Mesopotamia had a bad name, but things are greatly improved

Some of the surgical dressings made by volunteers in Wargrave were put to use on a hospital boat in what is now Iraq.

Surgical Dressing Emergency Society, Wargrave, Berks

The Society is now sending regular Monthly Bales as follows:
To the 2nd New Zealand Hospital, Walton-on-Thames, Requisition 18856:

24 Handkerchiefs
24 Limb Pillows and Pillow Cases
12 Towels
30 Pairs of Carpet Slippers with Firm Soles
(Due on the 6th, of each month)

To the 25th, General Hospital B.E.F. France Requistion 23,111.

100 Hospital Treasure Bags
200 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
6 Flannel Dressing Gowns
25 Bed Jackets
12 Pairs of Flannel Pyjamas
50 Slings
12 Pairs of Carpet Slippers
12 Paris of Surgical Slippers or Boots
500 Gauze Dressings (Small)
500 Gauze Dressings (Large)
200 Medical Swabs
200 Round Swabs
500 Operation Swabs
And a quantity of old Linen.

To the 30th, General Hospital, Requisition 20519, B.E.F. France.

100 Abdominal Many Tail Bandages
50 Knee Bandages
100 Shoulder Bandages
50 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
100 T Shaped Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
500 Large Gauze Dressings
500 Medium Gauze Dressings
20 Pairs of Operation Stockings
500 Operation Swabs
500 Round Swabs

A good many other Bales are being sent out also, containing all kinds of comforts – one very beautiful present of 18 fine white winsey pyjamas.

We are glad to receive comforts to send out, especially knitted socks, for which there will be a great sudden demand in September and October.

A River Boat
Basra
Mesopotamia,
April 12th, 1917.
Dear Madam,

This is to inform you that a bale of dressings from your Society was opened by me a few days ago. The contents will be most useful and they were just what we needed. We are employed in conveying the sick and sounded from places up the line, down to Basra. Boats, such as this, travel up and down the Tigris. The hot weather has now arrived so we expect more sick than sounded, especially now that the fighting here is almost over. You will of course have read in the paper of the splendid advance and capture of Bagdad [sic] a few weeks ago.

Yours faithfully,

J…. T…. R.A.M.C.

P.S. Mesopotamia had a bad name, but after six months here, I can say that things are greatly improved.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

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Pounding the Germans

Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced in the war news.

14 March 1917

Almost at Bapaume, pounding the Germans. Outer defences are gone. Our guns doing great havoc. Gunboats up Tigris.

Heard from Maisie 2 subs sunk in Clyde.

C. Menzies told me 9 sunk in 5 days. Navy jubilant. We had new bomb flung from destroyers, if it does not hit the periscope makes such commotion in water submarine comes up. Then our guns go at them.

Henry busy day at Maidenhead – District Council – massage – Tribunal.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The war will bring about theocracy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote a long letter to Ralph. She had strong, if eccentric, views about politics, and was almost as shocked by Australian soldiers’ democratic nature as she was by the Easter Rising.

April 26 1916
Peter[borough]

My darling own blessed Scraps

Easter Day makes me long for you, but all days make me long for you….

I distinguished myself at Windsor by getting bad with indigestion, but it was good to be with John & Maysie, & see them so happy in another Windsor spell of work, and yet being together. He heard when we were there that another operation will not be necessary, but as his Medical Board gave him 3 months they have taken a very good house, “Essex Lodge”, the present house being required by the owner, and this is a much better one with a garden & tennis ground. John is of course very busy, and up early, & at work till late. He looks well, and is in good spirits, evidently liking his work. We saw Cecily Hardy & her Giant, and Tony & Sylvia, & a new Coldstream acquisition – a very Highland McGregor who till lately was engineering in India – quite a new type in the Brigade!

The Political Crisis made those days full of excitement, but none of these soldier people seemed to care, or to look at the papers, and were sure the King would come whatever happened. And he did, but the Crisis was supposed to be over, and the Cabinet once more firmly (?) in the saddle of Compromise. Now the Secret Session, and the result whatever it may be of that settlement is to be made known to so many talkers & plotters and schemers that it will be impossible for all the cats to be in the bag long. Meantime there is a shaken confidence, a longing for a leader other than we have, for this strange growth of freedom to know its limitation, and to recognise its own dependence on laws not made by man, but inflexible because “just and true”, and belonging to the Kingdom that will endure throughout all ages. When we really will, that will come, and its obedience, and we shall learn what freedom is. It does not lie with Democracy, or in Kaiser rule, or in a Republic, but it does in a Theocracy – and my belief is that it is to be restored through this War and “tumult of the nations”….

