“One of the monks described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem”

A Reading soldier describes his experiences in Palestine.

MORE ABOUT PALESTINE

By the kindness of Mr Ernest Francis we are able to give further interesting extracts from letters recently received from our friend Private E. Layton Francis of the London Scottish Regiment.
Writing from somewhere in Palestine our friend says:

“I have much of interest to describe to you again, as during my travels I have visited Bethlehem and been on guard in the Church of the Holy Nativity. Bethlehem is situated on a hillside about six miles from Jerusalem. The streets are very narrow and covered with cobbles, and in many places beams run across the street overhead to stop the houses falling in.

The entrance to the Church is just a small hole in what appears to be a castle wall. Inside there is a huge hall like the body of a church; the roof is supported with forty four pillars, and numerous highly coloured lamps hang from it. The whole building, which covers an immense area, and is evidently very old, comprises three churches – Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek. The Roman Catholic church is about the same size as St John’s [presumably Reading St John, now the Polish Catholic Church, in Watlington Street]. It is a beautiful church and has a very fine organ. The actual spot in which it is said that Jesus Christ was born is, as is usual out here in the East, a cave below the level of the church. It is cut out of the natural rock, and a cavity is shown where the wooden manger used to lay. The manger itself was supposed to have been sent to Rome. Of course there is a lot of valuable tapestry round this spot and several very beautiful pictures. There are numerous lamps hanging from the roof filled with olive oil and with floating wicks, some of the lamps always being alight. One of our posts was by the side of the manger, and here I used to sit for two hours at a time. There is so much here of interest to describe, and it is all so wonderful that a letter is not sufficient. I long for the time when I can tell all about it myself.

Since we commenced this stunt last October, I have been right through the Judean Hills and down on the plains below. The Judean Hills end abruptly and there is no gradual sloping away, but like cliffs, with a fertile plain stretching away to the Mountains of Moab, and the Jordan rushing madly on its career into the Dead Sea. The banks of the Jordan are very steep, and the stream is tremendously strong. The Dead Sea stretches away looking as calm and smooth as a pond.

Seen from a distance Jericho looks a pretty little lace with white houses and red roofs, with the white minarets showing through the green trees. Having seen this part of the country one can understand such terms as “The Promised Land” and a “Land flowing with milk and honey”. Halfway down one of the hillsides overlooking the plain, there is a beautiful monastery built into the rock. This is the Monastery of the Temptation, and the hill is the traditional spot where Christ was tempted of [sic] the devil. Some excavations at Jericho have laid bare the foundation of the old walls and the ruins of some of the houses.

Another place of interest I have seen in the Pool of Bethesda. This is considered one of the most authentic spots in the Holy City. The Pool is some way down, and is reached by a flight of stone steps. Above the Pool there are the remains of an old Crusaders’ Church, with the porchway, altar and crypt still standing, although in ruins. One of the actual pillars of the five porches, which at the time of our Lord gave entrance to the Pool, is still to be seen. The story of the miracle is written up in 75 different languages including Welsh, and Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Near by is a very beautiful Roman Catholic church, the Church of St Anne. The church belongs to some order of White Monks. One of the monks, who spoke very good English, described to us how unbearable life was under the Turks, and how glad he was to see the British enter Jerusalem.”

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, May 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

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We refused peace terms thinking the Germans were “on the run”.

Inserted at the front of Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary are her notes made sometime in December 1917 on war news. The impact of America joining the war was beginning to be felt.

December 1917

Hear 4 generals sent home without return tickets!

Hear Germans offered good peace terms 3 months ago. We refused thinking they were “on the run”.

Our troops hissed going through Rome. Cadorna hated by Army – he the Vatican’s party.

Coldstreams scared 91,000 prisoners being taken.

One HQ taken – generals and colonels still adding.

Hear American troops to be trained in Ireland to shame the Irish.

500,000 Americans already in France.

Hear through W Grimmett last push we took any amount of stores & clothing, made light railway & sent it to base before 2 days.

Hear another push is to begin soon.

Americans getting to France about 5000 a week.

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

Italy may be troublesome

Cabinet Minister Alfred, Lord Milner (1854-1924) accompanied PM David Lloyd George to a international conference with the Allied leaders in Rome.

6 January 1917

Lloyd George & Lord Milner gone to Rome – settling, I hope, about Greece. Italy suggests being troublesome, I think.

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

Work for the “common cause”

Two of Ralph Glyn’s friends based in London – one orking in Intelligence at the War Office, the other an army officer seconded to arms manufacturer Vickers, wrote to him.

