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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

April 2016

April 23rd 1916

Lc Cpl GC Roberts

3144 C Coy 1/5 Welsh Regt

159 Brigade 53rd Division

MEF                                                                                                                        April 23 1916

Rec May 17th

 

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am in the pink as usual hope you all at home are the same. Well I have got a little to tell you this time. I was in Cairo yesterday and went to see the Pyrimids and Sphynx. There are three pyrimids in a group and the Sphynx is at the back of them. Ten of us had our photos taken under the Sphynx. It has got its nose knocked off it is a very big thing. I was in one of the pyramids I don’t know what king it is called after, think it is Ramsey. It is the biggest of the three. I was in the kings room and saw his coffin it is made of one piece of granite a great big affair.It is a risky game going inside atall the passages slope very steep and there is only little notches in which to get a hold, if you slip you break your neck and some limbs it is nearly all marble or alabaster flooring. It takes a lot of time to go and seee the Pyrimids and spoils the day in Cairo because there is a lot of mucking about to do, but once seen you don’t want to see them again. We returned from the Pyrimids about two pm and went and had some dinner. After that we went to aee the Blue Mosque. This mosque is seven hundred years old. It is a very big building with a dome and spires. We went inside and saw the tomb of some king or other don’t know his name. The ceiling of the mosque was beautiful it was all ornamented in blue and gold fine work. There were some Egyptians in there at the time say(ing) prayers and reading from some book they had. They didn’t half jabber. We had to put on great big slippers over our boots because the mosque is sacred. The Egyptians go in bare footed. After being (going) to the mosque we went to the silk market there was not much to be seen there, only people selling silks and embroideries. It was Jonny buy this and Jonny buy that. We are all Jonnies in Egypt. We call the natives Jonny and they call us the same. We returned to our camp by the five train. I can tell you I was pretty tired when we came back. . I will send you the photo when I get them. I am only having three so I will send you two so you can give one to Jon. Tell Mailys to send me hers when she gets them. You will no doubt that I am no longer a private but have got a dog’s leg as they are called. Was promoted on the 19th. I am lucky enough to be paid for it some don’t get paid for it for a couple of months. So you see I have been a good child since I rejoined the batt. Tell Dyfan he shant bownce me any more or I will put him in the jug for insolence to an NCO.

Well I have no more to say now have not had a letter from you since last Sunday but I must not grumble I had three all at once. You will perhaps remember that I was home on leave from H’west (Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire) twelve months from now. Lew Morgan is alright. Well so long hope you are all in the pink.

With best love and wishes to you all

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

PS

Had a donkey ride round the pyrimids, The donkey’s name was Moses. No wonder the Israelites were forty years in the desert if their donkeys could not go quicker than Moses.

G

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April 13th 1916

No. 3144

Coy. C

Bat. 1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd Division

M.E.F.

April 13 1916

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am alright as usual, hope you all at home are the same. I wrote to you last Sunday hope you have received it before now. I have also written to Jonathan and enclosed some picture postcards of Alexandria in the envelope as well. Ask him if he has had them and let me know. I have not got any news this time. It may interest you to know that I was at a Welsh service last Sunday night. I enjoyed it very much. It is the first I have had a chance to go to since I left England. It makes me wonder what England or (Blighty as we call it out here) looks like, have been out here for ten months on the 18th of this month. It seems a long time since I saw you all last. I am very glad now that I was able to come home leave a week before coming out. Will not be sorry when I get back. I hope the weather has improved at home, it is pretty rotten here today, there is a sand storm on and the wind is blowing the sand about. It is rotten for the eyes, can’t open them hardly when out in it. I suppose you know that the Turks are having socks in Mesopotamia. The 13th Division looks seven lines of trenches of them the other week. Tell Mrs Morgan that Lew Morgan has received a letter from them dated about March 22. The first he has had since he has been out. How are things in Abertysswg, let me know. I am again making another request. Please let me have your photos or what you have got, I haven’t got one of any of you. I must close now stumped for anything to say. I hope Dyfan and Mailys are well, give them my love. With best love and wishes to all.

I am

Your loving son

Goronwy

P.S. Give my kind regards to Mr Cooper and Mr Hughes and Family

April 21st, 1916

imageLance Cpl GC Roberts 3144

10 Plat. C. Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd Division

M.E.F.

