War in Egypt, 1882

Letters between Col. C F Gregorie, his wife H A Gregorie and his daughter Katie.

ss City of Paris

21st Aug. 1882

My dearest, we left Malta, punctually to our time, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, and have been steaming along at so good a pace that the Captain expects to be off Alexandria by noon tomorrow; we are to receive there further orders. But I think the chances are we shall be landed there. It blew fresh all yesterday, and although not actually sick, I was giddy and uncomfortable, however I got through the two services, Roman Catholic & our own, and afterwards was very glad to come to my cabin where I slept most of the afternoon. It was a warm night, and David, whose cabin is very stuffy below, brought his bed up with mine. I hope you received my letter from Malta, it must have been such a puzzle to you to read it on account of the transparency of the paper. — This was bought for me by Major Parry at Malta and it seems to do much better. I did not stay on shore after I had written my note to dear Mother at the Club, for I was particularly anxious to see that the men were prevented from buying things from the boats alongside; they are most reckless fellows, many of them were caught trying to exchange articles of clothing, which it is impossible now to replace, for drink and unwholesome fruit. The flowers in the market, as you suggested, were lovely; the purser bought several big bouquets for the saloon, which were splendid when they were quite fresh, but the smell of them yesterday I think added to by giddiness. I long for news of you, and think it is just possible I may find a letter tomorrow. I believe the mails for Alexandria are to be made up in London on Mondays & Fridays, if so, the days for you to write would be Sundays & Thursdays, but Mother will know best, she is always so clever in finding out this sort of information. In my dreams last night I was employed in engaging a house for us all, which appeared to me to be full of delights, but my dream did not show me where it was to be. This is the day that Charlie had arranged for his interview with J W Hughes, I long to hear the result, but the dear fellow must not be disappointed if he does not at once get remunerative employment; it will come to him to reward his patient perseverance.

Tuesday 22nd Aug. 11 a.m. The light-house of Alexandria is just in sight, and I shall close my letter in case of a mail leaving for England, for it will be all bustle and confusion when we come to an anchor. God bless you my darling and all my dearest ones. Believe me.

Yours most affectionately.

C F Gregorie

Kassasin Lock

5th Sept. 1882

My dearest, Your dear letter of the 18th Aug is still the only one that I have yet received. It was a very great comfort to me, and particularly the sentence that told me of your prayers and those of my precious darlings. In times of difficulty and hard work nothing encourages one so much as the hearty sympathy of my beloved ones — we are all indeed of one heart and one mind in our love for one another, and it smoothes and lightens every difficulty and makes every pleasure far more enjoyable. On the morning of the 3rd, Sunday, at 4.30 we marched from Mahutah, where the Head Quarters of the 1st Division of the Guards Brigade are still encamped to Mahsama, and there three companies under Major Toppin occupied and still occupy the railway station, and the remaining five companies bivouacked with me on the land about 500 yards from the station. As soon as the men had settled themselves, I rode on to the post to report myself to Lt.Gen. Graham who commands our Brigade and is now in charge of this, which is the most advanced post, and missed him, for he had gone back to look for me. So I hustled back to Mahsama and there found him. He is a very nice pleasant fellow, an Engineer with the Victoria Cross won as a Capt. in the Crimea. He arranged to have three Companies for the present under Toppin at the Station, and that I with the five should come on here yesterday afternoon, after visiting a village to clear it of mischievous Bedouins that were supposed to be there. This we did and found no one but peaceful villagers, who very soon proposed to open a market for the sale of poultry and water melons; poor wretches, they have had hard time of it lately with the Egyptian army living upon them, and them subject to the extortions of the rapacious Bedouins. We left Mahsama at about 4 in the afternoon, & the men marched along merrily past the Cavalry camp where Baker Russell is commanding a Brigade and arrived here yesterday afternoon at half past five. The force here has grown considerably since Monday the 28th when the 46th & 84th a few Marines and two guns which were very short of ammunition had something to do to beat off the Egyptian attack. There are now here the 46th, 84th, 50th, 60th and Marine battalion, ourselves, four batteries, and the Cavalry Brigade close behind us. We shall probably be here for the next five or six days until a sufficient force is assembled to make an irresistible advance. The men are getting much harder and better able to stand fatigue than at first, and are far quicker in providing for themselves. On Sunday when I got back from my ride I found them all under shelter from the sun, for they had found some old tents in a deserted Egyptian camp with which they had made excellent shelter. Father Brindle, our Chatham priest, is attached to this brigade, I am glad to say, for he is a very good man; he could not get out for a service on Sunday, for he had much to do here, but I read the prayers to the Ch. of England people in the evening. With my love to all believe me, my own darling

