World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters – 28.

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.

After the sisters land safely in England ‘Lute’ continues the sisters’ story of their life as the war continues.

More of Our Life in England

Men, more men, that’s what’s wanted. It’s no use writing open letters to Kitchener. What can he do? He’s not a magician to make a miraculous army in a couple of months. Without material the cleverest general in the world must be in difficulty. England should have had conscription from the 4th August; then today she would have four or five million men under arms. Portugal is supposed to be mobilising. Perhaps she could send along to France a good 50,000 trained soldiers, and also help in South Africa, where she has some nice colonies wedged between the German possessions.

Friday, October 16th– Yesterday we went round town with Mrs Davenport and Hilda. We met then at Trafalgar Square, where we waited and saw wounded soldiers coming in cars from Charing Cross. They looked very brown, and not at all bad. London looks more like Paris every day. One hears French everywhere – sees smart woman walking round, and one can’t help thinking “what a haul for anyone who could take London.” It’s a wonderful city – Berlin is only a village in comparison. It grips one right down into the bottom of the heart, and one repeats the lines of Elgar’s song quite prayerfully: “God who made thee mighty, make the mightier yet.”

Stricter rules are issued from the Admiralty about the lights, petroleum etc for the Zeppelin is really expected. But the people walk round unconcernedly in millions, the tops of the buses are still the coveted seats, and business goes on as usual in the crowded thoroughfare. Isn’t it curious that we who have lived so long amongst the Germans must now anticipate an attack from them? How we despise them! They do everything so dishonourably. Even the Emden flew the union Jack before she sank those merchant vessels, and if anything was more characteristic of the German character, than the Goeben and Breslau ingloriously selling themselves to Turkey, then I’d like to hear about it. Running into Turkish waters, chased by the little Gloucester, they hide there for weeks, now they flaunt themselves with inflated importance in the Black Sea, feeling a match for the Russian Fleet there! I’m pinning my faith still to Daniel’s Vision – where the British Empire corresponds to the stone in the image, for to dishonour and dirty tricks the sceptre of the world can never be given. I wish I were a man, I would enlist this very minute. So would Jean.

The war is very difficult to follow now. The Sphinx couldn’t be more uncommunicative than the French communiques. It’s fine. When we do have a big result- then I suppose General Joffre will open his otherwise silent lips.

We have got to the fire stage in our flat. It looks so cheerful, though really it’s not cold enough to sit round the open chimney place. It’s degrees colder on the Continent. But there’s a lot of work even in a small flat. We have no hot water laid on. Berlin is far ahead of London for material comforts. Newness has some advantages, especially in cities.

London looks more military daily, recruits marching and singing at every turn.

Sunday, October 18th – Yesterday was a day full of forebodings and expectancy. The news of the Hawke’s disaster, then the rumours of the loss of the ‘Terrible’ with 800 lives – in fact, about six Dreadnoughts were mentioned as having been sunk, mined or torpedoed.

The searchlights were scouring the heavens looking so uncanny, so portentous. Miss Irving and Hilda Davenport were with us, and talked of nothing but the war. When the news came late in the night that the ‘Undaunted’ had sunk four of the German destroyers we had no pleasure in the victory at all, as we could scarcely believe it. The disembarking of the Canadians at Plymouth must have been a stirring sight. I would loved to have seen it. The public is greatly agitated about 70,000 Germans being still at large in London alone. German waiters are everywhere. It strikes us as being very queer, to say the least of it, to have these men walking round in perfect liberty. The Government could easily intern them, treating them well, until the end of the war. The finding of concrete floors and roofs both here and in Edinburgh has made everyone on the alert. Perhaps we shall be able to use these carefully prepared cement platforms for our big guns, forestalling the Germans at their own game.

Mustn’t our navy be tired out with this continuous watching in the North Sea? Those submarines are a constant source of danger, and no German battleships around to attack in the open sea. One grows to love the sound of the word navy, and as for the sailors, who have dangers to meet from above, beneath and on the waters, well, they must all be heroes. It’s a terrible war, and God help everybody.

The composer of patriotic song called yesterday and heard jean sing it. She was quite excited and clapped frantically when the last rousing strains were ended. She said she never dreamt it was such a fine thing.

We saw an extract from a German paper yesterday announcing the various theatres that were and would not be opened this season. Barmen was among the number. Perhaps you’ve read that book of graves, :Confessions of the German Secret Service.” I think there’s a deal of truth, as well as much bluff in its pages. But if it does happen that this marvellous German war machine so consummately prepared and perfected, is defeated in the end, then aren’t human reckonings a poor kind of thing after all? The thoroughness of their detail, their systems, their technical knowledge, their unity, and last but not least their great guns, constitute a foe, formidable enough to defy the world, the flesh and the devil.

“To Calais,” is their cry, hoping then to blow across on the white cliffs of Dover and strike terror into the heart of the Briton. They love to bully the world, and always announce with great pomp their grandiose schemes in advance, such as the 6 ½ mile pontoon bridge which they are going to sling across the Channel for the heavy tread of their marching battalions who are coming to lay London low in the dust. When Antwerp fell, then it was announced that Admiral von Tirpitz would go there to direct gigantic naval operations. He went – and Captain Fox immediately sank the four destroyers. That’s a modest answer to braggadocio.

To be continued

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