Offensive may begin soon

Press baron Lord Rothermere had been a controversial chairman of the Air Council.

25 April 1918
Motored to Reading for Commandandants meeting….

Fear offensive beginning.

Lord Rothermere resigns.

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

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Fitting gas helmets

As a gas expert, Sydney helped with the issuing of gas helmets.

1918
March 26th

I superintend fitting of 250 men of Brigade at Race course, 51 KOYLI, 51 Notts & Derbys.

27th Ditto 400 Notts & Derbys.

28 I fit men of 52nd Notts & Derbys at Redmines, Sheffield.

Proceeding with gas cylinder in car (general’s) at 8.30 am.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Germans being pushed back with great slaughter

A group of ladies from the Maidenhead area shared a car to a meeting about getting women working on the land.

25 April 1917

We all to Maidenhead after early lunch en route for Reading. Helen motored H Moule, EVN [Edith Vansittart Neale], E[dith] Frere & I to Women’s Agricultural Meeting, & Bessie Sturges met us. Good meeting. Women spoke well. Recruits came in!

Germans being pushed back with great slaughter.

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

“The Huns threw a lot of shells about” – and gassed one of their own men

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence with his latest news. This letter, which is, unusually for Percy, typed, is badly torn and parts are missing. He had been gassed, and met an old friend.

30/9/16

Life is such a harassing affair nowadays that I [never see]m to have both the time and the humour to write you … lines, but if I don’t soon send you a letter I [shall for]get altogether how to write one, so here we are, and … excuse the type.

This pushing business is business, but it’s very […] I can assure you. However, the Huns are absolutely […] and very much on the wobble, and I still hope for [the s]udden collapse I feel sure will be the end of this …

Since writing to you last I have added the experience of being lachrymatory [tear] gassed. It was jolly. [Every]one scrambling for helmets and goggles and crying […], the gas seeming to have caused an inflammation which [was] very much aggravated when one closed one’s eyes. At […] the enemy, and I had the pleasure of getting out […]ration orders wearing a gas helmet and goggles. We [wer]e a remarkable assembly – you couldn’t tell t’other from [whi]ch, and when I had finished at my typewriter I was surprised to find that the man at my elbow crowded on the dug-out steps was a German officer prisoner we had captured. It was rather a joke for this fellow to be brought in and suddenly hoist by his own petard, so to speak.

Since then we have had a “rest” – quite an eventful one, for on one occasion I spent a few thrilling minutes watching parachute descents from kite balloons and on another, after tea, lying out in the sunshine, suddenly I espied a splendid fox wending its way amongst some […] trenches and taking cover in the wire entanglement […] rank grass. We chivvied it out and had a small fox [hole?] all on our own.

The night we came out and went into rest we had […] welcome – the Huns threw a lot of shells about and […] knocked down the house opposite us. That’s the second time they’ve done that – it’s most inconsiderate.

By the way I’ve been looking out for Jack Jackson for a long time. He was wounded at LOOS and I imagine he […] long come out again. Anyway a short time ago toward the end of a pretty big do, I was going up in a Staff car [and] just as I was stepping in, who should go by but Jack. [We] only had time for a handshake, and then on he went up […] the line and I to the comparative safety of a dug-out. I hope he came through all right as the main part of that […] bump so far as his Brigade was concerned was then over.

If you could send me some gloves I should be glad.

I am now transferred to the A.S.C. but have no number at present. My pay is 3/6d per day as from Mar. 9th. You might make a note of this. I was sorry to transfer, but had to….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/30)

“His steel helmet had a hole right through it”

John Maxwell Image wrote to his old friend W F Smith with news of a former pupil, wounded for a second time.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]
6 Aug. ‘16

Poor, illstarred Willie Dobbs has stopped another bullet – this time, a shrapnel from one of our own guns 120 yards off – a premature burst. He wrote to me from the Hospital in France, quite in the jaunty Irish way –

“treated me very leniently”, he said, “for it hit me in the wind”. But it must have been a narrow escape, for it went right through the body, “cracking a rib, and came out through another hole on the right of my chest. This was on the 19th and the 2 holes are nearly healed and probably the rib will not take more than a month.”

