Reading School’s contribution to the war

A complete listing of Reading School’s alumni who had served in the war.

OLD BOYS SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES.

This list has been compiled from information received up to December 14th, 1918; corrections and additions will be welcomed and should be addressed to: – R. Newport, Esq., Reading School, Reading.

Allnatt, Rifleman N.R. — London Rifle Brigade.
(killed in Action).
Ambrose, 2nd Lieut. L.C. — S.L.I.
Anderson, Pte. L.G. — Can. Exp. Force
Appelbee, 2nd Lieut. T. — 13TH West Yorks.
(Killed in Action).
Atkinson, Lieut. E.G. — Indian Army
Atkinson, Capt. G.P. — 6TH Royal North Lancs.
Atkinson, 2nd Lieut. J.C. — R.A.F.
Aust, 2nd Lieut. H.E. — Yorkshire Regt.
(Twice Wounded).
(Killed in Action).
Aveline, Lieut. A.P. — Royal Berks Regt,
(Wounded).
(Military Cross).
Baker, 2nd Lieut. A.C.S. — R.G.A.
Baker, Rifleman A.E. — London Irish Rifles.
(Wounded).
Baker, Rifleman R.S. — London Irish Rifles.
(Wounded).
Baker, Lieut. T.H. — 8TH Royal Berks Regt.
(Wounded)
Balding, Capt. C.D. — Indian Army.
Banks, Pte. W.R. — Public School Corps.
(Killed in Action).
Bardsley, Capt. R.C — Manchester Regt.
(Wounded).
Barnard, F.P. —
Barroby, Trooper. F. — Strathcona Horse.
Barry, Capt. L.E. — R.A.F.
Baseden, Lieut. E. — Royal Berks Regt.
(Killed in Action).
Baseden, 2nd Lieut. M.W. — R.A.F.
Batchelor, Lieut. A.S. — Duke of Cornwall’s L.I.
Bateman, Capt. W.V. — Royal Munster Fusiliers.
Bayley, 2nd Lieut. F. — Chinese Labour Battalion.
Beckingsale, Pte. R.S. — Canadian Contingent.
Beckingsale, Capt. R.T. — Tank Corps (Military Cross).
(Wounded).

Belsten, E.K. — R.A.F.
Biddulph, 2nd Lieut. R.H.H. — Royal Berks Regt.
(Died of Wounds).
Bidmead, Pte. — Wilts regt.
Black, Pte. F. — Public School Corps.
(Killed in Action).
Blazey, A.E.H. — R.A.F.
Blazey, 2nd Lieut. J.W. — Royal Berks Regt
(killed in Action).
Bleck, Lieut. W.E. — R.F.A.
Bliss, 2nd Lieut. A.J. — Leinster Regt.
(Killed in Action).
Bliss, Pte. W. — 2ND Batt.Hon.Art.Coy. (more…)

The “Scroungers’ Retreat”

Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence to tell her about his experiences in officer training. His fellow trainees were mainly NCOs with experience of the worst of the war, and were not easily corraled by their superiors.

Attd C Company
58th TRB
Sergeants Mess
No 9 Camp
Kinmel Park
Rhyl

July 26, 1917
My dear WF

I’m very fit indeed, working very hard and always hungry. We are exceptionally well fed, I think, and conditions are good.

It’s very difficult to write as several of the boys are telling their experiences, and every now and then they touch ground I know and I have to join in. One man has just been minutely describing the bundling and labelling of corpses for the fat factory as seen by him, and another the manacling of maritime gunners to their guns, also as seen by him. Both descriptions are so minute and definite as to be convincing. I’ve only to meet someone who has actually seen a corpse factory and I shall be a confirmed Kadaverite.

