The British Indian Army Officer was like ‘ma and baap: father and mother,’ to the sepoys of his regiment. Even a 21 yr old Lieutenant was expected to lead without fear. There were only 12 white British officers in a battalion of around 800 men.
They spoke Hindustani (Urdu) and encouraged religious and cultural observance amongst the Indian sepoys, imperative for the ‘esprit de corps’. The regiment was their family.
Letters from the Trenches – British Officer
Capt Berryman reads a letter to his sister about distributing balaclavas and mufflers to the men. Berryman and other officers had so many warm clothes sent to them from family in England that the Garhwali sepoys were glad to receive them during Winter 1914-15 when they still had their thin Indian uniforms.
“Trenches are very new experience. Dead farm animals and horses badly affected some soldiers. Flooded trenches, bodies usually sink. You have to stamp down and mesh bodies into the earth as they passed sections that had bodies buried hastily or by shell fire before the trench was dug.
“You see the Germans had the higher ground, having been the invaders – they got there first. British had the low ground so usually our trenches were waterlogged. Mud and lice a real problem. Trench foot led to men having their feet amputated…”
In an attack you cannot think, training takes over. On the way back into trenches is when you think about it. It’s important to keep your mind occupied and keep busy when not on sentry duty or the fire-step at night. In reserve or support this would be be writing letters, playing cards, drumming up (brewing tea)….”