Lost in the desert

Lady Mary Glyn was anxious but optimistic as she wrote to her son in Egypt:

March 28th

I long for news of the naval fight…

I know how oppressive it must be for you there in the desert where the individual seems so lost, and the day merged in aeons of a dead world & civilization, but Gordon’s triumph in the Sudan now supplying all the needs of a new time, and all you have done to keep out the Turk will act as inspiration…

I do not love the thought of French Front. Though if you are sent there I know you will be in the House of Defence set very high – as you are now…

My own darling blessing
Own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (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)

Straw and gunfire: Communion in a crowded barn

The Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine is filled with references to the war, some clearly taken from elsewhere – such as the story of a martial Midlands clergyman moonlighting in a munitions factory. In September 1915 they included a moving depiction of religious worship at the Front.

A Bishop’s Loss.
Much sympathy is felt for the Bishop of Winchester and the Hon. Mrs Talbot on account of the death of their youngest son, Lieutenant Gilbert Talbot, who was killed in action while leading his men. A brilliant career had been predicted for the young officer, who was a man of exceptional ability and promise.

Holy Communion on the Battlefield.

A chaplain at the Front gives the following description of his work:

All the services were very inspiring. The work and experiences which the men had so bravely undergone but a day or two before impressed them with the all-availing power of the Christian religion…

My first service was a celebration of Holy Communion. And how uplifting it was! There, in a barn, with the door littered with straw which had served as a mattress for the men who had occupied it during the night, and with men’s equipment and rifles so placed as to be ready for immediate use in case of alarm – The Holy Mysteries were celebrated with the utmost reverence, though the quietness of the morning hour was broken by the thrilling sound of gunfire. It was a weird accompaniment to Christian worship. Ration boxes covered with a fair linen cloth served as the Table of the Lord.

The barn was crowded to overflowing, and some, unfortunately, could not gain admission. Commanding officers, with majors and adjutants, knelt side by side with the last joined soldiers. Here, indeed, was that religious atmosphere which arises from sincere devotion in prayer and praise. This was specially to be noticed when we came to the beautiful words in the prayer for the Church Militant – ‘And we also bless Thy Holy Name for all Thy Servants departed this life in Thy faith and fear…’ And then they whispered ‘Amen.’ You know of whom we are thinking, the brave ones known to us so well, who were unflinching to the end at the call of duty. Words fail – indeed, they are unnecessary – but you will understand.

The Bishop of Oxford and the War.

Dealing with the subject of the Church and the War, Dr. Gore says:

We believe that we are fighting for liberty and justice and fidelity to obligations and the rights of smaller nations, and that Germany is using its matchless intellect and power of organization to trample on these sacred things. None the less, in expressing this our confident conviction we must be careful not to use language which sounds self-righteous. There is a history behind us, and our own history is very far from being immaculate. If we wish to say that we are fighting against Antichrist, we must always show that we recognize how very much that is antichristian there is in us – in our politics, in our industrial, social and religious life. Self-righteousness becomes us very ill. Something more like national penitence is what we want, and we are not, I fear, showing anything like national penitence on a wide scale.

Clergymen as War Workers.

Writing in his Parish Magazine, the Rector of Quinton explains that his assistant-curate and himself are each devoting three days and three nights every week to making shells. Their action has the warm approval of the Bishop of Birmingham, and any money they earn after the cost of overalls, etc., has been deducted, will be devoted to the Assistant-Clergy fund.

The Bishop of Khartoum for the Front.

The War Office has issued an announcement that in view of the large number of Church of England chaplains now serving with the troops under Sir John French’s command, and of the increases which are in course of being made to the British Forces in France, the Bishop of Khartoum has been appointed to represent the Chaplain-General at the Front, and to be his deputy there for all purposes connected with the Church of England chaplains and Church of England troops.

The Rt. Rev. Llewellyn Henry Gwynne, who has been chosen for this responsible post, was at Khartoum in 1901 and acted as chaplain to the troops when the British forces recovered the Soudan [sic], and was subsequently appointed Archdeacon and then Bishop in that region with the formal title “Suffragan-Bishop in Khartoum.” He has visited the Front in France and Flanders during the present war and has therefore some experience of the conditions in which his future work, for a very restricted period let us hope, will lie.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P181/28A/24)