Sorry to hear you have flu…

Pir Gumat Shah, Attock District, North West Frontier, India
Feb 1st 1917

My dear old Elsie
I was so very sorry to hear in your last letter that you were in bed with ‘flu and feeling so dreadfully seedy – I do hope you have got over it long ago and that you are your cheery self again.

Its a beastly thing to get but the weather at home seems to have been very severe and I dont wonder at people feeling ill. Do take care of yourself – goodness knows how your little family gets on when you arnt well. Mrs. Brown started the letter quite well – why didnt you let her carry on a little more! Anyway I hope to come to see them all one day in the dim future – and this reminds me of some news which I hope will pass the Censor all right – weve heard on very high authority that many British Regiments are going to be sent to Europe in April – ourselves included. They are sending a whole lot of Garrison Battalions into this country now to take our place and everything seems to point to our going somewhere – Especially as the Frontier seems so quiet just now. We may go to Egypt and then Salonika1 or to England to refit for France – the latter I hope and trust. It seems quite certain that every white man possible will be wanted for the great push this coming summer. And so dear girl, you may see me sooner than ever you expected but you musnt count too much upon it for all orders change about a good deal.

Another thing I must tell you is that the Colonel has been asked by the War Office if he has any officers he can recommend for commissions as Captains in the Regular Army – the Colonel has very nicely selected me as the only one suitable in the Regt and of course I feel very flattered. Of course I dont want to leave the old Battalion again and the CO doesnt want to lose me but he says he feels that it his duty to put up my name if I am willing. I should probably have to stay in the Army a few months after peace is declared and perhaps this would suit me quite well for it will take the country some little time to settle down and for business to find its footing again. Anyhow the Colonel has given me a little time to think things over. If I got into the Regular Army I should certainly be sent home even if the Somersets remained in India.2 Since I last wrote the Regiment has arrived and we are quite comfortably settled down – every one was very pleased with all our arrangements and really the men I had with me worked splendidly. Im still Quartermaster and have plenty to do all day long – its been bitterly cold and theres lots more snow on the mountains which look simply glorious in the sunshine. Many thanks dear girl for the lovely mittens and tie – it was so nice of you and I wear the mittens every day and they are such a comfort to me – everyone in the mess is frightfully envious [jealous deleted] of them.

I am afraid that the Pater has had a very nasty turn and that Dr. Iles says a similar stroke may be fatal – of course he is getting a very old man now but I do hope he will live to see us home again and peace declared. I sometimes wonder if the Babe is equal to her most difficult task? Many thanks again dear for the mittens & tie and hopes that you are well again – with much love
from Stan

1 British and French forces were sent to Salonika in late 1915 to support Serbia, their ally, against Bulgaria which came in on the side of the Central Powers.
2 Stanley did not take up the offer.

Next letter February 8th 2017

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Very busy and training strenuously…

Tughlakabad Camp, Delhi
Dec 2 1916

My dear old Elsie
Only a moment this mail to send you a line to thank you ever so much for your last letter written from Hale1 – you seem to have had a real busy holiday but I’m sure the change must have done you good. We are very busy and training strenuously – very often night and day – we are all very fit and must be hard as nails – I’m bound to say I like camp life much better than barracks. We go to the Frontier on Jan 15 – so that will give us about 2 weeks in Meerut to pack up and make other arrangements – best love dear old girl and a New Year kiss fromStan

1 Home of Elsie’s family, near Altrincham, Cheshire.

Next letter Dec 21st 2016

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It’s my birthday today, am I 33 or 34?

1/5 Somerset Li. Chakrata, Upper India
Sept. 22nd 1916

My dear old Elsie
It’s my birthday today and I can’t remember if I’m 33 or 34!1 Frank Calway kindly says I’m 34 but it doesn’t matter much does it – I feel younger than when I left England and if only I could get my ‘innards’ right I should be as fit as ever.

