“One cannot altogether wish anyone in France” – but thank heavens for conscription

Army officer John Wynne-Finch and his wife Maysie were outraged that apparently healthy young men were escaping conscription.

May 5/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My dear darling R.

Have I written since John was declared by the doctor to have German measles, & forbidden to go near barracks till the 10th? He’s never been ill, & I’ve never caught it … & I doubt really if he had!! However, we sent for the motor, as he was not allowed in a train & came off up here on Monday…

The Tribunals scandals in these parts make one quite sick – all the young men getting off, it’s too shameful, but inevitable with the kind of people on the Tribunals – no gentlemen & all scoundrels in with the other & relations to all. John is wild….

You sound to be having a wonderfully interesting time. I’ve never heard anyone yet not say the same about the PoW. He must be too delightful. I’m sorry you’ve lost Captain Barnard, you’ll miss him. It must have been very hard to know what to do about that other job. One would love you to be nearer in some ways, & yet one cannot altogether wish anyone in France. John will be back there soon I expect. The time at Windsor goes terribly fast.

Tony went to Dublin with dispatches last Saturday. Awfully interesting…

Thank heaven we’ve got compulsion at last & have shot the rebels. It gives one some hope for this rotten government.

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

“The beastly Bosch measles”

Recovering at her parents’ home from an attack of German measles (rubella), Meg Meade thought the mere name of the illness was unpatriotic.

May 2nd [1916]
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling Ralph

At last I can send you a scrawl, but the beastly Bosch measles has left me with weak eyes so I can’t read or write much, & also feeling very weak. But to be accounted for I suppose because my temperature for 2 days was 104. But it was a dreadful way of spending Easter with the por parents, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as I have certainly given Dad other things to think of than his resignation….

John has very slight Hun measles too, so he & Maysie have motored to Voelas…

Jim has been having a busy time at sea, he is very well, but I do long so much to see him…

From your own loving Meg

Darling take care of yourself & your dear tummy & don’t do anything risky for it!

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

The war will bring about theocracy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote a long letter to Ralph. She had strong, if eccentric, views about politics, and was almost as shocked by Australian soldiers’ democratic nature as she was by the Easter Rising.

April 26 1916
Peter[borough]

My darling own blessed Scraps

Easter Day makes me long for you, but all days make me long for you….

I distinguished myself at Windsor by getting bad with indigestion, but it was good to be with John & Maysie, & see them so happy in another Windsor spell of work, and yet being together. He heard when we were there that another operation will not be necessary, but as his Medical Board gave him 3 months they have taken a very good house, “Essex Lodge”, the present house being required by the owner, and this is a much better one with a garden & tennis ground. John is of course very busy, and up early, & at work till late. He looks well, and is in good spirits, evidently liking his work. We saw Cecily Hardy & her Giant, and Tony & Sylvia, & a new Coldstream acquisition – a very Highland McGregor who till lately was engineering in India – quite a new type in the Brigade!

The Political Crisis made those days full of excitement, but none of these soldier people seemed to care, or to look at the papers, and were sure the King would come whatever happened. And he did, but the Crisis was supposed to be over, and the Cabinet once more firmly (?) in the saddle of Compromise. Now the Secret Session, and the result whatever it may be of that settlement is to be made known to so many talkers & plotters and schemers that it will be impossible for all the cats to be in the bag long. Meantime there is a shaken confidence, a longing for a leader other than we have, for this strange growth of freedom to know its limitation, and to recognise its own dependence on laws not made by man, but inflexible because “just and true”, and belonging to the Kingdom that will endure throughout all ages. When we really will, that will come, and its obedience, and we shall learn what freedom is. It does not lie with Democracy, or in Kaiser rule, or in a Republic, but it does in a Theocracy – and my belief is that it is to be restored through this War and “tumult of the nations”….

France is surely ahead of us in the spirit of a new vision, & Russia is invincible because of that vision long accepted – and we wait for it, and you all are bringing it nearer.

(more…)

“Our generation has learnt to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Maysie was amused by their aristocratic mother’s depression at the thought of living on a reduced income now her husband was retiring, and had had a royal encounter in Windsor.

April 24/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My dear darling R.

