“Our children will inherit a war eviller still”

John Maxwell Image’s latest letter to his old friend W F Smith saw hypocrisy among those advocating the growing of vegetables, while he and Florence heard that both Percy and Sydney had been wounded.

29 Barton Road
1 Sept. ‘18
My very dear ancient

We went to the Botanical Garden the other day, and found the great lawn stripped of grass, and from end to end now green with potatoes – that of course, one expected – but I boiled with wrath when great beds, which had been carefully set out with scientifically labelled specimens are now filled with kitchen vegetables – e.g. faded yellow beans rattling in their pods – for not a single one of them, either here or in other beds, had been picked. Woe unto you, S. and P., hypocrites – it is all shabby humbug. At least these might have been brought to utility. But for the publicity to myself, I would fain bring this scandal under the eye of the Local Food Controller, and give a dressing down to the paid Curator…

You object to RC “mummeries” and genuflexions which teach the men at the front to forget the inside of a church. What do you think of this, which I heard the other day from the Medical Officer of an Army Hospital at Cherryhinton? It had happened to the RC Padre only the day previously. A poor Anzac soldier was dying of his wounds, and in very low heart. The RC, who liked the man, was endeavouring to comfort him with the assurance that God is a Merciful God and will pardon the sinner who repents. “Ah, Sir”, said the dying man, “that is not my trouble. I know Him to be merciful: it’s the other chap I’m afraid of.” (The word used wasn’t “chap” but “b—“.)

To me it seems that our best, and only, chance, is for America to crush the High Command and Junkers while she is still hot on the business. If we cool down, the Hun, with our own Pacifists and Defeatists, will be too clever for us – and our children will inherit a war eviller still. It is horrible the slaughter and loss among the families known to us here. Not one seems to have escaped, wounds at least.

Florence has two brothers, Lieutenants in the Norfolks and the Civil Service Rifles respectively. When the push began, we had such a joyous letter from Percy at breakfast, and that same afternoon, as I was sitting in my study, a rap came at the door, and Ann’s voice: “Mistress has had a telegram. Mr Percy is wounded.” Very smart the WO was – “regret to inform you that … admitted 8 General Hospital Rouen August 9th. Gunshot wound left wrist and scalp severe.” Admitted Aug. 9: and news to us at Cambridge the very same day.
Then Sydney, the Norfolks, after fighting Thursday, Friday and Saturday – a shell landed exactly where he stood – with 6 of his men – only 1 of the 7 not killed or wounded.

You would imagine Florrie to be miserable. On the contrary, she is in brighter spirits than she had ever shewn during the English Advance. She feels that they are safe, for a short time – no anxiety: and I heard her giving joy, two days ago, to her Cook Ruth, who has just heard news of her brother being wounded and in hospital and therefore safe (poor Ann’s brother was killed).

We have had such charming letters from Colonels and Generals etc, re both boys, each of whom is a favourite in his Regiment. Sydney (whom his Colonel describes as always working “at Concert pitch”) will, I trust, soon be well enough to return. Poor Percy – they fear he will lose the use of his left hand.

Re the Greben. Admiral Troubridge (so I heard) had her nicely encircled, when suddenly came an Admiralty wire, ordering him to let her alone. He was recalled to England to explain his action – and produced this very telegram. They identified the room in the Admiralty from whence it came: but professed inability to identify the sender. Credit Judaeus Apella – Traitors in high places – who will never be dislodged. It is our own people we have to fear.

Kind love from us both to you both.

Ever yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

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“Started my first adventure in the front line”

Sydney Spencer was at the real front line at last.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 18 May 1918

At stand to this morning, i.e. 4 am. Started my first adventure in the front line. My bit of line was on the extreme right flank, being a straight portion facing due east, & running north & south. On my left was No. 8 platoon. From my front I could see the crater 250 yards away slightly to my right. It had a great coil of French wire all round it. The hill on which it stood sloped down to a valley along which runs the New B Hand road. At the end of a patch of withered tree stumps & behind out of sight, the site of BH on the left of the road, the hill rose up again & went over the crest on which was line of NZs, C & D on our left.