War Office
London, SW
M.I.1/113/NE

7th April, 1916

My dear Glyn

Very many thanks for your letter of March 13th. I was very glad to hear from you again after such a long time. I understand that Holdich is taking Tyrrell’s place and I expect to be writing to him by this mail also.

As regards your suggestion about I.a work in the B.C.I., I am afraid that any suggestion to strengthen this part of the B.C.I. will not be regarded with favour, because, when the B.C.I. was started, it was agreed by the representatives of the various Allies that this International Intelligence Bureau should not deal with matters which had hitherto been subjects of direct correspondence between the various GHQs concerned, and it was agreed that the B.C.I. was to be primarily a clearing house for information about contre-espionage [sic] and military statistical intelligence of a permanent or semi-permanent nature. Consequently, any attempt to meddle with enemy orders of battle or 1.a. work generally has been most severely discouraged.

I think that, when you realise this, you will probably not want to go to the B.C.I. and I shall, therefore, take no action on your part until and unless I hear from you again.

Yours ever,
C French

36, Sloane Court, SW
7th April, 1916

My dear Ralph

What has become of you?

It’s nearly a year since last I saw or heard of you and I’m now stirred into writing by seeing in the papers that your father is leaving Peterboro’.

I am so sorry: however, I expect he feels that after many strenuous year [sic] he wants to retire to a more peaceful life…

I am with Vickers now and am fairly up to my eyes in work all day and every day: it’s very interesting and real hard work; how long the WO will keep me at it I don’t, of course, know. I’ve never done a day with the W. Gds [Welsh Guards?] yet since I was transferred to them. However, as long as I feel I’m doing some work for the “common cause” I’ve nothing to complain of.

I occasionally hear scraps of news about you from Rome, or Greece, or Russia! I suppose you are dashing about all over the place on every sort of mysterious mission.

If you ever are in London, let me know – do: I’d love to see you again. Vickers House finds me all day & every day, except when I’m away at gun trials: and here we are installed in a flat – our first home!…

Yours ever,
Jack O’W

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/24-25)

“They got more than they bargained for”

Ralph Glyn’s married sisters, Meg Meade and Maysie Wynne-Finch, wrote to him after his brief leave. Meg lived in London and was acting as Ralph’s financial proxy while he was away. Maysie, who was staying with her sister, told Ralph all about her husband’s wound. Neither woman was a fan of British politicians.

Oct 15th
23 Wilton Place
SW

My darling Ralph

It was very sad returning here with the babies on the 12th to find you had gone. If only you could have stayed a few days longer here, it would have been perfect. But I am hoping always that we shall have you back very soon. If you don’t come straight back here, I’ll never never forgive you!…

Bless you for your letter you wrote to me before leaving London. Jim [her husband] loved getting the maps… Anne [her daughter] has drawn you a sunset & has written you a letter which I enclose “For Uncle Ralph at Darnelles” she said.

I went to Cox this morning & saw your old friend Mr Smith. He was very kind to me, & I have a cheque book to draw on your account, so look out!

And in accordance with your long & interesting letter I got from you today, I have only been mixing with Cabinet Ministers today. That’s all. I took your letter to Sir Edward Carson to Eaton Place. Instead of putting it in the letter box I thought I’d go one better & give it to the butler so I rang the bell. The door opened & out stepped Bonar Law & Sir Edward! I mumbled to the latter “This letter is from my brother Ralph Glyn” & fled, however Sir Edward insisted on shaking me warmly by the hand, & your letter has evidently been too much for him, because all the papers have been remarking on his conspicuous absence from the Cabinet meeting today.

Things do look serious. The best news I’ve heard since war began, I heard at dinner tonight at the [Somertons?]. There was a nice man there called Baker Kerr who said he knew you, but what tickled me was that he said that we should have conscription in 6 weeks time. I hope to Heaven it’s true. Things have been bungled & enough misery caused by the selfish stupidity & timidity of politicians. I hear that the Zepps have strict orders not to drop any bombs on Whitehall or Downing Street for our Government are Germany’s best friends.

What a bore for you being hung up in Rome… Don’t pull the noses of any of the irritating Dips who are there either, if you can help it. They must be perfectly maddening to deal with…

Dad … tells us a Zepp passed over Peter[borough] last night, & did a lot of harm at Hertford, killed a lot of people, & smashed up the town. The Zepp raid here on Wednesday night was quite amusing. I was in the middle of writing a letter to Dickie when the guns started firing. So I collected the babies & we went to the kitchen till it was over. Of course I went out to try & see the Zepp, but I can’t say I succeeded. I saw confused shadows in the searchlight, but I did see the bursting shell from our guns, but most other people seem to have seen the Zepp & say there were 4 of them or 5….

