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

(more…)

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A fine body of young women

The Revd E C Glyn, Bishop and Peterborough, and his wife Lady Mary both wrote to their soldier son Ralph. The Bishop was anxious that his letters were not reaching Ralph:

The Palace
Peterborough
15 March [1916]

My darling Ralph

Thanks for your letters – & your news – but we long to hear what & where your next move will be.

I have written by each “bag” every week, & I can’t understand if & why you have not had a letter from me each time! Unless it is that Captain Kellet does send every letter as well as General Callwell used to do! I wonder what is to be done with General Callwell & if he will want to get you for his work somewhere?…

Lady Mary was busy with her own war work, not to mention a feud with a rival Red Cross branch.

March 15, 1916
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling and blessing

This has been a bad week for me and there has been nothing but futile fuss, perhaps – but fuss! And I have had no leisure. Meg went to London on Thursday, and was away one night in London, and all Friday I was at the Rest Room seeing to Canteen worries…

I went to see Colonel Collingwood who has seen your reappointment as GSO General Staff vice [under] Captain Loyd, & he was much excited and wanted to know what it meant. I could only say I supposed some redistribution of work at the end of your previous work of all this winter. But it set me thinking and this week with the news of Verdun always in one’s head, with the rumours always in every paper of German naval activity, and of the mines everywhere, one knows that one needs to have a stout heart for a stae brae….
The Rest Room is crowded out some days with the troops moving about, and we had over 1100 last month. We have a splendid hand of workers night and day.

Any my Red Cross Room is such a joy – it was quite full last night and I have enough money to go on, but must soon get more; the material is very expensive, & the County Association (now definitely under Sir Edward Ward) gives no grants to these private Rooms. The Town depot now “under the War Office” and having a pompous Board announcing its connection with the British Red Cross & the “Northampton Red Cross (??)” has collected 680 pounds, and intends to get 1000£ in order to sit upon all BRC work. Not sent to the War Office – to be distributed by them, & not by our Headquarters, 83 Pall Mall. It is from here quite incomprehensible when one knows how these people have behaved, & the lies they have told to cover up the defects of their organization, but I suppose Sir Edward had to level up all sorts of abuses & get the whole into his hand before any order could be restored. And the BRC did not organize its work in time. Now the Central Work Rooms have had to move from Burlington House to 48 Gros: Square & they have taken that big corner house for six months.

Sir George Pragnell’s death has been a blow, as I felt safe behind him from further attack – but the Stores Manager at 83 is so delighted with the work we have now sent up that our position will be assured. Another enemy – not me – quashed!

It is a complication that the Lady Doctor who is our splendid and most efficient Superintendent is expecting to add to the population! (more…)

“It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions”

General Callwell shared some secrets with former assistant Ralph Glyn, now at the Dardanelles.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

13th December 1915

My dear Ralph

I am taking time by the forelock to drop you a line as the Bag does not go for a couple of days, but there is such a rush these times that it dies not do to leave anything to the end.

I am afraid the retirement from Suvla and Anzac will prove a costly business and it is deplorable that there was so much delay in deciding after Monro reported at the end of October. As a matter of fact the War Council decided on evacuation on the 23rd ult – while K was out in those parts – and Squiff sent me over to Paris to tell Gallieni and old man Joffre; but the Cabinet overrode the War Council and the decision was not finally taken by the Cabinet till the 7th. It is terrible trying to carry on war under such conditions.

The French have been very troublesome over Salonika. We and even our Government have been opposed to that affair all along, but the French managed to drag us into it by threatening to regard our refusal as a blow to the entente. Murray and I, backed up by Robertson, went to Chantilly to see old Joffre, but could not get him to change his mind, and then Squiff [Asquith] and three others of the same sort went over and saw the French Government, but it was no good. I went with Squiff and we had quite a gentlemanly trip in specials and Destroyers, but poor old AJB was a terrible wreck after a Destroyer trip. Then, although Gallieni lied to me gallantly about it, the French never sent that infernal fellow Sarrail orders to retire till his position was extremely awkward and in consequence our 10th Division had a very bad time; but they seem to have done well.

