“Friendly as we advance but enemies in a retreat”

Lady Mary Glyn had more news for her son Ralph, including his late cousin’s Ivar’s thoughts on the Middle East where he had been fighting before his death.

Feb 14th [1916]

I had seen Maysie & John at his mother’s on Sunday. He is happy about the Adjutancy & has taken it up today. Maysie joins him at the White Hart this evening. They have a house but cannot get into it for a fortnight. Later on they hope to persuade old Arthur Leveson Gower to let them have a house close to the Barracks Mary Crichton advised them to purse. He won’t let, & is at present obdurate….

Then I went to Aunt Syb. My first visit [since her son Ivar’s death]. She was so pleased with your letters, and with all you had said to her. I had no idea my letter gave you the first news? She still gets letters, the last on New Year’s Day, and all full of the interest & newness & picturesqueness, & pleasure in surroundings. He spoke of being surrounded by Arabs “always friendly as we advance but enemies in any retreat”. He did not speak of any contretemps then. Aunt Syb was very natural, and spoke of him freely, of her life as closed, and “no man left belonging to her”. One knows it to be the blow from which, for her, there is no recovery or relief, & yet she says “if she had had ten sons she would have wished them all to go, and that she is glad it was in a fight, & “not a sniper” or other “lesser path to glory”. That it would have been his wish if it was to be. All this & much else that for me does not relieve the tragedy & the pathos of a life that seemed to need such other crowning – but some day I hope his letters will be published, and the story told of all he did when the great call came, & with it a vocation to which he gave so great an answer.

She minds now the ten days she might have had with him at Marseilles while he waited, & somehow she knows he got no letters all that time & no word from home. She is very sore & very bitter about Eric, but I have learned my lesson with Ivar. Ever again to judge? For it is not death always that is to reveal what Love may do to draw out & strengthen & console where sense of failure, & being on the wrong track makes that comfort difficult to minister. If only one can always love, and always believe, then one would never even know the things that oppose. I longed to tell Syb this when she called Eric “coward”. I never thought Ivar that, or yet “spy”! but as with Eric I suspected wrong friends & associates to be an adverse influence, & now perhaps with Eric a right word from someone, & not a wrong one, might avail. He has no mother to help him. Eric had come in for 10 minutes & left saying “he could not bear it” – poor Eric. No mother to gird him & help him to worthier service.

I will try to send you Frances’s Oban Times which is more in character with herself than with Ivar – but Syb likes it, and so does all the family except myself, knowing the false allusion. But what matters it. Ivar’s kiss & look of recovered by friendship outside the old church at Inveraray has been a comfort & “the talk” which went on behind my back can be overcome too.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)

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Intelligence is being exploited more now

A former War Office/Intelligence colleague wrote to Ralph with more behind-the-scenes gossip after the complete reorganisation of British Intelligence.

February 11
War Office
Whitehall
SW

My dear Glyn

Just got your letter dated 2nd Jan, but I think you wrote it 2nd Feb probably! Sorry I missed you in my travels to the Near East with Lord K. They told me you had been “chased away” from Medforce! Your “position finder” system has been used to great advantage not only for fixed WT Stds, but for other “floating aerial bodies”. You will I am sure be glad to hear it has been of such use – only keep to yourself the fact that it has been so useful. Gen Callwell arrived back February 7th from Russia & is now in France – probably going back to Russia in a week or two, he was as you say the most charming of chiefs to serve under, & I miss him very much. He & Wyman were both decorated with “Stanislav’s [instant?] swords” – there is now a real liaison business between the CIGS and Chantilly – Sidney Clive and [Birthie?] de Sauvigny go backwards & forwards every 10 days & there is always one of them here & one at Chantilly working with us so that we each know now what the other is doing. It works well.

Gillman came in to see me today. You would hardly know your way about here now – there have been so many changes. MI2C is very much changed and is a very busy spot with even a lady clerk as assistant to Mr Baker. Cox from GHQ is the 2nd Grade [illegible]. [Fryam?] – Joyce (from British [Arucan?]) – Crichton who was in your regiment – and a youth coming over from France to join the subsection. We have shipped old man Perry off to Salonica. I could not do with his squeaky boots any longer and we thought he would like a change! He is delighted to go. Then I have a section now on the 2nd floor under Steel – which includes Persia, Afghanistan, India, Senussi etc – and the Balkans live in the room next to Thorp & are under him.

