“The Germans are devils”

Meg Meade was busy trying to arrange reading material for her brother Ralph in the Dardanelles. She even tried to get library books sent out to him, but unsurprisingly the libraries were unenthusiastic about this plan. Libraries at the time of the First World War were more often private ones where you paid a subscription, with only a few municipal libraries in big cities. She also had news about the ordeal of the blind elderly Lord de Ramsey, who had been interned in Germany at the start of the war, together with his son Reggie Fellowes.

November 5th [1915]

23 Wilton Place
My darling Ralph

Bolton’s Library in Knightsbridge is going to send you out Life & Punch by post, as they say they can’t put more in the Bag than you get already… I went to both Days Library & the Times Book Club, but it seems impossible to make any satisfactory arrangement about sending you library books. First the Post Office won’t insure books for the Dardanelles, & they are generally lost in transit, so each library makes you pay a deposit of £1 or 30/- over & above your library subscriptions to cover the loss of books, but of course if no books are lost this is made good to you in the end. Neither library would agree to send you a book a week indefinitely, because if you subscribe for 1 book a week only, they could never send you another until you had returned the first one sent. Therefore it seems no good thinking of subscribing for anything less than 4 books. These could be sent out to you, 1 a week for 4 weeks. At the end of that time you may with luck have read the first book they sent out, & then there would be a gap until the library had received back again the 1st book sent, when they could immediately post you another. You might get a still more regular service if you subscribed for 6 books, as you’d get one a week for 6 weeks, but then it’s an expensive game, & counting the risks, I don’t like to settle a subscription for you until I hear from you what you want done. I am sending you 2 novels this week which I have bought, & I will continue to send you 2 books which I will buy each week until I hear if that plan suits you. Of course you don’t get the latest books that way, as they are too expensive to buy, but in any case I doubt the libraries sending you any new publications because they seem to regard any book that goes to the Dardanelles as gone for ever….

I had 2 letters from Jim today. He’s now in the Forth, but he has his orders for Royalist’s refit, so he will be back here again next week I hope. I am lucky, aren’t I! But you see they have either got to alter Royalist for Captain D’s ship, putting in new officers’ cabins, more wireless, & better bridge accommodation, or they must appoint him to Constance, which isn’t finished building yet, so I am hoping he’ll get a nice bit of leave now…

Arthur [a friend?] is Provost Marshall to the Guards Division, & somehow or other found himself & his faithful London police in the front of the attack they had at the end of September. No one knows why or how he got there! But perhaps it was his Irish blood….
Dad came up here yesterday. He had apparently bought Fortnum & Mason’s entire stock before he came to lunch here, and it will have to be sent out to you in innumerable hampers!…

Did I tell you that at last Lord de Ramsey is home again. They eventually arranged for his exchange. I gather the Huns got the best of us over the exchange, but they say that the German Staff officer who was the only person the Germans would accept in exchange for Lord de Ramsay had (unbeknown to the Huns) lost his reason since his imprisonment in England. But one suspects he feigned it all the same. On his journey home the Germans heaped every abuse on Lord de R., & the 2 English women, mother & daughter, who have been the only people who have taken care of him for 15months. His sight is even worse, he is stone blind, & Wiere’s treatment has been an utter failure. They seem to have behaved brutally to Reggie Fellowes who was with his father when war broke out. They took Reggie to a German prison, put him in solitary confinement & fed him on bread & water for 3 days. No one knows why, except that they are devils. Poor Reggie. They saw a photograph of him the other day, & he has grown to look bald & old. Coly [Lord de Ramsey’s eldest son] died before Lord de Ramsay came home, so the changes he has come home to find are awful…

Evan Cavendish came to see me the other evening… He told me that 2 destroyers were passing each other one day, & one was almost hidden by a blue haze of bad language coming from the commander on the bridge. Two sailors standing together on the other destroyer were overheard thus:

“Who’s Commander of that ship?”
“Why, the Honorable Leveson Gower”
“Ah, I thought from his language he must be connected with the aristocracy” said the other!

By the way those 2 bomb cigarette lighters have come back made up from the Stores. Didn’t you want one sent to a friend of yours?
I have not heard any political news this week. But always abuse of the Government!

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

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