Mrs Dobbs writes that his steel helmet had a hole right through it. He is now in King Edward VIIth Hospital, London, and “doing well”. Sybil Dobbs found him “looking wonderfully well and in good spirits”, but still in bed….

The King was here on Thursday, to inspect Cadets. They seem to have tried to keep in secret in Camb[ridge]. Indeed we heard of it accidentally – though notice of course had been posted in the Common Room. Madame, full of loyalty, came in early: and we sat down on chairs upon the lawn before the Library. The sky was blue, the air genially warm, the grass and trees most refreshing. The College gates were closed to outsiders – and we and a few others spent a happy half hour watching lazy, pipe-smoking cadets try to build a bridge across the Cam. The menu supposed them to be “surprised in the act” by the King. He came in a small procession of motors, and plainly enjoyed the unceremonious visit, for he staid [sic] a long time. Mumbo in Scarlet received him. And it was grand to behold the monarch subsequently shake hands warmly with our Head Porter, Coe….

I went on Friday to hear OB’s “friend”, Vinogradoff. The Russians are all put up in Nevile’s Court. I ought to go one night to dine and see them. Shall I?

We have about 650, I hear, Cadets in Trinity, candidates for Commissions – most of them have already been at the Front. A week ago we entertained some 120 of these, who had just received their Commissions, at dinner. There must have been 160 in all. I went. Joey in the chair. 2 High Tables and 3 of in the body of the Hall. One of the Cadet captains was overheard preparing his men, as they stood in New Court ready to march to Hall – “Now, boys, understand: this is a dinner – not a Blind”.

All love to you and die Madame

Yours evermore
Bild

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

A terrible blow

Petrol shortages meant a blow for Florence Vansittart Neale, on holiday in Kent. Glycerine was needed for explosives.

21 July 1916
Heard all petrol stopped for private cars! Terrrible blow. Went into Folkestone to try to get some. Heard we could not. Wired to [Kidnes?] – no use!…

Still going well, but awful casualties.

Also no glycerine to be sold without doctor’s orders.

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

An “exhibition of heartless callousness on the part of race-goers at this present crisis”

Churchgoers thought the continuance of horse racing during the war was unpatriotic.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the June Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are asked specially
For the preparation of the National Mission…
For the maintenance of the unity of the nation.
For victory in the war, and peace.
For wisdom in dealing with the conscientious objectors….

RACE MEETINGS DURING THE WAR

The following resolution was passed unanimously by the Sonning deanery. A great deal of indignation was felt and expressed at the motor traffic on the Bath Road during the Newbury Races:

“That this meeting of clergy, laymen, and laywomen, representatives of parishes in the Sonning deanery, in the diocese of Oxford, protests against the exhibition of heartless callousness on the part of race-goers at this present crisis, and calls upon His Majesty’s Government to reconsider the question of racing during war-time; and urges all earnest churchpeople to strive to show a spirit of self-sacrifice at this time.”

WAR MEMORIALS

I feel sure that a great many clergy, churchwardens and others would wish for advice about proposed war memorials as time goes on. Accordingly, I have asked the following (their number will probably be slightly increased) to act as a consultative committee:
Canon Ottley, Canon Herbert Barnett, the Revs. F J Brown, Sydney Cooper, W C Emeris and E J Norris, Mr F N A Garry, and Mr F C Eeles. Anyone wanting the help of this committee should write to the Rev. W C Emeris, the Vicarage, Burford, Oxon.

C OXON

Earley St Peter parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P191/28A/31/6)

“One cannot altogether wish anyone in France” – but thank heavens for conscription

Army officer John Wynne-Finch and his wife Maysie were outraged that apparently healthy young men were escaping conscription.

May 5/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My dear darling R.

Have I written since John was declared by the doctor to have German measles, & forbidden to go near barracks till the 10th? He’s never been ill, & I’ve never caught it … & I doubt really if he had!! However, we sent for the motor, as he was not allowed in a train & came off up here on Monday…

The Tribunals scandals in these parts make one quite sick – all the young men getting off, it’s too shameful, but inevitable with the kind of people on the Tribunals – no gentlemen & all scoundrels in with the other & relations to all. John is wild….

