World War ! Letters to a Mate from Bert.. Part 1

I thought that I would write a different kind of Blog for this special week of remembrance, and share with you some special letters that I have made copies of, thanks to my Aunt. They were written to my Dads elder brother Daniel, who was born in July 1897, Clapham by his Mate ‘Bert’ who I am certain is Alfred Gibbs but used the name Bert as a nickname. He enlisted in the 13th Battalion East Surrey Regiment (Wandsworth) in 1915, and after training he was sent to France. I have not had much success with any records about him although I do, as you will see from the letters have his Number 13179.

There is nothing extroadinary about Bert or Dan or the letters for that matter, they were just two mates who it seems kept in touch throughout the war, Dan was unable to enlist because he had very poor eyesight due to having measles as a child, although he tried several times to be accepted.
War is all about these ‘ordinary’ blokes doing their duty, so I find it lovely to read these, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do and have a little laugh at some of the things said. Some have been a bit difficult to read, but I have written them up just as he wrote them, with *** on bits too faded to decipher.

My Uncle Dan died in 1977, he was a terrible rogue, having spent several spells ‘inside’ during his life, mostly I gather for looking after stolen gear ! he never married or had any children, I loved him and loved visiting him, at his funeral were a host of ‘mafia looking’ types all with their posh cars and flash suits, my Dad was amazed, he had obviously done them ‘favours’ of one kind or another during his life and they had come to pay their respects. My Uncle and Aunt found these letters along with others after he had died, so were unable to ask any questions about them.

Original first letter

Posted 27 Sept 1915

From Pte A Gibbs No 13179                     
13th Batt East Surrey Reg, 6 Platoon B Coy
Address reply to
Witley Camp, Witley, Godalming, Surrey

     Just a line to tell you how we are getting on, we are getting on all right, and I hope you are as well.
Witley is not much of a place and is all right for pigs. The bugs are awful they go on route marches and do squad drill all night form about turn and so on. I may see you next week end, I wrote to Mick but have not had an answer. Get Ted Woods address, I did not exactly know Micks address and he might not have got the letter, so tell him remember me to the boys and tarts at the P.D.

From Bert
Posted 10 April 1916
Pte A gibbs
Frith Hill Huts, Blackdown No 13179,
Signaller Section, B company, 13th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.

Dear Mate
Just a line hoping you are quite well and getting on alright as it leaves me at present. Well mate I am expecting to go to France any day now but I dont think it will hurt us after what we have gone through down here and I wont be sorry to get out there as I have just had enough of this after having ten months training. Well mate I often wonder how the boys are getting on and I would like to see some of them before I go away but I dont think I will be able to as I wont get anymore leave and I aint had none for 3 months. Well Dan I was suppose to have been out there a two months ago but I overstayed my leave and missed the draft so I am still attached to the Surreys. I think this is all and must now close hoping you are quite well, remember me to the tarts

From Bert

Pte A Gibbs 13179 B Coy
Signallers Section
13th east Surreys Regt
Frith Hill Huts
Blackdown Camp
Postmarked July ? (1916)

Dear Dan
 Just a line in answer to your letter which I received in France and I am sorry I could not answer it before as we have been on the shift but I am answering it now so I hope you will remember me to the boys and girls Dear Dan I had a fair good journey here, but sorry I could not see you before I went but cheer up I may see you yet so dont give up up hopes. I think this is all for this time but write quick as a letter cheers one up when so far away, I must now close hoping to hear from you soon

From your Old Mate Bert

I would be glad if you see (L Jones) and get me a photo

“The Battalion received orders to proceed to France at the beginning of June 1916, according to their War Diaries, Officers 33, Other Ranks 970, they arrived at Harve on 5th June 1916 and by two trains to Lillers, staying in billets in Lieres and Fancquenhem.”

The Battalion War Diaries are so interesting to read, I have only just started they are on this fabulous website, the result of a lot of hard work.

When you go on the website, look down left hand side and click 1st World War Diaries, then click East Surrey Regiment, then click on 13th….Click on the month and then you get roughly a weeks information to fit on one page in PDF format, you can just read, save or print off if you wish to read later.
I shall share the rest in two more Blogs this week………….

Till next time then ……………….


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these letters. I do love to pore over old letters and postcards, it brings everything they went through into sharp focus and hits you in the guts. They were written from the heart. xx


  2. Thanks Debra, So glad you enjoyed them, I thought they needed to be read, and they get more interesting too. At the heart of war the people involved are no different to anyone else, just 'ordinary' xx


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