A week’s leave!

TELEGRAM dated 14 Oct 17

Sent as weekend telegram, via Eastern Telegraph Company Limited

Turf Club. Cairo

My dear old Elsie
I am enjoying a weeks leave in Cairo and its a really delightful experience after nearly six months of Desert life.
I sent you a wire so that you would know that I am out of range of the shells & bullets for a time and I know you would realize that I’m having a real good time.
Milsom is here with me and we are doing ourselves just proud and tucking in like school boys to all the good things one cant get up in the fighting area –  like butter – fish –  fruit. We’ve got a big double room at the famous Shepheards Hotel1 and its got its own bathroom with one of those white enamel baths & of course we spend hours in the water and it’s such a joy to feel really clean again. I found out Karl Jones2 yesterday and he is coming in to lunch with me this morning and we are going to a most wonderful Zoo later on. Karl looks very well and no one would imagine he has been in hospital nearly six months and I think it will be a long time before he can do any marching or hard soldiering for the muscles of one of his thighs are quite perished a[t] present but he is now passed B3 and will get some clerical job I expect until he gets quite strong. The Regiment came out of the line just before I left but goes back in a day or two – a month in and six days out – it’s very wearying work and I long for it all to be over.

Dear girl – you will be pleased to hear that the Regiment got such a lot of kudos out of the Night Raid and did I tell you the C-in-C sent a special wire of congratulation!3 I dream about that night still and I think those of us who were in it will never forget our experiences. I wrote home a long letter to the Pater with a fairly full account of it all but I’m rather afraid the censor will destroy it – I shall be [interested?] to hear if it ever fetches up. We certainly put the fear of God into the old Turk that night and he simply screamed for mercy –  Allah! Allah! I can hear them now. When I get back I take over the duties of Adjutant – my appointment has been approved by Headquarters from Oct 10th so now I shall have my hands full. I am looking forward to finding letters from you when I rejoin for it seems some time ago since the last mail came – something went wrong with our mails back in August & early Septbr every one was grousing at home but I hope my letters have reached you better lately.
I hope Mrs. Brown is much better now and that you dear girl are keeping fit – with best love
from Stan

1 Then and for many years the leading hotel in Cairo. It was burnt down during the anti-British riots at the time of the Suez Crisis in 1956. En Suite facilities were only to be found in exclusive hotels in 1917.
2 Karl Jones, engaged to Stanley’s youngest sister, Babe, served with the Glamorgan Yeomanry. Invalided from Palestine to Egypt, he later became Chief Cipher Officer, HQ EEF Cairo.
3 General Allenby.

Next letter 25th October 2017
These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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tired of this horrible war

[letter re-addressed to Gwynant, Park Rd., Hale, Cheshire]
no address.
July 9 1917

My dear old Elsie

Your letters have reached me at last – many thanks dear girl for six of them which arrived a few days ago and gave me the greatest possible pleasure. I am glad the parcels reached you safely as I was afraid they had gone to the bottom of the sea and I hope you will wear that funny old necklace sometimes. If you string them on the strong fine silk used for pearls they should be all right until Barbara has a good pull at them. I am very sorry you have been so unwell but Im thinking of you now on holiday and hoping the change and sea air will do you ever so much good – you will return to Minch quite refreshed – especially if the weather has been fine and warm.

I had 11 letters from the Pater the same day as yours came so have had quite a budget to read and I hope now to hear regularly altho Im told several more Egyptian mail boats have been sunk.

Dont send me the Tatler dear at present — many thanks all the same – I shall miss it especially Eves letters and ‘with silent friends’ but they dont bother much about papers out here and so many wouldnt reach me it would be waste of money. When you think of it however dear girl you might post me a sixpenny novel – say once every six weeks or so – I dont get much time for reading but when I do get a few slack moments its nice to take up something light and frivolous. My out post work is over for the time being and my company is resting (so called) Its been a strenuous time with a lot of night work and Ive been in the saddle all day long sometimes. Im very well dear – only a little tirer –  tired of this horrible war and wishing every day that it may soon be all over General Allenby1 our new Commander in Chief has been to see us – It has cheered us up and we are full of enthusiasm and we are going to have a great victory here before many weeks are gone by – but how I wish it was a thing already accomplished for I know what mettle the Turk is made of and I fear there’ll be much blood shed before we see the gates of the Holy City – however! Goodbye dear old girl – many thanks again for your welcome letters
Best love
from Stan

1 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 Marshal and ennobled as First Viscount Allenby of Megiddo GCB, GCMG, GCVO, KCB, etc, and numerous foreign honours.

