Big push begun again!

Florence Vansittart Neale played hostess again at Bisham Abbey.

3 June 1917

Military attaché and wife to tea – saw house and garden….

I showed Captain Kennedy [the Australian officer staying at Bisham] the house…

Big push begun again!

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

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Japanese attaches to visit the Somme

Japan had been allied with Great Britain since 1902, and during World War I they fought the Germans in the latter’s imperial possessions in the Far East. Captain, later Admiral, John Donald Kelly (1871-1936)

27 September 1916

We motored to [the] James – found her & Nina in. He goes to the Somme with Japanese attache’s…

Splendid victories Anglo-French….

Captain K[elly] gone to Scapa in new boat “Weymouth”.

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

“It is appalling these awful losses, goodness knows where we find all the officers”

Two of Ralph Glyn’s fellow officers wrote to him with their opinions on the war.

June 20th [1916]
Dear Glyn

Very many thanks for your letter. I was very pleased to hear from you. Georgevitch has evidently done something to get himself into very hot water, I believe the question of decorations has something to do with it, anyhow he is absolutely shelved. You will have heard that a Colonel Nikolauivitch has been appointed Military Attache in London; it is just as well no one proposed Georgevitch for there, as he would have been refused. When they were discussing the question of who to send, they privately asked me & I suggested G, but was at once told that his name would not be entertained for a moment. I fear that there is nothing more that can be done for him. He got into trouble once before I understand over his treatment of his soldiers, & was for this reason only not with a battery in the Field Army.

It is appalling these awful losses, goodness knows where we find all the officers. Still one hopes on the whole the thing is going well though slowly.

I am glad to say I am better, though I have had a bit of [fun?] lately, everyone is having it too. [Hemlis?] & his division have left as you will have heard, most of them I believe going to help at Malta & elsewhere. The country is [illegible] fun from Typhus now, & there is a general air of cleanliness & sanitation about. All his troops practically are inoculated against Cholera.

My wife has been in the North all this time working up relief funds for Serbia, & has collected quite a lot of money; so anyhow you would not have had a chance of meeting her, thanks very much all the same. Things are very quiet here, but I am busy enough with wires & things the WO want. We were visited by 3 Austro-German aeroplanes the other day who dropped some bombs & made a lot of noise, but did not do much damage. We bagged one on its way back.
Wishing you the best of luck.

Yrs sincerely
Arthur Harrison

(more…)

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 horse does a rear & the King falls off!”

Edward Ingram (1890-1941) was a friend of Ralph Glyn’s at the War Office.

29.X.15
Dear Glyn

Really everything is too depressing just now to write about. The King appears to have fallen off his steed in France & to be slightly injured, or [thus?] the Belgian Mil. Att. in London said to Strutt,

“The horse does a rear & the King falls off!”

Old Joffre is over here for a conference, so we are providing materials & data. No time for more & love to Deedes.

Yours ever
E M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/34)

“The funny little Frenchmen are depressed and are dissatisfied with us”

Ralph Glyn was on his way back from the Dardanelles when he got a letter from his boss at the War Office, delivered at the British Embassy in Athens. It included some inside information regarding high level politics.

War Office
3rd July 1915

My dear Ralph

I do not know when you may be expected at Athens on your way back, but posts take such an unconscionable time to get to the Near East that one has to get off long before the flag falls. You may not be for Athens at all if you commandeer a Dreadnought.

If there is anything you want to wire about from Athens or Rome, Cunninghame and Lamb have the T cipher, but I do not suppose that you will be needing electric communication with us. We shall be glad to get your reports in advance of yourself, if there is a bag coming right through while you are falling out to Bologna. Lord K has already asked whether you are on your way back and pretended to be quite surprised when I said you could not possibly be at Imbros yet.

Great “pow wows” here. Johnny F[isher?] and Robertson and H Wilson all over, and there was a full cabinet meeting yesterday – 22 of them, or is it 25? – to discuss military operations of the future with these distinguished warriors. Truly we are no military nation. But better relations have been established and Johnny F is I hear now quite amenable and good. Next week there is to be a further palaver, Squiff and AJB and goodness knows who besides journeying over to Calais to meet Joffre and Millerand and perhaps Poincarre [sic] – I can see Joffre disburdening himself of his inner consciousness in such a galley.