The battle of wits – the staff v. us continues with varying success. The routine is changed daily to put us off our stroke and get ahead of us, but the same crowd who lay themselves out to “dodge the column” successfully carry on just as usual, appearing on parade, answering the roll call and vanishing into the blue before any work is done with consistent ability. This rather large section of our number have a discipline of their own. Backsliders are dealt with by courtmartial. Absence from the “Scroungers Retreat” (a quiet marquee in the neighbourhood) seems to be the most seriously looked upon offence, and is dealt with very harshly, the punishment being I believe to attend next parade and answer for all the others from their hut who are not there.

Of course, being out of training, I find the work very hard indeed, quite apart from my ignorance of it which is another difficulty with me, but I can feel myself growing straighter and stronger every day and look forward to being a Samson soon.

By the way I’ve had 2 days trench digging. It’s extraordinary how difficult such a menial job as digging earth and throwing it out of the trench is. An experienced man will throw his shovel of earth intact 10-20 feet away in any direction. The novice finds it difficult to throw and direct and very hard to keep together.

I can see I shall very soon be nailed down to drill and books – that is, as soon as I get to a cadet unit. Until then I’m not taking this business too seriously, and simply concentrate upon breaking myself in physically. You’d scacrcely credit how absurdly soft my hands and feet were. They are hardening up rapidly, but I’m still a pretty blistered object.

Well my dear girl, I feel this is a very uninteresting letter, but conditions are very trying for letter writing so you’ll have to please excuse it.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/53-57)

“Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough”

Percy Spencer reported on his experience in officer training. Most of his fellows had, like himself, been at the front in the other ranks, and been selected for promotion based on merit, rather than the traditional pre-war gentlemen only.

July 17, 1917
My dear WF

My address is No. S/4/087268 Sgt P J Spencer, ASC, Attd C Company, 58th TRB, Sergeants Mess, No 9 Camp, Kinmel Park, Rhyl. That’s all.
And really I think that sums up the horror of this place.

From my very short experience, it seems to be an exceedingly well organised place – the staff are pretty stiff on parade, but jolly good fellows off it.

Just how long I shall be here it is difficult to say. It depends apparently on the needs of Cadet units. Probably I shall not be here more than 2 ½ weeks. But I may be here 6 weeks.

I am told the War Office issues orders as to when and where men are to be sent. So I may possibly still go to Cambridge. Application to the GOC 13th Training Reserve Brigade from Col Ready might possibly be useful, but I don’t think so, as rumour hath it that we ASC people do a special course somewhere in this part of the world. There is also a rumour that some men get 4 days leave from here before joining their Cadet School.

There is an extraordinary mixture of men here. Their language is of the bluest, but their hearts are sound enough….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/46-49)

“No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”

Percy Spencer wrote to Florence asking for some
Lysol petroleum jelly, an antiseptic. He had recently attended a dinner with old comrades, which had both tragic and comic elements.

May 3, 1917
My dear WF

This is just a few scrambled lines, mostly to ask for things.

I should very much like a tube of Lysall [Lysol] petroleum jelly, or a small bottle of Lysall and some phospherine tablets.

Also some ink to fit my box.

If I have any merino underwear or any shirts, I should like them please!

I’m sorry I can’t think of anything more to ask just now!

Well, I saw the Big Brass Hat yesterday and he said “H’m yes” 3 times, so I expect I’m in for something pretty bad – probably a month’s training in the trenches – or “something worth boiling out in it”.

We had a first rate dinner the night before last – the surviving officers & sergeants of my old Battalion, numbered just 18, 15 of whom were present. It was a right good evening, tho’ it had its tragic side.

By the way I am the only original member of the staff left: also I am the only remaining Staff Clerk in the Division who came out with us. The only original Quartermaster in the Division (of my old Battalion) was at the dinner. In fact so many of us were the only remaining something or other, we felt quite lonely.

