The “Daily Mail” is demanding that Asquith & Churchill should be impeached

Expat Will Spencer had plenty to interest him in the Swiss newspapers – the first news of the Russian Revolution, plus the official enquiry into the fiasco of the Dardanelles expedition.

16 March 1917

Max Ohler’s birthday.

News in the paper of a revolution in St Petersburg. Also a rumour that the Czar is a prisoner, & has abdicated, & that his brother, the Grand-duke Michael Alexandrovitch, has been appointed regent….

Read an article in by the London correspondent of the “Bund” on the report of the Commission which was appointed to enquire into the conduct of the British Dardanelles Expedition. Lloyd George had said in Feb. 1915 that the Army was not there to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the Navy. The responsibility for the land operations(100,000 killed, wounded & missing, & 100,000 sick) being persevered with, rested with Asquith, Churchill & – though one is reluctant to say it under the circumstances – chiefly with the late Lord Kitchener.

My question is, did Asquith know that the chances of success were too small to justify the prosecution of the campaign? Or did he think it best to be guided by the opinion of Kitchener, & was it the expressed opinion of the latter that the chances were good enough. In the latter case, I am sorry for Asquith. The expedition was an expensive failure, but if the attempt had not been made, probably plenty would have said afterwards that it ought to have been made. It is always much easier to judge after the event.

The “Daily Mail” is demanding that by way of a warning to others, Asquith & Churchill should be impeached. Apparently it was from Australia & New Zealand that the demand for an enquiry came, very large contingents from those colonies having taken part & suffered heavily in the campaign.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

“Sun punishment” for prisoners of war

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Windsor, met a former prisoner of war with harrowing reports of German treatment.

March 23rd
Elgin Lodge
Windsor
My darling Ralph

Have you heard that Asquith came home sober the other night, so his dog never recognised him & bit him!! And another evening after he’d had a good dinner he played bridge with some friends. He seemed alright except he would go on trying to cut the matchbox!

It is not yet settled whether Jim keeps the flotilla or goes to LCS, in any case he keeps Royalist. He writes as if the last alternative is the decisive one, but it’s contrary to various [illegible] I’ve heard in London. However everyone agrees he is right to stick to Royalist…

I came down here on Thursday to stay with Maysie & John, & this is a nice little house with a hideous outside… John looks well, but his jaw is still oozing, I believe… This evening a Coldstream soldier is coming up here to see them, as he’s been a prisoner in Germany since Sept. 1914, & has weird tales of the punishments the Germans dish out, but of course it must be a grand occasion for a yarn. No one here can contradict him when he says he has twice been put in prison 3 days on end in darkness & then one day in daylight to make him blind, & he says they use “sun punishment”, making the prisoner remain in the sun without a hat & facing the sun all day…

There are many stories about “Moesa” getting out & getting home. All or more may be true, but one thing’s certain, & that is 2 ships without lights may pass each other on a dark night without knowing the other’s there, even though they be only a few 1000 yds apart, & the sea is quite a big place you know. Lack of coaling facilities will & has prevented them sending many Moeses out, & they are so very liable to meet a nasty sticky end.

And I was very impressed about your remarks of the Navy in the East. I’m afraid the Army won’t come out well in comparison of wasting material with the Navy. It seems a too difficult job for both services. They are burning military saddles here when they don’t know what to do with them, & there are too many tales of Staff officers’ expensive motors to quote, but they’d put into shade your grouse about an Admiral using motor boats as despatch carriers. As for the Navy’s job as Transporters in general, they don’t seem to have done so very badly when you come to think of the millions of men they have been carrying up and down the world to every military expedition which the WO has thought good to attempt. If there’s one thing quite certain it is that the Army can’t move hand or foot without them, & are entirely dependant on the Navy in whatever part of the world they’re fighting in.

Do tell me some more Naval items from the Desert, darling. Anyway you’ll approve of the way that Arthur Balfour & Hedworth Meux smashed up that mad viper Winston. I never heard such tales as Jim Graham told me of Winston’s organization of the Naval Brigades in the beginning of the war. However as some sailor said, “Thank God Winston was got busy with his Naval Division & Flying Brigade, & the Navy was saved owing to the fact he was too busy to interfere with it!”!…

Your ever very loving
Meg

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

“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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Grim, but good: German dead stacked like flies on French wire

Maysie Wynne-Finch was beginning to settle down in Windsor. She continued to be outraged by cronyism in high places – and not a fan of Winston Churchill.

