World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – (Mrs) Louisa Creed-2

Louisa Creed continues her story:

“I got an American passport and set off in a cart with some Belgian peasants. We had gone as far as Ninone when we were stopped by some Germans. They questioned us and examined our passports, and then, to my horror, they let the peasants go on and arrested me. They took me into the chateau, where they were stationed, and I was marched upstairs to a bedroom. There a Red Cross nurse undressed me and took my clothes away, leaving me an old wrapper. She took everything except my hat- and my papers were all ,in the crown lining of my hat.

‘There I was left all night with a soldier guarding my door. They sent me some supper, and some breakfast, but I would not touch their food. Then the nurse brought my clothes back and told me I could go. I managed to get a lift on a car that was going along the road and so I reached Antwerp just as the bombardment had begun. The first thing I saw was the notice that there was no water. That seemed worse than the bombardment.

Two other war correspondents were staying at my hotel, Mr Frank Fox (Morning Post) and Mr Jones (Daily Chronicle), and they were so good to me. When there was no longer any question of Antwerp holding out, they begged me to go with them. It would have been suicide for them to stay, but there was far less risk for me, so I made up my mind to wait and see the Germans come in. Mr Fox and Mr Jones waited till Friday morning, and then they could not wait any longer. One of the last things they did was to push my big wardrobe in front of my window, to keep things from splashing in’. I was glad afterwards that they did, for all the windows of the hotel were smashed by a bomb bursting nearby.

When they had gone I felt very lonely, for I knew I was the only English woman, probably the only English person in town. I stood looking down the road watching for the Germans, and I saw a Belgian peasant woman running by with a figure in a little cart. I said to her, “Is that someone who is ill?’ and she called out, without stopping,”No, he is dead. He is my son. I have just got his body from the fortifications, and I want to bury him before the Germans come”. Then she went on.

Then the Germans came. First two young soldiers walked by and saw the familiar sign ‘Winter Garden’ over the door. I suppose it reminded them of home, for they pointed at it and smiled. It was so pathetic, the Belgians going and the Germans coming in, that I just stood and cried. Then more solsiers came, and one looked up and saw me crying and peered at me. And that was the worst thing I saw in Antwerp.

“I had arranged with the hotel people to stay as their maid, thinking that they would shut their doors and that I could just go in and out. Imagine my horror when they threw open their doors wide and welcomed the Germans with open arms. Then I found that the hotel was full of spies. The head waiter there was, and lots ofg others, waiters and grooms and men that I had thought good Belgian citizens. I don’t think the proprietors were really spies, they were just out to make money, and they didn’t care whose money it was. I saw them all sitting round the table, and the spies giving the soldiers papers and receiving money, and they were all laughing over it. And, worst of all, were two men who were marines, and who had been mixing with us as Englishmen for a week before. They spoke perfect English, and they wore the clothes of our marines, and had been out on the fortifications and when the Germans came they were Germans and spies. It made me furious, and I wanted to tell them to their faces what I thought of them; but instead, I had to keep out of their way for fear they should recognise me. Evidently the hotel people were afraid too, for after a couple of days they locked me in my room, for safety they said. They kept me there for two days. One of the days was my birthday; and I never felt so wild about anything. I could hear the Germans going up and down stairs, laughing and talking, and there was I, shut up in that room and not knowing when people would betray me. However, they were not so bad, and after two days they let me out. I got away from the hotel. I went out as the chauffeur’s wife. Two little girls came with us. I took one by the hand, and Francois (the chauffeur); took the other, and we walked out. Francois called me Louisa, and as we passed the Germans he said, “I have just found my wife; she has arrived this morning from Brussels”. They let us pass and Francois took me to a little inn, where the woman, who was a German from Luxemburg, was very kind. She put her arms around me when we were in the kitchen, and said,”Poor Madame!’I told her not to say Madame, but to call me Louisa. She did, and I stayed with her as servant for a couple of days.

