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


January 2016

January 28th 1916

Private GC Roberts 3144

attached greek Labor Corps


January 28, 1916

Dear Dad and Mam

I am writing this to you just after I have read your letter dated 9.12.15. I only received it this afternoon, I was very pleased to get it. You will observe by the date that it has been a very long time coming there is no sense in it. I am vert sorry to tell you that I have not received the parcel you sent me for Xmas so please do not send any more as it is only waste of money. I will do my best to make up for what I don’t get when I get home so you can start preparing a good feed for me when you like I bet I will make up for all the good things I am missing now. You state that you are sending some socks to me, please don’t as I can get plenty. I have four pairs now, 3 army and one pair that my officer gave me. I will be a regular handy man for you when I come home. I shall be able to do the washing and darning and have a good shot at cooking and I had to do my wack of scrubbing at Hearson and Bedford so you see I shall be very much improved by when I come home. You will have heard by now that we have evacuated the peninsular and I can asure you I was not sorry to leave it. I had a very near do on the very night we left but I am thankful I got off alright a shell dropped outside my dugout and made rather a mess of it I was inside at the time. I can tell you I made myself as small as possible the smaller the better on some occasions, what do you think. I am glad to have finished shell dodging for the present although I must say I have been most fortunate up till now so I can afford to still keep smiling. I have no more to say at present. I wish Mailys and Dyfan the best of luck at terminals as good as I have had up to now. Hoping you are all in good health. I am still pinky. Give my love to Mailys, Dyfan, Jon, and Mag. I now give up with best love and wishes.

I am

Your loving son


I have written to Nain Jones


At this point GCR is still at Mudros on the island of Lesbos attached to the Greek Labour Corps. The rest of his battalion and the division are in Egypt.

Nain Jones was his father’s mother who remarried a John Jones after the death of her first husband, GCR’s grandfather. She still lived in Cefn Mawr in North Wales.





January 13th 1916

Private GC Roberts 3144
attached Greek Labour Corps
Mudros West
Jan 13, 1916
Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am alright hoping you all are the same. You will notice that I have changed my address again it will make no difference to the letters you have already sent, they will follow me on here. Now I have some news for you. I met George Parry yesterday & he looks well, he is a machine gun sergeant. It was from him that I heard that poor Jack Jones had been killed also one of the Edwards. Jack was very much liked and respected in his batt He had a civil answer for everybody, please give Lily my sympathy. Edwards was a very brave fellow, he is killed going over the parapet to bring in wounded he was a stretcher bearer. Earney Jury is here somewhere guarding Turkish prisoners. George is coming to see me this afternoon. The other bit of news I have for you is that on the way back from seeing George, I was coming through the Essex Garrison Camp when a sergeant handed me 4 letters dated Sept 9. Sept 24. Oct 9. Oct 12. The first I opened was the one with the memorial hymn sheet to Jack Jones. The one Sept 9 was from Mr Lewis of H’west I was very glad to get those letters because there was plenty of news in them. In one was a letter from Mailys, very glad to get it, very decent letter and the sloppy ones went down alright would like a few more of them. What has become of Dyfan and Jon, have not had a word from either of them. Very glad Nain Jones was better after her visit to S. Wales. Give her my love will write to her at an early date. Glade to hear of Mr Evan’s promotion, give him my congratulations. Has conscription come in England yet, will be a good thing to get the slackers in. Well hope you are all in good health, I am in the pink. I must now close with best of love to all.
I am
Your loving Son
P.S. Had a letter from T Dodd he is in hospital at Malta sick




Evacuation of Gallipoli, January 7/8 1916


From the Illustrated London News January 15th 1916

imageThe evacuation of the peninsula had first been mooted in mid October; General Hamilton was opposed suggesting a 50% casualty rate. This prompted his replacement by General Sir Charles Munro who promptly made plans for evacuation. ANZAC and Suvla Bays were evacuated between December 10 and 20th. The final evacuation was from Cape Hellas where GCR was serving with the Greek Labour Corps. This was conducted over the night of January 7/8. The preparations and the deception techniques were so effective that there were only 3 casualties. GCR used to tell of how rifles were placed along the trench line set to fire once enough sand or water had dripped into a can attached to the trigger. The effect was to convince the Turks that the trenches were still occupied well after they had been abandoned.

Photo from in the public domain






Undated letter from Hearson Camp, Pembrokeshire (Oct/Nov 1914)


While sorting out the letters for 1916, we discovered  the following undated letter, just marked Hearson Camp, Monday. Hearson was  a training camp in southern Pembrokeshire used by battalions of the Welsh Regiment prior to moving to East Anglia for final preparations with the 53rd Division and deployment overseas. This letter must have been written in late October or early November 1914. Its rather a poignant read knowing what was in store for GCR.

