A gruesome war hospital

Lady Mary Glyn had news of various friends’ fates. Lt Marmion Ferrers Guy (1877-1953) had a half-French wife. He was a career officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers who had joined up in 1900. Craufurd Tait Ellison (1888-1942) was the grandson of Archibald Tait, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and related to the Vansittart Neales of Bisham. Lady Mary was repelled by the use of a mental hospital for nursing the wounded.

Peter[borough]
March 26th

I like General Blunker so much, & his wife – one of the quiet Irishmen, and a man of great personality. I wonder if you came across him at the Suvla Bay time? They come here for Sunday April 3rd, and we shall have Mrs Guy here the same time. She is very proud of Marmion’s DSO for Dardanelles work. Crawford [sic] Ellison is doing Brigade Major there at Northampton, Johnny Ellison’s son, whose mother was Aggy Tait, and he is a young man with much side on, & swelled head, & no manners. He was badly wounded in the leg in the Aisne battle and will probably be always lame….

[In Northampton] I saw all the Institute people, nurses & Church Army & Red Cross Rooms, under Lilah Butler, and I went all over the new County War Hospital at Duston which the War Office are getting ready for 950 wounded. It is the pauper lunatic asylum, so we are not to call it Berrywood as the soldiers would not like the idea, but as they are keeping on some of the lunatics for farm work, & some are now about the dreary half built and half prepared place I thought it sufficiently gruesome, and I am sure the place cannot be ready for a long time, and I wonder if the War Office mean real business. It is a huge and most unsuitable place, and full of great inconveniences for Staff work. I thought the cubicle being prepared for the 150 nurses dreadful and uncomfortable; the kitchens far away. We went into the Bakery and a dreadful lunatic was crouching on one of the ovens! Another came & jibbered at me in an unexpected place, and the Matron (who was there when it was an asylum) has a sinister cast in her eye and quelled him with a look! She is Scotch and keeps on all the staff of “mental” trained nurses as probationers. It all seems to me to be a tricky affair. The Doctor Superintendent is to be the Chief Doctor, and he too keeps on his staff. I certainly would not care to be sent to Berrywood if I was a wounded Tommy, but it all may come right. It did not attract me….

Poor Pen Graeme, her husband’s death is a great heartbreak. He had just gone back, a stray shell in a back trench, and it was instantaneous. Old “Hoppy”, amazed at the calmness of his womenfolk is terribly upset, & has gone to Devonshire to see the old father whose life was wrapped up in this son. Pen & he had gone to their little cottage on Perthshire his last leave, so I am afraid the old people did not see him then….


Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph Glyn ((D/EGL/C2/3)

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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…)

“Every man in uniform (or in bits, alas)”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph from her temporary home in Windsor, with more details of the tragic accident which killed their friend Desmond FitzGerald (1888-1916). Desmond was the younger brother and heir apparent of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s leading peer, a mentally ill bachelor. Youngest brother Edward (1892-1976), who eventually succeeded to the title in 1922, had rashly married a chorus girl. Maysie had also recently met a number of friends on leave. Their mother Lady Mary Glyn also wrote to Ralph with the story of a new recruit.

March 20/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yes wasn’t Desmond [FitzGerald]’s death tragic. He’s a real loss from every point of view, it seems too one of those ghastly unnecessary things. The RC parson – one Lane Fox, incidentally poor General Pereira’s brother in law, he is too, was playing about with these bombs. Some say it was his fault, others a pure accident no one could have avoided, but the thing went off, killing Desmond & 2 or 3 men, & wounded others including young Nugent, a desperate body wound. He’s had a fearful operation, but they say will live. The wretched man himself has had ½ his face blown away & ½ his hand. A gastly [sic] thing. Poor old Freddy. They say master Edward is already bitterly regretting his wife who is a perfect terror & drinks. However I doubt her letting him divorce her now that he must be a Duke. It’s too dreadful.

