A terrible blow

A family friend or relative wrote to Ralph, shocked by Lord Kitchener’s death, and the casualties at the front.

Brocket Hall
Hatfield
June 13th 1916

Dearest Ralph

I was delighted to hear from you, & I am glad now to hear from Meg that you are with her. Do take care – & get rid of that dysentery before you start off again, or you will have to come back. This weather, which is simply beastly, is rather bad for you, but I don’t doubt that they [illegible] from chills!

It was dear of you to write. I am only too glad to have been able to cheer up your beloved father & mother. They were so dear & delightful about it all, & I saw it all. By the way, I meant them to, & it makes me so happy that it has cheered them at a time which must be very trying to them. There never were two more unselfish, singleminded people, & anyone who knows them & loves them as I do, can only rejoice to be able to do anything, however small, that will make them more comfy. Uncle George was so anxious for this. How I wish we were in London, but if you do find a moment, here we are, but the weather is too bad for anyone to visit the country, unless obliged.

How dreadfully Lord Kitchener’s death must have shocked you. It is a terrible blow, & one really could not take it in at first, & it did sadden one. I am told the King feels it too dreadfully. It is a personal loss to him, as Lord K was such a help, so honest & straightforward that HM could always depend on him.

Do thank Meg for her letter this morning. What a time “Jim” must have had – & what a splendid fight it was. The Admiralty ought to be whipped for their r[o]tt[e]n report – on Friday night it was quite unpardonable. Alfric is very well & looks beautiful. My little Robbie is so jealous that he won’t let Alfric come near me if he is present, so I have to see Alfric by stealth!

Bless you. Much love to you & Meg, & pray be careful!
Yours ever

Evan

PS The Canadians have had an awful time at that horrid Ypres Salient. We have a nephew there, who writes us an account of it. He only lost 2 officers killed in his battalion, but of course had many casualties. The only thing that seems of any avail is “heavy guns”. One prays they have enough. But have they?

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/38)

A dramatic scene in Parliament

Irish Secretary Augustine Birrell resigned for his mishandling of Irish nationalism and the Easter Rising.

32 Addison Road
Kensington, W
May 4/16

My dear M

I have been harried from pillar to post since my return on the 29th. Heavy foreign mails in & out, the excitements of the House, & the sitting of our Synod in London. This last is rather absurd as half our small body are away as chaplains or combatants, but it has involved services which must be attended by the elect few…

On the 2nd I went to the Palace, & found the attention was appreciated. Together we went to the Intercession service at noon, & Kensington Church seemed more than ever alive with the history of your family…

Today Joan was to have gone to Woking with Louise, but her Captain is home (today), & I replace her, a poor substitute in L’s eyes! I was only engaged to lunch with the Asquiths & of course could put it off. I saw the dramatic scene in the House yesterday. The 2nd Irish Secretary I have seen resign! It was a fine manly speech & received as such by the House. I don’t know who is to go in his stead. No one well known, I think….

Tell Meg, A J says one submarine a week since Jan: 1 (at least). An interesting account of the action off Lowestoft, but with borrowed caution I had better wait to see her…

Ever
[illegible signature – Sybil Campbell?]

Letter to Lady Mary 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…)

‘My eye, they do seem bitter about Gallipoli’

Lady Mary Glyn and her daughter Meg Meade both wrote to Meg’s brother Ralph. Lady Mary was staying with her other daughter Maysie Wynne-Finch in Windsor, while Meg was in Portsmouth caring for a sick friend’s children, and mixing with senior naval figures.

Elgin Lodge
Windsor
April 19 1916

The Cabinet Crisis is a real one & may bring about great events, but Asquith … seems to be able to keep together the Coalition at all hazards.

Trebizond is the good news of today’s paper. Well, the French are teaching is what it is to “hold”, and it is my belief we are to hold for the Kingdom that will surely come and we are all to think of the Christ as St John saw him… and He will make no mistake and order no sacrifice that is unavailing – the only leaders now are those who are “joyful as those that march to music, sober as those that must company with Christ” and we see them at all the fronts, but not yet among those who have made of statecraft a craft for self and for selfish ends. It is lamentable how few there are who are trusted & who can “hold” now for the Kingdom of that Lord & His Christ you soldiers know and obey. And yet I cannot believe that a country is ready to win the war so long as there is no real love and faith in God or man as a nation through its representatives. And our power will crumble if we give way to a carping spirit of criticism, and sometimes in perfect despair I find myself trying to believe in AJB and Walter Long, Bonar Law & those in whom the “Party” have consented before the Coalition. But as you know I have never had much belief in AJB’s power to impart a conviction which is founded on the rubble of the failure to find an absolute conviction….

