Harry's Memoir to his Sons

When Harry's son Professor Stroud Francis Charles Milsom passed away on 24 February 2016 I was very fortunate to be given some memorabilia of Harry's, one item of which was the following 'memoir' that was written in an old school exercise book in faded pencil, which I then spent many hours transcribing and makes for fascinating reading: 

"Before coming to the attack in August 1914 let me briefly outline my various wanderings and actions since leaving Cambridge.  After your Uncle David sailed for New Zealand in the autumn of 1912 I felt very much at a loose end and missed him greatly.  You see we were close friends in spite of our differences in temperament that had much else in common and his companionship from the time we had sat together as Freshers in halls at Trinity we both --- coming in 1907 and were practically inseparable, had the same room in Park Road and enjoyed many a good rag together.  What great days those were and the memory of them is very pleasant though we drank the ---- and ----was a brilliant ----many a rag will not bear description now!


Early in 1912 I returned with your Uncles Stroud and Sidney to go British Columbia where we were sharing a Ranch.  The scheme was that the other two live there and develop the Ranch whilst I remained a sort of sleeping partner with a fixed amount invested in the scheme.   So I was not exactly anchored in BC but was free to roam round as I liked.  This was all very pleasant of course.   The life at the Ranch was very delightful, plenty of hard work and fishing and shooting too, with a visit to Kamloops or the coast whenever one wanted to get back to more or less civilized life.


It must have been about June that my thoughts began to wander and I got the idea of paying a visit to New Zealand to fulfil a promise I had made at Cambridge to your Uncle David.  Ostensibly of course I should not be rejoining my old Cambridge friend but there was something more than this at the back of my mind.  Your Uncle David’s sister and I were very good friends; we had first met at his 21st birthday dinner party in London on 1st October 1908 and I don’t think we quite hit it off exactly at the start as we were perhaps slightly disappointed in each other.  I had expected his sister to be tall, slim and fair – your Uncle David was very tall and very fair – whereas she was of medium height rather big and dark; she had anticipated that her brilliant athletic brother would have an equally distinguished all-round sportsman for a friend, whereas she found him a rather ordinary person with no special sporting attainments and a bit of a cripple after a racer had smashed off a motor cycle!


However as I say we ultimately became very good friends and had had many a very enjoyable dance together at the May bank balls.  But I had never regarded her, or I am sure she me, then as a ‘very good friend’.  On leaving Cambridge I had sent for my cabinet gramophone to her in New Zealand as a present with no other thought then little moment of many happy days with a good friend for was she not the sister of my greatest pal and the daughter of a very charming generous and handsome mother who had been kindness itself to me.  (That gramophone is in the room as I write this).


What was it then that was at the back of my mind when planning  a visit to New Zealand.  I bet you can guess.  I had begun to regard her with more wonderful feelings and I found myself desperately hoping for letters from her and writing with more zest than I was used to.  Finally I longed to see her again.  Hence the departure from the Ranch and the voyage from Vancouver to Auckland in September 1913. 

I first proposed to your mother at the Maclean's place in Dunedin; the exact time and date being 11:50am on Sunday the 5th October 1913.  I recorded the event in my diary that is before me as I write.  It took me a long time - a great deal of courage to come to the point.  You will note I said I 'first' proposed as I needn't explain that first shot wasn't successful.  Many others followed once I had broken the ice.  I did not record in my diary the exact number of times I repeated my proposal but I did so at least once a day and sometimes more.  Your dear mother was too kind hearted to squash me flat and for all time though I can remember occasions when her patience was sorely tried.  Sometimes I would get very petty and unjustifiably jealous and then there were rows, horrid ones.

I won't linger over my visit to New Zealand any longer.  I had a wonderful time and your Granny and Grandpa Collins were kindness itself to me.  I must mention that your Uncle David became very seriously ill whilst serving with the Mounted Police.

On Friday, January 16th 1914 I sailed from Wellington for home, one of the most miserable men in the world.  Your mother had become irritated by my silly behaviour and stupid jealousies and as far from having improved my position I had soon come to fear losing even the precious friendship that failing a closer affection, meant so much to me.    I left NZ like a beaten dog, or shall we say puppy, my visit a failure as far as the main object was concerned.  This knowledge depressed me briefly, I had made no plans for the future and had now no desire to form any.

The voyage home was uneventful.  It is only interesting to record that I sailed from Sydney to Genoa on a German liner, the ' ----- '. The attitude of the German officers was polite but strained and suggested hostility.  The chance of war was freely discussed and they made no bones about disclosing that they carried sealed orders in case of an outbreak.