Next letter August 1st 2017

These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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we have caught 7 prisoners…

June 26 1917
no address

My dear old Elsie
I hope you have been getting my letters regularly because I have told you all my movement sometimes I think the Censor may cut out some of the things I write. As it is past history now I think I can tell you that the place we first came to after leaving Cairo was El Arish – we are now about 30 miles further up so if you look at a map of this front you will be able to see where I am and we are actually in Palestine now. Soon after leaving El Arish which is an absolute sandy desert we came across a blade or two of green grass and gradually cultivation increased and now we are on fairly firm ground with grass everywhere but very few trees yet. Only a few miles ahead we are told we get into lovely country and I only hope we shall soon be able to beat back the Turks towards Jerusalem. We are very busy here night and day and altho the sea is quite near we have had no opportunity of bathing yet and so we are all very very dirty. As soon as we arrived at this place we had to take over the outpost duties and Ive been in charge of three posts with my Company.

Nothing much has happen[ed] yet except that we are rather troubled by Arabs just as we were in Mespot – and we have caught seven prisoners up to date which is a start at any rate. Just ahead the guns are firing incessantly and the airmen on both sides are very active. I wish I could tell you more dear girl I am writing this in my little dugout with a couple of blankets shielding me from the sun – it is very burning in the daytime but a delightful climate compared to India and it is very cold when doing patrol duty at night. It must be two weeks since I heard from you & Ive had no letters from home since leaving India I do hope the postal arrangements are going to be kind to us out here and not like Mespot. The railway and water pipe run right up here so we have plenty of stores – Unfortunately we are only allowed one water bottle of water a day & we have to do all our drinking shaving & washing in that! Its three years since I saw you and I do wish it could all finish and we could return to the dear old days of peace – but I suppose we must all be patient – if only Russia1 hadnt proved so disappointing – it might have been almost over by now. Hope you are very well dear girl, with best love

from Stan

1 The Komilov offensive had failed.

Next letter July 9th 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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..from ‘somewhere in Palestine’…

June 9 1917
no address.

My dear old Elsie
Heres a few lines of greeting from ‘somewhere in Palestine’ for we left our camp in Cairo a week ago and are now at an advanced base. It was an uneventful journey but of course very interesting and I think the building of 200 or so miles of railroad1 right across the sandy desert with no fresh water is an achievement with which the nation may well be proud –  At present we are living among a sea of sand-hills –  fine almost white sand – there are no roads and one simply flounders about and of course its very hard going especially for the poor transport animals – it is fortunately much cooler than India but the sand glare is very trying and Ive  always got to wear my dark spectacles and the men are issued with these too. We have one great compensation for our petty discomforts and it is that we are only a few hundred miles [?yards] from the sea – and most days we are able to bathe in the clearest – bluest –  warmest sea imaginable Nothing very exciting has happened yet except that we get a good deal of attention from enemy aircraft who drop those loathsome bombs but our guns generally chase them away successfully –  All day & night long we hear the artillery duels and at night the sky is illuminated by the star shells and flares The men are all very happy and excited about it all – poor devils – they are such boys most of them – and it rather depresses me when I think what is before them – its a great mercy they don’t know as much as I do about the cruel heartless side of war


There is no news of our immediate future but I fancy we shall be here for some little time but of course its always impossible to foretell –  only a few miles further ahead we come into the Holy Land and there we are told are green fields & trees – orange groves and fresh water in abundance –  we long for the time we can push on to these luxuries
I am enclosing dear girl one or two snap shots that Banes Walker took when we were at the Sphinx & Pyramids I am on the black camel in case you can’t recognise me.
I hope you are fit & well and having real summer weather
Best love dear old pal
from Stan