GCR's Pre Field Letter #1 GCR's Pre Field Letter #2

Hearson Camp


Dear Dad & Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am all right hoping you are all the same. I have not received a letter from you yet how is that I have sent you my address. We are not having a bad time down here. We have a cook dinner every day & a decent breakfast we had sausage on Saturday, Bacon on Sunday & Bread & butter & cheese Monday morning. The tea is a mixture of cocoa and coffee it is a toss up which it is. There was no church parade on Sunday & it did not seem like Sunday atall, but I went to a small Weslayan chapel with Dared Thomas on Sunday night. I am orderly for the day at our hut, this is I have got to get the food from the cookhouse & wash the dishes after the chaps have had it everybody has to do it in there turn. I shall be very glad if you could send me some cakes and ask Maggie has she got any to give away she said she would send me some. There is a draft going from here to Cambridge to make up the division for the Dardanelles. West is going with them. I have no more to say now. Hope you are allright. Remember me to Jon and Mag, Mailys and Dyfan.

Please write soon

I am

Your loving Son


January 6th 2016

January 6th, 1916 #1 January 6th, 1916 #2 January 6th, 1916 #3 January 6th, 1916 #4

Pte GC Roberts 3144

Attached Greek Labour Corps

Jan 6 1916


Dear Dad and Mam

I am writing to you again to let you know I am still alive and kicking hoping you are all in the best of health at home. I received a letter today from Auntie Annie dated Nov 24 was very glad to get it. I have not had a letter from you since the first you sent to me to the above address. I am very much pleased to hear from Auntie that you are all in good health at home. You will guess that I will be very glad when I get the next letter from you. I think it will be a good idea if you number all letters you send to me after you receive this. I received a letter from the Sec of the Rhymney Valley Fraternal of Baptist Ministers, on Jan 4 dated 18/12/15, conveying their best wishes and wishing me a happy Xmas and New Year. Please thank them on my behalf for their kindness & thought in sending this letter that I appreciate very much & and also wish them a happy and prosperous New Year. You will notice that the letter Auntie sent dated Nov 24 & the other sent Dec 18 that I received the later two days before aunties letter there is something wrong with the postal arrangements don’t you think so they both have the same address. Auntie says that Nain has sent me some toffee and stockings I have not received anything yet. I think you had better not send anything out only letters & plenty of them please thank Nain for her kindness & give her my best love also send me her address that I may write to her. Give my love to Mailys and Dyfan hope they are in the best of health hope they enjoyed their Xmas Holiday. I have not got any more to say at present only hope dad and mam are alright. Again hoping you are in the best of health. With best wishes & love to all

I am

Your loving Son



At this point GCR is still attached to the Greek Labour Corps, presumably still at Lancashire Landing.

The 4/5th Battalion, the Welsh Regiment and the rest of the 53rd Division had already been evacuated to Egypt. When the evacuation of the Dardanelles had first been proposed in October the 53rd was to have been given the “honour” of being last to leave. However, battle casualties, sickness and the blizzard of late November had reduced the division to 217 officers and 4522 other ranks, hardly brigade strength. It was therefore decided to withdraw the 53rd for recuperation and to be brought up to strangth. They embarked on December 11th.

GCR was left behind.

Letter from Private Will Amos to Rev J Roberts, 31st December 1915




Dec 31st, 1915 #1 Dec 31st, 1915 #2 Dec 31st, 1915 #3Dec 31st, 1915 #4

WA 31/15/15

Dear Sir

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still alive in such a hot country and I am very glad to hear from you thanking you very much. Dear friend, Mr Roberts, I am very sorry to hear about Gronwy being wounded, but thank God he is well again to have his own back. Dear Friend, it is a terror here in the trenches, mud up to our waist, it is a pityful sight to see us coming from the trenches wet through and nowhere to dry, we comes back to our billet. Billet as what they call it, houses with no roofs on, no doors, it do make a chap think of home especially when the pantry is empty here, but I suppose we must keep on smiling. Mr Roberts, we are about 4 in a barn, we do often have a little sing song together, we do mostly sing, “Where is my Wandering Boy Tonight”. It do make me think of my Dear Mother as she use to wonder a lot about me but now it has turned. Well Mr Roberts, I hope you enjoy a merry Xmas, I did, plenty of mud, this was the program of Xmas day, machine guns for breakfast, shrapnel for dinner, Jack Johnsons for tea, and then we gives them plenty of pastry to make some of them sleep for the night.

Good Night from Will.



This is the only letter we have found so far that is not from GCR. Some online research, including on and the Royal British Legions “Every Man Remembered” website, revealed that Will Amos was 25 year old miner from Abertysswg and presumably one of the Rev John Roberts’ chapel goers. He served in the South Wales Borderers. It can be assumed that the “hot country” refers to the danger not the temperature as the mud implies the Western Front.

He was killed on 30th May 1918 and is recorded on the Soissons Memorial at Aisne, France.

Screen shot 2016-01-02 at 10.46.27 AM

Jack Johnson was slang for a large German artillery piece that had a heavy punch and coughed up a good deal of black smoke; it was named after the African American World Heavyweight Champion of the time.

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