I reached London on Sunday March 18th 1914 very glad to be in the dear old spot once more.  On returning home I found your Uncle Sidney had returned from British Columbia and we spent much of the next six weeks together as he had some free time before he returned to BC on April 16th.  It gives me much pleasure and sadness to think of those days now for that was the last time I was to spend with my brother under happy and normal conditions.  When we next met the world was in chaos.  I won't go into details of our doings that were very ordinary and fairly innocent, except to mention that amongst our many faults we both went to Hendon one day for a trip in an aeroplane.  Flying in those days was precarious rather and the machines were funny little craft compared with the high powered machines of today.  Our pilot was killed at war by crashing to ground in a nose dive.

Your Uncle Ted who was acting Sub-Lieutenant on the Destroyer Rifleman managed to get here occasionally and saw as much of him as I could.  His 21st birthday on June 4th of that year stands out vividly in my memory.  It was a great day for him and for your Grandfather Milsom who, an invalid in his earlier days never expected to live to see his youngest son attain 21 years of age.  Your Grandfather is very much alive to day and when I last saw him on his 70th birthday (December 1925) he was as hale and hearty as I have ever known him.

Your Uncle Ted and I also took a trip to Hendon one day and each had a separate flight.  His stretches of leave were naturally spasmodic and he was apt to turn up at any odd and unexpected moment and always the same charming, joyous, carefree clean-smelled fellow whom I knew was to live and was very very dear to me.  There was only 4 years difference in our ages, not much more than there is between you both and we were very much 'kids' together in our early days and were what we delighted to call 'bosom pals'.  Of course when I was well into my teens and about to go to Cambridge I felt very much a man of the world and was apt to patronise and 'come the heavy father' over my younger brother who would be then a young man.  Not that we had got over the 'colt' years and had long given up the childish delights of alternately ragging and scrapping - much as you both do and will do for a long time yet - we were drawn even close to one another and his cheery companionship meant much to me.  One of the most beautiful things imaginable was his great affection for his wonderful mother, your Granny Milsom to whom all the brothers and I loved her so much.  Surely it couldn't be that he too would be called upon to make the great sacrifice?  Must God always take the best?

But I must get back to June 1914.  It was on Sunday 14th of that month that your mother arrived in London from New Zealand with her relations the Pearces.  Mr and Mrs Arthur Pearce, Miss Pickle Pearce (your Godmother, Darrell).  Naturally I was elated at this reunion, though I wasn't at all sure of my reception by your mother as the last letter I had had from her was very far from encouraging!  However, I wasn't altogether displeased with my welcome on meeting her at the Langham Hotel that evening.  Thereafter I spent as much time as I was allowed in her precious company and they were very happy days.

We had many jaunts and my car came in particularly useful.  One jaunt in particular stands out vividly in my memory as it was the last we were to have free from the rumbling of the distant thunder of war.  That was on July 18th, a Saturday, when I returned your mother, her Aunt Lady Buckingham and cousin Miss Hunt to Petersfield to watch some light car trials.  It was a perfectly glorious day and I was supremely happy because your mother was very kind to me.  I also remember watching an airship manoeuvring aloft (the ---- of the fleet at Portsmouth was about to take place) and some instinct made me wonder whether its services were to be required in deadly earnest before long.  I left my party and took the train back to London from Petersfield and motored on to Portsmouth as I was to meet your Uncle Ted there.  As I have said, the Grand Fleet was circulating previous to manoeuvres and he had invited me down to go aboard his Destroyer before they sailed.  We spent the evening ashore, went to a Music Hall and after watched a magnificent searchlight display of the Fleet.  Next day, Sunday, I went aboard the 'Rifleman' with him and he showed me over the ship and explained everything to me.  What a day that was!  The sight of that mighty fleet at anchor and ready for sea was most impressive and can never be forgotten by those fortunate enough to witness it, especially in view of the fact that in 16 days time this great and powerful navy was destined to be called upon to fulfil its magnificent purpose, guard our shores from the invasion of the enemy and keep his fleet off the seas.  

Next morning the Fleet put to sea early and I returned to Bath.  News came that afternoon of the assassination at Sarajevo and I remember saying particularly 'This will mean a European war, England will be in it and I shall have to join up!'  Little did I realize that what I said in rash jest should become the tragic truth.  Austria declared war on Serbia on Tuesday, July 25th and the tornado was about to break.