You sound to be having a wonderfully interesting time. I’ve never heard anyone yet not say the same about the PoW. He must be too delightful. I’m sorry you’ve lost Captain Barnard, you’ll miss him. It must have been very hard to know what to do about that other job. One would love you to be nearer in some ways, & yet one cannot altogether wish anyone in France. John will be back there soon I expect. The time at Windsor goes terribly fast.

Tony went to Dublin with dispatches last Saturday. Awfully interesting…

Thank heaven we’ve got compulsion at last & have shot the rebels. It gives one some hope for this rotten government.

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

“The beastly Bosch measles”

Recovering at her parents’ home from an attack of German measles (rubella), Meg Meade thought the mere name of the illness was unpatriotic.

May 2nd [1916]
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling Ralph

At last I can send you a scrawl, but the beastly Bosch measles has left me with weak eyes so I can’t read or write much, & also feeling very weak. But to be accounted for I suppose because my temperature for 2 days was 104. But it was a dreadful way of spending Easter with the por parents, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as I have certainly given Dad other things to think of than his resignation….

John has very slight Hun measles too, so he & Maysie have motored to Voelas…

Jim has been having a busy time at sea, he is very well, but I do long so much to see him…

From your own loving Meg

Darling take care of yourself & your dear tummy & don’t do anything risky for it!

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

Nothing but wire between us and the enemy

Percy Spencer described the part of France he was based in to his sister Florence – and the musical backdrop of nightingales and mouth organs (harmonicas), not far from the hellish mud of the trenches.

Apl 25, 1916
My darling sister

[Censored, probably by Florence]

It’s the most lovely day that ever was. I’ve strolled out of our chateau straight up into a scrubby copse at the top of a very steep hill and here I am lying on quaker oats, eggs and bacon, writing to you and listening to a nightingale. He’s not quite in full song but for wartime he’s very good indeed and I’m grateful.

Already the sun was getting too hot so I have shifted into the breeze and an even wider view. This is a lovely corner of France. Everything is beautiful and only man is vile – that’s because the women left the corn during a very “unhealthy” period. But that’s not quite true for the lady owner has motored up from the south for a couple of days to settle a few business matters and she’s rather nice. Garwood says she’s “a decent bit of stuff” so taking the acme of perfection in womanhood as being “a posh bit” (Major Trevor’s wife reached that standard), you’ll be able to arrive at this lady’s position.

There’s a mouth organ playing in the valley beneath me, and being played remarkably well – “despise not the mouth organ”. As I think I have already told you, Ian Hay has my hearty endorsement to that remark. Many months ago I remember being largely amused at one of our boys’ letters home – “One thing I’ve been longing to ask you for, but I know how things are at home, and don’t like to bother you, but now Sis has got a job could you send me a mouth organ, a 1/- linnet is the best, but I expect they’re more expensive now owing to the war”. But after April 1915 when one mouth organ played a dozen or so of our weary fellows in from their 3 days cellar and shell experience, I made up my mind that the mouth organ was a noble instrument.

I told you, I think, I went round the line the other day. To complete my experience I went round the remaining portion by night with the General, that being the only time it can be approached with any degree of security.

It was an eerie experience and a fearfully wet one, the ground being as torn and riven with shell fire that it seems to slide away under your feet, and in the trenches, mud and water – water up to your thigh if you were unlucky, and mud that wrestled with you at each step for possession of your gum boots.

We went right out into the open (it’s a curious line about here) and with nothing between us and the Huns 100 yards away but a couple of frail curtains of wire – ours and theirs. Here the officers stood for a little while discussing points. I stood anxiously watching the enemy lights soaring into the sky towards us like evil eyes searching for victims to disclose to the German rifles, and behind me crouched an orderly also frightened to death at his exposed position murmured thro’ his chattering teeth, “C- this is all right”.

Well, we landed home safe and sound at 2.30 a.m. By 3.30 a.m. I’d scraped half of France off my clothes and turned in for an hour; turned in again then for another 2 hours when I got up for good, scraped the other half of France off my togs and “carried on”.
About my commission. There was a strong suggestion that being a sergeant I should probably only get six weeks training out here and then be chucked into some line regiment. That’s not good enough and unless I can see my way to getting a reasonable period of training that would enable me to take command of a platoon with confidence and also give me an opportunity of showing my administrative abilities, I’m not going to proceed any further.