Well, dear girl, I’m sending you the souvenir of that event. “Pat” enlisted as a private tho’ in private life he is Paterson of the Home Office – head of the Prisons of England – a fine man with a grand head. Dear old RSM Fisler’s speech was too funny. Private Pat, Corporal Pat, Sergeant Pat & 2nd Lt Pat of No. 4 Platoon was the well beloved of this Battalion of rough lads, and the fine old RSM ran himself high & dry on the rock of affection for the battalion idol: “that’s about all I’ve got to say, I think, sir”, he concluded lamely after a long pause.

The Sergeant Cook was pressed to sing – everyone knew he wanted to sing, and what he wanted to sing, and what he would sing – still he announced as he reluctantly rose to his feet, it would be a sad song. Nobody said, “We know; it’s going to be “Speak not ‘er nime”, tho’ everyone knew that “Speak not ‘er nime” it would be notwithstanding the cheering effect of a [bumper?] of port & Kummel shandy the worthy fellow had mixed for himself under the impression the harmless looking liquor was a sort of Perrier.

And so the evening passed. We talked of the St Albans days & the early days out here, of this good fellow and that, of a stout hearted Sergeant who wouldn’t be put off his game by enemy shelling before the battle of Loos – “What’s that?” exclaimed a jumpy platoon sergeant as a crump landed near. “Spades trumps” replied the other, and as the next one landed even nearer, “Clubs laid, your turn to play.”

But always we got back to Pat – to the early days out here, when as a Lance Corporal he “borrowed” the transport officer’s mount and a local landau & drove his “boys” out, only to run into the Divisional General. Of the Divisional General’s wrath & enquiry as to disciplinary action taken, & the CO’s reply – “This NCO has been promoted to Corporal”.

And I reminded him of the day when talking to the RSM he passed by en route for the guard room, there to comfort one of his platoon with all the food & illegal things he could buy.

Oh, the discipline of No 4 was awful, but they’d follow Pat anywhere.
Pat had to go away for a long time – upon returning he asked how things were with No. 4. “Oh, they’ve gone downhill fast, sir, since you left”. “No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”, Pat enquired anxiously. “Oh no” replied his informant in a horrified tone.

And now this same Pat is our Divisional Lecturer on “Discipline”.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/33-35)

“Things are pretty unbearable here, now”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence, asking for cigarettes and a treatment for lice. He was clearly greatly appreciated by his commanding officer for his remarkable efficiency, but was thinking of getting a commission.

2.11.16
Dear WF

Don’t worry about sending me anything at all except Fryers – that I can’t get here. By the way, do you get this “out of bond”? If ordered from a tobacconist to be sent out to me regularly, it would of course be much cheaper and save you some trouble.

The difficulties at home are of course unknown to us and I quite understand that you have a good deal of unnecessary worry over me, as you don’t know how well we are provided for or can provide for ourselves.

Thank you very much for the gloves and the helmet – they’ll be most useful, but don’t send any sweaters or comforters or spiritive, etc, as I have plenty of clothing and woollen things – our needs get simpler as we go on.

The dear old ladies of St Albans wrote and congratulated me on my medal.

[Censored]

Captain Holliday is to have 6 months home service. I don’t quite know what I shall do, but if he doesn’t get into something where he can get me with him I think I shall try for a cadet school course with a view to taking a commission. Things are pretty unbearable here, now.
(more…)

“Not knowing of a better ‘ole I haven’t gone to it”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence. He was clearly fed up, but resigned.

1/10/16
Dear WF

Not knowing of a better ‘ole I haven’t gone to it.

Same old address.

It never occurred to me that to a civilian mind a stationary transfer would seem an impossibility. Still, there it is.

After all this time, we clerks to Staffs stand on the same basis, all belonging to the Clerks Section of the ASC, but not moving on from our appointments.

Capt. Holliday went away 6 weeks ago – sick. He’s at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes, for the present, where I have written him. Exactly what will happen to him & to me in the future I don’t know, but I don’t expect him back here.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/31)

“The Huns threw a lot of shells about” – and gassed one of their own men

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence with his latest news. This letter, which is, unusually for Percy, typed, is badly torn and parts are missing. He had been gassed, and met an old friend.