[Illegible] front ran north & south, while the remainder of B Company was in a weird sort of re-cutment like a horse shoe, a very curious position as posts of Peyton’s platoon could fire at posts of Hervey’s platoon if they faced their direct front. The day was spent in settling on fire positions, sleeping & eating. Company HQ was in a dugout in the local support line…

Percy Spencer
18 May 1918

Another lovely day. Heavy thunderstorm in afternoon. I went down to Warlos and had to wade. Rathorn & party from Wing arrived. Awful toothache. Had wisdom tooth drawn. A painful business – a 4 pronged beggar. One prong too many, aid the dentist.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

Quite a nice Australian

The Hallams invited an Australian soldier home. 22 year old Gordon Ingles had joined the Anzac Cyclist Battalion a year earlier.

24th June 1917
We had a young Tasmanian soldier in to dinner and tea – Gordon Ingles – from Hobart – quite a nice fellow.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

The war will bring about theocracy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote a long letter to Ralph. She had strong, if eccentric, views about politics, and was almost as shocked by Australian soldiers’ democratic nature as she was by the Easter Rising.

April 26 1916
Peter[borough]

My darling own blessed Scraps

Easter Day makes me long for you, but all days make me long for you….

I distinguished myself at Windsor by getting bad with indigestion, but it was good to be with John & Maysie, & see them so happy in another Windsor spell of work, and yet being together. He heard when we were there that another operation will not be necessary, but as his Medical Board gave him 3 months they have taken a very good house, “Essex Lodge”, the present house being required by the owner, and this is a much better one with a garden & tennis ground. John is of course very busy, and up early, & at work till late. He looks well, and is in good spirits, evidently liking his work. We saw Cecily Hardy & her Giant, and Tony & Sylvia, & a new Coldstream acquisition – a very Highland McGregor who till lately was engineering in India – quite a new type in the Brigade!

The Political Crisis made those days full of excitement, but none of these soldier people seemed to care, or to look at the papers, and were sure the King would come whatever happened. And he did, but the Crisis was supposed to be over, and the Cabinet once more firmly (?) in the saddle of Compromise. Now the Secret Session, and the result whatever it may be of that settlement is to be made known to so many talkers & plotters and schemers that it will be impossible for all the cats to be in the bag long. Meantime there is a shaken confidence, a longing for a leader other than we have, for this strange growth of freedom to know its limitation, and to recognise its own dependence on laws not made by man, but inflexible because “just and true”, and belonging to the Kingdom that will endure throughout all ages. When we really will, that will come, and its obedience, and we shall learn what freedom is. It does not lie with Democracy, or in Kaiser rule, or in a Republic, but it does in a Theocracy – and my belief is that it is to be restored through this War and “tumult of the nations”….

France is surely ahead of us in the spirit of a new vision, & Russia is invincible because of that vision long accepted – and we wait for it, and you all are bringing it nearer.

(more…)

‘My eye, they do seem bitter about Gallipoli’

Lady Mary Glyn and her daughter Meg Meade both wrote to Meg’s brother Ralph. Lady Mary was staying with her other daughter Maysie Wynne-Finch in Windsor, while Meg was in Portsmouth caring for a sick friend’s children, and mixing with senior naval figures.

Elgin Lodge
Windsor
April 19 1916

The Cabinet Crisis is a real one & may bring about great events, but Asquith … seems to be able to keep together the Coalition at all hazards.

Trebizond is the good news of today’s paper. Well, the French are teaching is what it is to “hold”, and it is my belief we are to hold for the Kingdom that will surely come and we are all to think of the Christ as St John saw him… and He will make no mistake and order no sacrifice that is unavailing – the only leaders now are those who are “joyful as those that march to music, sober as those that must company with Christ” and we see them at all the fronts, but not yet among those who have made of statecraft a craft for self and for selfish ends. It is lamentable how few there are who are trusted & who can “hold” now for the Kingdom of that Lord & His Christ you soldiers know and obey. And yet I cannot believe that a country is ready to win the war so long as there is no real love and faith in God or man as a nation through its representatives. And our power will crumble if we give way to a carping spirit of criticism, and sometimes in perfect despair I find myself trying to believe in AJB and Walter Long, Bonar Law & those in whom the “Party” have consented before the Coalition. But as you know I have never had much belief in AJB’s power to impart a conviction which is founded on the rubble of the failure to find an absolute conviction….

