“One cannot altogether wish anyone in France” – but thank heavens for conscription

Army officer John Wynne-Finch and his wife Maysie were outraged that apparently healthy young men were escaping conscription.

May 5/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My dear darling R.

Have I written since John was declared by the doctor to have German measles, & forbidden to go near barracks till the 10th? He’s never been ill, & I’ve never caught it … & I doubt really if he had!! However, we sent for the motor, as he was not allowed in a train & came off up here on Monday…

The Tribunals scandals in these parts make one quite sick – all the young men getting off, it’s too shameful, but inevitable with the kind of people on the Tribunals – no gentlemen & all scoundrels in with the other & relations to all. John is wild….

You sound to be having a wonderfully interesting time. I’ve never heard anyone yet not say the same about the PoW. He must be too delightful. I’m sorry you’ve lost Captain Barnard, you’ll miss him. It must have been very hard to know what to do about that other job. One would love you to be nearer in some ways, & yet one cannot altogether wish anyone in France. John will be back there soon I expect. The time at Windsor goes terribly fast.

Tony went to Dublin with dispatches last Saturday. Awfully interesting…

Thank heaven we’ve got compulsion at last & have shot the rebels. It gives one some hope for this rotten government.

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/4)

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“The beastly Bosch measles”

Recovering at her parents’ home from an attack of German measles (rubella), Meg Meade thought the mere name of the illness was unpatriotic.

May 2nd [1916]
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling Ralph

At last I can send you a scrawl, but the beastly Bosch measles has left me with weak eyes so I can’t read or write much, & also feeling very weak. But to be accounted for I suppose because my temperature for 2 days was 104. But it was a dreadful way of spending Easter with the por parents, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise as I have certainly given Dad other things to think of than his resignation….

John has very slight Hun measles too, so he & Maysie have motored to Voelas…

Jim has been having a busy time at sea, he is very well, but I do long so much to see him…

From your own loving Meg

Darling take care of yourself & your dear tummy & don’t do anything risky for it!

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

“They deserved it” – but Staff officers should not get the same kind of medal for safe work

Maysie Wynne-Finch told her brother Ralph how proud she was that her Guards officer husband John had won the Military Cross.

Jan. 22/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales
My dear darling R.

You will guess that I am what Jim calls “throwing my chest out” after John’s Military X. It was for that show on Oct. 8th. It’s so awfully nice Billy should have one too. I think they deserved it! Your news of Lord A’s DSO does not surprise me. It’s the usual story. As Becky wrote to John re his X – “he hoped it might be the 1st of many rows – for himself being on the staff of course, he felt pretty safe to finish up with 3 rows at least!” One is all for staff work being honoured but why not make classes & have one for good safe work & another for dangerous jobs whether won by staff or anyone else. Don’t you agree? I am so glad to hear of your new work. It sounds most awfully interesting – & I do hope you’ll be left in place at the one job for a bit. Yes, your DMO went with the rest. I was sure you would be sorry. K seems to become more & more disappointing as far as one can judge by effect. Rumour has it he’s going to marry old Lady Minto. “I should have thought he’d enough to do without the cares of matrimony” as O de B sarcastically wrote to me!! Which reminds me, I [am] sending you rather a nice little Kipling on the Navy & also a collection of various newspaper articles.

I don’t know how much of news John told you in his letter. He went & saw his doctors & jaw man last Mon. the latter thinks another lot of jaw bone has gone – caused by a huge wisdom tooth coming through & setting up inflammation in the already tender jaw bone. Anyhow he was x rayed again & is now waiting to get the report. He will probably have to have another little operation to remove the bad stuff.

George Crichton offered him & urged him very strongly to go to Windsor as Adjutant, however, having got the Docs to say he should, all being well, be fit for France in another two months, he has refused, not wishing to get stuck at Windsor. The Med Board have given him another 3 weeks sick leave to his extreme wrath, to have his jaw treated. He wished & had determined to combine the process with duty at Windsor. I expect we shall go to London next week now to have the op. or whatever it’s to be, he’ll go to Windsor as soon as possible. From all accounts nothing but a miracle can account for that evacuation of that awful peninsula. I had a delightful letter from Capt McClintock saying so, & giving that story no doubt you know of the cruiser, one of the covering squadron, who after the last man had left, drew out of the line & assembled all the ships company & on their knees thanked God & then returned to bombard the enemy. I like that, it has a fine old flavour of sea tradition.

One thing I long for these days all the time is that Mahan had not died before writing this last & possibly greatest chapter of the influence of Sea Power.

Incidentally these last figures of the neutral food supply open people’s eyes a bit. It’s no news to sailors or soldiers of course. Oh God these d— politicians & diplomats. It’s sickening. If America plays the fool & one doubts her pluck too, let her come in & be d— to her.

Isn’t it too ghastly about Ivar. Poor dear Aunt Syb. One hardly dares to think of the black desolation of her sorrow. She writes too wonderfully. No word of complaint or regret, only thankfulness that he so played the game – & by heaven he did….

