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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

May 2016

May 20th 1916

Cpl GC Roberts 3144

C Coy 1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd division

May 20 1916                         EEF

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I have received your letter not five minutes ago. It was dated April 27 so you see it has not been so bad coming because I never call a letter old as long as I get it sometime or other. I see you still call me Pte well you can make another alteration again, I am no longer a lance corporal that is one stripe. I have been promoted again to full corporal that is two dogs legs. And I am to be acting company quatermaster sgt, so you see I have not done so bad since I have been back with the Batt. What do you say about it. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I have received a letter from Jon and a photo of Mag and Jon in it. I am writing to him this afternoon but let him know that I have received it.

Sorry to hear that there has been trouble in Ireland. The whole lot of the leaders should be shot like dogs and the mob as well. I think our wait and see government is a lot too slack with people of this sort. They should come down with a bump on the whole lot of them.

I am sorry to know that there is a conscript in the Roberts family I believe in going with a good heart if one has to go atall. Austin must be jolly chicken hearted, if he ever gets in a bit of a scrap he had better take somebody to look after him and besides he might get hurt. I would like to get a job drilling these conscripts I bet I would put them through the mill they would wish they had never been born. You want to know where my chum Roberts comes from. Well he comes from Merthyr he is a clerk and short hand typist in civil life he is now clerk in the regimental orderly room. You say that you have not received the photos I sent you yet. Hope you will have received them by when you get this letter. Glad to hear that the Social of the YPM (GPM?) was a success. I am not with B Fry now. Not in the same place. So so long for the present. Hope you are all well, I am champion.

With best love and wishes to all

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

Comment

GCR is obviously, like many British servicemen overseas, pretty unsympathetic with those who took part in the Easter Rising in Ireland; regarding it as a traitorous stab in the back while so many were giving all for their country.

Clearly his attitude to those who awaited conscription rather than volunteering has hardened. Austin Roberts died in Cologne, Germany at the end of the war (1919) perhaps of wounds or of influenza.

 

May 19th 1916

Lc Cpl GC Roberts 3144

C Company 1/5th Welsh

159th Brigade 53rd Division

EEF

May 19 1916

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am in the best of health hope that you all at home can say the same. Well it is very little I have to say to you this time since I am stumped for news. I have not had a letter from you since about a week ago. We don’t get the mail here only about every fortnight. I think I told you that I had received a letter from Mr Whitney and Auntie Pollie with the last mail. I have sent one to Auntie Pollie in reply. Now I have got something to tell you. Our company quatermaster sergeant is coming home on leave, he is time expired and I, your humble, am taking his place till he comes back so you can see I have not done so bad since I have returned to the batt. I have also been recommended for another stripe so you can tell Jon that if he joins our batt he can look out because I will be a boss over him. If I will be able to manage this QM job it will be a very good push forward for a future time don’t you think so. How is Dyfan and Mailys getting on give my love to them hope they are doing alright with their terminals. I have got the memory of that cake in my mouth now, my word I could eat them every day. We had a Welsh sing meeting last Sunday night I enjoyed myself up to the mark. We were singing the old tunes, Aberustwyth, Ton y bottle and the Welsh chaplain is getting an Eistedfodd up for the 1st of June so you may hear of a Welsh Eistethfod on the North Western frontier of Egypt. The weather here is still hot but we have a nice cool breeze blowing from the sea today, it is great. We have plenty of fine bathing here and we have the chance of going fishing if we want to. Our captain is a jolly good sport and will lend us a line. There is plenty of fish about. How is Hugh Cooper getting on give my regards to his father and himself, I don’t know if they let letters go through to France from here. I have no more to say just now. So long for the present with best love and wishes to all.

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

May 14th 1916

Lc Cpl GC Roberts 3144

C Coy 1/5 Bn Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd Division

EEF

14 5 16

Dear Dad and Mam

Your letter of April 24 to hand, you know very well that I am more than pleased to receive these letters from you. Glad to hear that you are all well at home I also received a letter from Auntie Annie the same mail, she told me that Davie is the proud father of a son, poor son, they are doing their best to put him out of his misery by the name they have given him. I intend to ask Auntie if he is destined for the Army if so I admire their foresight because it’s a name long enough for a general or field marshal they have given him. Dad gives a description of Good Friday in his letter well there was a church parade for two of our companies but my company was not one because we had been out all night doing some operations. You also say you have sent a parcel I told you in my last letter that I had received it and that I had enjoyed the cake more than I had enjoyed any cake before. I see that Mailys is getting quite a nut or something like it at home. Tell her that if she is bossing kids about me (?) I shan’t be sorry when the time comes for her to boss me about once again. Roll on the time when Mam will be sergeant major and Mailys quatermaster sergeant and Dyfan orderly sgt. I think Dad had better be orderly corpl. I will willingly be a full private. Jon also seems to be getting a very busy chap at least he seems to be too busy to write to me. I wrote to him last week. I have not written back to Mr Whitney yet but intend to do so shortly. I also wrote to Uncle Mesech and Nain Jones and enclosed a PC the same as I sent to you. I read of an account in one paper giving the opinion of some people as to when the war would end several thought it would be fought and won by 1918, well I can say this, that if them people came and helped to finish it sooner and stop talking rot it would be a lot better for all concerned. Well I have no more to say at present hope you are all in the best of health. I am as I am as usual in the pink. So long till you get the next letter. With best love and wishes to all.

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

Postcard marked on the back as Auntie Annie and family

image

May 9th 1916

 

Lc Cpl GC Roberts 3144

C Coy 1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade 53rd Division

May 9 1916 E.E.F.

