“Every man in uniform (or in bits, alas)”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph from her temporary home in Windsor, with more details of the tragic accident which killed their friend Desmond FitzGerald (1888-1916). Desmond was the younger brother and heir apparent of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s leading peer, a mentally ill bachelor. Youngest brother Edward (1892-1976), who eventually succeeded to the title in 1922, had rashly married a chorus girl. Maysie had also recently met a number of friends on leave. Their mother Lady Mary Glyn also wrote to Ralph with the story of a new recruit.

March 20/16
Elgin Lodge

My darling R.

Yes wasn’t Desmond [FitzGerald]’s death tragic. He’s a real loss from every point of view, it seems too one of those ghastly unnecessary things. The RC parson – one Lane Fox, incidentally poor General Pereira’s brother in law, he is too, was playing about with these bombs. Some say it was his fault, others a pure accident no one could have avoided, but the thing went off, killing Desmond & 2 or 3 men, & wounded others including young Nugent, a desperate body wound. He’s had a fearful operation, but they say will live. The wretched man himself has had ½ his face blown away & ½ his hand. A gastly [sic] thing. Poor old Freddy. They say master Edward is already bitterly regretting his wife who is a perfect terror & drinks. However I doubt her letting him divorce her now that he must be a Duke. It’s too dreadful.

We went to London for Sat night & to the Hippodrome. Really a funny show. Harry Tate being sea-sick too priceless, it nearly makes one sick too. Rather to my surprise we met Arthur & Amy there. He went back yesterday after a week’s special leave, he looks ill… We also saw old Wisp. He looks pretty well & I saw no signs of the lost stone – which he’s reported to have lost as a result of Flu – but he’s got 6 weeks leave, which is nice for him. John saw Jerry Sturt yesterday. Poor boy – he’s no better apparently, though they still say he will be. He can’t even stand yet though. He showed John an interesting letter he’d had from Beeky. In it he says the French at Verdun put all their Colonial troops in front & their losses were heavy, also at the 1st push they ran, which gave that 1st small Hun advance, but since then they have been alright. He also said Master Bosch used no gun smaller than a 5 pt 7 during all that fighting – no one seems to know why, unless to save their smaller ammunition for the “advance”.

Do you know what’s the matter with Mr Asquith? He came home sober the other night, so his dog did not recognise him, & bit him – that’s what’s the matter with Squith!! Rather nice….

You see Hereward [Wake] has been made a Lt Col & rated up top 1st Grade SO. I am so glad. We had Moo & Hubie Howard here to lunch on Tuesday. Isn’t it too silly, even wicked – you saw that possibly silly Patrick day flag selling for Irish Troop comforts in London – apparently Moo gave her name like everyone else – whereupon she got an infuriated letter from the Duchess of Abercorn saying couldn’t she withdraw etc as she should have nothing to do with anything run by Redmond. Really the war doesn’t seem to have taught some people anything.

John & I joined the gay throng for Church parade yesterday, & except that every man was in uniform (or else in bits alas) & there were not many of them, it was quite like old days, such a crowd….

London is placarded with notices imploring women not to buy new clothes. It’s becoming a national mania, bill posting – instead of legislation making the sale & advertisement of luxuries punishable.

Poor Pen Graeme – I am so dreadfully sorry he’s been killed.

Best love darling & from John.
Your ever loving Maysie

March 20 1916
Grand Hotel, Northampton

…Old Mrs Raven has given us her own best sitting room, and in her tiny business room I have just found her well to do brewer son – a married man with wife & young baby, but he has come to tell her he is enlisting at once, & is offered a commission in Public Schools Company. He is full of a really fine spirit & quite determined. This old mother has been opposing him, and now she knows he is right, and I have been trying to cheer her up. He says we temperance people must know that result of restriction has all proved much of what we said to be right, and there will, he thinks, be no longer any battle over restriction – and all fair minded people in the trade have seen the necessity for themselves. He tells me of decrease of output in his own firm, to which he never intends to go back. So Mrs Raven clapped me on the back & said “There now! You will think you were right!” He is a fine specimen of the new spirit abroad, and as Dad confirmed him he is very happy and proud of him. I am glad we have come where we can help this old mother at this time…

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

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