“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)

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“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)

This is “a war run by a gang of chattering civilians” – but no worse than the French

More secrets are revealed in General Callwell’s latest letter to Ralph Glyn. The general was about to move from overall charge of military intelligence and operations, to a secret mission to our allies in Russia and Japan.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

30th December 1915

My dear Ralph,

I have no idea where you are or what doing, but send this to Egypt, whither I gather Monro and his big staff have gone. Bell wrote the other day and mentioned that he proposed sending you on to Egypt.
Great changes at the WO consequent on Robertson’s taking over CIGS. Poor old man K is in the corner and quite good – does what he is told. My branch has been split in two, operations and intelligence, Maurice becoming DMO and Macdonogh becoming DMI, a post I still hold pending Macdonogh’s arrival. I go off to Russia with Ralph Wigram in a few days and expect to go on to Vladivostok and Japan – Japan as an excuse for going along the Siberian railway to see how it is doing; one cannot get those Russians to bestir themselves and keep things moving on the line although their munitions from America depend entirely upon it. I am delighted to get out of the WO after seventeen months of it.

It has been an awful scandal about the delay in deciding to evacuate Gallipoli. The withdrawal from Suvla and Anzac was a wonderful performance, but no thanks to the Government for that. I dare not hope that the move out of Helles will be a bloodless affair. When the story of the Government’s vacillations comes to be told, the country will realise what it is to have a war run by a gang of chattering civilians who over-ride the decisions of their own War Council. The only thing to be said for them is that they are no worse than the French gang. The French General Staff now, after we have educated them in London and at Chantilly, quite realise the absurdity of the Salonika affair; but Briand and Co dare not clear out for fear of public opinion and of Sarrail.

Archie Murray goes off tomorrow to take up command vice Monro. He did very well indeed as CIGS and we all liked him, but he did not come in on his own terms and backed by the whole Cabinet like Robertson. K’s visit to the Near East was a blessing in disguise in that the government were, during the interval, told the truth about a number of matters – the lack of men amongst other things, and the majority were got to see that we could not get on without compulsion.
I have not heard from you for quite a long time, but hope you are very fit. I see Dulles has got a division – I wish it was a better one. Give him my love if you come across him.

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

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