Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
James war reminiscences, August 1914-August 1918 / Mrs Britomarte James
[Pages 18 and 46 were numbered incorrectly and photographed in the same order. The transcription is in the correct order.
Transcribed using OCR software and may contain errors]
My personal reminiscences of the War
Everybody remembers August 1914, and no Mother with sons will ever forget the varying emotions the announcement of War called forth.
At the time we were living on St. Kilda Road and the tramp tramp of the soldiers, as I lay sleepless, brought some sort of realisation to my mind.
Both my boys were in Queensland, and though I wanted them to be brave enough to offer their services and knew in my heart they would do so, I quailed at the thought, and as hour after hour passed I desperately searched my mind for some excuse to prevent them, and called up every argument that l could bring to bear to prevent their going. If only I could hide them somewhere I thought, and then after hours and hours of mental torture, just as daylight was creeping into my room, there came a dreadful thought, worse than any of my own craven fears. Suppose they should not offer, and against that awful possibility my fears for their safety became utterly insignificant. How ashamed I should be, if in their country's crisis, they failed to answer its call. Beads of perspiration stood out on my forehead, and I prayed that they might be true to their manhood.
I need not have feared, for the coming week brought letters and telegrams from each, hundreds of miles apart, telling of their decision to enlist.
In the joy of having them in Melbourne for their training, one almost lost sight of the ultimate purpose, but as the time came for their departure, and when the elder came from Seymour one Saturday, to say good-bye, I shall never forget, as I saw him at the door, the roar of the crowd at a football match in the park beyond. I could have cheerfully taken a gun and shot
those players down, and never afterwards could I hear a like roar without associating it with those awful, poignant moments.
Later, I learnt that he was to take reinforcements to the Dardanelles.
From there, came letters that gave me tremendous satisfaction, for he was taking part with the boys who have made Australia famous. In one of his letters, he wrote of the suffering caused by the men not having fruit or vegetables, and by a strange coincidence, for want of a better term (I have learnt to believe that none of these happenings come by chance) I had been instrumental in suggesting to a committee of Patriotic workers that they should send tinned fruit and vegetables, and the first consignment was ready for dispatch when his letter came.
Soon after this when every casualty list had for us all, a horribly portentious interest, there came the expected, and yet dreaded cablegram. I do so well remember taking it from the boy at the door, and running through the house, without just the courage to open it; then, though bad enough, it was not the worst- a gun shot wound in the head, and hospital in England.
Afterwards, when I knew it was in that awful Lone Pine engagement, where so few survived, 1 realised what 1 had been spared.
In the months that followed, the strain kept me at breaking point. Convalescence was so protracted, and cables so inadequate, it took seven months for him to recover, and 1 knew afterwards just what that period of loneliness meant for him in a big hospital surrounded by strangers.
In the meantime, my younger son was completing his artillery course, and after many fretsome delays, he got away in the following May, and again I had to go througn the agony of parting. A kind friend placed at my disposal a steam launch, which enabled me to accompany the big transport down the bay, and never shall I forget that scene.
The thousands of keen young faces that bright May morning
their soul shining in their eyes - I thought of it again, when I heard the Russian´s description of the Anzacs - "The eyes of children, and the bodies of Gladiators." There were others on the boat, who were saying good-bye to loved ones, and the time came all too soon, when there came a final cheer to speed them on their way, and an answering one from them that reverberated its mightiness. Then the big grey ship turned away, and soon became as a little speck, and we turned homewards with saddened hearts.
It seemed for me, the sun had set. I went back to ny lonely house, but could not go inside, nor, could I seek anybodys company. I just went into the garden, and dug and dug, until I felt that heart must break. Every day I went through the usual routine, busying myself with home duties, and patriotic endeavour, and somehow the weeks passed, but every Sunday saw my dinner untasted.
That always seemed the hardest day to bear.
One morning in the following September, I awoke out of my sleep with the idea that I must go to England, and it became so firmly implanted, that my husband, seeing my earnestness, helped in my hurried preparation,
I was able to get a berth on a boat leaving on the 27th of that month, September 1916, and when every thing was in readiness, and there was time to think, I wondered if the war strain had warped my saner judgment. I realised just how futile might be my journey, how awful even the possibilities that might await me on the other side, and almost longed that something would happen to make me stay; but nothing did. I was so distraught, that lying all night awake en route Adelaide, I made up my mind to put my luggage ashore, and return, my sister, who met me there and had previously counselled caution, advised me to go on. A long telegram from my husband at Fremantle, did much to put my mind at rest, and from there I set myself resolutely and steadfastly forward, feeling that something for which I could not account had impelled my going.
A fortnight of pleasant travel brought us to Durban, and there we had beautiful sunshine for our day ashore.
Everything seemed bright and interesting - the pretty clean city with the Zulu rickshaw-men in their gay trappings, gave it a picturesque and unusual note. The comfort of shore meals at a hotel which rejoices in having Royal guests- the drive to the Berrea, the beautiful residential suburb, all made up a pleasant day. Two days more brought us to Cape- Town, but the weather was unkindly and a drive to Shier-Grotz Cecil Rhodes famous home was deprived of some pleasure because of pouring rain. In the house itself, however, there was much to interest, for though occupied by the prime Minister General Botha, when in Cape-Town, it remains just as it was when the famous philanthropist made his home there, and his collection of Art treasures remain intact.
From Cape Town the voyage became an anxious one, boat drills were frequent, orders were given for Life-belts to be always at hand and defensive guns were placed on board our protection against submarines. We numbered a thousand souls and there were many children, so that Mothers had an anxious time, but there was no casualty of any kihd, and on Thursday 9th November, we arrived safely at Plymouth. our first news was the loss of the "Arabia, which left some days after us through the Mediterranean, had been torpedoed en route and with the tender that brought that news came also letters for which we ardently longed, and for me there were joyous tidings.
Both my boys were in London waiting and expecting me to reach Tilbury Docks the next day, but most of the passengers had decided to travel by the special train that night.
There was never a longer day than that one. I had been one of the first on deck in the early morning and vexatious delays kept us on board until two in the afternoon, then on shore, Customs formalities had to be observed. While these
were in progress, I broke away for half an hours walk to Plymouth Hoe where once walked the Gallants of England.
It was like new wine, to drink in the delight of its surroundings, and feel myself on shore once more with the surety that all was well. At half past four we left the station, much. too late to get the benefit of day-light for the pretty railway journey through "Glorious Devon." So quickly night came that beautiful Autumn evening, and even before it closed in, the conductor came along to see that in accordance with printed instructions in every carriage, that our blinds were drawn because of Air raid menace. That was our first introduction to precautionary measures due to War. It was a fast train and at half past nine we pulled up at Paddington station.
All the way I wondered if the telegram I had sent would reach the boys, and in my mind raised all kinds of difficulties, so that should they not be there, I might save myself the disappointment of waiting a few more hours.
It was a tense few moments, but soon I espied one peering into the carriages as he came along, and just then he caught sight of me, rushed along and in another minute the other joined us and in the midst of piled up luggage, irate porters calling to get out of the way, and the general confusion of a "special" arrivingI just found myself jumping for joy. Our waiting Taxi collected my luggage and packed in with arms linked we drove through the moonlit streets of London. I, feeling as though it was a beautiful dream from which there must come a rude awakeninig. Marble Arch, I remember, photographed itself on my mindHyde Park of familiar name they pointed out to me' and between descriptions I was getting little bits of personal news.
It was not until we got to the Lyceum Club though and sat down to a cup of coffee in the Lounge, that I was able to gather my senses and take in some of what I wanted to know.
With a Khaki boy on either side, we talked and talked and
I gathered that the elder, now a qualified Pilot and wearing his wings, was due to go to France any day. He was attached to the Royal Flying Corps waiting tor the -Australian Squadron to be formed, because being an "Anzac, he was wishful to keep the association and remain with his country-men.
The younger, in response to a call from the R.F.C. for volunteers, had offered, and was to go into training the following week.
It was nearly mid-night when we parted until the next day, and it was hardly to be wondered at that I slept little. My maid said she had been asked who the group was in the lounge, for a member had said "joy positively them". The morning brought many unfamiliar calls and sounds; Taxi whistles worried me with their shrillness and I did not wonder when a few weeks later a by-law was passed making these sounds illegal, they had become such a nuisance to hospital 'patients.
Our first drive was to Queen's Gate to inspect permanent accomodation at an address there, and having made a satisfactory arrangement, I immediately moved in.
I'hat afternoon we visited (Westminister Abbey, and in that beautiful old Cathedral, with a heart full of gratitude, I offered perhaps the most fervent prayer of my life, and I knew then that my way had been planned. There just came a sense of satisfaction that gave a feeling of contentment, in striking contrast to the mental conflict of the past.
After dinner, the boys took me to His Majesty's Theatre where Oscar Asche and Lily Brayton were playing in "Chu Chin chow' My mind was still so dazed and confused that beyond a conglomeration of beautiful colour, sinuous forms, and delightful music, it made no definate impression. My senses were intoxicated with it all.
On Sunday morning following, both boys rode in Rotten Row, and when they reined up at my door with a taxi awaiting
beside so that I might drive and the guests at my hotel came on the balcony to see us start, I felt the proudest Mother that ever was.
In Hyde Park, that pleasant Autumn morning, 1 realised what havoc war was making with the manhood of England.
There were processions of Bath-chairs wheeled by Orderlies and nurses, and in them limbless men who would never again know the joy of walking or riding in that beautiful Park, where some of them from boyhood had foregathered. It gave me a lump in my throat, and, looking back after this lapse of time, it is saddening that custom had made such sights so familiar that today they are hardly noticed. We all had dinner together and that afternoon I saw them off to their camps, and I turned homewards alone but not lonely. The very streets seemed friendly, and I wondered how I could have thought London would be awesome, it seemed to me that at some past age I must have lived here and come back to my own.
I set about establishing myself in my new quarters and the friendly atmosphere that pervaded the house helped me to forget that I was 1200 miles from Home.
Looking back over my rough diary, I see that the very next afternoon l became a true Londoner by being caught in a Fog, coming home from tea with an Australian friend who had immediately looked me up. She, with many directions, saw me into the Piccadilly Tube and I got to south Kensington to find that the fog, black enough when 1 left her at five oclock, bad got to the consistency of "Pitch", but I was unafraid.
It was London, and my heart was light. Cautiously 1 groped my way alongtaking wbat I thought must be the right turn guided only by the occasional flash light by the passers-by, who looked like shrouded ghosts. Like a blindman 1 felt the walls, tapped the pavement with my umbrella, and reached a house that looked familiar. I tried to fit my key, but the fumbling attracted attention on the inside and the door was opened by some one I bad not seen before. Is this not 130
I asked, "No, 129". So it was not so bad.
I did not intend to tell of my first fog experience, but a lady at my table related how she, after eight years, had mistaken her house and pulled at the bell of 129, so I felt that there was no disgrace in my blunder and when next day the papers told us it was the worst fog for forty years, felt quite proud of my achievement.
Every day brought a new interest and there were many links with Australia.
The Colonel, who left in charge of the troops on the big "Medic" that day with my younger son on Board, came to see me during the week, and as he was remaining in England to do Instructural duty, I had many pleasant chats afterwards.
That first week Ron. rang one night to say he was starting his cadet course for the R. F. C. and en route for his new school at Denham. We spent that evening at the Collesium, where my cousin, known in Stage-land as Fred. Lindsay, was doing his Australian turn which has made him famous as the Whip king.
It seemed almost uncanny to be sitting in that magnificent building, of which I had heard so much, watching my Kinsman' s performance.
I had not seen him for fourteen years but would have recognised him easily from pictures I had seen in Magazines.