The next day your Uncle Ted, who had come home on leave the day before, and I motored to Weston-super-Mare and were dining quietly together at the Royal Hotel when a message was telephoned through that his leave was curtailed and he was to return on Friday.  This of course was because of the uncertainty of events and the possibility of England being embroiled in the storm that threatened to break.  So we motored back leisurely only to find a wire awaiting him at home that he was return to his ship at once.  This was very unexpected and Ted was not inclined to pack off at such an hour of the night but rather to await the morning.  How vividly I recall the scene in the Billiard Room!  Your Grandfather Milsom whose patriotic soul was aflame and all too conscious of the need for readiness could not understand your dear Uncle Ted's phlegmatic attitude which emulated that of the Drake when the Spanish Armada was at sea.  At last however he succumbed to your Grandfather's pleadings and I motored him down to the station at midnight and saw him off to rejoin his ship.  I remember very little detail of this night and the long wait and chat on the platform until the train arrived.  Little though did I realise at the time what was ahead and that that goodly and fun lunch was to be our last.  That was the last time I was to clasp my dear brothers hand and the last time we were ever to see one another on Earth. 

Next day I returned to London.  The writing in my diary 'Europe in Chaos' explains my impression of the moment.

On Saturday August 1st the Pearces, your mother and I all went to stay with some friend at L--- Park, Gunnislake.  On Sunday it seemed certain war would come and on our return to London on Monday we found excited crowds parading the streets at night and congregating outside Buckingham Palace.  War seemed inevitable on the Tuesday.  I was sleeping at my Club in 68 Pall Mall - or trying to sleep - when an unusual roar of cheering at 11pm told me that war had been declared against Germany.

I had always previously talked about and regarded war as being romantic and exciting, in fact as something rather enjoyable.  For years war had been discussed and considered unavoidable.  Now that it had really come some glimmering of the ghastly horror and true meaning of the word began to dawn on me and it was a serious and sober minded fellow I felt at breakfast next morning.  One expected almost immediate news of a terrific engagement at sea and close visit from Germany's much feared Zeppelins.  It was whilst reading the papers about the possibility of attacks from the air that something occurred which made London in general, and me in particularly, jump.  A most terrific crash shook the house and we all rushed to the windows.  But it wasn't a bomb, but just one single and unexpected thunder clap that frightened us all!  However this was no time to vegetate, one had to be up and doing and I decided quickly what to do and how to do it.  A glance at the crowds scrambling to get into the Recruiting Offices convinced me of the futility of going in that sort of scrapping and so I decided to go up to Cambridge where they were enrolling members of the University and enlist there. I bade your mother hasty farewell and motored off.  On Thursday August 6th I found myself the man in possession of the CUOTC uniform, with rifle and equipment.  I had put my name down for service overseas at the HQ which were fixed at Corpus (one of the Colleges) and had been passed medically fit.  I had no difficulty whatever in being accepted as I had had a certain amount of previous training, having been a corporal in the Corps at school, winner of the Banning Medal for shooting - also at Cambridge I had passed the Special Examination in Military subjects, an exam which counted towards a degree and was initiated for the benefit of undergraduates taking Commissions in the Regular Army.

What my name was down for I neither knew nor cared much.  My scholarship, as was the case for every half decent Englishman, was to help swell the ranks and get to the war before it was over.  Had I but known I could for my own benefit have hung on a while until things were more organised, stood a better chance of then more or less of getting onto whatever regiment or branch of the service I particularly wished to join.  But this was not the time to think much of oneself but simply to take the shortest cut that seemed possible.  As things turned out I have no regrets, though there were times later on when I cursed my impulsive action and lack of forethought.

However, my fate was now in the lap of the Gods.  I had simply to wait and see, and hoping the while that I shouldn't miss the war!  Very few people I think really thought a war of such magnitude could possible last more than 6 months - I personally put it down as six weeks.  In the meanwhile I quartered myself at the Lion Hotel in Cambridge, donned my CUOTC uniform, reported every day at Mr Combe's Rooms in Pembroke College for orders.  As I was the possessor of a car, a Studebaker which would accommodate 7 people, I was much on call for various duties, such as visiting certain guards and patrols and taking out reliefs and rations etc.  My area of operations extended from Newmarket to Bishops Stortford.  This useful but rather dull employment kept me busy for a while but there was nothing much to be done except await orders.  News from France and Belgium kept us on the jump.  I see a writing in my diary 'Germany not getting it all her own way'.  This was made when Liege was holding out gallantly and the Germans were for a time held up.  Hope sometimes ran high; I remember headlines in the paper 'Will Germany now meet her Waterloo?' Again, we were always assailed by the fear we should miss it all!  Kitchener now proclaimed that war would last at least 3 years but no one believed him!  It wouldn't be possible.  But Germany was by no means held up and when Liege at last fell after an heroic resistance and fell unexpectedly and alarmingly early, after which things began to look very black.  

