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.

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


World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters – 30.

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.

This was written to her mother from London,

The New Year

9th January, 1915- Now let me tell you what in your wildest moments you would never guess. Jean and I have been taken for German spies by no less an authority than the great Scotland Yard! So it’s only a human institution after all, and is liable to make mistakes as the most stupid of us.

On New Year’s Day I was sitting at home trying to cure a most unromantic evil, namely, chilblains on my feet. Jean had been to Hilders, and as she returned after 7 o’clock we supped rather late. Just as we were finishing a ring came for us. Jean trotted down the stairs and opened wide the door to two strange men. They said “Police, Scotland Yard.” She said, “Oh, come up.” They came up and I asked them to sit down. Then they got to work. One drew out paper and pencil while the other’s eyes roved about our student -like room. The man with the notebook then opened his cross-examination. He said, “ Now, tell me about those little trips which you have made in England.” I thought of Miss Irving’s amazement,and couldn’t help laughing as she made the trips with us. However, I enumerated the various towns on our first trip, beginning with Cambridge and ending with Matlock. I had forgotten to mention Manchester, where we only slept the night, and the official remarked “I have a better memory than you. Haven’t you been at Manchester?” Then our Christmas trip was gone through, and great stress was laid on Hastings. What they thought we did there goodness only knows. But anyhow when I had finished our passports had to be rooted up out of obscurity, for Scotland Yard had us down as Germans in the pay of the Kaiser!It was so absurd that Jean and I had hysteries almost when they’d gone – Jean, the quintessence of anti-Germanism, and myself suffering from an overdose of patriotism that is almost painful. If anybody can make out of Ruth Janet Drummond and Jean Cameron Drummond, Anna Maria Schulz and Lisa Sottehen Muller, then they’re cleverer than the Creator Himself.

When the officials asked me if I had been in Yarmouth before or after the raid I gasped inwardly. Imagine how ludicrous to think even that a female like myself could lure the German fleet to our shores! The result of this suspicion is that never again will I ever believe these spy stories, not even if I see with my own eyes the most overwhelming circumstantial evidence. No doubt the whole world has lost not only its head, but its equilibrium, and we see not only Zeppelins in the heavens every night but Germans in Scotch-Australian bodies. The officials thanked us after the interview, and said they had visited thousands of houses, but never had more courtesy and clearer answers. One said, “I may come again” and wished us good night. We waited for several days and nobody turned up, so we went into Scotland Yard ourselves to see if the authorities were satisfied.

The head there was very nice, and said people were over-zealous, etc. I asked him who had lodged the complaint. He wouldn’t tell us, but said only that our movements were reported as suspicious. Evidently in our innocence we had been staring into the English Channel too hard or had watched the waves of the North Sea beat upon the open shores of Yarmouth. Oh dear, I really must write a book some day. We certainly have been mixed up in more ways than one in this great war. I forgot to tell you that the official remarked, “You speak perfect English.” But I have known many Germans who do the same. We were really very disgusted over the whole business. Just imagine Miss Irving and myself being followed everywhere, and then the three of us at Christmas time !

We have written to Miss Irving about it, and she is as much in the dark as were are over it. Really life is more comical and complicated every day, and I give it up. We only resumed our old routine yesterday, and visited the Davenports. They declare their house is being watched too. It seems to me that everybody who came from Berlin is a ‘suspect’. I believe the Davenports are going to Australia when they can get a boat- one has to wait months. They applied long ago, but think that either in February or March there will be some vacant berths.

To be continued

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

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

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters – 27.

