“It is extraordinarily difficult to teach the officers anything but the men are good”

Ralph Glyn’s friend Hereward Wake was now training soldiers in Wiltshire. He was not impressed – but at least he approved of Sir William Robertson (1860-1922), the new Chief of the Imperial General Staff.

General Staff
61st (SM) Division

9/4/16
Salisbury

My dear Ralph

Three letters from you to answer, more shame to me, but I am putting in more work than usual here, preparing for the fray. This Division has existed 15 months. Warned for war 6 weeks ago, they thought it ought to be trained, so it was armed& equipped, the whole of the Staff & commanders were changed, & for the first time the men fired a rifle & carried a pack. Result, as far as the targets are concerned, was complete immunity. And the people figured bravely in the scheme for Home Defence for over a year. It is extraordinarily difficult to teach the officers anything but the men are good. We shall begin to come over early next month.

I left WO on 1st March, so what can I do for you? Charles French can help you, however.

I sympathize very much with you being in Egypt and hope you may escape. If it absolutely depends on Salonika it looks bad. You say there are only 2 courses there, offensive or clear out, so I suppose we shall take the third, namely stay there & do nothing. I wonder if the Greeks might fare badly at the hands of the Bulgars if we cleared out? Would they not at once take Salonika? And how are we at the end the war (if there ever is an end) to get them out of it again, or for that matter to re-establish Servia [sic]?

The big storm here 2 weeks ago has flattened everything in the Midlands & the roads are still blocked with trees & telegraph wires – the poles all snapped off short at Courteenhall & there was 3’ [feet] of snow. We had less of it here, but a lot of trees down.

Remember me to Linden Bell – a good Staff Officer, isn’t he? as well as a good fellow.

I feel great confidence now that Robertson is CIGS. He loves the truth better than himself, and fears nobody.

Yours
Hereward

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/26)

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Thankful not to be in the trenches

Wounded officer John Wynne-Finch wrote to his brother in law Ralph Glyn from his convalescence in Wales.

John to Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales
Jan 19th 1916
My dear Ralph

We have most certainly had a lovely long stay here. All thanks to my very “tuppenny-halfpenny” wound which refused to heal. During this time I have done a good deal of shooting, and the total bag for the year is really rather good and has beaten all previous records for the years when no pheasants have been reared. Over 1000 pheasants have been killed, and about 400 partridges, and very little shooting was done before the end of November.

The weather here has been very bad, and there have been many occasions when we have wondered how Jimmy was feeling in the North Sea. The gale here on New Year’s Day was of most unprecedented violence, and did a great deal of damage, bringing down over 100 trees in one wood alone. But owing to the war, one can luckily obtain a very good price for timber, and it is so much in demand that I have been able to sell them all, whereas in the ordinary course of events one can get no sale here on account of the cost of carriage….

The rain has also been a most tiresomely frequent visitor, as Meg found to her dismay, during the week she was here. On this account I have very often felt thankful that I was not biding my time in the trenches of Flanders….

My next Medical Board is due in a few days, when I suppose they will pass me fit for duty at Windsor, whither I suppose we shall have to go, to be there I suppose about 2 months before they send me out again.

The war news of the last few days has not been of the very best. The end of Montenegro will not help us very much in the Balkans I am afraid. I would have expected Italy to have sent troops there, because I don’t suppose it will be any help to her to have the Austrians with a longer sea-board in the Adriatic.

The Persian Gulf business also seems a very tough job. It was most awfully sad about poor Ivar. They seem to have had a very severe handling out there. Nevertheless they seem to be making a slow but sure progress, and will no doubt join up very soon.

As regards myself I have been very lucky in getting promoted Captain, after such few years’ service. But it was all due to the formation of the Guards Division and the consequent augmentation of the regimental establishments.

You probably know that Godfrey Fielding now commands the division, and Cavan has got a Corps, XIV, to which the division is shortly to be transferred, so as to be under his command.

The evacuation of Gallipoli was a most astoundingly wonderful feat; and I am simply longing to hear something about it. I often wonder now after reading the Turkish “official” communiqués what amount of truth there is in what they say as regards the booty etc, which they took. It is always difficult to believe anything these days, from whatever source it may emanate.

Maysie still keeps her pack of hounds; and Connell is as naughty and bad as possible. In the house he is no better than a travelling water-cart.

The whole country seems to be full of soldiers; and London is simply one mass of them. Those on leave from France, looking too untidy and dirty for words. One sees also very large numbers of men, of every class, wearing the khaki armlets of the Derby scheme.

I hope you are keeping fit.

Yours ever
John C Wynne Finch

Lady Mary Glyn, Ralph’s mother, also wrote to him.
(more…)

An awful, awful tragedy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to Ralph again to let him know how her Red Cross and other war work was going.

Jan 18th [1916]…

We heard of the great doings at the G[reat] E[astern] Rest Room. Over 100 men there last night – 40 sailors, 60 men & then more, and an efficient staff of helpers. All night. Then in afternoon I … called on Recruiting Officer’s wife…

From 6 to 9 (with break for dinner) the Knights Chamber Private Registered Red X Work Party. 32 workers all in caps & white aprons and sleeves, and it is really a joy to see that Room full – all happy, and the long tables covered with clean oil baize, and your old nursery cupboard moved there to hold the material. I hear there is a tremendous “muddle” at Northampton, & as these inanities here appealed to Lord Spencer they have dragged him into their mesh of muddle, and I have written no word & keep silence, but events move, and things must take their course. Sir George Pragnell looks like a bulldog that will not easily let go, and the evidence he took from me was quite sufficient to show misapplication of money, and a vast trickery of the public they feared my action would bring to light. They would have done better to leave me alone!…

I read the papers and wish I knew what to think! Montenegro and its heights to add to the pecuniary burdens of ruined nations, but in the meantime how far adding to their resources?…

My whole love always
Own Mur

Ralph’s sister Meg also wrote to him, with thoughts on politics, and more on the Campbell family’s loss with the death of their cousin Ivar. (more…)

Turkey declares war on Russia

The war news was bad, with the German cruiser Emden triumphant and a hospital ship wrecked by storms.

30 October 1914

“Emden” again sank Russian and French cruisers. Turkey declared war on Russia. Allies near Ostend. Red X ship destroyed on rocks by Whitby – heavy gale in North Sea. Real Russian advance.

Diary of Florence Vansittat Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)