Busy polishing our buttons…

[Passed by Censor 3983J
13.2.18 E.E.F.

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
from Stan

1 Arthur, Duke of Connaught, 1850-1942, third son of Queen Victoria.
2 Brigadier-General Colston, GOC 233rd Brigade.

 

Next letter March 4th 2018
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a night never passes in quietness

[Passed by censor No. 39831
Feb 4 1918 E.E.F

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.

Next letter February 13th 2018
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Had a delightful time in Cairo

28th Jan. 1918 E.E.F.

My dear old Elsie,
I have just returned from a weeks leave in Cairo with Major Urwick and have had a delightful time – I wrote you a long letter from the Turf Club there but I hear the mail boat was sunk. I sent you also some silk handkerchiefs with I’m afraid were in the same boat –  if these dont reach you please let me know for they were insured and I can get compensation. They were made by the Egyptian harem ladies and I wanted them to arrive somewhere about your birthday with my best love and good wishes!

We ran up to Alexandria for a couple of days to see Milsom and our other woundeds – we were lucky to arrive just in time to see Milsom on his hospital ship, for he had already embarked and by this time is well on his way home. He looked very well though still in pain and unable to walk but I quite envied him his trip to England and it made me quite home-sick. I am afraid he will never come back to us and as he, Banes and I were always inseparable, it makes me very unhappy. I hope to go to Jerusalem next month for two days and shalt climb up that mountain overlooking the city and plant a few of the wonderful spring flowers which are growing up everywhere here round Banes’ grave. I was so looking forward to finding some letters from you on my return yesterday but nothing has come and it makes me very fed up but today a wonderful parcel came from you of baccy soap – a memo book and all sorts of useful things – so many thanks dear girl and a big hug! But I want so much to get your letters and to know what you think of all our fighting and the doings of the dear old Somersets  – I wonder if you got my letters describing those terrible times? Cairo was very gay and amusing but I think I enjoyed my two hot baths a day more than anything and as I had slept in my boots and clothes every since I was in Cairo last October you can imagine how delightful it was to get into pyjamas again. There are no signs of food controllers and rations in Cairo and with its perfect climate I can’t imagine a more perfect spot to live in in these awful times. Lady Allenby is simply charming and does everything possible to give officers on leave a good time – she gives ‘At Homes’ and small dances1 – I actually had a one step and a waltz and it made me feel quite young again. Sheppheards Hotel where we stayed is the acme of luxury and some of the menus we tackled were wonderful – to celebrate the Majors D.S.O. he gave me a dinner which included a large bottle of Irroy 1906 and from the hors d’oeuvre to the savoury I think was the best and most expensive dinner any city in the world could produce at the present time. The feelings and joys of short leave can only be experienced by those who have been ‘through it’ as we did last November! I saw quite a lot of Karl who is very fit but still a ‘B’ man on account of his rheumatism2. ft is horrid to be back in the line – I found the Regiment in  the same old spot and its raining hard and very cold and cheerless –  the Colonel has gone home on leave for a month – I envy him too and hope my turn will come soon – my great fear is that by the time the C.O. is back it will be necessary for us to begin another advance and then of course I shan’t be able to get away however I shall hope for the best. I am always thinking of Gretchen these days and wondering how she is getting through what I imagine is a very terrible yet very wonderful time of a girls life – I am hoping to hear all is well soon. I have much arrears of office work to tackle so cannot scribble anymore now  – if this reaches you near your birthday please accept a birthday kiss and my most loving wishes – it is too depressing to think it is nearly 4 years ago since I last saw you and the damned old war is more complicated and awful than ever – Ive come to the conclusion it will fizzle out and one day we shall wake up & suddenly find Peace has been declared and we can go home –  may it be very soon – Best of love dear girl
from Stan

1 ‘Allenby obtained with some difficulty permission for Lady Allenby to go to Egypt. She arrived in October 1917 and went to the Villa Heller at Gezira. Her influence in the English community in Egypt was, in its way, as great as Allenby’s at the front. She took part in the direction of the Red Cross, working in finding occupation and interests for the convalescents, and for officers and men on leave, and similar activities.’ AP Wavell Allenby op. cit. p.196.
2 Karl Jones was appointed Cypher Officer at EQ EEF in 1918, 0/c Cyphers EEF 1919.

