A busy time feeding 900 men

Camp Burhan, Nr.Attock, North West Frontier
Janry 25 1917

My dear old Elsie
Many thanks dear old girl for your letter of the Dec.19th which reached me only today-  goodness knows why it has taken so long in coming – I hope you have been getting my letters lately too – Im sorry I could not write much while in camp at Tughlakabad1 – but I think I sent you a line most mails since. We are getting on very well with our camp here and when the Regiment arrives in a few days time I think we should be practically ready to receive them and to make them comfortable – Our Quartermaster has to remain at Meerut to hand over and will not join us for two weeks or so – the Colonel writes to say I am to act as Quartermaster until he rejoins so I should have a busy time feeding over 900 hungry mouths & clothing them & making them comfortable! Ive had no chance of doing any exploring since I last wrote – it isnt safe to wander far without an escort and weve all been very busy. As a Major on the Staff said when we first arrived “theres damn all to do up here except soldiering” and Im sure hes quite right. There’s very little shooting even – the other evening I shot a hyena but there are no birds at all – sometimes a flock of geese come over but they fly so high and so fast that they defeat me altogether. They are equipping this Division regardless of expense and I fancy it must mean that when we have all been training together for some little time that we shall see service somewhere  – they are completing us in transport – field ambulances all the newest Maxim & Lewis Guns – bombs in fact every thing necessary for service – If we do go I hope it will be anywhere but Mespot.

Since I last wrote you I have passed the anniversary of my wound and my Military Cross – It seems only yesterday I was passing through those awful times and everyday I go through the different thrilling events in my mind. lve had several letters lately from old friends in the Buffs – they are still fighting and on Jan 11 and 12th lost a good many casualties  – they have had a very very hard time indeed and must be absolutely done up by this time.2

Its awfully lonely here and I shall be so glad when the Regiment comes – we are such a cheery Mess when we all get together – Banes Walker3 – Milsom4 and the two Moores are the only subalterns left of the old crowd who came out in the Kenilworth Castle and we are all the greatest of pals – all the others  – about 16 – have dwindled away – most of them have got jobs in the Indian Army with the intention of sticking to soldiering after the War.

Todays mail also brought a few lines from the Babe5 with quite a cheerful report of the dear old Pater –  he seems really wonderful and has quite rallied again. Before next mail I hope to get your promised parcel off – the post office is two miles away and I havent had a chance of going down yet.

Many thanks dear girl for the Tatler – I shall enjoy the two letters more than ever now we are so far away from civilization. The married men of the Regiment are of course frightfully sick because no ladies are allowed so far north as this – they are staying at Meerut for the present.

Well cheero dear old thing – heres my love to you & the best of good wishes

from Stan

1 The ruins of Tughlakabad. one of the seven cities of Delhi
2 The Buffs were involved in the campaign to recapture Kut.
3 Gerald Banes Walker of North Petherton, Bridgwater, Somerset. He, Harry Milsom and Stanley were close friends and colleagues. They are mentioned several times in subsequent letters.
4 Harry Milsom (1889-1970) MA Cantab. Ranching in British Columbia before the War. Assistant Secretary of the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, 1919-1930. Secretary, 1930-1939.
5 Florence Amy Goodland (1892-1977), known as ‘the Babe’, 4th and youngest sister to Stanley, married Karl Jones of Mumbles, South Wales, in 1920. On July 30th 1914 she left England to attend a course at the Dalcroze College of Dancing near Dresden. Caught in Germany by the outbreak of war she succeeded, on the second attempt, in crossing the Dutch frontier. A long account of her experiences was printed in the Somerset County Gazette, September 19th, shortly after her return.

