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A1 and in the Pink – 100 years on

WWI as seen in the letters of Sgt GC Roberts MM of the 1/5th Welsh Regiment

Nov 17th 1917. In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink hope you all at home can say the same. You see that this letter is starting in the same old strain as usual but it cannot be helped and I am sure you won’t object for if a chap is in the pink well he can’t wish for much more under present circumstances. I wrote to you a few days ago and enclosed a letter for Auntie Annie hope you have received it before now. I am sorry to say I have not yet received the parcel you sent me but as we are expecting a mail up any day now I have not yet given up hopes of receiving it. The advance here has upset the postal system a bit so letters parcels etc have been delayed. Not only are our letters delayed in coming out but the continual moves upset me from being able to write to you regularly but I know you understand how difficult it is so that is half the battle. You can depend on me to write as often as possible. Well Christmas will be along again shortly and another one for me in Turkey so you see this wil be my third Xmas abroad. I wish there was a chance of being home for Xmas but worse luck there won’t be any chance. Just fancy this will be my fourth Xmas from home and I have never been from home Xmas time before I joined the Army. Well the only thing to do is to hope I won’t spend another out here after this and all’s well. Hope Dad enjoyed himself in Cefn and Abergele I have not had a letter from him lately tell him to write very soon for his nice long letters are very very thankfully received. Well hope Mailys and Dyfan are all right. Roll on duration when do you think this war will be over what is your opinion of things now. Don’t you think we are doing well now let me know. Give my love to Jon and Mag and Glyn have not had a letter from them for some time. Hope Jon’s cold is better by now. I have not got any more to say just hope to hear from you again soon I hope Abertysswg still keeps in the same place for I want to find it when this war is over. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Your Affectionate Son

Goronwy






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Nov 14th 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad Mam Mailys and Dyfan

I have great pleasure in being able to tell you that I received your letters dated Oct 7th last night at about saith y gloch (seven o’clock) and am trying to write in answer to them at eight o’clock this morning. I am saying trying to answer because between the flies which are an awful pest here and also between a camel which lies about five hundred yards from here dead and the breeze blowing my way from it I might tell you that

1 The flies are a rotten nuisance

2 That camel does not smell sweet by any means

3 I have no means of getting out of the way of either of these undesirable acquaintances and that the camel hums more and more every day. So you see here you have a brief description of my trials and tribulations not temptations for there are not any. Well I am very pleased to know that you are all in good health at home I am as per usual in the pink and A1 which I hope I shall always be and when a chap can say that I don’t think he has cause to grumble much. We get our grub and our sleep very well and are not badly off considering the circumstances. The nights are very cold and we don’t strip to go to bed because it’s a case of one blanket between two chaps but being an optimist I say that’s better than none at all. You will do me a favour if you will give the enclosed letter to Auntie Annie this being the only green envelope I have. Diolch yn fawr if you will. Dyfan tells me he is going to have glasses soon I am very much surprised to hear this for I thought his eyes were quite alright I don’t wear my glasses only for reading and find it beneficial. A specialist told me at the Citadel Cairo that if he was me he would not wear glasses for another ten or twenty years. I think myself that my eyes are much better now to what they were. I could always fire without glasses on the range and get decent results. Has Lew’s people heard from him yet I expect they have. The CSM (Company Sergeant Major) of my coy died of wounds I was speaking to him a short time before, he is from Bedlenog. I have not been able to find out anything about Sam Jones’ brother but think he is alright. I saw a lot of the wounded from my batt and several of the poor cahps were calling to me “Rob pull my boots will you” I can tell you it was pretty rotten to see so many I knew like that. They had not had their boots off for nine days then and marching and scrapping at that. People think it is a picknick our chaps are having out here but they know nothing about it. Well for some thing a bit more cheerful. Mam wants to know when I am coming home. Well it’s more than I can tell but I will jump for the first chance that comes and will let you know in good time but please don’t put your mind on anything of the sort it’s a rotten thing to get disappointed. I am very much surprised to hear that Mailys is earning so much and getting so much wopping pays my word she makes me real envious more than I was getting after over three years in the Co-op but no more Co-op for me at that price I would rather do navvying and am sure I am more suited for it too. Fancy a big lout like me cutting calico etc for 1 pound a week and at all hours at that finish shop after this, but well we will settle that when I come home. Glad to hear of the way Dyfan is bringing up Glyndwr. How many paces a minute does he march now Pup? 120 is the Army stroke see to it young man. I, your brawd, give you the order and you being a soldier must obey an NCO and not argue over it. Well how are the cadets going now have not heard any details of them for some time and by the way is Dad in the VTC let me know. I am sorry to say that the parcel you sent has not come to light yet but am living hopes of it turning up. It will be a shame if it has gone west, I can’t understand what becomes of them. I have not had a letter from Jon but does not matter, if he could see where we were he would not consider it necessary for me to write often we are not provided with tables and chairs, although when we were in bshba (Beersheba?) there were plenty to be had for the taking. Our division has had a rattling good name from the C in C and by Jove they deserved it. To march miles and fight and march and fight takes some guts to do it. Well give my love to Jon and Mag and Glyn. Hope you are all keeping fit, hope Dad will enjoy himself in Cefn and Abergele. I had a letter from Auntie Polly which are full of his praises at the sermon he delivered at Cefn. Hope Nain Jones benefitted from her visit to the South. Well I must wind up now hoping to hear from you again soon. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Yours Affectionately