We went to London for Sat night & to the Hippodrome. Really a funny show. Harry Tate being sea-sick too priceless, it nearly makes one sick too. Rather to my surprise we met Arthur & Amy there. He went back yesterday after a week’s special leave, he looks ill… We also saw old Wisp. He looks pretty well & I saw no signs of the lost stone – which he’s reported to have lost as a result of Flu – but he’s got 6 weeks leave, which is nice for him. John saw Jerry Sturt yesterday. Poor boy – he’s no better apparently, though they still say he will be. He can’t even stand yet though. He showed John an interesting letter he’d had from Beeky. In it he says the French at Verdun put all their Colonial troops in front & their losses were heavy, also at the 1st push they ran, which gave that 1st small Hun advance, but since then they have been alright. He also said Master Bosch used no gun smaller than a 5 pt 7 during all that fighting – no one seems to know why, unless to save their smaller ammunition for the “advance”.

(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…)

An awful, awful tragedy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to Ralph again to let him know how her Red Cross and other war work was going.

Jan 18th [1916]…

We heard of the great doings at the G[reat] E[astern] Rest Room. Over 100 men there last night – 40 sailors, 60 men & then more, and an efficient staff of helpers. All night. Then in afternoon I … called on Recruiting Officer’s wife…

From 6 to 9 (with break for dinner) the Knights Chamber Private Registered Red X Work Party. 32 workers all in caps & white aprons and sleeves, and it is really a joy to see that Room full – all happy, and the long tables covered with clean oil baize, and your old nursery cupboard moved there to hold the material. I hear there is a tremendous “muddle” at Northampton, & as these inanities here appealed to Lord Spencer they have dragged him into their mesh of muddle, and I have written no word & keep silence, but events move, and things must take their course. Sir George Pragnell looks like a bulldog that will not easily let go, and the evidence he took from me was quite sufficient to show misapplication of money, and a vast trickery of the public they feared my action would bring to light. They would have done better to leave me alone!…

I read the papers and wish I knew what to think! Montenegro and its heights to add to the pecuniary burdens of ruined nations, but in the meantime how far adding to their resources?…

My whole love always
Own Mur

Ralph’s sister Meg also wrote to him, with thoughts on politics, and more on the Campbell family’s loss with the death of their cousin Ivar. (more…)

The calamity of war teaches us a lesson

Maidenhead Congregational Church was girding itself for another year of war.

SOLDIER GUESTS.

There seems every probability that Maidenhead will be again called upon to receive a number of soldiers in training, and that in consequence our Schoolroom may be again required for their entertainment in the evenings. If it be so, we will cheerfully face the disturbance to our own arrangements, and no doubt the willing workers of last winter will feel it a privilege to serve again.

A Word for the New Year

With what spirits are we going forward into this strange New Year? …

We move into the New Year with the calamity of war upon us, and we may calmly wait the issue, if we believe in God, and if we are sure that for us, yea and for all the nations too, even our enemies, the end of it will bring us nearer to the goal of all true civilization. God has always brought blessings out of calamities. He who knows nothing of surgery might denounce the cruelty of the surgeon’s knife, but wisdom is sure that the hand that holds it is mercy. National putrefaction is a worse thing than national sorrow, and when God’s judgments are written in flaming letters across the lands, many who could not have heard the lesson in any other way, begin to understand that there is a God in the earth.

The virtues of courage and endurance are everyone’s admiration just now, so magnificently are they exemplified by our khaki-clad heroes. Is there not room and occasion for them in the lives of us all?…
T F Lewis.

SOLDIER GUESTS.
There seems every probability that Maidenhead will be again called upon to receive a number of soldiers in training, and that in consequence our Schoolroom may be again required for their entertainment in the evenings. If it be so, we will cheerfully face the disturbance to our own arrangements, and no doubt the willing workers of last winter will feel it a privilege to serve again.”

