My dear old Elsie
Just a hurried line to tell you dear old girl I have been through another great battle (and I hope the last) and am safe and well – We have had a glorious victory and as far as one can tell the whole Turkish army has been destroyed or captured.
My last letters Im afraid have been short and uninteresting but I expect you will have gathered from them that we were going to have a stunt on this front.
The past six weeks or so I have been all over the country doing special work – the Regiment moved from the mountains on to the Plains near the sea about Sept 17th and at 4.30 am on the 19th. the great attack began. It was a wonderful show and successful beyond all expectations. The Regiment took part in the first attack – we went over the top above a terrific artillery bombardment and drove the Turks from their strong positions which had been holding us up for months – Once past their defences we got them on the run and captured hundreds of prisoners
After 4 days strenuous work we were brought out to rest and are now in the Tul Keram1 district and the cavalry are doing the mopping up miles & miles ahead
The whole thing was so sudden and so successful that thank Goodness our casualties were slight and altogether it has been wonderful time
I will write more in a few days. I am longing for another home mail now
Best love dear girl
1 Tul Keram on the plain of Sharon between Jaffa and Haifa, one-time Turkish Eighth Army HQ
[no address, envelope enclosed in another with the green cross – & addressed in careful writing and signed Fred Stoodley1]
My dear old Elsie
First of all let me tell you dear girl we are on the eve of great events out here and long before you get this letter I hope all the world will have had good news from the Palestine Front. You will probably have gathered from my recent letters that there was “something doing” out here – I have had a very heavy time and a lot of responsible work and I only hope all will go well.
I cannot stay to write more than a few lines tonight – but I must send you my best thanks my dear for the most delightful birthday parcel which reached me quite safely yesterday – just in time for these operations and all so very nice and useful You must choose all the things so very carefully and it is so sweet of you dear My birthday will be spent again this year in the thick of soldiering – next year Im sure I shall be in dear old England
I was so pleased to hear you enjoyed the last part of your holiday so much and that you were quite fit & well I am much better – I think excitement and hard work can cure most things
Best love dear girl, Goodbye – or rather au revoir dear old girl
36 Fred Stoodley was Assistant Quartermaster of the Battalion, for many years after the war, Stanley and Elsie received from him an annual parcel containing asparagus and lilies of the valley.
I am sending you another short letter to let you know I am safe and well
The last time I wrote I was on the Auja – I have since been to Jaffa and am now back with the old Regiment once again
Jaffa was very nice – I got a lovely bathe in the sea and what pleased me even more got some real fresh butter and a fresh egg – the first since last January!
The town & port are very much mined now but at one time it must have been a very fine place – of course I was taken to see the House of Simon the Tanner!1 I am so glad to be back with the battalion again and I hope I am fixed for a time – we are very busy with preparations for something I may not write about but you can probably guess by my letters and by my movements the last few weeks – Things are likely to be very strenuous and that is why I am writing a short letter when I can. No more has come from you since one dated July 28th – it is a shame and it makes me feel so cut off from the world and everybody
I do hope you keep well the news from France2 must thrill old England with joy – of course we are all delighted beyond words and we long for detailed news
Best love dear girl
1 ‘And it came to pass that he [Peter] tarried many days in Joppa [JaffaJ with one Simon a Tanner. (Acts 9.43) whose house is by the sea side’ (Acts 10.6).
2 August 8th was the German ‘Black Day’ when the Allies launched their greatest and last offensive.
My dear old Elsie
When I wrote to you last a few days ago I had just returned from a tour of duty of reconnaissance Work – I was only with the Regiment a couple of days when off I went again on another joy ride for special work. I am now in camp on the banks of the River Auja1 – it is so strange to be in the plains again after about 10 months spent in the Mountains We get a glorious bathe in the river before breakfast each morning and for the rest of the day I am in the saddle riding about over an entirely new country to me – it is all very interesting but these are hard days and I am very tired at the end of the day. I expect to be here 4 days then I have to go on to Jaffa for one day then back to the Regiment.