Your own Mur
(more…)

Compulsion and martial law would be the work of a strong man at the top

Lady Mary Glyn shared her views on the political crisis at home.

April 18 1916

I took .. a huge consignment of work from the Red Cross Room to 48 Grosvenor Square, but Lord Gosford no longer demands inspection there, & I took them on to 83. Then picked Dad up at 23 & came on to Paddington, to see the [illegible – affiches?] of the setback of Tigris Force is bad & the Cabinet Crisis & Asquith postponing his statement. I wonder if it is to be the downfall of the Cabinet after all, & Lloyd George to be Prime Minister sooner than we think. Anything is possible in this glacier on the move and a morain cavernous opening out from this Recruiting muddle.

Compulsion & Martial law would surely be the work of a strong man for both must go together. It is inequality & sense of injustice that brings the strain.

I had a talk with Meg on the telephone, & her beloved Admiral came & talked…

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/4)

“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)

Lord Harmsworth “stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers”

A female friend wrote to Ralph with her views on the domestic political position and the trashier end of the press. Their mutual acquaintance Major General Sir Cecil Bingham (1861-1934) had commanded the Cavalry Corps in France until it was dismantled in March 1916 and he was brought back to England.

26 St James’ Place
SW
28th March 1916

Dearest Ralph

I love getting your letters, and in imagination have written to you every week at least! But I admit my imagination occasionally is like the Yellow Man’s, so perhaps you have not received them quite regularly!! I miss you very much. I wish you were still on your old jobs in France, and popping home occasionally so that I could see you. Is there no chance of your getting home soon?

There is really very little news from home. We have passed a most uneventful spring, if the villainously cold weather of the last two months can be called spring!…

I think the Government is very rocky, and I should not be surprised if there is a split any day now over this Compulsion business. Squith [sic] has carted Eddie Derby, as he has carted everybody else. No truthful straightforward man is a match for that wily old fox. I am very glad that Carson has come back to the House during the last two days. I am sure he is the only man to form a Government if Squith does have to go. I expect they will be obliged to bring in a Compulsion Bill all round, in which case McKenna and Runciman for sure, and various others probably, will go. It is a pity you are not home, you would revel in it all.

Harmsworth has behaved quite abominably, stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers, and at the same time trying to humbug in a dignified manner with the “Times”. It really makes one quite sick.

Military matters have been very quiet and I have heard of no rows or rumpuses. Georgie writes quite happily from billets. They had a bad time in the trenches about a month ago, but he fortunately came through it quite all right. I think what he has felt most has been the cold. He is delighted to think that the worst of this is over now.

It was bad luck for Cis Bingham losing his command, wasn’t it? He says he would not have minded so much if he could have only had one slap at the Boches with his mounted Army, but it was not to be, and now they are all split up and he is sadly at home doing nothing…

I have seen nothing of Meg for some time. I think she has been paying a prolonged visit to your parents at Peter. She will have to break out badly when she returns to London as a reaction!

I tried to let your flat for you to a lady, but she did not think it would quite meet all the necessities of her wardrobe, a nail behind the door being all that I could suggest to hang up her numerous garments. But surely now everything in Egypt has quietened down you will agitate to come home? I can’t imagine your restless spirit being content to slumber away the hours with the old Mummies and Rameseses.

The Boches are getting unpleasantly active in sinking our merchant ships, and I can’t help thinking the Authorities are getting anxious about it. If only America could be gingered up to seize all the German ships in their ports, it would help us quite enormously, as tonnage is getting very short, and daily now the Government are prohibiting fresh imports. There is no doubt about it that very soon we shall be distinctly uncomfortable, which will be a horrid crow for the old Boches.

I heard rather a nice story – which you mustn’t tell at Peter. A man appeared before a Tribunal for Exemption from Service saying “I am a soldier of the Lord!. “You are a hell of a long long way from your Barracks then” – said a voice in the background.

Goodbye dear Ralph. I wish you weren’t so far away. Take great care of yourself & come home soon.

Best love from
Edith

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/19)

“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)

The Germans’ well laid plans

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him in Egypt after a visit to the Wake family at Courteenhall, whose father had just died. Joan (1884-1974), one of the sisters of Sir Hereward (1876-1963) mentioned here, was to become a pioneering archivist. One of the Wakes claimed to have evidence that the German invasion of Belgium had been long planned in advance. The Enver referred to is Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), the Turkish Minister of War who had led that country into alliance with Germany and was responsible for the Armenian Holocaust of 1915.