My only one and constant anxiety was the welfare of my brother Ted for I imagined a general engagement at sea imminent.

On Thursday the 20th I was in London and happened to run into your Uncle Sidney at the Waldorf Hotel.  At the outbreak of war he immediately left the Ranch in British Columbia and took the first boat home to enlist behind a great regathering along with other BC friends who had likewise come home to enrol.  On the morning of the 22nd I saw in "The Times" I had been gazetted as a 2nd Lieut to the 5th Somerset Light Infantry.  I hadn't the remotest idea where the Batt was or what I was to do next, but as your Uncle was in great haste to further put his name down I persuaded him to motor up to Cambridge with me and apply for a Commission.  As an old member of the CUOTC and bit of a reputation for Big Game Hunting he was accepted straight away and told to await his appointment.  This he did as patiently as he could though the delay vexed him horribly,  Of course feelings ran very high at this time and no one who was of age to serve cared to be sun-lounging about.  We were supping one evening at Maxims off Leicester Square with another Cambridge man, one commissioning to RAMC and the other an Engineer in the RNR.  We were all in mufti and at the next table sat a lot of medical students in the uniform of RAMC privates on the eve of leaving for France as stretcher bearers.  These lads had done themselves too well and were rather tight, so imagining us to be shirkers one of the two of them became very offensive though handsomely apologetic on finding out their mistake.  Meanwhile I was busy getting fitted out with uniforms and kit.

I had had orders from my Battalion about joining and what I was expected to procure in the matter of kit etc.  All sorts of uniforms had to be obtained, but this didn't take long and on Wednesday Sept 2nd I motored to Salisbury Plain and found the Battalion encamped at Durrington.  Joining ones Battalion for the first time can only be compared to joining at school and I felt very much as a 'new boy' especially as I did not know a single soul, not even by name, and I hadn't the remotest idea whether I would be welcome or otherwise.  On this last point I was soon to be informed for I had a mauvais quatre d'harc in the Orderly Room next morning on reporting to the Colonel.  The officer commanding the 5th Somerset Light Infantry was Lt Col Crope Hurl and a finer officer and gentleman never lived (he was killed in a hunting accident many years ago and by his death we lost a very great friend).  However, the Colonel made it perfectly plain to me that my appointment to his Battalion was not in the least desired by him, in fact he had opposed it and had applied for my transfer.  This was not encouraging to say the least of it and did not tend to make me feel very at home.  But I quite saw his point and though agreed with him thought I dared not for the moment reply that I too was extremely disappointed at being posted to a Batt of which I knew nothing and nobody I would have infinitely preferred some other Regiment where I should be with my Varsity friends.  However he softened at my meek and mild attitude and seemed mollified by any explanations that I had made no attempt whatever to be gazetted to his Battn or to any particular Regiment for that matter.  So with a final and somewhat kinder admonition to work hard and make myself efficient as quickly as possible - which I naturally intended to do, he dismissed me and I saluted and took my leave with my heart very much in my boots.  As I have said the CO was right.  He had already picked out his own officers from the area from which the Batt was recruited and naturally those officers who were well known to him and to the whole Battalion were preferable to people from outside the area who were also both strangers and also unlikely to remain in the Batt after the war.  Bitterly did I curse my impulsive plunge at Cambridge and regretted I had not waited a day or two and pulled strings to get fixed up up more appropriately.

However, I had to face the music and take things as they were and I didn't long have much cause to be downhearted for the Mess were perfectly ripping to me, a jollier and nicer lot of fellows would be hard to find right from the Second-in-Command to the junior souls - as was the senior of the University draft of which there were two at Cambridge, two Oxford and two Bristol men I was a long way from being the junior sub myself.  I had bought the Studebaker to camp and very useful it was, in fact I didn't do much ordinary serfs work the whole time we were on the Plain as I was given odd jobs to do with the car.  My first meeting with him whom you know as 'Uncle Frank'; then Captain Urwich, was to motor him to down to Yeovil and district gathering in Recruiting Sergeants.  That was on Sunday Sept 6th and it was on that day that I first met 'Aunt Mary' as you had been at Yeovil - I need hardly say she was as charming and delightful as she ever was or will be.  I blessed myself a thousand times that I could motor into Salisbury in the afternoon to the public hot baths. 