OUR ROLL OF HEROES.
There are a few changes to make since our last record. Charles Hurrell has been discharged from the Navy, in consequence of a breakdown in health. Cyril Hews has left Newhaven, where he has been since August of last year, and expects to proceed to the front immediately. Thomas Mulford has left for Egypt. Horace Gibbons is still in hospital, but is going on well. Percy Lewis has been gazetted Captain, Hugh Lewis has received a Second Lieutenancy in the Royal Engineers, and is stationed at Northampton. No news has been received of Harold Fisher, reported missing on September 28th, but it has been ascertained that some of his Company were taken prisoners on that day, and we may hope that he is among them. Benjamin Gibbons and David Dalgliesh have gone with their regiments to the scene of action in France. John Bolton has been promoted Company Quarter-Master Sergeant. Robert Harris is on the point of crossing to France, perhaps has already crossed. Bert Plum has gone down the Mediterranean, destination unknown. May our Heavenly Father, to whose gracious care we lovingly commend all our lads, preserve and bless them, and enable them to be faithful to their duty and their God.

OUR SOLDIERS’ LETTERS

Many acknowledgements have been received of the Church’s letter: we quote extracts from two.

“I write to thank the Church for the very kind and thoughtful letter which I received last week. It brings to my mind the happy days I spent in the Sunday School, which I look back upon as days of sunshine. It gives me great satisfaction to know that yourself and the Church have not forgotten one who has been away from your midst for a few years.”

“Let me thank you, as our Church’s representative, for the very nice letter of greeting and good will which I received on the 18th November. It has been a great comfort to me on several occasions to remember that I am a member of the Church, and I was very much gratified to receive the kind message, and the assurance that God is on our side, and is always with us.”

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, December 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“He never talks and never grumbles”: the spirit of the Front

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph. Her sister in law Sybil (Lady George Campbell) was anxious about her son Ivar, a 25 year old Lieutenant in the Argyll & Seaforth Highlanders who were currently fighting in Mesopotamia.

Peter[borough] Dec 5th [1915]
My own darling

This is Sunday Dec 5th, and I am wondering when there is a chance of another letter. I send you the envelope of the last (Nov 28th), opened by Censor, & delayed so that I did not get it till Wednesday 2nd… No wonder you were angry at being held up… I am wondering if letters to you are to be censored? I wondered what was coming next: “Taisez vouz, Metiez vouse, les oreilles des ennemis vous ecoutent.” Well – it was just in those words I warned one or two who did not forgive me at the beginning of the war, and I am sure we women ought to be very uncommunicative. One of my soldier women [wives?] said to me about her wounded man, “He never talks, & he never grumbles”. So the spirit of all of you at the front who comes back, and will more and more, as we learn the lesson of these days of a great tribulation – surely the Great Tribulation which must bring in a Better Thing? Today the Tigris withdrawal reaches us, owing to defection of Arabs, and old Collingwood is busy about the immediate punishment which must be inflicted; & I think of Syb & all her anxiety.

John still at Voelas, but coming up for a Board on the 20th, & Maysie hopes they will have Christmas at Voelas – but thinks he will be passed fit. Meg was dreadfully cut up letting Jim go – and Dad got there just 10 minutes after he had gone….

I had a long day in Northampton yesterday. A great Military Hospital is to be started at Northampton or near, & Lady Knightley has got together a huge committee to collect all the necessary things, & asks me to be on it.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/2)

The press is evil and needs to be slayed like a dragon

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to her soldier son Ralph Glyn with news of a contretemps over Red Cross work in their home town. She was also scathing about the press, particularly the empire of press baron Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, which included the Times, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror.

Peter[borough]
Dec 2, 1915
My own darling Scrappits

Like Jim [her son in law, naval officer Jim Meade] I can scarcely bear to read the papers, and I read the Harmondsworth [sic] Press, & believe they are part of the Evil Thing which we have to slay like the Dragon. One has to think of that patron saint St George very often, for we are now to fight in the country of the dragon, and we have a host of St Georges and if only we women could be worthier, and help to keep England what it may be, waiting and ready for the regeneration that must surely come for your reward, when you all come back! But there is something strange the matter as one reads society paper paragraphs, even in the good old Observer, and find the same “vanity” and the same obsession of dress and extravagance, even when they talk Economy and Thrift, and “Mince” like women of old. Punch is good this week. I want to send Punch out to you…

Long ago we sent the things from Fortnum & Mason, trusting more to Expert Packers, but I long to send you a home packed, and now Jim is going away – going to sea again today, and I shall get Meg to make enquiries for me….

