“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)

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This filthy war must end some day

Officer’s wife Maysie Wynne-Finch, now based in Windsor, wrote to her brother serving in Egypt to wish him a happy birthday. She shared her usual frank views on the army. The Sassoon referred to is not the war poet Siegfried, but his wealthy cousin Philip (1888-1939), while the Duke of Teck was Queen Mary’s brother.

March 3/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R

Very very many happy returns of today. If only this filthy war would end. However I suppose it must some day….

Rumour has it our Canadians, some say Ansacs [sic], have been with the French in the last fighting. It must have been terrible beyond words, but so far anyhow they’ve hung on alright, & Hun losses must be heavy. You talk of “partial” offensive, I doubt if you’d describe it so now if all one reads is true. It seems like the battle of all.

I was told the other day, it was Aunt Alice as a matter of fact, had heard that the Belgians are a source of anxiety at present – they fear they are being bribed & the authorities want them sent back & not to take the line over. It must be dreadful for their splendid King. That yarn was rather confirmed by a story I heard yesterday that all or a lot of the Belgians were right back now.

Yes, I suppose Erzerum was great. One can well understand that. I think the beginning of the end must be in sight really, though not very evident to the man in the street yet. No, I am sure Meg has no anti-gas stuff. I will tell her what you say, neither she nor the babies return to London till the 20th anyhow. As far as I know there is nothing to tell about the Caroline. There was no word of truth in the report. I’ll write to Evelyn to let you know.

You should be able to hear more of Frank’s doings than I know, but as I was told it, Frank single handed riding his pony went & bearded a robber & disloyal chief in his stronghold & brought him “in”. He was to have had troops etc sent for the purpose of intimidating the man, but as they failed to arrive, Frank kept his appointment alone, which I imagine so astonished the native he surrendered & became loyal. I believe Frank received the thanks of the Sirdar & Sultan & various decorations etc. Rather a fine performance.

It’s no use raging about my views on the Staff as you share them just as much. The gross abuse of Staff appointments has resulted in general muddle. Good men, who are, & others who should be, Staff officers, suffer, but young Sassoon & the Duke of Teck still are given important Staff appointments on a very recently formed Staff! Can you wonder people jib a bit!

Now I must stop & return to my hospital work room. I work the company with all the other Windsor females twice a week at swabs etc. It’s all very funny & petty. If one could but write it might make a funny new volume of Cranford….

Your ever loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

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…)

Light dancing on the lawn heralds a death in action

Ralph Glyn’s cousin Niall, Duke of Argyll (1872-1949), the head of the Campbell family, wrote to his first cousin Ralph Glyn. He was known to be somewhat eccentric; this letter reveals a belief in the supernatural which helped with the sorrow of losing another cousin, Ivar Campbell.

22 Feb 1916
28 Clarges Street
Mayfair, W

My dear Ralph

I was glad to get your letter yester even. News at last about Ivar’s end, he was hit through the lungs 7th Jan and died on the 8th without gaining consciousness, it was on the 8th that the queer light dancing on the lawn appeared at Inveraray & Niky came to my room about 8 pm and told me of it and I made a note of it at the time. Within a week the fritts, though she did not see him, undoubtedly got a certain message from him to pass on to Aunt Sibell [sic] and once since then, viz last week she heard a certain thing which only Ivar could have said. He amongst other things said that as to the end he remembered nothing whatever and that he would try somehow to get through to Aunt Sib, hard as it was. But if she heard anything she would be sure to seek a cure in her pill box.

Tomorrow I am dining with French with whom I did a play etc about a week ago, and Thursday I am off to see the Argylls under Douglas Baird in France and have just been getting the passes etc. Nicky got to Coombe last Sunday morning. No express trains from Stirling now and it took her 23 hours…

Rutland gave me an account of the bomb within ¼ mile of Belvoir which fell in a field. The Granbys were honeymooning there which made His Grace deem is specially impudent…

I went to the opening of the HL [House of Lords] and heard Kitchener then and once since on the Air question. Victor Devonshire told me his younger children heard the Derbyshire bombs from Chatsworth. At Walmer a few days ago our airmen set up and fired merrily on each other, next the anti aircraft guns fired on both of them, and then knocked off the top of the church steeple and hurt some men in a barracks. The enemy were against the men & got away & most of our officers were feeding 2 miles away. A real Bedlam.

Oswald is in Egypt so you may meet him. He was off from London just before I got south.

I saw the D. of Atholl the other day, he snored somewhat and his neighbours had to bump his bench, he seemed cheerful, did not mention Geordie but said Bardie was in Egypt.

Erzeroum [sic] fell since your letter was written I expect as your date is the 4th of February.

London is more pitch dark than ever. I watched the Green Park Gun practice at 6.30 last night.

Your affect. Cousin

Niall

Letter from the Duke of Argyll to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C16)

Splendid victory of Russians

There was both good news and bad, Florence Vansittart Neale noted in her diary.

20 February 1916
Spendid victory of Russians over Turks. Taken Erzeroum [sic], pursuing & capturing the armies. Air raid over Lowestoft & Walmer. Only 1 killed.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)