I was lunching with Fisher yesterday and he told me, what is good, that the King is going to make a trip across and to see a lot of the French army; that will be very useful because the funny little Frenchmen are depressed and are dissatisfied with us, not altogether without some justification. The Russian debacle has I think come on them with much more of a surprise than on us; your friend La Guiche always insisted that the Russians were much better off for munitions than they made out; they probably tell him very little, but the result is gloom at Chantilly and in Paris. By the way should you be a few hours in Paris you might look up Le Roy Lewis our new Military Attache who is extremely useful and gets on remarkably well with the Frenchmen.

I have written to Delme Radcliffe about your going to Bologna and told him you would wire on in advance. I think that a visit from you straight from the Dardanelles should be welcome to Cadorna and Co. No doubt Montanari whom we met in Paris will be on hand at GHQ. You will see Lamb and I daresay will hear grumbles as to Delme Radcliffe, who is not fortified by a very attractive personality and has put Lamb’s nose out of joint much as Hanbury Williams has put Knox’s; DM is furnished with the toughest of integiments [sic] and thanks to this gets along.

AP has been in here this morning. He strives hard but unsuccessfully to conceal that he finds me a very indifferent substitute for yourself in regard to telling him how the land lies. But I comforted him with the intelligence that you would soon be back – always assuming that you obeyed your instructions.

Sincerely yours

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Charles E Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

“The Russians are good stage managers. They are also very efficient liars.”

Major-General Alfred Knox (1870-1964) was the British Military Attache in Petrograd (as St Petersburg had been renamed since the start of the war – the Russians thought it sounded too German). He wrote to Ralph Glyn, a young officer currently attached to the War Office, in some dudgeon when he felt less informed views were being taken more seriously than his own.

British Embassy
Petrograd
10th June 1915

Dear Glyn,

Many thanks for your letter. Of course it is quite right that everyone who spends even ten minutes in Russia should send in a report for the more independent views that are brought to bear on any problem the better. What I think is quite wrong is that such reports should be printed and issued by the War Office without a word of editorial comment. There is a danger in this for many people will read your Report who have never seen the Handbook of the Russian Army nor the peace reports of my predecessors and myself before the war nor the reports I have sent in since.

It is true as you say that the Russians are good stage managers. They are also very efficient liars.

You say you are sorry that I could not have been with Sir Arthur Paget to tell him what was truth and what was fiction in all that you were shown. Well in the absence of any instructions from home on the subject I regarded Sir Arthur’s object as the merely courtly one of distributing honours. If I had known that Sir Arthur came out with the additional object of studying the military situation I would have been delighted to have submitted my brains for picking, though MO3 has got all I know in its pigeon holes and since the war owing to the special arrangements made my chances of getting information have been narrowed down to generally a small section of the front.

Yours sincerely
Alfred Knox

Letter from Alfred Knox to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/6)

Dreadful conditions in Serbia

One little known aspect of the First World War is the terrible epidemic of typhus which devastated our ally Serbia. William Hunter (1861-1937), the British doctor and fever specialist who was in charge of tackling the disease, was an family friend of the Glyns, and was surprised to run into Ralph in Serbia.

15 March 1915

My dear Ralph

I did not know the last time I saw you in Harley St that our next meeting or greeting would be – of all places – in this Heaven-forsaken and distressed land.

I am asking Colonel Harrison – our Secretary Attache here – to carry to you the letters contained herein – viz to Captain Fitzwilliams – RAMC Influenza officer at [Straela?].

I am out here as Colonel AMS in Comand of some 30 officers of the RAMC as a great Sanitary Corps sent out by the War Office to deal with the frightful problems presented in this country.

We arrived in Nish on Thursday the 4th inst, stayed there till Monday the 8th inst, interviewing all the Government Officials – from the Prime Minister downwards. Came on here to Hdquarters with my Major a week ago – brought up the other officers here last Thursday; and have during this past week been fearfully busy, amid all kinds of uncomfortable conditions, preparing our plans of operations for the whole Serbian Armies, to which we are attached.

Our stores arrive in a day or two, but already we have been able to decide – & our recommendations have enabled the Serbian Authorities to decide on the plan of operations to deal with the frightful epidemic now prevailing.

Will you tell my dear wife how things are in this country?

Will you also try to se Captain Fitzwilliams at Malta, & ask him to see that the ‘food stores’ we have ordered are sent out at once. We want them very badly.

During the last 10 days we have indeed “gelebt und gelutten”. But things are straitening [sic] out, as the result of continuous pressure.

My Headquarters will be here – with my stores & laboratories, while the larger part of the Corps of officers are going forward, elsewhere.

