Coluba Hospital, Bombay
July 30 1915
[Envelope readdressed to Borth,1 N.Wales, with note on the back in Mrs. Brown’s writing: “I say, this is a bit of Xmas!”]
My dear old Elsie
First I must thank you ever so much for all your letters and papers – I did not get any mail for nearly 2 months and when I eventually found it at Basra on my backward journey there was quite an accumulation. I shall never be able to thank you enough for writing so regularly and for all the papers you have so kindly sent me out – they have helped me to spend many happy hours but I’m afraid I have cost you a lot of money and you have to deny yourself all sorts of things on my account – But there – old thing – I’ll try to make it up to you some day when the dear old peaceful times come again.
I wonder how much news you have had of me and my doings? I’m so sorry I’ve had no chance of writing to you – I have only been able to send a few lines to Mother occasionally and I doubt if these letters all reached their destination! No doubt you have heard I’ve been ill and am now in the Military Hospital in Bombay – and so much has happened to me since I last wrote you from Karachi that I hardly know where to begin. First of all I had better tell you I am practically well again now and only lack the proper use of my legs. Since leaving Amarah lve made a wonderful recovery2 and am being fed on all sorts of fattening things now and am getting huge again and want some real hard exercise again badly – But Im not allowed to walk yet for there is a danger of getting enteric legs3 so I’m carried out on to the balcony of this ward every day. We are right on the sea and look out over the Arabian Sea – the monsoon gales spring up almost every day and the huge waves break against the foundations of the hospital. – it is a grand sight & besides we get sunsets which are indescribably beautiful.
So old dear you must cease to be anxious about me any more for I’m doing famously. I am now wondering what will happen to me. In a very few days I expect they will have a Medical Board on me to decide my future. Sometimes they send enteric cases home and I shall press for this for several reasons but I’m afraid I shan’t be successful – probably they will make me take a couple of months sick leave in a hill station and if so I shall try to go back to the Regiment which is at present at Dagshai near Simla4 and in the lower Himalayas – I shall enjoy being back among my old pals again – they wont allow me I am sure to go to Burma to see Harold for its such a long journey – it takes eight days from Bombay! I feel it is my duty to get back to my men in Mesopotamia as soon as I possibly can get quite fit and this is what I shall try to do if I can’t get back to England. All that passed up in the Gulf seems a horrid nightmare now altho the time was so short.
First of all the sea trip from Karachi was ghastly and I arrived at Basra quite a wreck! and then almost immediately we had to go into action and were fighting practically every day for a fortnight without undressing and only getting bully beef and biscuits, water taken from the filthy Tigris river which was in full flood – we were covered in fleas & things & I wonder everyone didn’t get fever! But the battle was glorious and I shall never forget it all and was amply repaid for all the hardships – we kept the Turks on the run for 150 miles & ultimately captured Amarah & nearly 1000 prisoners!
After being in Amarah about a fortnight I had to give up – I struggled against the fever for several days but absolutely couldn’t get up one morning & so was taken off to hospital on a stretcher. I was really ill for 4 days and nearly left my old bones in the Garden of Eden but they kept me alive on brandy and spoons full of milk. I had malaria too & was very delirious but made a grand recovery & here I am all alive but not kicking much yet. The news of poor mother was a great shock to me & I’m always thinking of her now and wondering. Fortunately I am in communication with Harold now & rely upon him for the latest news. All my mail will still go up to Basra & goodness knows when I shall get it. Of course I did not hear of mother’s illness until I reached Basra & it seems just too dreadful & unfortunate that Harold & I are so far away, thats why I want to get home so much. Mothers life has been so wonderful – active & unselfish she deserved a happy & peaceful autumn of her life & now this has come! I only hope she will not suffer much pain when the end does come! But it seems terrible that when we return it will be to a motherless home & Im sure I dont know what the poor old Pater5 will do when he realizes it all – these are dreadful times and a year ago we were all so happy.
I hope you will be able to go down to Elm Grove mother will enjoy seeing you & it will cheer her up & I wonder when you are having any holiday & wherever you go I hope you will have a good time and a long rest and mind you look out for enemy aircraft.
We are very comfortable here there are 4 of us all enterics and weve been together about 6 weeks now – one is an Artillery Major and the others are R.A.M.C. Captains – jolly nice men all of them and we share a nice big ward – the Sisters are such good sorts & take so much trouble for us – at Amarah the hospital was dreadful – just a hut built of reeds and no beds!6
I get into trouble if I write too much so I must dry up. I hope you will be able to read this scribble.
Hoping you keep well & again let me thank you for all your letters & papers.
1Welsh Coastal village north of Aberystwyth where the Hyde family went on holiday.
2 Enteric fever was a lay term used for infections by both typhosis (typhoid) and paratyphoid bacilli, of which there were three strains: Paratyphoid A was most prevalent in the Middle East and India.
3Muscle degeneration may occur in cases of enteric fever – there was also a risk of thrombosis of the veins in the lower extremities. from Synapsis of Medicine, H Letheby Tidy, 5th edn, 1920.
4 Himalayan Hill Station, summer capital of India. The Viceroy and members of the Viceregal Council with their staffs retreated there from the heat of Delhi in the summer months. The name is also used as shorthand for Indian Army GHQ.
5 Edward Charles Goodland (1842-1925). Married 1880. He was blind from an accident in childhood but took an active part in the family firm of Charles Goodland & Son, Coal Merchants.
6 ‘A large number of mud and reed huts in long rows stood on the plain covering an area of about a quarter of a square mile. These were the wards.’ Martin Swayne, In Mesopotamia, Hodder & Stoughton, 1917, p.103.
Next letter August 6th 2015