I wonder what for an Easter you spent [sic]. Very many happy returns of it anyhow. I got yours of 14th today. I hope you have seen Frank by now. How splendid of him to spend his leave in that way. Your weather sounds vile, still you are warm & here one never is. I hear from Pum [Lady Mary] today that Meg is in bed with Flu & temp 102. I am so worried, & hope she will not be bad. I must wait till John comes in, but feel I must offer to go to them, but how John is to move house alone I do not know! We move Thurs. My only feeling is that it may distract the parents somewhat during this trying week….

[Mother] takes the gloomiest view of household economies etc, & is determined it will all be “hugga mugga”, “She was not brought up like that & you see darling I have no idea how to live like that” etc etc. I tried humbly to suggest that one could be happy from experience & was heavily sat on, “it’s different for you young people”. Of course it is, & I wasn’t brought up in a ducal regime, still one can have some idea – also possible if Pum had ever had Dad fighting in a war she’d find more that nothing mattered. I think our generation has learnt that, & to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life perhaps! You can well imagine tho’ nothing is said, how this attitude of martyrdom reacts on Dad. In fact he spoke to John about it. One does long to help, but one feels helpless against a barrier of sheer depression in dear Pum…

There seems little news to tell you. The King came Thurs, & has been riding in the Park. We ran into all the children, 3 princes & Princess M pushing bikes in the streets of Windsor on Friday. It was most surprising. They have got two 75s here as anti-aircraft, one on Eton playing fields & one Datchet way. They say if they ever fire the only certainty must be the destruction of the Castle & barracks!!

You know all leave was suddenly stopped on the 18th & everyone over here recalled. We all thought “the Push” but Billy writes the yarn in France is, it was simply that the Staff and RTs wished to have leave themselves – but then one can hardly believe, it’s too monstrous to be true. However John Ponsonby has written about coming on leave the end of the month so there can’t be so much doing yet. The news from Mesopotamia is black enough, one more muddle to our credit & more glory through disaster to the British Army.

I wonder what you think of the recent political events. Pum nearly or rather quite made herself ill over it!…

Billy has I fancy been pretty bad. The bed 10 days at some base hospital, bad bronchitis & cough….

Bless you darling
Your ever loving
Maysie

(more…)

“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)

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)

“Sun punishment” for prisoners of war

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Windsor, met a former prisoner of war with harrowing reports of German treatment.

March 23rd
Elgin Lodge
Windsor
My darling Ralph

Have you heard that Asquith came home sober the other night, so his dog never recognised him & bit him!! And another evening after he’d had a good dinner he played bridge with some friends. He seemed alright except he would go on trying to cut the matchbox!

It is not yet settled whether Jim keeps the flotilla or goes to LCS, in any case he keeps Royalist. He writes as if the last alternative is the decisive one, but it’s contrary to various [illegible] I’ve heard in London. However everyone agrees he is right to stick to Royalist…

I came down here on Thursday to stay with Maysie & John, & this is a nice little house with a hideous outside… John looks well, but his jaw is still oozing, I believe… This evening a Coldstream soldier is coming up here to see them, as he’s been a prisoner in Germany since Sept. 1914, & has weird tales of the punishments the Germans dish out, but of course it must be a grand occasion for a yarn. No one here can contradict him when he says he has twice been put in prison 3 days on end in darkness & then one day in daylight to make him blind, & he says they use “sun punishment”, making the prisoner remain in the sun without a hat & facing the sun all day…

There are many stories about “Moesa” getting out & getting home. All or more may be true, but one thing’s certain, & that is 2 ships without lights may pass each other on a dark night without knowing the other’s there, even though they be only a few 1000 yds apart, & the sea is quite a big place you know. Lack of coaling facilities will & has prevented them sending many Moeses out, & they are so very liable to meet a nasty sticky end.

And I was very impressed about your remarks of the Navy in the East. I’m afraid the Army won’t come out well in comparison of wasting material with the Navy. It seems a too difficult job for both services. They are burning military saddles here when they don’t know what to do with them, & there are too many tales of Staff officers’ expensive motors to quote, but they’d put into shade your grouse about an Admiral using motor boats as despatch carriers. As for the Navy’s job as Transporters in general, they don’t seem to have done so very badly when you come to think of the millions of men they have been carrying up and down the world to every military expedition which the WO has thought good to attempt. If there’s one thing quite certain it is that the Army can’t move hand or foot without them, & are entirely dependant on the Navy in whatever part of the world they’re fighting in.