Well. Time’s up.

On the right there’s a dear old chateau, dating back to William I’s time, with many grey limestone towers. To the left stretch the everlasting hills clothed with the wooded promise of summer. Overhead a couple of aeroplanes are humming and Hunning and right at my feet in the hollow stands “my chateau” and there I go – to work.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/8-14)

More distinguished not to be decorated

Naval wife Meg Meade wrote to her army officer brother Ralph Glyn. She was not impressed by the Royal Naval Air Service. See here for more about the Athens naval/diplomatic mission referred to.

April 9th [1916]
2 S Wilton Place
My darling R….

I’m sure you won’t worry your head about whether a decoration comes your way. When you are on the Staff I think it’s a good deal more distinguished not to be decorated, & will save you a good deal of backchat when the war is over!…

I lunched with Aunt L [Princess Louise] today & met the Hamiltons (2nd Sea Lord) & their son, who goes by the name of “Turtle”, & who is quite a distinguished sailor now after various exploits up a West African river against the Huns which was very successful. He’s now 2nd in command of one of the M destroyers at Harwich. No, Medusa wasn’t Barry Domvile’s ship, aren’t you thinking of Miranda which he had for a bit. And I don’t think that air stunt was such a tremendous success, the Naval Air Stiffs can’t do nothink [sic] right.

I’m glad to hear the real sailors are going to be given a chance of handling them for a time, & showing them how they really deserve their nickname of “Really Not A Sailor”.

Maysie & John are coming to stay a night with me tomorrow, John has a Medical Board tomorrow or Tuesday, but I don’t think they can possibly pass him, as his jaw is still oozing I believe, & they can’t begin to make a plate for his mouth until the jaw heals up…
There are so many good points about Bramber [a house there which their parents were planning to lease on retirement] that it would be a pity to lose it. I think it’s as near perfection for them as one can hope to find for the price, & now that the income tax is 5/ in the £, I think they have struck a bargain without the financial embarrassment of owning it. I wish Jimmy was a millionaire & could buy it for them, but as a matter of fact this beastly tax will hit us, as it hits anyone with an income of about 2 thou. More than ¼ of Jim’s income will be gone, & the parents will be in the same boat, but all the same as they haven’t children to keep I hope they’ll find it possible to keep the motor.

I saw Bertie Stephenson & Isie 3 says running as they came to eother lunch or tea each day… Bertie doesn’t look at all well. I wish to goodness he hadn’t been obliged to come home from Egypt. He’s got an open sore on his leg still…

The flies must be too awful with you…

Did you write the skit on the Athanasian Creed about the Egypt commands? It’s a priceless document…

Jimmy rejoins the LCS next week. I wish he might come to a more southern base, but there’s no chance of it at present.

I wonder when you will get any leave, darling, it does seem such ages since you were here last, & I am hoping very much you’ll get some before the Peter move [i.e. the Bishop and Lady Mary leaving Peterborough for retirement in Sussex], or during it in July. How heavenly that would be, & what a difference it would make to the parents, & I feel you must be given some soon.

The Gerry Weles came to dinner here with Sybbie & Dog Saunders the other evening. Gerry Weles is very interesting about that Naval Mission of ours in Athens, & he himself is a hot Venezelosist. Mark Kerr is not to go back there, & Jerry may return any time as head of the mission. They say he’s done splendidly….

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

The army clears fallen trees in Bisham

The Vansittart Neales had a farewell visit from daughter Bubbles before she went to nurse in France. Meanwhile damage on the estate was repaired by local troops.

28 March 1916
H[enry] to Maidenhead. Bubs came back in motor. Heard soon after she came that they were to start Thursday, so the Matron let her stay here till Weds evening.

Estate memorandum book
28th March 1916
Abbey & Grange

A violent blizzard took place – doing much damage to trees. We must have lost 150 or so. The big elm in the old orchard was blown down and 8 other large trees in the Warren & grounds – no one was injured. The Engineers at Marlow helped considerably in clearing roads & paths.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2)

Cigarettes and cakes for wounded soldiers

The people of Earley continued to support entertainment for wounded soldiers, complete with food and smoking sessions.