Your most affectionate

C F Gregorie

Tel el Kebir

13th Sept 1882

My dearest, a very important advance has been made since I posted my letter to you yesterday. I have given Grant a telegram to send from Ismailia to tell you of our dear boy’s safety and mine, knowing well the anxiety you and my dearest Mother and all of you will be in for tidings of us, and being very anxious that you should be able to join with me in the warmest prayers that the lives that God has spared may be wholly given to His service. We struck our tents at Kassasin after sunset yesterday and paraded with the whole of the Infantry at 7 o’clock; it was a wonderful march in the dark, creeping along hardly able to distinguish the points on which we were directed to move. The idea was that we were to move, very silently onto the Enemy’s works at this place, which are strong, and rush at them with fixed bayonets and seize them on the first streaks of dawn without firing a shot. Considering the darkness of the night, for there was no moon, we were very cleverly piloted across the desert by the Staff, and day-break found us all in our places, but the Enemy was too much on their alert to be dealt with as Sir Garnet proposed, & as soon as they could see us they opened a smart fire. Then the only thing was to form in order of attack and rush straight at their parapets & this was done very promptly & well by every regiment on the ground. I am thankful to say that my boys were in no way behindhand. They were led very straight by all their officers, dear David like all the others well in advance, and after the action Gen. Graham came & shook me by the hand and congratulated me heartily on the Regiment’s performance!

Capt. Jones of the 94th, an excellent good fellow who was attached to David’s company was, I grieve to say, killed, and Chichester was wounded in the leg and three men were killed and fourteen wounded, a small number considering the fire to which we were exposed for a time, and this I attribute under God’s merciful providence to the irresistible rush with which the men went at the entrenchments. God bless you, my own precious darling. Give my fondest love to dearest Mother & all & believe me

Yours most affectionately

C F Gregorie

A high wind has nearly torn up my paper.

Lent Hill


13th Sept 1882

My very dearest

The blessed news of Arabi’s defeat has just reached us by telegram. We know no particulars yet; and of course are nervously anxious for further news which we may get this evening, but George thinks probably not until tomorrow morning. We imagine that you are with the regiment at the front and if earnest fervent prayers will have availed as God grants they have, we shall soon hear that you are well through it with the dear old regiment. I trust this may be the deciding battle & it looks like it; for the papers say that Arabi’s troops are in a very demoralised condition and are deserting him. Little Jessie and I leave here by a morning train tomorrow leaving Ashburton soon after 9 o’clock, but we may have news before. I shall be thankful to be with the dearest mother again, she wants me much of course in this time of anxiety. I hope to be a comfort to her as she has always been to me. The dear ones here have been, as ever, so wonderfully kind & think so much of you & our dear David. They send every loving message. I trust you have got several of my letters before this. I will not write more today. I hear from Mrs Hamilton that she and her children are well at Chatham; she says Col. Dawson is ready to start & has got his kit all ready.

God bless you my own dearest husband and grant that it may not be many months or weeks before we have the great happiness of having you with us.

Believe me ever-much loving

H A Gregorie

Tel el Kebir

15th Sept 1882

My dearest, the enclosed telegram is from Sir Evelyn, and as soon as I received it this morning I assembled officers & men & read it out to them and you should have heard the shout with which they received it. It is very kind of him to have sent it, will you put it away among my papers. Sir Garnet & the Guards went yesterday to Cairo, and we hear this morning that Arabi has surrendered unconditionally, and now appears, thank God for it, the delightful prospect of a return to my darlings and to my beloved Mother and to pleasures that are to me far more enjoyable than any other the world can offer. The Cavalry & Highland Brigade have gone to Zagazig, and our Brigade, & some Artillery, are all that remain here. On this side of the canal where we are encamped the desert is as bare as we have passed through, but on the other side there is a stretch of quite fertile country with palms and millet crops and springs of water; they look very nice but I have not had time yet to go among them. I hear that Chichester got safely to Ismailia and is now probably on board ship & on his way to England; of the seventeen wounded non-commissioned officers & men I have been able to hear nothing at present, but from all I hear generally of the arrangements for the conveyance of the sick to Ismailia they seem to be very complete. Toppin came back to the regiment yesterday, but too ill to do anything and has again returned today to Ismailia. I think, & most sincerely hope & trust that Sir Garnet will allow no delay in re-embarking the greater part of this force. We shall probably have no more than three or four regiments to occupy Alexandria, and they will most likely be regiments that were in the Mediterranean before the war. Battalions such as this with many reserve men in the ranks will be sure to return to England. Believe me, my own darling!

