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.
The German War Story
‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines
Tuesday, August 11th– There’s no peace for us at all, and soon we’ll be as crazy as the rest of the people. We went to bed early last night, about 9 o’clock, and were just feeling nice and sleepy when these deafening ‘hurrahs’ again rent the air. We both sat up. What was it? News of the naval battle? We could only hear loud swelling cheers. We were nearly dressing ourselves, but decided at last to sleep with closed windows, and let a million victories fill the air. We learnt this morning that it was the news of the first victory against the French, the ‘battle of Mulhausen,’ a very considerable win. So now the ice is broken on the French border. Wasn’t it kind?
There’s a meeting today in the Reichstag to discuss helping the needy Americans left stranded in Berlin. The protestations of mutual esteem and admiration are daily filling the press, and America is now to the Germans, the only land worth cultivating. Wouldn’t we give worlds to get hold of just one English paper!
One thing all must be thankful for is the glorious weather. The sun shines out from a cloudless sky daily, and the nights are lovely and warm. Beautiful Berlin! I wonder what fate has in store for you? In 1700 Frederick the Great kept the united French, Russian, Austrians and Saxons at bay- when Germany was only Prussia. Will this present celebrated wearer of the Hohenzollern crown also twine the laurel wreath round his brows? It’s impossible to tell. Most Americans think the German Army invincible. We have other views.
Thursday, 13th August- Jean decided to begin a little practice yesterday, and hadn’t opened her throat scarcely when there was a ring. She went to the door and was confronted by a man (two floors below) who said that one wasn’t allowed to make music these times, and that if she persisted in lifting up her voice in song he would inform not only the landlord but the police as well. I went down to ask the porter if we might practise for one hour daily. He said: “Certainly; but run over to the police station opposite and make sure.” I did so, and was met very politely. The police said we could practise as much as we liked, especially as it was German opera, and could not wound the feelings of the most patriotic person. Naturally since the 30th July, up till yesterday, the 12th August, we hadn’t opened the piano, as we are not bereft of all human understanding, and didn’t dream of studying opera, and making music while a nation was in the throes of a great calamity. We waited for news of victory before attempting to resume our daily work. Really, the people are all going round with long, hopeless faces, before they have had even the semblance of defeat. The papers had to ask them yesterday to be cheerful, explaining that while they have their splendid army and daring navy there’s no cause for the miserables. The French lost another battle at Lagarde yesterday. The Germans captured a flag in this encounter and 700 prisoners. A general was also killed; and two of their battleships are doing some smart work in the Mediterranean, right under the nose of the English at Malta, and the French at Algiers. I wonder if the other nations are really doing nothing? As the days of war correspondents are over, and one depends only on short despatches from the War Office, war is shorn of half of its glory. Every day the people are warned to mind their tongue- not to discuss or tell anything. It’s painful. I think the relations who get letters from the various scenes of action are making the public dissatisfied with the paper reports. We’ve had only accounts of victories every day, yet the people seem depressed. I really believe the Germans expected to be in Paris, almost as soon as the express train. The conductor of the Opera House, Leo Blach, has written a canon (Round) with the following with the following text- “ Jeder Schuss ein Russ, Jeder Stoss ein Franzes” ( Every shot a Russian, every blow a Frenchman), sung with four voices. The poems that appear in every daily papers are many and marvellous. I’ve read a good 50 already. Yesterday the one on England was very stinging. It went on to say how England had a last torn the veil aside from her shopkeeper’s soul and predicted her proud brow being dragged in the dust. “Thou false Albion.”The Kaiser is still in Berlin. Princess Victoria Louise is also home now. She must be a comfort to her parents. Her little son is with the Duchess of Cumberland.
No one hears anything of Purmall. With her excitable ways she would almost be arrested as a Russian spy. The accountant at Cook’s thinks the war will last nine months. If the theatres don’t open then we’ll have to make other plans. Who knows? We may be flying back to Sydney. Perhaps the directors won’t take any Britishers again in their ensembles. The Royal Library yesterday also issued its declaration of war: “No English, French, Russian or Servian are to enter its portals”. The days are so long. We waken so early- breakfast about 7 30 am. Then the paper comes, which we devour. It never was a big paper. All German newspapers are about half the length and width of ours. Now they’re curtailed- alas! So we soon exhaust its 4½ pages. We don’t attempt to practice again in the afternoon. Perhaps about September things will be about as normal as one could expect, then this feeling of sacrilege almost will leave us, when we sit at the piano. You see every home has either a husband, father, brothers or relatives at the front, and as in each house there are 30 or more families you can understand the feeling.
Old veterans of 70 have volunteered to watch the bridges in case of Russian bombs, and they stand for six hours daily with a loaded rifle to pick off a suspicious character. The grocer’s wife told Jean that lads of 16 are at the front. If it’s true that the Belgians are such monsters and are treating the Germans so infamously, then what’s the good of being civilized anyhow? Today Turkey and Spain are mobilizing, so eventually the whole of Europe will be up in arms. I’m, tired of living in Berlin. We have to smother our feelings, and just sit at home and wonder. We often talk over ‘Gladstone’, and muse on your doings and thoughts. Were you surprised when war broke out? You know the Russians seem to be adopting their old tactics of 1813, and are burning everything round them. Harbours in Finland, border towns, even Warsaw they have evacuated. I wouldn’t be induced into the heart of Russia for all the dreams of German Imperialism. Fancy, the diseases the troops get! No sanitation, no decent water, no railways to speak of, only marshes or impenetrable forests. If France isn’t laid aside soon then the attack on Russia will be left to the cruel winter time. Napoleon’s experience was more than enough to testify even the most reckless War Office. One day outside of the American Embassy an American and myself got into conversation. He was a great admirer of Germany, and was editing a journal to bring about closer relations between the two countries. He said that Germany and America were the complement of each other. The latter produced the ‘idea’, the former the Thoroughness and Working principle. He remarked further that 40 per cent of their professors either came from, or studied, in Germany. He said:” We don’t get any of our scientific men from either France or England.” I nearly interjected, “And are you so perfect as a race?” One would think that England had never produced its Shakespeare, Bacon, Locke, Newton, Darwin, Stevenson, Watt, Lister etc. With Americans it’s exactly like a new shop in a village. Everyone rushes to it for novelty’s sake, and after a while, this feeling wears off and the good old stolid, steady structure gets back all the respect it deserves. It’s no use wiping England off the page of the world’s history, because she hasn’t invented airships or built skyscrapers. She has had a rich full life, by which every nation has benefited- and I see no cause to think that she’s exhausted her mission yet. There are heaps of things socially, she’s just tackling- and after she’s had her muscle and nerve tried in the fire of battle her head should be all the clearer to attack her big race problems.
To be continued