EARLEY WOUNDED SOLDIERS’ ENTERTAINMENT FUND

Since my report of 28th February, two more Entertainments have been given, and as they have been on similar lines, there is no need for me to occupy space regarding same, except to say that they are still very greatly appreciated by our guests. In justice to those who have so generously supported us by contributions in cash and kind, I append a list, made up to date, in continuation of that published in December last, except the Christmas Entertainment which was reported in the March Magazine. In the March Report on the position of the Fund it was subsequently found that payment had not been made, as agreed, for the use of the Hall, or for hire of conveyances; consequently it was necessary to issue a further appeal, which I am glad to report has met with a most generous response, and there will be no difficulty in continuing the Entertainments up to Easter. The Committee desire em to express their gratitude to all.

List of Donors
£ s d
Nov. 29th Cash received to date 32 4 11
Miss George 2 6
Mrs Lily 5 0
Mrs Jordan 5 0
Mr Heelas 1 0 0
Heelas, Ltd 5 0
Anon 2 6
Miss Montizambert 10 0
Mr and Miss Jordan, for prizes 1 6
Miss Maurice 10 0
Collected by Miss Eileen Joel 3 0 0
Mrs Lilly 1 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr A C Jordan 10 0
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr Jas Hissey 10 0
Mr Rogers 1 6
Mrs Lilly 2 6
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Anon 2 6
Mrs Witherington 5 0
Mrs Marshall 5 0
Ms Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0

The following since second appeal:

Mr Wooldridge 2 6
Miss Goodwin 5 0
Misses George 5 0
Mr F F Ellis 5 0
Miss Pither 5 0
Mr and Mrs Francis 5 0
Miss Schofield 1 1 0
Mr and Mrs Robb 10 0
Mrs Marshall 2 6
Mrs Evans 2 0 0
Mrs King 5 0
Mrs Lilly 4 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0

Collected by Miss Eileen Joel as follows:
Mr Watson 1 0 0
Miss Eileen Joel 6 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Mlle Weill 10 0
Master Stanhope Joel 5 0
Master Dudley Joel 5 0
Mr Collins 5 0
Miss Dellow 2 6
Miss Goodfellow 2 6
Stud Groom 3 0
Miss Lovegrove 2 6
Miss Eyles 2 0
3 13 6

Mr E Shaw 10 0
Capt. Wheble 2 0 0
Mr Rushbrooke 1 1 0
Mrs Witherington 5 0
The Misses Hannaford 10 0
The Misses Beauchamp 10 0
Mr and Mrs S O Bastow 5 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0
Mrs Wilkinson 2 6
Miss May 5 0
Anon 2 6
Rev. Canon and Mrs Fowler 1 0 0

Total to date 57 13 11

Loan of motors since last report: Mrs Joel, Mr Barnard, Mr Heelas, Mr Richard Lea, Mr Helps, Mr Bonnett, Mrs Dunlop.

GIFTS IN KIND

Mrs Honey, Mr B Francis, Mr Hedington, Mr Culham, Miss Dellow, Mrs Masser, Miss Carlsson, cigarettes; Mrs Robb, cigarettes and cake; Mlle Weill, prizes and cigars; Miss Lea, cakes; Mrs Bright, cakes; Mr A C Jordan, sweets; Mrs Ballard, cake, bread and butter; Mrs Porter, cakes; Miss Pither, apples; Mr Harris, bread; The Misses Hannaford, cakes, Mrs Friedlander, apples; Mrs Dracup, prizes; Miss Carlsson, sugar and tea; Miss Wain, prizes; Mr and Mrs Masser, oranges.

NB – The Hon. Secretary, Mr Love, 55 Wokingham Road, would be obliged by a note of intended gifts in kind at least one day before an Entertainment, so as to avoid ordering similar provisions. Next Entertainment, Wednesday, April 5th.

Chas J Howlett,
Hon Treasurer
27th March, 1916

Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/4)

“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)

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…

(more…)