France is surely ahead of us in the spirit of a new vision, & Russia is invincible because of that vision long accepted – and we wait for it, and you all are bringing it nearer.

(more…)

Compulsion and martial law would be the work of a strong man at the top

Lady Mary Glyn shared her views on the political crisis at home.

April 18 1916

I took .. a huge consignment of work from the Red Cross Room to 48 Grosvenor Square, but Lord Gosford no longer demands inspection there, & I took them on to 83. Then picked Dad up at 23 & came on to Paddington, to see the [illegible – affiches?] of the setback of Tigris Force is bad & the Cabinet Crisis & Asquith postponing his statement. I wonder if it is to be the downfall of the Cabinet after all, & Lloyd George to be Prime Minister sooner than we think. Anything is possible in this glacier on the move and a morain cavernous opening out from this Recruiting muddle.

Compulsion & Martial law would surely be the work of a strong man for both must go together. It is inequality & sense of injustice that brings the strain.

I had a talk with Meg on the telephone, & her beloved Admiral came & talked…

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

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]
Peter[borough]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…

(more…)

A geographical error

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with her comments on the news. The Appam was a British civilian ship transporting some wounded soldiers and German prisoners of war, as well as civilians, from West Africa. Sir Edward Merewether (1858-1938) was the British Governor of Sierra Leone, and was also onboard. The ship was captured by a German vessel, and taken to neutral America.

My own darling Scrappits…

It is Monday Jan 31 [1916] …

I have been seeing people all day – no time to write or read – even the account of the Paris Zeppelin raid. Poor Sir Edward & Lady Merewether of Malta [dogs?] lost in this Appam tragedy. It is too sad. And Lady Wake’s brother Beau St Aubyn in the Persia – doing a good turn to Johnny Ward whose place it was to go. There seems to be little hope of his having been saved, though the man standing next to him at the time of the explosion was picked up. So the whole round world is full of tragedy – but the assurance is that the Germans cannot hold out much longer. Lettice has heard that there is most certain information as to the economic conditions being desperate & quotes Bishop Bury of N Europe….

Poor Mackenzie, stationmaster – has his son home desperately ill – consumption of the throat. He has not been to the front but serving with Kitchener’s Army & it has been too rough a life….

We began the evening with a Zeppelin excitement, One reported at Bourne – & then at Ryde near Thorney, & Peterborough was warned. Now, 11 pm , I hear the Zeppelin dropped a bomb at Stamford and one other place, & we shall hear more tomorrow, & I only hope it will not come back upon its track to right this way. I am conscious of most inadequate precautions! & worry myself to think how we could protect the children [Meg’s little Anne and Richard, who were visiting]. “The safest place is just where they are”, says T’Arch [possibly the Archbishop] & counsels no move to any quarters other than where they are, as we have no cellars.
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The final run for life

Lady Mary wrote to her son Ralph Glyn with more news of her Red Cross work, and the family’s responses to the death of her nephew Ivar Campbell. She had also heard a first hand account of the last stand at Gallipoli.

Jan 17th [1916]

5.30 service, and then I ran down to the Rest Room & found we were to expect 40 sailors tonight and 60 soldiers, the sailors at 11 pm and the troops at 6 am. So the Canteen had to be replenished & sufficient help made sure.

This morning I had to prepare for the Red Cross Work Room tomorrow, and ghet a cupboard for material, & I collected cutters out to prepare the work, and I cannot tell you how willing and good people have been – and you were right to encourage me. I know nothing more of the town row and the investigation, but evidently my Room is not to be interfered with. I hear rumours of the Enquiry and of the town talk over it….

I saw Colonel Collingwood today for a few minutes. He is always full of enquiry for you, and loves to think of you in Egypt.

