World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 17.

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.

A Little Good News

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

Monday, August 31

Dear Mother, we were, can I say almost “reverently happy” on Saturday night. Miss Waller was having supper with us, when the evening paper came with the news of the first naval battle off Heligoland. Only a short paragraph- not any comments- just that the “far numerically superior” British boats sank three cruisers and a destroyer. We read it with bated breaths, but so quietly- almost as if it were too good to be true; for we’ve had to peruse such stuff for a whole month, about “ the English Shopkeeper’s miserable soul,” that we could hardly believe our glorious navy had any spirit left. Next day came the wonderful account of the chivalrous English sailors, who, risking their lives, tried to save the enemy. We wonder what they did. It must have been something extraordinary, or else the German papers would never have published it. Still, the people call this victory nothing. They say, “Wait- we’ll sink your whole navy yet. Your turn comes last. After we’ve thoroughly thrashed France and Russia we’ll have time to deal with perfidious Albion.”

The beautiful spirit of the British seaman is evidently the reason of his success. In an unbroken record of almost fabulous victories for the Germans for 31 days comes this little account of a noble deed for us, which made us both happy and humble.

The Germans have sold their two battle cruisers the Goeben and Breslau to the Turks. Fancy parting with two men-o’-war at such a critical time. Do you think they are scared?

Today is the full account of the Russian defeat in East Prussia. We knew 14 days ago the dreadful plan of the Germans, to put planks, grass, and seeming safety over those swamps, marshes and loosened dam, and then just drive the Russians headlong on to an appalling death. Think of the poor horses, and the thousands drowned, not in water, but in mud! One shudders at the horrors of this war. It makes me quite sick. Fight fairly and squarely, that is manly, but the tales one hears from all sides are worse than the mutilations of savages, or the terrors of the inquisition. We are told that the Russians enter a village, cut the right arm off every German man and boy capable of bearing a gun- disgrace the women, burn the people alive, and other monstrosities that can’t be put on paper. All these horrors are told by eye-witnesses who can never be found. But I can’t believe them. It’s the same with the Belgians. Do you think that this wonderful brave race could do a quarter of the things published in the German papers? Impossible. Always eye-witnesses have related these revolting things- but what the public believes during a war is to me one of the most astounding revelations that I’ve yet made.

All commonsense, judgment, balance and justice just disappear from the human mind, and the brain becomes like a dried up sponge, thirsting, not for wells of truth, but for the polluted springs of fantastic lies and accounts of degradation that panders to personal corruption.

We’re all crazy – nobody, not even the smallest child, thinks of anything but the war. The Germans now never dream of anything but the greatest and most glorious victory. Every house in Berlin is hung with flags, children carry them through the streets- such a thing as the intervention of a destiny finds not a corner in anyone’s brain. Poor France! When I read Poincare’s proclamation to his people on Saturday, I cried in my heart. He said “Our soldiers go without a quiver under the heaviest fire of lead and iron that the world has ever known.” And it was so true.

This terrible 42 centimetre gun- and an automatic heavy artillery machine, that can mow men down six feet deep. Think of it!It was tested on a forest first. In five minutes not a tree was left standing. It’s like fighting against fate. In their own account this morning I read where one shrapnel shell killed seventy-two French.

But, in the midst of all these crushing facts, I mustn’t forget to tell you that the defeat of the British Army was the only official report that was placarded on every column throughout the whole of Berlin. It was given out from the general staff and remains since Friday stuck up in every prominent place in the German capital. Don’t they glory in the humiliation of our soldiers? But we never lose heart, and grudge them nothing. If victory makes the Prussians still more unbearable, that isn’t our loss. They will also have a day of reckoning. Of that, I’m quite positive. The Kaiser addressed his troops after the battle of Metz, and told them that “ Unser guten alten Gott”(our good old God- perhaps better Our God of Ages) had not deserted them, so you see “Ich” is still “King” by Divine Right.

We’ve never heard the word “Japan” since its declaration of war. From Australia we read with joy that it had sent practical help to Belgium, and Canada’s great gift was also another oasis in this German desert.

My brain works at angles and tangents. Think of the vagaries of the complacent “Mona Lisa”. We hear that she’s been stowed away in the steel chamber of Paris, together with “Venus de Milo”. When I think of the beautiful Louvre, and all its priceless treasures, then I realise how the Parisians must be feeling now.

If only Belgium gets back its independence! We’re hoping that England will win just for the sake of Belgium. It would be so lovely to be able to restore this gallant kingdom back to its rightful owners. Ah me1 If one were only God! How he regulates justice is to me incomprehensible- as we humans are such a mass of prejudice and personal feeling. But everything will come right in the end, and the fate of this little country then will no longer weigh so heavily on our hearts.

Its strange, but one never feels sorry for Germany. She always appears to me like a great big wonderful machine, too orderly to be pitied – too much iron about her to awaken sympathy.


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