Next letter February 1st 2017

These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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its more like real soldiering

Burhan Camp, nr.Attock1,  North West Frontier, India
Janry 18 1917
[Note: the envelope of this letter is printed O.H.M.S. and ’16th Indian Division’]

My dear old Elsie
Here I am in camp once again and quite safe and well. I was sent off from Meerut at very short notice with 100 men and we are busy making all the preparations to receive the Regiment which is arriving on the 27th. inst. Weve got our hands full for beside fetching 300 large tents there are cook houses & washhouses and mess kitchens to be built besides roads and drains to dig  I was sorry to leave Meerut where we had many good times and made lots of friends and this is a very desolate sport to be sent to – however its more like real soldiering & theres always the danger and a certain amount of excitement which appeals to me more than ordinary barrack life. Its almost impossible to describe this spot – it looks as if there had been a huge earthquake for the ground is all broken and churned up – theres hardly a tree or any green thing to be seen – we are surrounded by mountains all covered in snow & it freezes hard every night – so you can image how cold it is living entirely under canvas  Theres absolutely nothing to do so we can give our minds entirely to soldiering, and it isnt completely safe to wander very far from camp

The whole neighbourhood is haunted by Pathan rifle thieves – very desperate men who get a big price for a rifle if they can get one back across the frontier  I havent had my last two mails &  suppose they will be a bit uncertain until we are a bit more settled and of course I am very anxious to get the latest news of the poor old Pater I feel frightfully lonely up here & shall be so glad when the Regiment arrives – we are such a happy crowd when we are altogether – hope you are fit – best love dear old girl

from Stan
I hadnt time after all to post the parcel at Meerut so will do so at first opportunity.

1 Attock lies between Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

Next letter Jan 25th 2017

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
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I’m off to the Frontier…

1/5 Somerset L.I., Meerut
Jan 12 1917

My dear old Elsie
I’ve got my orders at last and early tomorrow I’m off to the Frontier with an Advance Party – Today we are all very busy making the final plans.

It will be bitterly cold for the next few weeks under canvas but I’ve treated myself to a nice warm sleeping bag and I’ve got those lovely bed stockings which Mrs. Hyde gave me on Salisbury Plain – I hope next mail to be able to write and tell you my first impressions but we are told that we shan’t be allowed to say very much as to what goes on. It is a long train journey but through interesting country so the time will pass pleasantly enough. Thank you dear old girl for your last letter – we shall look forward to our mail more than ever now we are going right away from civilization. Today a wire came from Harold saying that Alice had rejoined him safely and well – so that’s good news for he has been frightfully anxious during her voyage out. We still have celebrations in the Mess of my Military Cross and you can realize how proud I am of the ribbon I am now allowed to wear- since I last wrote I had to go up to the Brigade General and the Divisional General to be congratulated – I have packed up a little Cashmere scarf to day for your birthday and hope it will reach you safely – goodness knows when I should have another opportunity of sending off a parcel – it brings with it loving birthday wishes – I’ve also included two collar badges. These are the ones I wore all through Mespot, and I want you & Gretchen to have one each – please send her one won’t you?

They make up into quite a nice brooch and you can get some Regimental ribbon from Browns of Taunton – colours green and blue with a thin gold stripe very pretty I think – I’ll try to draw a little sketch of how it should go. You will want to have a metal brooch pin soldered on the back.

The news from Home seems better and I do hope the old Pater will soon be his wonderful old self. I’ve sent your mother a few lines this mail – it was awfully kind of her to send me out Punch’s Almanac,
With best love
from Stan

Next letter Jan 18th 2017

These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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My Military Cross has been announced