The setting was a bush one, truly Australian, with stock riders stretched on the ground, a camp fire newly lighted, the sun just rising, and the birds warbling. My cousin in his corduroys and his bushman's shirt and hat, though older, looked very handsome and a perfect specimen of Australian manhood. His prowess with the whips of varying size and length was quite wonderful, as he tied up his assistant; knocked ashes
from cigars, struck a revolver from the hand and played the National Anthem by cracking sounds. We sent a note to him, by a smart girl commissionaire in red coat and brass buttons, to say we were in the audience, and she came to conduct us to the back of the stage.
After all these years it was a strange meeting to find my cousin in his dressing room with all the aids of stage make-up. He showed us the revolving stage-mechanism which enables each setting to be prepared and brought to the front just as it is needed. We met several of the artists, among them Lady Forbes Robertson, who was on the bill.
The next day I hostessed a party for my cousin at the Hotel Cecil A week later that building was taken over by the Air Ministry and now it is what the Air-men facetiously call the "Hot-air" Department, not without justification, for the difficulty of getting correct information has only to be encountered to be believed.
One of my first duties in London was to find the cemetery where Jennings Carmichael was buried, and for whose grave subscribers had sent, through the Agent General, a marble book bearing a spray of wattle and on it inscribed from her own poem:-
"Ah!, little flower I loved of old,
Dear little downy heads of gold."
It was a wintry day when, with a kindly guide, I started out for "Forest Gate", and when we reached there in the late afternoon, snow was falling. I could not help contrasting the hot summer's day, when, two years before, we had ordered it.
It seemed so strange to find it resting there with so many miles between.
The work had been faithfully carried out. A marble curb surrounded the mound and our little tribute, to her who had loved and suffered, looked appropriate and distinctive.
From now onwards everthing that happened seemed to link up and the world grew smaller and smaller. The next
Sunday a chum of Ron´s who had been at his Farewell party in
Melbourne called and together we paid our first visit to his Flying School at typically English Denham such a pretty village only 19 miles from London.
During the week, on my way from a luncheon at the Savoy and a Russian Musical programme afterwards, at which Lady Maud Warrender presided, I saw the wounded being carried to the ambulances from the Charing Cross Station and that sight put me rather out of tune for the supper at Ciro's with its nigger minstrel band. It was an experience to have seen that club of questionable notoriety, but I was glad to hear, soon afterwards, that saner judgment prevailed, and It had to give way to the needs of the Y.M.C.A. A strange transition that only the exigencies of war could .effect.
By the courtesy of General McAnderson, I was shown over the Australian Head Quarters and realised that those at Home might be justly critical of the location chosen for Horseferry Road with its unsavory surroundings. It was, I think, an error of judgment.
Quite soon I began to experience the joy of being in London, the great centre for the many opportunities it gave of meeting the boys and the extraordinary coincidences encountered. Before the month was out my elder son was passing through on a sad duty, to Scotland. He had been chosen to represent his squadron at the funeral of a comrade, killed while flying. We met at the Lyceum Club, where the United Empire Circle were that day entertaining Overseas Officers, and among the guests was Colonel Flashman who had been his doctor at Wandsworth.
From him I heard details of the head wound and the reason of the protracted recovery. His account made me realise just how near a thing it was and my appreciation of the skilful treatment by those clever Harley Street Surgeons is unbounded.
From day to day there were engagements that were ever adding new Interest. At the Overseas Club I was delightfully entertained by the Organiser, Mr Evelyn Wrench.
An interesting re-union was on December 2nd when I met at the house of Mrs Bage (of Melbourne) Mr Frank Wild ( of whom as a boy I had known wben on Lord Brassy's yacht the "Sunbeam) Capt. Hurley and Capt. Webb, all of the Antarctic expeditions. These had been comrades of Mr Robert Bage who, after his return from the dangers of the South, enlisted and was one of that unforgettable and glorious band of Australians who lost their lives at Gallipoli.
Through the courtesy of the Australian Head Quarters I was privileged to go to Salisbury plains and was very interested in seeing our Australians in preparation there.
On the 5th December there came a hurried note from the Secretary of the Lyceum Club asking if at the united Empire Annual Meeting I would replace a lady whose illness prevented her speaking for Australia. My reception was most kindly and with my heart so closely in touch my task was easy.
Looking over my diary there seems to be nothing that I should leave out of this personal narrative. Every engagement recalls some fresh interest but to tell of all that pertained to each would make a very bulky volume, on the 7th December l called on Colonel Rea of the Melbourne Herald and while there Colonel Springthorpe came and we all found much to talk about. My last meeting with Colonel Springthorpe was at the Overseas Club in Melbourne9 when he came to speak on the value of our fruit and vegetable fund we had established.
On the 8th, my son Cecil returning to his squadron, we lunched at the Trocodera. in the afternoon I was the guest of Miss Alice Grant Roseman, once of Adelaide, and now of British Australian at the Writers Club.
On the 9th, Captain Lawrence, who had left in charge of Ron's battery, came to tea and later both Cecil and Ron joined us, also Mrs. M. Pickles whose guest 1 had been at the Blue Mountains the November before, with never a thought of meeting her in England.
On the 13th, when taking tea with Miss Marj. Beettee, who was a member of the Paddington Borough Council, Cecil came with the good news that he was appointed temporary Instructor, and would remain in England for some time yet.
During that week there was a continuous fog.. Ron came to town but we were unable to keep dinner engagements because of it.
On the 21st I revived acquaintance with Miss Doris Garter (of Melbourne) at her home in Maida Vale, and listened again to her delightful singing after her seven years in England.
On the 22nd Ron came home on Christmas leave. We had tea with Mrs Henriques (Mrs Eggleston's Mother) at the Craven Gardens Hotel, and met several Australians from whom we had a stirring account of experiences with the Light Horse in Egypt. These included the burning of an unsavoury portion of the town, which, though "agin the law" the men took upon themselves, and with considerable satisfaction claimed for the good of their comrades to have eradicated a pestilence.
It was a great joy to have Ron for Christmas week, and I felt then that whatever the future held, this was well worth while.
On Christmas morning, I visited the A.I.F. War Chest Club, and the Anzac Buffet, to see the preparations for our men's entertainment. Later in the day Colonel Reay at the latter was busily directing, and, in relays, the workers there entertained hundreds of men at mid-day dinner. At the Hotel Cecil, at one o'clock, 1,400 soldiers were the guests of our Government, our High Commissioner presiding. The tables were decorated with wattle that had come from the South of France, and Military rule that day did not prevent their wearing a decorative spray in their tunics. At 4 o'clock Ron and I accepted an invitation to tea at the Hon Mrs Henry
Edwardes, at Knight's Bridge, and that proved to be the beginning of a friendship that was to me, a most beautiful possession. Through her I met people of whom I had read about but never expected to meet, and in meeting them and having the privilege of their friendship, I have realised just what English culture and its traditions stand for.
That first Xmas to me will ever be memorable. The reception rooms were filled with interesting people, among whom were Princess Henry of Battenburg and the Hon. Harriet Phipps once lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria,' a sweetly gracious and charming personality. As I looked round at the beautiful decorations and the glowing fires that reflected everywhere their comforting glow, I felt in an enchanted land and that was further idealised when after tea a choral party surprised the guests. Starting from the foot of the stairs, singing as they came, they entered the drawingroom in the full tide of melody. We found that our hospitable hostess had expected us to remain for dinner, and the pleasure at being there, surrounded by brightness and comfort with congenial souls, just gave me a lump in my throat. It all seemed too wonderful, and looking back now I recall not only that evening but many subsequent ones when Herbert Crescent became to me just the most delightful "Haven of Refuge" it was possible to know. It became to me in very truth, a Home. For eight months I found my way there several times a week and there was a never varying welcome. My hostess's love and kindliness was reflected in the servants who as only well trained English servants can, indicated that their Mistress would wish me to remain even though she at the time was not at home. Through her the people of interest and charm that I met were numberless. Her husband had been in his lifetime British Ambassador at Rome and Washington, her daughter lady-in-waiting to Queen Alexandra. Among those I recall are the Duchess of St Albans, Lady Carnock (sister of Lady
Helen Munro Ferguson) whose husband before the war, was Ambassador at Petersburg, now Petrograd. Lady Leitrim whose husband is Associated with Mr. Walter Long at the Colonial Office, Lady Dawkins whose sister-in-law, Lady Bertha is Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria. At the houses of these I was delightfully entertained and before leaving, Lady Bertha invited me to Buckingham Palace and showed me much that was interesting. The Room in which many of our men have been invested by His Majesty had a special charm.
At Lady Dawkin's in Belgrave Square I met Maud Valerie White the song writer.
On New Years Day, Ron and I attended a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor, Sir William Dunn at the Mansion House.
My neighbour proved to be Mr. Pett Ridge the author, who seeing my name on the place as from Melbourne asked if I knew Miss Edith Onions Secretary to the Newsboys Society, and that was at once a common bond. On the 26th January I presided at the annual dinner of the United Empire Circle at the Lyceum Club.
Again I had a pleasant surprise by Cecil arriving unexpectedly for the week-end, and on the Sunday we together accepted an invitation to visit the Princess Henry of Battenburg and the Hon. Miss Phipps at Kensington Palace.
On the 6th February, Mrs. Andrew Fisher gave an At Home at the Ladles Empire Club and invited several ladies to meet me. The day following Lady Herbert invited me to view the prooession going to the Opening of Parliament from her house In Pall Mall and that was the first time I saw the King and Queen since their visit to open our Commonwealth Parliament and realised that the years had sped and that war worry had left its mark.
On the 8th of February after taking tea with the Duchess of St. Albans, I drove to a reception given by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught at Clarence House and that proved
the last, for soon after, the Duchess whose health had been for some time unsatisfactory, died and a few weeks later attended the memorial service at Westminister Abbey, having the privilege of a seat in the reserve where there were many Royal representatives.
At a luncheon given at the Lyceum Club to the retiring. President, I met Mrs Parker the president elect, for the first time who is Lord Kitchener's sister, there was present also Mrs Hawken General Botha's sister.
At a meeting for Soldier's and Sailor's wives at the Mansion House, a number of invited guests were entertained at tea afterwards, and there I met Lord Derby and Lord Jellicoe who were speaking, and renewed acquaintance with Miss Agnes Nicholls who sang beautifully.
During February, the Food question became acute owing to the shortage of potatoes and the number of ships that were being sunk and everywhere meetings were being held at which were prominent women speakers. To one held at the Adelphia Theatre, I was invited to a seat on the platform and heard Miss Beatrice Chamberlain, Mrs. Peel and Mrs Pender Reeves.
Lady Harrowly, who with her husband had visited Australia and was anxious to do all that was possible for the pleasure
and comfort of our Officers, Invited me to talk over a scheme which she thought of initiating and that has developed so wonderfully, that now there are many hundreds who have had the advantage when on leave or convalescent of being hospitably entertained by her friends and in turn their friends at beautiful homes in different parts of England, Scotland and Ireland.
As the guest of Mrs Lowther, wife of the speaker, I visited the House of commons and wrote to the Daily Mall later a letter which they published, saying that I felt there must be in me the genesis of a Militant Suffragette, for there arose in me a feeling of the strongest rebellion that I should have to look from a cage to the men who were the makers of the laws under which both men and women were equally
The "Grille" which aroused in me and must have done in many another woman who felt the indignity and injustice of such a monstrosity, has since been removed.
As the weeks passed I found myself merged into the life of London with extraordinary naturalness and links with Australia of every day occurrence, soon after my arrival I received an invitation from Madam Genee who delighted us all so in Melbourne with her exquisite dancing and delightful womanliness. She recalled many Australian friends as we chatted in her comfortable drawingroom overlooking Regent's Park, with its atmosphere of a winter´s afternoon, and that blue-gray the artist so loves. Later she was appearing at the colosseum and generously allotted me a box for each production, that was a great joy to me and those I was able to invite.
