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 2017

January 14th 1917

Sunday Jan 14th 1917

Dear Dad and Mam

There was a mail in yesterday and by it I received a letter dated Dec 23 from you was awfully glad to get as I was afraid there was nothing for me in the mail after all. I feel very glad that you get my letters alright as it’s a great thing to me that you know that I am in the very best of health and I to know that you all at home are well. You mention in your letter that five parcels have been sent to me, but I have only received the one from the Ladies’ Committee, Jon’s, and your Xmas parcel, have not had the one from Uncle Messach or Wm Francis, they may turn up but may not might have been on the Ivernia but I hope not, I am glad that you received the photos I sent from Cairo, although I know they are very poor. The one taken in Alex is much better. I think I will grow another mustache only it will keep like fluff. You want to know the result of my course at Cairo, well I sent and let you know all the details as soon as I came back, also that I passed out first class. I could solider in Cairo for duration but of course it can’t be ___. Im sorry that you felt a gloom over Xmas indeed, I do wish that you would keep your peckers up and be happy, it can’t be helped, I don’t believe it does anyone any good to be gloomy we can’t alter circumstances so we must look forward for brighter and better days in store when this war is over and of course everybody with the least gumption wishes it would be over soon. By the way, if you enjoyed your mince pie like I enjoyed mine, well you had a treat. There has been some good work done here this last week again, 1700 more prisoners taken by the infantry and ___ Jerusalem is not far off now. Could you let me have a small pocket atlas, can’t get one out this way. I will do my best to put a bit towards Mailys going to college and will be able to send a pound or two in a month or so, am not much in credit now after being in Cairo for three weeks. Hope Mailys had a good birthday and enjoyed herself. Hope the entertainment on Xmas was a success, we had a fine concert here. As you see by the date, today is Sunday,  was on Nonconformist parade this morning and Mr Davis preached a fine sermon on the kind of God God was. The Brigadier General was president, have never seen him on a NC service before. We have a fine crowd going to NC service here. There is a Welsh service here tonight and I intend going there. Glad Dai Williams was looking so well, have not received any letter from him yet, will write back when it comes otherwise I don’t know his address. My address as per usual so there is no need for me to keep writing it down. I wrote to S Jones Rhymney yesterday his brother is in C Coy and is a decent chap, but of a different type of fellow to him. Mr Davies is getting up a Gamanfa Ganu and he intends to get up the old Welsh tunes, he has been asked to do this by the men themselves, so you see there is quite a lot of good stuff in the army and not all scalawags (?) by a long way. Will let you know the result of the Gamanfa after it’s over. It maybe interesting to you. Give my love to Jon and Mag, I wrote to them a few days ago. Is it right that you are only allowed a pound of sugar a week for a family, a chap just out from Blighty tells us so. Now if that is the case, mind you don’t send me anymore cake because I don’t want you to rob yourselves for me, now don’t forget now. Times are very hard by what he says.  Well I must wind up now. With best love and best wishes to you all.

I am you affectionate son


January 6th 1917


Jan 6th 1917
Dear Dad and Mam

I wrote to you before about two days ago but am writing again because there is a mail leaving tomorrow so you should be able to have the letter a little quicker than the rest. First of all I hope you are all in the best of health I am in the pink and OK as usual. I am in great hopes now that this war will not last much longer they seem to want peace all round hope I won’t be long away from home after peace is declared I can do my fortnight per year all right. We had the news today that the Ivernia had been torpedoed, I came on her from Mudros to Alexandria after the evacuation of Cape Hellas . We had an alarm when we were all down at tea we thought they were pulling our legs so we carried on eating our tea then in a bit bang goes the gun and then you should see us skit to our boat stations. But all’s well that ends well and everything was bright after. This was in the beginning of February. She also brought out a draft to us in May. She was a fine boat as steady as a rock. The Darflinger was a collier compared to her. I met B. Fry down the YMCA a few nights ago there was a private in the RAMC preaching there he was excellent. It takes a great deal of pluck to stand and talk to a crowd of soldiers all as rough and ready as they possibly can be after being knocked about from one place to another. He preached about the difference in teaching in the Old and New Testaments and he knew what he was talking about. LCpl Dodd now Cpl Dodd was down there with me. I went over to the 2nd Australian Hospital a few days ago to have my teeth seen to again what they did was to pull another two out and I have to go in another ten days to have an impression taken. I am going to keep worrying them until I get teeth this time. Did I tell you that I had only one Xmas card last time and that was sent by Auntie Annie I have written and thanked her for it. I did expect to have a letter a t least from Jon but I have not had a word it’s not very decent of him anyway. We are expecting a mail in every day now if it did not go down on the Ivernia which is quite possible in that case it’s not his fault but have not had a letter for a very long time from him. I don’t know if he has been insulted because I told him not to feed Glyndwr on bully and biscuits. How is the youngster getting on I don’t suppose he can walk yet. How are things going on in Abertysswg will you make enquiries if the Ladies Guild has received my letter yet. You have not told me if you have received my mug which I sent from Cairo about three weeks before Xmas it was a pretty rotten one but I can’t help it, my misfortune in having such a face. How is Mailys and Dyfan getting on hope both enjoyed their Xmas holidays. I must again wish Mailys many happy returns of the day although I did so in my last letter. Hope Mam’s influenza is quite alright again. Well I must wind up now. With best love and best wishes to you all. Solong

I am

Your affectionate Son


Lew Morgan is in good health and sends his kindest regards


SS Ivernia was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Line, built by the company Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and launched in 1899. The Ivernia was one of Cunard’s intermediate ships, that catered to the vast immigrant trade. Together with her sister ship SS Saxonia, the Ivernia worked on Cunard’s service from Liverpool to Boston and then later on the immigrant run the Cunard Line had established from Fiume and Trieste to New York City.