Your own Mur
(more…)

This filthy war must end some day

Officer’s wife Maysie Wynne-Finch, now based in Windsor, wrote to her brother serving in Egypt to wish him a happy birthday. She shared her usual frank views on the army. The Sassoon referred to is not the war poet Siegfried, but his wealthy cousin Philip (1888-1939), while the Duke of Teck was Queen Mary’s brother.

March 3/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R

Very very many happy returns of today. If only this filthy war would end. However I suppose it must some day….

Rumour has it our Canadians, some say Ansacs [sic], have been with the French in the last fighting. It must have been terrible beyond words, but so far anyhow they’ve hung on alright, & Hun losses must be heavy. You talk of “partial” offensive, I doubt if you’d describe it so now if all one reads is true. It seems like the battle of all.

I was told the other day, it was Aunt Alice as a matter of fact, had heard that the Belgians are a source of anxiety at present – they fear they are being bribed & the authorities want them sent back & not to take the line over. It must be dreadful for their splendid King. That yarn was rather confirmed by a story I heard yesterday that all or a lot of the Belgians were right back now.

Yes, I suppose Erzerum was great. One can well understand that. I think the beginning of the end must be in sight really, though not very evident to the man in the street yet. No, I am sure Meg has no anti-gas stuff. I will tell her what you say, neither she nor the babies return to London till the 20th anyhow. As far as I know there is nothing to tell about the Caroline. There was no word of truth in the report. I’ll write to Evelyn to let you know.

You should be able to hear more of Frank’s doings than I know, but as I was told it, Frank single handed riding his pony went & bearded a robber & disloyal chief in his stronghold & brought him “in”. He was to have had troops etc sent for the purpose of intimidating the man, but as they failed to arrive, Frank kept his appointment alone, which I imagine so astonished the native he surrendered & became loyal. I believe Frank received the thanks of the Sirdar & Sultan & various decorations etc. Rather a fine performance.

It’s no use raging about my views on the Staff as you share them just as much. The gross abuse of Staff appointments has resulted in general muddle. Good men, who are, & others who should be, Staff officers, suffer, but young Sassoon & the Duke of Teck still are given important Staff appointments on a very recently formed Staff! Can you wonder people jib a bit!

Now I must stop & return to my hospital work room. I work the company with all the other Windsor females twice a week at swabs etc. It’s all very funny & petty. If one could but write it might make a funny new volume of Cranford….

Your ever loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

This is “a war run by a gang of chattering civilians” – but no worse than the French

More secrets are revealed in General Callwell’s latest letter to Ralph Glyn. The general was about to move from overall charge of military intelligence and operations, to a secret mission to our allies in Russia and Japan.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

30th December 1915

My dear Ralph,

I have no idea where you are or what doing, but send this to Egypt, whither I gather Monro and his big staff have gone. Bell wrote the other day and mentioned that he proposed sending you on to Egypt.
Great changes at the WO consequent on Robertson’s taking over CIGS. Poor old man K is in the corner and quite good – does what he is told. My branch has been split in two, operations and intelligence, Maurice becoming DMO and Macdonogh becoming DMI, a post I still hold pending Macdonogh’s arrival. I go off to Russia with Ralph Wigram in a few days and expect to go on to Vladivostok and Japan – Japan as an excuse for going along the Siberian railway to see how it is doing; one cannot get those Russians to bestir themselves and keep things moving on the line although their munitions from America depend entirely upon it. I am delighted to get out of the WO after seventeen months of it.

