This letter, shown as number 15 of the ones my father, Roger Lines, wrote to his parents, referred to as M&D. Unfortunately I do not have the others, which would have given some better record of his National Service. Most of the information I have relies on anecdotes from others.
18th ? December – letter 15
Dear M and D,
The reason why you are getting this letter is that I am on Duty Clerk again tonight, and the light is rather poor to read with. Incidentally it is also to thank you very much for your Christmas card and letter of the 9th. In reply to your queries, I have now got my spectacles, but have heard no more about the watch, so I shall wait a few more days before I liven them up. As to this business about presents I shall certainly send some home, as clothes are not yet rationed here. If you don’t think I can afford to pay for things, then say what you need most and when I send it home you can pay the price into my P.O. account. In this way you can get some things cheaper via Quetta, than buying them in London. I recently bought a nice pair of gloves which have a fur lining right down to the finger tips for 12 chips. In England they cost at least 45 shillings. The other lads buy fancy brass ware, cigarette cases and fancy table cloths which are more for looks than use. If you do not write and tell me what you need most, bearing in mind the restrictions of a previous letter, I shall send you a large size brass elephant which can be used to get in ones way and collect the dust.
Woollens and silks, especially the latter are the most expensive things out here, and a made to measure tweed suit cost about 100 chips without a waistcoat. You can get sheets, pillow slips, English Morley socks, towels, dress lengths, silk pyjamas, scarves etc. here, but films are bad and so are rubber goods such as hot water bottles.
The new shoes I have got are quite comfortable, though I only wear them on special occasions, as although shoe repairs take 2 days it costs 7/6d to have a pair soled and heeled with good leather. I sold the others to a fellow here who they fit quite well. Richard wrote to me yesterday and also sent a Christmas card, so I must write back to him as soon as I have finished this letter. He has been over Battersea Power Station, where he was much impressed by the quiet and the way that everything, even the boilers were remote controlled. Quetta is in a plain of roughly circular shape, the size of this plain being about 10-12 miles across. All around is a ring of hills, mountains you would call them, which have about three gaps in the circle. through these passes come the roads from Persia, the Indus basin, and Fort Sandeman. The latter being about 300 miles from here, and one of our outposts. There is a towering range of hills behind the camp and about three miles from it called the Murdar Ghar. At present this range, which is nearly 11,000 ft high is covered with snow, and it is expected to stay like this until next spring, when I shall try and climb it, if I am still here. The weather is colder now and there is much more cloud. Formerly we used to have clear blue skies all day long, but now it is much more like England, although mostly the few rainstorms we have had, come at night. Thank you very much for the description of the Bhotan Pine which I read with great interest. Here’s hoping the pen arrives sometime. I have now got quite a row of Christmas cards, – two from Michael, yours, one from Richard and one from Tyrell-Green. I shall always remember his kindness to me while I was at the Holtons.
Very little of importance has happened since I wrote last except for two things (i) A walk into the hills with Luckock and (ii) My work.
(i) On Sunday afternoon I started out with Luckock across the desert plain towards the hills. It is very difficult for me to describe what we did and where we went without a map, so I shall try and make a rough sketch-map in my next letter. I will also spend part of my time in sketching, although I may not send the results home as they will probably be too awful. We walked across the desert for 2 miles or so, then started up a narrow valley, which rapidly grew narrower, until we were walking along in a narrow chasm, only about six feet wide, and with vertical or overhanging rocky walls going straight up for 80-500 ft on both sides. This crack in the rock, for it was hardly more than that continued for ¾ of a mile until eventually we came out into the sunshine, like moles coming out of their tunnels. We were only a quarter of a mile from the dam wall of the Hanna Lake reservoir. This artificial lake is dried up, but was once a mile square. Now all that is left is the cracked muddy bottom, the marks made by the high water level all around the dam. There is a proper cart track down from the lake, and we were soon on the road back to camp. As we walked along this, four Pathars or whatever they were, jumped off their bicycles and said “Salaam Sahib” (Good Day) so we said Salaam back and we soon engaged in a long discussion in Urdu. They wanted to act as guides while we went out on a hunting expedition (safari) and I tried to explain that we were not “burra sahibs” but just poor Signalmen who couldn’t afford such things. Further down the road another man tried to sell us enough wood (lakfri) for 60 men. They can’t distinguish between the B.O.Rs and the Officers I’m afraid. It all helps to improve one’s Urdu however. I am now in charge of the brigade workshops and they expect all sorts of weird things which didn’t come on the course. If I make too many mistakes I expect I may either get down graded in trade or posted to another unit or both. So wish me luck as need plenty of it. You are probably in the middle of Christmas festivities now so Happy New Year, love Roger.
Richard Lines was my father’s cousin, he was the son of Arthur Lines, the younger brother of my Grandfather, George Lines.
This is also known as Bhutan Pine, is native to the Himalayas, and shows that even before he went off to study Forestry at Bangor my father had a keen interest in trees. Indeed many of the pictures he took in India were of trees.
My father clearly occupied him time in India learning Urdu, something which I had not known, though I know my Grandfather encouraged learning languages.
There is a Bhutan Pine (Pinus wallichiana) growing about 100 metres from my house but pretty much hidden amongst other trees. I only learned of its existence when Roger was walking up the road past the house, where he immediately spotted it! I’s notable for its large cones – about 9 – 10 inches long, which we now always look out for. Nice to make a link with him spotting this in its native habitat.