Do tell me some more Naval items from the Desert, darling. Anyway you’ll approve of the way that Arthur Balfour & Hedworth Meux smashed up that mad viper Winston. I never heard such tales as Jim Graham told me of Winston’s organization of the Naval Brigades in the beginning of the war. However as some sailor said, “Thank God Winston was got busy with his Naval Division & Flying Brigade, & the Navy was saved owing to the fact he was too busy to interfere with it!”!…

Your ever very loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“Every man in uniform (or in bits, alas)”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph from her temporary home in Windsor, with more details of the tragic accident which killed their friend Desmond FitzGerald (1888-1916). Desmond was the younger brother and heir apparent of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s leading peer, a mentally ill bachelor. Youngest brother Edward (1892-1976), who eventually succeeded to the title in 1922, had rashly married a chorus girl. Maysie had also recently met a number of friends on leave. Their mother Lady Mary Glyn also wrote to Ralph with the story of a new recruit.

March 20/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yes wasn’t Desmond [FitzGerald]’s death tragic. He’s a real loss from every point of view, it seems too one of those ghastly unnecessary things. The RC parson – one Lane Fox, incidentally poor General Pereira’s brother in law, he is too, was playing about with these bombs. Some say it was his fault, others a pure accident no one could have avoided, but the thing went off, killing Desmond & 2 or 3 men, & wounded others including young Nugent, a desperate body wound. He’s had a fearful operation, but they say will live. The wretched man himself has had ½ his face blown away & ½ his hand. A gastly [sic] thing. Poor old Freddy. They say master Edward is already bitterly regretting his wife who is a perfect terror & drinks. However I doubt her letting him divorce her now that he must be a Duke. It’s too dreadful.

We went to London for Sat night & to the Hippodrome. Really a funny show. Harry Tate being sea-sick too priceless, it nearly makes one sick too. Rather to my surprise we met Arthur & Amy there. He went back yesterday after a week’s special leave, he looks ill… We also saw old Wisp. He looks pretty well & I saw no signs of the lost stone – which he’s reported to have lost as a result of Flu – but he’s got 6 weeks leave, which is nice for him. John saw Jerry Sturt yesterday. Poor boy – he’s no better apparently, though they still say he will be. He can’t even stand yet though. He showed John an interesting letter he’d had from Beeky. In it he says the French at Verdun put all their Colonial troops in front & their losses were heavy, also at the 1st push they ran, which gave that 1st small Hun advance, but since then they have been alright. He also said Master Bosch used no gun smaller than a 5 pt 7 during all that fighting – no one seems to know why, unless to save their smaller ammunition for the “advance”.

(more…)

“Most all my friends have been killed in this ghastly war” – and the peace will be worse

A lady acquaintance of Ralph Glyn was deeply depressed by the losses of the war and the prospects for the future. Ralph was not to marry until some years after the war (1921), when he married a war widow, Sibell Long, nee Van den Bempde-Johnson, whose husband was killed in January 1917.

Hotel Brighton
218, rue du Rivoli – Paris

Your two notes were muchly enjoyed, dear old fellow, even if I have been so silent.

At the above address I have been with my offspring and her governess since the end of November. Why? I came over to join my family at The Riviera, got this far and decided my mood required work rather than idleness, so have been here ever since and shall remain here in all probability until about end of May before crossing over to England again – so, if you receive this before seeing the “[illegible] poplars” try to stop off here a few days and tell me the exciting news in detail about your contemplation of matrimony: who is she, etc. You don’t sound terribly elated over this idea; the reason being dislike of work-house! Better keep it a secret from [Mor?]; the idea would not flatter her conceit much. Are you in earnest, or has the war & heat gone to the canny Scotchman’s head?

Of news, doubtless I must leave lots for the days fly by and I manage to accomplish nothing or at least very little that I intend, which annoys me intensely – but really they all seem alike, remarkably monotonous – life is an existence one must “carry on” and it is a borne – you see I, too, am depressed – for like you, most all my friends have been killed in this ghastly war. And one’s friends gone, of what good is it all, even when peace does come – in fact, I think it will almost be worse – re-construction is always the hardest period.