My poor old leg hurts like anything on wet days but I’m not a bit lame now and can run about at tennis and do long route marches without any trouble – Many thanks dear old girl for your last letter (Aug. 22nd) with birthday wishes – I wonder if by this time next year this horrid war will be over but I suppose that is too much to hope for – I’m trying to get reconciled to the feeling that it will be 1918 before I see you and dear old England again! I’m looking forward to meeting Harold about Oct 2nd – he is coming to Meerut on his way to Calcutta and Burma and I’ve got five days leave to go down to him and then have to return here – it will be so nice to see him again and we shall have simply heaps to talk about. It is difficult to get photos done in this country but in a week or so I really hope to send you a few snapshots. I almost despair of ever getting that M.C. they are so long in publishing despatches aren’t they but I haven’t quite given up hope yet! I saw one of the Mundens was killed – I think it must be Dr. Mundens  younger brother2 – Aren’t the casualty lists heartbreaking now? Cheerio and my best love
from Stan

Postscript:
Many thanks dear for the ‘Eve’ book – it is lovely & I’m always looking at it – the other fellows in the Mess love it too – Stan.

1 He was born in 1883, therefore was 33 on September 22nd 1916.
2 This name has not been traced.

Next letter Sep 28th 2016

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Back with the old regiment at Chakrata

postmarked 10 Aug. Charleville
[This is a post card of the Savoy Hotel, Mussoorie, but with no message. It appears to have been the label for the parcel referred to in the previous letter 16/9]

Chakrata, India
Aug 24 1916

My dear old Elsie
You will see by my address that I am with the old Regiment again at Chakrata EW 11-16– the Medical Board at Mussoorie passed me fit for active service last Saturday and now I am waiting my orders from Simla – these may come at any moment. As a matter of fact my leave was over on the 20th. so I am, having a few extra days holiday. My own Colonel here is doing every thing he can to keep me and he says that if I am ordered to Mespot again he will tell the authorities that I’m not fit to go and demand another Board – but I don’t think he can do this – I feel very well – dear- and can do quite a lot of walking and heavy exercise but my poor inside is still all wrong – I told the Board this but I look so fit that they were almost bound to pass me and I’ve got back all my lost weight too. I shall be glad when it’s all  settled and if I am ordered back to that godforsaken country of course I’ ll go very cheerfully. I’m so glad I stayed on at Mussoorie for it is deadly dull here in this very small station – all my pals are busy through the day and I’m left all on my lonesome – I felt I was entitled to a real good time and towards the end of my visit I got to know a very jolly crowd of people and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve got awfully keen on dancing again – old girl – fancy at my time of life too – I learnt all the Boston steps and the one step1 steps and when this old war is over we will take the floor together won’t we? The last night I was there we gave a grand concert at the Hotel and got nearly £50 for Mespot – I will enclose a programme EW 11a-16– it was a great success and it was a splendid audience – the little play I had done in England several times with Mrs. Sheen so we soon worked it up and Mrs. Jesse who acted with me hand painted all the programmes and we got 2/6 each for them. In the troupe I was dressed as a ‘Jack Tar’ and looked very funny too. It was a glorious motor ride on my way back from Mussoorie – 60 miles of Himalayan country – the heavy monsoon rains had simply mined the roads in several places and little streams we had to cross were big rivers then and three times we had to be pulled out by gangs of coolies – I wished I’d got my camera! The home news keeps good and I suppose Do and Gretchen3 are at Elm Grove at present – I have thought of you on holiday and hope you have had a good time and real rest – I must write to the Pater now so goodbye – with best love

from Stan

1 Dance steps fashionable at the time.
2 The programme survived see photograph
3 Stanley’s sisters – Do – Dorothy Goodland (1886-1928), eldest of the Goodland sisters, married Herbert (Bert) How in 1909. Gretchen, Greta Goodland (1889-1968), married Elsie’s brother, Leslie in 1914.

Next letter Aug 30th 2016

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Your letters come regularly now

Charleville Hotel, Mussoorie
Aug 11th 1916

My dear old Elsie
I forgot to tell you last mail that in that box I have sent you I have put in a few wooden toys that the natives make and paint and also a little round hat which the rich Indian children wear – I thought these would please your little family. I am still at Mussoorie because I have been ordered to have my Board here tomorrow  the 12th – instead of at Chakrata – besides I am under the medical people here and am having medicine and special diet which is a great nuisance – they ought to give me some more leave but I suppose they won’t for I look so sunburnt and fit. I shall send a cable home when I get my orders so you will probably hear of my destination.