Dear Dad and Mam

“Hurrah” I have had the parcel at last. I am very glad to be able to tell that I received the parcel that you sent dated April 5 today and I can tell you that I haven’t enjoyed a feed like that cake since I left England. It was fine and in the best of condition only the biscuits were broken the cake was quite whole. Everybody in my tent had a go at that cake and some from out of it. I gave Lew Morgan a lump. He also received a parcel of some kind today. All the boys voted that cake splendifious. I am sure that Mam put her best into that cake both in currents and raisons and her love. I have hardly got any left of it now. So you see I must have made a beautiful hole in it I could eat a cake like that every day. I have not only been in luck with the parcel but also in letters. I received a letter from Mr Whitney and also from Auntie Pollie. Mr Whitney is still the scribbler he always was he is a wretched writer far worse than me. He told me that I must be seeing new people and new customs and certainly new customers. Don’t be anxious if my letters come to you in a bunch that is because the boats only come here on certain times. Glad to know that you are all well at home. Mam must be in the pink of condition to be able to cook a cake like the one you sent me. I must also wish Mailys and Dyfan every success with their terminals. Tell Dyfan he must not let Mailys wack him in passing the CWBJ exam. Well I am going on guard this afternoon so I must close now. We have to go on guard absolutely shining so you see I have to get ready. Well I hope you are in the best of health I am in the pink. Well so long for the present. With best love and wishes to you all

I am

Your loving Son

Goronwy

image

Reverend and Mrs J Roberts with Mailys and Dyfan

May 5th, 1916

Lc Cpl GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
May 5 1916
Dear Dad and Mam
I am again writing to you to let you know that I am as usual hope you are all the same at home. I have not written to you for about five days but that was owing to us moving again. We have shifted from a place called Wardan about forty miles from Cairo to where the Duke of Westminster made his attack on the Arabs and rescued the sailors. I expect you saw an account of it in the paper. We are by the seashore now have just had a bathe it was glorious I shall be in the sea as much as possible now. I have not had a letter from you for about a week so you can see that I am anxiously waiting for the next mail. We have just heard that the French have made another advance hope it is correct. We have refugees coming in everyday old men women and children it is a pity to see them. They are starving. The enemy is looting their villages such as they are and they has to get out of the way. So the British Government has to feed them. We capture enemy stores nearly every day. _______________ I have just rubbed the above out myself. I received the kit bag I left in Alexandria last July on the way to the Dardanelles back today but I only had my purse and an American cent piece I had in it back. We are not doing so bad here have done a lot worse many times. We have a fine recreation tent here so that we can write our letters and read the latest in quiet. It is run by the chaplain. Hope to hear from you soon now have not received the parcel yet but will most likely do so next mail. I must close now with best love and wishes to you all.
I am
Your loving Son
Goronwy

Comment

The reference to the Duke of Westminster and the rescue of the sailors refers to the actions of the Western Frontier Force campaign against the Senussi, nomadic tribes loyal to the Ottomans and equipped and led by the Turks, who had been attacking British Egypt from the west. In March 1916, it was discovered that the captured crews of the British ships Moorina and Tara were being held by the Senussi, 75 miles west. The Duke took his Rolls Royce armoured car battery and dashed off, covering some 120 miles in hostile territory without support to Bir el Hakim (Bir Hakkim), rescued the prisoners without loss of life.

For further details of this little know campaign see:
http://www.1914-1918.net/wff.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Grosvenor,_2nd_Duke_of_Westminster

So before April 30th GCR and 159 Brgade were located in Beni Salama on the Wadi Natrum in the Wardan area north west of Cairo. Between 1st and 5th May they had been moved from there to Sollum if not Bir Hakeim itself. The enemy he refers to would be the Senussi.

April 30th, 1916

Lc Cpl GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
Egypt
April 30 1916
Dear Dad and Mam
Just a line to let you know that I am alright hope you all at home are the same. I have not got any news to tell you this time nothing of much interest has happened and I wrote in reply to the letter I received this week so you see I will have to wait for another letter before I will be able to write a great deal. I was on church parade this morning. We have got a nonconformist chaplain in our batt and he is a Northman. He has got the North Wales twang about him and when he preaches he gives u some of the Welsh hwull (hwyl). He preaches in English in the morning and holds a Welsh service at night. I my last letter to you I enclosed two PCs of a group of us chaps that were in Cairo together I am in it hope you have received it by now. Mailys mentioned a few of the items you had for dinner ands wanted to know if I would like to have some. I will tell you what I had for dinner today I had a canteen full of gippo. What this is composed of the cooks only know so you had better ask the next soldier that comes home on leave if he gets gippo. Mailys also said that Abertysswg is all in darkness at night because of the Zepp raids. Poor old Abertysswg. I had the pleasant experience of having bombs dropped about me last January from German aeroplanes. Don’t wish them to have another try at dropping them on me again. They might drop too close next time. How is Hughie Cooper getting on let me know in your next and tell his father to send him my kind regards to him. Also give my love to Jon and Mag. When are they going to write to me it’s time I had one now have not had one since I left GLC. I must close now hoping you are all as good in health as I am. That is like a bull fed for a show. Well so long for the present with best love and wishes to all.
I am Your loving Son

Goronwy

Comment

Hwyl = a stirring feeling of emotional motivation and energy (OED)

For an account of the Zeppelin raids and the concern in South Wales see: https://glamarchives.wordpress.com/2016/02/24/a-mechanism-of-murder-the-zeppelin-raids-in-the-first-world-war/

 

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