One evening Cecil, who came to London to take a Flying Machine back, found himself bound by "Dud" weather (an airman's phraseology) and that evening he with a young Canadian whom he was instructing shared my box. Madam Genees representations in that night were Dances from the 13th to the present century. The costumes for each, true in every detail, and in each succeeding she was increasingly bewitching. Another artist of former days who will be remembered as our most perfeet Juliet was Essie Jenyns, now Mrs Wood, living in an old Tudor Mansion that was the home of the Lord chancellor of England here she dispenses the most gracious hospitality with ever a thought for Australia. At the corner of her grounds is a special reserve for wounded soldiers and there she has a rest shelter, filtered water, magazines etc so that limbless men who pass to and fro from Rockhampton (that now famous hospital for artificial limbs) may be refreshed by the way.
Every Saturday and Sunday large parties are entertained at her house and some who are unable to get about are taken for motor
It was a great pleasure to me to find that a short distance from my temporary home lived Mrs.J.Nevin Tait (Miss Besa Norrla) and some pleasant hours were always passed there.
She too finds time to assist the wounded and In a way which only an artist can. In co-operation with the medical specialists she is helping to design artificial features and wonderful results have been obtained. In some cases faces that have at first seemed hopeless and repelling disfigurement have been built up so that men may take their place among their fellows without the self-consciousness of unsightliness.
Everywhere one went there was unfailing interest in the welfare of the Empire´s Fighting men and often Drawing-room meetings in the West End have been held to discuss existent problems.
At Mrs. Cazalet's, a wealthy American, beautiful house in Grosvenor Square I met Lady Robertson and Princess Christian who with others were meeting the Bishop of London to hear him speak on the "Social Evil" that was besetting the men particularly those from Overseas and with that simple directness for which he is renowned, The Bishop said, that he dare not pay a visit to Australia which he longed to do unless he succeeded in combating to the utmost in his power the temptations that prevailed for them. He asked that the women of the West End should use their influence and their wealth to provide for the men entertainments that would make London a place they could call "Home". He seemed to appreciate my thanks on behalf of Australian Mothers and spoke to Princess Marie Louise of me, who at the house of Mrs. Hay Newton (one time Lady In Waiting to Princess Henry of Battenburg) I met.
We had a long talk together one Winter afternoon at Waterloo Court and I heard all about the Princess´s activities in connection with Girls' Clubs in the East End, She is a great believer In their uplifting influence and cited many oases of moral and intellectual progress from that beginning. That week I met General and Lady Birdwood at the house
of my friend, the Hon. Mrs. Edwards, and heard him express his personal appreciation of the Colonial Fighting Forces. Lady Birdwood as a hospital visitor is well known to many, and for her charming and winsome manner she is much beloved. About the middle of March Ron, my younger son, gained his Commission fas a Flying Pilot. His theoretical training gained at Exeter College, Oxford, and during these months we had many meetings. Cecil still, remained at an Aerodrome instructing and it was very interesting to hear that he had flown over to congratulate his brother.
It was not at all unusual for us all to meet in London and they were very joyous occasions. I enjoyed very much being taken by either or both to famous hotels and restaurants, and the life at these could not have been gayer in pre-war days. It was good to see the young Officers on leave with well dressed women friends looking quite care-free, forgetful for the time of the horrors they had left and would soon again return to. A delightful place of meeting once a week was the Automobile Club taken over for the comfort and entertainment of the Overseas Officers. A committee of ladies arranged a programme each Tuesday and among the guests of Honour we met there, were The Duke of Connaught, Sir Douglas and Lady Haig, Princess Patricia and Princess Mary.
In the beautiful Concert Hall many fine artists performed and these were many prominent hostesses. The Countess of Dunmore we were indebted for our standing invitation besides which she very kindly invited us to St. James's Theatre where the Late Sir George Alexander was playing in the "Aristocratn, and the night we were there Genevieve Ward celebrated her eightieth birthday and received many congratulations and presentations. I so well remember more years that I care to count seeing Genevieve Ward in "For-get-me-not". It was my first play and made a lasting impression.
We have a permanent record of her philanthropy in the Ward she erected at the Alfred Hospital bearing her name.
To meet Lady Mary Meynell the Countess Leitrim invited
me to her home in Grosvenor Square, and it was interesting to hear of a scheme she had afoot for establishing a Communal Kitchen so that all should go out for their meals, and do away with the necessity for cooking. The servant difficulty was making itself felt owing to the large number of women engaged in War work with its added attractions of higher wages and more interesting work. Lady Meynell's enthusiasm made one feel that all obstacles could be overcome.
Just at the time the Russian Revolution started i had the privilege to meet Lady Camock whose husband had been British Ambassador at Petrograd before the War. She predicted almost exactly what would happen for she said the Russian peasants, so long under rigid control lacked the initiative and stability to act independently and in such a crisis she foretold disaster.
Later, when I visited Lady Carnock, who by the way is Lady Helen Munro Ferguson´s Aunt, at her hom at Cadogan Gardens I met Lady Dufferin (Lady Helen's mother)
With all these pleasant diversions, I was not unmindful of War work to be done, and at the request of Robert McAnderson A.I.F. Head Quarters, I visited the hospitals where Australian Officers were likely to be overlooked, for some times odd cases were taken to British Hospitals and out of the way of regular Australian visitors. This I found very satisfying work, for I was able to, with the aid of musical friends I had made, arrange concerts in the wards, and those beside the Australians, seemed exceedingly grateful.
The Overseas Club too invited me to organise the Women's side of the Club on the same lines as in Melbourne I had done as Chairwoman.
This enabled me to arrange for large parties of Colonial wounded soldiers through their respective Red Cross Organisations.
I was fortunate in being able to get Mr and Mrs Massey on the day that we had the New Zealanders, and they enjoyed the entertainment in the cosy club rooms with bright fires burning.
The woman members entertained also the wives of the Overseas dominions delegates, who were in London for the imperial conference, and Mrs. Lloyd George, wife of the prime Minister.
In introducing her, I remember saying that the Club stood for a United Empire, and in Mrs. Lloyd George we had one of the greatest links of the empire, for she was the wife of the greatest statesman, and no statesman could be really great who had not a clever ally in a helpful wife. Mrs. Lloyd George a natural and easy speaker, after expressing her pleasure in accepting the club5s invitation said, I am sure that the Old country will never forget the great loyalty and the splendid courage and devotion of the dominions, and how those free peoples came to the aid of Britain in its hour of peril.
The Germans thought the Empire would not pull together.
The German has been disappointed; he has found us one vast Empire closely knit together to fight for the freedom of the States, we are all delighted to do even ever so little to help this great Empire and keep it together."
Other guests who accepted were Lady Jellicoe, Lady Robertson, Lady Doreen Long, Lady Perley, Lady Rhondda, Lady Rosling, Lady Berch and Lady Dawson.
Another department of war work. which came my way, was to help Mrs. Fisher, (wife of the Australian High commissioner), who had organised an Australian shift to give their services one day a week at an officers club in a fashionable quarter.
The other days were arranged for by representatives of Colonies, and by English women, many of them were titled, and there was an element of humour in seeing smart motor cars bringing the ladies of all work for the day, sometimes accompanied by a Pekinese dog. They looked very smart too in their purple gabardine frocks, white caps and dainty aprons, one of the rules was that the voluntary helps may not speak to the officers
an order that was better observed in the breach than the observance. I never felt that these ladies were really in earnest, and events proved the correctness of my surmise, for I came into conflict with the Baroness in charge when she came round collecting cards to make quite a substantial deficiency. When I remonstrated that our voluntary labours were to make economy possible and keep expenses within practicable limits, she rather rudely retorted that Australians used the Club at the low prevailing charge, but my reply was that they would be the last to do so, if they knew that the terms asked necessitated a subscription list from the voluntary workers.
It did not surprise any of us that soon a change of management was effected.
A very delightful innovation for all war workers was a Service held at the historical St. Martins in the Field, the church where Nell Gwynne was buried, and so centrally situated near Trafalgar Square.
The King's Chaplain, the Rev. Edgar Sheppard arranged that on each Sunday afternoon there should be a musical service with an address not lasting more than ten minutes. Always one of the famous Guards bands played. It was a great sight to see a crowded congregation, the hale and the weak. Nurses in charge of patients, attendants in charge of the blind. Motor oars bringing the lame all to enjoythe wonderful music, and the ten minutes address, though short were always impressive. These services were discontinued when summer time came and workers were able to enjoy the beauties of the country, and the fascinating Thames with its ever changing crowd.
Among the experiences of Winter was a visit I paid to the slums arranged by Sir John Kirk, that noted philanthropist who has given a life's work to the cause of the poor. I remember his speaking in Melbourne years ago, and was impressed by his saying that "Children should be very careful in the choice of their parents. It was through the Influence of Mr. Howard Begbie, the writer and novelist, that the arrangement was made for me, he too, as is well known has demoted all his talent to the cause of the poor
I was conducted through the worst parts of the East Endt and entered the buildings where Jack the Ripper committed his diabolical crimes. These structures take up the smallest possible space, and ' are constructed on the plan of a tower with steps leading up. Every few yards there is a space in the wall, not big enough to swing the proverbial cat, but it holds a bed of sorts, and in it a family sleep and live. Then there are tenements which are practically under ground in some cases the footpath has been raised, and the tenants front door is blocked, by this 'Improvement'. In one of these, occupying a single room, two old women lived, one seventy-six and the other eighty who got their living by selling cats meat while opposite with only a narrow passage between a woman sold water-cress. Her one room was tidy and clean though there was little light on account of the block in front, she thanked God for her home, and I thought the Illuminated text with 'God bless our Home', (the only attempt at adornment In that little hovel, with its one chair, its inadequate bed clothing, its cracked cup and saucer and broken tea pot spout), was truly pathetic.
There were sights that made my heart ache, where little children were huddled together under bundles of rags for covering, where mothers were drinking in the public houses, and little tots waiting out side on the doorstep sometimes in a rickety perambulator, but oftener in charge of an elder child, A law provides that women may mot take their children into the bar, and perhaps that is something to be thankful for. But with all the admiration I had for England, with its wondrous traditions, Its refinement, and its marvellous hospitality I felt that this indeed was a cancerous spot, and regret is ever present that in the country's crisis she did not attack the evil firmly, and institute prohibition. The measure of reform in limiting the hours
of the liquor trade has done good, but how much better would the results have been to have abolished it altogether.
With the summer came the opportunity to accept some delightful invitations to the country and one of these took me to Meath Cottage, at Ottershaw, and it was a great delight to recall with Lord and Lady Denman, their visit to Australia.
Around their home is some very delightful scenery, and on their estate they have established homes for the Ministering Childrens League, which is Lady Meath's especial care. Here with the advantage of a country home, the children grow up well and strong, and become useful citizens. Through the courtesy of the Earl I visited the House of Lords, and saw the introduction of Lord Blythesword, with its accompanying ostentatious ceremony, I thought in some parts it savoured of comic opera, especially where the herald dressed in doublet and hose prompts the elect and his attendant sponsors, who stand either side, they dressed in ermine bordered robes with cocked hats, are told to "rise, take off your hat, bow, sit again,1´ the same formula is repeated, and yet again, and by that time I found it difficult to restrain my mirth, and thought it must be a little comedy added. Though more used to the procedure than I, it must, I am sure have struck Lord berestord, one of the sponsors humorously, for I distinctly saw him wink at one of the Peeresses.
Afterwards I met Lord Landsdowne, Lord Cuzzon and Lord Camperdown. The Earl obtained permission for me to enter the room where the Dardenelles Commission was sitting, and it gave me a very chokey feeling to see those statesmen at their deliberations. It made history for Australia, but at what a cost. A mist clouded my eyes as I recalled that first wonderful contingent, as it marched down Collins Street, in very truth the flower of our manhood were they.
Afterwards we had tea on the famous terrace, and at the next table were seated John Burns, the noted labour member, and Judge Neale of Chicago, a colleague of Judge Lindsay's in the Childrens' Court.
He mentioned having met our High Commissioner in Paris the previous week. For Whitsuntide I accepted an invitation to Graffam Court, and found the next estate was that of Lord Cowdray, father of Lady Denman wife of our former Governor General.