I am thinking of you on holiday now and hope you are getting good weather and a real rest but expect Ronald will be taking up a lot of your time. Your letters come regularly now thank goodness & the Tatlers too – also the old ones keep dribbling in – some written last year – I think I should get most of my mail in time – 3 parcels have reached me so there’s 2 more somewhere to look forward to – tis so good of you old thing – the letter of Mar 12th which you mention hasn’t come yet! I hope to send you some snaps soon – Mrs.Body1 is keen on her camera and has taken several when we have been out picnicing – we had a grand time yesterday climbing another mountain – in the woods coming home we met a whole school of monkeys – they are a big kind with grey blue hair – apes I suppose they were and it was most amusing to see them playing about in their natural haunts! The war in the West is hell now2 and the casualties heart-breaking but I believe we are steadily doing well and when we get the enemy’s third line we shall surely get on faster – one has to be so very patient! The Mesopotamian enquiry sickens me – so many lies are told and so much hushed up – I wish I could write a letter to the Times about it all! The despatches for January still linger in the printers hands I suppose – I sometimes think the awards will never go through – well so long dear old girl – don’t worry about me for I’m all right and I’ll turn up smiling in dear old Blighty3 some day
Best love
from Stan

1 Wife of Capt Body (Capt John Body, 1875-1945, JP, DL, DSO & bar, OBE Tonbridge School Register ed. HD Furley, Rivington 1951, p.185.).
2 Battle of the Somme, July 1st – Nov 18th.
3 Army word meaning England, Home. Corruption of Hindi from the Arabic ‘bilayati’ meaning  ‘European, foreign.’

Next letter Aug 24th 2016

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Yesterday, a ripping parcel arrived

1/5 Somerset LI., Chakrata, Upper Provinces, India
July 8 1916

My dear old Elsie
You will be pleased to know that I am ever so much better and am now right up in the Himalayas with the old Regiment I have had such a kind welcome from the Colonel1 down to the smallest private in my old company – they have given me such a swell dinner at the Mess and it is simply glorious being amongst the old Regiment again.

The Colonel says that now he’s got me he’s going to stick to me and has already applied to Simla2 for my return – I think I told you that my leave carries me on until Aug. 20th. and I shall not know what is going to happen to me until then. Everyone here thinks this Regiment is going on service to the Gulf in the autumn (the Colonel appears to have had some private information about this) – already all of the officers here have bought a lot of their field service kit – If this is so of course I should like nothing better than to go out again with them but I certainly do not want to loaf about India doing ordinary Regimental duty while there is a war on. The Colonel of the Buffs will be very sick too if I don’t go back to my adjutant’s job with him – but I shall have to wait and see until my orders come from Simla. I shall have to go before another board of doctors before my leave is up and they may not pass me fit for service again. At present my poor inside is altogether wrong – I suppose it will be some time before I can get over the effects of all the bad food and water I’ve had to live on for so many months. It is really beautiful up here – 8000 feet above sea level, to get here one has to take a motor ride of 60 miles for we are right in the heart of the Himalayas and in clear days the “everlasting snows” glisten in the distance and make one just look and wonder & think what a marvelous world we live in – I cant walk very far in these hilly parts yet but Frank Calway (with whom I am sharing quarters) lends me his pony and I just hack about enjoying the scenery and fresh air.

Well my dear old thing – it seems a long time since I had any letters from you but I am hoping in a few days, to hear from you direct through Cox – yesterday however a ripping parcel came from you which had been travelling all round the Gulf. It is so kind of you but you must promise me not to send me anything more until I go on service again but save your money for War Loan – the knife is just what I wanted & the diary too & the lighter & baccy all splendid – really it is too good of you old pal and I dont deserve it in the least.

To my surprise I had a wire from Harold yesterday saying that he was at Mhow at the Staff School – it is a long way from here but I quite hope we should be able to meet before he goes back to Burma.

The Mesopotamian campaign seems at a standstill just now – the weather is so awful that I think our force is quite unable to do much – I suppose they will wait until September. I saw the Russians who joined up with us about the middle of May and it was all very interesting– I noted that they are trying to fix the blame of the foolhardy Baghdad advance on to someones shoulders and personally I do not see how Sir John Nixon can explain away his entire lack of judgement! I am wondering if Leslie and Bert4 will have to join the colours and what the girls will do then it is very sad and all this upsetting of homes and peoples lives but it simply must be done if we are ever going to end this war successfully.