I hope my special work will soon be over as I dont like to be away from the Battalion so much as I have been lately – This part of Palestine is very much like the old Gaza district of a year ago it seems simply years and years ago when we were in those trenches. I wonder how you are and if you are safely back in Minchinhampton – the mails have been very lazy again – your last letter was the one dated July 28 which is 6 weeks ago – I am feeling better now but there is such a lot of sickness in this country now and a whole lot of our officers and men are in Hospital most people go down with sand fly fever but I think it is probably the Spanish Influenza which seems to be going the round of the World2\ I will write as often as I can but for abit my letters will be written under difficulties
Best love dear girl
1 The River Auja flows into the Mediterranean just north of Jaffa.
2 This pandemic is believed to have killed more victims than the total number of casualties in the Great War.
My dear old Elsie
You will probably think I am lost stolen or strayed but I am safe and sound – very weary and full of fever but still “carrying on”
I have been away from the Regiment for 15 days and out in the blue on some special reconnaissance work for our General and have been unable to post any letters. Yesterday I came back and was delighted to find 3 letters from you – the last July 28 Many thanks dear girl I was thinking of you during your holiday time and now I suppose you are back in old Minch again – all the better I hope for your change – I was so sorry you had been unwell – it was a great pity – the photo of Gretas lovely baby reached me quite safely – she seems a beautiful baby and Im sure you must have enjoyed fussing with her – I expect they are at Elm Grove now and am sorry you couldnt go as the Pater would have so much enjoyed seeing you once again. I have quite made up my mind to give up all idea of leave now – I think the war will be over soon now and the Colonel has asked me to see him through with it now. You see dear girl – I am the only officer who has kept out of Hospital & been with the dear old Regiment through everything and so I have taken on a good deal of responsibility and the Colonel leans on me a goodish bit now – Old Urwick has gone to Ceylon on leave – his missus is still there so we shant see him again for at least 2 months – he has been away ever since last May and I have missed him so much.
I wish I could tell you about the work I have just been doing for the General – it has all been most interesting and I have been in the saddle all day long – often doing 40 miles a day – I have got such a nice mare now – dark brown with 3 white stockings – you will I expect realize that we are to move to another part of the front altogether – I have been making maps and taking photographs and getting all the information I can
Any day I may be off some where else so it has been necessary to find me an assistant adjutant to carry on the usual battalion work – a nice boy from St Helens who says “a”s like you do and always amuses me – we call him “Pills”.1 A year ago we were in the trenches in front of Gaza – do you remember – it seems years & years since those happy days when I could see poor old Banes most days and Milsom too. I wonder and wonder when I shall see you again dear girl – I have every hope of that happy day being within the next six months – It has been a very long 4 years! Someone told me this riddle which is very applicable to me – why is the E.E.F like a tea strainer? Because so few leaves get through! I must get on with some work now – so cheerio dear girl – with best love
1 ‘Beecham’s Little Liver Pills,’ source of the wealth of Sir Thomas Beecham, orchestral conductor, were made in St Helens, Lancashire
My dear old Elsie
Just a few lines to let you know I am better and hope after all to keep out of Hospital – we go out of the line in a few days time and I shall be able to have more rest and a quiet time
I am tired of the summer – since March we have lived under a boiling sun and I think it gradually saps up ones energy and extra strength
A soldier is always grousing – we curse the wet & cold and then we curse the sun I wish it was all over! And I really think these latest events in France1 may prove to be the turning point dont you? We only get very short telegrams & long for fuller particulars I am looking forward so much to your next letters – I get so fed up when no English mail arrives.
I do hope you will get really fine weather for your holidays and I am sure you will have many happy times With best love dear girl
1 The Second Battle of the Marne, July 16th-18th. The Germans exhausted themselves without making any great breakthrough and with British and American help the French recovered some of the ground they had lost.
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
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
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.