March 21st 1916

Yesterday we went to Courteenhall and had a cosy hour & more with the dear people. It is good to know that Hereward wishes his mother & sisters to remain on. He has bought a house in London, & is now going back to the front as Lt Colonel, on OGS 1st Grade & will be with General Mackenzie’s Division. He goes about end of April, & he is now at Aldershot taking up his new work. Ida is to be his agent for Northants property, assisted by a good bailiff, & he has secured a good man for the Essex property who can always advise Ida when necessary. Phyllis is back at work nursing at Abbeville. Joan is at home helping all round. Lady Wake pays rent, & keeps up the house…

There is a most interesting & amusing nephew of Lady Wake’s in this Hotel, a Major Wake who has seen all sorts of service in E Africa, Egypt and Ulster!! And in between a recruiting job at home & Ulster he fought [for?] Turk against Italy! While so employed he shared a tent with 3 German officers who told him their well laid plans exactly! Even to the breaking through Belgium to destroy France, knowing her Vosges defences were too strong for other swift accomplishment of victory – but France destroyed, they would take us and Holland on – no wish to destroy either as all Teutonic peoples should come into the Zollverein which would then rule the world. Our practicality was required to wed with their “idealism”, & when this union was complete “we” would together be invincible. They said they liked us, but as long as we were separate they could not do anything, & must always come up against us. They expected all their colonies to be taken, but then at the crisis our Fleet was to be destroyed, & then they would regain their colonies & seize all ours. All this was described with perfect freedom to the English soldiers, and the answer to his enquiry “What do you wish to do with us”. They said this was all open unconcealed knowledge, and that we had such a wretched Government we would never fight, & though our Govt knew they would not prepare, so the thing was “fait accompli”. (more…)

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…

(more…)

A fine body of young women

The Revd E C Glyn, Bishop and Peterborough, and his wife Lady Mary both wrote to their soldier son Ralph. The Bishop was anxious that his letters were not reaching Ralph:

The Palace
Peterborough
15 March [1916]

My darling Ralph

Thanks for your letters – & your news – but we long to hear what & where your next move will be.

I have written by each “bag” every week, & I can’t understand if & why you have not had a letter from me each time! Unless it is that Captain Kellet does send every letter as well as General Callwell used to do! I wonder what is to be done with General Callwell & if he will want to get you for his work somewhere?…

Lady Mary was busy with her own war work, not to mention a feud with a rival Red Cross branch.

March 15, 1916
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling and blessing

This has been a bad week for me and there has been nothing but futile fuss, perhaps – but fuss! And I have had no leisure. Meg went to London on Thursday, and was away one night in London, and all Friday I was at the Rest Room seeing to Canteen worries…

I went to see Colonel Collingwood who has seen your reappointment as GSO General Staff vice [under] Captain Loyd, & he was much excited and wanted to know what it meant. I could only say I supposed some redistribution of work at the end of your previous work of all this winter. But it set me thinking and this week with the news of Verdun always in one’s head, with the rumours always in every paper of German naval activity, and of the mines everywhere, one knows that one needs to have a stout heart for a stae brae….
The Rest Room is crowded out some days with the troops moving about, and we had over 1100 last month. We have a splendid hand of workers night and day.

Any my Red Cross Room is such a joy – it was quite full last night and I have enough money to go on, but must soon get more; the material is very expensive, & the County Association (now definitely under Sir Edward Ward) gives no grants to these private Rooms. The Town depot now “under the War Office” and having a pompous Board announcing its connection with the British Red Cross & the “Northampton Red Cross (??)” has collected 680 pounds, and intends to get 1000£ in order to sit upon all BRC work. Not sent to the War Office – to be distributed by them, & not by our Headquarters, 83 Pall Mall. It is from here quite incomprehensible when one knows how these people have behaved, & the lies they have told to cover up the defects of their organization, but I suppose Sir Edward had to level up all sorts of abuses & get the whole into his hand before any order could be restored. And the BRC did not organize its work in time. Now the Central Work Rooms have had to move from Burlington House to 48 Gros: Square & they have taken that big corner house for six months.

Sir George Pragnell’s death has been a blow, as I felt safe behind him from further attack – but the Stores Manager at 83 is so delighted with the work we have now sent up that our position will be assured. Another enemy – not me – quashed!

It is a complication that the Lady Doctor who is our splendid and most efficient Superintendent is expecting to add to the population! (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)