The Drummond sisters were born and raised on the Clarence River in Australia.
Early in the 20th Century they lived in Berlin, Germany, and worked for the opera company there, for many years.
When war broke out in 1914, they were ‘trapped’ for some time – Behind Enemy Lines. This is their story, in their own words.
Friend or Foe
‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines
Haig Jackson thought it quite time to get away with his wife and children. I helped them fit out a hamper, as god knows where they may get and what they may have to suffer before reaching England. We saw them off on Sunday night, the 2nd August, from the Friederich Strasse Station, a quivering mass of human activity. One thing struck us forcibly. In spite of the exigencies of war the officers had to stand round and have their luggage weighed, just as if going to the front were a private concern. We couldn’t get over this. This night was a very agitated one.
It was rumored that Japan had attacked Russia in the rear. The people crowded before the Japanese Embassy, cheered themselves hoarse, hoisted Japs shoulder high and made on end of fuss. Even postcards were out showing the Jap prodding the Russian bear with a pitchfork. This rumour was contradicted next morning amid general disappointment.
Personally, however things turn out, I’m sure the ordinary German never dreamt that Russia was in earnest. The people all got panic stricken when things took on a stern reality, and although we ourselves had nearly seven years’ discussions about their boasted prowess they almost got funk at the last minute. They clung to the hope of a Japanese rear attack with feverish hopes, although they assured us times out of number that they could finish off their Triple enemy in a brace of shakes. I say, now let Europe fight it out, and I’ll take tickets on the Czar.
France on Monday was declared an enemy- that was expected; England only remained. I couldn’t see how England in honour could sit back and look on, though Germany expected it. It must also sacrifice life and limb if it remained true to its alliance. It can’t only talk and promise- it must also take risks and act.
On Monday the Liebermann, Purmall’s fiance, came out to say goodbye. He was off to the Russian border. He told us startling tales of their wonderful artillery which was automatic, moving both right and left. Every regiment was supplied with these deadly machines. He also said that they had 600 trained aviators who would show the French what air work meant. He, as well as I, heard nothing of Purmall. She, being a Russian, can never get back. The feeling is too bitter. It will be the same with us.
Yesterday we went into see Frau Adolfi , just on the eve of England’s declaration. They are all different. Of course, we understand it, and though we find it strange that good friends are now uncomfortable when together, we made the best of it. With us it is my country, right or wrong.
We had a great day altogether yesterday. Extraordinaries were printed that Russian women were carrying in automobiles huge sums of gold from France to Russia. The bridge is five minutes’ walk from us, where the lieutenant and his men were waiting to catch these adventurous ladies. (I really must laugh to think that people seriously believe that gold goes through an enemy’s country in an open automobile!) Every car was stopped, the occupants searched, the machinery opened- every possible nook and corner peered into, and Jean was in the midst of the crowd and the pelting rain enjoying the situation. The lieutenant warned the people not to stand too near in case of a bomb. Needless to say no automobiles filled with gold have as yet been captured. I couldn’t be bothered repeating half the nonsense that is circulated about the Russians. One was seen giving children sweets with cholera bacilli in the middle. One child was ill, had to have its stomach pumped. Another doctor poisoned the drinking water near Berlin also with cholera bacilli. And last night, to reduce the present tragic situation to a farce, the fire brigade was called out to play upon a roof where another Russian spy was sitting enjoying the German night air. We heard the brigades’ (there were two of them) bells, and saw thousands of people collected. Guess what was on the roof? The tin weather cock, swaying gracefully in the breeze! At last the papers have got made with the people, and are asking them to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of Germans.
After the fire brigade episode we went to bed and were just dozing when we heard a terrific ring at our bell. We started out of our sleep, thinking it was the police, but it was Miss Hilder who arrived in wild excitement per auto with the news that England had also declared war on Germany, and that her fleet was already at Heligoland. We got quite excited. We could hear all the Germans talking in loud voices in the courtyard below. Miss Hilder said she was going on then to the Embassy, although it was 11 30 pm to find out what to do. We asked her to call back. I immediately, in my night attire, demolished a pile of washing lying in the sink and hung it out to dry, ready for emergencies. Miss Hilder came back with the news that the Embassy was guarded by mounted police and entrance was impossible. We could only sleep on the situation, which we accordingly did. We got up early this morning and read where the infuriated crowd had broken all the windows of our Embassy. They were quite beside themselves when they heard about England. Sang “Perfidious England, down unter den Lindn”, and were so unruly that the President of Police (Herr von Jagow of hatpin fame) had to come and address the mob, and beg them to behave in a more dignified manner.
Most of the civil population of Germany were advocates of the War; the rhetoric of warfare meant dissidents faced violence and death. The many exhibits at the German Historical Museum of 1914-1918 -The First World War tells the story of 15 specially chosen locations, including Berlin. It also analyzes and questions the structures of the War.