30/9/16

Life is such a harassing affair nowadays that I [never see]m to have both the time and the humour to write you … lines, but if I don’t soon send you a letter I [shall for]get altogether how to write one, so here we are, and … excuse the type.

This pushing business is business, but it’s very […] I can assure you. However, the Huns are absolutely […] and very much on the wobble, and I still hope for [the s]udden collapse I feel sure will be the end of this …

Since writing to you last I have added the experience of being lachrymatory [tear] gassed. It was jolly. [Every]one scrambling for helmets and goggles and crying […], the gas seeming to have caused an inflammation which [was] very much aggravated when one closed one’s eyes. At […] the enemy, and I had the pleasure of getting out […]ration orders wearing a gas helmet and goggles. We [wer]e a remarkable assembly – you couldn’t tell t’other from [whi]ch, and when I had finished at my typewriter I was surprised to find that the man at my elbow crowded on the dug-out steps was a German officer prisoner we had captured. It was rather a joke for this fellow to be brought in and suddenly hoist by his own petard, so to speak.

Since then we have had a “rest” – quite an eventful one, for on one occasion I spent a few thrilling minutes watching parachute descents from kite balloons and on another, after tea, lying out in the sunshine, suddenly I espied a splendid fox wending its way amongst some […] trenches and taking cover in the wire entanglement […] rank grass. We chivvied it out and had a small fox [hole?] all on our own.

The night we came out and went into rest we had […] welcome – the Huns threw a lot of shells about and […] knocked down the house opposite us. That’s the second time they’ve done that – it’s most inconsiderate.

By the way I’ve been looking out for Jack Jackson for a long time. He was wounded at LOOS and I imagine he […] long come out again. Anyway a short time ago toward the end of a pretty big do, I was going up in a Staff car [and] just as I was stepping in, who should go by but Jack. [We] only had time for a handshake, and then on he went up […] the line and I to the comparative safety of a dug-out. I hope he came through all right as the main part of that […] bump so far as his Brigade was concerned was then over.

If you could send me some gloves I should be glad.

I am now transferred to the A.S.C. but have no number at present. My pay is 3/6d per day as from Mar. 9th. You might make a note of this. I was sorry to transfer, but had to….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/30)

“Your services are of such value to the State”

A request was made to transfer Ralph Glyn from Egypt to become aide-de-camp to the Commander of the 8th Corps in France.

Headquarters, VIII Corps
BEF France
May 1st, 1916

Dear Glyn

I rather feared it would be impossible for you to get away from Egypt where your services and knowledge of the Balkans are of such value to the State.

I, however, should much have liked to have had you on my staff, and I, therefore, got the authorities here to wire and offer you the appointment in case perchance it might have suited you to take it.

The best of luck to you wherever you are, and whatever you do.

Yours sincerely,
Aylmer Hunter-Weston

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/33)

“Our generation has learnt to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Maysie was amused by their aristocratic mother’s depression at the thought of living on a reduced income now her husband was retiring, and had had a royal encounter in Windsor.

April 24/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My dear darling R.

I wonder what for an Easter you spent [sic]. Very many happy returns of it anyhow. I got yours of 14th today. I hope you have seen Frank by now. How splendid of him to spend his leave in that way. Your weather sounds vile, still you are warm & here one never is. I hear from Pum [Lady Mary] today that Meg is in bed with Flu & temp 102. I am so worried, & hope she will not be bad. I must wait till John comes in, but feel I must offer to go to them, but how John is to move house alone I do not know! We move Thurs. My only feeling is that it may distract the parents somewhat during this trying week….