People from France write rather fed up just now. No wonder – it all sounds too beastly, especially in the weather we’ve had…

Submarines were again in the Irish Channel at New Years time I believe. The mail was held up one day & night till they were cleared off, I believe….

Joan Lascelles writes of some new appointment Eddy has. I was so glad for her about his Mil X – though John heard much adverse comment on the matter in London last week! Ducky Follett is doing well, a wife & a DSO all at once. I was so glad.

Yours ever
Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

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.
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“Never before has defeat been so mixed up with victory”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn following the safe evacuation of Gallipoli.

Jan 10/16
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My darling R.

Meg got your telegram here so we had early news of your move – & it gave us a hint of much else. I should think never before has defeat been so mixed up with victory as in the evacuation of that awful peninsula. One cannot say one was surprised remembering all the talk one had listened to from you & Colonel Sykes – still no-one ever reckoned the cost so low, I suppose…

The list of New Year honours was about the limit, didn’t you think. I was of course delighted at John’s 2nd mention, tho’ he says it’s all rot. It was I think for that fight on Oct 8….

I’ve not been very happy about John lately. His wound ceased discharging & skinned over on Dec 31 for the 1st time, but he also began to feel very ill, & for several days was awfully seedy. Then his jaw started to hurt again like anything. It swelled outside & finally the hole opened in the jaw & it started discharging there. It all points to there being a lot of poison in him still which will out – but what is odd is what causes this poison – so long. Today his wound has opened again, & he feels better! He fairly refuses to go & see the doc in London before his Med Board on the 22nd as he says he means to get “light duty” from a local Board, as he will not go on doing nothing, & any treatment the London doc choose to give him, he mans to do from Windsor! Poor darling, of course I do understand his point of view. He feels he can’t go on doing nothing any more. I only hope he won’t have to have another bit of jawbone removed, but I am a bit anxious.

I do wonder what you think of Ian Hamilton’s despatch….

Your ever loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“The French and Italians seem imbecile”

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Wales, wrote to brother Ralph Glyn with her frank views on our allies. Her friend the boil-afflicted Hopie was Victor Hope, Marquess of Linlithgow (1887-1952).

Jan 4th [1916]
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My darling Ralph

I came here last Sat. to give the glad eye to Maysie & John for a few days…

John looks very well, but when I was honoured by being allowed a glimpse of his shrapnel hole in his back yesterday, I regretted to see that it was really beginning to heal up, so I must look round for a rusty nail! But when he saw the Med. Board on Dec 23rd in London his back was no more healed than when he left hospital at the end of October, so they gave him another month’s sick leave, & he enjoys life, & he’s always been able to shoot every day since he came here. I expect at the end of his month they will give him light duty at Windsor while he has his teeth & mouth seen to: they need a bit of repairing…

The Bosch seem to be having it too much their own way in the Mediterranean. I wonder when we shall send a few Destroyers out there to teach them a lesson. The French & Italians seem imbecile. Captain Wigram rang me up one day from the WO & told me that he was going out to Russia, so in future I am to address my letters to you c/o Captain Kellett. I hear that Robertson has been making things hum a bit in the WO since he took over.

Thursday evening when I got back to London from my day’s outing [to Sussex] I found a note from Hopie waiting for me, & that night I dined with him at the Carlton & went on to the Gaiety. He had had Xmas leave which he’d spent at Hopetoun, & was on his way back to the Front when he went to see a doctor about a boil he had on the knee. He’s given to having them, & generally goes in for a crop at a time, so he’s been given a month’s leave, & he calls the disease Strombolis, & when I left the doctors were taking his blood twice a day….

I do hope you will get the socks from Mother alright. I addressed them to you to GHQ BMEF (in full of course). Jim writes very well, but they seem to have had an uneventful Xmas, & he never even got the turkey I sent him which is too sad. I hate to think it was eaten by an unknown Scotch thief! Apparently the midshipmen of one of the ships got up a very good entertainment for the benefit of the Destroyer sailors, which was thoroughly appreciated…

Best love darling & bless you so OO very always loving
Meg

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

“Water above their waists” in the trenches – even worse than last year

Maysie Wynne-Finch passed on to her brother Ralph news of the conditions in the trenches from her brother in law William (Billy) Wynne-Finch.

Dec 9/15
Cefnamwlch
Edeyrn
Carnarvonshire
My dear darling R.

