World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 5.

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.

Waiting For What?

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

Saturday, 8th August 1914– I can’t think that it’s war. That the whole of Europe is fighting a fearful battle. One hears the children playing outside- the sound of a broom sweeping next door. I look out of the window and Berlin is not at all changed. The trees are as green, the houses as high – only there’s a curious feeling in the air. For us it is even worse than the Germans. We’re in an enemy’s country- our old friends will not welcome us any more- we can’t speak our language in the streets, we are cut off absolutely from the outside world- not a cable, not a line from anywhere. We don’t know what any other country is doing, and the War Office here publishes about four little lines a day disclosing nothing.

It was really a kind of a break in the tension, a sad relief, as it were, to hear that the Germans had taken Leige (Luttich) in Belgium. It broke broke this awful spell of silence since the 1st August. The prople were delighted. The police flew down Unter den Linden on bicycles exclaiming “Hurrah ! Luttich ist gefallen” (Liege has fallen). We’re eating very economically. I just made a cup of black coffee. We haven’t had any milk since Monday morning. Jean took out her opal pendant today. We will pawn that when our present cash is spent. I’m afraid we stand no chance of getting out of the country. There are over 200,000 Americans in Europe- and they naturally have first call. I haven’t met one American who sides with England in this issue. In fact, they are particularly nasty. They all wear the Stars and Stripes in their coats to avoid being molested in the streets. It’s silly, but Jean and I don’t like going to the American Embassy for protection. We love our own flag too much. We have nothing at all to complain of. All the people around us haven’t made a scrap of difference. If we only had a couple of hundred marks we would be as happy as Larry under the circumstances. You see no one can lend us money. If they do then in days to come they will also suffer. We don’t like approaching anyone on the subject as yet.

Since Sunday there hasn’t been one line published either about the French or the Russians. We read that the Germans have taken Kalisch. This is the border station, before one gets to Lodz, where Belle Gottechalk had to pay £40 duty on her theatrical wardrobe.

I really don’t know what we’ll do if we have to sit here for months. I’m afraid Jean’s contract won’t hold valid. I can’t see any German director giving a Britisher roles. The Americans will score again, as at present they are in high favour. Of course, being summer there are no theatres open now. There is no public anyhow. Whether this will continue I don’t know. But tenors, bassos, orchestra, they are all at war. Only women everywhere! Our grocer’s wife tells me that the old Graf Haessler has gone to the French border. Before leaving he said to the Kaiser, “Majesty, in six weeks I’ll be in Paris. I’m going to bring back the ribs that I left there.” The grocer himself was purser on the NDL. He belongs to the marine, and left for Kiel on Tuesday.

All the men left in Berlin are either unfit or over 45. Their turn comes when prisoners are brought in or captured fortresses have to be manned. But it’s almost impossible to conceive that war is raging. One feels a kind of theatrical sensation- not at all real. When Jean and I sit down to brown bread with plain embellishments we always laugh. We know that there’s a possibility of being starved out, as Germany’s task of feeding its 7,000,000 soldiers is almost superhuman. And the harvest in no country has been gathered into barns. It is too early. Of course, the school children, students and women will look to that. But who knows? Perhaps the Cossacks may burn or the French may plunder. This war, I hope, will end armies and navies- in fact, armaments. Whichever, side wins should be firm and say: “ Gentlemen, enough; now we’ll try civilization on a peaceful basis.”

Armed to the teeth, who can be mild and peaceful. Impossible! If monarchies, too, survive long after this war, then I’m much mistaken. If we could only know what you’re doing in Australia! Sickening to think that every week our letters will never reach us. You are better off. You can hear from the outside world.

Everybody is speculating as to the length of the war. Three months to three years are time limits. There have been thousands of marriages since the declaration. In one day over 1500 soldiers were united in the happy bonds. The Kaiser’s two sons, Prince Adalbert (the sailor) and Prince Oscar set the good example. Soldiers’ wives can often follow their regiments. They help in the field kitchens, in hospitals, etc. There’s scarcely a woman in the whole of Germany idle. They either help as nurses, take charge of the poor children, cut hampers for the soldiers, sew, knit, in fact, make themselves generally useful. One poor old man brought his wedding ring as a gift. He had no money. He said his wife was dying, and she asked him to give her ring too after her death. The people are filled with a wonderful spirit of self-sacrifice. They love their Kaiser and their Vaterland. With right too- as modern Germany is the cleanest and most comfortable country in the whole world.

Now it’s the Russians’ turn. These poor dumb peasants should be given a chance. That’s the only reason why I welcome the war. It must do good to Russia whether she loses or wins. A great national event like war does in a moment what Parliament and laws can’t do in a century.

Some people seem to think that after the mobilization and transport are finished we will all be sent to a neutral country, like Switzerland, for instance. Jean brought in 5lbs of potatoes and a couple of cabbages, so we’re still provisioned.

To be continued


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