1/5 Somerset LI., Meerut

Jan 4 1917

My dear old Elsie
You will see by my address that we are stilt at Meerut – all packed up –  -and waiting the order to go further north. I think perhaps I told you that I am to go ahead of the Regiment with an advance party of 100 men and as we shall probably get 10 days start I am expecting to move any day.
Of course now everything else in my mind is eclipsed by the announcement of my Military1 – the cable from the Pater (it hasn’t appeared in the Indian papers yet) arrived one evening just as we were going into Mess – everyone went mad with excitement and it was a very merry night I can tell you. Well – my dear old girl – thanks so much for keeping my secret – it’s been a long long time of waiting – practically a year and many times lately I’ve given up hope even of getting it. It’s made the events of that awful Janry 1916 come back very vividly to my mind and it really is a perfect miracle that I’m still alive and well. The Colonel is delighted and I’ve had congratulations on all sides – I’m glad to have been able to bring a little honour to the jolly old Regiment and it pleases me beyond anything to feel how delighted the old Pater must be. I only hope he is better now! Ever so many thanks dear girl for your Xmas letter & papers & parcel – the latter arrived actually on Xmas morning – it is so kind of you & I’m enjoying the cigarettes so much – the little dominoes are sweet & everything else simply topping.
Considering all things we had quite a good Xmas – 3 or 4 of our officers have their wives out here and they gave all sorts of gay parties. On Xmas morning I went to Church Parade and then back to see the men sit down to a tremendous spread –of turkeys geese ducks ham beef plum pudding etc etc – all very small and poor things that would make our English birds blush for same [shame] but it was all very jovial and nice – lots of singing – lots of toasts – lots of soldiers talk which I simply love. I’ve been thinking of you and all the people at home – thinking of poor Mother & it’s so difficult & almost impossible to quite realize that she isn’t at Elm Grove waiting for the end of the war and waiting til we come home. I expect you have had a busy time with the children and I hope you have had a happy time – I can’t tell you what’s going to happen to us on the frontier. In any case there won’t be any trouble until about March when the hillmen have no work to do and no crops to worry about – it’s at those times that they come down & make trouble.
We shall be under canvas or in blockhouses or dugouts & the cold for the next few weeks will be intense – After March it gets so hot that we shall have to be sent somewhere where we can get more shelter than canvas. I’ll let you know my movements but of course I’m not allowed to tell you very much.

Again many thanks dear old girl for your letters and gifts – with best wishes for the New Year and lots of love

from Stan

1 The London Gazette announced that Lieutenant, temporary Captain, Edward Stanley Goodland, (Somerset Light Infantry) had been awarded the Military Cross. Captain Goodland is the well known Somerset cricketer. He is the son of Mr EC Goodland and a member of the firm of Franklin, Hare & Goodland, jewellers, etc., of Taunton. He was wounded during the advance on Kut some months ago.’(Somerset County Gazette, December 30th 1916).

Next letter Jan 12th 2017

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Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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The background to 1917

Throughout the First World War the Government of India had reason to fear the outbreak of internal disorder and the conflicts for which the North-West Frontier was notorious. There was substance in the reports from Persia and Afghanistan of the activities of German and Turkish agents whose influence percolated to the Punjab. The pre-war Indian army had been professionally skilled at meeting such threats and the Territorial battalions sent out to replace the Regulars trained hard to reach the same standard of proficiency. An example of operations on the North West Frontier occurred in November 1916 when 6000 men of the Mohmend tribes were dispersed only after the deployment of two infantry brigades of the 1st Peshawar Division backed up by supporting troops, armoured cars and aeroplanes.1

In the two-way traffic of men and materials between India and the United Kingdom, Egypt played a vital role. Since 1882 the British had governed Egypt through an administrative structure which controlled without abolishing the authority of the Khedive and his ministers. On August 5th 1914 the Egyptian Government was required to announce that Great Britain’s enemies were also Egypt’s enemies; when war was declared on Turkey martial law was proclaimed and in December 1914 Egypt became a British Protectorate, enabling recruitment  to the Egyptian Labour Corps to become increasingly energetic, amounting to virtual conscription in some rural areas. The Turks hoped that they could stir up trouble by declaring a Holy War against the British, though only the Senussi of the oases on the fringe of the Western Desert responded, their rebellion being suppressed early in 1917. When Turkish armies on three occasions crossed the province of Sinai and approached the Suez Canal the Egyptians of the Nile Valley did not stir.

In the first two years of the First World War, Egypt was the chief Imperial staging post from which troops were despatched to the Western front, the Dardanelles, Salonika, Mesopotamia and India. The third Turkish attack, delivered by a force of 16,000 men including some German and Austrian artillerymen and machine-gunners, was turned back in the sharply fought battle of Romani, 15 miles east of the Canal, in August 1916. This incident convinced the War Office of the need to put the security of the Canal beyond doubt, to be achieved by the recovery of the Sinai coastal strip up to the Palestine border. Correctly assuming that a British army was not as well adapted to desert operations as were the Turks the Egyptian Expeditionary Force began to construct a standard gauge railway, eventually 150 miles long, and a 12-inch pipeline carrying water, suitably filtered, from the Nile. At the end of 1916 the Government indicated that, though British and French offensives on the Western front were the top priority for the Spring of 1917, it envisaged a major campaign in Palestine in the Autumn. Meanwhile the EEF must do its best to distract Turkish attention from Mesopotamia, where General Maude’s plans to recover Kut and capture Baghdad were unfolding.