The papers are full of indigestible matter, and the accounts from the Tigris will give Aunt Syb a worse horror, for the fighting must have been very severe and one dreads that there must have been delay in moving the wounded down. Aunt Eve has now seen Aunt Syb, and very anxious we should see her, but no, she refused to see dad, & writes, “he will understand”. I think it best to keep away. They all have a shunning of religious expression, and it does so hurt him and puzzles him – dear darling Dad with such a longing to love and to comfort and to help.

I hear of Uncle Henry gone to to the Front from Eisa Middleton, and I do dread its risks for anyone of his age. He goes as the head of the Northern Territorial Division, but for how long I do not know.
Darling, I do so love your New Year’s Eve letter, and when I can bear it more I read it, but letters make me so hungry for you. I so understand all you feel about the Dardanelles, and there was the great venture and the quest. It might have come off, but if the Allies had got to Constantinople it would not have prevented the Balkan imbroglio? And our troops and ships would have been unable to prevent Salonika becoming a base – in the end I believe it will save bloodshed and massacre that the fall of Constantinople is postponed.

We have been seeing here parents of a boy who was left in the rear guard on that night of the evacuation, and I have seen a wonderful letter he wrote to his mother, with the evident belief it would be his goodbye to her. He tells her to think always of the honour done to his family he should be in that lot, and now the Brigadier had given each man his choice, of the chance, little or none of their getting away. Another a wonderful account of the final run for life, 3 miles, while time fuses & bombs were still going off from every part of the trenches. A wonderful story told with the simple joy of the venture, & of the miracle of escape, of a boy of 21.

“That nothing be lost” and in the gathering up of the fragments of that wonderful story the glory of England is not dimmed, and this war will not be won on so many acres of material soil, but by the spirit which is to overcome and master the Brute Beast – a spiritual warfare, and you are all raising and lifting the spirit of man as it has never been raised before, for this, I believe final assault, when Satan is unloosed, to bring in the glorious shout that is to sound through Heaven and an earth renewed – “Hallelujah – for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth”.

I think of you in Egypt, and love to think of you there and hearing the muezzin call to prayer and the still sunlight in the depths of space, the stars and the moonlight, the littleness of European civilisation, and dwarf Roman the parvenu Latin peoples. Is the world war to have an end where east and west shall meet?…

A business/political acquaintance also wrote to Ralph:

1 Howard Street
Strand
London, WC
17th January 1916

Dear Capt. Glyn

I hope you are fit again. I heard you had a bad attack of dysentery at the Dardanelles.

How awfully sad Ivar Campbell’s death is. It must be a terrible blow to the family.

Yours sincerely
Robert Pollock

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3; C32/2)

“He never talks and never grumbles”: the spirit of the Front

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph. Her sister in law Sybil (Lady George Campbell) was anxious about her son Ivar, a 25 year old Lieutenant in the Argyll & Seaforth Highlanders who were currently fighting in Mesopotamia.

Peter[borough] Dec 5th [1915]
My own darling

This is Sunday Dec 5th, and I am wondering when there is a chance of another letter. I send you the envelope of the last (Nov 28th), opened by Censor, & delayed so that I did not get it till Wednesday 2nd… No wonder you were angry at being held up… I am wondering if letters to you are to be censored? I wondered what was coming next: “Taisez vouz, Metiez vouse, les oreilles des ennemis vous ecoutent.” Well – it was just in those words I warned one or two who did not forgive me at the beginning of the war, and I am sure we women ought to be very uncommunicative. One of my soldier women [wives?] said to me about her wounded man, “He never talks, & he never grumbles”. So the spirit of all of you at the front who comes back, and will more and more, as we learn the lesson of these days of a great tribulation – surely the Great Tribulation which must bring in a Better Thing? Today the Tigris withdrawal reaches us, owing to defection of Arabs, and old Collingwood is busy about the immediate punishment which must be inflicted; & I think of Syb & all her anxiety.

John still at Voelas, but coming up for a Board on the 20th, & Maysie hopes they will have Christmas at Voelas – but thinks he will be passed fit. Meg was dreadfully cut up letting Jim go – and Dad got there just 10 minutes after he had gone….

I had a long day in Northampton yesterday. A great Military Hospital is to be started at Northampton or near, & Lady Knightley has got together a huge committee to collect all the necessary things, & asks me to be on it.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/2)