Mar. 10/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Thank heaven our stay was not long in the White Hart. We like this little house more every day, it’s getting quite nice as we have got more of our own stuff here, lamps etc. I do wish you could come and stay!…

Yes, the Russian doings seem to be near to you. I hear one Division was returned from Egypt without even landing not long ago. It certainly appears that things are working up to the grand finale in the west. The French are splendid. John saw a man who had been talking to Clive our liason officer at Verdun, last Saturday 4th, Clive had returned that day, & said that Friday night 3rd, the French had a single man of their general reserve up – & were absolutely confident. That’s a week ago, but as far as one can judge from the papers things have not altered much. Clive also said he’d seen himself the Hun dead as the papers described like flies on the French wires by 100s & also in dense droves packed upright in dead stacks. It’s grim, but good.

Rumour has it, too, that as at Ypres in 1914 the Huns were heavily doped, & appeared quite drugged as if not knowing what they were doing. Mabel Fowler told me, who had heard through General Ruggles Brice, who was on leave from France & had seen a French General who told him.

Poor Meg, these are anxious days. No one seems to doubt that some kind of naval activity is coming. Jim wrote as much to me. Wasn’t Arthur B’s answer to Winston perfect. The latter seems to have taken leave of his senses. The only thing that gives me misgiving is that the Admiralty have sanctioned that scandal of G Sutherland’s command. You must know all about it – probably have sent him. It’s too outrageous – Eileen worked it through Lambert one hears, but why was it allowed? Lambert isn’t alone. Eric Chaplin military advisor, forsooth. It beats even army staff appointments!! I never thought the navy would have civilians in sailors’ shoes – it’s affair disgrace….

Your ever loving
Maysie

[PS]…
Wasn’t it dreadful about dear Desmond. The only hope too in that family. That dreadful Edward & his worse wife. He’s trying to divorce her already I believe. She’s a terror.

Desmond was delightful & had done so well. It seems too so unnecessary. He was showing some kind of bomb to some General & as usual it went off. Desmond & young Nugent both killed.

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

The air is full of rumours

Lady Mary Glyn informed her son Ralph of the latest news at home.

March 8th [1916]

I did calls yesterday. Volck is the name of the new manager at Sage’s. Wife very Brightonian. Decollee at 5 pm and they have taken the Canes’ house in Precincts. They tell me of an RNS Lieutenant called Meynell with his wife at the Peterborough Hotel and a flying man called Gordon England has taken the Archdeacon’s house where the Cooks were. I winder if you know him. I understand there is a great concentration of flying men and inventors & machines to tempt the Zepps here now, and a wireless station at Dogsthorpe & guard of 40 men. Peterborough is becoming quite as central as it can ever hope to be….

The air is full of rumours of sea action, of liveliness in the North Sea. And Churchill has just made one more limelight dramatic speech demanding Fisher’s recall. Hedworth has made his debut as a speaker and hopes Churchill will go back to duty in the trenches.

Lady Exeter says Lord Exeter has been in hospital nearly all his time at Alexandria – influenza, and very seedy in hospital there….

Own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“I suppose we must win, eventually” – but we need a dictator

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image was unimpressed by the country’s leadership, and thought Sir George Richardson, founder of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force should take over the air forces. His wife Florence, nee Spencer, of Cookham, was the sister of Percy and Stanley Spencer, mentioned here.

29 Barton Road
20 Feb. ‘16

Here is a story I heard from our Cook [aged 21] yesterday of her brother. Poor fellow, he has been killed since – but he was in the retreat from Mons, and he wrote home that for 5 days they had no food if any kind. The letter contained a snowdrop which the writer had picked from the top of his trench and sent to his mother, writing “I hope the base censor will not take it”. Letter and snowdrop arrived safe: and underneath this passage was written “The Censor has resisted the temptation”.

I suppose we must win, eventually. We want the elder Pitt. If such a man exists among us now, he is not allowed a chance. The Air Service! And my pupil unshamed preaching that we must take the butcheries lying down, for babes and women are of no importance. In no branch was the personal superiority of the British men more marked than in this of the air. But it needs a dictator. We have such a man – not Curzon – or Winston – but him who made the Ulster army. He mayn’t know much of Aeronautics, but he “can make a small State great”. I don’t suppose the “terrible Cornet of Horse” knew much of the Art Military, but see what he did in 1759, by Land and Sea – with a fleet and army emasculated by 40 years of peace.