Amery is really the head of the Balkan sub-section and Skeff-Smyth works with Steel. It is of course good for the Germans to know that we are going to march up to Vienna through the Balkans! You forgot this in criticizing the “ops” – ! I am having “German forces in the field” sent to Tyrrell & a “Boche” order of battle. Colin Mackenzie has just left here to take charge of a Division again & Bird is DSO. Maurice as you know is DMO & Macdonogh DMC. We still have lots of work but the intelligence part of the show is I hope being exploited a little more than before. Best of luck & kindest regards from my wife.

Yrs ever
Bazil Brierly


Letter from Bazil Brierly to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/6)

“They deserved it” – but Staff officers should not get the same kind of medal for safe work

Maysie Wynne-Finch told her brother Ralph how proud she was that her Guards officer husband John had won the Military Cross.

Jan. 22/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales
My dear darling R.

You will guess that I am what Jim calls “throwing my chest out” after John’s Military X. It was for that show on Oct. 8th. It’s so awfully nice Billy should have one too. I think they deserved it! Your news of Lord A’s DSO does not surprise me. It’s the usual story. As Becky wrote to John re his X – “he hoped it might be the 1st of many rows – for himself being on the staff of course, he felt pretty safe to finish up with 3 rows at least!” One is all for staff work being honoured but why not make classes & have one for good safe work & another for dangerous jobs whether won by staff or anyone else. Don’t you agree? I am so glad to hear of your new work. It sounds most awfully interesting – & I do hope you’ll be left in place at the one job for a bit. Yes, your DMO went with the rest. I was sure you would be sorry. K seems to become more & more disappointing as far as one can judge by effect. Rumour has it he’s going to marry old Lady Minto. “I should have thought he’d enough to do without the cares of matrimony” as O de B sarcastically wrote to me!! Which reminds me, I [am] sending you rather a nice little Kipling on the Navy & also a collection of various newspaper articles.

I don’t know how much of news John told you in his letter. He went & saw his doctors & jaw man last Mon. the latter thinks another lot of jaw bone has gone – caused by a huge wisdom tooth coming through & setting up inflammation in the already tender jaw bone. Anyhow he was x rayed again & is now waiting to get the report. He will probably have to have another little operation to remove the bad stuff.

George Crichton offered him & urged him very strongly to go to Windsor as Adjutant, however, having got the Docs to say he should, all being well, be fit for France in another two months, he has refused, not wishing to get stuck at Windsor. The Med Board have given him another 3 weeks sick leave to his extreme wrath, to have his jaw treated. He wished & had determined to combine the process with duty at Windsor. I expect we shall go to London next week now to have the op. or whatever it’s to be, he’ll go to Windsor as soon as possible. From all accounts nothing but a miracle can account for that evacuation of that awful peninsula. I had a delightful letter from Capt McClintock saying so, & giving that story no doubt you know of the cruiser, one of the covering squadron, who after the last man had left, drew out of the line & assembled all the ships company & on their knees thanked God & then returned to bombard the enemy. I like that, it has a fine old flavour of sea tradition.

One thing I long for these days all the time is that Mahan had not died before writing this last & possibly greatest chapter of the influence of Sea Power.

Incidentally these last figures of the neutral food supply open people’s eyes a bit. It’s no news to sailors or soldiers of course. Oh God these d— politicians & diplomats. It’s sickening. If America plays the fool & one doubts her pluck too, let her come in & be d— to her.

Isn’t it too ghastly about Ivar. Poor dear Aunt Syb. One hardly dares to think of the black desolation of her sorrow. She writes too wonderfully. No word of complaint or regret, only thankfulness that he so played the game – & by heaven he did….

People from France write rather fed up just now. No wonder – it all sounds too beastly, especially in the weather we’ve had…

Submarines were again in the Irish Channel at New Years time I believe. The mail was held up one day & night till they were cleared off, I believe….

Joan Lascelles writes of some new appointment Eddy has. I was so glad for her about his Mil X – though John heard much adverse comment on the matter in London last week! Ducky Follett is doing well, a wife & a DSO all at once. I was so glad.

Yours ever
Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)