A note on the letters. The transcripts may include abbreviations or spelling inconsistencies and errors. We have chosen to transcribe the letters as they appear so that they are an accurate reflection of John Oldfield’s style and personality. We have also included his original page numbering. Where language is used that we would deem offensive, those words have been replaced with XXX.
Sandsend, 1st. Bn. The Green Howards
Nr, Whitby Nablus Fort
Yorkshire ENGLAND Palestine
Friday Nov. 11
My dear Mum, Daddy, and Jum.
I have just got back from a 12 hour show – and so I’m afraid this will only be a hurried line before I hit the hay. Thank you all very much for your letters, your news, the very interesting cuttings Daddy and the photographs of you – Jum- Yes – we do see some of the English papers here but of course they are all about 10 days old – and we do not get the Yorkshire Post, so I’m always v. pleased to have any cuttings of interest out of it. The photograph of you – Jum – is splendid, (I see you’ve been clipped since I left!), but what horse are you on – the one of Booths that Mum has been riding! anyway you both look v. nice.
I meant to get a line off to you before but with the move from Jenin back to Nablus, and then changing our billets to the fort, I’ve had very little time . We left the Jenin area on Wednesday, having had an awful lot of troubles
[page 2], with our motor transport in the mud the last few days we were up there. On the Monday night the Ration Convoy had three trucks completely stuck just near Arraba, and we had to produce a guard to keep them safe during the night. We made a valiant effort at midnight with a couple of horses borrowed from the village, but the trucks were in axle – deep and wouldn’t budge an inch. The next a.m. we had the entire village at work on them and got them out about lunch time – I’ll send you some of the snaps I took if they come out.
As I say – we moved into the fort after returning from Jenin – and it’s the nearest approach to civilization we’ve seen since we arrived here. There is a proper mess, and N.A.A.F.Is , and quite comfortable rooms – it’s absolute luxury after the way we have been pigging lately. Hot water, good food and baths , too ! and we also get out of uniform for dinner tonight – the first time !
Yesterday – one Company of ours went out on a show to a village nearby where they had been informed there was some rebel meeting of some sort about lunch time a cordon was formed round the village by the R.A.F. planes – to see no-one
[page 3], left the village until the Company arrived to surround the village on terra firma. It was Alastair Graham’s Swan Song – as to-day he flew off to Iraq where he had been seconded to the Iraq Levies for a couple of years. He and his Company put up a very good show too – they were sniped most of the way to the village and fired on from the village when they arrived. They killed one or two of the XXX – and collected their arms etc. but were interrupted in the good work when one of the R.A.F. planes crashed on the top of the hill above the village. The pilot is on the D.I. list, with his jaw flapping in the breeze and his head a bit smashed in and also something wrong with his back – poor fellow. They brought him in last night and I’m afraid he’s pretty bad. After, they had collected about 100 XXX, they came back and were sniped at all the way.
So this morning – we set off at 6 o’clock to take suitable punitive measures against the village. We found very little stuff in the village except a few rounds – and the morning was spent in blowing up the houses where sniping had been and destroying the crashed plane – so that the XXX
[page 4,] couldn’t pinch any of the guns or instruments – I’ll send you some snaps of these too – if they come out. Evidently the village had been expecting us – as they had removed their dead and wounded and we couldn’t find them. Then there was a rumour that they had all been moved to the next village – so off we tramped to find out – while the four planes prevented anyone from slipping away by machine gunning those who attempted to and dropping a few appropriately placed bombs round the village. It really is amazing what they can do with those planes and how they chuck them about. They fly right along the mountains sides, very low and cover every speck as if they were on a road. Then if they see anything they drive down at it M.G. going – then zoom up again. It really is a grand sight and we saw a lot of it today, they have done some splendid work and really are wonderful with those planes of theirs, and seem to take a tremendous amount of risks. The oozlebahts brought one down the other day, so they are not altogether safe from them even up in the air. Well, we expected a bit of fun
[page 5], from this second village, but didn’t get any – we found a few more rounds but no rebels – so it was a long march for nothing. My legs feel as if they could drop off to-night and I’m feeling just one big ache. The tracks are now just mud bogs after the four days rains – and the going is very heavy.
Yes, I would like an invitation to Bid’s wedding and wish I could accept it ! what do you honestly think about trying for it – or do you think it wiser not to mention the subject of leave in the circumstances? Yes – I’d like to share very much with you and Jum, and considering there’s nothing here in the way of wedding presents – think it would be quite the best way. So glad you had a good time in Scotland and “Johnnie Walker” behaved himself.
I’m sorry Mums to hear that nan’s litter has gone wrong again – it really is rotten luck and she’ll be as upset as you are – I know, still, I hope you manage to rear the others still and they turn out well. I’m also very sorry Ansell isn’t making a better show of things – he sounds very poor stuff indeed, and not much
[page 6], of an M.F.H. in any direction. I should think you are jolly pleased you have someone as good as Bob to save the situation, so glad Bunsir and Hobby are doing so well, and that the old man looks young again. I hear that this god-forsaken country has one redeeming feature in the shape of the Rawleck Vale Foxhounds who hunt twice a week (!) I’d like to get a day with them if possible.
You remember I mentioned Scott – the Palestine Police Sgt. Who was up at Arraba with us, well, he says I can ride his horse at the Nablus Police Station any time I like, which is v. nice of him. I couldn’t go out of the field where they exercise because of needing and escort, but it would be enough just to get a ride again.
Poor Geoffrey Maitland – it does seem terrible for him and also for Diana. I must try and get a letter off to him – if you write to Diana give her my love and tell her I’ll try and get a line off to G. Well, my dears, thank you again for your letters and all your news, I’ll try and be back as soon as I can ! But there really seems no solution to a problem as
[page 7], deep rooted as this and Lord only knows how it will be settled, now the Commission have produced such a poor effort, what is the feeling at home about it all, does there seem to be any chance of a settlement between the Arabs and Jews? I feel that it will never finish until Jewish immigration ceases – as though the Arabs will tolerate the present number – they won’t be doing with more.
Well- again – I really must stop – write when you’ve any time.
All my love,
Yes – Daddy – you’re quite right about Nablus – it is the home of the only surviving Samaritans, only about 100 – 150 left of them – and they live in a few houses just behind our old billets, also – Jacob’s well is about ½ mile from where we are now, and we marched past it in the dark to-night on the way back. Good Luck with the pups mum, Remember me to Mrs. Sarrido – but I suppose by the time you get this she will have left. Love Johnnie.