“It fills one with awe and an almost anguish of anxiety that the peoples to whom sovereignty is passing will be restrained by some clear vision”

Ralph Glyn had ambitions to go into politics. He was elected Unionist MP for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire in 1918, holding the seat until 1922. He then became MP for Abingdon in 1924.

Nov. 5, 1918
My own darling

As letters are so provokingly slow in getting to you I shall write every day. Do give me telegraph address for you & also tell me if there is any quicker way for addressing letters as now your armies are in full hue & cry. The news every day is so immense – one feels no brain or heart can compass it but it fills one with awe and an almost anguish of anxiety that the peoples to whom sovereignty is passing will be restrained by some clear vision and faith of the powers of the world to come and of the Everlasting Dominion that is to endure.

Aunt Alice is wonderful – no repining over the sacrifice – a great radiant spirit which is all one with those who fight here and there where they are still leading and know the triumph, but how thankful one is to be here to see this more than dawning break into a glorious dazzling light of a new day.

I have been thinking so much about you and Clackmannan and E Stirling. It is a great temptation and if only the Engine works I should wish it for you. It is so near home and you have friends all about there, and if it is a reasonably safe seat I think your future lies in reconstruction, but you may have to make your pot boil to win the independence you need to have of Party machine so sedulously being put together by that dreadful Asquith – I hope his scheme will meet with the failure it deserves though he does stand for Free Trade, I dread it now with him it means a free hand to deal with Germany. He is a terrible snake in the grass. And she is worse!…

Jim has been keeping his first birthday at home since the 1912 year after his marriage. So his first with the children….

Very own
Mur

Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

Victory for Lloyd George, accused of making a mis-statement about man-power

Major General Sir Frederick Maurice made a controversial allegation that Parliament had been misled regarding the manning of the Western Front.

10 May 1918

Another officer here – Australian Captain Goudie – Artillery.

Victory for Lloyd George. Asquith’s motion about Sir F. Maurice’s letter defeated. He accused Lloyd George of making a mis-statement about man-power. Mesopotamian troops & Bonar Law’s statement about the interversion of the line not settled in Versailles Conference.


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

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that Asquith & Churchill should be impeached

Expat Will Spencer had plenty to interest him in the Swiss newspapers – the first news of the Russian Revolution, plus the official enquiry into the fiasco of the Dardanelles expedition.

16 March 1917

Max Ohler’s birthday.

News in the paper of a revolution in St Petersburg. Also a rumour that the Czar is a prisoner, & has abdicated, & that his brother, the Grand-duke Michael Alexandrovitch, has been appointed regent….

Read an article in by the London correspondent of the “Bund” on the report of the Commission which was appointed to enquire into the conduct of the British Dardanelles Expedition. Lloyd George had said in Feb. 1915 that the Army was not there to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the Navy. The responsibility for the land operations(100,000 killed, wounded & missing, & 100,000 sick) being persevered with, rested with Asquith, Churchill & – though one is reluctant to say it under the circumstances – chiefly with the late Lord Kitchener.

My question is, did Asquith know that the chances of success were too small to justify the prosecution of the campaign? Or did he think it best to be guided by the opinion of Kitchener, & was it the expressed opinion of the latter that the chances were good enough. In the latter case, I am sorry for Asquith. The expedition was an expensive failure, but if the attempt had not been made, probably plenty would have said afterwards that it ought to have been made. It is always much easier to judge after the event.

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that by way of a warning to others, Asquith & Churchill should be impeached. Apparently it was from Australia & New Zealand that the demand for an enquiry came, very large contingents from those colonies having taken part & suffered heavily in the campaign.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

No peace terms yet

The German peace terms were rejected.

19 December 1916

Lloyd George made good speech to Asquith. No peace terms yet. All Allies agreed.

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

Joy as Prime Minister resigns

Florence Vansittart Neale had not been a fan of PM Herbert Asquith, so she was delighted when he resigned. Conservative leader Andrew Bonar Law, who was in coalition with the Liberals in the interests of national unity during the war, let Liberal rival David Lloyd George take over.

6 December 1916
Asquith resigned! Joy!! Bonar Law sent for, he cannot do it. Lloyd George gone to King. Firmer war policy.

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

“When oh! when? Not a glimmer of an ending yet!”

Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1868-1938) wrote to Ralph Glyn with news of a royal romance. Nada (short for Nadejda) de Torby (1896-1963) was a cousin of the Czar of Russia and through her mother a descendant of the mixed-race Russian poet Pushkin. Prince George of Battenberg (1892-1938) (later the Marquess of Milford Haven) was the uncle of Prince Philip and brother of Earl Mountbatten, and is buried in Bray. The happy couple would get married in November 1916. But Violet was also worried about her own sons, aged 17 and 20, when the war seemed unending.

