Aimless trenches in the sand

After his stay in Yorkshire, John Maxwell Image spent his summer holiday on the south coast. He found the resort unaffected by the war in some respects – but very much so in others, with hysteria over lights at night and suspicion of foreigners.

Tuesday [3 August 1915]

The town looks as usual by day – swarms of naked legs on the sands, Pierrots, and a sea as well filled as ever I saw it with steamers and sailing brigs and schooners and ketches nonchalantly in the offing. War? Not a trace of it – by day, unless perhaps khaki gentlemen digging aimless trenches in the shingle (and it is to be hoped, useful ones elsewhere).

But at night – not a street lamp glimmers! Just now there is a full moon: else one must grope with a flashlight, I suppose, out of doors. Indoors every window veiled with opaque curtains so that nothing is visible seaward. Seven people were hauled on one day last week, and fined a guinea apiece for shewing momentarily a light. The Zeppelins are like the Proctors. Patriotic magistrates are making quite a purse. On my first night a Policemen knocked and sent up a message that the “fluttering of my blind (the window was open) bore the appearance of signalling”!!!

On Sunday morning the town was placarded with a long printed notice re German submarines: how to detect their presence, and where: reward of £100 if your information leads to capture, etc, etc.

A destroyer – poor dear, I know her by sight now well – on her daily monotonous patrol along the coast. Last evening it was blowing a quarter gale – not a ship visible except only one – the faithful Destroyer.

Sometimes a Parsifal airship hangs over the sea, glistering like a huge silver fish.

We are taken care of!

Also on arrival at Hotel or Lodging you are presented with a paper to be signed. Name, sur and Christian, and nationality are all that are required of a Briton: but aliens of whatever nation have to answer all manner of rude questions. Penalty for lying or refusing, £100….

Ever affect.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/1)

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