“I wish this — war was over”

Maysie Wynne-Finch was relieved her husband was still not fit enough to return to the trenches. The reference to Drino Battenberg is to Prince Alexander of Battenberg (1886-1960), a grandson of Queen Victoria and a cousin of the Czar. Barry Domvile was a respected naval officer during the First World War. His new wife, Alexandrina, was actually a naturalised British citizen of German ancestry, and Domvile was to become a notorious Nazi sympathiser in the Second World War.

April 16/16

Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yours of 6th came today. Thank you so much. In spite of all your sorrows you must be warm, which is more than we are – it remains bitter & beastly here. You can imagine how thankful I was when the docs refused to pass John for France. They told him not for 3 months, however they’ve made his papers out apparently for two – so perhaps he’ll get out in June. Meantime tho’ we have plunged & taken a house here till July. I think I told you how sick we are at having to turn out of this one next week. You really should have made it your business to keep Pares in Egypt!! The tiresome man now only expects to get a few days leave apparently but insists on turning us out & carting his wife & family back here, she writes as annoyed as we are!

We’ve taken that big house, Essex Lodge, you may remember – the Follettes had last year. It’s ruinous & much too big – but it was that or a 4 roomed cottage, so we fell to it. It’s got a nice garden & tennis court which is nice.

We had M: Bovil here last Sunday, on the Sat we went all over the Royal Farm. It was most interesting, some fine animals. The most solid Scotch of bailiffs took us round, a beautiful person, who I discovered was a Morayshire man, & his accent reminded me of election days! He was with the Duke of R[ichmond] at Goodwood before.

HM comes down here on Thursday, the immediate result has been to fill every open space here with red & perspiring men being initiated into the more particular forms & mysteries of Guard mounting by blasphemous & heated NCOs.

We went up & stayed with Meg the night before John’s Board, as he was up to see Farmer the day before. We had great fun, Wisp & the Barry Domviles there, & we went on to the Empire. Quite agood show. The biograph of the troops in France most interesting. Sloper Mackenzie & his terrible wife sat just in front of us. She looks too evil. Young Drino Battenberg was with them. He is becoming most terribly like the C. Prince of Russia. Mrs Barry seems a very nice little thing, but has an awful voice – doubtless Barry being deaf does not notice this much….

Billy [Wynne-Finch] is ill, but refuses to tell anyone where or how he is. His colonel reported he’d gone sick with bronchitis & both lungs touched, but he continues to write as tho’ nothing’s the matter. He’s at some base hospital. Funny boy. I don’t fancy he can be really bad, I hope not, & just now people are safer anyhow than in the trenches, especially where they are. More wild & persistent rumours last week of a sea fight & as usual the Lion damaged – but I don’t hear any truth to it….

Too odd, we saw Geo. Steele last week, whose Brigade is right down the south of our line, & he said they do everything even to patrolling in punts! Meg showed me the MEF creed – how priceless. Who wrote it? The 1st are due in camp in the Park here next month, also some infantry division, they say…

Love from us both darling, and oh dear it seems a weary long time since Dad & I saw you off Oct 9th. I wish this — war was over.

Your ever loving Maysie

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

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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)

A turning of the tide?

All of Ralph Glyn’s family were assiduous about writing to him regularly, and today we hear from all four. His mother Lady Mary first:

Feb 23, 1916

Belpston [visited for a confirmation] was interesting. The Zepps had been flying & were visible just over them and one old woman told the vicar it had followed her all up the street, & she had to take refuge in the chapel!! And another woman said it lighted her all up the village. They had shown no fear. The vicar and his wife heard the bombs drop & went out to look, but did not see it as the others did. They are a mile off at Etton & the Zepp was evidently not high on the horizon the other side of Belpston.

We had a very good meeting, the reality of the war had been brought home to that little outlying place so close to the Lincoln fen. The paper mills there were the only attraction for Zepps!…

They all listened when I told then in the hard days before us mothers must save their pence for their children, and then I told them how poor we all must be, and how they would then have no allowances & high wages, and how they were spending it all now and “the flood would come” – of even greater disaster than war. For it profit nothing to gain the whole world and lose our soul as a nation, a country, a people – or our own awful individual personal mysterious “soul”, and your letter today says much the same. I said about the soldier priests who had learned in this war the sacrifice of self and of all that made life good to them that they might save us, and sometimes I wonder if it can be saved, this country of ours!…

I think the war is making me less able to combat the conditions here…

Maysie writes cheerfully about the little house at Windsor, and she has got her little household together. He is enjoying the adjutant work…

Your own Mur

Ralph’s father the Bishop referred only briefly to war matters in his letter:

The Palace,
Peterborough
Wed: Feb 23 [1916]
My darling Ralph

I am sure your prophecy is coming true – & now the Russians have got Erzerum & are threatening Trebizond, I feel that we are really beginning to see hope of a turn in the tide.

Much love
Your loving father
E C Peterborough
(more…)

The disappearance of a very gallant friend

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with her latest news. She and her daughter Meg had been worried about Meg’s naval officer husband after another ship in his flotilla was lost to enemy action.

16th Feb

It was dreadful to come home & know of the Arethusa disaster, & to hear they had had no letter from Jim & still no letter yesterday. But today it has come. They have evidently all been out and it is indeed good to know that he is safe. 13th his letter is dated. Bless him….

I have made acquaintance with a Mrs Evans, wife of Captain Evans, Signal Officer with you at Ismailia. Do, if possible, write to me something good to pass on to her about him. She is Welsh – such a very cheery pleasant helper in the Red Cross Work Room and so proud of him on the Staff Headquarters with the MEF, and I told her, I would be able to hear all the evil things that could be said someday, & chaffed her well. He was a Post Office official here – wireless and telegraph engineer, at least so I gather….

Sir George Pragnell’s death will probably make another difficulty re Red Cross Workers. As far as I can make out he was the only man who could stand up to Sir Edward Ward and his levellings up – or down – of all voluntary work into one more abysmal organisation. And to add to Red X sorrows, they are to give up Burlington House for a spring exhibition in about a fortnight & truly we have hundreds of workers & do not know where they are to migrate.

Own Mur

Meg herself, who was staying with their parents, wrote to her brother the same day. (more…)