April 21 1916

Rec. May 16

Dear Dad and Mam

 

Just a line to let you know that I am alright, hope you all at home are the same. It is very little that I have to tell you in this letter but hope to tell you much more in the next, because I am going to Cairo on Saturday, I intend to go and see the Pyramids first of all and am going to have my mug dragged under the Sphynx then I intend to have a look at the town and if money will permit I will get you a little souvenir of Egypt so you must look out for a little parcel. The weather is very hot here today, it is getting hotter all the time, I saw the Merthyr Express for March 24 and see by that you have had fearful weather at home. But I am sure it was nothing compared to the blizzard we had on Gallipoli in December. I am on the look out for the parcel you are sending on. I wrote to Uncle Messach and Nain last Sunday after I had received the letters from you. I have written to him a few times since I have been in Egypt, please ask him if he has received them. I saw a cousin of Arthur West yesterday, he is from Ebbw Vale  and came out on the same boat as us in July. Tell West I saw him, he is alright and is coming home time expired in a month or so he is in the RAMC. Has Dan Davis gone out to France with his battalion or is he still with the gallant  band and going around recruiting and having a good time? Give my love to Jon and Mag and Mailys and Dyfan, hope they are doing well in school. Tell Dyfan he has got to pass his Junior Central Welsh Board this year (Don’t let Mailys wack you up) although you have wacked me already. I have no more to say now. So long, with best love and wishes to all.

 

I am

Your loving Son

Goronway

Comment

Surprising that GCR doesn’t mention his promotion to Lance Corporal in this letter. It could be that there was another letter between the 13th and 21st that is missing.

April 7th, 1916

Pte GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
MEF
April 7th 1916

Dear Dad and Mam
Just a line to let you know I am as I always am you know very well what that is. Hope you are all the same. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I received a fine letter from you yesterday (Friday) dated March 17th and addressed to Sidi Bishr. It was a letter worth having a nice long one. Roll on a few more of the same sort. I was very sorry indeed to hear that Mam has not been well “Buck up Mam”. I will tell you the prescription our doctor uses for nearly all cases he puts some iodine(?) on the complaint and tells the patient to buck up. So Mam needs some iodine and buck up. Cures all complaints. We are having some very hot weather here just now but it will get hotter so you see I will be melting away soon at this rate. I have not had a letter yet from you addressed strait to the battalion, but am expecting one in a week or so. Lewis Morgan has not had a letter from home yet ask his mother if he has addressed his letters correctly he is in my company but not my platoon. He is quite well seems to have a little more sense now that he had while in England, but he has to watch points now one can’t do as he likes here. Has Jon been called up yet. I heard that all married men up to the age of 27 had been called up. Let me know. I am glad that you receive my letters alright. That last letter of yours came in pretty good time. I had the postmark of Mar 19th not so bad is it. Could you let me have a photo of some of you and ask Jon and Mag for one for me as well I should like to have one very much so that I will be able to look at your mugs sometimes. You ask me to write to Mr Lewis, Hengoed that other ministers’ sons have answered his letter. Well where are they, in England I expect, well I will write a short letter to him. I am writing this sitting on the floor or on the sand I should say. So you see a chap can’t write very well like that. The Germans are having a deuce of a hiding in Verdun(?) don’t you think so we hear out here that Turkey is asking for peace and that Bagdad has fallen, hope this is correct Roll on duration what do you say.
Give my love to Jon and Mag also Mailys and Dyfan congratulate them on their success in the Eistedfodd and concert. Tell Dyfan I should have all the prize next time not half of it. Hope Mam is alright by now hope she will keep to the mark. I have not got much to say this time you can wack me for writing letters hollow. I close with best love and wishes to all.
I am
Your loving Son
Goronwy
xxx
Tell Mam to take these one after each meal and she will soon be alright.

Comment
By the end of March, the Verdun offensive had cost the Germans 81,607 casualties. The battle (between the French and Germans) would last from Feb to Dec and ultimately cost 300,000 lives.
Anglo-Indian troops under General Maude entered Bagdad March 11th 1916 “amid loud celebrations from Baghdad’s 140,000 occupants; approximately 9,000 Turkish prisoners were taken.  Aside from striking a decisive propaganda blow for the Allies – the fall of Baghdad was of far less strategic than political value – its fall effectively brought to an end Turkish activity in Persia.”
http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/baghdad.htm
Hengoed is down the Rhymney valley from Abertyswgg towards Caerfilly.

