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


September 2017

Sept 22nd 1917. In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line again to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink and feeling A1 hope you all at home can say the same as that. I wrote to you a few days ago in answer to the bumper mail I received from you hope you have had it before now. I have answered Burton’s letter now. You will be surprised to hear that I met two Abertysswg chaps this week one is Jack LLewylyn from Alex St and the other Jack Williams next to the post office they were surprised when they saw me. They both are in good health and wish to be remembered to you as they know Dad. They don’t like this country and I am not surprised either for I am no lover of it myself and have that more of it too. They were surprised to hear that I have been out 26 months. I am inches bigger than either of them. Lewis Morgan saw them too he is alright and wishes to be remembered to you. He told me about two nights ago that he had not had a letter from home for a long time, but the queer thing about is that he gets all the parcels that have been sent. I have been back from the course at El Arish for over a week now I had the following marks Trench warfare three exams 40/50 46/50 50/50 average 91%. Trench mortars three exams 49/50 46/50 48/50 average 96% let me know what you think of this result I had a practical exam also and had VG for that no marks were given. Tell Jon that I am not quite so dull as I used to be at least I hope not in case I am. Well have you been on your holidays yet if so I hope you will enjoy them thoroughly. J Williams told me he was in Aber last Easter and therefore I have come to the conclusion that it is still in the same place which is good news indeed therefore I will be able to find it when I come home. Do you know that I have been three years in the Army on the 15th of next month (Oct). I never  thought I would have half that time in but I must say time has gone very quick indeed don’t you think so. I shall not be sorry for the time when this war will be over and I am home again. We are not having a bad time now by any means and I am not grousing. I went and saw Tudor Dodd the other night he has had a letter from Albert please tell Maggie so was very glad to get it. He sends his best respects to you all. He is a very decent chap indeed is Tudor. We are now back resting have been out of the trenches a few weeks now and no loss after them either, not over fond of them myself. I am camped in a fig tree plantation and have had a few fine feeds of figs, climb up into a tree and slash into all the ripe figs that are about and my word fresh ripe figs are miles before the dried ones you get in Blighty but still I would rather  be eating figs in England after all. Was it not in a fig garden that Samson slew the lion, where is it say that, have a look. How is Jon and Mag and that young nephew of mine getting on tell Mam to give him a kiss from me. I would like to see him very much. Give my love to them. Please remember me to Mr Cooper hope Hughie is getting on alright. Have all the strikes in England finished yet it’s time they did. My word it should make any young chap who is fit or unfit be ashamed to show his face anywhere to see young women going out to France as an auxiliary army corps. If they are exempted they ought to make a rush and get into the Army for very shame’s sake. I would not like to be one of them chaps home now quatting away as starred men. There is plenty of wounded and unfit men to do the jobs a good many of them have. I would like to have a conscientious object in my squad he would be unconscious in a short time at least I would have a good try, conscious cowards I think they are and yet people in England tolerate such things. Don’t think I am unfair to them for I don’t think I am. My address is 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar battery EEF. I hope Dyfan will pass the Senior CWB. Good luck to him. has he had a letter from B Fry lately. Well I have no more to say now. Hope Mailys is still going strong. Best of love best wishes to you all.

I remain, Your affectionate Son



GCR was forgetting his Sunday school lessons: Judges 14:5  “Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him.” No doubt the Reverend J Roberts, his father, would have check the text in this, his Welsh Bible.