The EEF crossed the Egypt-Palestine border in January 1917 and in March and April made two attempts to take Gaza by storm; the first, with the advantage of surprise, was nearly successful but the second was foiled by the tenacity of the Turkish soldiers who by then were well dug in. The EEF needed reinforcements and a new leader. In late June General Allenby, ‘The Bull’, formerly commander of the Third Army in France, arrived in Egypt, having been told by Lloyd George that Jerusalem was wanted “as a Christmas present for the British nation.”2 Allenby’s frequent visits to the front line and his removal of Headquarters from Cairo to a point only twenty miles from Gaza speedily restored the confidence of a demoralised army. He demanded, and obtained, reinforcements, some from Salonika; those from India included infantry battalions which, with other units, were brigaded into the 75th Division. Meanwhile the Turkish Government, encouraged by the collapse of Rumania and the faltering efforts of the Russians on the Caucasus front devised the ‘Yilderim’ project, which with German assistance, would achieve the recapture of Baghdad and the defeat of British ambitions in Palestine. The Germans provided 6500 men including three infantry battalions, artillery batteries, machine gun companies, four squadrons of aeroplanes and the distinguished staff officer General von Falkenhayn. Their presence ensured that when Allenby was ready any attack would be sternly contested.

Allenby won the Third Battle of Gaza in early November by using his superiority in cavalry to turn the left flank of the Turkish position at Beersheba, about 30 miles from the sea. From October 27th the Gaza stronghold was subjected to military and naval bombardments, successfully deluding the enemy into expecting a third frontal assault on the town. On October 31St the operation began which won control of Beersheba, but difficulties with the water supply and strong Turkish reaction led to six more days of heavy fighting before the enemy was forced to pull out of Gaza on the night of November 6th/7th. In the next ten days the British advanced fifty miles along the coastal plain reaching Jaffa and, inland, the foot of the Judaean hills. The Turks avoided disaster by fighting rearguard actions but they lost much equipment and 10,000 men taken prisoner.

Determined to press his disorganised enemy hard, Allenby turned East into the hills on November 18th, as the winter rains set in. His line of supply could support just two infantry divisions – the 52nd and 75th – and a Yeomanry division, covered only by the mountain guns of mule and camel batteries. Aware of the potentially adverse propaganda the enemy might make of a destructive battle for the Holy City Allenby intended to cut off von Falkenhayn by capturing the villages commanding the road which runs north from Jerusalem to Nablus. This manoeuvre involved a march over precipitous, stony and trackless country, with the nights bitterly cold for troops still in their desert kit. Despite their gallantry the men of the 52nd and 75th Divisions had neither the numbers not the fire power to force their way through to the Nablus road, though they gained and held Nabi Samweil on a high ridge only five miles to the North-West of Jerusalem, the traditional point from which pilgrims and crusaders had their first view of the city. On November 24th Allenby called a halt and for the next fortnight re-grouped his command, making the tracks usable for wheeled traffic and bringing up divisions which had been rested since the Gaza – Beersheba battle. With these the second attack on Jerusalem succeeded in breaking through enough of its outlying western defences to persuade von Falkenhayn and the Turks to evacuate the city on December 9th. Allenby had delivered Lloyd George and the British nation their early Christmas present, yet his army still had work to do. Von Falkenhayn’s Turks made several fierce efforts to recapture Jerusalem but by the year’s end the villages which had remained beyond Allenby’s grasp in November were firmly in British hands and Jerusalem was secure. At the coast the front line was pushed far enough north of Jaffa to make it safe from counter-attack. In the wettest season in living memory British, Turks and Germans went, briefly, into winter quarters.