Your brothers-in-law, they are safe I hope! Remember me to your [illegible – little?] sisters when you write. I like specially Mrs Meade. She has an unusual amount of charm. “Sister Maude” is playing golf daily at Monte Carlo, etc. It sounds so nice & peaceful I wish I could do it, but it only makes me more restless and gives me furiously to think.

I have been offered a job on a sanitary train (ambulance), French, to be an auxiliarer [sic]. It goes up to the front & brings the men back to the different bases. That means working on it one month & resting one month & so on. But it also means binding myself to remain here for a definite number of months – so I must give it thought on account of my daughter, who, by the way, goes to school each morning as well as having a governess, and just think, she will be seven next week, the 15th. How aged I must be, also to return to the topic of my work, I don’t think my nursing abilities are very strong – do you? I can see you now giving way to shrieks of merriment over my entering Charing X Hospital. How long ago that seems!

Have you read the First Hundred Thousand by Ian Hay? It is about IE’s (1) and very amusing as well as interesting. Cyprian Bridge sent it over to me with a couple of others – get it, if you can.

Now good-night, it’s nearly eleven & I have a strong inclination to snuggle down in the cushions & go to dreamland – for I must confess to scribbling this in bed.

Write me soon again.

Good-luck!

Ethel [Furtlingham?]
10 March 1916

PS You ask me for future plans. I confess to none, I live for the day – maybe one day, tomorrow will look less grey – in the meantime I still laugh, because I was so made – at my christening the fairly godmother gave me two invaluable possessions, a sense of humour and a “joie de vivre” – and even with most of my friends dead I still have those traits – tho’ they are a bit dim at times. Sorry to have written you such a cheerless letter – promise not to again! And now, really, “au revoir” until I get your next letter.

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/16)

Grim, but good: German dead stacked like flies on French wire

Maysie Wynne-Finch was beginning to settle down in Windsor. She continued to be outraged by cronyism in high places – and not a fan of Winston Churchill.

Mar. 10/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Thank heaven our stay was not long in the White Hart. We like this little house more every day, it’s getting quite nice as we have got more of our own stuff here, lamps etc. I do wish you could come and stay!…

Yes, the Russian doings seem to be near to you. I hear one Division was returned from Egypt without even landing not long ago. It certainly appears that things are working up to the grand finale in the west. The French are splendid. John saw a man who had been talking to Clive our liason officer at Verdun, last Saturday 4th, Clive had returned that day, & said that Friday night 3rd, the French had a single man of their general reserve up – & were absolutely confident. That’s a week ago, but as far as one can judge from the papers things have not altered much. Clive also said he’d seen himself the Hun dead as the papers described like flies on the French wires by 100s & also in dense droves packed upright in dead stacks. It’s grim, but good.

Rumour has it, too, that as at Ypres in 1914 the Huns were heavily doped, & appeared quite drugged as if not knowing what they were doing. Mabel Fowler told me, who had heard through General Ruggles Brice, who was on leave from France & had seen a French General who told him.

Poor Meg, these are anxious days. No one seems to doubt that some kind of naval activity is coming. Jim wrote as much to me. Wasn’t Arthur B’s answer to Winston perfect. The latter seems to have taken leave of his senses. The only thing that gives me misgiving is that the Admiralty have sanctioned that scandal of G Sutherland’s command. You must know all about it – probably have sent him. It’s too outrageous – Eileen worked it through Lambert one hears, but why was it allowed? Lambert isn’t alone. Eric Chaplin military advisor, forsooth. It beats even army staff appointments!! I never thought the navy would have civilians in sailors’ shoes – it’s affair disgrace….

Your ever loving
Maysie

[PS]…
Wasn’t it dreadful about dear Desmond. The only hope too in that family. That dreadful Edward & his worse wife. He’s trying to divorce her already I believe. She’s a terror.

Desmond was delightful & had done so well. It seems too so unnecessary. He was showing some kind of bomb to some General & as usual it went off. Desmond & young Nugent both killed.

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

This horrible war

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade (staying for a weekend with friends) wrote to him again anticipating his birthday.