May 13, 1916
Alloa House
Alloa, NB

Dearest Ralph

Jock [her son John Erskine] was up here for his 21st birthday on Ap. 26th & he had a good many boys & girls here to give him a cheery week, but Portia & Cynthia Cadogan have spent the last three weeks just missing Pneumonia following Flu, and the 1st is up & creeping about the house, & Cynthia will not get out of bed! So I have had a busy time in addition to all my committees & war work.

Nada Torby & Prince George of Battenberg got engaged up here on Ap. 10th. Then New Zealand & Australia in a fog rammed, so he got leave (New Z. his ship), much to Nada’s joy. They are radiantly happy, & are both very lucky I consider. Beatty has a fine command up here, 2 new flotillas – & the “wobbly eight” departed lower down…. Rumours of 5th Bat. S coming to this part. Q. Eliz. & co. Hope you understand all these hieroglyphics.

Edward Stanley’s thigh wound not serious I hear, but fear Harry Ashley very severe in spine. He may not recover, & if he does may be always paralysed – too sad. Only just 22, & his mother’s only child & adoration. She is gone over to France to be with him.

That Irish business too awful. I heard of 16,000 casualties but can hardly believe that. Dillon’s speech even more disloyal than reported in yesterday’s papers (12th) & has had a bad effect in Ireland! Much better leave Maxwell in entire command there for a bit. Asquith, Birrell & Co should all mount the scaffold!
Expect you saw a bit of the P.O.W. He is back here, & I suppose will go to France again soon. Do you ever see Scatters Wilson? He is coming home on leave about June 10th. Neil Primrose I shall not see, as he cannot get south before middle of next month for a fortnight or so. Jock’s Medical Board may pass him for active service next month, but I doubt his inside letting him stay out for long. He cannot walk 4 miles!

Tommy [possibly her younger son Francis, born in January 1899] joins the Special Reserve of Scots Guards in Sept. till end year. When oh! when? Not a glimmer of an ending yet! He will be 17 ½. I can hardly believe it!…

Yours ever
Violet M.

Letter from Violet, Countess of Mar and Kellie (1868-1938) to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C21)

Asquith heads to Ireland

The Easter Rising was receiving the personal attention of the Prime Minister.

10 May 1916

Letter from Phyllis. All her friends leaving soon.

Mr Asquith gone to Ireland!


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

A dramatic scene in Parliament

Irish Secretary Augustine Birrell resigned for his mishandling of Irish nationalism and the Easter Rising.

32 Addison Road
Kensington, W
May 4/16

My dear M

I have been harried from pillar to post since my return on the 29th. Heavy foreign mails in & out, the excitements of the House, & the sitting of our Synod in London. This last is rather absurd as half our small body are away as chaplains or combatants, but it has involved services which must be attended by the elect few…

On the 2nd I went to the Palace, & found the attention was appreciated. Together we went to the Intercession service at noon, & Kensington Church seemed more than ever alive with the history of your family…

Today Joan was to have gone to Woking with Louise, but her Captain is home (today), & I replace her, a poor substitute in L’s eyes! I was only engaged to lunch with the Asquiths & of course could put it off. I saw the dramatic scene in the House yesterday. The 2nd Irish Secretary I have seen resign! It was a fine manly speech & received as such by the House. I don’t know who is to go in his stead. No one well known, I think….

Tell Meg, A J says one submarine a week since Jan: 1 (at least). An interesting account of the action off Lowestoft, but with borrowed caution I had better wait to see her…

Ever
[illegible signature – Sybil Campbell?]

Letter to Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

“Our generation has learnt to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Maysie was amused by their aristocratic mother’s depression at the thought of living on a reduced income now her husband was retiring, and had had a royal encounter in Windsor.

April 24/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My dear darling R.

I wonder what for an Easter you spent [sic]. Very many happy returns of it anyhow. I got yours of 14th today. I hope you have seen Frank by now. How splendid of him to spend his leave in that way. Your weather sounds vile, still you are warm & here one never is. I hear from Pum [Lady Mary] today that Meg is in bed with Flu & temp 102. I am so worried, & hope she will not be bad. I must wait till John comes in, but feel I must offer to go to them, but how John is to move house alone I do not know! We move Thurs. My only feeling is that it may distract the parents somewhat during this trying week….