[Mother] takes the gloomiest view of household economies etc, & is determined it will all be “hugga mugga”, “She was not brought up like that & you see darling I have no idea how to live like that” etc etc. I tried humbly to suggest that one could be happy from experience & was heavily sat on, “it’s different for you young people”. Of course it is, & I wasn’t brought up in a ducal regime, still one can have some idea – also possible if Pum had ever had Dad fighting in a war she’d find more that nothing mattered. I think our generation has learnt that, & to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life perhaps! You can well imagine tho’ nothing is said, how this attitude of martyrdom reacts on Dad. In fact he spoke to John about it. One does long to help, but one feels helpless against a barrier of sheer depression in dear Pum…

There seems little news to tell you. The King came Thurs, & has been riding in the Park. We ran into all the children, 3 princes & Princess M pushing bikes in the streets of Windsor on Friday. It was most surprising. They have got two 75s here as anti-aircraft, one on Eton playing fields & one Datchet way. They say if they ever fire the only certainty must be the destruction of the Castle & barracks!!

You know all leave was suddenly stopped on the 18th & everyone over here recalled. We all thought “the Push” but Billy writes the yarn in France is, it was simply that the Staff and RTs wished to have leave themselves – but then one can hardly believe, it’s too monstrous to be true. However John Ponsonby has written about coming on leave the end of the month so there can’t be so much doing yet. The news from Mesopotamia is black enough, one more muddle to our credit & more glory through disaster to the British Army.

I wonder what you think of the recent political events. Pum nearly or rather quite made herself ill over it!…

Billy has I fancy been pretty bad. The bed 10 days at some base hospital, bad bronchitis & cough….

Bless you darling
Your ever loving
Maysie

(more…)

‘My eye, they do seem bitter about Gallipoli’

Lady Mary Glyn and her daughter Meg Meade both wrote to Meg’s brother Ralph. Lady Mary was staying with her other daughter Maysie Wynne-Finch in Windsor, while Meg was in Portsmouth caring for a sick friend’s children, and mixing with senior naval figures.

Elgin Lodge
Windsor
April 19 1916

The Cabinet Crisis is a real one & may bring about great events, but Asquith … seems to be able to keep together the Coalition at all hazards.

Trebizond is the good news of today’s paper. Well, the French are teaching is what it is to “hold”, and it is my belief we are to hold for the Kingdom that will surely come and we are all to think of the Christ as St John saw him… and He will make no mistake and order no sacrifice that is unavailing – the only leaders now are those who are “joyful as those that march to music, sober as those that must company with Christ” and we see them at all the fronts, but not yet among those who have made of statecraft a craft for self and for selfish ends. It is lamentable how few there are who are trusted & who can “hold” now for the Kingdom of that Lord & His Christ you soldiers know and obey. And yet I cannot believe that a country is ready to win the war so long as there is no real love and faith in God or man as a nation through its representatives. And our power will crumble if we give way to a carping spirit of criticism, and sometimes in perfect despair I find myself trying to believe in AJB and Walter Long, Bonar Law & those in whom the “Party” have consented before the Coalition. But as you know I have never had much belief in AJB’s power to impart a conviction which is founded on the rubble of the failure to find an absolute conviction….

Your own Mur
(more…)

“I cannot keep from loathing the German vermin”

Lady Mary wrote to her son to Ralph to express her horror at the treatment of British prisoners of war suffering from typhus in a camp at Wittenberg the previous year, which had recently been publicised.

April 11th
In the train

We are reading your General’s Gallipoli despatch and the papers are full of Verdun – and there is the check again in Mesopotamia. The story of Wittenberg is beyond my reading. I cannot read these things & keep my mind clean of loathing of the German Vermin as Collingwood calls them, “not men but Vermin”….

I wonder if you have come across Marmion [Guy], GSO, DSO, I think he is on your Staff BMEF?

