Major C J P Ball DSO MC


Date: [ 1914 - 1916 ]

A complete and fully transcribed archive of nearly 60 uncensored letters written by Lieutenant, later Major C J P Ball DSO MC to his parent in the Isle of Wight whilst serving for the 29th Division RHA in Gallipoli. Ball was in the very first landings and was one of the last to leave, with the letter collection spanning the full period, giving a roughly weekly account with no letters apparently missing. The letters were written very freely. Ball was able to censor his own letters as he writes to his parents in a postscript on July 20th; “ You can write quite freely these days. I censor my own letters, & yours are never opened , so you can write as you please”. This had enabled him to write in-depth and detailed descriptions of actions, life and conditions at the front and in trenches, and to include material usually censored out. Ball was serving as a 2nd Lt Observation Officer, and therefore made it his business to be aware of all of the battlefield and what was going on.It was part of his job to site gun emplacements to enfilade Turkish trenches, which required reconnaissance in the front lines, which is described in harrowing detail. He worked closely with his Colonel and General, worked for a time as Adjutant, and his superiors seem to have been a useful and important officer. His connections gave him a fair amount of freedom, which enabled him to visit friends on offshore ships, and he was able to have some influence in promoting a family friend . The letters give a huge insight to the whole of the campaign on the Helles Peninsular, and we have been able to match events described in his letters to other written accounts of battlefield actions. The first group of nine letters & a postcard written pre Gallipoli landings from Jan to April, describe his voyage out to the Peninsula .The following 8 letters dating from April 29th to May 29th were written immediately after the landing, telling how he has been under fire, and how on his first night has had to go forward into the front lines. In subsequent letters Ball describes front line actions, night attacks, and how hoards of panic stricken men retreating had to be turned back with revolver threats. He writes about & describes his dug-out and position, how he has dug trenches for the horses, of gains to the front line, and sapping forward the front trenches. He walks over the bodies of dead Turks dug into the bottoms of trenches, complains about the stench and flies, and battles Dysentery. He is sniped whilst on reconnaissance, and has several narrow escapes. Charlie also mentions a friend in the RFC doing observation flights, German submarines in the bay, and the limited amount of ammunition the artillery have, meaning they can only fire so much each day. His responsibilities and the content of his letters change as he becomes Adjutant, and he later describes how the focus of action changes after the ANZAC landings at Suvla Bay. Ball praises the way 'Brother Turk' have been looking after the POWs, but complains that they don't bury their own dead. He displays a strong obsession with food and writes of the army bakery taking a direct hit on the first day of baking leaving them to enjoy just the bully beef and biscuits. Almost every letter home includes requests for luxury food parcels and clothing, and he is also very keen to receive letters from family members. Despite his privations, his letters home are generally upbeat, patriotic and full of a sense of duty, but he does not flinch from describing frightened soldiers, bungled attacks, and appalling conditions. The letters themselves are mainly easy to decipher, despite having been written in a variety of dugouts largely in indelible pencil. We have tried to transcribe the letters without correcting spellings or grammar. Punctuation is a little erratic, and capitalisation is also difficult to transcribe accurately because of Ball’s handwriting style. Some names have been troublesome: we are not at all sure that “Danbury” is correct for the name of the Adjutant for example, it looks more like “Daubuz”. Ball seems to use “z” in words like realise, but this might be the use of a long form of “s”. We use [?] where we are uncertain of spellings or meaning, and any comments are also italicised. We have found two photographs of Ball online, and there were others showing officers on horses included with the letters which seem to show a younger and thinner Charlie Ball. Another photograph shows a soldier, possibly Ball’s groom, holding a fine horse, and there are also letters and accounts, an unused Army book, a guide to Egypt etc. Ball’s post war career is interesting. He translated a German account of the Gallipoli Campaign which was published, and used his Geology interest in a career in metallurgy, working with German companies, which must have given him some conflict in the interwar period. His diaries and other personal papers are held by the Imperial War Museum in London, Catalogue number Documents:13963. This archive is currently offered to UK purchasers only. Purchasers from outside of the UK can purchase the archive subject to our obtaining export licence approval. An important and very emotive collection.

Very Good

Contained in archival envelopes and purpose made box.


Offered by John Underwood Antiquarian Books