1 ‘The main single track railway from Qantara had reached Deir al Belah at the date of Sir Edmund Allenby’s arrival. It just sufficed, independently of sea transport, to maintain the force before Gaza. As soon as he received instructions to double this line the work was put in hand by Brig. Gen. Sir G Macauley, Director of Railway Transport, and it advanced very quickly. By the end of August, 8 miles from Qantara had been doubled, while bank work and the laying out of sleepers and rails had been completed for approximately another 10 miles. By the end of September the double line was in use beyond Qatiya, a distance of over 30 miles as the track lay. At the end of October, on the eve of the offensive, it was in use up to Bir el Mazar, a distance of 70 miles, a mile a day thus having been laid during the last two months.’ (Cyril Fails, Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the end of the War. HMSO 1930, part I p.20).

Next letter June 16th 2017

These letters have been published as
Engaged in War – the Letters of Stanley Goodland 1914 – 1919
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Sailing at last

at sea, 1/5 Somerset L.I., Indian Ocean, Troopship Chakdara1
[Envelope stamped ‘passed by censor May 4 1917 No 3009’]

My dear old Elsie
Before leaving Bombay I sent a cable to Elm Grove saying I was sailing –  I hope the censor sent it off all right and that Greta has let you know. It is just possible we may put in at Aden tomorrow for new stores of fresh meat water and ice and so I am hoping to post these few lines on to you. Unfortunately I can’t tell you our destination even yet but we gathered unofficially at Bombay that we are bound for Egypt and after re-equipping at Suez Alexandria or El Arish we are to join up with the forces operating at the bottom of Palestine. Of course all these plans may be moonshine and some of us are still hoping that we are on our way to old England Its rather exciting this uncertainty but we should probably get our definite orders at Suez and of course I shall write to you at once. I believe the British need reinforcements in Palestine – if you take a look at the map you will find a place called Gaza on the coast – the Turks have got a strong position there stretching inland 40 miles to Beer Sheba. Up to now we are having a fairly good voyage – it is rather a tub of a boat – very different to the Kenilworth Castle –  and the Indian Ocean has some days been very rough but I suppose Im a better sailor than I was in the old days. We are one of a convoy and of course our wonderful Navy is escorting us for there are enemy raiders about2 –  day and night we have to wear or carry lifebelts and we are always practising the alarm and every man knows his particular job. We have now been at sea just over a week and I expect it will be another week before we get to Suez for we have to take time from the slowest ship in the convoy and consequently can only do about 10 knots an hour.

I think every man was glad to leave India at last and of course everyone is in the highest spirits at the prospect of striking a blow for old England before the war ends – we had a great send off from Bombay and I am sure none of us will ever forget it. The Colonels wife and the other ladies of the Regiment – who have been bricks to us since weve been in India – came to see us off —they hope to get home by mail boat soon.

There were some hundreds of the Bombay garrison at the Docks and of course thousands of envious natives – Our bugles sounded the Advance and the Band played the Regimental March – the men were singing and cheering. Ive been at sea 9 days now and have had absolutely no news – we hope to hear all that’s been going on when we reach Aden. I hope you are very fit dear old girl – I shall write to you as often as I can – Best love

from Stan

1 Troopship Chakdara: British India Steam Navigation Co., passenger vessel, 1,581 tons, built 1914 at Leith.
2 The German raider Wolf left Germany November 30th 1916. In January & February Wolf laid mines off Cape Agulhas, Bombay and Colombo. Then Wolf went East and in May 1917 was refitted at Sunday Is, in the Kermadec Group, NE of New Zealand. She laid mines in the Cook & Bass Straits and off the Anamba Is, near Singapore. She then returned to the Indian Ocean and home to Germany in February 1918. (Halpem, op. cit. pp. 372-3.)

Next letter May 17th 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
Available from http://twigabooks.co.uk/ or Amazon

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


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.