Once I was detailed to motor the Brigadier down to Bournemouth after lunch.  Perhaps it was because he had lunched very comfortably but he was very sleepy and I was horrified to find he had finally nodded off and his head was resting peacefully on my shoulder. This would never do as we were passing through a crowded military area and the sight of a Brass Hat and junior subaltern thus would be detrimental to good order and military discipline, so on coming to the next corner I swung round it as suddenly and fast as I dared, throwing the poor old General with an awful thump up against the rear end of the car which woke him up perfectly!  He was a ripper though and talked much about the war and kept repeating the lurid prophecy that I should 'get a bellyful'.

I should have mentioned that I had been posted to D Company under command of Captain Major ----- Those were the days of the 8 company system ------ had not been started with us.

For reasons I have already given I wasn't of much use to the Company because I was forever being detailed for one job or another with my car.  The Colonel got very surly once; the after effects of inoculation against typhoid which we had to undergo with more or less unpleasant results; and I was asked to take him to his home in Lyndhurst, a memorable run. Little did I think at the time that I would pay many happy visits to his place after the war.   Shortly after, when the recruiting companies had resulted in large drafts joining us, the Battn began to assume very large proportions and it was evident that it would soon have to be split and that one half would be the 'Service' Battn and the other than 'Reserve' Batt.  There was much speculation as to whom would be the sad lot of having to be left to help form the Reserves.  I did not at all like my chances as the CO had already a full compliment of officers of his own choosing before I arrived, and if there were any vacancies he was sure to allot them to subalterns from the Battalion area and we Varsity people would get left.  Sure enough it was thus, and when the 'Sarge' list was made known my name was not included in it.  Though expected, it was a bitter pill and I was very cut up and  crept to my tent thoroughly miserable.  Next morning however I was slighted cheered by the Adjutant who confided to me that all would be well.  My Company Commander Capt Major, then promised me he would put in a strong word on my behalf.  I was not kept long in suspense and found myself on the same day definitely appointed to 'O' company of the Service Battn much to my relief and joy.  It was about this time I heard from my brother Sidney who had been appointed to the 8th Battn Rifle Brigade that he had gone through very much the same sort of thing in his Regiment, as the CO hadn't much use for anyone who wouldn't be a Duke or Etonion!  We both had excellent reason to change our opinions of our respective COs soon!

On Saturday Sept 19 I put my name down for leave and to my intense joy and astonishment got it!  So on Tuesday after morning drill I caught the afternoon train for Waterloo and had 3 very happy days in Town seeing as much of your mother, who was at ---- Court with the Pearces, as I possibly could.  Friday the 25th was a memorable day for me, as she and I ran into your Uncle Sidney unexpectedly at the Waldorf Hotel and we all had a great chat.  We separated to our respective Units and cheerily shook hands bidding each other cheerio and the best of luck.  We were never to meet again as that was the last glimpse I ever had of him.  The dear old chap was destined to play a glorious role in Flanders before many months were out and he too made the Great Sacrifice. 

On returning from leave I found the Battle in great ferment.  We were under orders for India.  This was hardly what we wanted and not exactly what was anticipated.  Rumours as to our fate had previously been freely cast about; at one time we were told our destiny was to be to mount defences of Paris!  At any minute we expected to be 'somewhere in France' and now we found ourselves ordered to uphold our postings in the East.  It seemed rather ignominious, yet on looking back I can fully appreciate the vital necessity at the time of sending troops - and good troops too - to fortify the Empire.  Duty is duty whether it is in the line or at home, and has to be done.  Our Indian Expeditionary Force had already been dispatched to France and the gap had to be filled.  A ----- and failure to ensure adequate protection for India as we have had ----- consequences to England's cause in the East downfall of the ---- jewel in the Empire must have followed.  But at least think we appreciated that much at this time and felt rather slighted at our -------

Special leave was then given to enable us to collect our kit, guns, etc and all for soldiering in India.  I made the most of the opportunity and motored up to London anyhow to see your mother.  On my return the following day to Battn I purchased a parting gift for her - a small pearl necklace - that necklace she now wears.  In fairness I ought to say that I never gave your darling mother much and I had fired proposals at her with monotonous regularity all the time she had been in England.  Lately I seemed to have met with some measure of success and on this last rush up to town I had succeeded in getting a note from her - we had had no opportunity for a quiet chat alone - to the point that I "...might ask again in 6 months time!"

