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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

November 2017

Nov 21st 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am quite alright and feeling in the pink as usual hope you all at home can say the same. I am expecting a mail in today and am living in hopes of getting a letter from you and possibly the parcel may turn up, hope so and then I shall consider myself in great luck. We are having very queer weather just now it is raining while I am writing this and has been off and on for the last two days. It is also much colder now for we are up in the hills. The rain does one good thing and that is it damps the dust. This is an awful country for dust and flies almost as bad as Mudros and the Pen (The Gallipoli Peninsula). If you were out here and saw the country as it has been all this summer you would agree with me that there is nothing holy about it. Well what do you think of things now do you think that this war is looking any better now, it was a pity the Italians had to retire but I hope they will make up for it. We have had good news from France and Meso (Mesopotamia) . General Haig has done fine. This affair out here will be a feather in Allenby’s cap don’t you think so everybody seems to have great confidence in him he is no feather bed soldier. Has Mrs Morgan heard from Lew yet he was going to write as soon as he got to his destination it was in the clearing station I saw him. I have not got much to say for myself this journey but by the way what has become of Austin have not heard anything about him for a long time is he still soldiering in Blighty or where. I seems queer to me that’s he is a B1 or 2 man and I am A1 and hope to keep so, I should think by when I was home he was a fitter man than I was but I am glad I am not a Derbyite or conscript for one is as bad as the other. Where does Hughie Cooper stay now I should think he has got a decent job now after being on that course please give my kind regards to Mrs Cooper hope he is good health. Hope Dad  enjoyed himself in Cefn and Abergele I would not mind being with him there does he remember the holiday we had up there together I do well. Could do with a holiday to Blighty now alright but I am afraid there is no hopes while this stunt is on may be a chance after it’s over. Well I am going to have a half time as Mailys and Dyfan do but not for dinner or tea but to see what the mail brings forth.  HALFTIME

Well as here I am again as M and D say  but I must own that my half time has been longer than theirs usually is but it was unavoidable. Today is the 23rd. In the first place it rained so heavy that we got drowned out of our bivouac which only consists of two cotton sheets to keep the sun off so you see what our house is like it also rained all night and my joints are very sore now hope I don’t get rheumatic but the rum issue kept a little of the cold out. It only amounts to three tablespoons 1/8th of a pint so you see a chap does not get very drunk on that much. The rain has stopped now thank goodness and the sun is out fine not too hot. It was quite an experience getting wet not having had one for such a long time it did one very good thing and that was to damp the dust which was an awful nuisance. I am sorry to say that no mail has arrived yet, hard luck ay ? I hope the parcel come when the mail does arrive I do hate to think that things you have sent go lost so often. Well Xmas will be here in a month and it will be my third one abroad and my fourth from home I do hope I will be home long before the fifth comes around. I wish I could send you a Xmas card but seeing there are no shops in Palestine I don’t think there is much chance, but if I can get one I will send it to you. I have not heard anything about JW Williams from Walter St but will try and find out if he is alright. You need not worry about me for as I told you before my luck is always in I am at Battery HQ so I am quite alright everything in the garden’s lovely and I look after the ammo supply so you see there is no need for worry on my account. By the way has W Burton Charles St arrived home yet let me know he told me in his letter he was coming to see you. Hope Mailys and Dyfan are in the best of health by Jove Mailys is in luck getting that raise she must be an awful toff I will not know either of them when I come home. With Mailys with her hair up and long skirts and Dyfan in long trousers really the world is getting quite tops turvy. As for myself I don’t think I have altered much for I still feel 18 don’t know if it’s a good or bad sign for I don’t feel any the worse for it. Then there is Glyndwr I shall require an introduction to that young gentleman not having seen him. I did not think I should ever be an uncle and not see my first nephew till he is at least over twelve months old. Give my love to Jon and Mag have not heard from them since about Sept their letters must be bewitched or something of the sort but of course this next mail bring forth some thing. I have been thinking a bit lately of putting in for a commission for I am sure I could pass out at the six weeks course that they get before getting one but I see it would get mean the allotment being stopped and I won’t do that at any rate and as the war can’t last much longer I think I will be just as well off as I am don’t you think so. Let me know what you think of it, but is I was to go in for a commission I would stick to the Army for it would be worth while. My address is still 241261 Corpl GC Roberts 159 Bde LTM Battery EEF. Well I have not got any more to say just now. Am anxiously waiting for a letter from you. Dad had not written for some weeks but I know he would if he was not very busy. We solong now, again hoping you are all in the best of health I am A1 and in the pink. Best love and best wishes to you all.