[Mother] takes the gloomiest view of household economies etc, & is determined it will all be “hugga mugga”, “She was not brought up like that & you see darling I have no idea how to live like that” etc etc. I tried humbly to suggest that one could be happy from experience & was heavily sat on, “it’s different for you young people”. Of course it is, & I wasn’t brought up in a ducal regime, still one can have some idea – also possible if Pum had ever had Dad fighting in a war she’d find more that nothing mattered. I think our generation has learnt that, & to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life perhaps! You can well imagine tho’ nothing is said, how this attitude of martyrdom reacts on Dad. In fact he spoke to John about it. One does long to help, but one feels helpless against a barrier of sheer depression in dear Pum…

There seems little news to tell you. The King came Thurs, & has been riding in the Park. We ran into all the children, 3 princes & Princess M pushing bikes in the streets of Windsor on Friday. It was most surprising. They have got two 75s here as anti-aircraft, one on Eton playing fields & one Datchet way. They say if they ever fire the only certainty must be the destruction of the Castle & barracks!!

You know all leave was suddenly stopped on the 18th & everyone over here recalled. We all thought “the Push” but Billy writes the yarn in France is, it was simply that the Staff and RTs wished to have leave themselves – but then one can hardly believe, it’s too monstrous to be true. However John Ponsonby has written about coming on leave the end of the month so there can’t be so much doing yet. The news from Mesopotamia is black enough, one more muddle to our credit & more glory through disaster to the British Army.

I wonder what you think of the recent political events. Pum nearly or rather quite made herself ill over it!…

Billy has I fancy been pretty bad. The bed 10 days at some base hospital, bad bronchitis & cough….

Bless you darling
Your ever loving
Maysie

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‘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
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Compulsion and martial law would be the work of a strong man at the top

Lady Mary Glyn shared her views on the political crisis at home.

April 18 1916

I took .. a huge consignment of work from the Red Cross Room to 48 Grosvenor Square, but Lord Gosford no longer demands inspection there, & I took them on to 83. Then picked Dad up at 23 & came on to Paddington, to see the [illegible – affiches?] of the setback of Tigris Force is bad & the Cabinet Crisis & Asquith postponing his statement. I wonder if it is to be the downfall of the Cabinet after all, & Lloyd George to be Prime Minister sooner than we think. Anything is possible in this glacier on the move and a morain cavernous opening out from this Recruiting muddle.

Compulsion & Martial law would surely be the work of a strong man for both must go together. It is inequality & sense of injustice that brings the strain.

I had a talk with Meg on the telephone, & her beloved Admiral came & talked…

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/4)

News from Bucharest “is invariably all skittles”

Basil Thorold Buckley, the Director of Military Intelligence, told Ralph Glyn that he was suspicious of the veracity of “secret” information passed to the British by the Romanians. Buckley was a cousin of Berkshire peer Lord Radnor.

General Staff
Director of Military Intelligence
War Office
Whitehall
SW

17 Apr. 1916

My dear Glyn

Your request for maps is receiving attention, but I think you have in one case asked for something that does not exist.

We cannot understand the craze which exists (& has always existed) in the MEF Intelligence for news from Bucharest. It is invariably all skittles & we never can rely on it.
Here is a very fair sample of it. I have a similar thing from W Clayton on 24th March by bag to show what rotten stuff. Comes from the Romanian GS [General Staff]. The Germans know jolly well that the RGS pass it on to us. So they feed the RGS up with all sorts of lies.

Critical times in the House of Commons this week. I think LG [Lloyd George] may chuck his place in the Cabinet if the PM does not show he is strong enough to bring in Conscription. Old Leverson paid me a visit yesterday on return from Egypt. I was in an awful fright he would as to be re-employed in MI2C.

Best of luck.
Yrs ever
B T Buckley

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Lord Harmsworth “stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers”

A female friend wrote to Ralph with her views on the domestic political position and the trashier end of the press. Their mutual acquaintance Major General Sir Cecil Bingham (1861-1934) had commanded the Cavalry Corps in France until it was dismantled in March 1916 and he was brought back to England.

26 St James’ Place
SW
28th March 1916

Dearest Ralph

I love getting your letters, and in imagination have written to you every week at least! But I admit my imagination occasionally is like the Yellow Man’s, so perhaps you have not received them quite regularly!! I miss you very much. I wish you were still on your old jobs in France, and popping home occasionally so that I could see you. Is there no chance of your getting home soon?

There is really very little news from home. We have passed a most uneventful spring, if the villainously cold weather of the last two months can be called spring!…

I think the Government is very rocky, and I should not be surprised if there is a split any day now over this Compulsion business. Squith [sic] has carted Eddie Derby, as he has carted everybody else. No truthful straightforward man is a match for that wily old fox. I am very glad that Carson has come back to the House during the last two days. I am sure he is the only man to form a Government if Squith does have to go. I expect they will be obliged to bring in a Compulsion Bill all round, in which case McKenna and Runciman for sure, and various others probably, will go. It is a pity you are not home, you would revel in it all.