It has been an awful scandal about the delay in deciding to evacuate Gallipoli. The withdrawal from Suvla and Anzac was a wonderful performance, but no thanks to the Government for that. I dare not hope that the move out of Helles will be a bloodless affair. When the story of the Government’s vacillations comes to be told, the country will realise what it is to have a war run by a gang of chattering civilians who over-ride the decisions of their own War Council. The only thing to be said for them is that they are no worse than the French gang. The French General Staff now, after we have educated them in London and at Chantilly, quite realise the absurdity of the Salonika affair; but Briand and Co dare not clear out for fear of public opinion and of Sarrail.

Archie Murray goes off tomorrow to take up command vice Monro. He did very well indeed as CIGS and we all liked him, but he did not come in on his own terms and backed by the whole Cabinet like Robertson. K’s visit to the Near East was a blessing in disguise in that the government were, during the interval, told the truth about a number of matters – the lack of men amongst other things, and the majority were got to see that we could not get on without compulsion.
I have not heard from you for quite a long time, but hope you are very fit. I see Dulles has got a division – I wish it was a better one. Give him my love if you come across him.

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

A wonderful miracle

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, was thinking of her son Ralph, just evacuated from Gallipoli, on Christmas Day.

Christmas Day [1915]
My own darling Scraps

Then coming back here to these sad turmoils & committees & doings which have cost me more than usual time & thought of late, and yet in many ways the best work I have done – because at last a healthy support against mean opposition, and the discovering of the nature of the mean spite of some of these people. Anyway, the Rest Room at the GG was opened by Dad yesterday, with Mayor & Mayoress present, and many people there. And last night, Christmas Eve, Mrs Evans, wife of the Precentor, sat up all night, & 27 men needed the Canteen & Rest, & were so glad of it & grateful, and the railway officials came & begged them to take in some civilians who had been stranded. The troops come through from the east coast by a 4 am train & cannot get on to central England till after 6 am, and they have had to hang about there, or be sent up to the GN, where they have had as many as 135 and 90. It is such a joy we have been able to do this, but it has meant a lot of work & anxiety at one time… People have been too kind – pouring gifts on us for it, and offers of help flow in – and I am so thankful as I know it will do good in many ways, and it is the only way to open people’s eyes to what has been going on to keep me and Dad out of everything by a strange combination of social spite & religious animosity. The Red X workroom is also going to be a very great help towards that needed discovery….

I try to think of the miracles of mercy that are ours, and the miracle of Love that has watched over you all, and how the things one feared have served for songs of deliverance, and from here the Suvla Bay & Anzac affair appears to be as wonderful a miracle as any and though Colonel Collingwood takes the soldier’s view of it, as you all must, “Not since La Rochelles” [sic] – he sees it best that they had courage to do it.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Evacuation of Suvla Bay

The Gallipoli campaign had been a disaster. But the retreat, although humiliating, was successfully carried through.

21 December 1915
Only 4 men killed during evacuation of Suvla Bay & Anzac!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions”

General Callwell shared some secrets with former assistant Ralph Glyn, now at the Dardanelles.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

13th December 1915

My dear Ralph

I am taking time by the forelock to drop you a line as the Bag does not go for a couple of days, but there is such a rush these times that it dies not do to leave anything to the end.

I am afraid the retirement from Suvla and Anzac will prove a costly business and it is deplorable that there was so much delay in deciding after Monro reported at the end of October. As a matter of fact the War Council decided on evacuation on the 23rd ult – while K was out in those parts – and Squiff sent me over to Paris to tell Gallieni and old man Joffre; but the Cabinet overrode the War Council and the decision was not finally taken by the Cabinet till the 7th. It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions.

The French have been very troublesome over Salonika. We and even our Government have been opposed to that affair all along, but the French managed to drag us into it by threatening to regard our refusal as a blow to the entente. Murray and I, backed up by Robertson, went to Chantilly to see old Joffre, but could not get him to change his mind, and then Squiff [Asquith] and three others of the same sort went over and saw the French Government, but it was no good. I went with Squiff and we had quite a gentlemanly trip in specials and Destroyers, but poor old AJB was a terrible wreck after a Destroyer trip. Then, although Gallieni lied to me gallantly about it, the French never sent that infernal fellow Sarrail orders to retire till his position was extremely awkward and in consequence our 10th Division had a very bad time; but they seem to have done well.

