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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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Egypt

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 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…

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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