My wife (she has a brother in Salonica, and another in Flanders, “mentioned in despatches”) begs me to send her kindest wishes along with mine to both.

Ever your loving
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“I wonder what the Archangel Michael thinks of destroyers and aeroplanes”

The Bishop of Peterborough and his wife wrote to their son Ralph, serving in the Dardanelles, with the latest news of political developments at home, and an encounter with two disillusioned soldiers serving with the Canadian forces. See here for more about Munro.

Nov 13 [1915]
The Palace
Peterborough

My darling Ralph

Thank you so much for your great letter to me of Nov 2nd & telling us of your going off in the Destroyer on work – & that we possibly may catch you by a letter to Marseilles – so here it is.
You will indeed have a good experience – & going about in this way will be full of new interest – but I can understand your reluctance to leave General Headquarters. I see that General Munro is gone to Salonika, & when I saw it in today’s papers, I wondered if you would have gone there with him – but you will not have gone off on your “destroyer cruise” before he left.

Everyone tells us that Munro is first rate & I heard also that in France he did a job that Haig got praised for & held a tough corner & saved us at one time, & then was not as fully appreciated for it as he should have been.

Your name appears in today’s Times, with K’s and 3 or 4 others, as “persecuted” by HM to wear your Servian & Russian orders – so there you are!

God bless & keep you
Your loving father
E C Peterborough
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A tangle and muddle

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with some sharp criticism of the Prime Minister.

And here I am on Nov. 3 10.30 pm, in bed….
Asquith’s great speech is over and it reads well – but it is always like a polished pebble. Nothing to take hold of and however he comes out of it & shoulders the blame, others have to bear the intolerable burden. He made out a “good case”? He always does.

I have a wonderful story from Gwendolen Bute about Ninian and the story of a Mass at which he served, finding an [affable?] soldier who asked him to assist was a Priest. I think it was on the day he died the priest had found him praying in a little ruined chapel.

Dad is looking forward to Fortnum & Mason researches for you. My darling, how I long to be sending you something every day. I wonder if your next letter will tell me what you want most. Do, darling, tell me and let me send you things. It would help me so much to be able to do something.

We are working up a big meeting for Missions to Seamen in Corn Exchange on the 11th, so my hands are at present very full. Tomorrow I hope to see soldiers’ and sailors’ wives… And I go to tea with the lady Doctor Mary Weston who is quite an interesting innovation here.
Mrs Halstead brought some delightful Coldstream wounded men here. One was a Russian Jew – Linovski – who had served seven years with John in the 1st & was devoted to him….

Own Mur
[PS]
The Queen answers Dad by a new secretary. She says the King is severely bruised in his stomach, but going on well.

Her husband also wrote to their son: (more…)

Rather a drag in operations at the Dardanelles

General Charles E Callwell wrote again to Ralph Glyn on the latter’s way back from his mission to organise ammunition for Gallipoli. He had some inside information regarding Cabinet discussions.

War Office
14th August 1915

My dear Ralph

Many thanks for your letter from Marseilles. You are one of those people who possess the gift of getting things done and I highly appreciate your successful efforts to rush that ammunition stuff through so satisfactorily and rapidly, and I am taking care to let Braithwaite know that the Medforce in reality owes its receipt mainly to you – I am assuming that you have not been submarined or wrecked or any dreadful thing. I told Winston the other day that Lord K had gathered somehow that you had been relling him (Winston) about ammunition requirements at the Dardanelles and had not been pleased. Winston was full of regrets but added “Well, after all it was worth it”.

Your wire from Marseilles about your transport going through went to QMG2 before I ever saw it, hence the return wire. The only way to make sure that a wire intended for me goes to me in this place seems to be to address it by name. Wortley has always been an opponent of anything going by the Marseilles route and was I think a little surprised and chagrined to find its advantage so clearly demonstrated thanks to you.

