Papers (1914-1988, undated) of David Balcombe, an enlisted man in the 1st Battalion, 4th Queen's West Surrey Territorial Regiment (Reserve) in India during World War I, 1914-1917; he later served as an instrument mechanic in India and Egypt in the Royal Flying Corps, 1917-1918. Consists primarily of correspondence (1914-1919) from David Balcombe to his parents in South Norwood, Surrey, England, plus clippings, ephemera, and photographs of India. Also included are letters (1928-1935) from Walter George Courtice to his sister Ruby R. Courtice, during his residency in Durban, South Africa.
The 4th Queen's Regiment was part of the 44th (Home Counties) Division that was sent to India in October 1914 to replace regular units that were sent to France. The Royal Flying Corps was founded in 1912 and renamed the Royal Air Force in 1918. David Balcombe was a private in the 1st Battalion, 4th Queen's West Surrey Territorial Regiment. He transferred to the Royal Flying Company in 1917 and became a 2nd class aircraft mechanic; he was later promoted to 1st class aircraft mechanic.
Walter George Courtice was born circa 2 September 1894 and died in 1980 in Durban, South Africa. He married Maud Ellen Davies (1896-1970).
The collection consists primarily of correspondence from David Balcombe to his parents in South Norwood, Surrey, England. From 1914 to 1917 David Balcombe was an enlisted man in the 1st battalion, 4th Queen's West Surrey Territorial Regiment, a reserve battalion stationed in India during World War I. In 1917, he transferred to the Royal Flying Company and began work as an instrument mechanic in India, later that year he was stationed in Egypt. David Balcombe's letters to his parents were written between 10 October 1914 and 27 February 1919, during his time in the British military. In his letters from 1914, Balcombe describes various aspects of life as an enlisted man on his way to India including diet, clothing, daily routine, and pay. He recounts his voyage from Canterbury, England to Bombay, India on board HM Troopship Grantully Castle and the railway journey to Secunderabad, India.
Balcombe writes about his travels throughout British India with the 4th Queens to locations including Lucknow, Lebong, Faizabad, Peshawar, Nowshera, Murree Hills, Khanspur, Rawat, Sunnybank, Gharial, Subhan Khwar, Risalpur, and Bombay. The letters from Balcombe's time in India and Egypt contain observations on diet, clothing, pay, climate, terrain, bouts of illness, recreation, daily routines, local customs, and living conditions. He frequently complains that the pay is low relative to expenses. He also notes civilian perceptions of the British soldiers and briefly comments on significant events such as the sinking of the Lusitania, the battle of Verdun, and Zeppelin raids in London. The 4th Queens did not engage in combat but Balcombe does describe guarding the Mohmand border from hostile forces with limited gunfire being exchanged. Balcombe requests his parent's advice regarding whether or not to transfer to the Royal Flying Company, ultimately deciding to join as a 2nd class aircraft mechanic working on instruments. He describes his duties as an instrument mechanic and his travels from India to Egypt where he was stationed at Abu Qir until the conclusion of World War I.
The collection also includes several other miscellaneous family letters, clippings, ephemera, Indian postage stamps, envelopes without associated letters, Our Empire in Arms Program staged by the Loreto Convent, Darjeeling, India, and photographic prints from David Balcombe's time in India.
Also included in the collection are letters to Ruby R. Courtice from her brother Walter George Courtice, during his residency in Durban, South Africa. Written between 28 November 1928 and 11 December 1934, the letters provide some insight regarding life in South Africa during the Great Depression. In his letters Courtice discusses news of family and friends, weather, difficulties securing and keeping employment, and general effects of the economic depression.
Purchased from Carmen D. Valentino, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Encoded by Jonathan Dembo, March 24, 2009
Processed by Devin Urban June 14, 2016
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.