I am anxious to hear how the Pater is getting on now & hope everything goes all right at Elm Grove – he is enjoying the garden I expect & he always feels better in the warm weather

[unsigned]

1 Lt-Col Cooke-Hurle  DSO commanded the 1/5 Battalion Somerset Light Infantry throughout the war until ordered to report back to the War Office in February 1919
2 Himalayan Hill Station, summer capital of British India. The Viceroy and members of the Viceregal council with their staff retreated there from the heat of Delhi in the summer months. The name is also used as shorthand for Indian Army GHQ.
3 On May 20th a Russian Cossack patrol of 113 officers & men arrived at Ali Gharbi, after a march of 200 miles. They stayed a fortnight; their officers were awarded British Military Crosses (Moberly, op. Cit. vol. III p.13).
4 Leslie Hyde & Bert How, brothers-in-law to Stanley. Leslie was employed making munitions in Manchester.

Next letter Aug 4th 2016

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At the height of my troubles…

[Note: address c/o Cox & Co. Bombay.]
Coluba Hospital, Bombay
June 10 1916

My dear old Elsie
I hope you wont think it very unkind of me not to have written to you for so long but I daresay you have been able to get news of me through my letters to Elm Grove but these I am afraid have not been very regular either. You will I know be glad to hear dear that I am practically well again now. I have had my Medical Board and tomorrow I set out on my journey north for two months leave (I think I had earned leave back to England but the Board thought the War Office at home would snap me up and not allow me to come East again so they kept me in India!) I shall go via Delhi and have a look at Indias great show place and then on to Meerut where half the old Regiment is stationed and then on to Chakrata (in the lower Himalayas) where the Colonel and Headquarters and the other half of the Regiment are stationed. I shall be able to spend a nice quiet time amongst old friends and shall soon regain my lost strength and the two stone in weight which I have entirely lost. I am afraid I did not write you very much (if at all) during April and the part of May I was at the front. April was a very dreadful month and I shall never forget it as long as I live night and day we were fighting to get to poor old Kut for we knew they were on their last legs – well old thing – we failed and it was the greatest disappointment of my life1 – I dont think anyone can ever realize how we tried and tried again against every conceivable difficulty – time after time we stood up to be shot at and attempted to storm almost impregnable enemy positions – added to these anxieties we were faced with a terrible cholera epidemic2 which I suppose people at home will never know about – twenty of my poor regiment went down in 36 hrs and not one recovered – the sights I saw were really heart-breaking – To my great regret our Brigadier General Rice who was a very good friend to me died of cholera a few days before I left the regiment – By the way – old thing – I am Captain now and it was really due to him that I was recommended for my third star. All I want to make me happy is my Military Cross  now – I do wonder if they are ever going to give it to me. I have heard once or twice from the Colonel of the Buffs and I am glad to say that he thinks the cholera is dying out but of course the heat and flies and myriad discomforts are very distressing – I was so sorry to leave them all and fought hard against this fever but it conquered me in the end and then jaundice set in and my whole skin went a delicate primrose colour – there are hundreds of cases of jaundice in the Gulf & the medical people say it is all brought on by bad water & food – it is a most depressing thing to get I can tell you.

About the middle of April when my troubles were at their height a most delightful parcel arrived from you – dear old thing – thank you ever so much. I wish I could tell you in words what pleasure it brought me, at that time I had come to my last pipe (which was one of a pair you gave me some time ago) I had unfortunately lost the mouthpiece of this and had made one with a bit of stick and a penknife which wasnt at all satisfactory – Imagine my delight when I discovered a pipe amongst my parcel & the little mascot too was splendid! The first few days of my illness I lived on your cocoa and soup tablets – even after nearly two years of war the Field Ambulances in Mesopotamia have simply nothing in the way of comforts and drugs. I hate to be always grumbling but really it is a disgrace – I only hope France is run better than Mesopotamia (but it surely must be) else we never even deserve to win the war – and what awful lies the newspapers print3 – why ever cant the British public be told the truth – some day perhaps Ill tell you all I know – but I daresay when peace comes and I am  in dear old England once again I shant want to talk about the war at all but just try to forget all this horrid time.

