“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

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

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“One of the men had his legs nearly blown off”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall but still had the war forced on him.

William Hallam
20th July 1918

This morning just after breakfast a merchantman’s crew were landed at St. Ives. About 20 Chinese and four English officers. One of the men had his legs nearly blown off and he was taken to Penange hospital. We heard 2 vessels had been sunk about 7 miles off. Stormy again.

Florence Vansittart Neale
20 July 1918

Heard Tzar really shot on 16th. Poor man.

More strikes threatened in Coventry &c. Hope they will come round!!

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“A torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall, but couldn’t escape the war.

William Hallam
16th July 1918

It was wet until dinner time then cleared and was a beautiful day. We had crabs for tea. This afternoon I took that book – rather big for a guide and went round identifying some of the old houses. The quaintest town – the old part – I was ever in but clean even in the lowest streets.

On the pier to-night we saw 2 merchant vessels come in for safety from the submarines and 3 chasers and then a torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 July 1918

Phyllis quite happy at 4 London General!…

Tzar shot by Bolshevists at Ekaterinberg.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

This dreamy life

The Russian Imperial family was still alive – but would be murdered in less than a fortnight.

Friday 5 July 1918

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 July 1918

Horrible rumour Tzar, Tzaritza & Tatiana been murdered.

We all nibbling on satisfactoring [sic]. Germans not making push. Our air work very good & upsetting to them.

Sydney Spencer
5 July 1918

Got up at 7.15. Breakfast as 8.15. At 8.30 inspected men’s rifles, hair, SBRs & feet. Dismissed them till 11.30 to clean up. I rested meanwhile in my room, & sewed up my torn breeches etc. At 11.30 I inspected men in full marching order & have them some arms drill. At 12 I went to my room & slept for an hour.

Dear old Maddison arrived at 1 pm & I spent the afternoon lying in a field of cut clover with him. He told me some of his life history. After tea this dreamy life was dispelled by the news that I report back to the Battalion tomorrow at Hedanville.

Domqueur is a delightful spot. Spent the rest of evening playing patience & resting. To bed at 11 & read a stupid ill written novel.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Extraordinary news from Russia

The Russian Revolution came as a complete shock in England.

16 March 1917

Extraordinary news from Russia. Revolution & Tzar [sic] abdicated in favour of his brother.

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)

“More brains than bowels”

Ralph Glyn’s mentor General Charles Callwell, just off to Russia, let him know what was going on at the War Office and internationally. For Czar Nicholas II’s impressions of Callwell, see his letters.

Central Station Hotel
Newcastle-on-Tyne

4th March 1916

My dear Glyn

I got your letter just when leaving. It looks as if things were going to be very dull in Egypt and, with the reduction of garrison, I suppose that there will be reduction of staff. Perhaps you will find yourself nearer decisive events before long. Latest news from Verdun seems quite satisfactory and Joffre two days ago was quite satisfied. Robertson had gone over to see him and Haig.

Wigram and I are for the Grand Duke’s HQ but go to Magily first to see the Emperor & Alexieff. I have a GCMG for Yudenich, who commanded the army that took Erzerum, which should make us popular & will justify our getting pretty well up to the front. Whe we get back to Moscow we may go on to Japan – I have a sack of decorations concealed at Christiania to serve as an excuse – so as to see how things are on the Siberian railway & at Vladivostok, but I could not get Robertson to make up his mind. The King told me that AP [Arthur Paget] put in from Petrograd for a trip to the Caucasus, suggesting a decoration for Yudenich as justification; but he was too late, our trip having already been arranged. We may meet him at Stockholm or some such place. Mac[law?] is going with us as far as Petrograd, he has managed to put in about three months at home on an irregular sort of sick leave and strikes me as having more brains than bowels; he is coming down here later and we start tonight. The passage across is no citch [sic] as it is bitterly cold, it is always rough, & the steamers are small & asphyxiating, proving altogether too much for Wigram and our recruit-servant.

The War Office has quite settled down on its new lines and the breaking up of the MO into MO and to MI seems to work very well and to be a decided improvement. Most of the old gang remain on and some of them look rather tired.

Wishing you the best of luck

Yours sincerely
Chas E Callwell

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

We should have a soldier, a sailor and George Curzon to run the country

Walter Erskine, Earl of Mar and Kellie, was Colonel of the Sutherland Highlanders. His wife Violet (1868-1938) wrote to Ralph Glyn with her views on Gallipoli, and the political situation at home. She was not impressed by the appointment of Queen Mary’s brother Adolphus, Duke of Teck, to a senior army role.

44 Grosvenor Square
Monday 10th Feb [1916]

Ralph dear

I loved getting a letter from you, & I have been a long time answering it, as I was laid low at Alloa for three weeks in January with Flu…

We are here till the first days of March. I wonder if you will be home before that? If so, I would so like to see you.

Yes, that evacuation of Gallipoli must have been too wonderful, & one was relieved to know that that Army was safely away from that crassly stupid Expedition. I have seen Eddy Dudly, who is all right again, & I hear Scatters [Wilson] may be getting a [illegible] leave, as he has a bad foot.

