World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 4.

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.

What Will Become of Us?

‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines

Friday, August 7th– Yesterday we had a very touching scene. Purmall’s German friend from the next door visited us and cried so pitifully about the war. She said;” What harm has Germany done anyone? We have always been an industrious people, and now we have to send the flower of our youth out into the front to fight against nations who are only jealous of us!” Jean and I felt like criminals. Germany fighting as it were with its back against the wall. In moments like these one forgets that this country too has been swinging its sword in the air ever since the navy grew.

We’ve just has a visitor. Our dressmaker called. She has only 30 pfennigs in the world. That is twopence. She has applied for the position of tram-guard or harvester, as the Government is requiring women in both cases. They are also thinking of making the women postmen, as the situation here is really appalling. Fancy, war has only been declared five days, and already distress and ruin are staring thousands in the face. No one has a penny. You see in Germany, instead of putting money in the bank, one buys from the bank “wertpapiere”-paper. This is all very good under normal conditions, and has helped Germany to build up its huge commerce and trade, as the bank issues paper- not to be confused with paper money or notes. Therefore, every second building is a bank of some kind or another. Now war came suddenly, for the people at least. No one had any cash. If they sell their paper they must do so at a frightful loss. Frau Adolfi lost already on Tuesday 35,000 marks. Hence, no one can buy anything- and the feeling here is one of deepest despondency and sheer fright. Nearly every shop and business had reduced its hands to one-half, and even less, on the Monday. Mistresses dismissed their servants, consequently till the women do the men’s work on the trams and in the fields, the situation will be very bad. Jean met a dismissed servant at the grocer’s, trying to get a few pennies for empty bottles. One can’t believe it. This country, which has been the very pattern of organisation, falls to pieces under the first emergency.

Herr Schoneck called again yesterday. He was very cheerful. He said that if the old Graf Haessler goes on to the French border then all will be well. This old veteran fought in 1870, has silver ribs all on one side and in one of their peaceful manoeuvres captured the opposing side with the Kaiser at its head. Since then he has been in disfavour. Poor old fellow! Even if it were only toy manoeuvres he shouldn’t have shown himself a cleverer tactician than his Imperial master. He is supposed to know every tree and stone from here to Paris, and although he’s so old that he has to be helped on to his horse, yet the people have faith in him. Poor old chap. Forty-four years into the 20th century changes more than stones and trees!

You remember the automobile with the gold from France? Well, the people and police have been such a nuisance to the military transport, stopping every conveyance, that twice the War Office has earnestly asked them to desist from their well-meant efforts, as they are hindering the mobilisation plans. German officers have been carried off to the police stations by the public who thought they were Russian spies. You see the reserve officer isn’t quite used to his uniform, and as he looks conscious of his clothes, so the public judges him to be a suspicious character. I think even one of their aeroplanes was also shot down yesterday in the Grunswald. There is also a warning about this from the War Office, asking the people not to fire on any air machines, and a great article on “Hold your tongues”, telling the people to be careful of speaking to anyone with a foreign accent, as military plans may inadvertently be revealed. I never knew plans had anything to do with the men in the street. We are certainly learning how the greatest military nation in the world goes to work on a campaign. It is full of surprises to us.

Yesterday the paper devoted a column to a biography of ‘Kitchener’, who has just been made War Minister. It said he fought as a volunteer in 1870 with France against Germany, and that he has never made any bones about his hatred of Germany.

This morning Italy has published its reason for remaining neutral. It can’t afford to quarrel with England, as its coasts are full of thriving towns all open to the cannon of warships. We’ll be in worse odour than ever. One can’t think much of Italy anyhow going back on a friend in time of need.

On Wednesday the Kaiser appointed a universal day of prayer and repentance. The dressmaker said this morning,”the Germans never go to church,” but on Wednesday there wasn’t room for the crowds. We sent the dressmaker away with ham sandwiches and wished her luck in her search after work. We heard later that soldiers were billeted in her room, so she wouldn’t have to starve.

Its is quite a pretty touch in events to read where “Victoria Luise” has been made Regent of Brunswick, while her consort goes off to the war. The proclamation reads so medieval and romantic in its German simplicity.

To be continued

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