I remain Your Affectionate Son

Goronwy




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Nov 17th 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 hope you all at home can say the same. You see that this letter is starting in the same old strain as usual but it cannot be helped and I am sure you won’t object for if a chap is in the pink well he can’t wish for much more under present circumstances. I wrote to you a few days ago and enclosed a letter for Auntie Annie hope you have received it before now. I am sorry to say I have not yet received the parcel you sent me but as we are expecting a mail up any day now I have not yet given up hopes of receiving it. The advance here has upset the postal system a bit so letters parcels etc have been delayed. Not only are our letters delayed in coming out but the continual moves upset me from being able to write to you regularly but I know you understand how difficult it is so that is half the battle. You can depend on me to write as often as possible. Well Christmas will be along again shortly and another one for me in Turkey so you see this wil be my third Xmas abroad. I wish there was a chance of being home for Xmas but worse luck there won’t be any chance. Just fancy this will be my fourth Xmas from home and I have never been from home Xmas time before I joined the Army. Well the only thing to do is to hope I won’t spend another out here after this and all’s well. Hope Dad enjoyed himself in Cefn and Abergele I have not had a letter from him lately tell him to write very soon for his nice long letters are very very thankfully received. Well hope Mailys and Dyfan are all right. Roll on duration when do you think this war will be over what is your opinion of things now. Don’t you think we are doing well now let me know. Give my love to Jon and Mag and Glyn have not had a letter from them for some time. Hope Jon’s cold is better by now. I have not got any more to say just hope to hear from you again soon I hope Abertysswg still keeps in the same place for I want to find it when this war is over. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Your Affectionate Son

Goronwy






Nov 14th 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad Mam Mailys and Dyfan

I have great pleasure in being able to tell you that I received your letters dated Oct 7th last night at about saith y gloch (seven o’clock) and am trying to write in answer to them at eight o’clock this morning. I am saying trying to answer because between the flies which are an awful pest here and also between a camel which lies about five hundred yards from here dead and the breeze blowing my way from it I might tell you that

1 The flies are a rotten nuisance

2 That camel does not smell sweet by any means

3 I have no means of getting out of the way of either of these undesirable acquaintances and that the camel hums more and more every day. So you see here you have a brief description of my trials and tribulations not temptations for there are not any. Well I am very pleased to know that you are all in good health at home I am as per usual in the pink and A1 which I hope I shall always be and when a chap can say that I don’t think he has cause to grumble much. We get our grub and our sleep very well and are not badly off considering the circumstances. The nights are very cold and we don’t strip to go to bed because it’s a case of one blanket between two chaps but being an optimist I say that’s better than none at all. You will do me a favour if you will give the enclosed letter to Auntie Annie this being the only green envelope I have. Diolch yn fawr if you will. Dyfan tells me he is going to have glasses soon I am very much surprised to hear this for I thought his eyes were quite alright I don’t wear my glasses only for reading and find it beneficial. A specialist told me at the Citadel Cairo that if he was me he would not wear glasses for another ten or twenty years. I think myself that my eyes are much better now to what they were. I could always fire without glasses on the range and get decent results. Has Lew’s people heard from him yet I expect they have. The CSM (Company Sergeant Major) of my coy died of wounds I was speaking to him a short time before, he is from Bedlenog. I have not been able to find out anything about Sam Jones’ brother but think he is alright. I saw a lot of the wounded from my batt and several of the poor cahps were calling to me “Rob pull my boots will you” I can tell you it was pretty rotten to see so many I knew like that. They had not had their boots off for nine days then and marching and scrapping at that. People think it is a picknick our chaps are having out here but they know nothing about it. Well for some thing a bit more cheerful. Mam wants to know when I am coming home. Well it’s more than I can tell but I will jump for the first chance that comes and will let you know in good time but please don’t put your mind on anything of the sort it’s a rotten thing to get disappointed. I am very much surprised to hear that Mailys is earning so much and getting so much wopping pays my word she makes me real envious more than I was getting after over three years in the Co-op but no more Co-op for me at that price I would rather do navvying and am sure I am more suited for it too. Fancy a big lout like me cutting calico etc for 1 pound a week and at all hours at that finish shop after this, but well we will settle that when I come home. Glad to hear of the way Dyfan is bringing up Glyndwr. How many paces a minute does he march now Pup? 120 is the Army stroke see to it young man. I, your brawd, give you the order and you being a soldier must obey an NCO and not argue over it. Well how are the cadets going now have not heard any details of them for some time and by the way is Dad in the VTC let me know. I am sorry to say that the parcel you sent has not come to light yet but am living hopes of it turning up. It will be a shame if it has gone west, I can’t understand what becomes of them. I have not had a letter from Jon but does not matter, if he could see where we were he would not consider it necessary for me to write often we are not provided with tables and chairs, although when we were in bshba (Beersheba?) there were plenty to be had for the taking. Our division has had a rattling good name from the C in C and by Jove they deserved it. To march miles and fight and march and fight takes some guts to do it. Well give my love to Jon and Mag and Glyn. Hope you are all keeping fit, hope Dad will enjoy himself in Cefn and Abergele. I had a letter from Auntie Polly which are full of his praises at the sermon he delivered at Cefn. Hope Nain Jones benefitted from her visit to the South. Well I must wind up now hoping to hear from you again soon. Best love and best wishes to you all.

