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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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1915

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.

 

 

 

August 18th 1915

Pte GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade
53rd Division
Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
August 18th, 1915

Dear Dad and Mam

Just a line to let you know that I am getting on alright and have been discharged from hospital and am at present at a convalescent camp. I hope that you are all alright at home. I may tell you that I am anxiously waiting for a letter from you. It is time I had one now. I hope you are receiving my letters alright. Have written several times. It is very little I am allowed to put in the letter. I hope I will be able to be home for my Christmas dinner this year. Give my love to all. Hoping you are all in the best of health. I am alright, my foot does not spoil my stomach. Give my best love to all. Hoping to hear from you soon.
I am your loving son
Goronway

August 18th #1 August 18th #2 August 18th #3

 He didn’t actually get home for Christmas dinner until 1919.

 

August 16th 1915

August 16th # 1 & 4 August 16th # 2 & 3 August 16th # 2 & 3 - Version 2 August 16th # 1 & 4 - Version 2

Pte GC Roberts 3144

C Company

1/5 Welsh Regt

159 Brigade

53rd Division

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

August 16 1916

Dear Dad and Mam

Just alive to let you know that I am getting in the pink. My foot is much better by now and I will be able to jump quite as good as before because there are no bones broken. I am having a decent time and the sisters here are very good to us. They are much more homely than our English. I forgot to tell you I am in an Australian hospital. I may tell you I have great reason to be the thankful to God that I only had it in the foot, because I was in a warm corner when it happened. I hope this war will soon be over. There is a great difference in soldiering out here and soldiering in England you are apt to get hurt here, but still I am not at all down hearted. I shall be very pleased when I receive a letter from you have not had one yet. Give my love to Dyfan and Mailys hope they are getting an alright. Hope Mailys will pass her Juniors and that Dyfan enjoyed being in camp. Give my love to Jon, Mag, and Nain Jones. I was speaking to a chap from Jack Jones Regiment, he is alright. I have written to you several times hope you have received them. Please let me have a word as soon as you can. I have no more to say at present. Close with best love to all.

I am

Your loving Son

Goronway

First taste of battle, Suvla Bay

The Suvla Bay landings were commanded by Lt Gen Sir Frederick Stopford, a 61 year old who had never commanded troops in war. Many of the other senior officers in command positions for the attack were also getting long in the tooth, in retirement before the war.

“While the generals were old Regular Army officers, their troops were civilians and young; and all of them, generals ands soldiers alike, were wholly unused to the rough and individual kind of campaigning upon which they were now to be engaged.” Alan Moorehead, Gallipoli

The landings started the night of the 6th of August, the 11th and 10th Divisions ashore by the 7th and the 53rd Welsh Division on the night of the 8th.

Inexperienced troops, landing at night with poor maps and difficult terrain, they became quickly disorientated and there was a breakdown in communications and control. Worst of all, Stopford failed to instill the sense of urgency into his subordinate generals that Hamilton expected. Instead of pushing hard to command the high ground before the anticipated Turkish reinforcements arrived 36 hours later a “ghastly inertia” set in that was only broken by Hamilton’s direct intervention that was in any case too late. By the 10th Turks had beaten the British to the heights and the troops were ordered to entrench. The chance to break the stalemate had been lost.

It was at sometime between the 10th August, when the 53rd Welsh Division landed at Sulva Bay, and the 16th when the next letter was written that GCR was wounded. The story that he told was that he and a buddy were out on a patrol when they came under fire; both were hit. His buddy was hit in the thigh and incapacitated whereas GCR was wounded in the foot. GCR managed to make his back to their unit to fetch stretcher-bearers but by the time they were able to get back to the point where he had left his buddy, the hillside had caught fire and he was dead. This haunted GCR for the rest of his life.

Sulva bay photo

August 1st 1915

August 1st 1915

GCR to Mam and Dad

GCR has arrived in Egypt after 11 days at sea in the Mediterranean. Although he couldn’t say from where he was writing this letter, we know that he had landed in Alexandria. (The 4th Battalion was ahead of SS Huntsgreen, the ship GCR traveled on, by one day and Bryn Davies’s diary refers to mooring at Alexandria on 29th July. Also the 50 nurses of the 3rd Australian General Hospital are known to have disembarked at Alexandria between the 30th July and 1st August – http://www.gallipoli.gov.au/nurses-at-gallipoli ).

Back at home, at this time, GCR’s 13 year old brother Dyfan was at a camp in Portmadoc of North Wales. His 16 year old sister, Mailys is expected to take her her Junior exam soon. This is the first we heard of GCR’s siblings. He also comments on his older brother Jon, or Jonathan Roberts, who was 26 at this time. At this time, GCR was in camp, most likely near the docks, in Alexandria; his first experience of the heat and the aggravating flies.

Mediterranean Exped Force                Sunday August 1st, 1915

Dear Mom and Dad 

Just a line to let you know that I am alright. Hoping you are all the same. I am still not allowed to tell you where we are only I am somewhere in Egypt at present. We were on the water for 11 days and it was very calm indeed. We called at Malta for a day it is a fine looking place. You can write to me as soon as you like only you must put the same address as when I was in Bedford but instead of Bedford put Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. I can tell you it is very funny to be without a letter for such a long time. Do you know where Jack Jones is … I may have a chance of seeing him. The weather here is very warm except at night when it is nice and cool. We wear light kaki drill uniforms and helmets out here because we would be absolutely roasted. This time last year I was on my holiday if you remember. This time I am having a rather warm holiday. I am short of note paper and envelopes or would write to Jon (GCR’s older brother) tell him so. I wrote to him last week also to you and a PC (Postcard) to Auntie Annie tell him I should like to hear from him. Is Nain Jones down? Give my love to her also Dylan (GCR’s Younger Brother) and Mailys (GCR’s Younger Sister). Has Dyfan been to Portmadoc in camp yet. I expect he has, hope he had a good time. Does he like keeping guard at night. The natives here are a dirty looking mob at least what I have seen of them. They will do you down under your nose. But they can’t do me because I have no money to be done of. They look funny in their baggy pants. How is Hughie Cooper getting on out in France. Give his father my kind regards. Flies are rather a nuisance here but things are not so bad as some like to make them out to be. At least I am not grumbling only I would rather be spending August Bank Holiday at home instead of out here. When you write to me let me know as much as the gossip as you like it will be a pleasure to have a bit of news. I hope your all well, give my love to Mailys, tell her I hope she will pass her junior exam alright, also to Dyfan. At least I could say more but I’m not allowed to. I am in the pink, hope your are all the same I close with the best of love to all.

I am your loving son Goronway

I was talking to a man belonging to the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps) yesterday from New Tredegar, at least he was working there before the war as an engineer. He knows Mr. Rees. I do not no his name.

Map of Alexandria

 https://peterhbiles.wordpress.com/tag/dardanelles/

August 1st #1 August 1st # 2 August 1st #3 August 1st #4 August 1st #5 August 1st #6

Dyfan

Dyfan Roberts as a young boy dressed in Boer War Period Uniform

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