My dear old Elsie
My best thanks dear girl for the book you sent me & which came a few days ago – I havent had a chance of starting it yet but it looks very exciting I am looking forward ever so much to the parcel you mention in your last letter – you are simply too good to me I wish I could be in England now – it must be delightful – but my home leave seems impossible just now – and even 10 days in Cairo is out of the question for some time Major Watson has gone to Hospital with fever and poor old Urwick is marked ‘Base 2 months’ – this makes me Second in command of the Regiment and I shall be an acting Major for a little while but for goodness sake dont address my letters as ‘Major’ as I shall be down to Captain again before very long. We are in a fairly comfortable part of the line now but of course the heat and the flies are very trying and we are passing through quite the worst time of the year just now I get very cheerful letters from home still except that the Pater has a touch of lumbago! I havent heard from Gretchen for ages & ages but I guess all her time is taken up with little Christine – Excuse this scribble I am very short of candles and the wind keeps blowing this little bit out I get very cheerful letters from Milsom he is still in Hospital & on crutches but his wife has joined him now from New Zealand so he is delightfully happy -she was torpedoed in the Atlantic and lost all her kit and had a good swim1 -I wish you could meet them We are very bucked with the news from Italy2 and long for further details of what seems to be a great victory for the Allies. The Colonel keeps very well indeed and we are the greatest pals -he feels the loss of all his original officers -Do you know – of all the officers who went to India with him originally only T. Moore & myself are left at present -out of about 30 It is very sad isnt it
Hope you keep fit and by the time this reaches you you will be thinking of packing up for your holidays -I do hope you get good weather
Its the longest 4 years I’ve ever known
Best love dear girl
1 The ship in which Mrs Milsom sailed was torpedoed off Ushant on May 19th 1918. She was rescued by the destroyer escorting the convoy. There was no swimming involved because the skilful destroyer captain laid his ship alongside the sinking vessel. But her wedding presents (and golf clubs) were lost. (Information from SFC Milsom, 1996).
2 The Austrian offensive had failed in June.
My dear old Elsie
I wrote you a letter from Jerusalem and I am now back with the Regiment – I have sent you some photos of some of the places I have seen – it has all been very interesting and I should have liked to have stayed longer.
I spent a day taking the colonel over El Jib and the battle fields of last November. It all brought back wonderful memories – I found poor old Banes grave and tidied it up and put a wall of stones around it – it was a very sad day in many ways.
Of course we went to the Mount of Olives and I enclose a twig1 from one of the Trees – it is supposed to bring good luck. We also walked through the Garden of Gethsemane and on to Mount Zion where we were shown the Tombs of King David and Solomon & also the place of the Last Supper. I really know more about Biblical History than ever I did before altho I fancy I got a prize at School once for an essay on the ‘Life of Christ’! The mails are still very disappointing and I havnt had a letter from you for ages again – I hope mine are reaching you better now We go into the line again in a few days time – everyone has enjoyed the rest & change but of course it has been much too short – I wish it would all end – my leave seems further off than ever but I always hope to be allowed to get away some day. The Colonel has been awarded the D.S.O. in the Kings Birthday Honours – we are all very delighted about it – I am longing get another letter from you & hope you are very fit – Best love dear girl
1 The twig survives in the envelope with this letter
My dear old Elsie
I little dreamed I should ever write you from the Holy City but here I am and having one of the most interesting times of my life. In my last letter I told you I was off on May 28th to Cairo for 10 days leave with Frank Calway during the time the Regiment was out of the line resting. Early on that morning I packed off my kit & servant quite early meaning to follow on my horse but a wire came with orders for the Regiment which made it necessary for me to stay and Frank was very sick because he had to go off alone and so was I – I cant tell you what all these orders were about but I shall not be able to get away for more than 2 days for some time to come and have a very busy time ahead. As a sort of consolation prize the Colonel1 offered to take me to Jerusalem for two days and of course I jumped at the idea & here we are – the Colonel is a charming man to be away with & has a wonderful knowledge of Scripture History – he makes me feel so ashamed
Anyhow we are having a wonderful time – today we have been to Bethlehem and thoroughly viewed all the sights – the Church of the Nativity – the Stable and Manger where Christ was born – the village where the Shepherds lived & the fields where they “watched their flocks by night” – Rachaels tomb – the place where Boaz met Ruth – In the distance we saw the Blue Mountains of Moab where Ruth came from to work in the fields near Bethlehem. This afternoon we have ‘done’ the Holy City & seen many wonderful things – the Holy Sepulchre – the Mosque of Omar – Pilates House – the Mount of Olives – the Garden of Gethsemane – Calvary & a hundred other things I shall never forget. Tomorrow I am taking the Colonel to El Jib to show him the battle fields of last November & where the old Regiment fought and suffered last November 23d – I am looking forward to it so much – at Bethlehem I bought for you a little chain, of beads made of mother of pearl – it is just a little memento for you & I will post it tomorrow the Syrians of Bethlehem work in this mother of pearl and it is quite their industry – I have put a couple of charms in the chain – I representing the Star of Bethlehem the other the Crusaders Cross – You probably will never wear it but I wanted you to have something straight from the Holy Land I am posting you some photographs too. I will write you again in a day or two with a fuller description of all my doings. I have not had a letter from you for some time again – it is very sad – I hope some of mine are reaching you now – with best love dear girl – I wish you were here to enjoy all this with me
undated, postmarked 24th May 1918, censored
My dear old Elsie
