Hard bread, but making Christmas as cheerful as possible in internment

The four Cusden brothers, originally from Reading, had been teaching languages in Germany before the war. Together with thousands of other expatriate Britons, they were interned in a camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin. They were allowed to keep in contact with family back home, and in fact food parcels were an essential supplement to the meagre supplies doled out by the Germans. Here Albert Cusden writes to another brother, Len.

Jan 5th 1916
Dear Len

Since my letter to Mother many thanks for parcels N & O & one from Edie to Arch, leaf from Sawyer’s received Dec. 28th, parcel from Aunt Mary to Dick received Dec. 31st. If anyone sees Aunt Mary, please thank her very much. We do not much care for the bread batons, they are very hard when received. Would much prefer the toasted bread.

Christmas went off here much better than the previous one, and we are very thankful to all who helped to make it so. I don’t think anyone here was left out in the cold, arrangements being made by those who received plenty of parcels that others not so fortunate should have a share. On Christmas Day we were allowed to go to bed at 9.45 instead of 8.45. We also had our Xmas “parties”. Had Harris up on one day, and Arch’s chum Pinder on another. So you see, we made Christmas as cheerful as we could, and although we cannot ourselves thank all those who helped, we know you will do so for us.

Father asks whether we can manage with parcels we receive from various quarters. We are quite all right in this respect at present. I daresay the parcels we receive from other quarters will continue. The parcel Father mentions as being sent from your office we will distribute as desired. Thanks for information re ABC School of Drawing. Am very pleased to hear how you are getting on with your drawing, and am, looking forward to seeing some of your work. In letter to Vic you mention picture of Ruhleben in the Daily Mirror and think you recognise Vic there. Have seen the picture, but none of us are there, unless we are somewhere in crowd behind.

Father mentions Miss Pietz in letter. She has been a brick all along. Had not been here three days when she wrote Dick [she] was sending him a parcel, and has sent periodically since and always requests Dick to write stating his desires. In a recent letter (have not same before me) believe Father says Miss Shrimpton had said some parcels had been sent Dick which he had not acknowledged. The Aldershot News, through agency of Shrimpton, sent parcels to Dick for a time, each one was acknowledged to the firm, and Shrimptons written to several times. Dick wrote them again after the above, so daresay the matter is now right. Vic says will you tell Sawyers Reni is suffering from peritonitis, but she is getting better. They asked how she was. As we received more mittens and socks than needed ourselves, found others who needed them.

Love to all.
Albert.

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/1)

The press is evil and needs to be slayed like a dragon

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to her soldier son Ralph Glyn with news of a contretemps over Red Cross work in their home town. She was also scathing about the press, particularly the empire of press baron Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, which included the Times, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror.

Peter[borough]
Dec 2, 1915
My own darling Scrappits

Like Jim [her son in law, naval officer Jim Meade] I can scarcely bear to read the papers, and I read the Harmondsworth [sic] Press, & believe they are part of the Evil Thing which we have to slay like the Dragon. One has to think of that patron saint St George very often, for we are now to fight in the country of the dragon, and we have a host of St Georges and if only we women could be worthier, and help to keep England what it may be, waiting and ready for the regeneration that must surely come for your reward, when you all come back! But there is something strange the matter as one reads society paper paragraphs, even in the good old Observer, and find the same “vanity” and the same obsession of dress and extravagance, even when they talk Economy and Thrift, and “Mince” like women of old. Punch is good this week. I want to send Punch out to you…

Long ago we sent the things from Fortnum & Mason, trusting more to Expert Packers, but I long to send you a home packed, and now Jim is going away – going to sea again today, and I shall get Meg to make enquiries for me….

Lady Exeter writes “that they are within sound of the guns”. I think this was meant to tell her that the Battery is being moved up….
A real burlesque is going on over the registration of this “Red Cross” business here, and at last the town knows, and the town talks, and the remarks to me are amusing! They, however (the Committee) have no idea of climbing down, and I have got Sir Edward Ward to register them as they are, & they are to have two committees, but have not even yet decided if they will have a “Hospital Depot”, so I am moving at once, & so has Lilah Buller, and so has Miss Cartwright, & so has Lady Knightley, & when we are in full swing they will not be able to avoid our getting grants of money from them, or direct from Headquarters. And it is the finance part that has kept me waiting. Northampton refuses to help Miss Cartwright, though there at Brackley she is the only Depot for sick & wounded at the front, & Lilah Buller says they “approve” her but I gather she too can get no funds. This is all so monstrous. And when the truth is known support will come. We are not yet in possession of a house – I wish we were – but it will come at the right moment, & in the right way. The great thing is done and it is all miracle of mercy, for Dad is looking forward now too…

Today is so lovely. I have to run round soldiers & sailors’ wives & mothers, and shall have the lift of the motor today….

I long to know more of what you are going through. All accounts differ in the papers of the climate. Poor Meg. I am glad Jim goes in fair weather. Maysie hopes that at Captain “D” there may be more chances of their meeting,, but the goodbye must be hard, hard work….

Own own own Mur

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