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Transcript: Last Letter Podcast

Last Letter podcast

Brian Hatton’s last letter to his wife, Lydia. This is a location recording with the actress Miranda Richardson

The letter

10th April 1916

My own darling Angelissimo,

I was so glad to get your parcel with the two shirts which I was needing badly, and the other things.  How clever of you to get the batteries and bulbs for the electric torch, they are quite right.  I like the flannel shirts best – cotton is rather dangerous if one gets hot and has to go on wearing it when it gets cool in the evening.  You might have got the size of neck from some of my old shirts that I left behind!  Never mind, these fit me very well as my neck is rather swollen in this hot weather and I have had to slit the stud holes in all my old collars.  I also had a letter dated March 20th from you.  Now I must tell you that we have had a Hell of a battle against the Arabs and Turks.  We fought like lions for an hour and a half and our casualties were one flagpole broken and a horse with a bullet in his stomach, (which was not discovered until after we had come home)!  So you can guess it was a top hole fight – a certain number of us (I mustn’t tell you the exact numbers because of the censor, but the Turks know exactly how many we were, as every damned Bedouin woman and child who hangs about the camp is a Turkish spy but the authorities won’t let us drive them into a compound).  Well as I said a certain number of us started out on Saturday night to go to a place ‘somewhere in the desert.’  We halted for a rest and to feed the horses and some of us tried to sleep, but it was too damned cold and we had no overcoats.  Then before it got light we started off again.  We arrived at the place, which was our objective about sunrise, having galloped the last 2 or 3 miles in the hope of catching a few fleeing Arabs and perhaps getting a little loot.  Of course they knew of our approach through their Bedouin friends an hour or two beforehand, owing to our having to halt on the way.  However, as we galloped in to this place we caught sight of a few Arabs running like hares and some on camels.  The light was bad as the sun was rising in our eyes and there was a good deal of mist in the hollows, so we spurred on our horses and ‘Tallyhoed’ in the approved yeomanry style, when to our surprise our advanced guard was fired on and then we could see a large group of camels and Arabs and Turks on a ridge about ¾ of a mile away.  We went on a little further and dismounted for action in a convenient place and sent a party out on each flank to try and outflank the enemy.  All went well for a time and although they loosed off a hell of a lot of ammunition.  It seemed to be all over our heads except a few that kicked up the sand just in front.  We pushed on a bit nearer and the Turks retired to a further higher ridge, where they seemed to be quite content to stay for ever.  Very unlike the Arabs’ usual procedure.  From their confidence we conjectured they must have some fairly strong supports.  They were certainly in a strong position.  Presently we found that our conjecture was right and that our outflanking party were being themselves outflanked.  So, having tested the strength of the enemy we retired gracefully and sedately.  We could get no news of our outflanking party and the O.C. thought they were in considerable danger of being cut off so I volunteered to go and find them and rode off thinking myself no end of a hero, only to find when I got to them that another messenger had got to them a few minutes before!  Personally, I don’t think there was much danger, as the Arabs were very content to stay where they were and fire at about 1200 to 1500 yards, which is pretty safe.  Many of them danced about and yelled and fired their rifles off in the air!  I suppose that was to keep things cheerful.   I don’t know whether we hit any of them.  I don’t suppose so – but I saw a few camels topple over.

Later - (We have just heard from intelligence reports that we hit two Arabs, one, a man of some importance – They are said to be killed but one cannot rely very much on native reports).   I thoroughly enjoyed myself and hopped about to different points of view and tried to send messages back to camp and to our supports but it took some time as the ground was unfavourable for getting into touch with our helio stations  which we had dropped along the way.  We had a long and hot ride home.  Our horses were done to a turn and could scarcely be kicked along through the heavy sand.  It seemed never ending and we were tormented by myriads of sand flies.  However, we are very pleased with ourselves now.  To me, at the time, it all seemed ridiculous like a comic opera.  The men were all smoking and joking and nobody seemed to be in the least danger.  One has only to take reasonable precautions and lie down behind a few inches of sand hill to be quite safe from any bullet.  I am so pleased that Charles has been nominated for a commission.  Has he got one yet?  It will be quite easy for him to live on his pay in the infantry and save a little too.  I ought to be saving out here.  There is nowhere to spend to spend any money in the desert.  I forgot tho’ that I bought some bangles and ear ornaments off some Bedouin woman the other day.  They are made of white metal and 2/- bought the lot.

The post is just going and I must stop.  Darling, do take every care of yourself and our little baby.  I hope she has lost her cough by now.  She seems to have had it all the winter.  The weather must have been beastly.  I daresay a change of air will do her good, as soon as the weather gets a little warmer.  I will write again tomorrow.   I really get very little time - someone is always wanting the signalling officer.  I was glad to get the paper.  It is nice to think that someone is thinking of all my little wants.  I wish I could give you some of your wants Darling.   
With all my fondest love and kisses Darling and hugs.  I love you Dear One and think of you always – Ever Thine Own,

PS. I am damned well at present.
I’ve had no time to write home for about a fortnight.  You might call and tell Dad I will write by next post.        

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