Called up at the beginning of the War

A young man needed help to retrieve the tools of his trade from a pre-war employer.

2nd September 1919
A V Hazell

Reporting that this lad, formerly apprenticed to Messrs Wake & Dean, was called up at the beginning of the War to the Territorials; that on applying on his demobilisation to his former employers for his tools, was unable to get them. The Clerk stated that he had taken the matter up with Messrs Wake & Dean, and after some trouble had been able to obtain and return tools to the lad.

Report of Infant Poor Committee, Reading Board of Guardians (G/R1/59)

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“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)

The Germans’ well laid plans

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him in Egypt after a visit to the Wake family at Courteenhall, whose father had just died. Joan (1884-1974), one of the sisters of Sir Hereward (1876-1963) mentioned here, was to become a pioneering archivist. One of the Wakes claimed to have evidence that the German invasion of Belgium had been long planned in advance. The Enver referred to is Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), the Turkish Minister of War who had led that country into alliance with Germany and was responsible for the Armenian Holocaust of 1915.

March 21st 1916

Yesterday we went to Courteenhall and had a cosy hour & more with the dear people. It is good to know that Hereward wishes his mother & sisters to remain on. He has bought a house in London, & is now going back to the front as Lt Colonel, on OGS 1st Grade & will be with General Mackenzie’s Division. He goes about end of April, & he is now at Aldershot taking up his new work. Ida is to be his agent for Northants property, assisted by a good bailiff, & he has secured a good man for the Essex property who can always advise Ida when necessary. Phyllis is back at work nursing at Abbeville. Joan is at home helping all round. Lady Wake pays rent, & keeps up the house…

There is a most interesting & amusing nephew of Lady Wake’s in this Hotel, a Major Wake who has seen all sorts of service in E Africa, Egypt and Ulster!! And in between a recruiting job at home & Ulster he fought [for?] Turk against Italy! While so employed he shared a tent with 3 German officers who told him their well laid plans exactly! Even to the breaking through Belgium to destroy France, knowing her Vosges defences were too strong for other swift accomplishment of victory – but France destroyed, they would take us and Holland on – no wish to destroy either as all Teutonic peoples should come into the Zollverein which would then rule the world. Our practicality was required to wed with their “idealism”, & when this union was complete “we” would together be invincible. They said they liked us, but as long as we were separate they could not do anything, & must always come up against us. They expected all their colonies to be taken, but then at the crisis our Fleet was to be destroyed, & then they would regain their colonies & seize all ours. All this was described with perfect freedom to the English soldiers, and the answer to his enquiry “What do you wish to do with us”. They said this was all open unconcealed knowledge, and that we had such a wretched Government we would never fight, & though our Govt knew they would not prepare, so the thing was “fait accompli”. (more…)

“Every man in uniform (or in bits, alas)”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph from her temporary home in Windsor, with more details of the tragic accident which killed their friend Desmond FitzGerald (1888-1916). Desmond was the younger brother and heir apparent of the Duke of Leinster, Ireland’s leading peer, a mentally ill bachelor. Youngest brother Edward (1892-1976), who eventually succeeded to the title in 1922, had rashly married a chorus girl. Maysie had also recently met a number of friends on leave. Their mother Lady Mary Glyn also wrote to Ralph with the story of a new recruit.

March 20/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Yes wasn’t Desmond [FitzGerald]’s death tragic. He’s a real loss from every point of view, it seems too one of those ghastly unnecessary things. The RC parson – one Lane Fox, incidentally poor General Pereira’s brother in law, he is too, was playing about with these bombs. Some say it was his fault, others a pure accident no one could have avoided, but the thing went off, killing Desmond & 2 or 3 men, & wounded others including young Nugent, a desperate body wound. He’s had a fearful operation, but they say will live. The wretched man himself has had ½ his face blown away & ½ his hand. A gastly [sic] thing. Poor old Freddy. They say master Edward is already bitterly regretting his wife who is a perfect terror & drinks. However I doubt her letting him divorce her now that he must be a Duke. It’s too dreadful.

We went to London for Sat night & to the Hippodrome. Really a funny show. Harry Tate being sea-sick too priceless, it nearly makes one sick too. Rather to my surprise we met Arthur & Amy there. He went back yesterday after a week’s special leave, he looks ill… We also saw old Wisp. He looks pretty well & I saw no signs of the lost stone – which he’s reported to have lost as a result of Flu – but he’s got 6 weeks leave, which is nice for him. John saw Jerry Sturt yesterday. Poor boy – he’s no better apparently, though they still say he will be. He can’t even stand yet though. He showed John an interesting letter he’d had from Beeky. In it he says the French at Verdun put all their Colonial troops in front & their losses were heavy, also at the 1st push they ran, which gave that 1st small Hun advance, but since then they have been alright. He also said Master Bosch used no gun smaller than a 5 pt 7 during all that fighting – no one seems to know why, unless to save their smaller ammunition for the “advance”.

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“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…

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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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“Blunder after blunder – what can you expect from politicians if the only soldier of influence & in power is no d— use.”

Maysie Wynne-Finch informed her brother Ralph about her wounded husband’s latest operation. She had also met an old friend, the distinguished soldier Sir Hereward Wake (1876-1963).

Jan 28 [19]16
11 Bruton Street
My darling R.

Here we are back in London & my poor John in hospital & to be cut open again in about ¼ hour’s time, so if this letter is ga-ga – you’ll understand. His face swelled up again so badly that we had to come up to London on Friday. We saw the surgeon yesterday who said he must operate at once or the abcess might burst outwardly & there’d be the devil then of a mess. This morning they gave him proper anisthetic [sic] & it will be a longer job than last time, I fancy, as they have to dig out the wisdom tooth & then clean up & scrape the jawbone….

