“It fills one with awe and an almost anguish of anxiety that the peoples to whom sovereignty is passing will be restrained by some clear vision”

Ralph Glyn had ambitions to go into politics. He was elected Unionist MP for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire in 1918, holding the seat until 1922. He then became MP for Abingdon in 1924.

Nov. 5, 1918
My own darling

As letters are so provokingly slow in getting to you I shall write every day. Do give me telegraph address for you & also tell me if there is any quicker way for addressing letters as now your armies are in full hue & cry. The news every day is so immense – one feels no brain or heart can compass it but it fills one with awe and an almost anguish of anxiety that the peoples to whom sovereignty is passing will be restrained by some clear vision and faith of the powers of the world to come and of the Everlasting Dominion that is to endure.

Aunt Alice is wonderful – no repining over the sacrifice – a great radiant spirit which is all one with those who fight here and there where they are still leading and know the triumph, but how thankful one is to be here to see this more than dawning break into a glorious dazzling light of a new day.

I have been thinking so much about you and Clackmannan and E Stirling. It is a great temptation and if only the Engine works I should wish it for you. It is so near home and you have friends all about there, and if it is a reasonably safe seat I think your future lies in reconstruction, but you may have to make your pot boil to win the independence you need to have of Party machine so sedulously being put together by that dreadful Asquith – I hope his scheme will meet with the failure it deserves though he does stand for Free Trade, I dread it now with him it means a free hand to deal with Germany. He is a terrible snake in the grass. And she is worse!…

Jim has been keeping his first birthday at home since the 1912 year after his marriage. So his first with the children….

Very own
Mur

Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/5)

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Not sleeping well

William Thomas Cosgrave was an internee who had been elected as a Sinn Fein MP at a by-election in 1917 while still in prison – and who later became first prime minister of the Free State.

HM Place of Internment
Reading

June 21 1918

From the MO
To the Governor
Concerning W. Cosgrave MP.

He suffers to some extent from nervous fatigue and states that he is not sleeping well.

I am allowing him a special diet, and he is having at present a Bromide Mixture at night.

There is no real [illegible] now, but he has a stump that requires extraction and I am arranging with the dentist to see to this. I do not think it would be wise for Mr Keogh to prescribe for him.

I see no necessity for getting the opinion of Capt. McWalters. Should I think at any time that another opinion is necessary for W. Cosgrave I will at once inform you for communication to the Commissioners.

W T Freeman, MD, FRIS

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“We look on you as a sure winner” – but party politics are finished

Ralph Glyn was worried that the constituency being nursed for him on his return after the war might be being poached while he was at the front.

12 Woodside Crescent
11th June 1916

My dear Glyn

I received yours of 29th May only last evening and hasten to reply so that you may keep your mind at rest. I am quite positive that old Smith Park has no thought or desire of becoming candidate for College Division – I do not even think that at the moment he has any thoughts of trying to get into Parliament but I repeat most confidently that I am quite sure he has not his eyes on College. He has expressed his desire frequently, in which I believe he is sincere, that when the election comes he may still be President [of the Unionist Association] and so be the Leader of the local organisation which returns you as Member for College Division.

Neither Park nor any of your friends have any wish for a change of candidate. But if unfortunately such an occasion should arise, take it from me, of course confidentially, that the Colonel would not be the candidate. Whilst the opposition would welcome him, our own side would not adopt him. He has put up the backs of some of our principal workers, quite unintentionally but still he would not command enthusiasm.

For all that he makes a very good President and would make a better one still if he would only be a little more free, so far as the Association is concerned, with the shipping profits. He takes far too much the business view of everything & I expect his letters to you have been on that line.

At a time like this when everything political is dead (certainly it is in College) I don’t think it necessary for the candidate to be on the spot. Indeed being on active service strengthens his position in the constituency.

You retain the confidence of your friends & have earned the respect of your opponents. Your position in College today is stronger than ever and I do trust you will now drop once and for all any of those fantastic ideas you have formed and believe me when I tell you that you are the one & only candidate your friends & supporters wish, both on personal grounds & because we think you are the likeliest candidate to carry the seat. We look on you as a sure winner.