I had an amusing talk with a typical Farmer Churchwarden who is an ardent Tariff Reformer, & says there ought to be a determination not to go back to Free Trade if the farmer is to be compensated for putting his farm under wheat & all the labour – that wages must be raised to enable every one to afford a 6d loaf. How? Said the Shoe Manufacturer Churchwarden – how are you going to do that? He was busy turning out one million heels for boots (Army) a month & has a big order for Russia. He gets his leather from France – 26 and 30 tons ordered & now 30 on its way. He keeps only eight men & is doing all the rest with women labour. The farmer was on the tribunal for exempted agricultural labour – a strange agreement was arrived at by them that if the Government had asked for it they should have compulsory service 3 months after war broke out. They were both interesting men, and a sort of labour leader parson Atkins joined in with very real knowledge of all the conditions. His father is an old clergyman in Leicester, who was a working man’s son….

Letter from Lady Mary to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

More distinguished not to be decorated

Naval wife Meg Meade wrote to her army officer brother Ralph Glyn. She was not impressed by the Royal Naval Air Service. See here for more about the Athens naval/diplomatic mission referred to.

April 9th [1916]
2 S Wilton Place
My darling R….

I’m sure you won’t worry your head about whether a decoration comes your way. When you are on the Staff I think it’s a good deal more distinguished not to be decorated, & will save you a good deal of backchat when the war is over!…

I lunched with Aunt L [Princess Louise] today & met the Hamiltons (2nd Sea Lord) & their son, who goes by the name of “Turtle”, & who is quite a distinguished sailor now after various exploits up a West African river against the Huns which was very successful. He’s now 2nd in command of one of the M destroyers at Harwich. No, Medusa wasn’t Barry Domvile’s ship, aren’t you thinking of Miranda which he had for a bit. And I don’t think that air stunt was such a tremendous success, the Naval Air Stiffs can’t do nothink [sic] right.

I’m glad to hear the real sailors are going to be given a chance of handling them for a time, & showing them how they really deserve their nickname of “Really Not A Sailor”.

Maysie & John are coming to stay a night with me tomorrow, John has a Medical Board tomorrow or Tuesday, but I don’t think they can possibly pass him, as his jaw is still oozing I believe, & they can’t begin to make a plate for his mouth until the jaw heals up…
There are so many good points about Bramber [a house there which their parents were planning to lease on retirement] that it would be a pity to lose it. I think it’s as near perfection for them as one can hope to find for the price, & now that the income tax is 5/ in the £, I think they have struck a bargain without the financial embarrassment of owning it. I wish Jimmy was a millionaire & could buy it for them, but as a matter of fact this beastly tax will hit us, as it hits anyone with an income of about 2 thou. More than ¼ of Jim’s income will be gone, & the parents will be in the same boat, but all the same as they haven’t children to keep I hope they’ll find it possible to keep the motor.

I saw Bertie Stephenson & Isie 3 says running as they came to eother lunch or tea each day… Bertie doesn’t look at all well. I wish to goodness he hadn’t been obliged to come home from Egypt. He’s got an open sore on his leg still…

The flies must be too awful with you…

Did you write the skit on the Athanasian Creed about the Egypt commands? It’s a priceless document…

Jimmy rejoins the LCS next week. I wish he might come to a more southern base, but there’s no chance of it at present.

I wonder when you will get any leave, darling, it does seem such ages since you were here last, & I am hoping very much you’ll get some before the Peter move [i.e. the Bishop and Lady Mary leaving Peterborough for retirement in Sussex], or during it in July. How heavenly that would be, & what a difference it would make to the parents, & I feel you must be given some soon.

The Gerry Weles came to dinner here with Sybbie & Dog Saunders the other evening. Gerry Weles is very interesting about that Naval Mission of ours in Athens, & he himself is a hot Venezelosist. Mark Kerr is not to go back there, & Jerry may return any time as head of the mission. They say he’s done splendidly….

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

A gruesome war hospital

Lady Mary Glyn had news of various friends’ fates. Lt Marmion Ferrers Guy (1877-1953) had a half-French wife. He was a career officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers who had joined up in 1900. Craufurd Tait Ellison (1888-1942) was the grandson of Archibald Tait, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, and related to the Vansittart Neales of Bisham. Lady Mary was repelled by the use of a mental hospital for nursing the wounded.

