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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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1916

April 7th, 1916

Pte GC Roberts 3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
MEF
April 7th 1916

Dear Dad and Mam
Just a line to let you know I am as I always am you know very well what that is. Hope you are all the same. I am very pleased to be able to tell you that I received a fine letter from you yesterday (Friday) dated March 17th and addressed to Sidi Bishr. It was a letter worth having a nice long one. Roll on a few more of the same sort. I was very sorry indeed to hear that Mam has not been well “Buck up Mam”. I will tell you the prescription our doctor uses for nearly all cases he puts some iodine(?) on the complaint and tells the patient to buck up. So Mam needs some iodine and buck up. Cures all complaints. We are having some very hot weather here just now but it will get hotter so you see I will be melting away soon at this rate. I have not had a letter yet from you addressed strait to the battalion, but am expecting one in a week or so. Lewis Morgan has not had a letter from home yet ask his mother if he has addressed his letters correctly he is in my company but not my platoon. He is quite well seems to have a little more sense now that he had while in England, but he has to watch points now one can’t do as he likes here. Has Jon been called up yet. I heard that all married men up to the age of 27 had been called up. Let me know. I am glad that you receive my letters alright. That last letter of yours came in pretty good time. I had the postmark of Mar 19th not so bad is it. Could you let me have a photo of some of you and ask Jon and Mag for one for me as well I should like to have one very much so that I will be able to look at your mugs sometimes. You ask me to write to Mr Lewis, Hengoed that other ministers’ sons have answered his letter. Well where are they, in England I expect, well I will write a short letter to him. I am writing this sitting on the floor or on the sand I should say. So you see a chap can’t write very well like that. The Germans are having a deuce of a hiding in Verdun(?) don’t you think so we hear out here that Turkey is asking for peace and that Bagdad has fallen, hope this is correct Roll on duration what do you say.
Give my love to Jon and Mag also Mailys and Dyfan congratulate them on their success in the Eistedfodd and concert. Tell Dyfan I should have all the prize next time not half of it. Hope Mam is alright by now hope she will keep to the mark. I have not got much to say this time you can wack me for writing letters hollow. I close with best love and wishes to all.
I am
Your loving Son
Goronwy
xxx
Tell Mam to take these one after each meal and she will soon be alright.

Comment
By the end of March, the Verdun offensive had cost the Germans 81,607 casualties. The battle (between the French and Germans) would last from Feb to Dec and ultimately cost 300,000 lives.
Anglo-Indian troops under General Maude entered Bagdad March 11th 1916 “amid loud celebrations from Baghdad’s 140,000 occupants; approximately 9,000 Turkish prisoners were taken.  Aside from striking a decisive propaganda blow for the Allies – the fall of Baghdad was of far less strategic than political value – its fall effectively brought to an end Turkish activity in Persia.”
http://www.firstworldwar.com/battles/baghdad.htm
Hengoed is down the Rhymney valley from Abertyswgg towards Caerfilly.

March 28th, 1916

3144
C Company
1/5th Welsh Regt
159th Brigade 53rd Division
MEF
Mar 28 1916

Dear Dad & Mam

I am writing you again to let you know that I have received mam’s letter you sent me to Sidi Bishr. I should say two letters in one dated Feb 27 the other March 9th There is no need for me to tell you what pleasure it gives me to receive these letters from you. I watch every mail that comes in like a cat watches a mouse. I am pleased to say that my letters are coming in very good now. I received one from Sam Jones of Rhymney the same time as yours. His was addressed to the GLC (Greek Labour Corps) and dated Feb 16. So you see the post office are looking after me well now. I have not received the long letter you state in your letter Mailys has sent to me, but no doubt it will turn up some day. Thank her very much for sending same. Glad to hear that she did well in the Hall. She is getting on well in most things now. You are asking me to write to Mr Evans, well I have done so at last, hope he will get it now I have written it. You are asking if it is possible for me to come home for a visit. Well I have no need to tell you I should only be too pleased of the chance, but I am afraid it is impossible for the present. But never mind this war won’t last much longer now, and then I shall come home to stay, no short visits about that so roll on duration. You say you are thinking of Hughie Cooper very often now the fighting is a bit rough in France, well let me tell you that Hughie will be alright, he is no doubt some miles behind the firing line and it is not the artillery that gets the shelling it is the infantry, but I wish him the very best of luck. I hear that you have had an extra amount of snow fall at home lately, we heard it was nine feet deep, but I am afraid that is rather over doing it. Well it is exactly the opposite out here, it is very hot here all day, but get quite chilly at night. I am glad it is because I am able to sleep like a top. You seem to have an idea that my eyes are very bad, you are quite mistaken they are not near so bad as you think. In fact, I have only to wear them while I am reading small print. I am not wearing them while writing this letter to you. I wrote to you two days ago hope you have received it. I always write back to you at once when I receive a letter from you. Well I must close now hoping you are all in the best of health at home I am in the pink as usual. Luw Morgan is alright, he is anxiously waiting for a letter from home. Give my love to Jon and Mag. I wrote to them last Sunday hope they will receive it alright. Give my love to Mailys and Dyfan hope they are doing well. Well so long for the present hope to get another letter soon. With best love and wishes to all.

I am
your loving son
Goronwy

Dear Dad 29.1916

Am very pleased to tell you that your letter of March 4th to hand today, thank you for it you can see that my letters are rolling in now
Goronway

 

 

 

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…

Evacuation of Gallipoli, January 7/8 1916

image

From the Illustrated London News January 15th 1916

imageThe evacuation of the peninsula had first been mooted in mid October; General Hamilton was opposed suggesting a 50% casualty rate. This prompted his replacement by General Sir Charles Munro who promptly made plans for evacuation. ANZAC and Suvla Bays were evacuated between December 10 and 20th. The final evacuation was from Cape Hellas where GCR was serving with the Greek Labour Corps. This was conducted over the night of January 7/8. The preparations and the deception techniques were so effective that there were only 3 casualties. GCR used to tell of how rifles were placed along the trench line set to fire once enough sand or water had dripped into a can attached to the trigger. The effect was to convince the Turks that the trenches were still occupied well after they had been abandoned.

Photo from awm.gov.au in the public domain

 

 

 

 

 

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