Feb 27th [1916]
Fonthill House
Tisbury
Wilts

My darling Ralph

Many many many happy & happier returns of 3rd. I do wonder where you will be on your birthday, but let’s hope that next year we may be able to celebrate it with becoming distinction, and that this horrible war will be over and done with…

Now & then in the papers we get a thrill by seeing that “Colonel Glynn” has arrived at various places with Sir Arthur, & of course everyone is teasing me about your sudden rise of rank! But I tell them that’s nothing to what will happen to you by the end of the war! You must have been having the greatest fun in the world, & a most thrilling time. I hope you’ll not have forgotten how to speak English by the time you come home though!

Maysie & John came to tea the other night. He had a return of his illness – very slight – but still the Med: Board won’t pass him for another month….

Your ever loving Meg

Their mother Lady Mary also wrote with war and family news:

Sunday Feb. 27, 1916 Peter[borough]

My own best darling blessing

Verdun and its outer fort has been the news of the war which made our other news yesterday so much the less sad, for dear old Uncle Sid died peacefully that morning (the 26th)…

Maysie got into her Windsor house yesterday – Elgin Lodge…

I hear today Aunt Syb has heard from Ivar’s Colonel and from the Chaplain, saying all they can to comfort as to not much suffering, [but?] one would not be able to believe much in that agony of far off-ness, and yet I know she has been much helped by knowing he died in hospital…

Lady Wantage has sent me 10£ for my Work Room and this is a great help.

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2-3)

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…)

“Friendly as we advance but enemies in a retreat”

Lady Mary Glyn had more news for her son Ralph, including his late cousin’s Ivar’s thoughts on the Middle East where he had been fighting before his death.

Feb 14th [1916]

I had seen Maysie & John at his mother’s on Sunday. He is happy about the Adjutancy & has taken it up today. Maysie joins him at the White Hart this evening. They have a house but cannot get into it for a fortnight. Later on they hope to persuade old Arthur Leveson Gower to let them have a house close to the Barracks Mary Crichton advised them to purse. He won’t let, & is at present obdurate….

Then I went to Aunt Syb. My first visit [since her son Ivar’s death]. She was so pleased with your letters, and with all you had said to her. I had no idea my letter gave you the first news? She still gets letters, the last on New Year’s Day, and all full of the interest & newness & picturesqueness, & pleasure in surroundings. He spoke of being surrounded by Arabs “always friendly as we advance but enemies in any retreat”. He did not speak of any contretemps then. Aunt Syb was very natural, and spoke of him freely, of her life as closed, and “no man left belonging to her”. One knows it to be the blow from which, for her, there is no recovery or relief, & yet she says “if she had had ten sons she would have wished them all to go, and that she is glad it was in a fight, & “not a sniper” or other “lesser path to glory”. That it would have been his wish if it was to be. All this & much else that for me does not relieve the tragedy & the pathos of a life that seemed to need such other crowning – but some day I hope his letters will be published, and the story told of all he did when the great call came, & with it a vocation to which he gave so great an answer.

She minds now the ten days she might have had with him at Marseilles while he waited, & somehow she knows he got no letters all that time & no word from home. She is very sore & very bitter about Eric, but I have learned my lesson with Ivar. Ever again to judge? For it is not death always that is to reveal what Love may do to draw out & strengthen & console where sense of failure, & being on the wrong track makes that comfort difficult to minister. If only one can always love, and always believe, then one would never even know the things that oppose. I longed to tell Syb this when she called Eric “coward”. I never thought Ivar that, or yet “spy”! but as with Eric I suspected wrong friends & associates to be an adverse influence, & now perhaps with Eric a right word from someone, & not a wrong one, might avail. He has no mother to help him. Eric had come in for 10 minutes & left saying “he could not bear it” – poor Eric. No mother to gird him & help him to worthier service.

I will try to send you Frances’s Oban Times which is more in character with herself than with Ivar – but Syb likes it, and so does all the family except myself, knowing the false allusion. But what matters it. Ivar’s kiss & look of recovered by friendship outside the old church at Inveraray has been a comfort & “the talk” which went on behind my back can be overcome too.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)

“The war is doing us a lot of good”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn in Egypt with the news that she and her wounded husband were going to be based in Windsor until he was well enough to return to the Front. Their aunt Sybil was still receiving letters from her son Ivar, written before his recent death in action.

Feb 11/16
11 Bruton St W
Darlingest R.