Lady Exeter writes “that they are within sound of the guns”. I think this was meant to tell her that the Battery is being moved up….
A real burlesque is going on over the registration of this “Red Cross” business here, and at last the town knows, and the town talks, and the remarks to me are amusing! They, however (the Committee) have no idea of climbing down, and I have got Sir Edward Ward to register them as they are, & they are to have two committees, but have not even yet decided if they will have a “Hospital Depot”, so I am moving at once, & so has Lilah Buller, and so has Miss Cartwright, & so has Lady Knightley, & when we are in full swing they will not be able to avoid our getting grants of money from them, or direct from Headquarters. And it is the finance part that has kept me waiting. Northampton refuses to help Miss Cartwright, though there at Brackley she is the only Depot for sick & wounded at the front, & Lilah Buller says they “approve” her but I gather she too can get no funds. This is all so monstrous. And when the truth is known support will come. We are not yet in possession of a house – I wish we were – but it will come at the right moment, & in the right way. The great thing is done and it is all miracle of mercy, for Dad is looking forward now too…

Today is so lovely. I have to run round soldiers & sailors’ wives & mothers, and shall have the lift of the motor today….

I long to know more of what you are going through. All accounts differ in the papers of the climate. Poor Meg. I am glad Jim goes in fair weather. Maysie hopes that at Captain “D” there may be more chances of their meeting,, but the goodbye must be hard, hard work….

Own own own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/2)

A fraud and a swindle

Ralph Glyn’s mother, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to her son Ralph to tell him of the impact of the execution of Nurse Edith Cavell for helping British soldiers to escape in occupied Belgium had had on recruitment in their area. It probably had a similar effect here in Berkshire. A public school had also set the pupils to making munitions.

Peter[borough]
Nov. 2, 1915

My own darling

I weary to get news of you, to know how I can get news to you, and parcels to you. For we are arranging how to send you your Christmas things, and I shall send something every week if only you will tell me how it can be done better if the wrong things come along!…
The accounts all point now to pressure tightening at the centre, and the conditions becoming intolerable? And the power weakening on which ultimately the central powers must draw? These are dark days – and the shifting of the struggle where you were prepared to find it shifts, will bring to bear on the final problem, the best united effort. And at least the attention of the best brains will be focussed on the East and its redeeming. The King’s accident, & news of Servia [sic], have filled this week.

Recruiting has been good, and in Leicester very good, and much use has been made of the Cavell tragedy, and yet it seems to me that until we leave it with the men to go as the first armies went, from simple devotion to the service of their country, we shall miss the only lasting and outlasting motive force. Appeals to sentiment and emotion have inevitable reaction, and there is only one hope that the dulled imagination and encrusted selfishness may be stabbed awake by the knowledge of all you are bearing “for England’s sake!! at those fronts” as we call them – covering so much!…

John today has had the operation which had to be for the removal of a bit of diseased bone, & removal too of an old stump of a tooth, so he has gone back to Mrs Samuelson’s hospital, & I have no news as Maysie said she would not telegraph….

I am trying to get together a Workroom for Hospital Comforts, but these idiots have now to climb down and “register”, and are now found out as having no Red Cross work to register, so Northampton shows one large blank in the official book, and I am trying to find out if I can get them to support with funds my effort after they have been joined up. They won’t own they have been irregular and my work meantime hangs fire…

We … called on Head Master of Oundle and find the boys there doing splendid munition work, using all their engineering plant…

And this odious Red X trouble worrying me all the time. Constance Butler suggests my asking for an “Enquiry”, as they have now brought out a Report which makes the matter one for public enquiry, but I think with Dad inclined to be worried it ought to be pressed for by someone else. Much as I long to have the thing put right – it is difficult for me to show up what I consider a fraud and a swindle, & the people here would not care so long as they get credit and come before the public. I hear Lilah Butler and someone else are just taking the matter into their own hands, and are starting workrooms to help, & are registered.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)