Following the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 the Ivernia was hired by the British government as a troop transport. In autumn of 1916, William Thomas Turner (made famous for being the captain of RMS Lusitania at the time of her sinking) was given command.[

On 1 January 1917 the Ivernia was carrying some 2,400 British troops from Marseille to Alexandria, when at 10:12am she was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-47 58 miles south-east of Cape Matapan in Greece, in the Kythira Strait. The ship went down fairly quickly with a loss of 36 crew members and 84 troops. Captain Turner, who had been criticized for not going down with the Lusitania (even though he had believed he was the last person on board), remained on the bridge until all aboard had departed in lifeboats and rafts “before striking out to swim as the vessel went down under his feet.”

HMS Rifleman rescued a number of survivors and armed trawlers towed the bulk, who had taken to lifeboats, to Suda Bay in Crete.

Today Ivernia Road in Walton in Liverpool still bears the name of the doomed vessel.

January 2nd 1917 Romani

In the Field

Jan 2nd 1917

Dear Dad and Mam

I am again writing to you to let you know that I am as per usual in the pinky condition hope you all at home are the same. I wrote in answer to the letter I received from Dad Mailys and Dyfan three days ago you may have had it before you get this or the same time. The first thing I must do now is to wish you all a VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR although I have done so before this I am doing it again. New years day was nothing like the new year we used to get at home it was the same routine ass usual with us. I went to a Welsh service on New Years Eve held by Mr or I should say Capt Rev AW Davies it was a very nice service indeed he is a very eloquent man, and there is not such a popular chaplain in the brigade as him especially with the men. You never told me that you had written in reply to Mr Davies letter, did you do so after. I told you in my last letter that we had a concert on Saturday night and that the Brigadier General had complimented the conductor of our choir on the fine singing. I don’t happen to be in the choir myself not being able to sing over well. We had a rumour here today that Austria had chucked in the towel which is very welcome if it is true. I don’t believe it myself only it shows you how rumours get about. How is Glyndwr getting on I have not had a word concerning him from Jon it strikes me he will be walking before I see him now he is already getting on in months. Just tell Jon I want a letter from him at the double or I will see he gets a bit of pack drill or some field punishment which includes digging for him to do. Now for a bit more while I remember I must wish Mailys MANY HAPPY RETURNS OF THE DAYAND MANY OF THEM. I wish I was somewhere I could get her a present of some sort, but will send something first opportunity. I was looking at a copy of the Daily Mirror just now and saw a photo of a crowd of non-combatants or Won’t Fights. I was surprised to see that they nearly all looked big smart chaps. They must be a lot of cowards or had a touch of sunstroke because their consciences must be in a funny condition. I also saw that the landladies they were to be billeted with objected “Bravo Landladies”. We have had a lot of rain for the last few days more that I remember having since we have been from Gallipoli, it does not rain without it pours here not of your drizzle about it. Got washed out of my blankets one night I wont say bed to you although I call it bed here and a great bed it is consisting of a waterproof sheet and 2 blankets, but if two sleep together its alright I sleep like a top always and can always do with a wink extra in the morning. I feel in fine fettle indeed if I can always keep up to this mark I will have no reason to grumble. How is Mailys and Dyfan and Jon and Mag and my nephew getting on give them all my love. Hope Mam and Dad are in good health if they are as well as myself they are certainly alright. Well let’s have a little bit about the war. L.G gives it 90 days to go, now he is beginning to talk, well I for one hope he is correct in his surmizing. I don’t see how it can last much longer certainly not another year. With regards to operations out here there is no danger of anything serious happening have got the enemy in under our thumbs. Well I must wind up now with best love and best wishes to you all.

I am

Your loving Son

Have not had the parcels sent Nov 16, 29, have had the one Nov 23.

Please take care of the enclosed letter for me. I think a lot of it, helped me many a time.
LG Lloyd George became Prime Minister after the resignation of Asquith with the nation demanding he conduct the war vigorously. To that end he rejected any chance of a negotiated settlement and decided he needed a significant victory in the field to impress public opinion. He decided that the capture of Jerusalem would do the trick.

The main effort of the EEF in the months before December 1916 was to push a railway and water pipeline into the Sinai to make further operations in the desert possible. In December El Arish and Maghdaba were captured with the use of mounted troops and the Sinai was British Imperial hands by the end of the years. Meanwhile the 53rd Division remained at the Canal Zone. 159th Bde spent Christmas in Romani.​ 

I suspect that the letter that”helped me many a time” may have been the letter sent by GCR’s father Rev John Roberts as GCR left for the Middle East in July 1915. It is the only one in this collection (so far) sent to GCR. It was the second letter included in this Blog.

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