“More brains than bowels”

Ralph Glyn’s mentor General Charles Callwell, just off to Russia, let him know what was going on at the War Office and internationally. For Czar Nicholas II’s impressions of Callwell, see his letters.

Central Station Hotel
Newcastle-on-Tyne

4th March 1916

My dear Glyn

I got your letter just when leaving. It looks as if things were going to be very dull in Egypt and, with the reduction of garrison, I suppose that there will be reduction of staff. Perhaps you will find yourself nearer decisive events before long. Latest news from Verdun seems quite satisfactory and Joffre two days ago was quite satisfied. Robertson had gone over to see him and Haig.

Wigram and I are for the Grand Duke’s HQ but go to Magily first to see the Emperor & Alexieff. I have a GCMG for Yudenich, who commanded the army that took Erzerum, which should make us popular & will justify our getting pretty well up to the front. Whe we get back to Moscow we may go on to Japan – I have a sack of decorations concealed at Christiania to serve as an excuse – so as to see how things are on the Siberian railway & at Vladivostok, but I could not get Robertson to make up his mind. The King told me that AP [Arthur Paget] put in from Petrograd for a trip to the Caucasus, suggesting a decoration for Yudenich as justification; but he was too late, our trip having already been arranged. We may meet him at Stockholm or some such place. Mac[law?] is going with us as far as Petrograd, he has managed to put in about three months at home on an irregular sort of sick leave and strikes me as having more brains than bowels; he is coming down here later and we start tonight. The passage across is no citch [sic] as it is bitterly cold, it is always rough, & the steamers are small & asphyxiating, proving altogether too much for Wigram and our recruit-servant.

The War Office has quite settled down on its new lines and the breaking up of the MO into MO and to MI seems to work very well and to be a decided improvement. Most of the old gang remain on and some of them look rather tired.

Wishing you the best of luck

Yours sincerely
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

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The hell of a job: British intelligence

An Intelligence officer friend of Ralph Glyn wrote to him with another glimpse into the newly reorganised forerunner of MI6.

MI2c
22.ii.16
My dear Glyn

Thank you for yours of the 15th inst. yes, I alone survive of the old MO2c push. Con is back from GHQ in command of MI2c & the staff has been increased to 5 & possibly 6. I have forsaken the Hun for the Austro-Hun: Austria having been combined with Germany at last in this section (I can’t think why it was not done before). Cox has handed Austria over to me wholesale: it is a hopeless task taking over from old Perry. No handbook since 1909 in spite of the 1912 reorganisation. I hope to get out a booklet on the Infantry by end of March, showing present distribution. The whole army works by Battalions in the most complex way & it is the hell of a job.
Meantime we shall send you once a month a distribution & assumed composition of Austro German forces in the various theatres, which should keep you fairly up to date.

At end of March a new edition of “German Army in the field” will also be published, copies of which will be sent to you.

WO news is very prolific in that a complete reorganisation on very (apparently) sound lines has taken place. A tendency however is showing itself to devote too much attention in the highest quarters to masses of detail which really only concern the subsections or the forces in the field, & thereby to neglect the larger issues. I speak however only of the MI Directorate & it is only a personal opinion so “tell it not in Gath & publish it not in Askalon” [a Biblical quotation].

Wigram, having gone with the DMO to Russia, has returned with ‘Stanislavs’ upon his breast; he returns next week to Petrograd & is having the hell of a time. Buckley remains MI1 (Col) but his activities are narrowly restricted to ‘Intelligence’. Between you & me, he seems to have fallen slightly into the background; after so long a sojourn in the limelight it must be very galling to him & I feel very sorry indeed about it.

Look me up next time you’re back in England & we will dine together & prattle of affairs in general.

Goodbye & good luck to you.

Yours ever
G M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/8)

“We are not well prepared for anything but defence”

Former Intelligence boss General Charles Callwell was on his way back from Russia. Fr the diary of Hanbury-Williams, see here.

Grand Hotel & Grand Hotel Royal
Stockholm

31st Jan 1916

My dear Ralph

I got a budget of letters, including two from you, at Petrograd just before leaving, and take the opportunity of a rest here to answer some of them.

I am glad to hear that you are settled in the Intelligence line with Tyrrell and hope that you have not been displaced under the Staff reorganisation which has I presume been carried out. After three weeks absence from England one seems to know nothing. As far as I can make out there is not at present much sign of a serious attack on Egypt, and the sands are running out. K & Maxwell worked themselves into a fidget over it but I never believed that there was danger of a really formidable attempt by the Bocho-Turks – the Boches are too wide awake.

