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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

Month

September 2015

September 29th 1915

September 29, 1915 #1 September 29, 1915 #2 September 29, 1915 #3 September 29, 1915 #4

Private GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

Sept 29 1915

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line hoping you are in good health. I am fairly well again now the disentry (dysentry) has nearly gone. I sent you a letter on Friday, hope you received it alright. Have not received one myself yet. I was at a lecture by the Chaplin on Wednesday night on The Song of Solomon. He gives a lecture every week. One week we had one on Job, another on Amos and one on Jonah and we have had a few others I don’t remember. He is very good in these lectures he criticizes the subject in different points and explains it all to us so that it makes it very interesting. There is a good crowd goes to hear him speak, he is very popular. His sermon on on Sunday night was “Wanted a Man you can guess it was a good sermon. It is very little I have got to say this time, have got no news whatever. I wish I could get a letter from you, I should like to know how you all are. How is Dyfan and Mailys, give my love to them. Tell them I should like to see them and you all very much. Hope Mam and Dad are in the best of health. I am alright. With best wishes and love.

From your son

Goronway

September 22 1915

 

Private GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

_________________________________________________________________

Sept 22 1915

 

Dear Dad and Mam

 

Just a line to let you know that I am still alive & kicking. I hope you are all in the best of health at home. I do not feel very bright for the last few days have go(t) a touch of the disentry. I am still at the convalescent camp. I have not received a letter from you yet some of the chaps in my regiment here have had some I can’t understand why I have not had one yet I shall be very pleased when I do get one. The weather here is very funny it is cold one day & hot another. I went over for a walk to one of the Greek villages last week. They don’t build their houses in decent streets like we do but every house is on its own & in no regular order. They all have red tiles & they look very pretty from a distance but not so pretty when you get close to them. I was watching a woman spinning wool for a bit they do it in a very funny way I can’t describe it. All the women wear white cloths over their heads.

I was speaking to one of our chaps from A Company & he told me that West was alright when he saw him last that was a fortnight ago. I was reading the News of the World today & I see it gives a bit of what we had to do on the new landing. It was the Sept 5 paper try to get it.

How is Dyfan and Mailys getting on. Is Mailys still knitting socks for soldiers and Dyfan still scouting or doing guard. Give my best love to them. Hope Mag and Jon are alright I am going to write to them. I hope Nain Jones is in good health send her my love is she with you or in Cefn. I would be very pleased to get a letter to know how you are all getting on. I have not much to say this time so I must draw to a close.

Hoping you are all in the best of health & hope to get Xmas dinner at home.

With best love to all

I am

Your loving Son

Goronway

 

The Next Letter is coming September 29th

 

September 22nd, 1915 # 1 September 22nd, 1915 #2 September 22nd, 1915 #3 September 22nd, 1915 #4

 

September 16 1915

(Sorry this post is late, we have had a few mix ups.)

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

September (14) 16 1915

 

Dear Dad and Mam    

 

Just a line hoping you are in the best of health, I am alright, I put a boot on this morning for the first time for five weeks. I have been hobbling about with a puttee wrapped around my foot. So you see my foot is alright once again. I have had nine of of my rotten teeth pulled out and three filled. I do not know if I will be able to get some false teeth, will try. I have not had a letter from you, yet it is rotten not to have had a letter for two months, the mail service is rotten. I expect there is a big mail waiting for me on the Peninsular but I have sent to ask them to send them on here. I am about fed up with this place, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Eat & sleep and write letters are my principle occupation. We are getting rather wet weather here lately. The monsoon weather will start about the end of this month and then we will get washed off the map. I have written to Uncle Moses & Auntee Annie, also to Jonathan. I hope you are getting my letters alright, I wish I had a letter from you to know how you are. I should be far more satisfied. How is Dyfan and Mailys are alright and back at school again. Did Mailys pass the Junior Exam, hope

I am writing this part of the letter two days after the first

 

I do not feel up to much these last few days, got a touch of (diarrhea).  It was raining terribly heavy yesterday my tent was blown over and I got soaking wet and last night I slept in a marquee and had to get up in the night to put the pegs down because they had been pulled up. Has Mr. West heard from Arthur yet, let me know. I have had no news of him, I expect he is alright. We hear out here that  there has been a big advance in France and that the Russians are doing fine work. Has the strike been settled yet. It makes one feel ashamed of being a Welsh man when one hears of such things in such times as these. How are all the folks at Abertysswg getting on. Give my kind regards to Mrs Davies and family also to Mr. Cooper, hope Hughie is still alright. I must now draw to a close, hope you are all in good health, give my best love to Dyfan and Mailys. Hope to get a letter soon.