Yours Affectionately

Goronwy









Comment

VTS

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_Training_Corps

The Volunteer Training Corps was a voluntary home defence militia in the United After war had been declared in August 1914, there was a popular demand for a means of service for those men who were over military age or those with business or family commitments which made it difficult for them to volunteer for the armed services. At this stage in the war, Britain relied entirely on a voluntary system of enlistment and many men still held to the Victorian principle that it was the task of professional troops to fight a war whilst voluntary militias provided for home defence. Combined with the perceived risk of a German invasion, this resulted in the spontaneous formation of illegal “town guards” and volunteer defence associations around the country, often organised by former Regular Army or Volunteer Force officers. The government was suspicious of this movement, seeing it as potentially diverting men from volunteering for the armed services. The enthusiasm was, however, unstoppable; by September 1914, a central committee had been formed and on 19 November 1914, a renamed Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps was recognised by the War Office.

Although the Central Association had been officially recognized, the local Volunteer Training Corps were not. Units had to be financially self-supporting and members had to provide their own uniforms, which could not be khaki; the Association recommended Lovat green. All members were required to wear a red brassard or arm band, bearing the letters “GR” for Georgius Rex (i.e. the then sovereign, King George V). No weapons or equipment were provided from public funds, although local Territorial Army Associations were asked to supply a few “DP” rifles, which were dummy weapons intended for “Drill Purposes”. The volunteers therefore had to purchase their own weapons and ammunition – typically Martini Enfield carbines and rifles. Membership of the Corps was only open to those who had “genuine reasons” for not enlisting in the regular armed forces although the list of exempted occupations was very wide and the CAVTC interpreted this as including those responsible for widowed mothers, unmarried sisters and those running small businesses.

Local VTCs soon grouped together to form county Volunteer Regiments. In October 1915, the Marquess of Lincolnshire attempted to give the Volunteers legal status by means of a private member’s bill in the House of Lords, but it ran out of parliamentary time. However, MPs discovered that the Volunteer Act 1863 had never been repealed and the VTC Battalions legally became Volunteer Regiments in April 1916 as part of a new ‘Volunteer Force’. Eventually they were allowed to wear khaki and equipment began to be officially supplied. In July 1918, the War Office decided to include the VTC Battalions into the County Infantry Regiment system, and they became numbered “Volunteer” battalions of their local regiment. With the introduction of conscription in 1916, came the power of the Military Service Tribunals to order men to join the VTC; however, the clause in the 1863 act which allowed resignation after fourteen days’ notice initially made this unenforceable, so a Volunteer Act 1916 was passed which obliged members to remain in the Corps until the end of the war. By February 1918, there were 285,000 Volunteers, 101,000 of whom had been directed to the Corps by the Tribunals.

 

Nov 6 1917

Dear Dad and Mam

Have not been able to post this letter before but can’t help it. I am as per usual in the pink everything in the garden’s lovely hope you all can say the same. You will no doubt know before you get this that Lew has been wounded but it is only slight please tell his people so because I saw him yesterday and he was in the pink but as dirty as can be had not had a wash for over a week and not been able to shave, he has got a very cushy one in the shoulder only a flesh wound so tell Mrs Morgan not to worry. My luck is as good as ever and still going strong was not in the scrap but scotching up behind. I had a wash and shave yesterday how delicious it was. Please excuse this will write a decent one when we are a little settled. Thanks once more for your letters. Best love and wishes to you all.

Your Loving Son

Goronwy


November 3rd 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

It gives me great pleasure to tell you that I received 3 letters from you also the letter case from Auntie Annie with the letter from Mam enclosed. I was delighted to get them all as I had not had a letter from you for about five weeks. Diolch yn fawr am dano and same for Mailys and Dyfan too, the latest one was dated October 4th. Well you will no doubt hear some news from out here but I am alright. Have been in the much famed place you no doubt have heard about. I came back from the rest camp I told you about at the beginning of this week. I had to march 16 miles at a stretch and by Jove I was feeling a little bit tired. I will write and thank Aunt Annie for the case as soon as poss you may not get this letter till a few weeks have gone. I am in the pink and was glad to hear you all were the same. Will write again soon. Can’t write more now. Best love and best wishes to all.

Your Affect Son

Goron

Comment

The Third battle of Gaza had commenced. Bombardment on Gaza itself began on October 27th but in  Allenby’s plan this was a ruse. The main assault was launched on October 31st at Beersheba to the south east against the left of the Turkish line. During the initial battle the 53rd Division (GCR’s), as part of XXth Corps held the left of the line facing Beersheba from the west while mounted troops made a wide right flanking move and attacked the town from the south east. This assault involved a cavalry charge of the Australian 4th Light Horse over several trench lines and into the town. On the 31st the 53rd Division was not molested by the enemy but continued into the town and then marched north into the hills to the north of Beersheba to take up a line at Towal Abu Jerwal facing north and west. This move prevented a Turkish counter move from getting around Allenby’s right.

The “much famed place” GCR refers to is Beersheba and the position of the 159th Brigade on November 3rd when the letter was written is marked on the map.



Map from The History of the 53rd (Welsh) Division 1914-1918 Major CH Dudley Ward DSO MC

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