Sept 9th 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am as per usual in the pink and A1. Hope you all at home can say the same as myself. It is really a great thing to be able to say and while I can say that I am willing to tackle ant difficulty that comes my way. I had my difficulty yesterday in the form of washing day and I was able  to wash my tunic, shorts, two shirts, towel and a pair of socks so you see I have overcome that difficulty again and the togs really look well. It would really surprise Mam and Mailys what an expert I am at the wash tub. I overcome another difficulty in mending a few holes in my shirt and a bit of my tunic that came undone. I have another difficulty on Friday morning in the form of two Exams one on trench mortars and the other on trench warfare. I obtained 46 out of 50 on the former and 48 out of 50 in the latter so 94 per cent is not so bad but I want to try and get my average over 95%. My average on the two TM exams is 95% and on TW 88% not so good as I had hoped, but I must try and pull up on the next two exams. The tw is a rather complicated course as it deals with a good many headings. I received a letter from Auntie Polly yesterday and wrote back in answer today. I wrote to you on Friday after the exams hope you will have received it by now. I was reading the Baptist T yesterday and I don’t like the look of things in Russia she is not doing her best by a long way if she does the dirty on us she ought to catch out hot. I hope Mam will enjoy her holiday at Swansea and hope it will do her good I also hope that Mailys will have a good time in Cefn. Have you heard the result of the Senior yet Let me know when you do also the result of Mailys exam. Hope Dyfan likes his job in the blacksmiths ask him to find a job for me by when I come home “a good job I want”. Hope Nain will enjoy her stay in the South and hope it will be quite as beneficial as it usually is. Hope Auntie Annie’s arm is quite alright again. You will notice that half this letter consists of hopes and the other of difficulties. Pleae give my love to Jon, Mag and Glyndwr, not Glyn as Dad told me in one of his letters will write to them again soon. I wrote to them last week hope they have had that letter by now. Hope the allotment is still going strong hope you will save a few new potatoes for me. Have you ever tasted Egyptian potatoes they are sweet to the taste not near so good as English potatoes. We get an issue of English spuds every day so you see we are not bad off by any means. We get plenty to eat but no war bread thank goodness if it’s history is true. We get respectable white bread bar one day per month and we get biscuits but we don’t grumble at that because we can always save a bit of bread to tyde us over the hard tack day. My address is 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar Battery EEF. You say you have been told that this job of mine has to be treated carefully please don’t think it is dangerous by any means because it’s not I really enjoy strafing Jonny and it’s very interesting work especially it one takes a pride in keeping things ship shape. My team and I were congratulated once by a colonel who came to inspect the gun pit. He said “Very nice and tidy indeed and a nice clean looking lot of men. I should have liked the general to have seen this pit this morning” How’s that for swank ay? Has Dyfan had a letter from B Fry yet he is going to write to him. He was alright when I saw him last and wishes to be remembered to you. I get a fine bathe in the sea everyday my word it’s simply great to be able to wallow in the water for as long as you like. A chap does not know the value of a good bathe until he has to do without it for some time. Well I suppose that next month will see Mam’s and my own birthday run round again. I can hardly realize that I will be twenty one then for it only seems a short time ago I was eighteen time does fly and no mistake. I am afraid I shall not be home for this birthday again but never mind Mam we will try and make up for lost time when I come home and we will have three birthdays in one. Just fancy I will have been in the Army 3 years on October 15th I never dreamt this war would last all this time, but I don’t think it will hang out much longer I think the spring will see it out alright and then Hurrah for home again. We are having fine weather here all the time but I keeps very hot during the day. There is one good thing I am not in the least affected by the heat and have stood it all along without any ill effects. I have seen fellows coming out in drafts out here go down wallop where they stand not being used to the heat. I shall need being re-climatized when I get back to Blighty don’t you think so. But I bet there will not be the least trouble over that again. All men with two years service out here had their names taken with all particulars whether married or single. There is a rumour that they are going to try and get leave for so many at a time to come home married men first. It would be alright if I could manage to come home don’t you think so. But it is not leave I want what I want is to see this war over and come home to stay once more. But don’t put your minds on any leave coming through I am not putting my mind on it because it would be an awful disappointment if nothing turned up so I am not worrying about it. Well I have got no more to say just now I think I have been holding forth quite long enough. Hope you are all keeping in the best of health. Best love and best wishes to you all. I am Your loving Son, Goronwy.



The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Empire and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the later half of the First World War. The 3-inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire. Although it is called a 3-inch mortar, its bore is actually 3.2 inches or 81 mm.

Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes – who later became Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE – designed the mortar in January 1915. The British Army was at the time trying to develop a weapon that would be a match for the Imperial German Army’s Minenwerfer mortar, which was in use on the Western Front.

Stokes’s design was initially rejected in June 1915 because it was unable to use existing stocks of British mortar ammunition, and it took the intervention of David Lloyd George (at that time Minister of Munitions) and Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Matheson of the Trench Warfare Supply Department (who reported to Lloyd George) to expedite manufacture of the Stokes mortar.

The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smoothbore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.

The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuze on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear.

Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel. A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to four additional “rings” of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. The four rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings that were not needed.

One potential problem was the recoil, which was “exceptionally severe, because the barrel is only about 3 times the weight of the projectile, instead of about one hundred times the weight as in artillery. Unless the legs are properly set up they are liable to injury”.

The mortar was in no sense a new weapon, although it had fallen out of general usage since the Napoleonic era. In fact, while the British and French worked on developing new mortars, they resorted to issuing century-old mortars for use in action.

The Stokes mortar remained in service into the Second World War.

