The Germans’ well laid plans

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him in Egypt after a visit to the Wake family at Courteenhall, whose father had just died. Joan (1884-1974), one of the sisters of Sir Hereward (1876-1963) mentioned here, was to become a pioneering archivist. One of the Wakes claimed to have evidence that the German invasion of Belgium had been long planned in advance. The Enver referred to is Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), the Turkish Minister of War who had led that country into alliance with Germany and was responsible for the Armenian Holocaust of 1915.

March 21st 1916

Yesterday we went to Courteenhall and had a cosy hour & more with the dear people. It is good to know that Hereward wishes his mother & sisters to remain on. He has bought a house in London, & is now going back to the front as Lt Colonel, on OGS 1st Grade & will be with General Mackenzie’s Division. He goes about end of April, & he is now at Aldershot taking up his new work. Ida is to be his agent for Northants property, assisted by a good bailiff, & he has secured a good man for the Essex property who can always advise Ida when necessary. Phyllis is back at work nursing at Abbeville. Joan is at home helping all round. Lady Wake pays rent, & keeps up the house…

There is a most interesting & amusing nephew of Lady Wake’s in this Hotel, a Major Wake who has seen all sorts of service in E Africa, Egypt and Ulster!! And in between a recruiting job at home & Ulster he fought [for?] Turk against Italy! While so employed he shared a tent with 3 German officers who told him their well laid plans exactly! Even to the breaking through Belgium to destroy France, knowing her Vosges defences were too strong for other swift accomplishment of victory – but France destroyed, they would take us and Holland on – no wish to destroy either as all Teutonic peoples should come into the Zollverein which would then rule the world. Our practicality was required to wed with their “idealism”, & when this union was complete “we” would together be invincible. They said they liked us, but as long as we were separate they could not do anything, & must always come up against us. They expected all their colonies to be taken, but then at the crisis our Fleet was to be destroyed, & then they would regain their colonies & seize all ours. All this was described with perfect freedom to the English soldiers, and the answer to his enquiry “What do you wish to do with us”. They said this was all open unconcealed knowledge, and that we had such a wretched Government we would never fight, & though our Govt knew they would not prepare, so the thing was “fait accompli”.

Of course Major Wake loved the Turk, & said he knew Enver. A brave man, who wished to emulate Napoleon, & all his life was to be judged by that dream of his. He (Major Wake) has been much in Constantinople, & says our interference with the Baghdad Railway decided the war, or rather the hurrying of it sooner. He was very badly wounded in E Africa and is very lame. I think a wooden leg. He is extraordinarily interesting and amusing, and has led a queer life. His knowledge of the German explorers & their ways with the natives was most illuminating. He wishes us to read a book, “With the Russians in German Poland” and says that he never could have believed the Army he thought he knew so well could be such cruel savages (the Germans). That they always seemed to him to be men of honour – “gentlemen”, and this revelation of them was past all power of belief. He says that now they are bleeding to death and believes in the end if we can hold on for six months. He agrees with me (!) that the German Fleet will not risk destruction, but be kept to bargain with at the end.

Today we had lunch with the Guthries at E Haddon, and he told me that this had always been his belief, but lately he has been less persuaded as he thinks the Emperor in a fit of mad temper will order the Fleet to retrieve his falling fortune on land…. It was queer to be in a place [the Guthries’ home] where War had made little change in the luxury of comfort, or apparent well being… Guthrie is military advisor on the Tribunal here, & was very sick with Lord Selborne’s attitude & speech against Lord Derby, & thought it “vulgar”….

Mr Guthrie told me that Grimsby has been cleared of women and children & allsent inland. He said he had heard it on good authority, and knew it to be true.

I think of Meg and her anxieties and the strain for her, and she looks so poorly and is so thin. She is wonderfully plucky and always gentle with the children, and plays with them as if she had no care on her mind, & in a way that goes to one’s heart….

I long to hear if you have any knowledge of other plans. Do not be impatient to get to France. Stick to the work you are “able” for and be sure to wire if you do come back this side. I wonder how long notice you had of the Prince coming your way.

Your own Mur

Grand Hotel
March 21 [1916]
My darling Ralph

And what are your next movements. All these little name places seem so small compared to yours! & I long to hear what is settled for your next move, & to know what lies before you for work. I can only (as I do) pray God to guard & bless you in it all & help you to & through all your important work. Do tell me what you think of “things in general” in the war – & if we may feel that there is any sign of the Huns’ giving in. The newspapers are so full of speculation, & not too [exactly?] truthful that one does not know what to think – or even hope.
God bless you my darling.
Your loving father

E C Peterborough

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

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