 

I am

Your loving son

Goronway

September 16th, 1915 #1 September 16th, 1915 #2 September 16th, 1915 #3 September 16th, 1915 #4

Comment

The strike to which GCR is referring is the 1915 South Wales Coalfield strike. The mine owners were doing very well out of the war but the miners felt that none of this extra profit was being translated into improved wages or conditions. Some among them also acted out of an anti-war sentiment. Eventually LLoyd George was despatch to negotiate and the matter was settled on the miners terms.

September 11 1915

DSC_0107 DSC_0108 DSC_0110 DSC_0111

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

                                                                                                Sept 11 1915

Dear Dad & Mam

Just a line to let you know how things are here with me. Well I have nothing to grumble about only the flies they are an awful worry. I hope you are all in the best of health at home. I am fairly good had a touch of disentry (sic). I have not had a letter from you yet hope to get one very soon now. Have sent to the Peninsular to make enquiries about it. I hope you have received my letters alright I write very often to make sure you get some of them. I shall me very pleased to get a letter from you. The last one I had from Mam just before I left England I have it still I read it very often I find it very encouraging I can tell you. I have had 10 teeth out and a couple filled it will be a good riddance. I shall feel much healthier. How is Dyfan and Mailys getting on also Nain Jones hope she feels her trouble less now. Give my love to them all. This is on Saturday afternoon when I am writing this. We had a concert last night it was fine. You would be surprised what talent there is to be found in a place like this.

I am going to write to Jon and Mag. Have no more to say at present hope you are all in the best of health. Hope to be home for my Xmas dinner this year. So no more for the present. Close with love and best wishes to all

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

Comment:- This is the first time GCR mentions the flies that were “an awful worry”. In fact the flies at Gallipoli were a nightmare; the limited space that the Allies occupied, the unburied and decomposing bodies, the poor sanitation due to lack of water and inadequate latrines, if any, resulted in a plague of flies that, as well as being a severe annoyance, carried disease such as dysentry. I remember his describing a continuous flapping of the hand over and above a hard tack biscuit covered in bully beef that was required to avoid a mouthful of flies. I didn’t, as a small boy, really understand what he meant; eventually I did, when I found myself doing exactly the same thing in Iraq in summer 2003.

There is in fact on page 3 of this letter, as if to illustrate the point, the remnants of an insect.

September 3rd, 1915

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade
53rd Division
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force         September 3 1915

Lowland Divison Casualty Clearing Station 

Convalescent  XXXX (Self Censored)
Dear Dad and Mam
Just a line hoping you are all well at home. My wound is nearly better now, but I am going to have my teeth taken out. I have been having tooth ache so I am having all the bad ones out. It will be a good thing, don’t you think so. I have not had a letter from you yet. I should have had one by now, I can’t understand where they get to. Do you put the right address on the envelope. How are things getting on at Abertysswg I wish I could get some news. Things go very slow here. I can tell you we are always on the lookout for some fresh news.
I have written to Jonathan a few days ago hope he has received it alright. Has Mr. West heard any thing from his son I dare say he is alright, because he was left behind on board ship on fatigue work when we landed so he missed the liveliest part of the show. Let me know if they have heard anything from him. Hope Dyfan and Mailys enjoyed their holidays, I expect they are back at school again. I hope Mailys has passed the Juniors, because it will be a good help for you. How is Jon and Mag, give my love to them. Also give my love to Dyfan and Mailys and hope Dad and Mam are in the best of health. I should like to see you all, I must now close with the best love and wishes to all.
I am your loving son
Goronway
P.S. My shirt is in a lively condition.

Comments:- As with all aspects of hygiene in the field, dental hygiene has always been a problem for troops on active service. That and the incredibly hard army biscuits would have kept the force dentists extremely busy. GCR mentions the “lively condition” of his shirt; this is probably a reference to the lice which were both an annoyance and a deadly threat, carrying trench typhus.

GCR realized that he should not report his location so attempted to self censor the address,  as shown above. It is however possible to make out that he was as the Lowland Division Casualty Clearing Station which was located on Lemnos, not far from the Australian General Hospital.

“No 52 (1/1st Lowland) Casualty Clearing Station (T.F.): Formed in Glasgow as the Lowland Clearing Hospital, but later redesignated No.52 C.C.S. The unit departed England 9 June and landed at Alexandria, Egypt 20 June. Opened at West Mudros on the island of Lemnos on 5 July and served as a convalescent depot. It began operation with 1,760 beds, but later expanded to 2,000.”Patrick Gariepy, The Gallipolian, Spring 2006

The following is a map of West Mudros (on Lemnos) produced by the Hospital Works Department. The 3rd Australian General Hospital is labelled B and the Lowland Casualty Clearing Station is No10.  

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September 3rd 1915#1September 3rd 1915 #2 September 3rd 1915 #3September 3rd 1915 #4

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