On Sunday Oct 4th, exactly a year counting from Sunday to Sunday - after I had first proposed at Dunedin, I wrote from Camp beseeching her to forego her six months grace and give me an answer.  To my understandable joy I received her reply on the Tuesday following, giving the longed for consent.  Can you imagine my delight?  My cup of happiness was full and I now cared for nothing and nobody - not even the CO who was in a bad temper that day and gave us all a dressing down - no not even he could deflate me. I trod on air.  My one only thought now was to get away to London for a last visit before embarking.  I know it would be useful to apply formally to the CO and I had already been very kindly treated on the matter of leave.  But the adjutant (Capt Walsh) was a jolly good fellow and when I explained my position to him he understood and gave consent of unofficial sanction not only to myself but to two other fellows also (Banes Walker and Timmins) to be away from the Camp providing we were back in time for parade next morning, and we were all warned 'not to let him down'.  So that afternoon, I and the two others motored to Salisbury (where I left the old Studebaker for the garage people at Bath to call for.  The old car had done me very proud and later on my brother Sidney took her over when he went into Camp on the Plain).  From Salisbury we took the train and I went straight to meet your mother at Lady Buckingham's flat in 70 Victoria Street.  Oh the joy of that meeting!   After dining we made our excuses to Aunt Laura that I wanted to say good bye to the Pearces and so off we went together to Whitehall Court ostensibly to pay them a farewell visit first.  This was not strictly the truth for we knew the Pearces were out that night.  Our little ruse was I hope pardonable for there was such a lot we wanted to say to one another and this was our last chance of being alone.  What a precious hour that was and how happy we were - I cannot describe it or attempt to write what it meant to you dear boys.  You too I hope will one day experience similar happiness and then you will understand.  As a matter of fact the Pearces did turn up at last and so I did say goodbye after all and then we returned to 70 Victoria Street and said my farewells to Aunt Laura. It was a sad moment when at last I had to tear myself away and bid your mother goodbye.  

Having called for Barnes Walker and Timmins they took my breath away by simply saying 'Salisbury Plain'.  It is a good 100 miles drive and it took some persuasion before the man agreed to put a fill of petrol in tankers.  It was a memorable journey, intolerably cold and slow for our driver was a nervous man and many military camps had to be passed.  His one great fear was that he would be shot at if he failed to hear a challenge - as he alleged had recently happened to a friend of his.  However, we reached camp ahead of the dawn, paid our taxi-man £5.10 and after a hasty toilet appeared more or less fresh on early morning parade, much to the amusement of those few friends who knew of our escapade.

That day we were to have been inspected by great Lord Kitchener but after a hectic and anxious preparation, and a long and tiring way all drawn up and ready, the famous General failed to materialise.  It transpired that an unexpected crisis had called him to an urgent meeting at the War Office.  However, all the officers were assembled and addressed by a Big Brass Hat who deputised for Lord K and who bade the Wessex Division a swift farewell for London, the best of luck and safe travel away to France. We should lose nothing in the way of honours or decorations (an empty promise that was repudiated after the war was over by a succeeding Brass Hat.  The Germans were not ----- in their ideas of a 'Scrap of Paper')

I distinguished myself on that parade by placing my sword half an inch into my hand on returning it rather too smartly to its scabbard.  The sword, one of Wilkinson's, had a point like a needle and if you feel it now - it has not been sharpened since - you will still find it quite serviceable, so treat it with respect!  On Friday Oct 9th we marched off from the Plain and onward to Southampton.  The Battalion embarked on the Alnwick Castle, a small ship on which no accommodation could be found for the 2 Senior Majors and the subalterns who were all transferred to the Kenilworth Castle, the flag ship of the convoy on which were also the 4th Wilts under the command of Lord Radnor, both of the Hants and also a battery.  We were in ----- only on the Kenilworth Castle as she was a most comfortable ship and there was ample accommodation (for officers at any rate, the poor men were rather cramped).  I shared a cabin with McCrick who had joined the Battn from Cambridge.  We subalterns were practically on our own and under the command of the two senior Majors, themselves very young at heart in spite of their years, had the time of our lives.  Duties were comparatively light, a little physical drill and mustering and an occasional tour of duty as Officer of the Watch.  Other than that we did much as we pleased and I fear that in either ragging about, playing deck games or else a little gamble in the smoking saloon in the evening.  Officer of the Watch was an interesting job but I never liked inspecting below decks especially when we got into the Red Sea and at the Mess Dinners - the atmosphere was awful, one could cut it with a knife; but they were splendid men that 1914 lot and never a grouse did I hear.

As far as Gibraltar we were escorted by British Cruisers and from thereon by French Cruisers.  What amazes me more is that we had very little fear of submarines which proved sad and terrible, mean and wrong that such destination late on in the war.  Yet we were very anxious about the Ermden, a raiding German Cruiser which was loose on the seas and gave good account of itself before they finally and completely were taken by the heels by the Australian Cruiser Sydney.  