Goronwy









Comment

VTS

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_Training_Corps

The Volunteer Training Corps was a voluntary home defence militia in the United After war had been declared in August 1914, there was a popular demand for a means of service for those men who were over military age or those with business or family commitments which made it difficult for them to volunteer for the armed services. At this stage in the war, Britain relied entirely on a voluntary system of enlistment and many men still held to the Victorian principle that it was the task of professional troops to fight a war whilst voluntary militias provided for home defence. Combined with the perceived risk of a German invasion, this resulted in the spontaneous formation of illegal “town guards” and volunteer defence associations around the country, often organised by former Regular Army or Volunteer Force officers. The government was suspicious of this movement, seeing it as potentially diverting men from volunteering for the armed services. The enthusiasm was, however, unstoppable; by September 1914, a central committee had been formed and on 19 November 1914, a renamed Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps was recognised by the War Office.

Although the Central Association had been officially recognized, the local Volunteer Training Corps were not. Units had to be financially self-supporting and members had to provide their own uniforms, which could not be khaki; the Association recommended Lovat green. All members were required to wear a red brassard or arm band, bearing the letters “GR” for Georgius Rex (i.e. the then sovereign, King George V). No weapons or equipment were provided from public funds, although local Territorial Army Associations were asked to supply a few “DP” rifles, which were dummy weapons intended for “Drill Purposes”. The volunteers therefore had to purchase their own weapons and ammunition – typically Martini Enfield carbines and rifles. Membership of the Corps was only open to those who had “genuine reasons” for not enlisting in the regular armed forces although the list of exempted occupations was very wide and the CAVTC interpreted this as including those responsible for widowed mothers, unmarried sisters and those running small businesses.

Local VTCs soon grouped together to form county Volunteer Regiments. In October 1915, the Marquess of Lincolnshire attempted to give the Volunteers legal status by means of a private member’s bill in the House of Lords, but it ran out of parliamentary time. However, MPs discovered that the Volunteer Act 1863 had never been repealed and the VTC Battalions legally became Volunteer Regiments in April 1916 as part of a new ‘Volunteer Force’. Eventually they were allowed to wear khaki and equipment began to be officially supplied. In July 1918, the War Office decided to include the VTC Battalions into the County Infantry Regiment system, and they became numbered “Volunteer” battalions of their local regiment. With the introduction of conscription in 1916, came the power of the Military Service Tribunals to order men to join the VTC; however, the clause in the 1863 act which allowed resignation after fourteen days’ notice initially made this unenforceable, so a Volunteer Act 1916 was passed which obliged members to remain in the Corps until the end of the war. By February 1918, there were 285,000 Volunteers, 101,000 of whom had been directed to the Corps by the Tribunals.