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

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines – The Drummond Sisters – 26

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 safe jouney to freedom and their life in England

Rescued and Safe

84 King Henry’s Road, London, N W

Tuesday, October 6th– We’ve been in a little flat since the 1st. So comfortable. It is the top storey of a nice house. We have a sitting room, kitchen and bath on one floor, and a bedroom in the attic. We pay 15s 6d a week. Of Course, it is furnished, and with a piano in one corner we feel as if we’d lived here all our lives. We’ve certainly seen a great deal of London in a few days, thanks to Mr Kiley’s car. It is always at our disposal. We have been introduced to his father and sister with whom we’ve had tea at the National Liberal Club. The member for Stepney, Mr Glynn-Jones, was also one of the party. The Club is a beautiful building, only a stone’s throw from the War Office. Wouldn’t I love to creep into Kitchener’s office and see how he’s facing the situation.

We’ve been out to dinners, afternoon teas, and Jean has again been interviewed; in fact, London is taking very kindly to us indeed. On the same floor in our flat is a family of Belgian refugees. Poor things! They have lost two of their children, aged seven and twelve. The mother has no idea whether they are living or dead – whether they are in Belgium or Germany. Mustn’t it be heart-breaking? There are thousands upon thousands of Belgian refugees in England. I have seen them arrive, sometimes carrying their boots in their hands, cloth bundles over their shoulders, tickets on them with their names, etc. It is pitiful. They are always met by our ambulance, Red Cross and private societies, and taken off to Alexandra Palace or other places of refuge. How must they feel? No home, no country, no anything. I can’t realize that they are fleeing from the Germans. The Germans, with whom we lived so long! I’m afraid Jean and I still have a kind of feeling that the Germans ought not to be able to terrify anybody. We perhaps under rate them. They seemed so lacking in general intelligence, according to our point of view. We certainly never came into contact with their war machine. Perhaps it works differently. If only Antwerp can hold out until the Allies push the Germans out of France. But, it’s sinister those big guns are in position before the forts. The papers are so different in England that we can’t adjust ourselves to the English view yet. We see everything with German eyes as it were.

Thursday, October 8th– I really regret that I’ve allowed so much time to slip by without filling in each day’s events. We’ve had so many interesting adventures which slip the memory in the hurry-scurry. Yesterday, however, will amuse you. Guess what we were doing? Being active members in a kino set of pictures for Australia. You will see us. It will be very funny for you. The series of views were taken of all the work and workers done by the N S Wales ladies resident in London. The gifts are for the base hospital in France. Miss Irving is one of the members, so we were invited to be partakers in this historic event. I’m sure i don’t know how we’ll look, as we had not more than five minutes to dress and titivate ourselves. The shirts, bedgowns, nightingales, in fact, everything made was not only useful but beautiful to look at, and so well finished and such splendid stuff. Most of the ladies in the group have husbands, brothers and sons at the front, or are otherwise engaged in works of charity. England is a wonderful land. So generous- so different to Germany. They help every nationality and take up their duties cheerfully as if loving your neighbour was the most natural thing in the world. As for our soldiers, nothing is good enough for them. It’s fine to see how the individual is looked after. He counts as much as the King. In Germany it was different. In one article which i read during our sojourn there, the writer said:” War was quite another question nowadays, as human life was so cheap.” On returning from our kino adventure, we were rejoiced to read where the same submarine which accounted for the Hela torpedoed a German destroyer.

Isn’t the battle on the Aisne lasting a long time? It doesn’t seem to effect the Huntley’s spirits. They wrote from Paris to Miss Irving and said:” Living was cheaper than ever, and they were so comfortable and confident now that the Germans were on the march homewards.” Today when we were out buying our lunch we saw such a pathetic street incident.A musician was playing a harmonium with his left hand and blowing a silver trumpet with his mouth and right hand (funny description) at the same time, giving quite a varied repertoire, including the National Anthems of our Allies, Tipperary, etc. A foreign gentleman and his wife walked by. He beckoned to the music maker and spoke in French. The humble musician didn’t understand, but he turned over the dirty leaves of the music until he found the Belgian National Anthem. Then he went back to his instruments on the footpath and started the spirited strains of this hymn. The gentleman drew himself erect, with his wife by his side, raised his hat and listened reverently until the last chord was played and blown. Jean and I felt like crying. It was so symbolic. One could almost see King Albert with his fine pride and courage. Belgium deserves to be the petted baby of Europe after this frightful war is finished. She’s suffering cruelly. It’s heartbreaking to read the details now of the bombardment of Antwerp. If Antwerp does fall then comes our turn , so the Germans say. They will then have a coastline and working basis for their airships and submarines.