I forgot to mention that we were a large convoy, the whole Division and our ships made an inspiring display as they steamed through the Mediterranean through the canal and in to the Indian Ocean. We were lucky enough to have an extremely calm voyage all through. 

We anchored off Malta on Sunday Oct 18th.  Reached Port Said on Thursday the 22nd, landed for a walk, re-embarked and proceeded down the canal the same night.  The entrance of our convoy into the canal was rather impressive.. The Alnwick Castle with the 1/8 Somerset Light Infantry on board, headed to in with the bands playing God Save the King and the Marseillaise.  Flags were dipped and salutes exchanged between English and French Cruisers.  We passed some English cruisers too and greetings and jests were freely exchanged; the sailor boys pulling our legs both crying out 'Hi, you're going the wrong way'!!  Little did they, or did we, realise that the Company's in the East were to take sad toll of our numbers, the many of those who were spared and saw the war through would not return that way homeward bound for 5 long and weary years.  That night we heard the rumour that spies had succeeded in exploding mines and blocking the canal but this turned out to be false, though an attempt had been made.  It was during this period that Turkey's attitude was much in doubt, she had not yet thrown in her lot with the Germans though the indication was that she would do so.  What a thousand pities it was that her --partial diplomacy failed us then.  It would have made a world of difference if Turkey could have been persuaded from allowing herself to be cajoled by the Kaiser; then Mesopotamia and Palestine Company's would never have taken place and the East would have been free ---- at the loss of thousands and thousands of valuable lives would have been saved and our troops spared for service in France.

However, we reached Suez safely on the 23rd Oct and we now learned we were to stay there a few days (this stop was, we were told, a precaution in view of Turkey's doubtful attitude and we might have to stop on the Canal.  But we didn't and the entry in my diary for Tuesday 27th reads 'Leave Suez, thank God!')  This briefly and adequately describes my feelings at leaving that excessively uninteresting and smelly port.  We did nothing in particular then and the only thing of any passing interest was the boat race we had with the Hants and Wilts.  We Somersets rather fancied ourselves as a crew and felt certain of winning but owing to faulty coxing our boat and the Wilts boat collided a few seconds after the start and so the Hants had a walkover.  

On the 29th we passed the Australian transporter en route for Egypt.  It was now getting fearfully hot.

We reached Bombay on Monday Nov 9th and being too late to land anchored in the harbour.  Next morning we disembarked and rejoined our Battalion.  Took train the same evening en route for Jubbulpore (previous to leaving England we had been told that our destination was to be Jhansi).  

We arrived at Jubbulpore on Thursday Nov 12th and were played into barracks by the Cheshire's band (we were relieving the Cheshire's).  The Barracked were good, our bungalows were good and the Club was excellent.

There is nothing very much to record of our stay at Jubbulpore.  We were very fortunate in that our CO had previously seen much service in India and so had our Quartermasters Band; so we were quickly schooled into Indian ways and soon got to know the ropes.  At first I made a habit of looking in my blankets for snakes and scorpions but I soon gave it up and got used to sleeping under a mosquito net.  I shared a bungalow with the two ------ and Capt Duke.  I had engaged a Bearer on the way up, he was a nippy little devil named Shata and worked very hard.  I had to get rid of him before the end of the year as he was found to be suffering from a horrible disease, which piece of news scared me very much!  

We were not allowed to remain at Jubbulpore unfortunately and left on 5th Dec for Ambala.  The night before leaving I got my first go of sand fly fever and had a very bad time of it.  However, Murphy, our doctor man, gave me a pinch of morphine and after a day I was able to drive to the Station and return to bed in the train and there I lay until we reached Ambala at 8am on the 7th by which time I was nearly fit again.  

At Ambala we were prepared to settle for some little time.  It is a very ugly and uninteresting place and I never got to like it.  But it was there I first met Col and Mrs Dallas whom you both know and who are very kind to you and often send presents.  Col Dallas was Commissioner of Ambala, a very senior and important appointment and it was the first duty of every arrival to call upon him.  An invitation to this was like a Royal Command and it was with much trepidation and fear that I, a junior subaltern, answered the summons.  But I need not have been so terrified as a more charming and delightful couple never lived and they showed me much kindness, and especially to your mother when she arrived in London later on, so we have every reason to be very grateful to them.  

The situation in London, which was rather critical before our arrival owing to the disturbance and alarms of the World War and the doubtful attitude of Eastern ----- and all backed up by German propaganda to bring about an upheaval everywhere, now resumed the normal and it was evident our job, until called to more active spheres, would be purely garrison work.  It obviously impressed the natives greatly that England was able to command large armies in France and still have troops to send to India.  