 

Nov 6 1917

Dear Dad and Mam

Have not been able to post this letter before but can’t help it. I am as per usual in the pink everything in the garden’s lovely hope you all can say the same. You will no doubt know before you get this that Lew has been wounded but it is only slight please tell his people so because I saw him yesterday and he was in the pink but as dirty as can be had not had a wash for over a week and not been able to shave, he has got a very cushy one in the shoulder only a flesh wound so tell Mrs Morgan not to worry. My luck is as good as ever and still going strong was not in the scrap but scotching up behind. I had a wash and shave yesterday how delicious it was. Please excuse this will write a decent one when we are a little settled. Thanks once more for your letters. Best love and wishes to you all.

Your Loving Son

Goronwy


November 3rd 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

It gives me great pleasure to tell you that I received 3 letters from you also the letter case from Auntie Annie with the letter from Mam enclosed. I was delighted to get them all as I had not had a letter from you for about five weeks. Diolch yn fawr am dano and same for Mailys and Dyfan too, the latest one was dated October 4th. Well you will no doubt hear some news from out here but I am alright. Have been in the much famed place you no doubt have heard about. I came back from the rest camp I told you about at the beginning of this week. I had to march 16 miles at a stretch and by Jove I was feeling a little bit tired. I will write and thank Aunt Annie for the case as soon as poss you may not get this letter till a few weeks have gone. I am in the pink and was glad to hear you all were the same. Will write again soon. Can’t write more now. Best love and best wishes to all.

Your Affect Son

Goron

Comment

The Third battle of Gaza had commenced. Bombardment on Gaza itself began on October 27th but in  Allenby’s plan this was a ruse. The main assault was launched on October 31st at Beersheba to the south east against the left of the Turkish line. During the initial battle the 53rd Division (GCR’s), as part of XXth Corps held the left of the line facing Beersheba from the west while mounted troops made a wide right flanking move and attacked the town from the south east. This assault involved a cavalry charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse over several trench lines and into the town. On the 31st the 53rd Division was not molested by the enemy but continued into the town and then marched north into the hills to the north of Beersheba to take up a line at Towal Abu Jerwal facing north and west. This move prevented a Turkish counter move from getting around Allenby’s right.

The “much famed place” GCR refers to is Beersheba and the position of the 159th Brigade on November 3rd when the letter was written is marked on the map.



Map from The History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914-1918 Major CH Dudley Ward DSO MC

October 28th 1917. In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink hope you all at home can say the same. I wrote a long letter to you two days ago also to Jon hope will receive them alright. I have not got any news to tell you and I hardly know what to write . If you don’t get a letter from me for a week or two don’t get alarmed I will write as often as possible. Give my love to Mailys and Dyfan hope they are getting on alright. I hope to get a few letters waiting me when I get back to the battery have not had any for a few weeks. Sept 9 was the last. well my address is as usual 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159th Bde TM battery EEF. Hope Jon and Mag and Glyn are in good health. Give my love to them. Will write as soon as possible again. Best love and wishes to you all.

Your Affectionate Son

Goronwy.

Comment

This letter is rushed and has the tone of a soldiers “last letter”. Nothing he can write about, but he was no doubt well aware of the big push to come. Concentration of troops for the 3rd Battle of Gaza has been going on for over a week. All that training will soon be tested.


October 18th 1917

Cpl Goronwy Roberts turns 21 today. He has served in the Army 3 years and 3 days and has been on active service overseas for 27 months without home leave.