Yours most affectionately

C F Gregorie

The Parks

17th Sept 1882

My very dearest,

You will understand our deep thankfulness on Thursday morning. After an agonising night of anxiety & suspense Dear old George got a special telegram about 7 oclock on Thursday morning and brought it into my room & when we got to the station we we gladened by news of the gallant way the dear brave regiment had behaved when my pride & joy were beyond description. When little Jess & I got here at 6 oclock we found the dear Mother Katie & Edith looking radiant with your telegram to show me. The two little ones too were feeling that Papa & David had done some grand feat. On my way from Newent I picked up two of your letters and two of David’s. They were intensely interesting and all sounded pleasant & satisfactory with you. You will I hope look back to this campaign with great pleasure & interest. I send you a scrap out of the Daily News about the Royal Irish which gratified us all immensely. I have had a number of kind letters, one from my father who has been really excited & interested in your welfare all through. Thank dear David for his most charming letter written at El-tel-Mahouta. I suppose we may now hope that all will soon settle down peacefully & we shall be longing to hear when we may hope to have you with us again. How delightful if we can at last settle into a house. We are glad to be back here again after our very pleasant visit. We thoroughly enjoyed it and were charmed with the pretty country. Tomorrow George & Frank come here for a few days before the latter goes to school. Amidst all our joy and thankfulness I am feeling deeply sorry for poor Mrs Chichester and our wounded. I shall be so very anxious to hear of them. Dear old David has certainly had a baptism of fire early in his career. You will both look back with pride to the way you must all have done your work on the 13th. We are all very well & happy here, and can now talk and arrange our winter plans with comfort that we know you are safe and well. It was a great relief to hear that you had got our letters at last & I hope you will get them all regularly now. Edith is much amused to hear of you washing your own clothes. Kits would like to be with you to help you. All join in fondest love to you & David. The Mother is writing too so you will hear all our news.

Believe me my own darling

your most loving

H A Gregorie

Great emulation evinced by regiments to be first in the enemy’s works. All went at them straight. The Royal Irish Regiment particularly distinguished itself by its dash and the manner in which it closed with the enemy. All his works and camps are now in our possession. - Clip from "The Times".


20th Sept 1882

My dearest Kiti, we have come here today by train from Tel-el-Kebir through Zagazig and I am very tired, but before going to bed I must write you one line to say how sincerely I wish my dearest little girl many happy birthdays & every blessing all her life long. You would have been amused if you had seen our train today; no carriages, only trucks into which the men were packed by thirties; David & I and some other officers chose one of the three trucks that carried our baggage & that made us tolerably comfortable seats. The people seem all to have returned to their homes & usual occupations in the country that we travelled through and were busy at work opening the irrigating conduits that spread the water of the Nile over their cotton fields. At every station that we stopped at people brought water-melons & figs & pomegranates & eggs, & we were all glad to buy some after living on biscuit & ration meat for so many days. We are now with the 46th Reg & a battalion of Marines occupying a large Egyptian barracks on the bank of the Nile. It wants a thorough good cleaning, there is no doubt, but, if Capt. Hamilton & his pioneers could have six weeks at it, it would not be at all a bad place to live in. Not that I want him to have the chance, for I sincerely hope that before six weeks are over, we shall not only be out of this country but actually at home, and I cannot tell you with what intense pleasure I look forward to being with you all. Tell my dearest Edith that I do not forget that I owe her a letter and with my fondest love to Mamma & Granny & all believe me my darling,

Your affectionate father

C F Gregorie

The Parks, Newent

28th Sept 1882

My dearest

Your delightful letters are coming much more regularly. Your account of the advance on the 13th was deeply interesting and I feel I cannot be thankful enough that the two precious lives so very dear to us have been spared. I earnestly hope and pray that you may soon be able to return to us and that we may be permitted to lead a happy useful life amongst our dear ones. I am sending you a copy of Mr Shrimptons letter. The Mother advises me not to send Freds for it seems all to uncertain about your movements, he writes very happily but does not say much, simply tells of his ploughing and is evidently hard at work, he heard from Mr Shrimpton of the Egyptian difficulties but did not know when he wrote that you were going there, by this time hope that he has got several of my letters. I think of writing to Mrs Shrimpton & thanking her for being so kind to him, also offering to send her out anything she may require. Your letter of the 15th came yesterday, The mother & I were in a great panic as Sir Evelyns telegram was missing but this morning much to our relief we have it from Lizzie and I will put it safely away. How much I would like to have been in a handy spot when you read it out to your officers and men. It was very nice of Sir Evelyn & so pleasant to think of the interest he takes in the Regt. I am truly sorry that your Major Toppin failed just at the wrong time. It will cause much regret at Blacklands. The papers have not mentioned anything decided about your return for some days. I am eagerly hoping each day to see that you are coming.