Next letter February 4th 2018
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Did you hear of fighting?

Jan 11 1917 [sic] EEF

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.
from Stan

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.

Next letter January 28th 2018
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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

EW-camels

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

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No mail, very fed up

Feb 22 1917

My dear old Elsie
We’ve had no English mail for the last 3 weeks & consequently are very fed up – I suppose the submarines have been too busy or perhaps the mail boats are being sent round the Cape. We are all hoping 3 letters will come all together. I am wondering how you are now – in your last letter you told me that you were just recovering from a nasty touch of ‘flu – I do hope you are quite fit again & I shall be so anxious to know. We are still in camp and very little exciting happens – we’ve got a very energetic General who makes us do plenty of hard work but we don’t mind that because theres absolutely nothing else to do – On March 2nd the whole Division is going out on a reconnaissance over the Frontier and we are busy making all the preparations- we shall be away from this spot for 15 days about – it is very likely that we shall not be able to get any letters posted so you will know if you dont hear from me – there are of course no roads where we are going so we have to take camels to carry all our stores and kit. Nothing more has come to hand yet about our future but we think we shall get news before many days are over & everyone seems confident we are going to be sent away from India at the end of March or the beginning of April! Best love dear old girl

from Stan

Next letter March 1st 2017

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A busy time feeding 900 men

Camp Burhan, Nr.Attock, North West Frontier
Janry 25 1917

My dear old Elsie
Many thanks dear old girl for your letter of the Dec.19th which reached me only today-  goodness knows why it has taken so long in coming – I hope you have been getting my letters lately too – Im sorry I could not write much while in camp at Tughlakabad1 – but I think I sent you a line most mails since. We are getting on very well with our camp here and when the Regiment arrives in a few days time I think we should be practically ready to receive them and to make them comfortable – Our Quartermaster has to remain at Meerut to hand over and will not join us for two weeks or so – the Colonel writes to say I am to act as Quartermaster until he rejoins so I should have a busy time feeding over 900 hungry mouths & clothing them & making them comfortable! Ive had no chance of doing any exploring since I last wrote – it isnt safe to wander far without an escort and weve all been very busy. As a Major on the Staff said when we first arrived “theres damn all to do up here except soldiering” and Im sure hes quite right. There’s very little shooting even – the other evening I shot a hyena but there are no birds at all – sometimes a flock of geese come over but they fly so high and so fast that they defeat me altogether. They are equipping this Division regardless of expense and I fancy it must mean that when we have all been training together for some little time that we shall see service somewhere  – they are completing us in transport – field ambulances all the newest Maxim & Lewis Guns – bombs in fact every thing necessary for service – If we do go I hope it will be anywhere but Mespot.

Since I last wrote you I have passed the anniversary of my wound and my Military Cross – It seems only yesterday I was passing through those awful times and everyday I go through the different thrilling events in my mind. lve had several letters lately from old friends in the Buffs – they are still fighting and on Jan 11 and 12th lost a good many casualties  – they have had a very very hard time indeed and must be absolutely done up by this time.2

Its awfully lonely here and I shall be so glad when the Regiment comes – we are such a cheery Mess when we all get together – Banes Walker3 – Milsom4 and the two Moores are the only subalterns left of the old crowd who came out in the Kenilworth Castle and we are all the greatest of pals – all the others  – about 16 – have dwindled away – most of them have got jobs in the Indian Army with the intention of sticking to soldiering after the War.

Todays mail also brought a few lines from the Babe5 with quite a cheerful report of the dear old Pater –  he seems really wonderful and has quite rallied again. Before next mail I hope to get your promised parcel off – the post office is two miles away and I havent had a chance of going down yet.