Maysie tells me she has protected me by sending you all the news…

Your always lovingest
Meg

(more…)

“Just the sort of absurd thing that a gang of civilians would decide upon”

Ralph Glyn’s boss shared the latest top secret discussions about a withdrawal from the Dardanelles.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W
15th October 1915

My dear Ralph,

Many thanks for your interesting letters from Paris and Rome. I suppose that by this time you are somewhere in the Aegean and will soon be fetching up at Imbros. I have worried Brade without ceasing about the ship for the King’s Messenger and am confident that by the end of the war something thoroughly satisfactory will have been arranged.

I imagine that you will find things a little uncomfortable when you get there, although I do not know how far everything will leak out even there at once. Monro is crossing from France today and I suppose that I shall see him tomorrow; but I do not know how he will manage about staff and so forth. I am very sorry for Sir Ian and Braithwaite who have had a very difficult game to play and have had the cards against them, while they have not received the backing from home that they might fairly have counted upon, It is to be up to Monro to recommend whether the Dardanelles operations are to be gone on with, or whether it is to be a case of clearing out – a nasty thing to have to decide. Afterwards he is apparently to go wandering about the Levant seeing what can be done there, as if a stranger to those parts could decide such matters at a moment’s notice. Just the sort of absurd thing that a gang of civilians would decide upon.
Carson is out of it – at least he has resigned; but there may be some hitch over Squiff’s accepting it, or he may be got at by the King. The Government is all over the place over the Dardanelles and compulsory service, and I do not know how they are going to pull themselves together.

Long says that he will send a banana ship to you, so your suggestion like so many of yours is bearing fruit. I have also rosined up the MS over the honours and have mentioned the matter to K, so that will be all right. Entre nous, I have got Lord Stamfordham to approach the King as to sending out a Prince to visit Gallipoli but have not heard how the All Highest takes it. Of course, that would only fit in if the operations are to be proceeded with; one could hardly pack off a Princeling to witness a retirement.

Our people made another attempt at a big push near Loos and it seems to have been virtually a failure. Robertson, who has been over, HW and JF all insist that they can break the line when they like, but when they try there is no tangible result. Offensive, barring local digs, will now be off for a bit I imagine. Mackenzie wanted to tell you off as 3rd Grade merchant of Mahon’s division, where there is a vacancy, but I pointed out that that would be sending you to Salonika contrary to K’s orders. I prefer your being at GHQ if it can be managed, but do not tell them I said so. Any way I will mention to Monro if I get the chance, as with your experience you might be very useful to him if he goes poking about.

Your “diploma” for the order of chastity or whatever your Serb decoration is arrived; but I suppose you do not want it in the field, and the MS watches over these things. Office much as usual, the “appreciation” epidemic is still virulent, but it has given old man Kiggell indigestion – and no wonder – so we are over the worst. But I miss your cheery presence.

Half asleep.

Yours ever
Chas E Callwell

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

“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)

Tell the Italians everything in the Dardanelles is splendid

General Charles Callwell, Ralph Glyn’s boss at the War Office, gave him a special mission to the Dardanelles. General Walter Braithwaite was Chief of Staff for the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force at the Dardanelles, where Sir Ian Hamilton was in command. Also mentioned here are Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston, Edward Mabbott Woodward, William Birdwood, and General Charles Delme-Radcliffe, head of the Italian Military Mission.(D/EGL/C24)

War Office
26th June 1915

My dear Glyn

It is easier to give you your instructions in the form of a private letter than as a formal memorandum.

I want you to go out to the Dardanelles and to get back again as soon as you can, subject to fulfilling your mission effectually. In respect to points that you report on officially, please consult Braithwaite, or the CRE, or the QMG, or the principal authority concerned, as the case may be, because Lord K wants you to act as a channel and act as a source. There will no doubt be many other matters suitable for you to report on privately to me by letter, or when you get back. In any official report it is best to keep to individual subjects; ie, if there are ten things to report on make out ten reports.

I am writing to Braithwaite to let him know about you, but will also wire in a day or two, heralding your advent. Please give my respects to Sir Ian and my love to Braithwaite, Hunter Weston and Woodward; also if you see Birdwood please tell him how much I appreciate his letters – I have not time to write to him this week. You will of course see Cunninghame; tell him that he is doing admirably where he is.

On your way back I should like you to pay a flying visit to the Italian GHQ – at Bologna I think it is. You would be able to let the Italian General Staff know how things are progressing – of course saying that everything is splendid – and it would be a piece of civility. I will let Delme Radcliffe know of this and you should of course wire to him from Athens or Rome and make sure that you are expected. But I do not want you to go if it means delay in your getting back here beyond one, or at most two, days.

Yours sincerely

Chas E Callwell

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

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)