You will be surprised to hear, no doubt, that I no longer belong to the West Kents. I have transferred, and now belong to No 1 Mechanical Transport Company. I joined them at their headquarters at Nowshera, which is the most northern town in India, situated on the North-West Frontier. I used to think Jhansi was hot, but when I got to Nowshera I altered my opinion entirely, for it’s simply awful. I was always certain of a night’s rest at Jhansi, but on the Frontier it’s worse at night than in the day-time, for being cooler at night one is pestered with all kinds of horrible insects. Try to imagine, you at home, taking your bed into the garden with no sheets or covering and lay still, and yet perspire.
When I left Jhansi I was accompanied by another Sergeant of the West Kents and we packed our English serge on top with the idea of changing it in the train when it got cold enough, but when we arrived at our destination we wished we were back in prehistoric times, and quite envied the natives. The Corps we were joining had only just started, and we were the first two Sergeants to arrive, so we had quite an easy time for a day or two. After time men and cars began to arrive, and we were kept busy taking delivery off the rail and erecting our machinery in workshops. Eventually we had orders to prepare 14 cars for testing: this occupied several days, and when all was completed we started on the test.
Our first journey was 77 miles, and we left in the morning for Murray, which is a hill station 6,900 ft above sea level. On our descent the cars were put to severe brake test, &c., and we then proceed to Marsden with a car. There I received orders to take an Assistant Surgeon and the Padre to Rustam; after a rough journey through rivers and sandy nullas I arrived at the camp. There were Gurkhas and Sowers, and everywhere was hustle and bustle. As the General had no use for the car, and was to get back, I left the camp about 4.30 pm and went well till I had travelled ten miles, when I had to cross a river, but I stuck in the ford in the centre. I was then surrounded by fifty or sixty hill Pathan, who started shouting and singing. One big swarthy fellow wanted to know when I was going to shift, as several bullock-carts had accumulated and could not pass. Then someone shouted, “Why don’t he make the fire and make it go?” Then things began to get serious. They started to throw mud and stones. Eventually the noise stopped quite suddenly, and a face appeared through the window of the car; I was just going to fetch my boot up under his chin (I thought he had come to pull me out) when he spoke in perfect English, “What’s all the trouble here?” What a relief! I was towed out of the river, and was soon speeding on my way. I have had many exciting times since which I will relate to you another time.
The next letter printed in the paper by Sergeant Leonard S Chittenden came from Aden in March, 1917