In the train on Friday we met Hereward & Daisy Wake… H looks better & is back in his old dept at the WO… He spoke strong & straight over the hopelessness of the conduct of the war in general, & says all the blame lies at our door. There is no doubt it’s the general opinion on all sides now – how can it be otherwise. Blunder after blunder – what can you expect from politicians if the only soldier of influence & in power is no d— use.

I saw poor dear Aunt Syb yesterday. She is quite splendid, but it just breaks our heart to see & hear here. It’s terrible. No doubt you know far more about Frank Balfour’s doings than I do, but he seems to have done a splendid thing, & to have had the fact duly appreciated, not at all always the same thing. I am so glad. Poor Lesley is naturally in a great state of anxiety over Arthur. They have been in action. I am lunching with Addy & the Admiral today. Judging from a conversation on the telephone he is wildly excited, off to France tomorrow, & evidently determined to be in the thick of anything going. There seems to be considerable liveliness too just now, judging from the casualties anyhow.

Later – John’s op quite successful. They cleaned up the bone & removed the wisdom tooth. He has been in great pain, poor darling, all day…

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

“There ought never to be a war, with these modern inventions for destroying life”

Two of Ralph Glyn’s friends wrote to him with their thoughts on the war. Hereward Wake was the owner of Courteenhall near Northampton; it has not been possible to identify Evan. Brocket Hall belonged to the Cain family (later Lords Brocket) but was let to Lord Mount Stephen.

Brocket Hall
Hatfield
Sept 2nd 1915
Dearest Ralph

I see this morning there was another fight on 27th, which means more [illegible], alas! What a nightmare this war. There ought never to be a war, with these modern inventions for destroying life. It makes me sick – we will never get reconciled to it…

I am so thankful to hear you are all right. The Dardanelles must be a truly awful business, & what bad luck those two coups didn’t come off.

Still it is something that the Turk fights like a gentleman, for certainly the Bosche doesn’t. What a loathsome lot they are…

Yours ever
Evan

Courteenhall
Northampton
2 Sept. 15

My dear Ralph

I am glad to get your letter of 10th Aug today. More power to you – good luck. The British people have got quite used to long casualty lists and no success anywhere and they are making so much money out of the war that few care how long it lasts. There is not a suspicion that we might get beaten in the end, which may be correct, no doubt, but it seems to me that we shall never go into the business heart & soul till we are frightened.

You were very right about the war lasting a long time, but I still think the decisive point is in France & Belgium. The enclosed cutting [no longer with it] expresses my views pretty well as regards the Dardanelles, which is now generally admitted to have been a bad mistake. But I suppose we have to see it through now as you say. Fortunately for us, the Germans went for the Russians this summer. I hope the weather will before long check their advance in that direction. Now of course we have got the hell of a lot of troops in France & every month we have more. A little ammunition is trickling out too, so the Bosche will get a warm time if & when he marches our way to take the offensive. German confidence & initiative seems inexhaustible but I bet they’d be ready to bargain with what they’ve got for peace by Christmas.

Well, take care of yourself. The Turk will soon run out of ammunition. Any Italians your way?

Yrs
Hereward

I am just going up for my Board & expect to be passed fit. Thank heaven I hope soon to be out again & doing my bit.

Algy Harris is very fit & cheerful & very active on his 1 leg. He goes to stay with Maysie this week.

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/17-18)

“The only thing that really matters is the western front”

Ralph Glyn’s friend Hereward Wake, home on medical lave and visiting his wife’s family in Northumberland, was critical of the way the war was being fought. C W Laird of the shipbuilders Cammell Laird was trying to get a gun manufactured in bulk.

Howick
Lesbury
Northumberland

23 July 1915

My dear Ralph

I hear you are in the Dardanelles. Good luck to you, & write me a line to Courtenhall when you have a moment.

A pity we have dared to ignore the first rule of war & undertake such a job as yours, & we all wish it were feasible to chuck it & bring the troops back to kill Germans.

It seems Warsaw will be German in a few days & possibly Riga too. But these misfortunes will not make the Russians chuck it, and the only thing that really matters is the western front, when by this time we ought to have 2 millions instead of ½ a million. I have been home 3 months, home with neurasthenia, a cursed disease, & I’m still no good. I’m not supposed to write letters, so will finish this now.

I hear John Wynne Finch is back in France.

You were right when you said the war would last some time!

Yours
Hereward

C W Laird
58 Pall Mall
London, SW

23/7 1915

My dear Glyn

My proffered services are still no nearer finding acceptance at the hands of a grateful country. Seriously, if I felt that my leg would stand it, I think [what end] by offering to act as a boy scout at the War Office – a commodity of which they are very short.

As to the gun, I took her to Enfield yesterday again, and she is being again considered. If formally, shall put out for the States and try to get her made unless Govt offer facilities here. Heard as late as the 25th of May that the gun at the front was still doing good service, now with the IXth Div. It strikes me that an individual gun that has kept at it all this time is a pretty good test.

From Paris they are calling for me to go over to show gun. Did in fact go over ten days ago and promised to show the gun again with a nuch lighter tripod stand (3 ½ lbs) which has been designed but is not yet ready, though one has been with gun at front for months. But for Paris the difficulty is getting manufacture.

The bright spot on the horizon seems to be the mere possibility of the taking of A[?] Baba and the Turks despairing of holding on to the further positions.

C W Laird

Letters from Hereward Wake and C W Laird to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/11-12)