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 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.
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
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.
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.