All kind of changes are in the air. Johnny French is to be degomme’ at once, Haig taking his place; and there is a good deal of talk about Robertson becoming CIGS – he caries heavier ordnance than Murray. Henry Wilson is very unhappy at Johnny French’s departure and I am not sure what will become of HW. I doubt whether Haig will have him in his present job and he has come to be looked upon as what the soldier detests – a political general.

The Government is rocky and Bonar Law told me the other day that he thought Gallipoli would finish them. He (BL) should have resigned when Carson did. When K was away in the east they all declared that they would not have him back, but he is back and does not look like going although he is much tamer than he was. He said to me plaintively the other day that the Cabinet would not believe anything he told them and now always insisted on a printed paper from the General Staff. It was rather amusing at a War Council the other day while he was out your way. They were squabbling away about everything after the usual fashion when a box was brought in to Squiff and he read out a wire from K, ending up with an announcement that he was coming home. With one voice the whole gang said he must go to Egypt to report and a wire to that effect was drafted on the spot – however he took no notice and came home in spite of them.

I hope that you are fixed up and getting on well with your RNAS affairs. As Helles is not to be evacuated I suppose that the bulk of Sykes’ commando will remain where it is although there will be plenty of work for airmen in Egypt shortly. I am writing to Bell before the Bag goes and also to Birdwood.

Yours ever
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

“Blow the Turks to blazes – then give it them again”

General Callwell wrote to Ralph Glyn to inform him about the appointment of Sir Charles Monro to review the Dardanelles campaign with a view to possible withdrawal. Callwell had some ideas of his own about booby trapping the deserted trenches.

War Office

23rd October 1915

My dear Ralph

Your new Chief and his CGS, Belinda, went off yesterday and will have reached the Dardanelles some days before this does. I did not see them at the end before they went, which I am sorry for as there were several things to tell them. I meant to have spoken to Bell about you among other things and about George Lloyd, but have written to him by this bag on these and other subjects.

It will be most interesting to hear their verdict. Sir Ian [Hamilton] and Braithwaite arrived last night but I have not seen them yet. Monro clearly did not like the job as he saw it on paper, but he may like it better on the spot. It will be up to him to decide whether to go ahead, to hang on, or to clear out, and if he decides on the latter he will have to make preparations at once.
I am not a scientific body, but if I was going to retreat from such a position I should insist upon having the stuff for mines – the explosives and the wire and the batteries – on a Homeric scale. And I would blow the Turks to blazes if they tried to come into my trenches when I left them – a mine to every 10 yards and power to touch them off alternately. It would be no good to fire all your mines and have them coming on in a quarter of an hour and manning the craters. You want to be able to give it them again.

Also if I was going to quit at night I should expect the warships to stop the enemy firing by giving searchlight to any extent. At a place like Anzac the enemy on the top of the bluff could be absolutely blinded and the lights that were doing this would at the same time be affording, below their direct rays, just enough light to the troops embarking for them to see what they were doing. However Monro may decide to go on with the business.

Political affairs here are very unsettled. I think about the only thing the Cabinet are agreed in is their desire to unship K. Carson is a great loss and it will be very difficult for them to hang together much longer. I do not think that you will have lost much by not going to Salonika; the Serbs are sure to be mopped up before the French and we can do anything that is any use in that quarter. The French have indeed rushed into the business very much against the wishes even of the War Council, which is capable of almost any folly.
Although things look bad there is every symptom now of the Boshes [sic] becoming discouraged. The Russians terrify them in spite of their superior armament, and they have been losing very heavily in the west.

Take care of yourself and believe me
Ever yours

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

Queer developments in the Balkans

Stephen Hungerford Pollen (1868-1935) was another officer friend of Ralph Glyn’s. He was Sir Ian Hamilton’s military secretary in the Dardanelles, so knew exactly what was going on.

