time to write to your mother. Talking of cheery souls I will send you with this a photograph which is very interesting and awfully good I think – I’m sure you will think I look as happy as ever – it was taken in our bungalow compound on Xmas morning our servants had come for their Xmas boxes and insisted on presenting us with sugar cakes and placing chains of flowers round our necks – it is a quaint Indian custom indicating loyalty. The men are our personal servants – water carriers, sweepers, gardeners, etc. The man in white on my left is my headman and the little boy sitting by my left leg is “Tiger” my dressing boy, errand boy, boot boy, and odd job boy. His English is delightful and he always calls me “My Lord”! The other officers are of course Capt Timms in centre and Ruck. Youll want a magnifying glass to see all my moustache for I cut it regularly every week. Well old dear I have had a very busy time lately I forget if I have told you that Timms is laid up with a broken arm and Ruck is away for a course in signalling at Meerut so for the last month I have had to run the company on my own. It has been a very important month for we have finished our musketry and done most of our company training – For my pains the Colonel$ has recommended me for my second star and the papers have already gone to the War Office so all being well I shall be a full lieutenant in due course – I suppose it will take a month or so before I am gazetted – it is very nice and besides makes quite a difference in pay! We are hard at the final stages of training now and on Feb. 12th. we go out to camp for two weeks – The first week we are under canvas and the second one we have to live in trenches – can you imagine me old thing? I expect I shall miss my antique furniture dont you? It may be impossible to write while in camp for we are eighteen miles away in the jungle and cut off from everything but I will if I can. In addition to all my military work I am as busy as can be with a musical & dramatic concert which the General’s wife has asked me to run for her in aid of the War Fund – It is to be on the 9th. and I will send you a programme as soon as they are printed. I told the Colonel I hadn’t the time to do it but he said that anything coming from the General or his missus was practically a command so that settled it! The first part of the show is a pierrot party about 6 ladies and 6 men I think – all in red white and blue costumes – I am singing Hey Ho! cant you hear the screams and ‘Up from Somerset’ The second part is a one act play called ‘Make Believe’ which I am producing at very short notice – it is for four people two ladies and two men I am an unsuccessful author. I hope it will go all right – of course I enjoy it but it means a good deal of night work which is a nuisance just now and I wish one had more time! We get very little war news through now – the telegrams to the Indian papers get shorter and shorter – I hope we are doing well but one longs for a really big thing! I fancy Lord K is preparing for some coup in the Spring and I only hope his new army comes up to expectations. When we do advance in earnest the loss of life must be simply awful – I wonder what the people who said this war would be over in 6 months are thinking now – Why we have left old England 4 months now and the time has simply flown!

The officers of the 1/5th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry at Ambala (India) January 1915
The officers of the 1/5 Bn Somerset Light Infantry at Ambala (India) January 1915. Lt-Col Cooke-Hurle sit centre middle row, with Major Brutton and Capt Calway on his right. On his left are Major Kite, and Captains Urwick, Major, Timms and Watson. Lieut Goodland back row, third from right and Lieut Banes Walker is behind the colonel. 2/Lieut Milsom front row, right.

I have had some letters from Harold the last was written on a river steamer as they were going up to Mandalay – he tells me the good news of the safe arrival of Arthur’s^ sister and I am longing to hear more particulars and only hope everything is going along well. I can guess you have had a busy time keeping house & looking after your family – but I hope you are keeping well through everything – Goodbye old thing many thanks again dear for all your letters and papers & the lovely pipes – with best love

from Stan

*Mrs Annie Hyde survived her attack of appendicitis and lived until 1946
$Lt-Col EF Cooke-Hurle DSO commanded the 1/5 Battalion SLI throughout the war until ordered to report back to the War Office in February 1919
^ Arthur, first child of Harold & Alice Goodland born on November 11th 1911. His sister, Mary (later Burns) was born on January 15th 1915, Mary Burns has just celebrated her 100th birthday.

Next letter Feb 23rd 2015

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/