By a bit of good luck, some people I knew gave me the key of their house before they left Antwerp. It was locked up, and the Germans did not touch any of the houses that were shut up. I met a man and his wife, who were homeless, so I took them to this house, and they, in return- the Belgians are the most grateful of people- undertook to get me out of belgium. The wife lent me her passport, and the husband borrowed a motor car, and took me as his wife. And one of my most dreadful moments was in that car. It belonged to a wealthy old man, who drove us himself. My ‘husband’ had told him that I had a most important mission for the good of the country, but the old man seemed a bit suspicious of me. We drove along for a little way, and then suddenly, out on the road, with the Germans all around us, he stopped, and said he would not take me without a security of 500 francs. I really was terrified at the moment; for I was afraid he would denounce me as a spy, and I knew that, if he did, they would shoot me. I didn’t know what to do. I only had 200 francs; so I turned to Francois, and quietly asked him for 300 francs. He gave them to me at once, and I handed them to the old beast. Then he went on. When we arrived at the village at the border. Francois told him I had to send a telegram. This was supposed to be ‘my important business. I went in to write it, and he came and looked over my shoulder. For a minute I could not think of anything to say; then, with a flash of inspiration; I addressed a telegram to Lord Kitchener, and said ,”Guard Ostend”. And signed it. When the old man saw it he grunted with approval, and then as we left him, gave me back the 500 francs.

“Of course, I’ve explained to the War Office since my return, but it was only one of the many thousand messages they get every day.

Louisa published these and other experiences in 1915 under the title – “A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War”. Her husband had died in 1914.

In 1916 she returned to Australia and over the next few years travelled  throughout the country speaking about her war experiences, while raising money for the Australian Red Cross.

After the war she remarried and continued to work as a freelance journalist, and published several more novels before her death in 1935, aged 65 years.

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – (Mrs) Louisa Creed

It is always interesting to read a woman’s perspective of events. As many of you know late last year I wrote a series of blogs ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ giving an account of the experiences of two Australian women, Jean and Lute Drummond, who were living in Berlin, when war broke out in 1914.

In fact there were many Australian girls, from all walks of life, studying and furthering their careers in Europe when war broke out. They too were caught ‘Behind Enemy Lines’ and had many experiences as they tried desperately to escape Germany and the other war torn countries. Many wrote about these experiences later.

Then there were the most unusual and daring Australian women, who wanted to be on the war front to report what was going on. One of these was Louisa Creed.

According to an article in the Australian Dictionary of Biography at

http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mack-marie-louise-7375

Marie Louise Hamilton Mack was born in Hobart in 1870, the eldest daughter of the Rev Hans Hamilton Mack, a Wesleyan minister from Downpatrick in Ireland, and his wife Jemima James , who had married in Sydney in 1859. The family moved from circuit to circuit in several Australian states including Morpeth, Windsor and Sydney in New South Wales.

She was educated by her mother and a private governess before attending the Sydney Girls High School, where she was a contemporary of the Australian authoress, Ethel Turner.

‘Louisa’ as she was generally known, worked briefly as a governess before becoming a regular contributor of stories, poetry and musings to The Bulletin.

In 1896 she married John Percy Creed, a barrister from Dublin. She had her first novel published the same year. Soon afterwards she joined the staff of The Bulletin.

In 1901, she and her husband moved to London, where Louisa carried on her writing and publishing career. She travelled widely in Europe and published seven novels. During this period she also spent time as a journalist for the Daily Mail in London and the Italian Gazette in Florence.

When war broke out in 1914 she managed to travel to Belgium as the first woman war correspondent reporting for the Evening News and Daily Mail. Her eye witness account of the German invasion of Antwerp follows below.

Louise Mack (Mrs Creed), the only woman correspondent it is stated in the present war, has just returned from Belgium, where she has been for the past six weeks. You might reasonably expect a woman to has been living in a bombarded town to be suffering from nerves, but not so Mrs Creed. She is just as calm as if she had been for a holiday trip to the Continent.

