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.
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.