Russian news horrible

It was bad news at home (with additional voluntary food restrictions) and abroad, with more news of the revolution in Russia.

12 November 1917

More food vol: rations [into?] bread rather more, meat less, cereals and fats. Butter to all limited.

Russian news horrible. Petrograd in hands of rebels & Lenin!!

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

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War in Russia

The Russian Revolution was turning into civil war.

11 September 1917
War in Russia – troops marching on Petrograd.

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

Italian Intelligence methods are “totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent”

An Intelligence officer contact of Ralph Glyn’s trying to work out how the Austrian army was deployed was unimpressed by his Italian counterparts.

MI2C
War Office
Whitehall
SW

3.V.16

My dear Glyn

Many thanks for your two last letters & the paper on artillery. I’m just back from a visit to the Comande Supremo, where I had a chance of seeing the Italian Intelligence at work. Their methods are totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent. However of that more when we meet again.

Since your last letter of 25/4/16, the Italians claim to have identified the 57th, 59th Divs & 10th Mountain Brigade from Albania in the Trentino. The 57th & 59th Divs appear to form an VIIIth Corps (not an XVIIIth, as they previously swore). I don’t think much if anything has gone to Macedonia from Albania. The containing force there at the moment appears to be 47th Div (probably keeping order in Montenegro), 53rd Div & 10th, 14th, 17th Mountain Bdes, two of which may be incorporated in the 62nd Div, if it still exists.

The only artillery unit I can definitely locate in Balkans is the 2nd Howitzer Bg of the 10th Mountain Artillery regiment (from intercepted correspondence of interned Austrian!) with the 103rd German Div. There are certainly many more Austrian artillery units there, but Lord alone knows which they are. The Italians won’t dish up the enemy artillery on their front other than in terms of guns – never by numbered regiments, batteries, etc, as the normal GS does, & information from Russia, seeing that the Intelligence mission is at Petrograd dependent for its information on Russian War Office, & not at GHQ, is correspondingly scanty & inaccurate.

The composition of units in the AH [Austro-Hungarian] army changes so rapidly that any attempt to reduce it to cut & dried book form in watertight compartments (as you can with the Boche army) seems foredoomed. The book as soon as written is found to be out of date.

However everyone here is anxious that I should carry on with it; and it certainly has been useful here in many ways, so I am going to produce it eventually. But it is awful work, so little reliable information being forthcoming, & so much being left to pure conjecture, that I sometimes give up all hope of making anything out of it.

I had a very interesting visit to the Italian front, of which I will tell you something; it was a welcome change after all the months of unrelieved monotony I had had at the WO.

No time for more
Yours

E M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/34)

The horrors of invasion are brought home

Ascot residents heard a first-hand account of the horrors of war-torn Poland and the flight of refugees.

AT A MEETING held on March 1st at the Ascot Hospital (by kind permission of Viscount Churchill) in aid of the Women’s Maternity and Relief Unit for Refugees into Russia, the horrors of invasion were brought home to us. Miss Geraldine Cooke gave a very feeling address in which she described some of the sufferings of thrice war-ridden Poland, with its host of Refugees driven from their homes, its destitute mothers and lost children; its roads marked with infants’ graves; its cattle crowded off the highways to perish in the swamps; its towns and villages raised to the ground.

She mentioned the noble work being done by the Russian Relief Committee. She explained how the Maternity Unit offered its services to help our Allies in their great undertaking, and how a Hospital is already opened at Petrograd (to work under the Russian Government) for destitute mothers and children; also how, at the request of the Government it hopes to arrange Homes in healthy country places for lost Refugee children, and to bring happiness into the lives of some of these desolate little ones.

The meeting (at which Lady Edwin Lewin took the chair) closed with the singing of the Russian and English National Anthems, and a generous collection was made.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Monthly Magazine, April 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/4)

“More brains than bowels”

Ralph Glyn’s mentor General Charles Callwell, just off to Russia, let him know what was going on at the War Office and internationally. For Czar Nicholas II’s impressions of Callwell, see his letters.

Central Station Hotel
Newcastle-on-Tyne

4th March 1916

My dear Glyn

I got your letter just when leaving. It looks as if things were going to be very dull in Egypt and, with the reduction of garrison, I suppose that there will be reduction of staff. Perhaps you will find yourself nearer decisive events before long. Latest news from Verdun seems quite satisfactory and Joffre two days ago was quite satisfied. Robertson had gone over to see him and Haig.