Mr Kiley has just called. We’re having supper with his father and sister at Picca dilly and are then going afterwards to a recruiting meeting in the East End. Jean is cleaning our boots ready for this social function and is getting impatient.

To be continued

World War I – Behind Enemy Lines.- The Drummond Sisters- 25.

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 plight of being – Behind Enemy Lines.

Saved at Last

Wednesday, September 30

It is really ten days since I’ve opened my diary? I have read the last couple of pages and can’t believe that all this anxiety and worry, wonderment and uncertainty belonged to me. Just one week in London, and the very interest in the war has waned. No one speaks of it here. The work goes on as usual; the people don’t seem to realise that the British Empire may possibly be challenged. Curious how different to the German. He lives and breathes for nothing else but war news and victories.

I must try and think back to our memorable journey from Berlin, under the protection of the American Embassy.

It seems like in the history book. You know, the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, where we learnt by heart these mysterious lines:-

“On the dull grey of a February morning.” Well, on the eventful Monday, at 7 am, all the British females who were apportioned off by the first train assembled gladly on the charlottenburger station. The husbands and brothers (those who were not imprisoned) were there, too, to bid goodbye and God-speed to their loved ones; and very sad they did look as the train left the station, taking to England and safety their mothers, wives, sisters and children, while they were left behind, who knows, perhaps for months and years, to eat their hearts out in enemy’s country. It was very touching, more than one had a great lump in the throat. However, war is no respecter of feelings or ties, and now that I read here the tales of their brave brothers fighting at the front in those long wet trenches dug out along the banks of the Aisne, their lot is not so hard.

As we neared Doberitz , where the English prisoners were, they were all waiting far distant in their prison barracks to give us a parting hand wave. The Russians also on the other side frantically waved their caps in the air. And it was with a peculiar feeling that we fluttered our handkerchiefs, first to our own soldiers, and then to our Allies. One felt theatrical, like in a book, anything but real.

We had a pleasant journey, enlived by the conversation of the cleverest child whom I’ve ever met – a Russian from Baku. He spoke on Russian politics, their fleet, their army, their Grand Duke, and mentioned that it was stupidity on England’s part to observe the neutrality of either Holland or Denmark. It was astounding what he knew.

At Hanover the train was boarded by a staff of German officers, and each compartment was searched. Ladies were asked to remove their hats, and those who wore transformations had to take them off, too, as it was reported that a celebrated English male spy was trying to get off with us disguised as a woman.

Nothing more happened. We ate every five minutes until we reached Bentheim, the Dutch border. There was a long wait here, for the examination of luggage, but luckily our boxes were not opened, so we had no worry. At the next town the English colony there had prepared coffee and scones for the entire party, and our welcome both from the English and Dutch was a right royal one. As we crossed on to Dutch territory, Union Jacks were distributed, and proudly pinning on our little bit of colour, we cheered ourselves hoarse, to find ourselves outside the pale of German rule.

At Rotterdam the English Red Cross simply inundated us with kindness and gifts. A doctor was on the station, in case anyone was ill; each person was given a bottle of wholesome milk, chocolates, sandwiches, rolls, in fact, such patriotism and general good will was lavished on us that we felt quite privileged to be counted members of the great British race.

The Government provided us with telegram forms (the British Government I mean) and at Flushing, we were allowed to telegraph to our friends in England gratis. Our first foreign communication in English for seven long weeks.

We arrived at the Dutch port about 4 o’clock in the morning, tired out with no sleep and the long sitting. We had difficulty in getting a berth, but scrambled anywhere for Jean and I knew that we were in for a good time – sea-sickness.

