I had a lovely lot of letters from you this month, thanks ever so much dear – the last is dated feb.18th. Im back with the old Regiment again at last – I was away 10 days and it seemed ages – I hate to be away really. It was a long march from the Rest Camp 20 miles all through most wonderful hills. We are going to advance gradually still further and my letters in the near future may be irregular again but Ill send a few lines whenever I can. We have received many congratulations over the Guard of Honour stunt and it’s nice to feel everyone is pleased. The position we are in now is almost indescribable – I thought nothing in the World could beat Switzerland but this seems grander and more vast – you would love the wild flowers I wish I could send you a bunch – outside my dug out arum lilies, black & white tulips – orchids and 20 other kinds and colours I cant name – its a glorious sight. Im awfully fit and couldnt be other wise in this hill air.
This is only a short letter this time – best love dear girl
This OHMS envelope has written on it: “Salved from Submerged Mail” and is addressed to:
Miss Elsie Hyde
The next two letters have clearly been wet and are difficult to read. They were written in ink, which has run. The letter starts in pencil but continues in ink after the first half page; the pencil is obscured by the ink seepage, but the rest of the letter is possible to read:
17 March 1918
My dear old Elsie
I little thought a few years ago that I should be taking part in such an historic ceremony. The weather yesterday unfortunately was stormy and at the last moment it was decided to adjourn to the large building in Ramleh town known as the Convent It was rather a pity as the whole thing would have looked better in the open air. The Duke drove up in a car with the Commander in Chief 1 and we gave him a “Royal Salute” and then he came over to the Guard of Honour and I was introduced to him and to the Commander in Chief. He then inspected the men and chatted away the whole time asking questions about the Regiment and he stopped and spoke to many of the men – Afterwards he shook hands with me and complimented me on a very fine body of men. And really they did look well & our band of 48 men and buglers were paraded with us and created quite an impression.
The next thing was the presentation of decorations and there were such a great many of General Staff Officers and all the brass of the Army in Palestine – I had to march up to have my Military Cross pinned on and it is such a handsome thing – Im having it engraved and sent home for the Pater to keep for me for Im sure I should lose it out here. We now have a long trek back to the Regiment all through the hills – just before we left we advanced about 6 miles on our front but thanks to our artillery we met with little opposition – I suppose we shall keep on slowly advancing but where our final objective out here is Im sure I dont know. The Colonel is still on home leave but is really due back now – I wish he would come for Im anxious to get my application for home leave sent in. Im longing to see you again dear girl and it cheers me up no end to have something to look forward to. I heard last night that Geoffrey Clarke2 has won an M.C. – he commanded my old company in the fighting last November and did most wonderfully well. Many thanks dear girl for your letters which come fairly regularly now – I hear there has been another home mail since we left the Regiment and Im hoping there will be something waiting for me Im awfully fit & the wonderful hill air suits me well and I think Im getting more cheerful than I have been lately. Goodbye dear girl.
1 General Allenby – Sir Edmund Allenby (1861-1936) assumed command of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at midnight June 28/29th 1917 at Cairo GHQ and within a week of assuming command had ‘departed on a visit to the front, leaving behind a slightly shaken staff.’ (Wavell, Allenby, op. cit. p.188) Later promoted Field Marshall and ennobled as First Viscount Allenby of Megiddo GCB, GCMG, GCVO, KCB, etc and numerous foreign honours.
2 Lt GP Clarke gazetted to Battalion December 4th 1914, won the MC for his part in the action before El Jib (BoR, p.74)
My dear old Elsie
We are off again tomorrow and are full of bustle today packing up and getting ready – we have had 3 delightful weeks of comparative comfort here and I shall be sorry to leave my tent and olive grove and many other comforts which we don’t get when fighting the Turk in those stoney hills yonder. We are a fine Regiment again now and are stronger in officers & men than we have ever been – most of our wounded have rejoined. The Dukes visit is put off for a few weeks and I hope we shan’t be altogether disappointed for we have had a very busy time smartening up & cleaning everything since weve been out of the line – H.R.H. is going to present the decorations recently won on this front and I expect he will give me my Military Cross so I shall have to practice pushing my chest out. Ive just had 2 letters from you dear girl- the last dated Jan 29th many thanks they do cheer me up no end – I expect the excitement of battle again will make me forget for a time all those horrible times of last November and December. We dined our General last night and gave him a wonderful dinner – he is a topper and got ever so cheery – Ill enclose the Menu Card and also the song we sang to the tune of “another little drink wouldn’t do us any harm” The Padre composed it!