The country In May is perhaps at its best, albeit one could not imagine, anything more beautiful, everywhere was a carpet of blue bells. The meadows were filled with daisies and buttercups, the Hawthorn hedges
were in bloom, and the tender shoots of new foliage were many hued Azalias in all colours grew in profligate riot, and I felt that of the English spring the half had not been told.
Very interesting were the traditions connected with the house of my host. His grounds took in an old Roman road, over which the smugglers passed when on their way to their caves not far away with their shipwrecked spoils.
It was interesting to walk through Cowdray Park, and view the ruined castle on which rested the strange curse of the Priest so extraordinarily fulfilled. The new home built on the modern lines looked out of place in the historic setting.
On June 2nd I was back in London for the Investiture in Hyde Park. Ceoil came with me and got some excellent snaps. Among the 325 recipients were Major Murtay D.S.O. of N.S.W., who ha8 had every military honour possible, and he got a tremendous reception as the King pinned his latest bar on, and shook him warmly by the hand.
The arrangements were splendidly carried out, and the day a perfect one. The Guards' bands massed, and clothed, in all their pre-War time splendour took up their position on the far side. The centre was reserved for wounded soldiers, who looked quite festive in their blue hospital suits with white shirts and red ties. And nearer the dais where the King and Queen stood were representative guests including relatives of the recipients. A ramp ascended to and descended from where the King stood, so that each as he or she walked up (several nurses were included) could be seen by the whole of the assemblage. Not only did the public standing make a fringe many feet deep around those seated, but they stretched along the route for miles, kept in a line by an army of special constables, all controlled by Lieut.Col. Reay Managing Director of the Melbourne Herald in London. Over all a squadron of Aeroplanes circled unceasingly, with an ever watchful eye for enemy craft.
That evening we dined at Herbert Crescent, and met Miss Agnes Bowen, daughter of one of our earliest Governors of Queensland and Victoria and recalled many very interesting incidents of her childhood
My work in connection with visiting hospitals had extended considerably, and I found that in some of the wards it was possible to arrange a programme of music, and in this I was greatly assisted by Miss Doris Carter, (one time of Melbourne who came often, and with others greatly cheered the wounded men, who were unable to leave their beds for the concerts provided in their recreation rooms.
To the King´s College Hospital, where I had introduced her, came Cecil later, suffering from shock through a bomb bursting close to his machine, and he recognised her and sent to say he was amongst her lying down audience.
I always arranged to be at the Overseas Club on the monthly afternoon address arranged, for they were unvaryingly interesting and gave much first hand war experience. We had Hamilton Fyfe and J. F. Mo Kenzie, both war correspondents for the Daily Mail, and Dr. Caroline Matthews, a spirited little lady, who when with the Serbians was detained for a time by the Germans, she wore full regimentals just as men medical officers did, and she cut a queer little figure in her manly trousers. She published a book dealing with her experiences called "In the Hands of the Enemy"
Ron now a fully qualified Pilot, came to town for his last leave and my visit with him to dinner and the theatre was not altogether a festive occasion. He left for France the following week and I went on a visit to Oxford to friends he had made when doing his theoretical course at Exeter College.
It may be interesting to reproduce what I wrote at the time, but in addition to the Thames trip described, I visited Stratford- on Avon, and spent a day visiting Shakespear´s House, Ann Hathaway´s Cottage, and looked in at a hospital nesr by, where out under the trees in a cooling inviting spot were wounded soldiers I soon found there were some Australians, and they seemed well pleased with their peaoeful and delightful surroundings, no greater contrast from the turmoil of war could be imagined.
On the day of my return to London, I went with Mrs. Fisher to a special service at at. Magnus in the East End. It was about to be closed because so many Chaplains were at the Front, and there were churches near that would serve the parishioners temporarily.
To mark the occasion, and 'In remembrance of Foundational principles Of Free Institutions and ideals for which the city of London has stood throughout the ages of British History. The Bishop of of London preached and the Lord Mayor and sheriffs were present.
As things transpired there was only the smallest congregation other than official representatives, for on the way our car and all traffic in the vicinity was held up to allow the motor ambulances to pass for victims of an air-raid that had taken plage a few minutes earlier, and of which until then we knew nothing, we learnt later that a large number had been injured, and much property had been destroyed through taking fire. The occurrence lent great solemnity to the occasion, for the Bishop fervently prayed for the victims.
When leaving we drove under the portico, that was part of the road, where in bygone days all the traffic from London bridge passed and in the church itself Miles Coverdale was buried. A feature of London summer life are the exhibitions, and for me these were the more interesting for seeing represented Struton power, Bess Norris, Hilda Rix and one of the younger Australians meeting with success in Keith Edmonds, who it will be remembered went to London, after recovering from the motor cycle accident that cost him the loss of a leg.
There was a great press out-cry in London against the reappointment of Winston Churchill's re-admission to the Cabinet as Minister for Munitions, and with Mrs. Hamilton Earle (professionally Miss Louise Dale) I went to hear Lord Beresford and others speak in protestation at a massed meeting in the Queen's Hall, and what was characterised as the Dardanelles blunder, for which he was held responsible, was criticised in very unqualified terms.
That evening on my return was a message from Cecil to say he was again leaving for France.
I accepted an invitation the next evening to a drawing room meeting, convened by the National Imperial Association, at Earl's Court, and at the conclusion of the speeches, in answer to a request from the Chairwoman I gave a short account of the effect of the womens vote in Australia. The Hostess expressed her pleasure at meeting for the first time an Australian woman, though she has, she said, some two years before met young officer, who had been wounded at Lone Piner and whose name was Lieutenant Cecil H James. She was naturally more than surprised whan I claimed him as my son, and her daughter added further that at Folkestone, lunching with a British Officer, he remembered that he had only met one Australian, proceeded to describe his wound and circumstances and found that their mutual one was the same,- truly a very small world. On August 4.th in the Queen's Hall there was a huge meeting in recognition of the War's Anniversary, and Mr. Lloyd George was the principal speaker. By courtesy of Mrs. Lloyd George I had the privilege of an excellent seat, and it was a memorable day. I had expected to hear a more declamatory nature and was quite unprepared for the quiet yet forceful and tailing way that the Prime Minister spoke. In accentuating a point instead of raising his voice he lowered it, and when he referred to the aims of the Enemies, and what would happen in the future if they were undefeated he said "But there must be no next time." And in that vast audience you could have heard a pin drop. At the conclusion of his speech there was the greatest enthusiasm, the whole audience rose and cheered, and I wondered whether the' time would come when that popularity would wane.
On the Sunday following I had a reserved seat at Westminister Abbey for the War Anniversary, and was quite close to where sat King George and Princess Mary.
In the afternoon I met a number of officers at Lady Harrowby´s.
She was always at home on Sunday afternoons, and one could always be sure of meeting friends there. Having heard that a nurse I had previously met was ill, I went to see her at the Australian Nurse´s Hospital in Southwell Gardens. It had only recently been opened by Mrs. T. S. Hall of Mount Morgan fame and proved the greatest boon, for until
then our Australians were dependent upon English Hospitals, and among strangers often felt lonely. The outcome of my visit there was to arrange a fortnightly musical evening, and for that I had the assistance of a number of friends, including two Australian girls Edith Sullivan and Vera Cree, who had won scholarships and were studying at the London Academy. At the Hon. Mrs. Edwards 'Weekly at Home' for officers, there were also many musical Australians who contributed, to their entertainment. Among these were Madam Ada Crossley and William James, late of the Melbourne Conservatorium. Elsir Hall, now Mrs. Storr frequently played, and one Sunday evening I remember she was playing with all her old time witchery and every ear intent, when there suddenly came the rude crash of dropping bombs, but no one moved, and when she had finished the guests stood around the piano and sang chorus songs, in opposition to the deafening noise of the barrage. Colonel Mailer, who left as commanding officer of the artillery in which Ron was a Private, came with the disappointing news that the Doctor had pronounced affection of the eye for which he had been some weeks in Hospital as cataract and he was ordered to Australia. With him I went to the Tower of London, and one of the attendants proved to have been in the same regiment in England forty years earlier. Just as we were leaving there was entering a young man who lived in the little town of Alexandra, where both my boys were born, and who used to play together as children. Now August, the weather still beautiful I accepted Mrs. Hamilton Earle's invitation to her summer house at Crowborough, a favourite resort in Sussex. There was much of interest there, and I very much enjoyed the drives, which are noted for their beauty. Again I found a local interest for Groombridge Castle an Elizabethian Mansion quite four hundred years old, is occupied by an old lady eighty-six years of age, whose nephew, will be her heir and he emigrated to Australia when a Youth, married and when over age enlisted and returned to England, seeing for the first time his heritage. His family are being educated in England with a view to fitting them
to occupy the wonderful old place surrounded by every evidence of great wealth, in the terraced gardens with statues and marble fountains the peacocks strut proudly, the park adjoins with the deer browsing contentedly, and the moat surrounding for the protection of the mansion seems a sinecure in such a scene of peace.
Among many interesting friends of Mrs. Hamilton Earle were Sir Arthur and Lady Conan Doyle, and we spent a delightful afternoon at their house, their children, two boys and a girl, welcomed us in Indian garb and with all the seriousness of make-believe, on hearing that I came from Australia, they were anxious that I should be initiated into the mysteries of their tribe, but being a woman there arose a difficulty for no one but their own sister had that privilege. On consultation with the "big chief" (their father) they concluded that I could represent the soldiers of Australia, who haa fought so bravely and so well, and so with due ceremony I was accepted. Of all my pleasant days it was one that stood out, for the atmosphere was so delightfully friendly, and yet everywhere such distinctiveness. In the beautiful music room we had a feast of good things, just entirely impromptu, and as an outcome of a general conversation, Mrs. Hamilton Sarle (Miss Louise Dale) sang song after song by favourite composers and Lady Conan Doyle, and exquisite pianiste played. It was by no means a conventional entertainment, but one of the most joyous possible Sir Arthur spoke his admiration of my country men in the war, and said in his history, that he was then writing that they would get full justice for their wonderful deeds.
I had only just returned from my visit to Crowborough, when I got a surprise ring from Cecil over from France on duty. We met for lunch, and he left for Grantham where he had to report.
That afternoon I had a party of visitors at the Overseas Club, among them our Q.M.C.A. representatives, who included Mr. Jenner, and Mr. Land, the latter due to leave for Australia. While in London during these Summer months, I reserved Saturday afternoons for visiting outlying beauty spots, and found many
charming and ideal. Miss Grace Watson, one time well known in Melbourne as Secretary of the Australian Womens National League, was often my companion on these excursions, and I recall with pleasure our pleasant chats in the beautiful surroundings of Chorley woods, the Kew Gardens, the Botanical and Zoological Gardens, Hampton Court etc.
Through Lady Harrowby's courtesy arrangements were.made for me to view Lambeth Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that was of wonderful interest. There was the restored crypt of great architectural beauty, the library's collections of noted ecclesiastical writers for hundreds of years, available always to theological students, the noted windows, the marvellous proportions of the ceiling, and ancient chapel, and still standing are the cells that imprisoned ecclesiastical divines and other notables who shared differences of opinion in the 'good old days'.
One morning when reading the "Times" I saw an article explaining the aims of the newly formed Women's Army Auxiliary Corps which was intended to release men for the front, and regret was expressed that there was a dearth of women of administration capacity offering, who were needed as leaders.
In view of long experience in Australia, it seemed to me a direct call, and I immediately wrote to the Chief Controller, asking for an interview. In a very short time I had a favorable reply and the outcome was that the same day I had enrolled and passed a stiff medical examination for active service.
Before signing the enrolment form, which pledged me to service for the duration of the war, I sought an interview with the Recruiting Officer and asked if in the event of domestic circumstances warrant ing my return I could be released. She suggested that a statement citing my circumstances should accompany the form and felt sure that any untoward happening would be sympathetically considered. With that assurance I felt considerably relievedf and being given by the examining Medical Women a first class bill of health I walked home across Hyde Park with a feeling of great elation and awaited further events.
