“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)

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“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…)

“The Germans are devils”

Meg Meade was busy trying to arrange reading material for her brother Ralph in the Dardanelles. She even tried to get library books sent out to him, but unsurprisingly the libraries were unenthusiastic about this plan. Libraries at the time of the First World War were more often private ones where you paid a subscription, with only a few municipal libraries in big cities. She also had news about the ordeal of the blind elderly Lord de Ramsey, who had been interned in Germany at the start of the war, together with his son Reggie Fellowes.

November 5th [1915]

23 Wilton Place
My darling Ralph

Bolton’s Library in Knightsbridge is going to send you out Life & Punch by post, as they say they can’t put more in the Bag than you get already… I went to both Days Library & the Times Book Club, but it seems impossible to make any satisfactory arrangement about sending you library books. First the Post Office won’t insure books for the Dardanelles, & they are generally lost in transit, so each library makes you pay a deposit of £1 or 30/- over & above your library subscriptions to cover the loss of books, but of course if no books are lost this is made good to you in the end. Neither library would agree to send you a book a week indefinitely, because if you subscribe for 1 book a week only, they could never send you another until you had returned the first one sent. Therefore it seems no good thinking of subscribing for anything less than 4 books. These could be sent out to you, 1 a week for 4 weeks. At the end of that time you may with luck have read the first book they sent out, & then there would be a gap until the library had received back again the 1st book sent, when they could immediately post you another. You might get a still more regular service if you subscribed for 6 books, as you’d get one a week for 6 weeks, but then it’s an expensive game, & counting the risks, I don’t like to settle a subscription for you until I hear from you what you want done. I am sending you 2 novels this week which I have bought, & I will continue to send you 2 books which I will buy each week until I hear if that plan suits you. Of course you don’t get the latest books that way, as they are too expensive to buy, but in any case I doubt the libraries sending you any new publications because they seem to regard any book that goes to the Dardanelles as gone for ever….
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