I had a mysterious message from Meg’s house today saying Colonel Sykes had called leaving a small parcel from you, & saying he was just home from the Dardenelles [sic]. I had the said parcel brought here, & it is a couple of torch refills apparently unused from Stephenson. I must get hold of Colonel Sykes for an explanation.

Our plans are now fixed up to a point. The doctor, [dear?] man, said John was not to return to France for 3 months, this being so the regimental powers that be used much pressure to get him to reconsider his refusal of the 5th Battalion Adjutancy, & so after being told they won’t try & keep him after he’s fit for France, he has said yes. There is no doubt it’s good useful work for home service, if it has to be, & I am glad for him, though I suppose I shall now see little or nothing of him at all. He begins on Monday. He went house hunting on Tuesday – a depressing job, as there are hardly any houses to be had, & those one more beastly than the other! However – nothing matters – it’s just wonderful to be there at all. We shall take what we can & when we can – that’s all. The house we long for, but it’s not yet even furnished, is one, & a charming old house done up & owned by that old bore Arthur Leveson Gower, you remember the man, we met at the Hague, years ago. Tony has been ill again with Flu, the 2nd time this year…

We’ve just had tea with Aunt Syb. She got another letter from Ivar written Jan 1, last Friday. It’s awful for her, & yet I think there is most joy, rather than pain, the hopeless silence is for a moment filled, though but as it were by an echo. Joan looks pale & oh so sad. She’s wonderfully brave & unselfish to Aunt Syb. Poor little Joanie…

I hear Pelly’s opinion is that Kut must fall. London was filled with rumours of a naval engagement on Monday & Tues, but as far as I can make out without foundation.

I met Ad[miral] Mark Ker[r] in the street the other day, & we had a long talk. I fear he’s not improved – & I think very bitter at being out of it all. He was interesting over Greece etc, but there is so much “I” in all he says, one cannot help distrusting a great deal. He’s very upset as he was starting to return to Greece a week ago & at the very last moment was stopped, & now he’s simply kicking his heels, not knowing what’s going to happen next. “Tino” now is of course his idol & here – I feel a pig saying all this, as I do feel sorry for him, & he was most kind. Yesterday he asked us to lunch to meet Gwladys [sic] Cooper, Mrs Buckmaster, how lovely she is, & seems nice, almost dull John thought! We then went on to the matinee of her new play. Most amusing, she is delightful, & Hawtrey just himself…

As you can imagine air-defence & the want of it is now all the talk. One of our airships has taken to sailing over this house from west to east every morning at 8.30 am. I hear we broke up 6 aeroplanes & killed 3 men the night of the last raid. All leave is now stopped from France. We’ve just lunched with Laggs Gibbs, who came over a day before the order came out. He says it’s said to be because of some new training scheme we have & not because of any offensive either way.

John had a Med Board today, & narrowly escaped being given another 3 months sick leave apparently. They implored him to go to Brighton & said he was very below parr [sic] etc, however he bounced them into giving him home duty, & they’ve made it 3 months, & “no marching”, etc, tc, etc. Of course as Adjutant he wouldn’t have that anyhow.

We think we have got a house, but can’t get in for a fortnight.

Bless you darling
Your ever loving Maysie (more…)

Every man worth anything is on war service

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with the latest news, ranging from air raids to the family members affected by the war.

Feb 8th 1916
The Palace
Peterborough
My own darling Scrappits

We have had a Zepp excitement since I wrote – no, I think we did tell you? Poor Loughborough has suffered; one factory refused to put out its lights & they did a lot of damage there and killed 11 people. Other places escaped by clever devices, and the Bosch was well let in, but on the whole it was a fine performance on their part.
I wonder what you think of the trawler and her skipper. I am sure he did the only thing that was possible?

There are so many rumours about the war & the growing conviction that the autumn is to see the end of the war – I wonder!

John & Maysie have been here for Sunday – 5th to 7th. He had to see his Colonel on Monday & today we hear he is made Adjutant & takes up duty at Windsor, so they are looking for a house….

Aunt Syb writes of your letter to her with real gratitude… I did not try to see her last week having to do so much, and she was I hear all day at her hospital. Aunt Far has been writing in the Oban Times, and in a very characteristic way. I hope a better memorial may be published in Ivar’s own letters some day. He is one of those who found his life in losing it: and I think of him as he was, ever in the old days, & as we met again outside the Inverary Church at his father’s funeral…
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