Oct 12th In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink hope you all at home can say the same. No doubt you will be surprised to hear that I am in dock again this time with a beautiful boil on the left of my jaw and another bounder on the back of my neck, but there is no cause for any alarm I am only in the field ambulance, B Fry’s lot. I will be out this week came in on Wednesday I am only kept here in order to get better treatment and so get rid of the boils quicker. Many have got boils out here now it must be the climate or bully beef but have had bacon four times running this week for breakfast. Bernard Fry is on a week’s leave in Cairo he is returning today (Friday). Tudor Dodd has been sent to dock with dyptheria (sic) he is not bad but in the pink I was talking to him I think he has gone down the line now, he was here. It was Rutherford who had the wind up and sent him to dock because he was in the same bivouac as a chap who had dyp. I received a letter from W Burton yesterday he is on his way home he left Cairo on the 10th lucky chap don’t you think so, he is going to call and see you. I don’t understand how he managed to get leave and not been out here long. I have been out 27 months now and no sign of leave. I do think that men out here should have a chance of leave now. I have not received a letter from you for about a fortnight but am expecting one next mail. I must say that I have been getting my letters exceedingly well so I can’t grumble and don’t, hope you can say likewise. How is Jon and Mag and Glyndwr getting on. What are the details of the latter’s progress. Can he walk or talk yet let me know. You should see the nigger babies out here they seem to be able to walk or crawl as soon as they are born and the first word they utter is not Dad or Mam like a British baby but Give it Buckshees! (something for nothing) It is the cry of young and old and they get it too (sometimes). If you buy anything from the nigs they want buckshees on top of the price of the article and that is twice as dear as it ought to be. When I was in Alex I was sitting down in a garden and a nig wanted to shine my boots that had only just been shined. I told him no but he came bothering me three times again but he did not come again after that because I took the shine off my boots by kicking his behind with them. These niggers are a pest they would rob you before you could look round twice. they are the scrum of the earth. there is no place like dear old Blighty out here so roll on duration and best get out of this. This place called the holy land is absolutely the limit I pity the Jews who had to live here. They must have been colour blind or without any feelings of any kind. Well hope Mailys and Dyfan  are getting on alright hope Mailys enjoys teaching and that Dyfan is doing well this term in school. Is he in the first eleven let me know. I have just seen Bernard Fry he returned from Cairo today he enjoyed himself alright so he tells me. He had a parcel this morning and I had a few cakes off him. My word Blighty cakes seem good they went down a treat without touching the sides. Well the 18th will soon be here now so Many happy returns of the day to you Mam and same to me too. Hope to be home for our next birthday and make up for lost time. How are things going on in Aber hope it is still keeping in the same place. I have not got any more to say for myself just now. My address is 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde TM Battery EEF. Lewis is still alright and wishes to be remembered to you. Solong for now will write again soon. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Your affectionate Son

Goronwy

Roll on Duration

Comment

The occurance of septic sores and boils amongst the troops in Sinai and Palestine was of epidemic proportions with large numbers of soldiers having to be evacuated from the front line to rear hospitals, often for weeks. An article in the Lancet describes the contemporary treatment of these conditions. Secondary infection with diphtheria organisms was not uncommon when as described in this letter there were outbreaks of diphtheria. Capt H Warren Crowe “A routine treatment for septic sores and Nile boils” Lancet Nov 16th 1918.

Also see “Allenby’s Military Medicine” Eran Golev




 

Oct 8th 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink hope you can say the same. There was a mail in yesterday but I did not receive a letter from you only one from Aunty Polly but better luck next time. I received another letter from Burton in Cairo he tells me he has written to you. I have not seen Mr AW Davies for some time have been up to the batt a few times but have been unable to see him. Lew is alright and wishes to be remembered to you. I was reading the Cardiff Times or SW Weekly News and read the account of the meeting held in LLandrinodd Wells by Welsh pacifists. The only speaker there with a bit of common is Rev Morgan Jones of Whitland. That a lot of men supposed to have a good amount of brains should gather in a place of worship and whine because there is a war on and would go and shake hands with the Germans even now. Some of the resolutions they passed show what a lot of weak kneed skulks they are. Was glad to see that the deacons of the church where the meeting was held chucked them out. I would like to know if any of the speakers in this meeting had any sons or relatives at the front or had been killed. I saw EK Jones of Cefn Mawr’s name in the paper has been giving an address on Postion of COs (conscientious objectors). They are not worth talking about. The account of this is in the Sept 8th paper. You may know more about it than me. Hope Dad does not bother with such weak kneed creatures as pacifists if he does he is on the side of the right and not the weak kneed lot. Principal Rees of Bangor seems to have quite a lot to say in this meeting is he a CO or too old to fight. I would like to attend a pacifist peace meeting if it did not end in pieces I would have a good try at it. There is no one wants peace more than we do but not peace at any price but peace at our price. Well hope Dad enjoyed himself at Abergele and Cefn have not heard from him since he has been there hope he found all his friends alright. I was on the sick this morning had four small boils on my neck but had MD (medicine and duty) you know what that is don’t you so you see it’s not bad but they are rotten things. I think it’s the bully (tinned corned beef)that does it we have had quite a lot of it lately (much quice) (no good). How is Mailys getting on with her teaching hope she keeps on liking it. Hope Dyfan is doing alright now this term he ought to pass flyingthis term. Hope the Army don’t bother him what age is Badin Morgan and they boys that have been called up let me know. Hope Jon Mag and Glyndwr are in good health give my love to them all. My address is still 241261 Copl GC Roberts 159th Bde Trench Mortar Battery E.E.F. How much longer do you think this war will last. I think next spring should see it all over. Well Mam our birthday will roll round in 10 days more so I must again wish you Many happy returns of the Day and hope to be home for next birthday. Well I must wind up now Best love and best wishes to you all.