It’s a great fight we have to put up – against dreadful conditions of disease – & we can only aim to do our duty: against all odds, whatever they may be. No such problem of infection has ever been presented to any body of men in modern history.

I asked Mrs Hunter specially to write to Lady Mary, telling her of my mission – on which I was despatched with some 3 days’ notice, and I little knew that you had gone before.

I hope you are very well – and that you will call on my dear wife & tell her that, in spite of all difficulties, things are moving.

With all good wishes.

Yours ever sincerely
Wm Hunter

Letter from William Hunter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/4)

“It is rather absurd the way we are expected to produce every darned thing for for other countries”

Ralph Glyn’s mission to Serbia had gone well, as we can see from this letter from a colleague in the War Office, who shares the latest information and his candid views on some of our allies. The port of Cattaro (now Kotor and in Montenegro) was one of the main bases of the Austrian Navy. MO4 was the topographical section of British Intelligence. Colonel George Fraser Phillips (1863-1921) was a former Governor of Scutari.

March 6 [1915]

War Office
Whitehall
SW

My dear Glyn

Your letters have been most interesting. The last one received was from Petrograd dated 18th February. I gave WGO a copy. I daresay I shall get another from you in a few days. The plan of Cattaro has been copied by MO4 and given to the Admiralty. The original is being taken back to Nisch by Phillips who takes this letter. Phillips you know was in Albania – commandant at Scutari – & was rather a big bug there. Lord K wished him to go out in some capacity to the Balkans so he has been fixed up as MA [Military Attache] – Serbia & Montenegro. He is going to make his HQ at Cettinje [Cetinje]. We have made it quite clear to Harrison that Phillips in no way supersedes him. Harrison will still remain as Attache with Serbian Forces in the field. We had to give in to K in the matter as we particularly wanted C B Thomson to go to Bucharest & Tom Cunninghame to Athens. The latter got to work very quick and the Greeks seem to be scratching their heads a bit as to what they are going to do. I wish they were not in such a funk of the Bulgars. None of the Balkans except perhaps Serbia quite like the idea of a Russian occupation of Constantinople.

You will be interested to hear that Deedes has gone off to be on the spot in case we meet with success in the Dardanelles. He left Toulon for Malta on the 27th February & was hoping to get a ship from there on to what we call “Lundy” Island. He says that if ever he sets foot in Constantinople he will make a “B” line for his old hotel in the hopes of finding all his kit. When you come back, I suppose about 30th March, you are to take over Deedes’ job in MO etc. You will find Ingram a most excellent assistant. He has quite got hold of the “ins & outs” of the German corps &c & has everything at his finger ends. Thank you for your postcard from Bucharest which fetched up all right. Serbia are now “asking” us for anti-aircraft guns. We couldn’t supply them with oats and horses as our own imported supply is only enough to meet our own requirements and in these days of submarines with long sea capacity one never knows when we may run short. Russia surely ought to be able to supply forage & horses to Serbia. It is rather absurd the way we are expected to produce every darned thing for for other countries – but it always was so in the old days of European wars.

I am very sorry to lose Deedes – but I am glad for his sake that he has got his nose turned towards the Turks once more. Fitzmaurice you will find in Sofia I suppose. You will have a rather “delicate” time I expect in the land of the Bulgars, but it will be a smack in the eye for the French if the King receives Paget after refusing to see General Pau. I hope the fact of delaying you a few days to wait for Phillips will not be very inconvenient to you. The other alternative was to send out another mission with fresh trinkets – & this would have cost a great deal. So they are going to wire to you today to stop you leaving the Balkans till you can dole out a few more trinkets or rather hand them to old man Peter for distribution. This general strewing of orders is absolutely against our British ideas & we want to nip it in the bud or it will become intolerable. I hear Russia has sent a box of 850 “orders” as a first instalment!

I lost my sister very sadly last week after a few days’ illness. She was nursing in the Red Cross Hosp. at Winchester… She caught cerebro-spinal fever & died after being unconscious 36 hours….

