“They got more than they bargained for”

Ralph Glyn’s married sisters, Meg Meade and Maysie Wynne-Finch, wrote to him after his brief leave. Meg lived in London and was acting as Ralph’s financial proxy while he was away. Maysie, who was staying with her sister, told Ralph all about her husband’s wound. Neither woman was a fan of British politicians.

Oct 15th
23 Wilton Place
SW

My darling Ralph

It was very sad returning here with the babies on the 12th to find you had gone. If only you could have stayed a few days longer here, it would have been perfect. But I am hoping always that we shall have you back very soon. If you don’t come straight back here, I’ll never never forgive you!…

Bless you for your letter you wrote to me before leaving London. Jim [her husband] loved getting the maps… Anne [her daughter] has drawn you a sunset & has written you a letter which I enclose “For Uncle Ralph at Darnelles” she said.

I went to Cox this morning & saw your old friend Mr Smith. He was very kind to me, & I have a cheque book to draw on your account, so look out!

And in accordance with your long & interesting letter I got from you today, I have only been mixing with Cabinet Ministers today. That’s all. I took your letter to Sir Edward Carson to Eaton Place. Instead of putting it in the letter box I thought I’d go one better & give it to the butler so I rang the bell. The door opened & out stepped Bonar Law & Sir Edward! I mumbled to the latter “This letter is from my brother Ralph Glyn” & fled, however Sir Edward insisted on shaking me warmly by the hand, & your letter has evidently been too much for him, because all the papers have been remarking on his conspicuous absence from the Cabinet meeting today.

Things do look serious. The best news I’ve heard since war began, I heard at dinner tonight at the [Somertons?]. There was a nice man there called Baker Kerr who said he knew you, but what tickled me was that he said that we should have conscription in 6 weeks time. I hope to Heaven it’s true. Things have been bungled & enough misery caused by the selfish stupidity & timidity of politicians. I hear that the Zepps have strict orders not to drop any bombs on Whitehall or Downing Street for our Government are Germany’s best friends.

What a bore for you being hung up in Rome… Don’t pull the noses of any of the irritating Dips who are there either, if you can help it. They must be perfectly maddening to deal with…

Dad … tells us a Zepp passed over Peter[borough] last night, & did a lot of harm at Hertford, killed a lot of people, & smashed up the town. The Zepp raid here on Wednesday night was quite amusing. I was in the middle of writing a letter to Dickie when the guns started firing. So I collected the babies & we went to the kitchen till it was over. Of course I went out to try & see the Zepp, but I can’t say I succeeded. I saw confused shadows in the searchlight, but I did see the bursting shell from our guns, but most other people seem to have seen the Zepp & say there were 4 of them or 5….

Maysie tells me she has protected me by sending you all the news…

Your always lovingest
Meg

Oct 15/15
23 Wilton Place
SW
Darling One

The whole Eastern campaign remains totally obscure to the ordinary public here – & one cannot but feel anxious. The Russian news seems steadily better & we have been killing a real good lot of vermin in France. Now I must tell you John has gone & “stopped one!”

On Tuesday afternoon Edmund Charteris rang up to say John was in the list just in as wounded. His John came to tell me – in the shop. It was a bad time till 9.30 pm when came a long letter from John. He was hit by a rifle grenade as he was coming out of the trenches on Saturday, about 4 pm. “Very bad luck as he had done awfully [underlined] well in the last fight yesterday” is what that dear man Crawfurd – his 2nd in command – wrote to me on the day he was hit. Wasn’t it nice of him – to tell me John wasn’t bad. The underline of awfully was his!

He got some bits in his back & one in his arm. According to himself it’s nothing & he talks of being right in about a week. Ever since hearing I have been living in hopes of getting him home if even for a short time – however now my hopes are fading nearly quite away & I feel ashamed of the bitterness of my feeling of disappointment, when one ought to be on one’s knees in gratitude for his wonderful escape.

He managed with help to get to the dressing station & then walked to the clearing station. He got to Bethune on Sunday – & had the bits taken out, which does not sound nice. From Sunday night on he was waiting to be “evacuated” to a base & he hoped home. However at 5 pm Tuesday he & all the other slight cases were still waiting as no train had come – so now of course I feel the time has been lost, & he’ll be kept at Rouen or some foul place & not get over at all. However as he said he couldn’t even lean back in a chair in one letter (after assuring me he had practically recovered!) I cling to some little hope. I have heard twice from him.
I felt about ready for a little reward after so much, however, I’m a very lucky woman.

Last Friday 8th [illegible] the Guards had an awful time. The 1st & 2nd Brigades were in the trenches. The Boshes [sic] it seems (they hear from prisoners), thought the Guards had left & they fondly thought they could walk over the new army in front. After a terrific bombardment they attacked in hordes – but they got more than they bargained for. They couldn’t move our men – & they killed them in scores. The 3rd Battalion had the worst time. They were on the left, & some regiment next to them gave – & the Huns got into our trenches. Whereupon the 3rd Battalion bombers turned on them, led by a Sergeant Bomber & 4 men – rumour has it they threw 3000 bombs – anyhow the Boshes [sic] were driven out & our 3rd Battalion held those trenches as well as their own. Pretty good.

At the orderly room under promise not to tell, we saw copies of letters from G. Feilding commanding the Brigade – & also Cavan’s letter to Feilding. The latter said it was too splendid & that he had orders to convey not only his own but the [Corps] General’s thanks to the Div[ision], & in particular the 3rd Battalion who had saved the whole British line. He used the expression the Generals & all concerned are “in hysterics” over the affair. Isn’t it rather glorious? Our losses really seem to have been light. You can imagine how one longs to hear more & all about it.

The 3rd Brigade who were in reserve were not even called up. Now the whole Division is back behind Vernelles. They are not publishing any of the casualties in the Guards as they don’t want the Boshes to know – or they’ll guess they must be out to recover.

Algy told Meg their 2nd Battalion 60ths had an awful time too.

Of course we had a Zep raid last Wed night. About 9.30 pm. There are said to have been 4 of them. There was a good lot of futile shooting on our part as usual.

I am sorry to say I missed seeing the brutes. Meg & I dashed up to evacuate the nursery to the kitchen. Richard James [Meg’s baby son] protested loudly, poor lamb, at the process….

Darling you must not think foolish things. None of your friends ever “looked down” on your job, & if they had only known even the little I do, they would have looked a very acute angle up!

Some day what a moment it will be for you & even more for all of us when the splendid & important work you have been & are & will do comes out. Good heavens – isn’t it just because we have too few brains in high & staff places that we have these ghastly muddles with the attendant waste of precious life. It’s that makes people mad. It’s not the work of the staff but the abuse of it people decry.

If you went back to the regiment now in my humble opinion it would be very wrong & wicked. You are a dug out regimentally, & you would be wasting yourself entirely in the capacity of regimental officer. Put all such ideas out of your head & “carry on”. You have chosen by far the hardest course. I really believe the happiest life now these times is in the regiment. You do your bit among friends more or less, & you can’t do more – but in your lot you have all the strain, all the knowledge or enough to worry you, & not often the power to put things right. It’s as usual the greater opportunity, the greater cost – but thank God for every job there is the eternal reserve of strength. You will have it & you will be kept safe, I know.

Politicians can only do as much as their own master – the devil – & that’s not much, thank Heaven! I wish you were nearer, but you will be back in time & please God that may be soon.
Take care of your dear self.

God bless you dearest.
Your ever loving Maysie

Letters to Ralph Glyn from his sisters (D/EGL/C2/2)

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