London is depressed & gloomy, & the PM looks as if he hadn’t a care in the world!! I would like to sweep them all away, & have a soldier (which?? Robertson I suppose) or sailor (Jellicoe) & a civilian – George Curzon I think, as a Triumvirate to see this war through. The latter is strong in mind & action. Great administrative abilities, keeping India, Persia & Mesopotamia like his pocket, which none of the other 22 do, & a grasp of detail in every subject, & a glutton of work. Perhaps you may not agree.

Dolly Teck’s appointment is “pour rire”. We are evidently not at war!!

Am going to tea at Buc. Pal. this evening…

Rumour has it that the German Fleet is coming out. Let us pray for a successful issue for us – as there must always be a great deal of luck at sea!…

[Her son] Jock is on Lord Erroll’s Staff. Lowland 65th Div. at Bridge of Allan, which is nice for us…

I envy you being in Egypt. I don’t believe there will be much doing there after all….

Arthur Paget goes off to Russia almost at once to present Czar with Field Marshal’s Baton! Pity you are not here to go with him again!

Yours ever
Violet M.

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

A roaring farce

Ellen, the daughter of newly elected Glasgow MP John MacLeod, wrote to Ralph Glyn with details of the campaign. Her father beat rival Gavin Ralston decisively in the end,with over 5000 votes to little more than 500. Oddly to today’s eyes, both candidates were Unionists, with no other parties standing. College Division, incidentally, was the Glasgow constituency Ralph was “nursing” with a view to standing in the next General Election.

Rughriach
Connel
Argyll

Sept. 26, 1915

Dear Mr Glyn

I think “many happy returns of the day” is rather a happy remark to make to you when your name appears as having been decorated by the Czar. Many congratulations. Of course that makes College Division a certainty now!

Father’s election was a scream! The whole thing was a roaring farce, but the trouble involved was too sickening. Imagine the GPF getting up at 7.30 a.m. in order to make speeches at the dockgates. His sacred second cup of coffee had to go to the wall that day! The story goes that one of Mr Ralston’s meetings the hecklers were busy. Ralston managed to give them sly answers which evaded the point but served as an answer. This annoyed the hecklers to distraction. At last they gave it up and the last of them sat down. Ralston said “And now my friends I would like to ask myself a question”. A voice from the back of the hall “And a rotten silly answer ye’ll get!” (Rotten was not the word used though!)

Mother & I were fortunate in getting seats in the Serjeant-at-arms gallery to see him take his seat in the House, make his bows, etc. It was v. interesting.

I hope you are keeping fit & having an interesting time…

George is off to France, but of course we don’t know when. He was very happy to get off after 12 months training in Wiltshire.

Norman is at Portsmouth undergoing gunnery training prior to getting a new “small craft”. He has been on a detector net trawler the last few months.

I must now go & write to your GPF who is performing Parliamentary duties. (Doesn’t that sound fine!) One of the evening papers said he well deserved the nickname of “Conscientious John”. What new insult will they hurl at him next!

With renewed congratulations

I remain

Yrs very sincerely
Ellen MacLeod

PS Awful thought! I quite forgot to put Captain Glyn at the beginning. Very sorry, I hope you’ll forgive.

Letter from Ellen MacLeod to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/23)

Give up drinking during the war

The issue of temperance (abstention from alcohol) was linked to the war in the Reading St John parish magazine:

I sincerely hope that the ‘Emergency Pledge Campaign’ may be warmly taken up amongst us. Some of us are eagerly looking out for occasions of serving our country. Can we do better than seek by our protest and our example to deliver our nation from the sin of drunkenness? This is no time for wasting money. In the interests of economy, physical efficiency and patriotism the signing of the Total Abstinence Pledge for a period ‘as long as the war lasts’ may well approve itself to our consciences as a duty. The actual words run as follows: ‘ “For the sake of our homes and our heroes.” Emergency pledge in our time of war. I hereby undertake to abstain from all intoxicating drink from this date …………….. as long as our country is at war; And to endeavour to induce others to do the same.’

We have never been accustomed to think ourselves behind Russia in civilization or moral initiative, but in the realization of the urgent need of Temperance for a nation engaged in a great war we seem to lag somewhat behind. We know that the sale of vodka to the Russian troops has been forbidden since the war began, and Russia has been marching against her foes with a teetotal army, but now comes the great Ukase of the Czar: ‘I have decided to prohibit for ever in Russia the Government Sale of Alcohol.’ It is humiliating to see in the same newspaper on the same day on which this momentous announcement is made a letter from a Corporal in the Irish Guards which contains the following: ‘We are all very well treated out here and receive plenty of tobacco and rum but a lot of us hope to return soon and visit the – House and have another bottle of their famous double X.’

I shall be very glad to forward to any who may desire it a copy of the Emergency Pledge, and I hope that it may be possible to organize a demonstration on a large scale in our town on its behalf.

Reading St John parish magazine, November 1914 (D/P172/28A/23, p. 1)