I have had a short but pleasant visit to Russia. They did Ralph Wigram & me tophole and I had much talk with bigwigs and got some things settled. Alexieff the new C of S is a capital man and very easy to deal with. We are on our way back to report & to go to GHQ to Chantilly, and then expect to return and to go through to Japan so as to see the working of the Siberian railway and ginger them up if necessary at Vladivostok; with luck we may manage a visit to the Grand Duke at Tiflis [Tbilisi] en route.

Wigram makes an excellent SO and is a bright, cheery companion – he has abandoned me tonight and I fear the worst. We get many messages for you from the Russian Staff & the Yacht Club. “Mon Dieu – quell applomb [sic] ” said La Guiche of you with a reminiscent sight, but Hanbury Williams referred gloomily to the way AP & you left him in the lurch.

The Germans seem to be beginning a big push on the western front which ought to be good for us and to lose them men whom they cannot afford to lose. It seems to be playing our game as at the moment we are not well prepared for anything but defence – thanks to Salonika and such like.

I hope that you are keeping very fit and find your job congenial. Anyway you are in a good climate for the present. Give my love to Tyrrell, and believe me

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

“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)

This is “a war run by a gang of chattering civilians” – but no worse than the French

More secrets are revealed in General Callwell’s latest letter to Ralph Glyn. The general was about to move from overall charge of military intelligence and operations, to a secret mission to our allies in Russia and Japan.

26, Campden House Chambers
Campden Hill, W

30th December 1915

My dear Ralph,

I have no idea where you are or what doing, but send this to Egypt, whither I gather Monro and his big staff have gone. Bell wrote the other day and mentioned that he proposed sending you on to Egypt.
Great changes at the WO consequent on Robertson’s taking over CIGS. Poor old man K is in the corner and quite good – does what he is told. My branch has been split in two, operations and intelligence, Maurice becoming DMO and Macdonogh becoming DMI, a post I still hold pending Macdonogh’s arrival. I go off to Russia with Ralph Wigram in a few days and expect to go on to Vladivostok and Japan – Japan as an excuse for going along the Siberian railway to see how it is doing; one cannot get those Russians to bestir themselves and keep things moving on the line although their munitions from America depend entirely upon it. I am delighted to get out of the WO after seventeen months of it.

It has been an awful scandal about the delay in deciding to evacuate Gallipoli. The withdrawal from Suvla and Anzac was a wonderful performance, but no thanks to the Government for that. I dare not hope that the move out of Helles will be a bloodless affair. When the story of the Government’s vacillations comes to be told, the country will realise what it is to have a war run by a gang of chattering civilians who over-ride the decisions of their own War Council. The only thing to be said for them is that they are no worse than the French gang. The French General Staff now, after we have educated them in London and at Chantilly, quite realise the absurdity of the Salonika affair; but Briand and Co dare not clear out for fear of public opinion and of Sarrail.

Archie Murray goes off tomorrow to take up command vice Monro. He did very well indeed as CIGS and we all liked him, but he did not come in on his own terms and backed by the whole Cabinet like Robertson. K’s visit to the Near East was a blessing in disguise in that the government were, during the interval, told the truth about a number of matters – the lack of men amongst other things, and the majority were got to see that we could not get on without compulsion.
I have not heard from you for quite a long time, but hope you are very fit. I see Dulles has got a division – I wish it was a better one. Give him my love if you come across him.

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

Everyone is loud in criticising the Government

Meg Meade and her husband were blissfully happy while he was home on leave. She wrote to her brother to tell him about the national mood – one of anti-Government – and chaos with shipbuilders having to be unrecruited from the armed forces.

30th Oct
23 Wilton Place

My darling Ralph

Since last writing to you I haven’t written any letters. You know what it is with at home. We are out all day & if we are at home alone together, Jim reads to me. There’s a picture of domestic bliss!…

Will you thank Willie so very much for his letter. I am sending 100 cigarettes & some tobacco under cover to you. The cigarettes are his, & could you have the tobacco? As Maysie who I asked to settle up with Major Wigram about sending these things in the bag says that they make a great favour of sending anything in the bag, which is annoying, & Maysie fiercely refuses to allow me to send more this time. I am sending the rest of Willie’s order by post immediately….

Jim goes tomorrow (Sunday) night or Monday.