Yrs sincerely
B E Bulkley

Letter from B Bulkley to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/3)

Stamps from the seat of war

Ralph Glyn’s mission to Serbia had been a success, and on his way home he received this letter from the War Office:

War Office
February 17 [1915]

Dear Glyn

There is just a chance of this catching you at Salonika on your return journey. Your long letter about Italy and your letter about Greece both duly received, and most interesting. You seem to have done great work in Serbia. Of course I smiled all over my face when I read all about you & your conclave with the General Staff. You will no doubt have a great deal to tell us when you get back, which cannot well be put in writing. In fact in these days one hardly likes to write anything down. Things have been humming here – Col. Thomson is going to Bucharest as MA & Tom Cunninghame is going to Athens. I wish the latter wasn’t so deaf, but he knows a good deal & is I hope likely to be of great assistance some day by being at Athens.

Give my love to Mrs Mark if you happen to come across her in Athens. How nice of you to think about the stamps for my small boy. Bring a few along with you when you come home and I will end them to him then. He will be quite popular with his schoolfellows if he can produce “Stamps from the Seat of War”.

I have sent a copy of your “Opinion on Greece” to Eustace Percy at the FO as requested – given a copy to him & one to MO5. I will also show the paper to Tom Cunninghame & CB Thomson. I am glad I was saved your unpleasant journey. I certainly should not have been well enough to write letters!

No time for more at present.

Yours ever
B E Bulkeley

Letter from B Bulkeley to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/2)

The Italians “prefer money to fighting”

Ralph Glyn, a young officer attached to the War Office, was on a diplomatic mission to our allies in Serbia. He took the opportunity of a break in Rome to report on a country preparing to join the war – sometime. Colonel Sir Charles Lamb http://lafayette.org.uk/lam2898.html (1857-1948) was the British military attache at Rome, while the less positive Captain William Boyle (1873-1967) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Boyle,_12th_Earl_of_Cork was the British naval attache. Both were from upper class families – Lamb was a baronet, while Boyle was cousin and heir to the Earl of Cork and Orrery. Italy eventually declared war on Austria in May 1915, and on Turkey and Germany in August. We will be hearing much more from Ralph Glyn and his family – see the Who’s Who page for more information.

Private
Syracuse 26/1/15

Dear General

We have arrived here after a very good journey with a break at Rome. We cross to Malta tomorrow night arriving there on the 28th. I don’t know whether we shall leave that day or the following but it is blowing a bit and I doubt if we shall reach the Piraeus before the 31st.

When I was in Rome I had a long talk both to Colonel Lamb & to Captain Boyle. They have both the fixed idea that Italy will not come in for some little time. Boyle is doubtful if they will come in until some very good excuse is forthcoming. He thinks that the Italians would feel some difficulty in going against their old ‘friends’ without some obvious cause. The northern manufacturing centres are making so much profit that they prefer money to fighting. Their naval yards are working overtime but very few extra men are being employed. All the energy is being devoted to military rather than naval work. Boyle pretends to believe that he will know the Italians mean to fight when they ‘come in’. I rather think he wants to get a ship out home!

Lamb on the other hand, although he has only been out a very short time, has found out a very great deal. Nobody better could be in his job. He has looked up all his old friends & learnt a great deal from them. Besides this the King gave him a long audience when he went to the Quirinal. Colonel Lamb was when I saw him writing a long report which will be in your hands as soon as this. From what I gathered Lamb is sure that Italy will come in – late in April. The transport section is the difficulty. There is no organised mechanical transport & the Rome WO is divided into two – Operations & Transport. All the Transport staff officers on mobilization go to their various districts & there bring together what transport is on the district list. It is now thought to be too late in the day to have a service for ‘conductors’ & the trouble already looms large. To operate until the snow is off the hills is almost impossible. Bologna will be the advanced base, & the doubling of the railway through the Appennines is not yet completed – this is another worry. The whole of northern Italy was full of troops on the move as we came through & the Swiss have strong guards at all the stations. There is an idea in Rome that the Germans & Austrians are now massing troops near Triest [sic] & that their objective is not Servia [sic].

It is difficult to believe this as they can have no object in bringing Italy in against them, & much might happen if they give the Serbs a knock before Italy or Roumania [sic] come in.

The Italians have found that much of their Krupp bought shells are loaded with faulty powder. They are busy now emptying & refilling. This puts their normal output back a good deal. They can put 1,200,000 men in the field with 259 4-gun batteries. The Deport gun is great success & the mobile militia batteries are being given the Krupp guns as the Deport are given to the active batteries.
These are only very rough impressions – I know you will so soon have full details from Col: Lamb.

I shall hope soon to send you other letters more worth reading.

I am, Sir,
Yours,
Ralph Glyn

Letter from Ralph Glyn to General Charles Callwell (D/EGL/C24)