World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters – 29.

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 landed safely in England ‘Lute’ continued the sisters’ story of their life as the war continued.

Dear Old England

The Crown Princess’s mother, the grand Duchess of Mecklenberg- Schwerin, has renounced her German nationality, and assumed her previous Russian character. This won’t annoy the Germans much as she never was allowed in Berlin, her reputation being not very enviable. Many Englishmen have volunteered for private constable duty. Sir Edward Elgar is one of these patriots whom one sees with an arm badge standing unconcernedly near the railway bridges.

Thursday, October 22nd– We’ve not done much this week. We’re waiting for the Allies to take Ostend, then we’ll have a ‘tangible’ something to go on. Mr Johnson’s son ( a member of the London C C ) celebrated his 21st birthday, and in honour of his manhood gave a party to many East Enders. We helped to make matters merry, Jean singing her patriotic song among Italian numbers, and I was literally forced into relating our Berlin experiences. My first experience of facing an audience – I was very embarrassed, and couldn’t think, though the people seemed to clap a good deal. So perhaps it sounded better off the point of the tongue than in the brain. A Belgian refugee from Antwerp also told his tale.

Today we paid our respects to the memory of Nelson and visited his monument in Trafalgar Square. We saw all the wreaths laid by loving hands round the pedestal, and were especially interested in the one placed near a big lion in memory of our lost submarine.

We met Mme Elsa Stralia (Elsie Fischer) in Oxford Street, and she and Jean exchanged operatic as well as J C Williamson reminiscences. She leaves on Saturday to tour South Africa.

Fancy! King Clark is dead! He had, after Jean de Reszke, the largest singing studio in the world. He died from sheer overwork. He was a wonderful teacher. Jean prized him beyond anyone. Alas, their last meetings were not friendly. However, that won’t affect eternity.

Monday, October 26th– It’s such a glorious day. We always seem to be lucky and strike pleasant views from our windows. Trees are dropping their leaves like golden rain in front of me, and autumn is even lovelier than spring. This is our back view. Sir henry Wood’s rear is our front lookout, so we’re in classical neighbourhood.

“Calais,” or rather, “to Calais” is still the all-absorbing thought, and we rise early to seize with avidity the “Daily Telegraph” and see what progress is being made. Poor old Queen Mary of 1558 fame ! This word cost her her life, and troubled her last moments on earth, pressing like lead on her heart. May her subjects of today be able to ease her oppressed breast and lighten her long sleep under the sod. A german submarine has been sunk, and some new ‘monitors’ seem to be causing a little sensation in the naval world. And even conservative papers are grateful to Winston Churchill for the purchase of these new types.

We had tea with Mrs Scott-Skirving on Saturday. She was in a great state about Mrs Waller. Had done everything to try and communicate with her in Berlin. But even the Foreign Office and Lord Chelmsford couldn’t help her. She was so relieved to hear from us that she was perfectly safe. Her second son, the doctor, is a lieutenant in the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and the eldest boy, who has just become engaged to Sir Edmund Barton’s daughter, has engaged in Sydney as a private.

We had quite a houseful on Friday. The Davenports, Miss Irving, Miss Hilder, and after supper Mr Kiley and his sister. It’s very plain but comfortable, our flat. We are very practical – have for a dining tablecloth white linoleum. We’re not keen on having every other day a washing day, and our friends don’t seem to mind.

On Sunday we motored round London calling for afternoon tea to Mrs Glynn-Jones. We’re invited also to supper there on Wednesday. It was pouring the whole time, and coming home was really dangerous and terrifying. London is practically for motoring pitch black on a dull day at 5 o’clock. We couldn’t distinguish anything in front of us. People looked grey shadows. The great motor buses carry a light which gives about as much illumination as a match, and where important railway centres are then there absolute darkness reigns. We were glad to reach the garage in safety. It will be an inspired aviator who drops a bomb on the right spot in London, for I defy a Londoner himself to know where he is after dark these impenetrable times. There are really some funny things in this war, particularly the children’s ideas of the Germans. Mrs Glynn- jones has a beautiful little boy, not more than five or six years of age. He asked me with great serious black eyes if we had a shark big enough in Australia to swallow the Kaiser?

Whom do you think found us out in London? Miss Howard, the suffragette. She is also here, saw our arrival in the British-Australasian. She spent a whole day searching for our address, and eventually obtained it at the Commonwealth offices. Now, how did they get it? More mysteries. Jean and I have started some knitted cuffs for Dude and Dick Irving.

Tuesday, October 27th – Miss Irving came to lunch yesterday. She told us that the Ophir struck a mine and had to put into the nearest port. Dr Scott-Skirving was a passenger, so he’s probably back in London again.

We were in the East End last night helping to entertain a Girls’ Guild. I played “Tipperary’ and ‘Your King and Country want you”, which they all sang with evident enjoyment. Then Jean, who was in particularly good voice, regaled them with opera arias. I was again asked for a little more Berlin news. I’ll soon be a dangerous speaker if I have much more practice. Another Australian, Miss Carrie Haase, a member of Granville Barker’s Company, recited beautifully. She did “The Day” splendidly. Do you know it? It is a poem written by a Bath railway man on the Kaiser, and is very terrible, very awe-inspiring- like a judgment.

Had a letter from Inez from Teneriffe. She had up till then no exciting adventures, only love affairs. She said they practically sail with no lights at all. They watched a British cruiser overhauling some passing boats . South Africa seems in for a very bad time indeed. The Germans went to work very cunningly there, didn’t they?

Wednesday, October 28th– So Beyers and De Wet have gone over to the enemy . Things will be made very difficult for Botha. There are rumours too that the Germans have invaded Angola, so Portugal is now dragged into the mighty conflict. The Germans have evacuated Ledz. They’re had possession of it almost since the outbreak of war. Prince Maurice of Battenberg has died from his wounds received whilst fighting on the Yser. This is our first Royal Prince to fall.

To be continued

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