All kind of changes are in the air. Johnny French is to be degomme’ at once, Haig taking his place; and there is a good deal of talk about Robertson becoming CIGS – he caries heavier ordnance than Murray. Henry Wilson is very unhappy at Johnny French’s departure and I am not sure what will become of HW. I doubt whether Haig will have him in his present job and he has come to be looked upon as what the soldier detests – a political general.

The Government is rocky and Bonar Law told me the other day that he thought Gallipoli would finish them. He (BL) should have resigned when Carson did. When K was away in the east they all declared that they would not have him back, but he is back and does not look like going although he is much tamer than he was. He said to me plaintively the other day that the Cabinet would not believe anything he told them and now always insisted on a printed paper from the General Staff. It was rather amusing at a War Council the other day while he was out your way. They were squabbling away about everything after the usual fashion when a box was brought in to Squiff and he read out a wire from K, ending up with an announcement that he was coming home. With one voice the whole gang said he must go to Egypt to report and a wire to that effect was drafted on the spot – however he took no notice and came home in spite of them.

I hope that you are fixed up and getting on well with your RNAS affairs. As Helles is not to be evacuated I suppose that the bulk of Sykes’ commando will remain where it is although there will be plenty of work for airmen in Egypt shortly. I am writing to Bell before the Bag goes and also to Birdwood.

Yours ever
Chas E Callwell

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

Everyone is loud in criticising the Government

Meg Meade and her husband were blissfully happy while he was home on leave. She wrote to her brother to tell him about the national mood – one of anti-Government – and chaos with shipbuilders having to be unrecruited from the armed forces.

30th Oct
23 Wilton Place

My darling Ralph

Since last writing to you I haven’t written any letters. You know what it is with at home. We are out all day & if we are at home alone together, Jim reads to me. There’s a picture of domestic bliss!…

Will you thank Willie so very much for his letter. I am sending 100 cigarettes & some tobacco under cover to you. The cigarettes are his, & could you have the tobacco? As Maysie who I asked to settle up with Major Wigram about sending these things in the bag says that they make a great favour of sending anything in the bag, which is annoying, & Maysie fiercely refuses to allow me to send more this time. I am sending the rest of Willie’s order by post immediately….

Jim goes tomorrow (Sunday) night or Monday.

I did give Sir Ed. Carson your letter. Everyone is loud in criticizing the Government, but that don’t seem to move them. We lunched with Edith yesterday & met Lord Derby there. He said he had just received a letter signed by 6 men saying they would rejoin their regiments & enlist the moment that F E Smith was sent back to rejoin his regiment instead of sitting at home on a salary of £20,000, or whatever he gets! Lord Derby had some very amusing stories of Mrs Asquith. Sir John French went to see her, & she threw her arms around his neck & said, “Oh John, John, how splendid you are, but what a lot of worry you give Henry!” She also wrote to Lord Derby & asked him to spare “Henry”’s chauffeur, valet & footmen, as he being Prime Minister, his comfort was essential, so she asked Lord Derby to see they were not recruited. Lord Derby said that he expected we’d have conscription in 6 weeks time, but that’s too good to be true. He said that when he came to work his job, he found the most awful chaos, all the men who had been “starred” on the pink papers ought not to have been, & the ones unstarred ought to have been starred. By some oversight none of the shipbuilders in Cammell Laird’s yards were starred, so they could have been enlisting as hard as they could, & in consequence a certain new light cruiser called the Constance which Jim thought he’d a chance of getting has been tremendously delayed, & they are having to bring the men back to the yards again. Another employer wrote to say “all his men were starred, but they ought to be unstarred”. The WO left the “starring” business to the local recruiting people, who seem to have starred anyone who gave them half a crown.

I wonder if you have heard that Jim is to be a Captain D1! & have 20 of the newest & latest destroyers under him. Captain D of 12th Flotilla he will be, & he keeps the Royalist according to present arrangements. Isn’t it splendid. Royalist will have to be fitted out as a D’s ship, so I hope it won’t be 7 months before I see him again. He will take the new destroyers as they are turned out.

…Maysie & John are still at Bruton Street. He’s alright practically again except for his face. The abcess in the jaw. They are going to cut out the bit of dead bone on Monday, & he has been given 2 months to recover in, so that’s good….

