“A good few expected peace when the first notes were exchanged & are accordingly depressed”

Ralph Glyn’s sister and mother wrote to him. Meg’s circle of acquaintances in London included many army officers, and she reported some disappointment that talks of peace had not yet come to anything. Lady Mary was engaging in a private battle with the vicar of Bamber, where she and the Bishop were living, who thought the National Anthem inappropriately jingoistic for church.

Hardwicke House
Ham Common
Richmond
Surrey

27.10.18

My darling Ralph

Thank you so much for you letter & I am so sorry to hear you have got this beastly flu, it is sickening for you but by the time this letter reaches you I hope you will be quite fit again. No – flying doesn’t sound the best cure certainly, but I suppose you had to do it.

I was much interested to see the photographs you enclosed. They are copies of negatives taken by Addie of Royalist up with the Grand Fleet. If you have got the negatives it would be good of you to send them here to me, tho I cannot imagine how they got among your negatives, as I keep those ship photographs most carefully. But do send me all 3 negatives if you have them.

Jim & I stayed last night at Belgrave Square & dined with the Connaughts, a small dinner which was great fun. The Arthur Connaughts were there, she is a stick; Mr Spring Rice who was in Washington with Eustace & Ivar, & Mrs Ward who was Muriel Wilson. An A1 dinner too! The old Duke was in great form & full of funny stories of soldiers’ remarks in Palestine:

One soldier asked another, “Which is the way to the Mount of Olives?” & the other replied, “If that’s a public house I’ve never heard of it.” An Arab writing to the Governor concluded his letter with, “I write in the name of J. Christ, esq, who is well known to you & who your Excellency so much resembles”. An Australian wantonly killed a Jew & was remonstrated with, “Why did you do it?” “Well”, he said, “they are the people who killed Christ”. “Yes, but a long time ago”. “Well”, said the Australian, “I only heard of it yesterday”….

John went off to GHQ on Wednesday, & on Friday Maysie & I went over 2 houses she had the offer of in London. The larger one (both being tiny) was in Regents Park, & had lovely Chinese furniture, & nicely done up, the second in Hill Street, Knightsbridge, & very nicely done, but tiny. I strongly advised her to plump on the 2nd & she’s got it for 6 months, & I think it will do for her very wel indeed. Billy is home on leave & I saw him yesterday too. He looks v. fit, a Majr, & 2nd in command of his battalion!

A good few expected peace when the first notes were exchanged & are accordingly depressed, but everyone feels thankful & the end must be in sight. But there’s some sickness with the Americans not getting on, it would have been splendid to cut the Huns off in that retreat, but you always said they have no staff to handle the men, and it does seem 10,000 pities that thro sheer silly pride they won’t brigade their men with ours & the French, doesn’t it….

Meg

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An American Spiritualist’s presence of mind saves the dispatches

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade wrote to him optimistically after a disappointing Christmas. She had seen one of the patriotic/propaganda films which were circulating, and also had a remarkable story to tell about the American woman who saved British secret papers when the ship she was travelling on was captured. Charlotte Herbine was a leading Spiritualist – a phenomenon of the period in Britain and the US. Although she was a neutral American, her sympathies were firmly pro-British, and she sponsored a war hospital in London named for her “spirit guide”, Dr Coulter, which was next door to the American Embassy. She was clearly a lady of great resolve and character. Perhaps her experience running seances had developed a gift in misdirection which helped on this occasion.

Dec 29th [1915]
23 Wilton Place

My own darling Ralph

I wonder if this can reach you to wish you a very happy New Year darling, & all the best things in the world for 1916. Today I feel that victory must be in sight now that the Government have really faced that we must have conscription, & it is splendid, isn’t it? Xmas wasn’t Xmas this year, but a dismal caricature. On the very day I was to have taken the babies to Peter[borough], Mother sent me a telephone message to say her kitchenmaid has just developed measles so of course we couldn’t go, & I did feel miserable…

John went to a Medical Board on Dec. 23rd who found that the holes in his back are no better now than when he left hospital in the end of October! So they gave him another month. But it doesn’t prevent him from shooting every day, & they are having a happy time together….

The great bit of news in the Meade family circle is that Cecil is going Commander in Chief at Portsmouth next March! He came to London 23rd to 28th Dec. to fix it up, & he returned to “Madeira” till the end of Feb. when he comes south again for a month’s leave before taking on Portsmouth on March 5th. Of course he is quite inconsolable that he is not afloat but still I am so glad he’s got the billet if it’s only for the sake of Addie & the boys. But of course he’ll find it difficult to collect the cheery sort of Staff that he’ll want, because all the best men are afloat, & naturally wish to remain so…

Aubrey Smith took me this afternoon to a Cinematograph show at the Empire, all about soldiers training to start with, & then there was an interval during which Arthur Balfour came on the stage & began his speech by saying “Though I am unaccustomed to this stage of operations”, loud laughter & applause, & he went on to explain what the being of the Grand Fleet meant to everyone, & put it very well, & then followed a wonderful show of portions of the Grand Fleet at sea, & the sea was rough in some! Queen Elizabeth came in for a lion’s share, the photographer must have lived on board, & then we saw a lot of the Iron Duke too, & light cruisers, destroyers, mine sweepers etc etc.

I was very amused at your indignation about Mr Jack Wilson having been collared on the Greek boat by the Huns. All sorts of rumours flew about London about that adventure. First we heard that the bag of important despatches had only “been saved by the resource & presence of mind of an American lady”. Lucky that skirts are wide nowadays! And it turns out that the American lady is no other than the great Mrs Herbine! Does that convey anything to you? Perhaps as you don’t live in such proper spirituelle circles as I do! her fame may not have reached you. Mrs Herbine is the medium of Dr Coulter, who is the spirit of 10 combined famous Americans! (Some spirit!) A large “circle” attend her weekly sceances [sic] when Dr Coulter will only communicate if the circle sit round a table with the white tablecloth & fruit on the table, also flowers! Lord Sandwich is a prominent figure in the circle.

Apparently the King of Greece is also a member of the circle, & Mrs Herbine had just been to Athens to tell Tino from Dr Coulter that he must do whatever the Allies wanted him to do! & she was returning to England on the same Greek boat that carried Mr Wilson & the dispatch bags. Mrs Herbine was on deck when the submarine was sighted. She hurried down to Mr Wilson & said, If you give me the bag of important dispatches, I will see that they reach the War Office in London alright. She also told him to write out some false cipher telegrams, put them in his other bag, & throw it overboard so that it should float, & when the Huns collared it they should think that it was the one & only important bag he carried! This was all done & the Germans duly duped & they never searched the boat or Mrs Herbine for another bag! Mrs Herbine then discovered someone on board who had passports which would bring him to London a week earlier than she could arrive, so she gave him the bag which was safely delivered. The WO say they can’t publicly thank Mrs Herbine, as being an American subject, she really infringed the laws of American neutrality. It’s a comic story, but what foundation of truth it has I’m not prepared to say, though it [is] generally believed to be true.

…Your ever loving
Meg

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