College don’t wish a “commercial magnate” – they prefer a soldier who has been & seen. As regards politics after the war, I quite agree with you there must be a great change. People at home recognise this as much as those who have been overseas. The party system on the old lines is done. However we must “wait & see” how things develop. Meantime don’t worry but first let things go on as they are & whatever you do, don’t let Sir George Younger lure you away from College. If he does there will be a fine row.

I have written you quite straightly & frankly. Glad you are getting a run home & do hope your new appointment means good promotion. If you go again to France you may now come up against quite a lot of the College Boys. I suppose you know John Grant has been out there now for many months. He was home on leave early in May looking better than ever he did in his life & in splendid spirits.

Hope if you get leave you will manage a run down to Glasgow. All your friends will be glad to see you. Let me know.

Trusting you are well & fit as this leaves me.

Yours sincerely
A E McDonell

Letter from Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/37)

“Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind?”

Ralph Glyn had political ambitions, and the College constituency in Glasgow was being nursed for him. He had narrowly lost the 1910 election to a Liberal (he was a Conservative/Unionist). While serving in the army he delivered a lengthy statement to those he viewed as future constituents. Unfortunately for him and all his work, the constituency was abolished before the 1918 election. The paper itself, however, is an interesting insight into the views of an intelligent officer into attitudes at home and at the front.

GHQ
MEF
November 1915

I have been asked by one or two friends in the College Division to write a letter that may be a link between so many old friends of those former days, when Peace was not understood, and myself. To do this as I would wish by personal letter my work here will not allow. I must ask everyone who reads these lines to believe how sincere are my wishes for as happy a New Year as these days permits to be theirs.

I write these lines because I have always been open with my friends in Glasgow, and I believe you will all understand how it is impossible to write “news”.

There are many who have been all the time in France, or in Gallipoli, whilst some have been in both theatres of operations; but there are few officers now who have not spent some time at home, either wounded, or on leave or duty, and so it is possible to take a comprehensive survey of men, matters and means.

The newspapers are the only medium between the Public and events that happen behind the veil of the censor. Letters from friends and relations pass from the Front to those at home producing for a period a clear gleam of light – sometimes too vivid – of what is fact and reality at one small point of that vague term “The Front”. The days are shortening, the winter with all its horrors is close upon us and we are all well aware that if only something could be lifted the Future would be brighter and more easy to face. To arrive at any satisfactory conclusion we must try and see things as they are – undisguised but very possibly naked and ashamed. No time should be lost in establishing both at “the front” and at “the back” a “New Feeling” based upon the firm belief that at last true bearings have been taken, the clouds have lifted and the sun seen long enough to enable the exact position of the ship to be located, and that each and all having but the one port open to them are determined, in spite of all stress of weather, to reach their destination without undue delay.

Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind? There is nothing in any trench in France or Gallipoli to equal the gloom of many a house at home. The individual man is happy when he knows he is doing “his bit” and has that feeling down his back of something worthy of accomplishment being well done. But this same feeling should animate those miners, munition-workers, ship-builders and all that other host at home, whose work is as vital to the war’s success as any gallant action in the trenches. Why is there this feeling of unrest and mistrust in so many quarters? “Out here”, be it in France or Gallipoli, this war acts in one way all the time and without variation. The Regular Army has almost ceased to exist as it was before the war. Officers and men have fallen and others have taken their place. The tradition of a great regiment holds all the new comers in its sway and the magic mantle of “esprit de corps” stirs through the new blood of the recruit, officer and man, tempering and making him part of the original stock. The Reserve ceased to exist when war began; because by our system the fighting force of the country, Regular and Reserve, were and are one and indivisible. Any gunner will tell you that had it not been for the “dug out” the new armies could not have been born. The “dug out” has much to bear from the gibes of younger men who too often assume that all “dug outs” must be musty and old, stupid and out of date, but he can console himself with the knowledge that without him the Regular serving soldiers could not have kept the machine running.
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Questions about the National Relief Fund

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund met in October to discuss various policy matters, such as whether the fund could help refugees as well as locals, and what would happen to the money afte rthe war.

