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.
‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their life in England as the war continues.
Our Life in London
Friday, October 9th– The recruiting meeting last night was very interesting. We went first into town, dined at Piccadilly with the Kiley family, drove then in the car to the Liberal Club, where we picked up Mr Glynn-Jones. The Assembly Hall was packed, and on arriving outside we could hear ‘Tipperary’ being sung with great vim. A short musical programme preceded the speeches, Matheson Lang, the actor, reciting ‘Business as Usual’ very beautifully. Mr Masterman, Cabinet Minister: Sir Something Samuel, Conservative, and Will Crooks, Labour member, addressed the multitude. The last one is an oddity. With anything but Queen’s English, he succeeded in carrying his audience with him, and was by far the star performer. He was in Australia- an invited guest- and summed up the other members who visited our country thus:-”There were eight Liberals, eight Conservatives, three Lords anf me.”
Today we have the visit of a lady composer with a patriotic song “The Call.” She wants Jean to look at it. It’s the usual popular song with a chorus. Jean hasn’t done any English music now for six years, so she feels rather strange handling her mother tongue. But she must make a start.
We’re dreading every minute to hear that Antwerp has fallen. The snakes in the Zoo there were all killed yesterday, and today the fine specimens of lions were all shot. Isn’t this a curious war? Nothing escapes, whether man or beast. Even the animal creation, it also bears a part in the great destruction. Even the sharks round the island off New Zealand have joined the Allies, for we read where they are on guard there against the imprisoned Kaiser’s subjects, preventing their escape by swimming. Since our arrival in England, the papers have never once permitted themselves to be optimistic. We get bare lines, and very short sentences. The people certainly can’t complain of being misled. Bald statements face us every morning, out of which we try to derive comfort. The Russians are apparently retrieving their East Prussian disaster. I hope so. Belgium cries out to be revenged. Yesterday fresh refugees arrived from Antwerp. Their plight is pitiful. But the people here are so good to them as they certainly should be.
Sunday, October 11th– I had a letter from Mrs Scott-Skirving from Dublin yesterday. She is Miss Waller’s step-sister, and is anxious to hear about our experiences in Berlin. I’m to meet her when she returns to London.
Inez came in at lunch time with the news that Antwerp had fallen. The scenes must have been truly awful. Wounded crawling out of hospitals, insane let free, prisoners at large. Poor Belgium! And now the Germans declare that England’s turn comes. They are certainly very bombastic about their plans. I daresay if human efforts can get them here they’ll come, as London is the Mecca, not only of the War Party, but of the entire German people. “Set not your heart on anything in this world.” It certainly does feel queer here now. It is dangerous in the highest degree to go out after dusk, as this immense city lies enveloped in gloaming romantic and mysterious. To escape the dimly lighted vehicles, motors, buses, above all, bicycles, is a work of art, and Coroners are reporting an increase in accidents since the new regulations. But it’s a necessity, and the people must themselves exercise more care. It’s the least thing they can do. We decided to go to the Albert Hall after lunch to hear Clara Butt and Kennerley Rumford in a patriotic concert in aid of Queen Mary’s Funds, Twelve thousand people present, all enthusiastic, and much fainting in the standing places. We didn’t remain long. We had no seats, and a whole patriotic programme is too much to be digested at one meal.
We strolled through Hyde Park afterwards and saw more recruits being marched in all directions. Then we took a bus to the Strand Palace Hotel (Lyons’ famous no-tip establishment), and had afternoon tea with Inez. As we were leaving the searchlights were again searching the heavens for the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand.
After much excitement in the darkened streets and many questions, we ultimately got home, to find our landlord busy with a war map. We just heated about the advantages of Germany owning Antwerp as a naval or aerial basis, when Inez hurried in after us to come back into town as she would like to take us to the Palace as a farewell. We again began the wearying bus-catching, and after visiting in turn the Palace, Hippodrome, Empire and Alhambra- all sold out- we decided to go back to her hotel and eat a good dinner. We chose the grill room, where one could order a good steak. The hotel is full of silent Belgians, all staring into space- numbed, I think, with such an overwhelming disaster. I can’t be interested in anything but the war. Haven’t ears for anything else.
The people in England now feel that with the fall of Antwerp, possibilities, and unpleasant ones, are opened up. Who is going to stay the fury of the Germans? God alone- for man cannot hope to accomplish much against those guns which have blown all before them. The King of Romania died yesterday. He was a Hohenzollern Prince, and his wife, Carmen Sylvia, is also a German. I read some time ago that the present Queen- the most beautiful in Europe- has decided Russian sympathies. She was in Russia just before the outbreak of war, with her eldest son, now the Crown Prince, negotiating an alliance with one of the Czar’s much- coveted daughters. Perhaps this death may effect the war, particularly the Austrian side.
Monday, October 12th– We saw Inez off at Euston Station this morning. She sails from Liverpool at noon. She says she has terrible presentiments about this journey. I hope she gets across safely. She made me write a p.c. To her mother saying that she had left in case the boat never arrives. We’re certainly living in troubled times. Miss Davenport came to see us yesterday. She said that her mother was seriously contemplating going to Scotland, as, since the fall of Antwerp London is no longer safe.
We went into town, and saw crowds of Belgian refugees arriving at Charing Cross. We ache all over for them . They come always laden with parcels, bundles and children, all looking so bewildered and weary. We get lumps in our throats every time a fresh lot arrives.
London is feeling quite prepared for a Zeppelin attack. The people look more serious now. Fancy if a bomb, a petroleum one, dropped on London! Think of the conflagration! Miss Irving was here to lunch. She was feeling quite down in the dumps. The Germans appear to be taking everything, and they certainly mean to attempt a raid on England. The elements may help us, as it did the Armada in the days of Queen Bess. If we live through this war then shall we be pleased to have quiet days and calm pleasures for ever more.
Thursday, October 15th – We heard a rumour yesterday that makes one shudder. Prince Louis of Battenberg, head of our fleet is supposed to be all the time a German spy. Report says that he’s a prisoner in the Tower, and that Kitchner wants him shot. Poor old England ! She is far too honourable to deal with rogues that surround her.
To change our thoughts we went to a matinee of “Drake”. Prices being reduced, we got in for sixpence. Beerbohm Tree was “Drake” and Evelyn Millard a really splendid Queen Elizabeth.
The war news is very scanty, but it looks as if Russia is having some nasty knocks. The Germans are nearing Warsaw. There’s hardly a spot in Belgium free from the German intruder, but England and France are hanging on, though desperately.
To be continued