The few days of my remaining freedom were very pleasantly spent.
On one of them Cecil got a day's leave to accompany me to an outdoor party at "Ranelagh" given by Lady Francis Lloyd, whose husband in London is Provost Marshall. The day was an ideal one and in the magnificent grounds under spreading trees tables were set for congenial parties.
Waiters in red coats were a striking note in gay harmony with the peacocks that roamed at will. For the several officers present, competition sports were held, on the lake was a particularly spirited oar contest, rowed in heats, each taking a lady in his boat. Cecil in the final had to row to a conclusion against Lady Lloyd's nephew just home from Eton, and as he had belonged to the boating crew there it was no disgrace for Cecil to be beaten by a length.
That was one of the jolliest days possible and proved to be my last pleasure outing for the next morning I received my "Call up" notice and was instructed to report at Connaught Club.
This large building was a men.a popular club and reflected very clearly the needs of the times when it was commandeered by the War Office as a Training hostel for women.
I shall never forget the strangeness of my surroundings that first night. I seem to have been transported into another world and such a strange one. The staff connected with the hostel were all uniformed and very smart they looked, in their khaki tailored skirt and tunio, but about them all there seemed an element of aloofness. They had not got used to their new position and the recognition of place so new to women of England. That, I think tended to the, extreme coldness and apparent indifference to the "Freshmen" entering.
At dinner the unit Administrator entered, followed by her deputy and staff, all looking very conscious of their military dignity. The meal, I remember, was a very badly cooked one with a reminiscent flavour of red herring in each course evidently imparted from the breakfast dishes. At the conclusion of the meal it was, I found, necessary to sit at attention until the unit Administrator had left. On returning to the Orderly room a notice directed that all new comers should submit themselves immediately to the Medical officer for inoculation and vaccination and both were perpetrated before bedtime.
The next morning i awoke with extreme dizziness and longing for Home and its comforts, but I remembered that there were rules to be observed and so I pulled myself together, was with the Assemblage for 8 o'clock breakfast and followed in a queue, when in the servery we fell into line, helped ourselves to the requirements for breakfast and carried them to the dining room.
I found it exceedingly difficult to balance my plate of porridge, my plate with bloater and my cap of tea. After breakfast we gathered from "Daily Orders" that we must muster in the Drill Hall at nine o'clock for a coarse of drill and it was a strange sight to see elderly women chosen for life´s experience going through this duty with a cheerfulness wholly to their credit.
The next order was lectures of an hour twice during the day, visits to the Comissariat Quarter Mistress' Stores, Records Office, etc.
This was the routine for a fortnight, when an examination was held, and having satisfactorily passed my test I was authorised to purchase my uniform, to be ready to go into camp for experience in rationing troops. This took me to Grove Park only a few miles from London taking about half an hour by train. I was accomodated at an hostel with the Superintendant of the Cooking Section. She had under her control 50 women who did duty at the A.S.C. camp nearby.
Head Quarters were a workhouse of most substantial structure and of beautiful design. It is said that the building cost a guinea a brick, and there were some connected with its building who were convicted of dishonest practices so profligately was the money spent. It accommodated 4,000 men each day for meals, so cooking was no sinecure. The women worked in shifts and in turn were there throughout the night for a big motor section came on relays from their nocturnal duties.
The Superintendant had under her charge also a hostel for women who were cooking for an Officers and Sergeant´s mess, and accompanying her by car one morning, our girl Chaffeur had the misfortune to knock over a boy who ran across the road with his head down. She very cleverly swerved to prevent the fall force of the impact, but when he lay prone on the road my senses reeled for an instant. On picking him ap, we found a nasty gash in the side of his head, but he was not unconscious and was able to tell as where his mother was working. We took
him to a Nursing Home near by and while he was being tended, went for his mother. She, poor soul, ,was so overcome with the grandeur of riding in a motor oar, for the first time, and as she said with two military ladies that there was no trace of anxiety for the boy who. she said, "was always running out looking for trouble'. His injuries, I heard later, kept him at the hospital for a fortnight and l was very relieved to hear that he completely recovered.
At that time it was usual to have a nightly air-raid for the moon was bright, and with nerves rather jarred from the day's experience, a visitation that night did not improve them.
Before a week was out I received instructions to report at Devonshire House and on arrival there found that I had been appointed as unit Administrator for Nottingham and orders were to proceed there and open a draft hostel for 500 women.
Having been detained longer than I anticipated I decided to go to my old quarters at Queen's Gate for lunch and by another lucky chance (for want of a better name) while there a telephone message surprised me and it was from Ron who had come from France to fly a heavier machine, for he was being transferred to a bombing squadron, this is in accord with the new policy to inflict reprisals. I arranged that he should meet me at Charing Cross where I was to meet forty Australian wounded soldiers who through me the Superintendant had invited for tea.
We also met some girl friends from the Musical Academy and all went together to Grove park. It was a beautiful summer's day. tables were spread on the lawn and our forty cooks had prepared all manner of good things and were naturally very excited at the Australians arrival. The first they had met.
There was a certain shyness at the beginning of the proceedings but with the tea the social ice melted and by the time the musical programme was over, there was great oordiality.
The Sergeant Major in charge who, by the way, happened to be from my own suburb, Middle park, came on their behalf to ask if they might remain longer, and the Superintendant good
naturedly arranged for another relay of refreshments. At nine o'clock Ron left with three performers and I accompanied them to the station, but had only got there when lights were extinguished and an air-raid warning sounded. A train with all lights out waited at the station and the party rushed for that, while I hurried back to the hostel, but already the sky was alive with aeroplanes and one enemy that had got detached from his formation I could see was hard pressed.
It was a fascinating sight, but as the shrapnel from our own guns, was falling thick it was not a very healthy position and. I hurried inside. The guns were deafening and the house shook with the concussion. Naturally the girls were alarmed but were ably supported by the Australian soldiers who found it necessary to maintain that support for some time after the need existed. The Sergeant Major had considerable difficulty in getting his invalids to the station long after the All Clear had been sounded, and by the addresses that were exchanged I would not be surprised to know that some of them are among the wives who will come to Australia.
The next day (Sunday) meeting Ron in town he told me that when eventually the train started, they were held up near a battery because of a renewed attack and it was half past two before they arrived at their destination. We spent that evening in Herbert Crescent. He had only left for his club when there came another aerial visitation and as I was due to stay at Connaught Club and (being under Military discipline) be in by ten oclock, the position was awkward, for in the din and noise of an air battle proceeding,
I could not face the streets and no taxi could be got, so at the suggestion of my friend I rang for permission to remain the night.
The next morning I had to leave for Nottingham and it was pleasant to have Ron to see me off on my new venture. I took with me a deputy, a housekeeper, Quarter Mistress and nine for
a domestic staff. Then we reached our destination, two officers of the District Command met us with the disappointing news that no furniture had arrived, so arrangements were made for the night in a billet, so uncomfortable, that the next morning 1 set about making my own arrangements, and found it was possible to secure rooms in the Quarters that had been taken over in the Arboretum Gardens used as a restaurant.
Here we were made quite comfortable and had every consideration from the aforetime proprietor. One of the humors of the War Office was that for twentyfive houses, the first article ol lurniture to arrive was a hearth rug by post. Owing to the conflicting Authorities, it was heart-breaking work getting things into order. But eventually things began to take shape for my staff were Splendidly enthusiastic.
In the midst of furnishlng we were required to draft women who were constantly arriving to the various camps, requisitioning lor their services and while the Women remained formulated a scheme of training. Every morning they drilled and had physical exercises and 1 arranged for them to have lectures on the various subjects that would be useful in their work. Their first appearance in public was at a concert given in the Albert hall at Nottingham and the Management conceded to me the Organ gallery at a shilling per head.
Their appearance caused a great deal of interest and several of the audience came to me to inquire about the organization.
The concert was a specially interesting one for Madane Clara Butt and Madame Elsa Stralia were the singers. Afterwards 1 saw Madame Stralia who told me that her brother Lt. Frank Fischer had arrived at Salisbury. He so often sang for me at Patriotic and Charitable concerts in Melbourne. (News has since been received that he was killed in France.) Having reported on the inadequacy ol the kitchen arrangements an Official from Head Quarters came to inspect and from
her I was surprised to hear that I had been asked for for France.
Though that was my ultimate desire, I was rather disappointed at hot seeing the entire fulfilment of my work for the next morning brought me my "Marching Orders."
In the meantime Ron had returned to France very delighted with his Rholls Royce Engine to join the 27th bombing squadron.
My instructions were to proceed to Hastings and I found on arrival there that a draft of 63 women I was to take over were not equipped. So I had to put in two very miserable days when it rained all the time, and the sea beat over the wall, and the arrangements at the hostel so primitive that there seemed not a corner anywhere that was comfortable. I went to bed early but the wind rattled through my comfortless room, and again I longed for some of the comforts of home, but had to remember that I was on active service. It was perhaps the strangeness rather than the physical discomfort that was so depressing. The morning of my departure was fortunately fine and after an early breakfast I stepped out at the head of my little army with a delightful sense of exhilaration. My forewoman (equal to a Non-Commissioned officer) was very capable and gave her orders in fine style. On reaching Folkestone there were hundreds of soldiers also waiting embarkation by the same boat and it might have been a most difficult task to keep the women in order for the men made many facetious remarks, occasionally gave them a combined cheer etc., but to their credit they were splendid and with a smile kept steadily on.
They all had to be accommodated below so that the men might have the use of the decks, and nowhere was there a spare foot of room. The confinement made a number sea-sick and though only two hours in the crossing it was decidedly uncomfortable. At half past five we reached Boulogne and were met by the W.A.A.C. Landing Official and conducted to our quarters for the night - a boathouse that did service as a dormitory and dining-room combined.
Though quite bare of furniture it had after our tiring day's journey a look quite inviting. Tables with bright patterned American leather were well spread and to us all it was a great joy
to see white bread, the first for me since my arrival in England. Bully Beef was the principal dish, and i found it with the pickles provided, quite appetising it is a form of pressed beef that really deserves a better name. 1 enjoyed too, the ration Jam with margarine that was much better than the bad butter we had been getting in England. 1 ordered lights out at nine o'clock, and my little army settled down on their mattresses on the floor, and in grey army blankets. My accommodation was on raised platform at the end that was screened off with curtains. We would all have been very satisfied to remain until morning with the rats that were occasionally scudding across, but just on mid-night came an air raid warning an awful sounding syren that sent a cold shudder down one's back. All lights were cut off but by the aid of an electric torch we hurried on some garments and crossed the road to a shelter that had been shown us previously. The moon was shining aa bright as day when we left our boat shed and though there was nothing to be seen, we had no sooner entered the cellar than the bombardment commenced and continued for quite two hours. (We heard afterwards that considerable damage wasdone, among the saddestt a company of 20 Bakers leaving their night's work were completely wiped out.)
It was three o'clock before the "all clear" signal came and we were able to return to our primitive quarters. It wassurprising how soon all was quiet again, for we were all very tired.
I could not sleep for there was on my mind the responsibility of catching the first train to Abbeville at a quarter to seven.
Those whose duty it was to provide tea for breakfast failed and we all would have had to start our journey on cold water but for the kindness of the French Red Cross, who were always day and night at the Railway Station to provide hot drinks for the soldier
My journey en route was full of interest, for I passed stations that had a strangely familiar sound from having seen these in the papers in connection with the various battles, and
all along the line were soldiers leaving the train to join their several unitsI had a great longing to talk to all the Australians I saw, and at least tell them that I too came from their home-land.
On arrival at Abbeville I was met by W.A.A.C. officials, and relieved of my draft, some of whom I found had to go on some distance further. It was with a good deal of regret that I said good-bye to these, for between us there had grown up in our day and nights foreign experience quite a feeling of comradeship and quite contrary to the correctness of military rule, they said they wished I could remain their commanding officer.
