A pill for the Kaiser

The pro-German King Constantine of Greece was forced to abdicate by the Allies and his own government, in favour of his younger son Prince Alexander (1893-1920), passing over the elder boy, Prince George. The king and his wife Sophia, sister of the Kaiser, went into exile. Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced.

14 June 1917
Tino gone! & family & suite leaving P. Alex to take his place. Pill for the Kaiser.

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

When will it end!!

Florence Vansittart Neale continued to pay close attention to news and rumours about the war.

May 1917

Hear that King George prevents us deposing Tino [King Constantine of Greece]!

Hear over 3000 Essex Yeomanry went in the battle of Gaza, to only 600 cannons!

Hear 26 ships of foodstuffs came with American destroyers.

1 May 1917

When will it end!!

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

Misunderstandings are apt to arise at a distance

Ralph Glyn was getting all his contacts to help him with intelligence background for his latest mission, in Greece.

Alexandria
23rd April 1916

My dear Glyn,

The man who is doing the Greek personalities for us will do his best to let you have the particulars you ask for concerning the entourage of the King and Queen. It is however doubtful whether he will be able to help us as regards the G.G.S. [Greek General Staff] and their sympathies. We might of course find out this from our people in Athens, but I am always afraid of treading on the toes of a military attaché. If I were there I am sure I could easily arrange matters with Fairholme, who as you know is a very good fellow, but at a distance misunderstandings are apt to arise so I hope you will not be disappointed if you don’t get much from us about G.G.S.

Yours sincerely
R

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/29)

“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…)

Kitchener’s mission

In November 1915 Lord Kitchener visited the troops at the Dardanelles, and also tried to persuade King Constantine of Greece to join the Allied side. The Vansittart Neales got privileged access to this information.

14 November 1915
We all to church, National Anthem. Archie Balfour at Stoneyware. He came to tea. Told us K’s mission! Square Turks, then to Tino!!

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

A girl and a gun

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a number of stories of heroism, treachery and incompetence from her circle of acquaintances. Some of them may be more reliable than others, but it shows the kinds of stories that were circulating at home. Queen Sophia of Greece was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. She and her husband (the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh) sympathised with the Germans, while the Greek government leaned towards the Allies.

11 November 1915

Germans torpedoed “Ancona”, Italian ship.

Heard through Meg of brave French girl aged 17 at Loos. Phil Carr met her & heard story from Dr. Saw Germans were sniping a dressing station & covered the front door so no one could go out to hit them. This girl who lived near & knew the place well ran out behind with a pistol, into the house & killed them both. Came back, put down revolver & just said “C’est fait” & went on with her dressings.

Phil Carr, rescuing people from Loos, met an old woman carrying her mattress & 2 live rabbits! She had been told she could only bring what she could carry.

Kitchener was asked why he sent out such an “awful ass” as Ian Hamilton. He said because he had no other “awful ass” to send.
I hear that why John [Burres?] left the Cabinet on account of us going to war was because he had been so bamboozled by the Germans while he was there some 2 or 3 years ago, & they persuaded him to put all the money he had in German things – he thought after the war he could get them to give him back his money in consequence.

Germans tell our Tommies across trenches “Gott sei dank! You’ve killed our Prussian commander.”

Hear Queen of Greece stabbed Tino [King Constantine]. So he took to his bed…

Hear Captain Kelly gone on secret expedition. Can’t write to Maisie for some time.

Hear English airman caught in German lines. 2 German officers insisted on his taking them to his machine to see the English lines. He looped the loop & they fell out! He had tied himself in.

Hear so many Belgians are spies, helping Germans – will do anything for money.

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