Recently I came across some archived WW1 letters written between the women of Dulmial Village, Punjab, Pakistan and Mrs Eva Mary Bell, the widow of Colonel George Henry Bell, who died during the First World War. These unique letters show the sadness of The Great War from a woman’s prospective.
Below are some of the transcripts.
14th December 1918
To Mrs Eva Mary Bell,
We the women of Dulmial, have assembled here to thank you very tenderly and heartily for visiting our village and to congratulate you from the bottom of our hearts for the success in this world wide war. It is important to state that we the inhabitants of Dulmial bear a special affection with our kind Government, which is quite clear from the political and war services which our brave sons and husbands have rendered now and then, from the Honorable East Indian Company up to the time.
Several people of the village had offered their services in the Mutiny of 1857 and had sacrificed their lives for the interests of the Government. In 1877 and in the following years, there was not a single fight of the North West Frontier or Punjab etc in which our brave Awam didn’t take an active part.
On commencement of this war the passion which our brave sons felt against the enemy, can only be imagined or well estimated from the splendid services they have rendered during the war. As soon as the war began, our beloved sons and husbands who were already in the Army went over to France and Flanders to fight this enemy and to show faithfulness to the Government. And those who were at home lost no time in offering themselves as recruits and thus won the honor of being the most obedient and faithful servants of the Government, as is often said by the Commissioner of Rawalpindi Division and by other higher officers in different speeches. Our pensioners offered services once again and served the Government in one way or another. Others in the village who through some natural defect unable to be admitted to the Army, spent their time in recruiting.
Our many brave sons have sacrificed their lives and have thus earned the honor of being admitted in the list of Indian heroes which shall remain printed on everyone’s heart as long as the world will last.
We are exceedingly glad that the energetic efforts, hardships and devotion of our sons have bought fruit at last and have ended in a splendid victory. In the end, most humbly request you to be good enough to forward our prayers, congratulations and the gift of the splendid services of our brave sons to the King-Emperor, The Viceroy and respected Officers, Deputy Commissioner, Pind Dadan Khan. We all pray to Almighty God that this kind shadow remain forever over our heads.
God save the King.
From The Women of Dulmial, Punjab
28th December 1918
To The Women of Dulmial,
I am touched beyond words by your beautiful message. You, like myself have known sacrifice and sorrow, victory and honors, while husbands and sons fought in this Great terrible War. That is a bond between you and English women which will last till death and beyond. I know full well the heroic, loyal and enthusiastic service of your soldiers, who have been comrades in arms of my countrymen. They have won splendid names for their country, their regiments and themselves. Of the fallen we shall think always with gratitude and respect, to the wounded we owe a debt only to be repaid by giving the ‘Izzat’ (Respect) and ‘Aram’ (Comfort).
I shall give a copy of your letter to Col. Johnston who will keep it forever in the Indian War Memorial at Delhi. Here your sons will read it and so will all the British officers and soldiers.
But your own letter I will keep for myself, forever and cherish it in my home in England. I wish I could have seen you in Dulmial. I looked at your village and thought of you in my heart. I know the pain of mothers who lose their dear sons and of wives who lose their husbands. I ask the brave soldier of his consolation, give rest of the wounded and the mourners.
I ask you to give peace to each other and to enable the soldiers to enjoy victory in peaceful homes.
I will bring all you have said to the notice of the Commissioner.
From Your Sincere Friend,
Eva Mary Bell.
7th January 1919
To Mrs Eva Mary Bell,
In acknowledging the receipt of your kind and sympathetic letter, we all the women of Dulmial cannot find words by which we can express the entire pleasure given to us by your kind letter. At the same time we are extremely sorry for having failed to make an interview with a respectable and sympathetic person like you, in spite of your presence so close to us in this district.
We fail to find words in which to express our heartfelt thanks for your sympathy and kind advice and for the promise you have so kindly made to forward our letter to the higher authorities. You have made so entire possession upon our hearts by your sympathetic and respectable treatment that it would not be forgotten by many families to come.
We truly feel sincerely and partake with your personal suffering but at the same time satisfied with the idea that you have also shared in the welfare of the country, King and nation by being dispossessed of your most valuable property similar to ours whose names we believe shall ever remain illuminated upon the skies till the day of resurrection.
We request you kindly to tender our best and sympathetic Salaam to the women in England and the Allied countries who have shared the brotherly and humane treatment of our Indian braves both upon the field and the hospitals in and outside India and we must not forget that they have now practically proved the natural link of female sisterhood in the world wide.
We now pray to God for the eternal continuance of the newly erected link of love between Indian and English nations and that this seed of unity might produce permanent fruits till the world exists. We further pray to God that England does not forget truthfulness and sympathy to their subjects and that Indians do not forget faithful martyrdom for their King and hope this will continue ever and ever.
From Women of Dulmial.