I must be patient until letters from England find me again – it is a long time since I had my last mail – some time in April 1 think – I do hope you are all well –
with best love

from Stan

1 Kut surrendered on April 29th after repeated & vain efforts for its relief.
2 There were 800 cases of cholera in the Tigris Corps during April & May (Moberly op. cit. vol. III p.9 footnote). Cholera was no respecter of rank.
3 Eye Witness complains ‘It is impossible to communicate freely with the outside world. Things were evidently going wrong and this fussy meddling supervision, this constant fear of anything discreditable leaking out, did not increase one’s confidence in the Higher Command’ (Edmund Candler, op. cit. vol. 1, p.65).

Next letter Jul 8th 2016

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In the trenches – it is most depressing work

I.E.F. ‘D’
Mar 28 1916

My dear old Elsie

A few lines to tell you I am safe and sound and fairly well. I cant remember when I wrote last and there is really very little news to tell you for we are not allowed to say very much about the latest happenings in this country. I wonder what the home papers have told you. Thank goodness I came through the last fighting Mar 8 to 10 safely and since then we have been doing a spell in the trenches – it is a most depressing work and there is no rest for the poor adjutant. Now we are under canvas about 4000 yards behind the firing line and it is a real treat to get a shave and a wash and to take ones boots off. We are supposed to be resting but the whole force is busy preparing for the next great effort for Kut – it was a great disappointment to us that we did not get through on the 8th to 10th – it was a very near thing but it was necessary to get far away from the river and we were simply driven back from want of water and from fatigue. I am so sorry to say my mail has failed me again the last 3 weeks and I miss my letters ever so much but yesterday the parcel you so kindly sent of soap toothpaste tobacco and sweets arrived it came just at the right moment – thank you so much dear – you would have been amused to see me with a bucket of water and my piece of coal tar soap which is the envy of the officers mess – I feel cleaner now than I have for ages and for the time being I believe Ive got rid of most of the fleas and horrid things that have been biting me up lately. Im longing to get some home news again for I’m always wondering what is happening.

It may be some time again before I get a chance of writing but I hope you wont worry about me – if we could only get to Kut I think they would give the Brigade a long rest and possibly send us back to India – we have done more than our share and we are all tired out. My poor old leg gets inflamed and some days I am very lame but I dont want to give up until Kut is relieved – every one of us is wanted for that job. No news yet of the Military Cross but Ive great hopes for a few days ago the boys at Basra Headquarters wired up for my full Christian names – youll also be pleased to hear that the General has recommended me for temporary promotion to Captain so Im hoping in a little while to have 3 stars – it will mean a good deal extra pay and altogether will be very nice – not a word of all this until things are settled! Well cheerio dear old thing – theres a good time coming – or at least I keep on hoping so.

Best love

from Stan

 

Next letter Jun 10th 2016

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I am all right except for two frost bitten toes

I.E.F ‘D’
Mar 5 1916

Dear old Elsie

Just a line to tell you I am all right except for two frost bitten toes. My wound is not troubling me a bit but I think I shall always be a little lame.

Your last letter was dated Jan 4th. and I have had no parcels at all so some day if only we can get to Kut and things smooth themselves out a little I shall have a big mail bag all to myself. I may not be able to write again for some time as we are just finishing preparations for another big advance1 – I only hope we shall be successful and that before this reaches you the news of the relief of Kut will be wired across the Empire. Everyone is keen and very anxious and I hope the luck that has been mine all through this fighting will stay with me. I cant remember dates now my mind is so busy with other things and so I’m so sorry I cant send you a birthday letter but I fancy the day wont be far off2 when this arrives so heres my most affectionate birthday wishes & greetings. We have lived through very exciting times lately – every day the guns are busy and there has been a lot of night work – sapping and bombing -, Its all very wearing and one needs cast iron nerves I can assure you.

lve had no home news since Dec 30th. but I fancy the Pater and the girls are carrying on most nobly and bravely – I look forward when these new battles are over and our object is accomplished to a good long rest – I feel Ive earned it! I long to get away somewhere quiet for a time – well – so long -old girl

