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Friday, 17 September 2010

Letter Home - 17 September 1915 and Bertie's Diary - 16 September, 1915


16 September, 1915

It was a very busy morning, rushing round after kit, which took a bit of collecting, as one is never quite certain what you want.


211 Piccadilly, London, W.

September 17, 1915

Dear Mother,
Before starting this I will just mention we are in uniform for the second time, and my hand is a bit shaky as Bee and I have come down Piccadilly all out trying to dodge salutes. I should imagine saluting is all right in Camp but in town it is a beastly nuisance, especially when you feel as brand new as we do.

We got our first letters from home last Monday, and I'm sure your fowl boy would look more like a tima tic than ever in my old suits. A lot has been done since I last wrote, in fact I doubt I will remember all that has happened.

On Saturday we took Colonel Appleton out to lunch, (when I say we, I mean Mr Gilliard and the five others of us). He is in the Colonial Offices in Victoria Street, and Mr Gilliard thinks he might be of some use to us. In the afternoon we were marched round to the War Office, where we were medically examined. Then Major Dawson had an interview with us.

He seemed a very nice man, much better than the first person we met there. He told us to go and order uniforms and said that we would have commissions in a very short time. Of course, he talked very nicely about Australians and said he would like to get a lot more of them and that they were doing splendidly. From the War Office, we rushed straight round to get our uniforms at a place called Moss, where they fit you out in a very short time.

On Sunday, we journeyed to Hyde Park in the morning to meet Bobbie Laurence, whom we took to lunch with us. Mim took Bee and self down to her hospital at Mitcham about 9 miles out. It is a beautiful spot for a hospital, especially the hall, which has enormous grounds, and a river to punt on. The men all seemed full of life, but it was very sad to see some of those who had lost their sight or who had been paralysed by shellfire. We met two or three Australian Tommies there. They seemed very good chaps, and I think they were pleased to see someone who'd just come over. We taxied Freyda back with us to Piccadilly where she left us to dine with a friend. She looks very thin and tired looking, I 1don't think she can be well. Dan came to dine with us that night, and after dinner we all went round to Lancaster Gate, where we met a regular nest of Australians, among whom were – Dunstulls, McArthurs and Russells from Carngham

On Monday, we lunched with a lot of people at the Ladies Empire Club. Philip and Bob were there, and we gained a lot of information from the former, who was back on five days leave from the front. Tuesday was spent at Greystones with the Russells -  at least we lunched there and took the train back about 4 p.m.They have a nice little house there - it is quite close to Brooklands and is very well sheltered by timber. Bo Fairbairn was there. Hhe looks fairly wel,l but does not look as if he had much go in him.

Mr and Mrs Russell look very well, but Joan is a bit off-colour. They say Alec is coming back on leave on Sunday, but doubt whether we shall see him or not. That same night we had the Carngham Russells out to dinner at Princes Rest, and then went on to Quinneys, which was a one-man show, but beautifully acted.

Wednesday, we had our uniforms tried on. In fact, we put them on and had a group taken at a shop nearby, with our right-hand man Mr Gilliard in the centre. The proof looks very good, and I will send you out one of each as soon as we get them. At 12 that day we caught a train from Holborn Viaduct – Mim, Uncle, Bee, Mr Gilliard and self, for Chatham. We had lunch there and, in the afternoon, had a look over portion of the naval dockyard. It was all very interesting, and we saw the latest in submarines and other odds and ends, amongst which was the Orvieto. There was also a new monitor - a peculiar looking ship, which has a 15 inch gun at the bow and stern. I believe they are building them for the Danube. We dined down there and returned in the evening.

Thursday, all our names were in the paper as being gazetted, so we all put on our uniforms, just to get ourselves used to them before going to the training camp. We have not heard where or when that will be, but have no doubt that we shall get notice at any moment.

Mim's leave expired yesterday, and she had to go back to work in the afternoon, which was bad luck. She was a bit off-colour but have heard this morning that she is quite well. She really looks very well - I think she is a wee bit stouter than when she left Australia, which is not saying much. She seemed keen to get back to work, just as we are keen to get going at ours.

We have been to lots of theatre since we came over but can't remember one from another. I don't think the reviews are a patch on what we saw last year, such as the Passing Show. They seem to be a kind of mixed grill the whole way through. The message has just come that we are all to proceed to the War Office this morning. I wonder what our fate will be. Well, mum, I think that everything has gone down - anyway there seems to be no more news,

Hoping you are all well,

your affectionate son,

PS no time to read this through.

(The diaries proper do not begin until November - there will be no more posts until the next letter we have, which was written on 2 October 1915)


  1. Z, I like what you write and especially enjoy being able to share your grandfather's diary. Great photos. Hopefully I am now learning to blog. Blip

  2. Elizabeth - I'm going to put the information you've given me about Freyda on the Friends and Relations page.

  3. October 2nd ... come and gone ... I am only a new reader, in response to a commnt from yourself.

    Do continue with this, if you have the time ...

  4. No-one in the family has any idea. Hoping someone will read it and explain.