Dear old Charlie is deeply interested in all your news, I had a nice long letter from him on Tuesday when he talked very hopefully of his marks. Their great present difficulty is that they cannot give credit & therefore he says that they obliged to pass on good orders, but I hope things will improve & that he will be repaid by steadfast sticking to Mr Hughes, he had clothes made at Hastie’s when he was here a morning & evening suit; I thought the latter had become necessary, for he was obliged to refuse going out here on account of not having them. I told him they should be my birthday present to him and he was very pleased to have them. Owing to dear mother’s great kindness in having us here I have of course been able to spend much less & will pay Hastie at once. Don’t make any arrangements for sending me more money. I really do not want it. I have plenty to last for some time. The dear children are very well, all would like to write but I do not encourage this because it would be such a bulky letter, but if you want their letters you shall have them. I was obliged to leave off in the middle of this to comfort poor Bob who was stung with a wasp he screamed pretty handsomely but has soon got over it and is going for a walk with Edith & Jessie & Kits. Annie has gone for a weeks holiday. I am thinking of going for a few days to Arthur on the 10th Lyall came here on Tuesday and is most anxious that Edith & I should go, it was a great pleasure seeing her look so well & so respectable & happy. I hope she will remain in such a good place for a long time. The mother told you of our expedition to Worcester. I was wishing you could be with us with a girl on each side of you. They would have liked seeing the wonderful machinery immensely. I had such a kind letter of congratulation from Major Morelli. So pleased at your success & hoping many good things may follow, he is obliged to leave Canterbury & regrets it very much. I have a kind invitation to go to Mary at Newland again & if I can manage it must try & go about the middle of Oct, but I like being here quietly so much better than anything else. The Mother sends her fondest love & says she will write by the next mail, she & I shall be without Katie for a week, she goes to Newland House tomorrow. Best love from all your darlings. It is a great comfort to feel that the letters are moving on now.

God bless you my very dearest

Believe me ever

Your most loving

H A Gregorie

You will be sorry to hear of the riot the regt. joined in at Chatham. I suspect poor Col. Dawson had an awkward time of it. It is particularly annoying of the Royal Irish to have behaved in such a manner when your part of the regiment had won such a famous name but their youth accounts for it in a great measure. I trust all the wounded are getting on well.

To Colonel Gregorie from Mr N S Shrimpton, Hawkes Bay, NZ.

Colonel & Mrs Gregorie’s second son, Frederick, had recently emigrated to New Zealand.


7th Aug 1882

My dear Sir

Yours of the 5th since duly to hand. You will long ere this have received letters from your son who on arrival went straight up to Tongoio. I have seen but little of him, but I like him very much, he is frank and anxious to learn and willing to do any kind of station work required. I intend bringing him over here for a few weeks in Oct. during my busy season so that he can see the way sheep and cattle and general station work is done under different conditions from Tongoio, and also I feel that it will do him good to have a change from the rough station life and enjoy what little civilised society there is to be had here. I feel satisfied that if he continues on as he had commenced and I feel certain that he will do so, that he will make a very good colonist. Labour here is not considered infra dig, the only danger to be feared is that from association a young man may forget how he has been brought up and sink down morally to the level of the ordinary working man, but I do not fear that, in his case and I have introduced him to a few people here who will be glad to see him at their places and my wife also takes an interest in him and his coming and staying with us now and again will I think do him no great harm. Should you decide to come out to this country I need not say that I should only be too pleased to have an opportunity of showing what I could and giving you such information that lies in my power and pursuits to afford. I think N.Z. is a fine country but possibly my long residence here has unfitted me to be an impartial judge. I think you can make your mind quite easy regarding Fred’s future for some time at least. I think he likes the nature of the work and I do not think he dislikes the people he is with. I should now let him strive for a time for himself, he has plenty of money to last him for the next two years or possibly longer and after that if of any use at all he will be able to earn a good living. I will do my duty by him and with the greater zest from the fact that I like him very much. I told him to write home as often as he could but the "Frisco" mail is the best. I will let you know from time to time how he progresses.

I remain

sincerely yours

N S Shrimpton

Should you have any parcel to send out to Fred my wife’s father Mr Rich whose present residence is
102 Earls Court
South Kensington

will be leaving for N.Z. in Sept or Oct.