Many thanks dear girl for the Tatler – I shall enjoy the two letters more than ever now we are so far away from civilization. The married men of the Regiment are of course frightfully sick because no ladies are allowed so far north as this – they are staying at Meerut for the present.

Well cheero dear old thing – heres my love to you & the best of good wishes

from Stan

1 The ruins of Tughlakabad. one of the seven cities of Delhi
2 The Buffs were involved in the campaign to recapture Kut.
3 Gerald Banes Walker of North Petherton, Bridgwater, Somerset. He, Harry Milsom and Stanley were close friends and colleagues. They are mentioned several times in subsequent letters.
4 Harry Milsom (1889-1970) MA Cantab. Ranching in British Columbia before the War. Assistant Secretary of the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, 1919-1930. Secretary, 1930-1939.
5 Florence Amy Goodland (1892-1977), known as ‘the Babe’, 4th and youngest sister to Stanley, married Karl Jones of Mumbles, South Wales, in 1920. On July 30th 1914 she left England to attend a course at the Dalcroze College of Dancing near Dresden. Caught in Germany by the outbreak of war she succeeded, on the second attempt, in crossing the Dutch frontier. A long account of her experiences was printed in the Somerset County Gazette, September 19th, shortly after her return.

Next letter February 1st 2017

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its more like real soldiering

Burhan Camp, nr.Attock1,  North West Frontier, India
Janry 18 1917
[Note: the envelope of this letter is printed O.H.M.S. and ’16th Indian Division’]

My dear old Elsie
Here I am in camp once again and quite safe and well. I was sent off from Meerut at very short notice with 100 men and we are busy making all the preparations to receive the Regiment which is arriving on the 27th. inst. Weve got our hands full for beside fetching 300 large tents there are cook houses & washhouses and mess kitchens to be built besides roads and drains to dig  I was sorry to leave Meerut where we had many good times and made lots of friends and this is a very desolate sport to be sent to – however its more like real soldiering & theres always the danger and a certain amount of excitement which appeals to me more than ordinary barrack life. Its almost impossible to describe this spot – it looks as if there had been a huge earthquake for the ground is all broken and churned up – theres hardly a tree or any green thing to be seen – we are surrounded by mountains all covered in snow & it freezes hard every night – so you can image how cold it is living entirely under canvas  Theres absolutely nothing to do so we can give our minds entirely to soldiering, and it isnt completely safe to wander very far from camp

The whole neighbourhood is haunted by Pathan rifle thieves – very desperate men who get a big price for a rifle if they can get one back across the frontier  I havent had my last two mails &  suppose they will be a bit uncertain until we are a bit more settled and of course I am very anxious to get the latest news of the poor old Pater I feel frightfully lonely up here & shall be so glad when the Regiment arrives – we are such a happy crowd when we are altogether – hope you are fit – best love dear old girl

from Stan
I hadnt time after all to post the parcel at Meerut so will do so at first opportunity.

1 Attock lies between Peshawar and Rawalpindi.

Next letter Jan 25th 2017

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I’m off to the Frontier…

1/5 Somerset L.I., Meerut
Jan 12 1917

My dear old Elsie
I’ve got my orders at last and early tomorrow I’m off to the Frontier with an Advance Party – Today we are all very busy making the final plans.

It will be bitterly cold for the next few weeks under canvas but I’ve treated myself to a nice warm sleeping bag and I’ve got those lovely bed stockings which Mrs. Hyde gave me on Salisbury Plain – I hope next mail to be able to write and tell you my first impressions but we are told that we shan’t be allowed to say very much as to what goes on. It is a long train journey but through interesting country so the time will pass pleasantly enough. Thank you dear old girl for your last letter – we shall look forward to our mail more than ever now we are going right away from civilization. Today a wire came from Harold saying that Alice had rejoined him safely and well – so that’s good news for he has been frightfully anxious during her voyage out. We still have celebrations in the Mess of my Military Cross and you can realize how proud I am of the ribbon I am now allowed to wear- since I last wrote I had to go up to the Brigade General and the Divisional General to be congratulated – I have packed up a little Cashmere scarf to day for your birthday and hope it will reach you safely – goodness knows when I should have another opportunity of sending off a parcel – it brings with it loving birthday wishes – I’ve also included two collar badges. These are the ones I wore all through Mespot, and I want you & Gretchen to have one each – please send her one won’t you?