But army life in India, be it peace or war, is very 'social' and we had to carry on with rigorous training for active service and at the same time play our part in the usual social life of an Indian Station, which of course is not at all unpleasant, so we had lots of tennis, cricket, shooting, dancing etc.

On Xmas Day I dined with the ------ and a very cheery dinner party they had which I immensely enjoyed in spite of severe tummy pains from which I was suffering at the time.  I took some flash-light photo of the party which you will see in my album.

I lunched with my company in Barracks and was royally entertained by the NCOs and men, a very fine lot with whom I was beginning to settle down well to understand one another.

The writing in my diary on 31st Dec 1914 reads more like a prayer.  'What a lot has happened ... wonder what the New Year brings out?  God grant a good and happy one and speedy end to the war.  Bring us all safely through it." 

January to April of the New Year were not very eventful.  We trained hard and completed what was known as 'Kitchener's Test' quite satisfactorily.  These tests consisted, as far as I can remember, of hard marches ending in an attack, night operations and ---------- on following days. These again might end in an attack next day with live ammunition. Finally, a long march back to Barracks.  It was considered a point of honour that no man should fall out, all the same there were a few lame ducks who limped back to barracks.

On the 20th April news came that a draft was to be sent to the Persian Gulf and there was great excitement as to who should be sent with it; only one officer was to decide by seniority.  When the choice was given to 'Uncle Stanley', then Lieutenant Goodland, he jumped at it and in due course proudly marched off at the head of the small band of picked men which formed our first draft to Mesopotamia.  If that gallant band that so proudly marched out of Barracks that May night of 1915, with the Band playing the Regimental March and the Battn cheering itself hoarse but very few, I think only 2, arrived.  'Uncle Stan went through the severest campaign imaginable and if you ever get him to tell you the tale of it you will be lucky, but listen well for it is a tale well worth the learning.  The pluck and endurance of that small army that fought its way up the Tigris in those early days of the war and endeavoured to reach Baghdad is now History.  Uncle Stanley went through this part of the campaign with conspicuous success and earned for himself a Military Cross and mention in dispatches.

One action of his, he won't tell about but I will for him, was when he himself was hit by a bullet in the thigh and things were going badly for his side. A slight withdrawal of the line was necessary and all wounded had been got back to the new line of defence.  Spying through his glasses he saw a brother officer, who was thought to have been killed, move.  In spite of his own severe wound and regardless of the nearby fire of the enemy he crawled forward and actually succeeded in dragging his wounded colleague back into safety and successfully evaded the heavy fire brought to bear on him.  There is no finer or more self sacrificing deed a man can do than this and you may take it from me it demands courage and nerve and a complete disregard for self.

What surprises me most in looking through my diary is the number of times I had to go sick during the start of the war.   India wasn't treating me kindly and I suffered very badly in health at this time and had severe attacks of migraine at frequent intervals and these bouts knocked me out for a day or two at a time.  In May I got very sickly indeed.  The heat was terrible and I had moved my quarters to Parry's Hotel to get the benefit of the ------.  But it didn't help much and on May 17th I went down with a touch of the sun.  On the 22nd I was given special sick leave and went up to Sundar.  The cooler climate of these Hills was a godsend to me but in spite of it I failed to pick up and went down with a severe fever whilst staying at Falettis Hotel.  There was nothing to do but stick in bed, the Station MD looked after me and my Bearer nursed me, but I don't know what would have happened had not a Good Samaritan found me out and transferred me to his bungalow.  The GS was a Captain Sleigh, an Engineer in charge of the Kalka Shimla railway who had spent some weeks with the Battalion at Ambala as an attached Officer, he was an excellent sort and we all liked him immensely.  However, as I said, he discovered my whereabouts in the Hotel and had me taken to his delightful bungalow and put me to bed in his dressing room.  The change worked wonders for me.  Both he and Mrs Sleigh were kindness itself and I shall never forget nor can ever repay their help and hospitality.  I was gently nursed back to health, well-cooked food and cheerful surroundings and the comfort of the delightful home quickly put me on my legs once more.  

It was whilst staying with the Sleighs that I got a cable from your mother saying that Uncle David was going to be married and your Grandfather Collins was off in charge of a Hospital Ship.  This unsettled me and made me think; if my old friend David could get married why shouldn't I?  I took Mrs Sleigh completely into my confidence and found in her that sympathy and understanding which was a great comfort and help.  The upshot of it all was ..............................  this is where the memoir ends and there appears to be no further notes