After reporting to the Chief Controller, whose Bead Quarters are at Abbeville, it was arranged that I should go to a camp about three miles out, to be initiated into rationing methods as they prevailed in France. My first experience of hut life was by no means comfortable. The weather was cold and my only furniture was a service iron wash stand, a chair and a bed. Grey army blankets were my covering, and when I awoke in the morning the top was quite wet from the moisture that had penetrated the roof.
Having a severe cold as a result of the air raid shelter I was feeling anything but happy, but the thought of the soldiers in the trenches gave me courage and I determined not to let physical discomfort hamper my resolve.
After a week's experience there, seeing the women at their work, cooking, draughtsmanship,and clerical, I received instructions to proceed to Boulogne. The Chief Controller told me that the unit to which I had been appointed had been considerably neglected on account of the illness of the Administrator, and was difficult by reason of its being situated in the part of the town, where discipline was not so easily enforced.
I left by the evening train, and in my carriage were several officers who joined straight from the fighting, two of whom had not had leave for three years, and their excitement was intense at the prospect of getting to London once more. At the station I was met by the Official Landing Officer, who now seemed like an old friend
for it was her face I first remembered on my arrival at the pier and she was particularly kind and helpful, being a competent French linguist.
It was past midnight when I reached my new quarters, and as the bell at the outer door clanged, reverberated, it had a queer and uncanny sound. A sleepy attendant let us in and l found two of the staff awaiting my arrival and. a good fire burning, which was decidedly cheery after the cold huts. Though rather unkempt as I could see at first glance the mess room was not without possibilities, but I tried to dismiss everything for the night and got to my room as quickly as possible. It was a good size but an uninviting apartment without ornament of any kind, just a bed with grey army blankets bare boards, uncovered shelves, a tin wash stand. I was very tired though and, despite the surroundings, found the bed comfortable and slept till the dressing bell called.
At breakfast I met the members of the mess, and though everything was very strange I felt a degree of comfort from the fact that they were looking for organisation that had been lacking in the past, and were prepared to assist in securing it.
My first duty was to report to the Area Controller who arranged for me to be shown round, and I found in the course of my inspection that my Head Quarters was an old French hotel that had been taken over by the war Office. It had a sadly neglected appearance and the drains as in most French towns were in a very insanitary condition. The entrance was a cobbled court yard with a kitchen well in view, except in the administrators Quarters there were no fire-places, and only a defunct central heating apparatus, so that the women were very uncomfortable. At an adjunct, however, a once private house that did duty as an auxiliarythe conditions were much better, for here at least in the recreation room the women had the advantage of a fire. My first day was taken up in becoming acquainted with the various conditions, and towards evening I walked to the Sea Front, end spent an hour in bewilderment at seeing the activities of war time. Ambulances in slow and steady procession
loaded with wounded being taken to hospitals and ships. Sea planes circling overhead, destroyers everwatchful, taking their places alongside the channel boats, others disembarking large numbers of troops, who falling into line marched with steady tramp to the Railway Station to take their places in the firing line and fill the ever increasing gaps. The whole thing seemed so big and fraught with such tremendous issues, that I just felt unable to take it In but was thrilled with satisfaction, that there in the heart of that big Base I was doing my bit.
On my second day a Major called to see his sister, one of my staff, and found that he had been to Queensland for Colonial experience on the nfcxt station to Ron, when at Darra River Downs. He was leaving the next day for Italy.
The next few mornings I noticed and remarked an aeroplane that flew over the town at the same time each morning, but had no Idea that the Pilot could be any one in whom I was especially interested. I had the boys' Postal addresses, but that in military requirements did not convey to me their districts, and on account of my moving round it was some days before their letters reached me in reply to my telling them I was In France. The first came from Ron saying he had just returned to Head Quarters and collected his mail, which had accumulated owing to his absence on duty for a week as a Ferry Pilot; and it was his machine that I had seen each morning, and the aerodrone from which he started only ten miles away. He explained that he was only about forty five miles off and would be able to call any day that the weather was dudn for flying
At the end of the week he surprised me by arriving in time for supper and my joy at seeing him was. just boundless. It seemed strange indeed to greet him there in military surroundings, both of us in the service of the British War Office. When he oalled the next morning we went out to "do the town and ran into Colonel Springthorpe who was In France on a special mission in connexion with shell shock cases. He Invited us to lunch at the Criterion
and I thought that the incidents were indeed crowding.
Ron returned to his Aerodrome by car that night, and I felt how good it was to be so closely in touch with him. The next Day´s mail brought me a letter from Cecil saying that he had been knocked out through a shell bursting close to his machine and was on his way to England via Havre. His next letter announced his safe arrival at King's College Hospital, but had suffered a relapse owing to an Air Raid in London. Some of the Bombs fell close to the hospital and the wounded carried in then naturally had a bad effect on all shell shock patients. Later, this danger was realised by the Medical Authorities, and all sufferers were taken out of the London area.
Among my mail forwarded from London, was a letter from Miss Bride, whom I met in the train some months before returning from Market Drayton. She told of her appointment under the British Red Cross to a recreation hut for Convalescent Soldiers, and described her surroundings which I immediately recognised as my own, and found that I could communicate with her by telephone, only two miles away. Her surprise was considerable, and afterwards an interchange of visits with her was my greatest pleasure. There were some wonderful entertainments held there. The big hut, held a thousand men, and was completely equipped with electric light, stage, and all accessories. Among the men was some extraordinary talent and there was a splendid orchestra that varied in quality, owing to the performers regaining their health and going back to "the line", but it was never mediocre, and at no time did it ever lack a conductor. They had excellent revues. One especially good was written by a New Zealander and the music composed for it by a member of Beecham's Orchestra. The help of our W.A.A.Cs was enlisted for the costumes and altogether it was a noteworthy performance.
The Xmas Pantomime too, was brimful of local hits and witticisms that gave the men much fun and interest. It ran for a fortnight, and invitations to the sisters in Hospitals
V.A.Ds. and W.A.A.Cs. were issued. It was a brave sight to see every member of the audience, men and women, in uniform. One of the jolliest nights to me was when the men had a dance among themselves. No women were ever admitted to these. The Orchestra for this was available once a week, and when possible I took tea with my friend at five. At six, all the entertainments began, so that they may be all over and settled down for lights out at nine. No officers were present, so that only the Padre was available as a partner for ; me, and we usually danced the Lancers together; a unique experience in the midst of seven or eight hundred men in Khaki. I remember one night, the members of our Khaki Choral xSociety gave a concert for the men's entertainment, and they particularly wanted me to preside, but Air Raids were so frequent, I felt disinclined to leave my post. However, it was arranged that a motor-car should be standing by so that in the event of an alarm I could be whisked back in a very short time. Fortunately, a misty rain set in and that Kept the enemy off. so our concert proceeded in peace. It was an opportunity for me to reier to aspersions that at that time were rife concerning the character of the women of our corps, and .when I spoke of the splendid work they were doing and how because of it they had aroused the jealousy of traducers, the men cheered to the echo. I said that they in their letters to England could do much to counteract the foul calumnies by writing as they knew them, and the officers told me that for many weeks afterwards there were references to their sterling characters and effective work.
These rumors became so persistent that a Commission of well-known Women from England were appointed and the result of their exhaustive inquiries so satisfactory that the Queen became Commander in Chief, and the name altered to Q.M.A.A.C. (Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps).
The Camaraderie between this Convalescent Camp through
the courtesy of Colonel Campbell, its commander, and the members of my unit became so firmly established that I was enabled to allow Invitations for a fortnightly dance at the hostels and the band or part was always available. For these occasions special passes until ten o'clock were Issued and I am sure they did much to cheer the men, and placed men and women in a position to enjoy legitimate entertainment under suitable conditions. 1 made a point always of joining the dancers during the evening, and personally said good night to each as he left, so that there was no undue loitering when the programme for the evening was over#
Towards the end of November 1 was deputed to a unit St. Omar and knowing that Ron's aerodrome was only twelve miles distant, arranged through the Air Craft Depot for him to be notified, and he was able to get a day's leave to meet me. Together we had lunoh at a little French Restaurant, and I seemed to give the waitresses much interest for during the meal I remarked that it was not the one who started to serve us, and Hon said it was the third. They had evidently come in here to our private room to Indulge their curiosity. It was, I believe, a record for mother and son to meet within twenty miles of the Firing linet and more remarkable that we were both in uniform. The motor journey there took me over the ground that had, in the early stages of the war, been occupied by the Germans. There was all along the road, signs of war-like activity - miles of huge transport wagons, soldiers marching with full kit and tin helmets - aerodromes en route, with aeroplanes constantly leaving and returning, and in striking contrast to their, birdlike alertness; huge sausage baloons doing observation duty.
St.Omar was constantly subjected to air Bombardment, and at a later stage of the war all our women had to be evacuated on
account of the extreme danger. On the evening of my return to Boulogne, Lieut. Watson (of Canada) called with a letter ( of introduction from Cecil in the hospital. It was my first missive by air, for Lieut. Watson had tha't day brought it by aeroplane from London. He was doing, what is known among airmen as Channel Ferry Duty, and afterwards he joined our mess frequently when bringing machines from England.
With the moon came a big air raid very early, in the evening, and it was then I found how far discipline was lacking in my newly acquired unit. The big gates that opened into the Court-yard were not shut until 8.30 when all women other than those with special passes had to be in for roll call, and at about eight a bombardment started. All sorts of people rushed in for shelter from the street. There were French soldiers, civilians, Portugese, and many non descripts, while many of our women were as yet not in doors. The situation was a difficult one, for it was impossible to order those taking cover into the streets. The doors had to be shut to prevent others coming in except our own 'women, and they, were admitted in answer to the bell. It was three hours later that we had the "All clear" and I ordered a Roll call.
It seemed to be an unusual proceeding, and one could not help seeing, in some quarters, resented. It was found that only part of the number had mustered, and on enquiry I found that some had gone to their rooms, flouting the order given.
1 sent the Forewoman to say they must immediately return but they were to say the least, dilatory, and I had to determinedly stand waiting for the order to be obeyed, and keeping the remainder waiting also. I spoke to them of the necessity in such a crisis Of exacting discipline, and could hear occasional murmurings. It was altogether a tense and trying time, and I was frankly relieved when the absentees put in an appearance and Roll call effected.
The next morning after a troubled nights sleep, I awoke
with my whole body shaking, and realised that my nerves had received a shock. The Doctor who visited our sick bag every morning, came to see me and ordered a day in bed. That only in part cured me and he arranged for me to have electric treatment, and each day for an hour I visited the Neuropathic Hospital with its up to date equipment directed by Major Webb Curtis, one of the leading specialists of England. In a few days I felt the benefit of the treatment, and was soon able to discontinue it.
I found of course, having fought my first disciplinary battle and won it, that my regime was established, and by taking every care not to issue an unnecessary order, those essential were more or less readily obeyed; and as time went on, meeting the difficulties as they came, I got through without undue worry, and I think a just claim for pride is that I never had to send a disciplinary case to higher authority.
When censoring letters on one occasion, I read "We have a new unit administrator who is an Australian. I cant say that I care much for these Colonials but there may be exceptions All sorts of requests for leave had to be carefully handled, for in some cases my sympathy would have been exploited. There were occasional applications to see a wounded brother, that, on investigation proved a Myth.
When enquiring into one of these, I came across one of the extraordinary coincidents of the War. Two brothers of one of my workers, were conveyed to the Etaiples Hospital in the same ambulance and had not met for three years previously.
By Xmas Day the weather was bitterly cold, and in the afternoon came our first big fall of snow. I awoke s shivering with the c9ld, but with a hot cup of tea was brought in by my Orderly a bunch of Wattle (mimosa it is called in France) and on the accompanying card was written.