Private & Confidential
GHQ
Mediteranean Expeditionary Force

6th October 1915

Dear Glyn

Many thanks for your letter of the 24th September which has just arrived by KM. I rather smelt a change coming and that is why I was anxious for you to get away from here. As I think I told you, the place we were concerned about really finished on August 21st. The whole of this Balkan development is exceedingly queer; I cannot write very much about it, but were you here I think you would be amused and a little astounded at the odd way in which this new push at Salonica has been managed. I do not mean our end of it, but the FO part of it. The Salonica people, apparently, had not the slightest idea of anybody coming; the whole thing was a bit of a “surprise packet”.

The position is so liquid just now that it is impossible to express any opinion as to what is going to happen. The last news I have is Venizelos’ resignation as Premier; whether this means a reversal of Greek policy we do not yet know. One thing is certain, the MEF is a bit sidetracked unless our “lost Sheep” return to us. You are well aware of what we are up against and what we have got per yard and what we are losing per day in wastage. Well – there is not much over for a push, more’s the pity.

I should dearly like to get home and hear what is going on, but I do not know whether they will allow us to do it.

Let me know if I can do anything for you; I shall be delighted.
Very glad to hear they may give some honours to Aus & NZ AC. I hope our poor old 29th Division will be remembered too.

Ever yours
S Pollen

S Pollen to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/28)

Rather a drag in operations at the Dardanelles

General Charles E Callwell wrote again to Ralph Glyn on the latter’s way back from his mission to organise ammunition for Gallipoli. He had some inside information regarding Cabinet discussions.

War Office
14th August 1915

My dear Ralph

Many thanks for your letter from Marseilles. You are one of those people who possess the gift of getting things done and I highly appreciate your successful efforts to rush that ammunition stuff through so satisfactorily and rapidly, and I am taking care to let Braithwaite know that the Medforce in reality owes its receipt mainly to you – I am assuming that you have not been submarined or wrecked or any dreadful thing. I told Winston the other day that Lord K had gathered somehow that you had been relling him (Winston) about ammunition requirements at the Dardanelles and had not been pleased. Winston was full of regrets but added “Well, after all it was worth it”.

Your wire from Marseilles about your transport going through went to QMG2 before I ever saw it, hence the return wire. The only way to make sure that a wire intended for me goes to me in this place seems to be to address it by name. Wortley has always been an opponent of anything going by the Marseilles route and was I think a little surprised and chagrined to find its advantage so clearly demonstrated thanks to you.

I had not heard of Sykes’ mishap and hope that he is all right again both on his own account and in view of the importance of having him fit and well for the work out at the Dardanelles. We are watching the progress of events out there anxiously, as there seems to have been rather a drag in the operations after the first landing at Suvla Bay just at the moment when it was all-important to push and get as much ground as possible. They also seem to be in a good deal of difficulty in respect to water at that point, but this will probably right itself as they settle down. I trust that things are getting cleared up at Mudros where it is evident that there has been shocking congestion of traffic, coupled with want of push by somebody to get things done and straightened out.

They are having the devil of a Cabinet Sub-committee to recommend what forces we should be prepared to put in the field next year. Crewe and Curzon and Austin and Selborne and Winston and Henderson, and I had a long afternoon with them yesterday. Curzon and Austin are towers of strength, Crewe makes a suave chairman, Winston talks infinitely and Henderson tells inappropriate anecdotes. I daresay that in due course they will adumbrate something useful, but in the meantime they want a lot of information which I am sure K will jib at giving them. They all seem to be for compulsory service, but were not inclined to fall in with my urgings that there should be an announcement of the intention at once in view of its moral effect upon Allies and enemies.

Your Italian friends have not done much beyond talking at present, but Delme Radcliffe writes that he was taken aside on the battlefield the other day by Porro and Cadorna and that the latter was very sympathetic and made a lot of enquiries. Why they will not go to war with the Turks I cannot make out, seeing that the Turks have so stirred up Tripoli against them that they have not got much more dry land left than Birdwood has at Anzac.

Yours ever

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Charles E Callwell to Ralph Glyn c/o the British Embassy at Athens (D/EGL/C24)