Peter[borough]
March 26th

I like General Blunker so much, & his wife – one of the quiet Irishmen, and a man of great personality. I wonder if you came across him at the Suvla Bay time? They come here for Sunday April 3rd, and we shall have Mrs Guy here the same time. She is very proud of Marmion’s DSO for Dardanelles work. Crawford [sic] Ellison is doing Brigade Major there at Northampton, Johnny Ellison’s son, whose mother was Aggy Tait, and he is a young man with much side on, & swelled head, & no manners. He was badly wounded in the leg in the Aisne battle and will probably be always lame….

[In Northampton] I saw all the Institute people, nurses & Church Army & Red Cross Rooms, under Lilah Butler, and I went all over the new County War Hospital at Duston which the War Office are getting ready for 950 wounded. It is the pauper lunatic asylum, so we are not to call it Berrywood as the soldiers would not like the idea, but as they are keeping on some of the lunatics for farm work, & some are now about the dreary half built and half prepared place I thought it sufficiently gruesome, and I am sure the place cannot be ready for a long time, and I wonder if the War Office mean real business. It is a huge and most unsuitable place, and full of great inconveniences for Staff work. I thought the cubicle being prepared for the 150 nurses dreadful and uncomfortable; the kitchens far away. We went into the Bakery and a dreadful lunatic was crouching on one of the ovens! Another came & jibbered at me in an unexpected place, and the Matron (who was there when it was an asylum) has a sinister cast in her eye and quelled him with a look! She is Scotch and keeps on all the staff of “mental” trained nurses as probationers. It all seems to me to be a tricky affair. The Doctor Superintendent is to be the Chief Doctor, and he too keeps on his staff. I certainly would not care to be sent to Berrywood if I was a wounded Tommy, but it all may come right. It did not attract me….

Poor Pen Graeme, her husband’s death is a great heartbreak. He had just gone back, a stray shell in a back trench, and it was instantaneous. Old “Hoppy”, amazed at the calmness of his womenfolk is terribly upset, & has gone to Devonshire to see the old father whose life was wrapped up in this son. Pen & he had gone to their little cottage on Perthshire his last leave, so I am afraid the old people did not see him then….


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

“It gets nearly unbearable at times”

Naval wife Meg Meade wrote to her beloved brother Ralph tyo encourage him in his down moments.

March 9th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My own darling Ralph

I am so very delighted that your chiefs have said such nice things to you & encouraged you to stay in the Army when you leave, but why should that be for ‘my ears only’! because it prevented me telling the parents I even had a letter from you & I felt most deceitful! & they would so love to know about it, so mind you tell them in your next letter…

Darling, I think your last letter sounded downhearted, but perhaps you were trying it on with me & I am glad to see you look anything but moping in the Staff photograph which has fetched up alright. Don’t talk about being a poor devil or growing old! We are all in the same boat as far as that is concerned, & I am looking forward to happy times after the war when you will marry & settle down with a nice Mrs Ralph, who will refuse to allow you to be either pathetic, a poor devil, or old!! It will come true alright. Don’t worry your head, but cheer up & get your ingenious mind to work on how we can finish off these d-d Bosches in the shortest possible time.

It was very kind of Captain(?) Gascoigne to bring that photograph…
I am going up to London today to see Arthur Clanwilliam who is passing through London from Ireland on his way back to the Front, & I will order the magazines you want.

As to the Natal sinking, of course London was full of contradictory rumours, & we shan’t know the truth for a long time. I believe that the Captain’s wife & Commander’s wife were on board & lost their lives, but there wasn’t a party.

I don’t think that will worry a Censor to read, as it’s common property.