"To Australia from England, Scotland Wales & Canada, and
for the first time I realised how diverse were the members of my Mess. The women worked as usual on Xmas Day, holidays were practically unknown to them for some of them always worked on Sundays too, particularly in the postal Department, where an ever flowing stream of mail matter had to be attended to.
I arranged that for the evening they should have a special dinner, and my Housekeeper and the Kitchen Staff co-operated so loyally that though we depended on rations, the dinner was a splendid success. I spent hours arranging the table decorations, largely composed of violets, and my staff decorated the Mess Hall, which completely transformed its air of departed glory and made it look very festive.
All the assistants and the Forewomen dressed in Cretonne caps and aprons, made of crinkled red, white, and blue paper, and that made a striking contrast to the Khaki-clad women seated in long rows.
Afterwards a guessing competition was held, that gave me an opportunity in presenting a prize which was won by the Head Cook, a girl who held her diploma for domestic science.
The next night, (Boxing Night) we arranged a dance for the women who invited their soldier friends each of whom had to be nominated, or have a special pass with my signature.
Afterwards, I heard that two Australians presented themselves
at the gate and asked for admission and on being told the rule said "Oh, I am sure your administrator would let us come, she's an Australian". I was glad that I was not put to the test, for it would have been hard for me to abide by my own rule, and refuse them. On New Year's Night, I gave permission for the younger members of the staff to have a dance and succeeded in getting an Orchestra from the Convalescent Camp. The difficulty however, was to get sufficient partners for the officers who wanted to come. Each one invited, wanted to bring a friend, but we were limited to members of our own Corps. For Hospital Nurses nor V.A.Ds were not permitted to dance.
The result was that the men out numbered the women by two to one.
The Officer In charge of the Air Craft Depot, rang me to say Hon had been specially commended by his C.Q. for photographic work and the next day I had a surprise visit from Ron on his way to .England for a special course of wireless telephony. I went down with him to the boat, during Xmas week, a party of Australian soldiers who formed a concert party and styled the Kookaburras" gave, a series of entertainments in the Municipal Theatre at .Boulogne, and one afternoon at the invitation of the Australian paymaster I and my staff occupied a box. Afterwards, I invited them to take tea on the following Sunday, and they gave a delightful program for the Womens entertainment.
About a week later Bon returned from his course and confirmed the news, the same day from Cecil, that the Medical Board had ordered his return to Australia.
Only a few days later came word that he had sailed by Hospital ship. 1 was disappointed not to have been able to see him but it wasaplendid that Ron's course filled in ao that they were able to meet.
Reference to my diary, shows that juat about this time Air Raids were particularly active. Night after night we were awakened, and had to take refuge in the cellar. It was not always that we would find, next morning, that probably Etaples or Calais had suffered, for if any where within twenty miles we always got the alarm, and orders to take cover. Naturally the women got nervy through having their aleep disturbed, but only in very few instances did their work auffer. rhey were alwaya ready to take their placea at the appointed time in the morning.
One night, taking their broken reat into consideration I did not have the bell sounded taking the responaibility of waiting until 1 might hear the aound of falling bomba.
Very soon I did, and realiaed how foolish it was to allow
my sympathy to outrun my judgment, for no sooner had two of the women left their bed, than there was a crash of broken glass and two spiked pieces of shrapnel from our own Anti Air Craft hit the pillows where they had been lying.
Falling shrapnel was always a source of danger particularly in day-time, when it fell from the guns attacking enemy photographers. They frequently came over about noon tide when the streets were thronged, and it was such a temptation to watch the combat that often the curious were killed by their own fool-hardiness.
From my own window I have watched the enemy,aeroplanes, when tight pressed they would, dive, wriggle, soar, ani eventually fly away looking like oi£ silver winged birds with all around them bursts of shrapnel flecking the sky like bunches of cotton-wool.
Though our women had to work hard, there were many compensations. A Lena Ashwell concert party was always welcomed with great glee. They came about once a month, and numbered among them some of the leading musical and vaudeville artists of London. In one of them 1 was agreeably surprised to meet Elsie Hall (now Mrs. Dr. Storr; our own brilliant Melbourne pianist. They visited the Soldier's Convalescent Gamps and some went even up the line to entertain men who were out of the trenches resting.
There had been no word from Ron for several days, and I concluded that "No news was good news" but was more than surprised when I received a wire from London that he was in the K. F. C. Hospital. Later, the report came that he was suffering from neuristhenia and that, being common among air men working at so great a strain as long distance bombing I was consoled that at least he was out of danger for a time, gradually it was revealed to me that the trouble was more serious, end he was suffering from a bad concussion that he had received through his control being shot away, and he fell from a distance of several thousands of feet.
The Doctor's report was that his recovery was likely to be protracted, but it was not long before he was able to go to the Convalescent Hospital for R.F.C.Officer at Shirley Park, and here, some weeks later I was able to see him, for my Area Controller very kindly arranged that I should take duty that might easily have been apportioned to some one else.
I travelled on the same steamer as the Duke of Connaught and his staff9 when returning from their trip to Egypt.
We were particularly well convoyed, for besides destroyers on either aide, there floated over us a baby Zeppelin of British manufacture of course, and I am told, from these, the observer can peer into the very depths of the sea.
It gave me great satisfaction to see how well Ron was being cared for in most beautiful surroundings, away, as was so necessary, the sister explained, from the distracting noises of Air raids. There were sixty or seventy young air men there, seeing them separately grouped like this made one realise what a splendidly virile set they were. From some of them I learnt what a miraculous escape Ron had, when picked up it was thought he was dead. No other has been crashed that distance who has not been killed, but he was mercifully spared and making a good recovery. Having completed my official mission I returned to duty the next day with a heart full of thankfulness for my escape from a great sorrow.
My Command being in the centre of the town it was my privilege to entertain most of the distinguished visitors, and that gave me considerable pleasure for there were women of note who came with special permission from the War Office, and among the most interesting were Lady Baden Powell who came to make a report on the Women's work. She seemed most interested to know that I was an Australian, and later wrote to congratulate on what she was pleased to call my "splendid Sacrifice"
She in London has command of the "girl guides" a sister organisation to the Boy Scouts of which her husband is the distinguished leader.
It would hardly be expected that with men and woman so closely associated there would not be come romances, and one of these had a happy termination in a khaki wedding I attended at Head Quarters. The price to pay was however a separation after three days, for military rule forbade husband and wife to be in service together in France. Just as I left the Church I met two Melbourne NursesMiss Rosenthal, and Miss Jobson, partners in a Toorak private hospital now doing duty as anathetists. This was in March and that month will be ever remembered for it loomed dark with apprehension. Every day there was news of a fresh reverse, and every night there were deafening noises of bombardment. Sometimes the enemy would come so silently that there was no warming, and the first indication would be falling bombs the concussion of which would shatter our windows, and the falling glass add to the pandemonium. As a rule the visitations took place early in the evening, and we were able to get some sleep at a reasonable time, but there seemed to be a scheme of relays and we would just get to bed with one lot driven off, when settling down for sleep another lot would come and again we had to go underground.
It was at this time of unwonted activity we found the benefit of a discovery I had made in getting an entrance effected from the vestibule so that we could get shelter without going into the Court Yard, end so we were saved from the danger of falling shrapnel as well as the extreme cold that in any case always made our teeth chatter.
With the discomfort in itself rather trying, there came all sorts of disquieting reports, grains being wrecked en-route from Paris Channel steamers discontinued, more reverses including Cambrai, when we were at first buoyed up with news of victory, it was all very depressing, it the end of a month on a night when the moon was shining as bright as day, and we could see from the windows what looked
like a fleet of aeroplanes the noise from their bombs and our own guns was so deafening that I thought my ear-drums would break. I, that evening did telephone duty while my deputy took charge of the cellar. That order was always observed and was that her a coveted post, for it was much more interesting if rather dangerous, to be able to see something of what was going on. The next day (Sunday) we found that our worst fears had been realised, and dreadful havoc wrought. The old town which was surrounded by Ramparts, and where Napoleon once had a chateau.
It suffered badly and among others, the home of a French Military Official was raised to the ground. With a friend I visited the ruins, and then many of the bodies had not been recovered. We were being escorted where barriers prevented the public, when there came another alarm, and immediately we were taken in charge by a Gendarme and hurried into a French cellar. I vainly asked to be allowed to return to my unit.
Only quarter of an hour's walk, but the "law" was obdurate, and I had to take shelter with the rest. It seemed stranger in broad daylight, with the sun shining to hide oneself away, and there was such a medley of people - French civilians excitedly and shrilly talking Officers, and men crouching in every corner. I was very glad that our detention did not last long, and it was the greatest relief to get into the open air.
It seemed to be a false alarm as far as we were concerned, but it meant a sad visitation to poor old London.
On the principle that troubles never come along we were one night threatened with a new danger, and not inappropriately, the date was the 1st of April.
I was awakened at half past one and told that a water pipe had burst upstairs and was flooding the women's bedrooms. And so it proved.
We were able after literally wading through, to turn off the main tap and stop a further flow. But already beds had been saturated, and a readjustment of rooms had to be made.
That over and all settled down again about three o'clock, we could only have just got to sleep when there came an air-raid, and fighting sounded very heavy. It was dawn before we were released, and soon the report came that one of the huts, in which W.A.A.G.s had been sleeping was demolished;- they fortunately had taken cover.
On Easter Sunday I had duty at the Pier, and sad results of the heavy fighting was apparent in the lines and lines of motor ambulances laden with the wounded, waiting their turn to put their suffering burdens on the hospital ships. One could not help admiring the wonderful organisation of the B.R.C. in the arrangements made, everything was done for their comfort and every detail carried out with utmost miraculous precesion.
The first week in April a cable came telling of Cecil's safe arrival in Australia, and that, among the conflicting, elements of active service, was very cheering news.
The work of the unit became increasingly heavy, owing to necessary evacuation up the line. Every day and night women were unexpected1y arriving, and beds had to be improvised.
From them we had alarming accounts of the advance of the Germans. The town was packed with refugees, looking pitiable with their bundles of clothing, or bits of furniture carried on a hand-cart. Sometimes a soldier, and not infrequently an Australian, might
be seen helping a poor old man or woman to trundle their burden, and thousands of the more comfortable citizen residents left Boulogne for the South of France, xhe weather was bitterly cold and wet, and we heard of the greatest hardships being endured for lack of accomodation. Troops were pouring across the Channel to reinforce. Every day brought boat loads of fresh young lads cheering and singing, eager to get into the fight, but little realising what was before them. That by contrast could be seen in the faces of those who marched from the convalescent depots to re-take their places in the firing line, men with two and three wound stripes, and some with four years service. They knew just what they were going to, and though they had the set look of determination there was no singing for them.
Our womens' help was splendid in this crisis, for with the abnormal crowds to be fed, there was a tremendous amount of domestic work to be done, in officers' clubs in camps and in hospitals they worked like trojans.
Our women motor drivers had also a heavy task, but there were none who shirked, some of these broke down under the strain but our women doctors were there to care for them, and a well equipped hospital, and later a charming convalescent home gave them all the essentials to restore their strength.
As the weeks advanced I felt a growing pride in my work.
Acts of insubordination became fewer. The spirit of camaraderie developed in the unit, the women worked in more loyal co-operation and as the comfort of the hostels became manifest the women realised that I had their welfare at heart.
1 had in the Royal Engineer Officer a most helpful ally for he often went beyond the street border line of militarism to help me in my scheme of furbishing the building, with the result that in a few weeks it took on the air of home comfort and a degree of cheerfulness, with the aid of some potplants that was quite surprising.