Wigram and I are for the Grand Duke’s HQ but go to Magily first to see the Emperor & Alexieff. I have a GCMG for Yudenich, who commanded the army that took Erzerum, which should make us popular & will justify our getting pretty well up to the front. Whe we get back to Moscow we may go on to Japan – I have a sack of decorations concealed at Christiania to serve as an excuse – so as to see how things are on the Siberian railway & at Vladivostok, but I could not get Robertson to make up his mind. The King told me that AP [Arthur Paget] put in from Petrograd for a trip to the Caucasus, suggesting a decoration for Yudenich as justification; but he was too late, our trip having already been arranged. We may meet him at Stockholm or some such place. Mac[law?] is going with us as far as Petrograd, he has managed to put in about three months at home on an irregular sort of sick leave and strikes me as having more brains than bowels; he is coming down here later and we start tonight. The passage across is no citch [sic] as it is bitterly cold, it is always rough, & the steamers are small & asphyxiating, proving altogether too much for Wigram and our recruit-servant.

The War Office has quite settled down on its new lines and the breaking up of the MO into MO and to MI seems to work very well and to be a decided improvement. Most of the old gang remain on and some of them look rather tired.

Wishing you the best of luck

Yours sincerely
Chas E Callwell

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

The hell of a job: British intelligence

An Intelligence officer friend of Ralph Glyn wrote to him with another glimpse into the newly reorganised forerunner of MI6.

MI2c
22.ii.16
My dear Glyn

Thank you for yours of the 15th inst. yes, I alone survive of the old MO2c push. Con is back from GHQ in command of MI2c & the staff has been increased to 5 & possibly 6. I have forsaken the Hun for the Austro-Hun: Austria having been combined with Germany at last in this section (I can’t think why it was not done before). Cox has handed Austria over to me wholesale: it is a hopeless task taking over from old Perry. No handbook since 1909 in spite of the 1912 reorganisation. I hope to get out a booklet on the Infantry by end of March, showing present distribution. The whole army works by Battalions in the most complex way & it is the hell of a job.
Meantime we shall send you once a month a distribution & assumed composition of Austro German forces in the various theatres, which should keep you fairly up to date.

At end of March a new edition of “German Army in the field” will also be published, copies of which will be sent to you.

WO news is very prolific in that a complete reorganisation on very (apparently) sound lines has taken place. A tendency however is showing itself to devote too much attention in the highest quarters to masses of detail which really only concern the subsections or the forces in the field, & thereby to neglect the larger issues. I speak however only of the MI Directorate & it is only a personal opinion so “tell it not in Gath & publish it not in Askalon” [a Biblical quotation].

Wigram, having gone with the DMO to Russia, has returned with ‘Stanislavs’ upon his breast; he returns next week to Petrograd & is having the hell of a time. Buckley remains MI1 (Col) but his activities are narrowly restricted to ‘Intelligence’. Between you & me, he seems to have fallen slightly into the background; after so long a sojourn in the limelight it must be very galling to him & I feel very sorry indeed about it.

Look me up next time you’re back in England & we will dine together & prattle of affairs in general.

Goodbye & good luck to you.

Yours ever
G M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/8)

“We are not well prepared for anything but defence”

Former Intelligence boss General Charles Callwell was on his way back from Russia. Fr the diary of Hanbury-Williams, see here.

Grand Hotel & Grand Hotel Royal
Stockholm

31st Jan 1916

My dear Ralph

I got a budget of letters, including two from you, at Petrograd just before leaving, and take the opportunity of a rest here to answer some of them.

I am glad to hear that you are settled in the Intelligence line with Tyrrell and hope that you have not been displaced under the Staff reorganisation which has I presume been carried out. After three weeks absence from England one seems to know nothing. As far as I can make out there is not at present much sign of a serious attack on Egypt, and the sands are running out. K & Maxwell worked themselves into a fidget over it but I never believed that there was danger of a really formidable attempt by the Bocho-Turks – the Boches are too wide awake.

I have had a short but pleasant visit to Russia. They did Ralph Wigram & me tophole and I had much talk with bigwigs and got some things settled. Alexieff the new C of S is a capital man and very easy to deal with. We are on our way back to report & to go to GHQ to Chantilly, and then expect to return and to go through to Japan so as to see the working of the Siberian railway and ginger them up if necessary at Vladivostok; with luck we may manage a visit to the Grand Duke at Tiflis [Tbilisi] en route.

Wigram makes an excellent SO and is a bright, cheery companion – he has abandoned me tonight and I fear the worst. We get many messages for you from the Russian Staff & the Yacht Club. “Mon Dieu – quell applomb [sic] ” said La Guiche of you with a reminiscent sight, but Hanbury Williams referred gloomily to the way AP & you left him in the lurch.

The Germans seem to be beginning a big push on the western front which ought to be good for us and to lose them men whom they cannot afford to lose. It seems to be playing our game as at the moment we are not well prepared for anything but defence – thanks to Salonika and such like.

I hope that you are keeping very fit and find your job congenial. Anyway you are in a good climate for the present. Give my love to Tyrrell, and believe me

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General 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)

“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)