Harmsworth has behaved quite abominably, stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers, and at the same time trying to humbug in a dignified manner with the “Times”. It really makes one quite sick.

Military matters have been very quiet and I have heard of no rows or rumpuses. Georgie writes quite happily from billets. They had a bad time in the trenches about a month ago, but he fortunately came through it quite all right. I think what he has felt most has been the cold. He is delighted to think that the worst of this is over now.

It was bad luck for Cis Bingham losing his command, wasn’t it? He says he would not have minded so much if he could have only had one slap at the Boches with his mounted Army, but it was not to be, and now they are all split up and he is sadly at home doing nothing…

I have seen nothing of Meg for some time. I think she has been paying a prolonged visit to your parents at Peter. She will have to break out badly when she returns to London as a reaction!

I tried to let your flat for you to a lady, but she did not think it would quite meet all the necessities of her wardrobe, a nail behind the door being all that I could suggest to hang up her numerous garments. But surely now everything in Egypt has quietened down you will agitate to come home? I can’t imagine your restless spirit being content to slumber away the hours with the old Mummies and Rameseses.

The Boches are getting unpleasantly active in sinking our merchant ships, and I can’t help thinking the Authorities are getting anxious about it. If only America could be gingered up to seize all the German ships in their ports, it would help us quite enormously, as tonnage is getting very short, and daily now the Government are prohibiting fresh imports. There is no doubt about it that very soon we shall be distinctly uncomfortable, which will be a horrid crow for the old Boches.

I heard rather a nice story – which you mustn’t tell at Peter. A man appeared before a Tribunal for Exemption from Service saying “I am a soldier of the Lord!. “You are a hell of a long long way from your Barracks then” – said a voice in the background.

Goodbye dear Ralph. I wish you weren’t so far away. Take great care of yourself & come home soon.

Best love from
Edith

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/19)

“Sun punishment” for prisoners of war

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Windsor, met a former prisoner of war with harrowing reports of German treatment.

March 23rd
Elgin Lodge
Windsor
My darling Ralph

Have you heard that Asquith came home sober the other night, so his dog never recognised him & bit him!! And another evening after he’d had a good dinner he played bridge with some friends. He seemed alright except he would go on trying to cut the matchbox!

It is not yet settled whether Jim keeps the flotilla or goes to LCS, in any case he keeps Royalist. He writes as if the last alternative is the decisive one, but it’s contrary to various [illegible] I’ve heard in London. However everyone agrees he is right to stick to Royalist…

I came down here on Thursday to stay with Maysie & John, & this is a nice little house with a hideous outside… John looks well, but his jaw is still oozing, I believe… This evening a Coldstream soldier is coming up here to see them, as he’s been a prisoner in Germany since Sept. 1914, & has weird tales of the punishments the Germans dish out, but of course it must be a grand occasion for a yarn. No one here can contradict him when he says he has twice been put in prison 3 days on end in darkness & then one day in daylight to make him blind, & he says they use “sun punishment”, making the prisoner remain in the sun without a hat & facing the sun all day…

There are many stories about “Moesa” getting out & getting home. All or more may be true, but one thing’s certain, & that is 2 ships without lights may pass each other on a dark night without knowing the other’s there, even though they be only a few 1000 yds apart, & the sea is quite a big place you know. Lack of coaling facilities will & has prevented them sending many Moeses out, & they are so very liable to meet a nasty sticky end.

And I was very impressed about your remarks of the Navy in the East. I’m afraid the Army won’t come out well in comparison of wasting material with the Navy. It seems a too difficult job for both services. They are burning military saddles here when they don’t know what to do with them, & there are too many tales of Staff officers’ expensive motors to quote, but they’d put into shade your grouse about an Admiral using motor boats as despatch carriers. As for the Navy’s job as Transporters in general, they don’t seem to have done so very badly when you come to think of the millions of men they have been carrying up and down the world to every military expedition which the WO has thought good to attempt. If there’s one thing quite certain it is that the Army can’t move hand or foot without them, & are entirely dependant on the Navy in whatever part of the world they’re fighting in.

Do tell me some more Naval items from the Desert, darling. Anyway you’ll approve of the way that Arthur Balfour & Hedworth Meux smashed up that mad viper Winston. I never heard such tales as Jim Graham told me of Winston’s organization of the Naval Brigades in the beginning of the war. However as some sailor said, “Thank God Winston was got busy with his Naval Division & Flying Brigade, & the Navy was saved owing to the fact he was too busy to interfere with it!”!…

Your ever very loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“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
Windsor

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”.

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