In World War I, the Stokes mortar could fire as many as 25 bombs per minute and had a maximum range of 800 yards firing the original cylindrical un-stabilised projectile. British Empire units had 1,636 Stokes mortars in service on the Western Front at the Armistice.


Sept 7 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam Mailys and Dyfan etc

I am pleased to tell you that I received the letter from Dad and Dyfan dated Aug 11th and was very glad indeed to get it. I also received two Baptist Times thanks very much for them. Very glad to hear that you are all well at home and that Mailys is quite alright again. I am as per usual in the pink and feeling up to the nines. By Jove Dyfan is getting a rich man all at once he is getting more splosh than I had I am afraid the shop won’t see me again it will go very much against the grain going there and getting so little. I read the bit of Express you enclosed in the letter. It was very interesting Glyndwr is having his name in print very soon. There is one thing I don’t agree with in that paper I don’t believe in people bothering with such things as Liberals and Conservatives or any politics. It’s the politicians who have kept the war on all this time. I thought there was no party politics in war time that everyone was too concerned in winning the war. It takes an army and navy to win a war. Well I have not got much to say this time but will write again soon. My address is still 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar Battery EEF. Glad to hear Nain is coming down South hope she will enjoy herself. Hope Mam will have a good time in Swansea. Well I must wind up now. Have had two exams this morning. Best love and wishes to you all. Your Affectionate Son, Goronwy.


Sept 2nd 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Dyfan

Have great pleasure in letting you know that I received your letter dated July 31 was exceedingly glad to get it. It has taken quite a long time to come though. Still better late than never. I can’t understand how you don’t get my letters in better order than you do. June 29 and July 23 arriving at the same time is ridiculous I write to you at least twice a week. You are asking if I am a sergt no I am not my address now is 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde Trench Mortar Battery EEF. You say you are worrying about it. It is very unjust but it’s not worth bothering about so please don’t worry any more I don’t worry about anything much. I have had the result of the other exam and am very disappointed about it I had 40 out of 50 I can’t understand where I dropped 10 as I answered all the questions correctly and I think it is a mistake but never mind I must try and pull up in the next exams. Sorry to hear Dad and Mailys are not well. Hope you will soon be alright. I am feeling in the pink these days. Well I hope you will enjoy your holidays in Swansea would not mind being there with you. Best love and wishes to you from Goronwy.

Dyfan will be a Hercules by when he finishes in the blacksmith.

Sept 1st 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Well here I am again once more writing to you hoping this letter will find you all in the pink in health and spirits I feel both and so the sun still shines. I received a letter last mail from Jon and I was very glad indeed to get it. It seems that his letters have been fearfully unlucky and yours have been extremely fortunate thank goodness for that. When I read Jon’s letter I strafed the Kaiser and his tin fish, I bet his ears tingled for the time I was strafing. I also had a letter from Ethel a very decent letter too. I was glad to hear that Nain is so much better and thinking of coming down this year again it will do her good I am sure. I will write to her soon. I wrote a few weeks ago to her before hope she has had it by now. Well do you think the war will be over by October I would like to be home for my twenty first birthday very much but I am afraid it is no use wishing all the same. I have given up guessing when this will be over and content myself with the positive fact that it cannot last forever. I am still on the course we had our  first two exams yesterday but have only had the result of one of them yet. I had 49 out of 50 no so bad Eh what? I am expecting the marks for the other exam out any time today will let you know what I get. Jon said in his letter that wonders never cease or words to that effect and that I had never had a distinguished for anything in my natural and here I have broke my record twice and had a d twice. Jon is quite right wonders never do cease. I hope to pull off a pass at least on this course. The fact is I want to beat a couple of chaps who have been down here before and I have got a good start. Jon seems to be very proud of Glyndwr well I don’t blame him especially after  him having that first prize. Glyndwr has started winning first prizes very early in life I only hope he will keep doing so all along the line. Well I hope Mam has enjoyed her holiday at Swansea and had a jolly good time. What did Mam think of the wounded swaddies she saw at New Tredegar I don’t suppose there were any there from out this way. Is Dad going for a holiday this year or is he staying at home. Jon tells me this war bread is a trial. It must be queer tack, I am glad to say we get white bread all the time and we have not had to do without sugar either so I think we are better off than a good many people in Blighty. My address is 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Brigade Trench Mortar Battery EEF. How did Mailys  and Dyfan get off in their exams let me know. Well it’s not much I have got to say this time so I must wind up. Will write again soon. Best love and best wishes to you all.

I am Your Affectionate Son


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