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,
Every day we look out for our mails but nothing ever comes, and I haven’t had any letters for ages. The truth is we are having some very severe weather and torrents of rain – I think our old railway has been washed away in places and you’ve no idea how difficult it is to get limbers and animals along in bad weather in a country without roads – it is as much as the supply people can do just to get our rations up and until better times come I guess we shall have to wait for our letters. I have written you several letters quite recently and I hope some of them reach you – they have been rather sad affairs Im afraid but Im feeling a bit more cheerful now – things are straightening out a bit in the Regiment now and we’re getting a few officers and men so that makes me happier. Major Urwick as been given the D.S.O. – isnt that great news and a fine honour no[t] only for himself but for the Regiment as well – he is a very proud man of course – Major Watson1 and Duke2 who went home on leave in Sept. are in the country again and as soon as they rejoin Major Urwick and I are going down to Cairo for a weeks holiday – the General has already sanctioned it – so we shall have a royal time Im sure we are still in the line but the Turk is very quiet and keeps his distance – in spite of the weather the men are in wonderful spirits – one cheery soul outside my dug out is singing now ‘I tiddle dy Ity take me back to Blighty’ – Im sure thems my sentiments too.
Im longing to hear what you think of all our fighting and the capture of Jerusalem – I havent been to the Holy city yet but Ive been to Jaffa Ramleh and Ludd which are ever so interesting – German banks – hotels & buildings predominate everywhere. Im afraid poor Milsom is still very ill – Im sorry for his missus who is in New Zealand – she is such a good sort and was ever so good in India. I do hate this war. I think of little Gretchen3 every day and wonder how she is getting on -I shall have quite a lot of new nephews & nieces to get to know when I do reach home once more.
No more news just now and its getting too dark to write and there are no candles or oil nowadays – so goodnight dear old girl with my very best love.
1 Major DS Watson was Mentioned in Dispatches and won the DSO. He joined the Regiment as Lieutenant on April1st 1908 and left with the rank of Lt-Col on August 28th 1923 (BoR pp.73, 74, 120).
2 Capt J Duke was with the Regiment when they left for India in October 1914 and was awarded the Order of the Nile 4th Class from Egypt, and the Order of the Crown of Italy [Chevalier] (BoR pp.l3, 75).
3 Gretchen (Greta Goodland 1889-1968). Her first child was expected in January and there are several references to this event before Stanley received the news. Christine Hyde was born January 8th 1918.