We live in fogs now. No Zepps have penetrated to London lately although they visited Chatham I hear in the night before last….

Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“Blow the Turks to blazes – then give it them again”

General Callwell wrote to Ralph Glyn to inform him about the appointment of Sir Charles Monro to review the Dardanelles campaign with a view to possible withdrawal. Callwell had some ideas of his own about booby trapping the deserted trenches.

War Office

23rd October 1915

My dear Ralph

Your new Chief and his CGS, Belinda, went off yesterday and will have reached the Dardanelles some days before this does. I did not see them at the end before they went, which I am sorry for as there were several things to tell them. I meant to have spoken to Bell about you among other things and about George Lloyd, but have written to him by this bag on these and other subjects.

It will be most interesting to hear their verdict. Sir Ian [Hamilton] and Braithwaite arrived last night but I have not seen them yet. Monro clearly did not like the job as he saw it on paper, but he may like it better on the spot. It will be up to him to decide whether to go ahead, to hang on, or to clear out, and if he decides on the latter he will have to make preparations at once.
I am not a scientific body, but if I was going to retreat from such a position I should insist upon having the stuff for mines – the explosives and the wire and the batteries – on a Homeric scale. And I would blow the Turks to blazes if they tried to come into my trenches when I left them – a mine to every 10 yards and power to touch them off alternately. It would be no good to fire all your mines and have them coming on in a quarter of an hour and manning the craters. You want to be able to give it them again.

Also if I was going to quit at night I should expect the warships to stop the enemy firing by giving searchlight to any extent. At a place like Anzac the enemy on the top of the bluff could be absolutely blinded and the lights that were doing this would at the same time be affording, below their direct rays, just enough light to the troops embarking for them to see what they were doing. However Monro may decide to go on with the business.

Political affairs here are very unsettled. I think about the only thing the Cabinet are agreed in is their desire to unship K. Carson is a great loss and it will be very difficult for them to hang together much longer. I do not think that you will have lost much by not going to Salonika; the Serbs are sure to be mopped up before the French and we can do anything that is any use in that quarter. The French have indeed rushed into the business very much against the wishes even of the War Council, which is capable of almost any folly.
Although things look bad there is every symptom now of the Boshes [sic] becoming discouraged. The Russians terrify them in spite of their superior armament, and they have been losing very heavily in the west.

Take care of yourself and believe me
Ever yours

Chas E Callwell

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

“We want a definite success in the Dardanelles”

Ralph Glyn was back in London for the moment – but about to set off again to organise the transportation of some desperately need ammunition to the Dardanelles.

War Office
Whitehall, SW

2/8/15

My dear Ralph

We are not quite sure whether you got those three secret Admiralty charts or not, although they were left on your table at 6 pm yesterday & I saw you with a bundle about 7.30. But – anyway I am having a set sent to Sykes to make sure. I shall be glad to hear how your transport arrangements have panned out; in a letter from Le Roy Lewis received today it is stated that the trains from Boulogne with this ammunition will take 54 hours and I do not know whether that will ensure its being at Marseilles by the morning of the 5th.

Lord K is not inclined to move about the Italians if they will not declare war. Grey is going to press them to take the plunge but I doubt if he succeeds. [I will?] write to Delme to do what he can to keep the Dardanelles before Cadorna & the King but what we want is a definite success in the peninsula which your ammunition and your howitzers may contribute to bring about.

Yours ever

Chas E Callwell

By the way, if you want letters sent by the bag, you had better have them sent to me, same as Altham, only in good time. People forget that there is no delivery on Sunday and that if there was, I do not arrive here till half an hour after the bag has departed from Victoria.

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

“The funny little Frenchmen are depressed and are dissatisfied with us”

Ralph Glyn was on his way back from the Dardanelles when he got a letter from his boss at the War Office, delivered at the British Embassy in Athens. It included some inside information regarding high level politics.

War Office
3rd July 1915

My dear Ralph

I do not know when you may be expected at Athens on your way back, but posts take such an unconscionable time to get to the Near East that one has to get off long before the flag falls. You may not be for Athens at all if you commandeer a Dreadnought.