lve just heard that a mail boat with 3 weeks mail has been lost at sea and so Im feeling very fed up. Letters are the only things weve got to look forward to and I havent had one from you for ever so long and now I shant hear for simply ages – its sickening. You will be glad to hear we are going out of the line for two weeks rest in a few days and on the 28th I am going down to Cairo for 10 days with Frank Calway – I am looking forward to it. Its about time Im sure that I had another bath and it will be lovely to sleep in a real bed again. I will write you a long letter from Shepheard and hope youll get it this time I can imagine Minchinhampton is looking quite beautiful this time of year and I only wish I could take a look at it – I often dream my leave is sanctioned but there really seems no chance of it just now – if only things could improve in France1 it would help matters – we get only scanty news of the great struggle in the West – it must all be perfectly awful. I am always busy and Im glad it is so – it helps to keep one cheerful – poor old Urwick came back from hospital with his wound healed and now he has gone down again with fever – I miss him so much I wonder if my letters describing the Guard of Honour to the Duke of Connaught and also all the ones describing all our fighting last month have or will ever reach you. Best love dear girl – hoping you will keep quite fit through the summer
1 The Allies had lost ground, lives and material to the German advance on the Somme and south of Ypres
Undated but post marked 30 Apr.18 field Post Office 233 [Censor’s stamp as before. Written on piece of squared paper from a field note book]
My dear old Elsie
Just a few lines to let you know I am fit and well still. Im afraid many of my recent letters to you have gone astray for I have written constantly but Im glad the handkerchiefs rolled up for I had quite given up hope of them ever reaching you. I wrote you a long letter at the same time the parcel was sent but that evidently is at the bottom of the sea. I wonder if my letter describing the recent fighting our here has ever reached you I miss old Urwick ever so much and hope he will soon get over his wound and be back with us
The men of the dear old Regiment are really magnificent wonderfully cheerful after all they have gone through lately – I think I told you in my last letter that the General had written us a note congratulating the Regiment on what it had done. My leave Im sorry to say is hung up for the time being – I cant tell you the reason just yet because it would be disclosing operation secrets but I must be patient a little longer and hope on. Im so glad you are fit but you keep cheerful and I really think the damned old war cant last many more months – the bloodshed in France just now is really awful.
Best love dear old girl
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!
My dear old Elsie
We are out of the line now and are in tents and dry ground near Ramleh – we have had some vile weather but now we have plenty of shelter and the sun is shining so we are ever so happy and comfortable.
And now we are busy polishing our buttons and cleaning up – it is a job to get rid of weeks & weeks accumulated mud It is so nice to be doing a bit of peace time soldiering all in honour of H.R.H.1 – our band instruments and bugles which we haven’t seen for months have been sent up and it is such a treat to hear music again. It will be a great day for the Regiment I am on the best of terms with the General2 these days and dined with him last night and had a great time – our band played at dinner and afterwards we danced on the stone floor of the school house in which he lives – its wonderful how childish a few men can be when they get together and the band tunes up No letters have come from you and we hear of at least two mail boats from home being lost at sea – it is very sad Im longing to hear if my letters have ever reached you. I hope Mrs Brown is better now and that you can have more rest and Im anxious to get further news of little Greta too
These are only a few lines to let you know I am well – I am very busy now with all these preparations and will try to send a longer letter in a few days – Best love dear girl
1 Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 1850-1942, third son of Queen Victoria.
2 Brigadier-General Colston, GOC 233rd Brigade.
My dear old Elsie
At last I have all your letters – many thanks dear girl – the last is dated Jan 4th but up to that time apparently none of mine had reached you but I find that all the EEF letters were held up and everybody is frightfully annoyed about it. But I hope you have heard from me long before this and that some of my descriptions of the fighting have reached you. Your letters were a great joy to me – I used to get a lot of letters but all my old friends ‘cept you have long ago forgotten me and never write now but I expect it’s my own fault for I get little time to write to them.
I told you in my last letters that I had been on leave in Cairo with Major Urwick – it did me a world of good and cheered me up no end but I still get horribly depressed now I’m back with the Regiment for I’m always thinking of the old days when I was surrounded by my pals who are nearly all killed or wounded and so my dearest girl I look forward more than ever to hearing from you and I only hope your busy life will never prevent you writing – I shall always remember how good you have been ever since I embarked on Oct 10 1914 – what ages that seems away! I’m awfully sorry to hear Mrs Brown has been so ill again and can quite imagine how tied you are – You musnt get too thin else there’ll be nothing left of you I get fatter and fatter in this mountain air and campaigning always seems to suit me – do you realize we are fighting in hills as high as Snowdon – so we ought to keep fit eh and are now quite accustomed to mountaineering but it’s real bad country for ones boots! Next week we go out of the line for two weeks rest and it will be a nice change – a night never passes in quietness – always there are wires coming thro’ and things to be done and an Adjutant’s life these times is a very restless one. Did I tell you our Colonel is home on leave now and Major Watson who came back from England a little while ago has gone to Cairo for a 6 weeks course so Urwick and I are running the Regiment again. I have told you I think that I hope to get home on leave about April – so do please save up a little of your holidays so that may see you either at Elm Grove or at Hale or anywhere else you like to fix up – I shall send you a cable as soon as ever I know I am really off – it all depends on the Colonel and the operations out here! If there is to be another big advance this Spring Im afraid I shall have to stay and of course I shouldn’t like to be away from the dear old Regiment when theres any heavy fighting after going through so much with them – but I hope for the best I think of little Gretchen every day and wonder how she is and I am anxiously awaiting news – it seems a wonderfull thing to me that she should be a mother and I only hope her best dreams may be realized.
With best love to you dear girl and ever so many thanks again for your welcome letters.