2 October 1915
Shire Hall
General Committee:

The Chairman reported that after an interview with Sir Ernest Hatch of the Belgian Relief Committee the Berkshire NR Committee had decided that the local conditions did not permit the formation of a County Committee for providing occupation for Belgian Refugees.…

The Chairman …. drew attention to the value of the information supplied by the Clerks to the Boards of Guardians who would be asked to continue that information so that lists of persons in receipt of Poor Law Relief might be kept up to date.…

Mr Mount MP … desired to lay stress upon the paragraph [in the committee’s first annual report] expressing the hope of the Committee that the National Fund would be husbanded for use after the immediate termination of the war…. for future emergencies.

The General Committee authorizes an application being made for a further grant of £100 from the National Relief Fund.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

A roaring farce

Ellen, the daughter of newly elected Glasgow MP John MacLeod, wrote to Ralph Glyn with details of the campaign. Her father beat rival Gavin Ralston decisively in the end,with over 5000 votes to little more than 500. Oddly to today’s eyes, both candidates were Unionists, with no other parties standing. College Division, incidentally, was the Glasgow constituency Ralph was “nursing” with a view to standing in the next General Election.

Rughriach
Connel
Argyll

Sept. 26, 1915

Dear Mr Glyn

I think “many happy returns of the day” is rather a happy remark to make to you when your name appears as having been decorated by the Czar. Many congratulations. Of course that makes College Division a certainty now!

Father’s election was a scream! The whole thing was a roaring farce, but the trouble involved was too sickening. Imagine the GPF getting up at 7.30 a.m. in order to make speeches at the dockgates. His sacred second cup of coffee had to go to the wall that day! The story goes that one of Mr Ralston’s meetings the hecklers were busy. Ralston managed to give them sly answers which evaded the point but served as an answer. This annoyed the hecklers to distraction. At last they gave it up and the last of them sat down. Ralston said “And now my friends I would like to ask myself a question”. A voice from the back of the hall “And a rotten silly answer ye’ll get!” (Rotten was not the word used though!)

Mother & I were fortunate in getting seats in the Serjeant-at-arms gallery to see him take his seat in the House, make his bows, etc. It was v. interesting.

I hope you are keeping fit & having an interesting time…

George is off to France, but of course we don’t know when. He was very happy to get off after 12 months training in Wiltshire.

Norman is at Portsmouth undergoing gunnery training prior to getting a new “small craft”. He has been on a detector net trawler the last few months.

I must now go & write to your GPF who is performing Parliamentary duties. (Doesn’t that sound fine!) One of the evening papers said he well deserved the nickname of “Conscientious John”. What new insult will they hurl at him next!

With renewed congratulations

I remain

Yrs very sincerely
Ellen MacLeod

PS Awful thought! I quite forgot to put Captain Glyn at the beginning. Very sorry, I hope you’ll forgive.

Letter from Ellen MacLeod to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/23)

A house to house collection for the wounded

Part of Clewer was within the borough of Windsor, but part was more rural and distinctly less developed.

Penny Fund for Sick and Wounded Soldiers

A Collection was made in Clewer lately for the East Berks portion of this Fund, by the house-to-house method. The sun thus collected amounted to £10 5s. Mrs. Ernest Gardner, the wife of our Parliamentary Member, in acknowledging this contribution, writes:

“I think you have done splendidly in the country part of Clewer Parish, and I thank you and all the kind contributors, for this most satisfactory result. The total amount collected in East Berks. was £298.”

Clewer parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P39/28A/9)

“Where the devil are we going to end up?”

A naval officer friend of Ralph Glyn thought it unfair than civilians were earning more than those in the armed forces.

Princess Royal
7 August 1915

My dear Ralph

What the devil has become of you? Since I saw your comic caricatures in the illustrated papers watching the Fall – or was it Rise of Remysh – you don’t appear to have existed….

I deserted the N.2 a fortnight ago partly because the 12” won’t shoot as far as these & partly because I was no 3 there & badly jambed for promotion in consequence.

Look here Ralph – when is someone going to start governing the country. Why are bad workmen paid £6 a week & good soldiers 15/-. Why are these continual strikes allowed to continue. Why do members of Parliament get £400 a year & six weeks holiday. Why should Post Office officials get a war bonus. Who is getting the sailors’ prize money & where the devil are we going to end up now that it is to the interest of half the country to continue the war as long as possible.

So long & let me know when you are in the North & I’ll try & see you sometime.

Yours ever
CP

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/13)