A letter from General Birdwood

Posted: May 3, 2017 by saraherhodes in 1916

Sommerville Hospital, Oxford
8 October 1916

Today your letter of 3 August came to hand.
The English girls are very lovely, some of them are just perfect, and they are all charming. I have met quite a number now. So far the dictionary has not turned up. Expect it was in some of the parcels opened after I left the Battalion. I told you I met Edwin Medlyn at Albert, just before we went in, didn’t I?

Yesterday I received a letter which I prize very much.

It was something to this effect:

1st Anzac Corps,
30 September 1916

Dear Rhodes:
I write to congratulate you very heartily upon the Military Cross, which you have won by the bravery and coolness which you displayed when under heavy fire near Mouquet Farm from the 12th to 14th of last month. You were, I know, buried four times by big shells but still continued to lead your men until you had yourself to be taken to the rear badly wounded.

Such an example is worth anything, and in thanking you for it, I do sincerely trust that you are now very much better, and that we may have the good fortune to have you back with us again to help to finish this war to its eventual complete success.
Yours Sincerely
W.R. Birdwood

The letter is typical of the man, no rank or decoration after his name. The result of that is that I now wear a purple and white ribbon and write the letters MC after my name.

Yesterday I heard that your cousin Mrs Bourne was in Oxford for the weekend. I went to see her this morning. She is very nice and quite a sport. I am taking her to lunch tomorrow and to the theatre in the evening.

By the way, I have caused quite a mild sensation in the hospital and have quite an embarrassing time over this M.C. Went for a fine walk this afternoon and visited Tom’s Tower- the tower on Christ Church. There is one of the biggest bells in it, in England. It has rung over Oxford for over a thousand years. At 9-5pm it rings 101 times, the original number of students in the College at its inauguration. When it is rung properly, it smashes all the windows in the tower. It isn’t rung properly except on very special occasions. Now it is only struck. To get to it you have to climb 110 steps above the roof of the building. Originally, it belonged to an Abbey, but when Wolseley built Christ Church he had the abbey pulled down and collared the bell. Wolseley of course fell into bad odour and passed of this mortal soil suddenly. Henry VIII jumped his building. One of the towers which I have been up is supposed to be haunted by his (Wolseley’s) ghost. I failed to see the ghost though.

Nearly every building here is covered with virginian creeper and it has been lovely the last few weeks. Now all the leaves are falling and the lawns, paths and streets are one mass of leaves. All the trees lose their leaves as well.

I go to London Saturday and am putting up with Mrs Bourne. From there I go to Mr Moss’ and Mr Lanyon’s. I expect to do a trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow too. I went to see the Clyde shipbuilding yards etc. I also expect to see various munitions factories at work.


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