Christmas alas will be a poor thing most places out of the nursery this year. I don’t know where we shall be. John’s Board is on the 21st. Even if they pass him, which I hardly think likely, though he does, he must get more teeth out & in before he can possibly go out again, & so I think he’s safe to be in England. If possible we shall be at V[oelas] & his mother will come up – otherwise we shall stay in London with her. She won’t leave London except to come to V. as at any time we think Billy will be sent home. His circulation has never recovered [from] his wound & he [is] certain to get frostbite before long I fear. From all accounts the conditions out there are too awful. The water & mud even worse than last year. Billy, who is not given to exaggerate hardship, writes an awful account [of] water above their waists & continual rain…

I saw in today’s paper at last they put in Admiral King Hall’s dispatch about the Konigsberg show. Why in the world, one wonders, need such things be delayed 5 months…

Your ever loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

“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)

No peace or victory till the politicians have been exterminated

Maysie Wynne Finch wrote from Wales, where she and her wounded husband had taken refuge at his family home, to her brother Ralph Glyn. She was not impressed by British politicians, or by men trying to avoid service.

Sunday 28 Nov/15
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N. Wales
My dear darling R.

No, I had not seen anything about attacks on Col Sykes – How scheming. All lies I am sure. Oh dear, these politicians, will they never be stamped out & exterminated, we shall have no peace or hope of victory till they are. How people can give presents to Miss Asquith & make it an occasion to tell lies about olf Asquith – God knows – & people like the Speaker too….

Col Toby Wickham … has been recalled from France & is waiting to hear what if anything he’s to do next. All his Yeomanry have been broken up into Div. Cav. & he’s been PM of Ypres for the last month. He’s miserable being home.

What a delightful couple the Harlechs are. She’s enchanting. He was busy trying to get recruits for Welsh Guards, of which he’s Colonel… Billy Gore is off any day, with his Yeomanry Brigade. They go east – where no one knows of course. They have been waiting to start over 10 days now….

John is having a rare lot of “shooting at something which can’t shoot back” as someone put it. At first it hurt his jaw rather, but now it doesn’t seem to often. His back hasn’t healed up even now. I had no idea it would take so long. Of course at the hospital they said it was one of the dirtiest little holes they’d seen. It only missed his spine by a nick too, you know! I expect you’ve heard the story but it was new to me, of the Sergeant to a frightened private under fire, “Now then my man, what’s the matter with you, they ain’t h’after you – you ain’t no blooming cathedral or bloody work of h’art”!! I love it.

Best love darling…
Your own loving Maysie

At last the brave yokels in this district are enlisting having made sure they must go or be fetched! They all try ASC of course!!

Letter from Maysie Wynne Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

We ought to withdraw from the Dardanelles at once and face an enormous loss of men

Meg Meade wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn, serving in the Dardanelles. She reported mixed opinions about the ill-fated Dardanelles campaign.

Aug 23rd [1915]
Yockley House
Camberley

My darling Ralph

I wonder every day how you are getting on, & I’m sure you must be pretty done in with exhaustion and work. People here have their eyes glued on the Dardanelles, & the confidence displayed that we shall force the Straits in a week’s time makes one think they believe it to be a very much easier task than it is. Yesterday Hopie & I were talking about it, & he didn’t seem to have heard at all of all the opposition GHQ in France made to the continuation of the scheme. When I was in London … I saw Willie Percy & he told me that Allan was of the opinion that we ought frankly to withdraw our forces from the Peninsulas as soon as possible, & face the enormous loss of men it would entail! But confess our failure there as soon as possible! Hopie seemed never to have heard of the possibility of such feelings in men such as Allan etc, & to try to convince him of the truth of what I said, I told him what Henry Wilson had said about liking to shoot [“any man” crossed through] you for having a hand in the Dardanelle operations. Only I didn’t say that Wilson had said it to you, meaning you. I said that you “had been present when it was said”. But far from convincing Hopie that there can be any feelings of dislike of the Dardanelles operations on part of GHQ he politely but firmly refused to believe my statement was possible. It was very amusing, & I got him to write down what he could not swallow, & I have promised him that by return of post you will show that I am not a liar! So I will be very much obliged to you if you will return enclosed to me with “perfectly true” written at the foot as soon as you can. Now don’t forget, & I am perfectly confident you can indicate that I spoke nothing but the truth! Hopie & his regiment are under orders to go to France at the beginning of next month. His regiment is the Lothian & Border Horse, known here as the Liver & Bacon Horses! Poor Doreen is going to have an infant next month, so it’s hard luck on her…

The news from Russia is splendid as far as their naval successes go, & I think it must cheer up their retreating armies. If only they don’t get cut off by the Bosch.

Have you heard that John [their brother in law John Wynne-Finch] has been made a Captain. Maysie, of course, is in 7th Heavens! He is out of the trenches now joining up with the organisation, so there’s a respite. The parents are at Voelas [John and Maysie’s home in Wales], where I hope they stay till the end of their holiday…

I went with them to Johnnie Chesham’s wedding… Lady Airlie told me [at the wedding] she had come away from Cortachy because it was so far from all news & sometimes the Dundee Advertiser used to ring her up on the telephone & say “Has Your Ladyship heard that there has been a verra serious battle at the Front & that all the Cavalry have been cut up!”, & then they rang off, leaving poor Lady Airlie to wonder what had happened to the 10th, which is Lord Airlie’s regiment.

Your most loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)