Your Affectionate Son

Goronwy

Comment

This may be the newspaper to which GCR is referring, it certainly describes a lively peace meeting in Llandrindod Wells.

 




 

Oct 2nd and 5th 1917

Dear Mam, Mailys and Dyfan

Just a line in answer to your letters dated Sept 9 which I received about five minutes ago and I feel I must answer it at once. Diolch yn fawr am dano. Very glad indeed to hear you are all in good health that’s the style I am as per usual in the pink and A1 which is my category (I think that is what they call it). I did not think that Glyndwr was a year old yet time is going very quick indeed. Please give him many happy returns of the day on my behalf. I wrote to Jon last week but did not know Glyndwr’s birthday was so soon. I also wrote to you yesterday hope you have received all the letters I send for I make it a point of writing about twice a week so that you can get letters pretty often. You say that J Willie is home on leave and is a lance jack too, what promotion and with three years service in too. I don’t think he will stand much chance of a commission. What regiment is he in let me know. Surprised to hear that the boys you (Mailys) mention in your letter have had calling up papers. I thought all colliers were exempt from compulsory military service. They had hardly left school when I was home but of course I forget time has gone so quickly. Hope Dyfan will enjoy himself on his trip to Barry Island and Mam too. Did Mam go to Swansea for a holiday after let me know it would do her a great deal of good I am sure if she went. I saw Lew last night he is alright and wishes to be remembered to you all. I also saw Tudor Dodd he is alright and wishes to be remembered to you also. We are having decent weather just now at least it is not quite so hot. The wet season will not be long coming now. Last year it was very wet and I had a wet shirt more than once as we were in dugouts with my only waterproof sheet over the top but if the water collected on it down it would come and then a wet blanket. When it does rain here it does not forget to come down in buckets. Hope Dyfan will pass the Senior next year at least he will have a very good chance especially if he works hard. When do you think this war will be over. I think myself that next spring should see it all over, but what makes us chaps fed up is the way some of the people at home come out on strike and talk rot about no reprisals and shout about peace at any price. What do they know about it. If some of the conscientious objectors or conscientious cowards I call them and Ramsey McDonald and his crew had to do a bit of the scrapping they would be entitled to shout a bit but they don’t only make themselves a general nuisance to people who have a bit of guts in them. How are things going in Abertysswg hope it is still in the same place. I am writing this on the 5th had no time to finish it before and have had a hard grueling rather between stunts and route marches and I have felt pretty tired after them, too tired to write at that. I had a bit of good news yesterday the 1st Class proficiency pay I told you about has come through and dated back to May 1st so I now get 6d instead of 3d per day proficiency pay. Have you seen the new rates of pay. Proficiency pay is to be paid after 6 months service instead of 2 years as I had to wait to it so that is where conscripts get the advantage of us. There is a penny a day for the first year of service, 2d for 2nd and 3d for the third so if they give us the back money I will have 9 pounds in credit that will be alright too don’t you think so. If they don’t pay back money I will be having 4d extra because I will be starting on my 4th year in the Army after the 15th of this month. So you see I am quite an old sweat now at least older than I bargained for. I was up at the battalion the other day and told Lew about Badin getting his papers he was very surprised at it. He is in good health and wishes to be remembered to you. I had a letter from Burton in Cairo yesterday he received my letter just as he was writing to Dad, he tells me of a couple of Abertysswg chaps down there. Hope Jon, Mag and Glyndwr are in good health have you taught the latter to walk yet and to talk too let me know his progress in these two important subjects. My address is still 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar Battery E.E.F. Hope you are receiving my letters alright. Hope Dad enjoyed himself up in Cefn and Abergele let me know. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Yours Affectionately

Goronwy




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