Stanley Goodland in 1917: India, Egypt & Palestine.
Alone among the officers of the 1/5 Somersets Stanley Goodland had seen front-line service and had been decorated for his bravery. Evidently thinking highly of him, his Commanding Officer recommended Stanley as a worthy candidate for a Regular Army captaincy but he did not wish his name to be put forward. Meanwhile Lt-Col Cooke-Hurle tested Stanley’s potential as a prospective Adjutant by putting him in charge of the advance party which prepared a camp for the Battalion in the wilds of the North West frontier. After two and a half years of soldiering in India, during which hard training and close comradeship had honed its military efficiency the 1/5 Somerset Light Infantry was summoned to play its part in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. On arrival in Egypt the Battalion was posted to the newly created 75th Division and, with the 3/3 Gurkhas and two more territorial units, the 1/4 Wiltshires and the 2/4 Hampshires became part of the 233rd Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General the Hon EM Colston, DSO, MVO.3 In 1930 the Brigadier, asked to contribute a foreword to the Book of Remembrance, recalled his first impression of the 1/5 Somersets, who had disembarked at Suez on the morning of May 11th. That night he and his staff were waiting at a siding near Cairo. ‘Punctual to the moment, like a snake the huge troop train glided in; one whistle and the war-strength Battalion detrained and in ten minutes, headed by their bugles and band they marched off. The Adjutant turned and said: “As good as a Regular Battalion. You are lucky, Sir.’ I echoed his sentiments . . . that night was the beginning of a friendship which was to outlive the War.’4

Three weeks of re-equipping and training preceded the rail journey of the 233rd Brigade to El Arish and on to Rafa, on the Egypt– Palestine border. By early September the Somersets were in the front line South East of Gaza where the width of no man’s land  –  2000  yards  –  determined the style of warfare, which was confined to night patrols and the exchange of artillery fire. On October 6th the raid on the Turkish outpost in the ‘Old British Trenches’ was a spectacular event which brought renown to the 1/5 Somersets who succeeded where other units in this part of the front had failed.

This ‘stunt’ had been meticulously planned at Brigade, Battalion and Company level. It was predictable that Stanley Goodland, with his campaign experience in Mesopotamia, would be given command of the raiding party. In their eagerness to use the bayonet his men omitted to capture any prisoners but the congratulations from higher command showed that this short and sharp operation boosted morale in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. Lt-Col Cooke-Hurle’s report to Brigade praised ‘Captain ES. Goodland MC who commanded the assaulting party [and who] is a fine leader of men. I attribute the smoothness of the running of the raid to be due to a great extent to him.’5

palestine-map

After the raid Stanley was given a week’s leave in Cairo, enjoyed in the company of Lt Harry Milsom. Soon after his return to the Battalion Stanley became Adjutant, succeeding Captain Frank Calway who had received a staff appointment. For the events of November 1917, during which the 1/5 Somersets faced their severest ordeals, there are several documentary sources. As Adjutant Stanley Goodland wrote the daily entries in the Battalion War Diary which supplements his letters to Elsie and the account he wrote to his father printed in the Somerset County Gazette of January 26th 1918. Lt Harry Milsom’s uninhibited story of the campaign up to the attack on El Jib, in which he was severely wounded, provides further information. So does the privately printed pamphlet entitled ‘Some Fighting in Palestine in 1917’ by A Major (Act Lt-Col.) DSO, that is, Frank Urwick who commanded the Battalion in the absence of Lt-Col Cooke-Hurle, who was in hospital.6 These narratives speak for themselves of the triumphs and tragedies of a Battalion which, as Stanley wrote in the War Diary summing up the events of November, earned for the Regiment ‘an enviable reputation in the E[gypt] E[xpeditionary] F[orce].’7

The 75th Division did not take part in the entering of Jerusalem but won the right to wear a flash depicting a key because its brave advance into the Judaean Hills and the capture of Nabi Samweil unlocked the door to the Holy City. The depleted 1/5 Somersets spent most of December in the Ramleh area of the Judaean foothills, including eight days at Surafend, that ‘nest of thieves.’8 They moved up to the front line on Boxing Day but their main enemy over the Christmas and New Year season was the miserable cold and mud of an unprecedentedly wet Palestinian winter.

1 Moberly, op. cit., vol. III, p.55.
2 AP WaveIl, Allenby: a Study in Greatness, Harrap, 1940, p.186.
3 1880-1944. Grenadier Guardsman: succeeded as 2nd (& last) Baron Roundway, 1925.
4 BoR, p.7.
5 Insertion in War Diary, 1/5 Bn SLI. PRO WO 95/4690.
6 see post 25 November 2017
7 PRO WO 95/4690.
8 Cyril Falls: Armageddon, 1918, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1964, p175.