They make up into quite a nice brooch and you can get some Regimental ribbon from Browns of Taunton – colours green and blue with a thin gold stripe very pretty I think – I’ll try to draw a little sketch of how it should go. You will want to have a metal brooch pin soldered on the back.

The news from Home seems better and I do hope the old Pater will soon be his wonderful old self. I’ve sent your mother a few lines this mail – it was awfully kind of her to send me out Punch’s Almanac,
With best love
from Stan

Next letter Jan 18th 2017

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My Military Cross has been announced

1/5 Somerset LI., Meerut

Jan 4 1917

My dear old Elsie
You will see by my address that we are stilt at Meerut – all packed up –  -and waiting the order to go further north. I think perhaps I told you that I am to go ahead of the Regiment with an advance party of 100 men and as we shall probably get 10 days start I am expecting to move any day.
Of course now everything else in my mind is eclipsed by the announcement of my Military1 – the cable from the Pater (it hasn’t appeared in the Indian papers yet) arrived one evening just as we were going into Mess – everyone went mad with excitement and it was a very merry night I can tell you. Well – my dear old girl – thanks so much for keeping my secret – it’s been a long long time of waiting – practically a year and many times lately I’ve given up hope even of getting it. It’s made the events of that awful Janry 1916 come back very vividly to my mind and it really is a perfect miracle that I’m still alive and well. The Colonel is delighted and I’ve had congratulations on all sides – I’m glad to have been able to bring a little honour to the jolly old Regiment and it pleases me beyond anything to feel how delighted the old Pater must be. I only hope he is better now! Ever so many thanks dear girl for your Xmas letter & papers & parcel – the latter arrived actually on Xmas morning – it is so kind of you & I’m enjoying the cigarettes so much – the little dominoes are sweet & everything else simply topping.
Considering all things we had quite a good Xmas – 3 or 4 of our officers have their wives out here and they gave all sorts of gay parties. On Xmas morning I went to Church Parade and then back to see the men sit down to a tremendous spread –of turkeys geese ducks ham beef plum pudding etc etc – all very small and poor things that would make our English birds blush for same [shame] but it was all very jovial and nice – lots of singing – lots of toasts – lots of soldiers talk which I simply love. I’ve been thinking of you and all the people at home – thinking of poor Mother & it’s so difficult & almost impossible to quite realize that she isn’t at Elm Grove waiting for the end of the war and waiting til we come home. I expect you have had a busy time with the children and I hope you have had a happy time – I can’t tell you what’s going to happen to us on the frontier. In any case there won’t be any trouble until about March when the hillmen have no work to do and no crops to worry about – it’s at those times that they come down & make trouble.
We shall be under canvas or in blockhouses or dugouts & the cold for the next few weeks will be intense – After March it gets so hot that we shall have to be sent somewhere where we can get more shelter than canvas. I’ll let you know my movements but of course I’m not allowed to tell you very much.

Again many thanks dear old girl for your letters and gifts – with best wishes for the New Year and lots of love

from Stan

1 The London Gazette announced that Lieutenant, temporary Captain, Edward Stanley Goodland, (Somerset Light Infantry) had been awarded the Military Cross. Captain Goodland is the well known Somerset cricketer. He is the son of Mr EC Goodland and a member of the firm of Franklin, Hare & Goodland, jewellers, etc., of Taunton. He was wounded during the advance on Kut some months ago.’(Somerset County Gazette, December 30th 1916).

Next letter Jan 12th 2017

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