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)

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that Asquith & Churchill should be impeached

Expat Will Spencer had plenty to interest him in the Swiss newspapers – the first news of the Russian Revolution, plus the official enquiry into the fiasco of the Dardanelles expedition.

16 March 1917

Max Ohler’s birthday.

News in the paper of a revolution in St Petersburg. Also a rumour that the Czar is a prisoner, & has abdicated, & that his brother, the Grand-duke Michael Alexandrovitch, has been appointed regent….

Read an article in by the London correspondent of the “Bund” on the report of the Commission which was appointed to enquire into the conduct of the British Dardanelles Expedition. Lloyd George had said in Feb. 1915 that the Army was not there to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the Navy. The responsibility for the land operations(100,000 killed, wounded & missing, & 100,000 sick) being persevered with, rested with Asquith, Churchill & – though one is reluctant to say it under the circumstances – chiefly with the late Lord Kitchener.

My question is, did Asquith know that the chances of success were too small to justify the prosecution of the campaign? Or did he think it best to be guided by the opinion of Kitchener, & was it the expressed opinion of the latter that the chances were good enough. In the latter case, I am sorry for Asquith. The expedition was an expensive failure, but if the attempt had not been made, probably plenty would have said afterwards that it ought to have been made. It is always much easier to judge after the event.

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that by way of a warning to others, Asquith & Churchill should be impeached. Apparently it was from Australia & New Zealand that the demand for an enquiry came, very large contingents from those colonies having taken part & suffered heavily in the campaign.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

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)

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)

“German liners? There ain’t one on the seas”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Meg Meade was thrilled when her sailor husband came home on leave.

23 Wilton Place
SW
Oct. 22nd

My own darling Ralph

Imagine my feelings when last Saturday afternoon I got a wire from Jim saying “Meet me Kings X 6.15 tonight”! I ran from top to bottom of the house with one scream of joy. A little later I tried with my latchley to let myself into No 22 Wilton Place, & did other little inconsequent things like that till I met him at the station! And only 2 days before I had had a letter from him saying he couldn’t possibly get any leave! He managed very very cleverly. Such a thing I hear has never been done in the Navy before. But his Commodore, Le Mesurier came on board Royalist & said “My ship Calliope wants refitting so I propose to hoist my pennant in Royalist pro tem”. “Certainly”, says Jim, “but as there’s not room here for both of us, hadn’t I better take Calliope to Newcastle for you, as you don’t want to leave the squadron”. “Well & nobly thought out” says the Commodore, & so he has come, looking better than I’ve ever seen him look before, & he has been away for 7 months, all but one week! And you see Royalist must get leave for a refit some time soon, so he ought to get another go of leave soon!

Last Sunday we took Anne [their little daughter] & Harold Russell & 2 Colvins to the Zoo, which was great fun, & we met Mat Ridley there. He is looking much better & has been passed for home service at last. We fixed up about coming to Blaydon while Calliope is finishing, & Jim reckons we shall go north about 28th, but meantime every minute of each day is heavenly as you can imagine….

Wasn’t it a funny coincidence that John arrived at Sybbie [Samuelson]’s hospital at 4 a.m. the day after Jim arrived. The wounds in John’s back which had practically healed had to be opened again for fear of any poison, but he has got his poor head all bound up in a way that looks really interesting on account of an awful abscess he has got in his mouth.. They thought it came from the poison of his wounds, but now they think the abcess would have come on anyhow. There’s a large bit of dead bone inside it, but Maysie, who dined here last night, is beside herself with joy, as John has got to have 2 months leave to get well in! So as soon as he has finished his hospital treatment, which will take some time, they will go to Voelas.

The parents are coming up here on Saturday to lunch & meet John & Maysie here…

Sir Edward Carson’s resignation has not caused the stir I expected it would do. But it remains to be seen what happens next. The House of Commons seem principally concerned that Asquith is ill. I hear that you have been stopped at Greece…

Maysie & others rail at the Staff. Jim stops the flood of her disgust by a torrent of admiration which he feels for the Staff & soldiers fighting alike! What he says is so true, that if 2 years ago we had been told that our Staff would be called upon to handle our present army, & if we had been told that our army would perform the prodigies that it has done, it would have been hard for anyone to believe it, & as he says, “even the great Germans have made mistakes enough, or indeed they’d be in Paris & Petersburg now & have broken 10 times through our armies.” We laughed at last to find that Jim & I were defending the British Army in our discussion while Maysie was so pessimistic.

Jim & I went to Hallgrove on Monday for 2 nights, & had great fun playing golf both mornings & we had some tennis too.
Jim has just got so indignant over some Professor’s remarks in the Times about “sinking German liners” when “There ain’t one on the seas”! that I must take him out….

Meg

Letter from Meg M<eade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“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)