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


December 2017

December 13th/16th/18th 1917 In the Field

Dear Dad and Mam

Here I am again letting you know that I am as per usual in the pink and A1 hope you at home are the same. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I received a good mail when I got back to the battery from a detached job, I have two letters from you , one from Auntie Annie and one from Ethel so you see I struck oil this time. Thanks very much for them. One was dated October 28 and the other Nov 8th. I have been on the march again and have been through Hebron. The country has changed altogether now it is now nothing but rocky hills and the land is cultivated in a series of steps right up the hills. Each hill seems to be independent of the other and I must say the land looked beautiful around Hebron and the way it is cultivated is marvelous. I am sure Dad would be greatly interested in it. I saw the mosque under which Abram is buried and mount Hebron. I was very much surprised to hear as I was marching up here a little boy about twelve speaking English very well. He was selling oranges real Jaffa oranges from Jaffa does not your mouths water. I have eaten several of them. I have been in the City of David and was given the enclosed pc by a young Syrian boy it is the same picture as this is carved in stone over the entrance gate of the church of St George of Bethlehem. I have seen it myself. The stable where Christ was born was pointed out to a few of us, but of course, I don’t take that as official. The natives sell all sorts of things to us made from mother of pearl I have bought a rosary and will get some more things yet and send them to you. I will try and send Glyndwr something but can’t you suggest something to me. I am in a fix as to what youngsters like him want, but I will get something and chance it. It is a big industry of the people of Bethlehem making rosary’s crucifixes and images of Christ. They look very nice however I will send you some so that you can have your own opinion. I will be in the big place of this land shortly [Jerusalem]. The weather here is very cold and I feel it pretty bad for it is very much above sea level more like Blighty weather there has been frost on the ground and it is cold sleeping out in the open.

December 16th Halftime. I have not been able to finish this letter when I started so I am having another go at it. I have been on the track again. I was billeted for a night in a French monastery in the city of David. It was a fine building but Jacko had been there before us and had been keeping horses inside. I was trying to palyvous with the priest and he seemed quite interested when I made him understand that my father was a padre. I am also very glad to tell you that I received a letter from Dad this morning dated Nov 15 it was one of the real old style letters of Dad’s “Diolch yn fawr am dano Dad yr ydwyf yn falcon eich bod wedi sail maser da yn Abergele y Cefn; how is that for Welch. I would say more only I am stuck. I know Dad would have written before only he was busy. Well here is some more that may interest you I have been through the holy city passed the garden of Gethsemany and the Mount of Olives, the major of the 5th got wounded in the attack on the latter and has since died. So you see the old batt had the honour of taking a very historic point. There is a golden colour domed mosque in the garden. All these places have fine buildings and all the country around is very picturesque. I wish I could describe things to you but I am afraid it cannot be done. When I come home I hope to be able to spin you quite a long yarn. I was very glad to know from Dad’s letter that you are all in good health. I of course am as usual in the pink and A1. I received a letter from Auntie Polly with Dad’s. Glad to hear that the folks in Cefn like to get my letters [Cefn Mawr, Denbighshire. The Roberts’ home prior to the move to South Wales}. I did not know what had become of Jack Williams by the post office could not find out, the place you mention that he is in is in Cairo. Lew has not come back to the batt yet he only had a slight wound he may be lucky enough to remain down the line for Xmas. Well I have not got any more to say only I must wish you all a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year and hope to be with you next time it rolls round and long before that. Give my love to Jon and Mag and Glyn glad to hear that they are all well. I must wind up now with best love and best wishes to you all.

Your affectionate Son


Excuse writing am using a Turkish made pencil

Dec 18th 1917

Dear Dad and Mam

I have just received the parcel you sent me dated Sept 21st. It has been a long time coming but better late than never. Thank you very much indeed for your kindness I wish I could write down here how much I thank you but I hope to do so properly when I come home. I will write and thank Nain Jones for the chocolates. Diolch yn fawr again. Best love and best wishes from your loving Son

Goronwy XXXXX

We do not have a post card fitting the description in the letter. However the following three undated cards would have been enclosed at about this time.

Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem.

A souvenir postcard of the British occupation of Jerusalem

December 9th 1917. The Capture of Jerusalem

GCR,s Division, the 53rd Welsh played a major role in the capture of Jerusalem. The XXth Corps had advanced from the west across the Judaean hills but in the closing stages, at the beginning of December XXI Corps took over the main effort. 53rd Div advanced from the south through Hebron and Bethlehem to the outskirts of Jerusalem. Every effort was made to avoid fighting in the Holy City. By the 9th Allenby’s troops had the city completely dominated forcing the Ottoman garrison to withdraw. The mayor of Jerusalem came out and surrendered the city to the first British troops he found; a cockney cook looking for eggs. General Allenby entered the city officially, and on foot out of respect, on Dec 11th.

No letters from GCR until December 15th, not surprising one suspects they were a bit busy.

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