Best love & every good wish

from Stan

1 The attack on the Dujailah Redoubt March 8th – 10th.
2 Elsie’s birthday was February 12th. This letter was a bit late!

 

Next letter Mar 28th 2016

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Only today I have heard about dear Mothers death

I.E.F. ‘D’
Feb 5 1916

My dear old Elsie

Only today I have heard about dear Mothers death1 – Harold cabled me on Dec 23rd but the message has never reached me and his letter that he wrote at the same time only came to hand this morning. You have no idea of the conditions prevailing in this country and the almost unsurmountable difficulties and the post & telegraph people seem unable to cope with things – At any rate for a long time private wires have not been delivered above Amarah but I do think they might have sent on my cable or put it in an envelope & posted it to me as I tried to arrange.

The news altho expected has come as a great shock and I feel very sad and helpless and thoroughly miserable – We have lost the very best of Mothers and no one will know not even we her children all she suffered for us and her constant thought for our welfare. I find it difficult to write but you know how I loved her and what I must feel about it all. I am thinking so much now of the poor old Pater – it must be heart breaking to see him without his lifelong mate – he is an old man and I am very much afraid his strength will fail him. I feel so unhappy about it all and that is why I naturally turn to you best of friends. Please write and tell me everything – I was so glad to get a letter from you (Dec 9th) but it is only one up to now and no Xmas present that you mention – ever so many thanks – but there must be many more somewhere which I am looking forward to getting very soon. I should like a long pow wow with you now for there is so much to tell you – I have wondered very much lately if we shall ever meet again. I dont want to appear despondent but I dont think it is possible for any one to go through a second time all weve been through since Jan 4 with a whole skin – I have had the most extraordinary good luck and I think a little goddess of good fortune has been looking after me and I hope she won’t be frightened away. Candidly I have seen enough and I wish this old war would end – Altho I really dont want it to now until we can say we are top dog. I wonder if we can smash the enemy in every theatre of war this coming Spring – what do you think – its men we want – thousands and . thousands of them!

And now old girl I am just dying to tell you a great secret about myself – you musn’t tell a soul and I haven’t even mentioned it to my own people in case of disappointment I have been mentioned in despatches and recommended for a ‘Military Cross’ for “helping his company with great gallantry and coolness during the actions Jan 4th to 21st and on the 21st altho wounded himself going out about 150 yards in front of our advanced trenches and bringing in a wounded officer of the Dogras under heavy fire.”2 What do you think of that – old thing. It really looks better on paper than it was but it was a very exciting adventure – Towards the close of the days fighting on the 21st we had orders to retire about 300 yards to take up a position for the night and I saw this poor chap out there in front of us and managed to crawl out to him on my right side (for my left thigh was bleeding and painful) and drag him back a few inches at a time – in doing so I was hit through the water bottle and through the shoulder of my coat – it all sounds like a book or a play and cant you imagine poor Lewis Waller3 working it up but its all true and I can tell you it was very thrilling – I do hope they give me an M.C. but they have been very sparing of honours in this show – It would be something to keep and cherish afterwards if I get through and in any  case it will always be nice to feel I’ve been mentioned – the list wont be published I expect for at least six months and I may not live to see it in print and that is why I wanted to tell you all about it myself – but keep it a great secret wont you.

I am practically well now and have been appointed adjutant4 to the 5th Buffs so join up again in a few days the appointment dates from Jan 8th. when the adjutant was unfortunately killed and as it means £10 a month extra pay it is very nice but this I suppose will cease when I can get to the Dorsets. Best love old girl

From Stan

1 Mother’s death: December 22nd 1915
2 This was the commanding officer of the 37th Dogras, who had been shouting for help in a manner Stanley, (as he explained 58 years later), considered unfitting and ungentlemanly.
3 William Waller Lewis (3 November 1860 – 1 November 1915), known on stage as Lewis Waller, was an English actor and theatre manager, well known on the London stage and in the English provinces.
4 Lieut H S Marchant, Adjutant of 5th Buffs, was killed on January 7th 1916. Stanley was appointed Adjutant in his place. (See RSH Moody, op. cit., p.125).

 

Next letter Mar 5th 2016

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