I had not heard of Sykes’ mishap and hope that he is all right again both on his own account and in view of the importance of having him fit and well for the work out at the Dardanelles. We are watching the progress of events out there anxiously, as there seems to have been rather a drag in the operations after the first landing at Suvla Bay just at the moment when it was all-important to push and get as much ground as possible. They also seem to be in a good deal of difficulty in respect to water at that point, but this will probably right itself as they settle down. I trust that things are getting cleared up at Mudros where it is evident that there has been shocking congestion of traffic, coupled with want of push by somebody to get things done and straightened out.

They are having the devil of a Cabinet Sub-committee to recommend what forces we should be prepared to put in the field next year. Crewe and Curzon and Austin and Selborne and Winston and Henderson, and I had a long afternoon with them yesterday. Curzon and Austin are towers of strength, Crewe makes a suave chairman, Winston talks infinitely and Henderson tells inappropriate anecdotes. I daresay that in due course they will adumbrate something useful, but in the meantime they want a lot of information which I am sure K will jib at giving them. They all seem to be for compulsory service, but were not inclined to fall in with my urgings that there should be an announcement of the intention at once in view of its moral effect upon Allies and enemies.

Your Italian friends have not done much beyond talking at present, but Delme Radcliffe writes that he was taken aside on the battlefield the other day by Porro and Cadorna and that the latter was very sympathetic and made a lot of enquiries. Why they will not go to war with the Turks I cannot make out, seeing that the Turks have so stirred up Tripoli against them that they have not got much more dry land left than Birdwood has at Anzac.

Yours ever

Chas E Callwell

Letter from General Charles E Callwell to Ralph Glyn c/o the British Embassy at Athens (D/EGL/C24)

Whole Navy delighted at Winston Churchill’s demotion

Florence Vansittart Neale, holidaying on the Isle of Wight, kept abreast of war news and rumours, from German prisoners escaping to Naval men’s pleasure at seeing the back of Winston Churchill, who was regarded as a disaster as First Lord of the Admiralty after leading Britain into the Dardanelles.

20 June 1915

Hear from Mr Watson that Lloyd George says they have plenty of high explosives now but want shells & fuses.

Heard a Miss Goetz who had been at Ryde came across her cousin, a German officer dressed in khaki. He escaped in a taxi. She told WO. They said there were plenty of those.

Heard through Katie that the papers wrote to order. 1st to be cheerful – now pessimistic to encourage recruiting & to bring in conscription.

Hear we have dummy fleet – even our ships taken in by it.

Hear 2 submarines caught in Portsmouth Harbour.

Hear lighthouse man on Clyde found providing oil for submarines – wathed & caught & hope shot.

The fleet in the Dardanelles is called “the wastepaper basket of the North Sea”.

Captain Carpendale says whole Navy delighted at W. Churchill gone from Admiralty.

Hear regiments sent to trenches to face Germans then come back!

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

Winston Churchill is admired in Bisham

Florence Vansittart Neale gets a souvenir and considers the war news. She was an early fan of Winston Churchill, then First lord of the Admiralty. Here is the Hansard report of the speech which impressed Florence.


Had piece of shrapnel & explosion from Harry Paine. Very good speech of W. Churchill about Navy….

See about Albert Paine, he to Southampton tomorrow! Also our farm boy (now in house) going off tomorrow!…

Heard Jack Farrer badly wounded.

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

“We have hold of them now”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary mixes anxiety for family friends, war news and rumours. It was true, however, that Lord Kitchener was not a fan of Winston Churchill, who was at this point First Lord of the Admiralty.

2 November 1914

Heard from Dot. Charlie in firing line. Joined Bombay Brigade. Feel very anxious. Fierce battle still raging….

Found Sir George & M & Mme de Bistrade (Belgians) here.

Heard Lord K. told someone about our position. “We have hold of them now.”

Germans sunk the “Hermes” in Channel.

They say story of Russians is about 2000 from America came through here & joined French troops.

Winston from Antwerp telegraphed Kitchener he had made this man Colonel, that a Major etc etc. Kitchener, riled, wired back “Just made Mrs Snooks rear admiral”!!


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

A sad wife

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey had an active social life. Various friends were joining up in various capacities.

30 August 1914
Ken turned up en route for Abney – not had his call yet. Harold [Vereker] off to Aldershot this afternoon. Mrs [illegible – Serwold?] brought things made by her women for hospital. She looked so sad; her husband in 2nd battle. Maud M. came bringing young Baron Marscolti; he going on Sir J French’s staff. Told us about Italian ambassador informing Churchill to mobilize!

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