If there is anything you want to wire about from Athens or Rome, Cunninghame and Lamb have the T cipher, but I do not suppose that you will be needing electric communication with us. We shall be glad to get your reports in advance of yourself, if there is a bag coming right through while you are falling out to Bologna. Lord K has already asked whether you are on your way back and pretended to be quite surprised when I said you could not possibly be at Imbros yet.

Great “pow wows” here. Johnny F[isher?] and Robertson and H Wilson all over, and there was a full cabinet meeting yesterday – 22 of them, or is it 25? – to discuss military operations of the future with these distinguished warriors. Truly we are no military nation. But better relations have been established and Johnny F is I hear now quite amenable and good. Next week there is to be a further palaver, Squiff and AJB and goodness knows who besides journeying over to Calais to meet Joffre and Millerand and perhaps Poincarre [sic] – I can see Joffre disburdening himself of his inner consciousness in such a galley.

I was lunching with Fisher yesterday and he told me, what is good, that the King is going to make a trip across and to see a lot of the French army; that will be very useful because the funny little Frenchmen are depressed and are dissatisfied with us, not altogether without some justification. The Russian debacle has I think come on them with much more of a surprise than on us; your friend La Guiche always insisted that the Russians were much better off for munitions than they made out; they probably tell him very little, but the result is gloom at Chantilly and in Paris. By the way should you be a few hours in Paris you might look up Le Roy Lewis our new Military Attache who is extremely useful and gets on remarkably well with the Frenchmen.

I have written to Delme Radcliffe about your going to Bologna and told him you would wire on in advance. I think that a visit from you straight from the Dardanelles should be welcome to Cadorna and Co. No doubt Montanari whom we met in Paris will be on hand at GHQ. You will see Lamb and I daresay will hear grumbles as to Delme Radcliffe, who is not fortified by a very attractive personality and has put Lamb’s nose out of joint much as Hanbury Williams has put Knox’s; DM is furnished with the toughest of integiments [sic] and thanks to this gets along.

AP has been in here this morning. He strives hard but unsuccessfully to conceal that he finds me a very indifferent substitute for yourself in regard to telling him how the land lies. But I comforted him with the intelligence that you would soon be back – always assuming that you obeyed your instructions.

Sincerely yours

Chas E Callwell

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

“What with shells over your tent & submarines at sea there’s scarcely a safe place to sit in!”

One of Ralph Glyn’s fellow officers in the Dardanelles sent him a letter so frank in its criticism of policy that he asked Ralph to burn it after reading. Luckily he didn’t.

Marked ‘Burn’ at the top.

You ought to come out here from the [illegible] & have a talk – but on condition you went back.

Lancashire Landing, May 26 [1915]
My dear Glyn

We are having a heavyish shelling from Camp and the sea beyond – the Turks trying to hit the transports, but very little attention is now paid to it, so very little damage having luckily been done. All the same it is decidedly disconcerting! It’s such an absurd position to be in really – the whole of our force from the front trenches back here – a distance of about 1 hour’s walk! – under fire of the enemy’s guns. In France [it would be] an absolutely untenable position.
I was awfully glad to get your letter and I do not mean in mine to write you much detail as to our doings here… I want rather to bring one or two points to your notice that are of greater importance.
You know as much as I do about the inside of the game. You know that the Balkan situation is today not one whit more clarified than it was when you & I last met.

I lay the whole blame on the FO. I think much as there has been in the conduct of this campaign to criticise (not its execution – the troops have done wonders!) – its larger conduct – nothing is more worthy of criticism than the failure of diplomacy to co-operate and so to appreciate the situation as to bring about a state of affairs that would conduce to the facilitating of out Task – not the making it more difficult. Diplomacy has been willing to sacrifice a perfectly attainable success for the sake of “safeguarding interests (unknown) or avoiding complications (unknown) at some unknown time in the future” – the great truth that the primary object of all should be to defeat Germany – (& here Germany through Turkey) – has, it seems to me, been absolutely lost sight of. We were set a task that could only be achieved if diplomacy played its part well & helped us. I need not go into the Greek negotiations. They’re known to you. Their net result is nil. (more…)