Jim’s very well, but having hard work, as he’s been given 24 boats instead of 16. There may possibly be a chance of my seeing him next month which I am panting for. I was reckoning up the other day & find that of the 20 months duration of the war I have only seen him for 14 weeks of it. But it can’t last for ever, although it gets nearly unbearable at times!…

Darling, I won’t hear of you giving me a birthday present. It’s not done in wartime, only I send you a kiss for your darling thought.

Aunt Far’s letter of economy to the Times the other day called Physicians Heal Yourselves, addressed to the Government after the ridiculous speeches by ministers in the Guildhall, was a jolly good letter. She is, I hear, drowned with letters from people all over the country describing the uncontrolled Government waste that goes on everywhere….

I know you will be said too about Desmond FitzGerald’s death, killed whilst showing how a bomb worked to a General, such a waste of his life. I haven’t heard if the General was killed too.

Bless you so, & I do hope we shall soon hear that you are on the way home for “a drop of leaf” as Jim calls it….

From forever
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

Is God really sitting on the fence?

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote to her son Ralph. The Bishop was planning to retire in the near future, as he felt out of pace in the changing Church of England. The increased numbers of men being called up had led to a shortage of people willing to work in domestic service.

Sunday evening, March 5th 1916
My own darling blessing and own son and Scrappits

The Mission will bring the Bishop of London here on April 4th. He is made in his own words “Chief of Staff” and more & more I feel how trying these modern methods are for men of Dad’s age and experience – and “Chelmsford” has actually talked of “God, if I may say it with reverence(!) is sitting on the fence! – isn’t it inconceivable that a man can say such a thing as this with regard to the Almighty, & the victors in this war! If that is to be the tone of our leaders, Dad will be quite out of it!…

We have kept on Tuke, the chauffeur, after a month’s trial & have had to allow him to have wife (& 2 children) at the Lodge. She is very young & had a Zepp scare, & could not bear to be alone in London. We are not doing up the house, & she is only there till Easter; we find the furniture from here. she will then probably move into rooms – but as the married groups are being called up, it is most probable so young a man will have to go & we do not want to be involved in his family here. The whole question of servants will be very difficult, and we must do with as few as possible, and they must be able-bodied and “willing” to work, not watertight compartments refusing “menial” work one for another. A soldier man and his wife are my idea, but we must try to run at first with those who will stick to us….

I hear Aunt Syb has heard from the captain and chaplain [about her late son Ivar] as I think I told you, but I did not see her this time in London & get most of my news from Aunt Eve. Aunt Far tells me Frank sent for his sword which she mercifully insured before sending it in the Maloja….

Oswald is on some General’s Staff at Alexandria, but Meg does not know whose staff it is, & you must by this time know. Aunt Alice was full of talk about [illegible] and his work, of Harry busy in Soudan [sic] getting together 25,000 camels and provisioning Salonika from the Soudan, and she thinks Gordon must be singing Te Deums in Heaven over it. She was also full of information as to the gear of Belgians being bought and open to bribery by the Huns & need for much taking over.

And by the time you get this Verdun will be decided and how much else. It is wonderful to know France has won her soul and is able for such a crisis in calm fortitude to bear this tremendous shock and to await events with confidence. And I think the rumours everywhere of naval “liveliness” are reflected in Meg, as I think she is tremendously anxious & prepared to hear of some engagement.

Mr James said London was full of rumours yesterday & stories of prisoners brought to Leith, and they had anxious days with no letters last week and it was such a relief when one did come on Friday 3rd… Your dear letter of the 24th reached me in the morning and was under my pillow that night… I know you must have many blue moments in the strange sad searching of that desert world of departed aeons and of sunshine that is all too brazen! But yet I am thankful after Gallipoli you have this climate, and conditions in which “recuperation” after that time is made possible, but I do long for you unbearably…

France is a nightmare just now, & news has come to us through Maysie of Desmond FitzGerald’s death, an accident with a bomb which he was showing to the Colonel. One has to believe it was somehow to be, and he is saved from a suffering in some way by this tragic way of dying.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)