Major P.E.M. Holmes IE
220 Ind. Port Constr. Coy IE
Nov. 16th 1944
I wrote to you last when we were up in Nuwara Eliya on leave but that was about two months ago. First let me say how very much grieved I was to hear about Dick’s death in Italy. I sent you a cable as soon as we heard of it from Mum, and I hope you got it. I don’t know whether you heard any details but apparently he was shot through the head by a German sniper in an attack on a village called San Savino in Italy. He was commanding the leading company in the attack, and at the moment of his death was engaged in giving orders to his 2-i-c. It came as an awful shock to me, as I somehow never thought but that he would come through all right. His best friend Warren whom I know well, was also killed in Italy a few months earlier.
Budge and I have settled down happily here and as comfortably as possible in a very small and rather native type bungalow in rather a noisome side street. It is not really too bad, although of course not up to what we were used to in Malaya, but on the other hand for me it is comparative comfort after two years of tents and palm huts. Sue has grown taller since she has been here and is full of energy and looks awfully well. I told you all the arrival news in the letters from N’Eliya. We stayed in N’Eliya a fortnight at the Grand Hotel, which was rather a dump, compared with what it could have been. It rained a good deal of the time, and towards the end, Sue got a touch of dysentery, but Budge and I kept well. It was my first leave for nearly two years, but I found it rather relaxing and didn’t feel particularly refreshed by it. The journey back here was pretty grim, what with changing and waits at wayside stations, and I really was quite pleased to get back. I cannot understand why India and Ceylon can’t put on better train services, after we have been in the country all these years. In India one still has to carry ones own bedding when travelling first class dust permeates everywhere, and the food served at wayside station dining rooms is foul. Even making all allowances for war, travelling out here can never be anything but misery. Malaya was far better, and so was the Sudan.
I had already arranged that we would share this small house, we are now in, with an officer of another Company and his wife, and this we had to to [sic] for about 10 days when fortunately for us he was transferred. Budge has taken a ½ day job with a Service here and so is at work every morning, which is a very good thing as there would be nothing much else for her to do. I don’t think it is likely that I shall be here for more than another couple of months or so, but we we [sic] have not made up our minds yet as to where Budge should go when I get posted to a more active area. She has friends in Simla and we are seriously considering there, but on the other hand a South Indian station would be much handier and would not involve such a long journey for her. It is all very difficult, as I of course shall not be able to take her to whichever station we choose, as we are always moved at very short notice. I get to dislike the Indian Government more every day, the chief grouse amongst all us Indian Army officers being of course repatriation and for home leave. It is glibly announced that all I.A officers who have been continuously overseas for more than 5 years civil or military are eligible for two months home leave. Eligible we may be, but the only person that I have heard of going home on leave had been here 11 years. Mere 5 – 8 years haven’t got a chance and may have to wait years, in spite of Mr. Amery’s glib lies in Parliament. Another thing is that being in the Indian Army we are not eligible for the vote at Home, as if we were domiciled out here, when the majority of us haven’t the slightest interest in India and joined the Indian Army innocently thinking that it was an Imperial Force, and on the same terms as the British Army. It is particularly galling for me to see British Service men with 4 years served going hom for good, when I have nearly 6 years and can’t even get Home leave and have no chance at all of going home for good. The vast majority of Indian Army officers are in the same boat as I am, the regulars who are domiciled out here being well in the minority.
I have had 3 letters from you recently, dated widely different dates but all arriving here within a few days of each other. I have also had about 3 packets of books, and packets of Blackwoods and Chambers. I am awfully grateful for these, and you have my thanks.
As for “Life”, “Readers Digest” etc I used to get those through Budge in S.S., but haven’t had any magazine direct from the publishers since last January, so if you have been sending them, they have gone astray. My only correct address now is c/o 220 Ind. Port Contr. Coy. IE. – S.E.A.C. – India.
I was amazed when you told me you were 67 last September. Your photos don’t make you look anything like that, and I always seemed to have the idea that you were a permanent 58. I hope you are all keeping well, I must say you always seem to look it. Budge and I are longing if possible to come and visit you when this confounded war is over. Give my love to Jane and Stella, and love to yourself