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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

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Letter

March 9th 1916

Pte GC Roberts 3144

1/5th Welsh Regt.

159th Brigade 53rd Division

Force in Egypt

March 9, 1916

Dear Dad & Mam

You will notice by above address that I have again shifted my station. I am now back again with my battalion. I left Sidi Bishr two days ago the night before I left I received a letter from Auntie Polly, a very nice letter indeed I have written back in answer to it. I have not had one from you since I left Mudros. I am now camped right out in the desert some miles from anywhere, it is very hot here but I can stand the heat very well now, am quite climatised.

The last sunday I was in Sidi Bishr, I went to the YMCA to hear Lord Radstook preach my word he is a real fine man both in physique and brains. He preached on the words of Solomon. “A three fold cord is not easily broken,” but he told of a three fold cord that never breaks he called the folds. Pardon, Peace, Power. After the service, he wrote his name on the fly leaf of the testaments of some of us chaps and the above three fold cord. What do you think of it. I enjoyed him very much indeed. The YMCA are holding a mission throughout the whole of their Association and wherever troops are stationed in a weeks time. They expect much good to come of it.

This week they are holding prayer meetings every night to ask for success of the mission I may tell you that no civilians attend those meeting and it’s soldiers that take part. So you see the army is not such an unresponcible affair as some civilians seem to think in fact you will find quite as many good men in the army as out of it. I am stationed about fifty miles from Cairo. Well how is Mailys and Dyfan getting on, give my love to them. Tell them if they want to see some sand they must come to Egypt, there is miles and miles of it as far as you can see. Harley any trees where I am now.

How are they getting on in school, hope Dyfan will pass his Junior as well as Mailys. Give my love to Jon and Mag. Would like a word from them. Well I must draw to a close now. Please excuse writing there are no tables available so my knee has to serve the same purpose. Hope you are all in the very best of health at home, I am in the pink as usual, don’t ever feel otherwise now am like a bull, but the sun is melting me a bit now. With best love and wishes to all.

I am

Your loving son

Goronwy

Comments

Sidi Bishr is a northeastern neighborhood of Alexandria in Egypt. In WW1 it was a major British military camp and also a POW camp. There are clearly letters missing but we know GCR left Mudros, the town and camp on Lemnos where he had been attached to the Greek Labour Corps, sometime after Jan 30th 1916 and rejoined his battalion (1/5th Welsh) “50 miles from Cairo” on March 8th. Whether he was stuck in transit at Sidi Bishr for the month of February or gainfully employed there is unknown but, bearing in mind the massive troop movements going on during the reorganization after the Gallipoli withdrawal, the former is likely. At the time of writing this letter the 159 Brigade was at Camp Wardan in Beni Salama north of Cairo.

Lord Radstock was a senior missionary leader in the YMCA; the attached page from the Missionary Review of the World Jan-Dec 1916 refers to his time in Egypt. We do not have the signed Testament to which GCR refers but the following are some of those he carried with him during the war. An inscription inside by Lord Roberts of Kandahar encourages the soldier to read the Gospel daily.

 

 

Next Letter coming March 19th…

December 1st 1915

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Private GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade
attached 53rd & 54th Division Base Detail
Lemnus M.E.F. Camp.
December 1st, 1915
Dear Dad and Mam

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and kicking and am in the pink. I hope all of you at home are the same. The only thing that is wrong with me at present is a touch of indigestion, but I hope I will get rid of this very soon. We have had very cold weather here for the last four or five days, but it is improving again today. What sort of weather are you having at home just now a bit rough, I should think. I have got to wish you all a Very Happy Xmas and a prosperous New Year, but I am very sorry indeed at not being able to be at home with you all this Xmas, but I hope you will all enjoy yourselves as you usually do at Xmas, and don’t forget to hang a stocking up for me and keep the “trysor y person” by when I come home which I hope will be before long. I hope this war will be over by next Xmas anyway. I have not received a letter yet, but hope to in the course of a week or two. I will jump for joy when I do get one. I would be very glad if you could send me a pair of warm woolen gloves as it gets bitter cold out here in a short time, in fact we have had some bitter cold weather here. I thought that we would have very little winter out here but I see I am disappointed. I lost all my kit when I got wounded at Suvla I was for a long time had to wash my only shirt in the sea and wait till it dried and then put it on, but I have a change of shirts and plenty of socks now also s Cardigan jacket which I am very thankful to have. I hope Mailys and Dyfan are alright, give them my best love. I must now close with the best love and wishes to you. Hoping to hear from you soon
I am
Your loving Son
Goronwy

 

Comment

The cold weather refers to the major blizzard that hit at the end of November costing many lives and significantly reducing the numbers fit to fight in many units. Not just an understatement but also appropriate self censorship; it wouldn’t do for the Turks to find out how badly the Allies were affected by the weather.

“trysor y person” is according to my sources in Wales, best translated as“the persons treasure” or perhaps gifts or my goodies. GCR would not enjoy these for another 4 years.

 

 

 

September 16 1915

(Sorry this post is late, we have had a few mix ups.)

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5th Welsh Regt

159th Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

September (14) 16 1915

 

Dear Dad and Mam    

 

Just a line hoping you are in the best of health, I am alright, I put a boot on this morning for the first time for five weeks. I have been hobbling about with a puttee wrapped around my foot. So you see my foot is alright once again. I have had nine of of my rotten teeth pulled out and three filled. I do not know if I will be able to get some false teeth, will try. I have not had a letter from you, yet it is rotten not to have had a letter for two months, the mail service is rotten. I expect there is a big mail waiting for me on the Peninsular but I have sent to ask them to send them on here. I am about fed up with this place, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Eat & sleep and write letters are my principle occupation. We are getting rather wet weather here lately. The monsoon weather will start about the end of this month and then we will get washed off the map. I have written to Uncle Moses & Auntee Annie, also to Jonathan. I hope you are getting my letters alright, I wish I had a letter from you to know how you are. I should be far more satisfied. How is Dyfan and Mailys are alright and back at school again. Did Mailys pass the Junior Exam, hope

I am writing this part of the letter two days after the first

 

I do not feel up to much these last few days, got a touch of (diarrhea).  It was raining terribly heavy yesterday my tent was blown over and I got soaking wet and last night I slept in a marquee and had to get up in the night to put the pegs down because they had been pulled up. Has Mr. West heard from Arthur yet, let me know. I have had no news of him, I expect he is alright. We hear out here that  there has been a big advance in France and that the Russians are doing fine work. Has the strike been settled yet. It makes one feel ashamed of being a Welsh man when one hears of such things in such times as these. How are all the folks at Abertysswg getting on. Give my kind regards to Mrs Davies and family also to Mr. Cooper, hope Hughie is still alright. I must now draw to a close, hope you are all in good health, give my best love to Dyfan and Mailys. Hope to get a letter soon.

 

I am

Your loving son

Goronway

September 16th, 1915 #1 September 16th, 1915 #2 September 16th, 1915 #3 September 16th, 1915 #4

Comment

The strike to which GCR is referring is the 1915 South Wales Coalfield strike. The mine owners were doing very well out of the war but the miners felt that none of this extra profit was being translated into improved wages or conditions. Some among them also acted out of an anti-war sentiment. Eventually LLoyd George was despatch to negotiate and the matter was settled on the miners terms.

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