April 4th, 1916

 

 

Ptc GC Roberts 3144
10 Plat. C. Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
M.E.F.
April 4th 1916
Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am as usual in the pink although I am rather tired just now, have just come in of a route march in the desert. I hope you all at home are in the best of health. I wrote to you on the 31st of last month a long one hope you have received it before this. On in Sunday morning I was at the nonconformist parade and the chaplain made the announcement that he had some shirts and sock to give away. Well I went and got a shirt from him and a pair of socks, a decent one at that. Well before he gave me the shirt, I had only one to my name, somebody pinched the other one I had. Well in the evening, I was too late to the last of the YMCA mission meetings. They have been very successful and much good has been done. One evening last week a friend of mine another Roberts and Bernard Fry and myself went to the coffee shop and had a good feed and I was full to the top by when I had finished. I have not got much to say this time. I have put my name down for a job of storeman with the Royal Engineers don’t know what will become of it may fall through. Have not set my mind on it so I will not be disappointed if nothing comes of it. It is very hot out here now. We have to parade in shirt sleeves now it being to hot to wear tunics. Has Jon been called up yet, what is he going to join when he does get called. Give my love to Mag and Jon hope they are both in the best of health. Hope Dyfan and Mailys are alright. I have not received a letter from you for about a week now but am expecting one every mail. I hope the weather has improved at home by now. I wrote to Auntie Annie and Nain Jones the same time as I wrote to you last time, also to Jon. Hope they have had them if you don’t know weather they have had them or not, please make enquiries. I must close now with best love and wishes to you all.
I am
Your loving son
Goronwy

Rev J Roberts
The Green Abertwssyg Mon.

Comment
UK Conscription: The Military Service Act 1916

The Bill which became the Act was introduced by Prime Minister H. H. Asquith in January 1916. It came into force on 2 March 1916. Previously the British Government had relied on voluntary enlistment, and latterly a kind of moral conscription called the Derby Scheme.
The Act specified that men from 18 to 41 years old were liable to be called up for service in the army unless they were married, widowed with children, serving in the Royal Navy, a minister of religion, or working in one of a number of reserved occupations. A second Act in May 1916 extended liability for military service to married men, and a third Act in 1918 extended the upper age limit to 51.
Men or employers who objected to an individual’s call-up could apply to a local Military Service Tribunal. These bodies could grant exemption from service, usually conditional or temporary. There was right of appeal to a County Appeal Tribunal.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Service_Act_1916

April 1st 1916 Rev John Roberts to GCR

imageimageimage

15 The Green

Abertysswg

Via Cardiff

South Wales

Saturday, April 1st 1916

 

My dear Son Goronway,

I am pressed for time today as usual but a little worse, I want to go away to Pengam, preaching at Gilfach tomorrow. I was at Oakdale yesterday, I went with the intention of visiting Wm Bowen, Tom Bowen the overman’s son but he had passed away and I knew not until I arrived in the house. He is to be interred at Hengoed on Tuesday 4th —–.

Yesterday two letters were returned, which I had sent to the G.L.Corps, they had written on the envelope that they had been disbanded. The letter dated Sept 17th 1915 has been returned before and the handkerchief, so it has had two excursions to the Mediterranean so I am enclosing it again for the third time, (three times for a Welshman). The letter written Feb 18th 1916 is sent for the second time. If these letters arrive safely you will be specially interested in them, and you ought to keep them safely because they have traveled so much to seek for you.

This morning four letters from you came to hand, we had no taste for breakfast until they were all read, dated Feb 29th, March 11th, 16th and 19th, all bearing the same date on the Post Mark, that is March 21st so you see they came in about 10 days after they started.

Your mother will send you a parcel early next week, so look out for it, if you receive this letter before it. Your uncle Messach tells me in a letter that I received this week, that he is sending you another parcel to try whether it will arrive safely. I hope that you have sent him a word. He says that he would be very glad if he could have you in the shop with him; so you see, those tales were only women’s gossip.

We are all well here, only Mailys had an attack of biliousness this morning.

Do your best to show that you are a Nonconformist Christian every opportunity you will have. Do not be too ready to do without the priviledges that Nonconformists have fought so hard to gain them. It is by keen striving that the Free Church Chaplains are got into the army even now, too many recruiting officers are doing their best to register all that enlist as C.E. From all that I see and hear some of the finest manhood under arms at the present time are those brought up in the Free Churches.

We have had a very heavy fall of snow at the beginning of this week, one of the heaviest I remember, it was a terrific storm. The trains throughout the country have been hours late, the B&M.R and the R.R. failed to run at all one day. Telegraph poles have been broken like carrots, communications have been disorganised every where, but things are coming into shape again. You will see that you have escaped this storm and enjoyed fine weather. Look after your eyes by taking care of your glasses.

I must conclude with best wishes and kindest regards from every one here.

I am your affectionate father

J Roberts

 

Comment

This letter from GCR’s father is in the collection because GCR later used the unused sides of the pages to write another letter home on June 24th.

GCR worked in his Uncle Messach’s draper shop prewar.

 

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