“I got quite used to bombs,”she said. “In fact. I quite miss them now. At first they were terrifying, especially the noise. We all felt we couldn’t stand it. Then we didn’t seem to mind. The shells make a noise like a big mosquito buzzing through the air. You hear the buzz and wonder where it will land. I saw one come down about 20 yards ahead of me. It was terrible. The earth shook. I felt my legs melting from under me, and I fell straight down on the ground. As I lay there I saw a big building slowly drift down to the earth in the oddest way. The shell had gone right through the centre and the walls gently collapsed. I lay quite still for a while, for I could not move; then I got up and went back to the hotel. There I met Mr Lucien Jones, the correspondent of the ‘Daily Chronicle.” He was quite well, and said to me; ‘I’ve just seen a bomb.’I said . So have I, and we both found that we were trembling. But somehow I wasn’t really afraid.

When I first went over, I went straight from Ostend to Antwerp. Things were quite calm there, so I went on to Brussels. Then I went to an hotel where I stayed some years ago. It was closed, but the proprietor remembered me and took me in. They all loved the English there, and would do anything to help us. I stayed in Brussels for three days, but nothing very exciting happened; the people went about their work as usual, only everyone looked sad and dull. So I thought I would go back to Antwerp.

To be continued

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters- Postscript

In the beginning the Drummond sisters were happy to be in ‘good old England’. They were also able to visit their older brother Dugald Drummond, when he was in hospital in London.

Dugald Drummond had a very interesting and distinguished military career having served in the Boer War, as well as Gallipoli, before being invalided home in 1916. He later re-enlisted and served in Special Duties for a time after the end of the war.

It was all very well for the Drummond sisters to be safe however, with England at war, Convent Garden had closed and there were no other opening for the Drummond sisters to make a living of any kind in the music world. They couldn’t continue to rely on friends to help them with their day to day living expenses, and they didn’t have any real savings to see them through. What were they to do?

Prior to World War I, Italy had an political alliance with the German and the Austria-Hungarian Empires. However, when war broke out in August 1914, Italy refused to join with these powerful empires against the French and English. In fact, they went into secret negotiations with Great Britain and France, for the promise of Austrian territory, and in May 1915, Italy entered the war on the side of the British allies.

Although details are sketchy it is known that the Drummond sisters made their way to Italy and made contact with friends in Milan. They were able to carry on under contract to Italian opera companies for the duration of the war.

When the war was over and the Spanish Influenza was raging across Europe with many thousands dying, the Drummond sisters returned to Sydney, to see family and friends.

Although much loved and respected in Australia, particularly in Sydney, Jean and ‘Lute’ Drummond returned to Europe to continue their operatic careers in the 1920’s. They made periodic trips home to Australia, but after World War II, they returned to Australia, where they remained sharing their great knowledge and experience with the next generation of students and operatic stars.

Jean Drummond died in 1935 and ‘Lute’ Drummond in 1949.

Those who are interested in the references for the above ‘writings’ of their war experiences, will find them in the local Grafton newspaper, the ‘Clarence and Richmond Examiner’. These can be found on-line at the Historical Newspapers site on Trove at the National Library of Australia. http://trove.nla.gov.au/

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 11 Feb 1915, p2c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 13 Feb 1915, p5c4

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 16 Feb 1915, p2c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 18 Feb 1915, p6 c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 13 March 1915, p7c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 20 Mar 1915, p7c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 27 Mar 1915, p7c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 3 April 1915,p5c2

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 10 April 1915, p5 c2

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 17 April 1915, p7c3

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 24 April 1915, p8 c1

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 1 May 1915, p8 c2

Clarence and Richmond Examiner, 13 May 1915, p6 c4

Clarence and Richmond Examiner,15 May 1915 p 5 c6 & 7