“Friendly as we advance but enemies in a retreat”

Lady Mary Glyn had more news for her son Ralph, including his late cousin’s Ivar’s thoughts on the Middle East where he had been fighting before his death.

Feb 14th [1916]

I had seen Maysie & John at his mother’s on Sunday. He is happy about the Adjutancy & has taken it up today. Maysie joins him at the White Hart this evening. They have a house but cannot get into it for a fortnight. Later on they hope to persuade old Arthur Leveson Gower to let them have a house close to the Barracks Mary Crichton advised them to purse. He won’t let, & is at present obdurate….

Then I went to Aunt Syb. My first visit [since her son Ivar’s death]. She was so pleased with your letters, and with all you had said to her. I had no idea my letter gave you the first news? She still gets letters, the last on New Year’s Day, and all full of the interest & newness & picturesqueness, & pleasure in surroundings. He spoke of being surrounded by Arabs “always friendly as we advance but enemies in any retreat”. He did not speak of any contretemps then. Aunt Syb was very natural, and spoke of him freely, of her life as closed, and “no man left belonging to her”. One knows it to be the blow from which, for her, there is no recovery or relief, & yet she says “if she had had ten sons she would have wished them all to go, and that she is glad it was in a fight, & “not a sniper” or other “lesser path to glory”. That it would have been his wish if it was to be. All this & much else that for me does not relieve the tragedy & the pathos of a life that seemed to need such other crowning – but some day I hope his letters will be published, and the story told of all he did when the great call came, & with it a vocation to which he gave so great an answer.

She minds now the ten days she might have had with him at Marseilles while he waited, & somehow she knows he got no letters all that time & no word from home. She is very sore & very bitter about Eric, but I have learned my lesson with Ivar. Ever again to judge? For it is not death always that is to reveal what Love may do to draw out & strengthen & console where sense of failure, & being on the wrong track makes that comfort difficult to minister. If only one can always love, and always believe, then one would never even know the things that oppose. I longed to tell Syb this when she called Eric “coward”. I never thought Ivar that, or yet “spy”! but as with Eric I suspected wrong friends & associates to be an adverse influence, & now perhaps with Eric a right word from someone, & not a wrong one, might avail. He has no mother to help him. Eric had come in for 10 minutes & left saying “he could not bear it” – poor Eric. No mother to gird him & help him to worthier service.

I will try to send you Frances’s Oban Times which is more in character with herself than with Ivar – but Syb likes it, and so does all the family except myself, knowing the false allusion. But what matters it. Ivar’s kiss & look of recovered by friendship outside the old church at Inveraray has been a comfort & “the talk” which went on behind my back can be overcome too.

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

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Every man worth anything is on war service

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with the latest news, ranging from air raids to the family members affected by the war.

Feb 8th 1916
The Palace
Peterborough
My own darling Scrappits

We have had a Zepp excitement since I wrote – no, I think we did tell you? Poor Loughborough has suffered; one factory refused to put out its lights & they did a lot of damage there and killed 11 people. Other places escaped by clever devices, and the Bosch was well let in, but on the whole it was a fine performance on their part.
I wonder what you think of the trawler and her skipper. I am sure he did the only thing that was possible?

There are so many rumours about the war & the growing conviction that the autumn is to see the end of the war – I wonder!

John & Maysie have been here for Sunday – 5th to 7th. He had to see his Colonel on Monday & today we hear he is made Adjutant & takes up duty at Windsor, so they are looking for a house….

Aunt Syb writes of your letter to her with real gratitude… I did not try to see her last week having to do so much, and she was I hear all day at her hospital. Aunt Far has been writing in the Oban Times, and in a very characteristic way. I hope a better memorial may be published in Ivar’s own letters some day. He is one of those who found his life in losing it: and I think of him as he was, ever in the old days, & as we met again outside the Inverary Church at his father’s funeral…
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