I did give Sir Ed. Carson your letter. Everyone is loud in criticizing the Government, but that don’t seem to move them. We lunched with Edith yesterday & met Lord Derby there. He said he had just received a letter signed by 6 men saying they would rejoin their regiments & enlist the moment that F E Smith was sent back to rejoin his regiment instead of sitting at home on a salary of £20,000, or whatever he gets! Lord Derby had some very amusing stories of Mrs Asquith. Sir John French went to see her, & she threw her arms around his neck & said, “Oh John, John, how splendid you are, but what a lot of worry you give Henry!” She also wrote to Lord Derby & asked him to spare “Henry”’s chauffeur, valet & footmen, as he being Prime Minister, his comfort was essential, so she asked Lord Derby to see they were not recruited. Lord Derby said that he expected we’d have conscription in 6 weeks time, but that’s too good to be true. He said that when he came to work his job, he found the most awful chaos, all the men who had been “starred” on the pink papers ought not to have been, & the ones unstarred ought to have been starred. By some oversight none of the shipbuilders in Cammell Laird’s yards were starred, so they could have been enlisting as hard as they could, & in consequence a certain new light cruiser called the Constance which Jim thought he’d a chance of getting has been tremendously delayed, & they are having to bring the men back to the yards again. Another employer wrote to say “all his men were starred, but they ought to be unstarred”. The WO left the “starring” business to the local recruiting people, who seem to have starred anyone who gave them half a crown.

I wonder if you have heard that Jim is to be a Captain D1! & have 20 of the newest & latest destroyers under him. Captain D of 12th Flotilla he will be, & he keeps the Royalist according to present arrangements. Isn’t it splendid. Royalist will have to be fitted out as a D’s ship, so I hope it won’t be 7 months before I see him again. He will take the new destroyers as they are turned out.

…Maysie & John are still at Bruton Street. He’s alright practically again except for his face. The abcess in the jaw. They are going to cut out the bit of dead bone on Monday, & he has been given 2 months to recover in, so that’s good….

We live in fogs now. No Zepps have penetrated to London lately although they visited Chatham I hear in the night before last….

Meg

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

Going the wrong way: a missionary leaves the war behind

A Reading-sponsored missionary reports on the effects of the war on his journey back to what is now Pakistan, in a letter to members of the congregation at St John’s Church in Watlington Street. It was printed in the parish magazine, and gave Reading people a glimpse of the war from the colonies:

Church Missionary Society,
Lahore.
October 21st. 1914.
My dear Vicar,

Here I am at the Headquarters of the Punjab Mission, tho’ by no means at the end of my travels. At the last moment it was found impossible to run the Language School at Lucknow this year, which is rather a blow. However, Canon Wigram is trying to arrange that the three Punjab recruits shall work together for some months at language study. Probably we shall go to Multan in a fortnight’s time, and until then I am going up to the Batala by way of Amritsar.
I have so much to write about that it will be very difficult to be concise, but I will make an effort.

We had an excellent voyage and never once was it rough, though for two half days I was hors de combat owing to the ship pitching in a horrid swell. We saw signs of war the whole way. On the first night we very nearly ran down a British destroyer near Dover. At Gibraltar we saw the ‘Highflyer’ and the ‘Carmania,’ both covered with renown after their fights in the Atlantic. Off Malta we passed quite close to four troopships from India under the escort of three French cruisers: and at Port Said we saw no less than thirty-five troopships on their way to the Front. We passed them amid tremendous cheering, tho’ everywhere we were greeted with shouts of ‘You’re going the wrong way.’ At every port we touched at we saw captured German and Austrian merchant ships. On reaching Aden we heard that the German cruiser ‘Konigsberg’ had got through the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb into the Red Sea and was coaling at Jeddah; if this is true we must have passed within a very few miles of her and we may be thankful that our voyage wasn’t terminated on the Arabian coast.

From Aden to Bombay we ran with very few lights on at night and these few were darkened by brown cardboard funnels, so we were more or less invisible after dark. The second night out from Aden all lights were suddenly switched out and the ship’s course was completely altered. We thought that the ‘Emden’ was on our track, and some of the ladies went so far as putting on lifebelts. The Captain had spotted a glare in the distance, which turned out to be only an Arab dhow fishing in an unusual part.

We were a party of seven C.M.S. Missionaries on board, and I fear usually the noisiest table at meal-time; however, I hope noise is a sign that we were enjoying ourselves.

I was quite sorry in many ways when the voyage came to an end and we dropped anchor in Bombay harbour at sunrise on October 16th. There were at least a dozen crowded troopships to greet us as we steamed up the bay; and the Tommies didn’t seem to mind standing in the full glare of the sun to watch us pass. …..

Yours affectionately,
Arnold I. Kay.

A second letter provides more details. (more…)