The train journey had been too long for us. The British Government had again provided breakfast and lunch for us on the boat, but don’t mention food ever to us on the water. We were terribly ill, especially yours truly. And the voyage instead of taking five hours, lasted twelve. We had to go slowly on account of mines, and had to be piloted in. We arrived in Queensborough about six in the evening more dead than alive. Queensborough certainly looked business-like, ugly battleships, warships and odds and ends of the British Navy lying about. At the wharf were thousands of Kitchener’s army in the making, who received us with rousing cheers. The officiers carried our hand luggage for us, the soldiers served us with tea and sandwiches in the train, and after we had finished our refreshments, the bonny young recruits drew up in line and sang “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” with the sweetest voices that one could well imagine. The whole trip was like a triumph, and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. On the way to London we were struck by the almost total darkness. We could distinguish nothing, not even an outline. We wondered why, and learnt afterwards that the top half of the lamps have been painted black in order to deceive the alert Zeppelins. At Victoria Station, the first person whom we saw, was Mr Kiley. He guessed that we would come, and had accordingly brought along his very best car, to aid the travellers. Miss Irving also found us in the throng, so did Mrs Hilda Davenport. Press reporters also bombarded us with questions, and next morning we were amused to see Jean’s interview in the “Daily Telegraph”. Miss Irving, keeping in mind the sad plight of the Belgian refugees, had thoughtfully brought to the hotel for us nighties, handkerchiefs, etc, but when we showed her our many boxes and trunks, she just said “the proverbial luck of the Drummonds.”

We are staying at the Wilton Hotel, quite close to the Victoria Station, and ever since our arrival, we’ve been more or less seeing London and its environs in Mr Kiley’s car. He took us down to Camberley to see the German prisoners, both soldiers and civilians. The former, whom we stared at over a line wire fence, looked a fine handsome lot. They were all a good six feet and broad-shouldered into the bargain. It looked so familiar to see their grey-green uniforms once again.

I forgot to say that on the night we arrived in England, the three cruisers, the Hogue, the Cressy, and the Aboukir were submarined by the enemy. The Emden had accounted for six vessels in the Bay of Bengal, and had set fire to the oil tanks at Madras. Now had we been in Berlin on receipt of this distressing news, we should have wept tears of chagrin, grief and woe, but in England people take things differently, and it was difficult to find anybody even half as miserable as I was myself over this loss.

Are they at war here, or are they not? Jean and I asked each other repeatedly. One sees the youths marching round the streets, uniformed and un-uniformed, save for rifle slung across shoulder. The parks look like gymnasium centres, but the average person apparently goes serenely onwards, “business as usual,” strolling to the Arches of an evening, and watching as an interested onlooker those great searchlights, which scour the evening skies in quest of the Zeppelin.

What a harvest a bomb would reap in London! The streets are packed with people, the houses are sequeezed together, the buses are full, inside and out, the motors just tear round; nobody seems to fear the raid of Germany’s trump card. I wonder will this trump turn out to be a joker! If so, can we throw him out of the pack, take the half-mourning from our street lamps, and bask once more in all the glory of a lighted London night life? I’m tired now. You know what a hotel writing-room is like. People talking on all topics, in all tones from pianissimo to f f . At a table is a French officer, conspicuous by his red trousers. His wife and daughter are with him. He is here on a commission, boots for the French Army. They are from Lille, and left as the Germans came in and took possession. We have fine English officers here too, looking business-like in their khaki suits. I think the English uniforms are the finest I have yet seen. Even the Germans envied them all their pockets. The breast pockets, and the large side ones. Very sensible, aren’t they? There’s also a large number of aged ladies discussing the intricacies of heels and toes in soldiers’ socks. Jean has retired ages ago. She is very prosaic. Loves her bed better than anything else. Goodnight- September was for us an uneventful month. Dare we hope for much in October?

To be continued