Always a believer in the effect of environment I could have no better proof of its influence than in the attitude of the
women whose manners changed from hostility and a degree of suspicion to respect not to say friendliness, for many of them came to me with private affairs, which showed that I had their confidence. With everything going so smoothly it was with something of e shock that I came against a tough proposition in a new arrival, one Agnes Campbell a domestic worker. She entered the orderly room with fire in her eyes, went to my deputy, to whom she had to report for duty, and immediately blurted out, What hours do I get off in this place? I looked across the table out of the corner of my eye, and thought this looks like trouble. The preliminaries of taking name, number etc. concluded, I invited her to my table and elecited that she had just crossed from England, where she had been training for some weeks. "Were you taught to salute1, I asked, "Yes I was", she replied in broad scotch stiffened attitude. "Then let me see how nicely you can do it", and with just a flicker of a smile she obeyed. I told her of the temptations there would be in a foreign town, the necessity of being circumspect in her behaviour etc. and dismissed her by hoping she would prove loyal to her corps.
The next morning my deputy (who by the way had been private secretary to Lloyd George for seven years, previous to his being prime Minister of England), told me that she had seen Campbell, (we always referred to them by their surname), when sweeping the footpath speaking to several men passing. I asked that she be sent to me, and told her that was not seemly and that she must desist. She retorted "Can't a body be civil to them, and say good morning". Again I pointed out the misconstruction there might be of such conduct in a foreign city, and then went into a matter of overalls which she had not brought and as a matter of form asked "Is this statement quite correct?
That evening the forewoman asked for an interview, and reported that Campbell had refused duty, again I sent for her, and asked if the charge were true, "It is", she said with bristling mien, "and I dont intend to do duties for the likes of you, you accused me of
talking to men, and stealing overalls. You think you're a lady, but I have got more lady in my little finger than you have in your whole body. I was told to tell you that and now I´ve telt ye".
I commanded her to be silent, and pointed out that if she persisted I. should have her sent back to England in disgrace. In my presence I asked the forewoman to detail her duty, which she did.
Later the forewoman returned to say that Campbell was at work but she thought I ought to know that she had caused a disturbance in the street by accosting an Australian nurse, and saying that she did'nt think-much of her Country women', for they had one at the head of them, to which the nurse replied "Oh you must not think we are all alike".
I felt that if Campbell were going to allow her unbridled temper to run riot in the street, it would be better to transfer her to a more distant camp. It was a relief to hear she had expressed that wish, and I told her to put it in writing.
Her transfer, within a couple of days was effected, and I sent for Campbell to give her instructions, when, to my astonishment she broke down sobbing, and begged to be allowed to remain.
In her repentant mood she told me that it was not of her own accord she had been rude and insubordinate, but had listened to a "Tommy", who advised her to give me "cheek". That attitude of the "Tommy" towards women in control, is the outcome of the existent conditions of women's position in- England. They cannot realise that women may have positions of authority, and in their wide bound tradition they are helped by many of the unthinking women who have been taught that a man regardless of mentality is their superior. Sometimes I noticed their readiness to Kow-tow to a Corporal or Sergeant who might come on an errand, and their disinclination to salute a superior officer of their own sex. Again not only the "Tommy" but those in higher authority were prone to suggest the unbecomingness of military uniform, and made our work more difficult by reason that some women (still of the unthinking class) in their desire to make themselves attractive
to these men would add touches of colour, or to turn in the neck of their uniform, to add adornment that was not allowed by military regulation.
But to return to Campbell. I told her she must take her transfer, and that I hoped her lesson would be well learned.
The last I heard of her was from my forewoman, who said that Campbell had told her that if the U.A. did not have her back, there would be a court martial or a suicide.
Besides the worry and anxiety of nightly air-raids, the stress of work, owing to the great push, April was the most comfortless month of the year, for being officially Summer we were without coal. So tardily did the Authorities recognise our predicament, that by the time the order filtered through to supply us, the time had expired, so we went through it with considerable discomfort.
When coal was available our central heating, one of the improvements effected, was from a fire in the cellar, so that after it died out there had been a degree of heat that tempered the discomfort, but now it was like a vault, and not unusual to have to spend several hours at least five times a week. It was wonderful that serious illness did not result. Colds were naturally a frequent occurence.
When at last May came it brought some really beautiful spring days, and the joy of once more feeling the warmth of the sun I can well remember.
One morning I was tempted to take a rest and remembered in the womens' letters that I had censored, that they had often written of the beauties of Happy Valley, and it proved a delightful walk of two and a half miles. After leaving the main terminus I prepared to settle down with my magazine and eat my sandwiches, when there broke in on the quietude of that beautiful spot a terrific bombardment. So loud it sounded that I thought surely the Germans have broken through, and here was I out of touch with my unit.
When leaving to return I saw two or three women working in the
field, and they appeared not to take slightest notice of the guns. From their imperfect English, and my more imperfect French.
I gathered that it as not unusual, only that in contrast to the quietude of tne Valley did it sound so alarming.
From the 16th May to the 23rd., my diary records being disturbed every night, sometimes twice and once three times. All around suffered badly, Calais, Dunkirk, Hazebruck, and nearer to us Le portel, where a school was scattered, and many children killed.
On the night of the 20th was that awful raid, more diabolical than any, when bombs were dropped on to the hospitals at Etaples, and there were at least eight hundred casualties, and would have been more but for the presence of mind of some of the nurses, who got as many patients as possible out of bed and took them to the woods near at hand, where they scattered as much as possible.
There can be no possible excuse for that onslaught, it was a brilliantly moonlit night, The red crosses on the white tents showed out clearly. Messages were sent all the evening that they were bombing the hospitals, and yet they continued. Even those who had to take shelter out side were cut down by machine guns flying low.
The reports of their hideous nights work were too awful, men even blinded as they lay helpless. Limbs were severed, and indescribable agony prevailed.
Women of the Q.M.A.A.C. in this area had a narrow escape. The ordinary dug-outs proved inadequate, and they were only removed to a well, that had previously served to store munitions, when their dug-out was completely wrecked. It was a nerve trying experience to get them to this refuge, for owing to its depth, and the ladder entirely perpendicular, one at a time only could descend backwards, while those at the top had to lie prone, separated as much as possible until their turn.
The end of May brought a cable from Ron:- "Discharged, can you come to England". And my leave being due, my area controller suggested that I should take advantage of it to enable me to see the position of affairs.
I found that he (Ron) was due to leave the hospital at the end of the week, and being still considerably shaken, felt unequal to arranging his affairs, and grappling with the red tape of Air Ministry. This necessitated my seeking extended leave and applying for my release, for I found that it would be possible to get a passage to Australia as soon as my business was concluded.
As a matter of fact it came before it was completed, for I was negotiating for Ron to accompany me and had secured the sympathetic interest of a prominent officer. In the meantime however, another department had mislaid his papers, and so when my embarkation order came, nothing definite for him had been fixed. And it was thought that he would have to return by hospital ship.
My remaining few days were most pleasantly spent. I was able to take a flying visit to Scotland to visit my cousin, and see Ed inburgh and Glasgow.
My last Saturday was spent at Ivy Lodge, the home of the late BaroneSs Burdett Coutts, now maintained by her husband, just as in her life time. nothing has been removed, and it was a delightful experience to be shown through the beautiful rooms with its antique furnishings and hangings, draped by master hands. They are never
displaced for when it is necessary to have them cleaned furnishing experts come from London, so that the folds will not be disarranged.
Mr Burdett Coutts related many instanoes of the Baroness' great benefactions and holds in reverence the beautiful trees that were planted under her supervision, and the exquisite vistas of their landscape effect. in our Prime minister Mr. Hughes Mr. Burdett Coutts chaired a close connection, for he was a pupil teacher in his youth at Westminster School, which was supported by the generosity of the baroness, and her husband was then her secretary. I found that my hosts niece was Miss Ashmead Bartlett
to whom be introduced me at the Tennis Courts, and on inquiring
for her brother, the brilliant war-correspondent, (who as chairwoman of the overseas Club, I had entertained in Australia), she pointed to one of the players, he had returned from France the day before, and though he did not immediately recognise me, he at once associated me with Australia.
On my last Sunday afternoon I had lent to me a box at the Albert Hall for a beautiful concert, at which I heard Morris Budden of Sydney playing and Harold Craxton, who toured Australia with Kirkby Lunn. Madam Stralia was singing too.
That evening I had supper at the Hon. Mrs. Edwardes, and there foregathered many of the dear people I had met during my stay in London, and it was an ordeal to say good-bye. They meant to me more than they knew, for without their sympathy and friendship in my continual anxiety, I should have been a very lonely woman.
My last farewell was to my dear Hostess,for it was through her that all was reflected. I never came away from her home without feeling how good it was to have gained the Love and friendship of a nature so generous.
The next morning roh came after a fortnights visit to Sir Beetham and Lady Whitehead at Efforfl Park, Lymington. He looked ever so much better, and I felt then no misgivings about his following me. He brought to lunch a young friend of the Air Force, Captain Bush, who had booked to join my boat "The Niagra" at Vancouver.
That afternoon Ron accompanied me to Liverpool, where we stayed the night, and on arriving at the point for embarkation in the. morning were handed secret instructions.
By that 1 found 1 had to take tender to the Mauritania", some distance out, and Ron and I parted on the Wark. That was another tense moment for we both had risky voyages ahead, and wondered what the end would be. He cheerfully called out parting instructions in case a torpedo should get us".
It was a great satisfaction to find that my lot was cast on this big ship, sister to the Lusitania, and bound for New York.
All told we were only fifty passengers, and on a boat built to carry over five thousand we were almost lonely, and each could have a cabin-de-luxe. There were several interesting American notables with special passes, and in a day or two they were agreeable companions. Among them were Pierpoint Morgans, partner. The Controller of the Shipping board, some noted journalists, who had been to the Front, a university professor, a Congress man, and a Yirginian air-man, who was returning home invalided. The latter's story was one of the most pathetic 1 have heard. With his observer, who was an Australian from Sydney, they came to grief in the English Channel at a part which was frozen and for four days lay helpless on the ice. Both were badly frost bitten, the observer so badly that both his feet had to be amputated. The Pilot, though a very sick man and still suffering, at least had saved his limbs.
We were only convoyed for the first forty eight hours, and then our guardians left us to join a fleet of twenty-two ships carrying American troops that could be seen in the distance, and which gave us some idea of the magnitude of America's undertaking.
We were an armed transport, and of course fair game for the enemy. Our instructions to wear our life belts constantly were not absolutely carried out, but we always kept them at our side.
We made such good time that within six days we landed at flew York without mishap.
I made my head quarters there at the Martha Washington", the only hotel in the World exclusive to women. Letters of introduction from London brought me into touch with some delightfully interesting people, among them Miss Elizabeth Cutting of the North American Review, who made me a member of the university Club, Mrs James Roosevelt, having heard from a London friend of my arrival, immediately telegraphed an invitat ion to spend a few days with her at Hyde Park on the Hudson River. I had already made arrangements that would claim me for three or four days. These included an address to women at the Waldorf, that very noted and fashionable hotel, I found that
the occasion was an inter-cessory meeting and the Ball room lent by the Management, my own poor efforts paled in the company of two magnificent speakers, one a Dr. of Divinity, and the other a Jewish Rabbi, but my audience was most sympathetically responsive, and if time had permitted I could have spent many days in flew York accepting Invitations.
On my only Sunday there I went in the morning to "The Little Church round the corner" so called from the fact, that years ago a New York actress was dying, and one of her friends seeking for her spiritual consolation went to a clergyman in the neighborhood but he curtly said he did not attend actresses, and suggested that he should go to the pastor of the little Church round the corner, and of him help was not sought in vain. This became so widely known that this church has always retained the name, and the theatrical profession adopted it for its own. They assist very largely in its maintenance and all Carriages are conducted there. The Interior adornment is beautiful, and the morning of ny visit there was a special service and a presentation ceremony of a Cuban flag, to be added to the Allies already in the Church, by the Spanish consul. A number of Spanish residents were present and these gave an unusua1 and interesting note.
In the evening I aocepted an invitation to the home of Doctor and Mrs Warren, who used their large house for the entertainment of soldiers and sailors every Sunday, and were assisted by a number of private friends, who provided a most appetising supper, sparing neither trouble nor expense.
I had during my spare moments been engaged in a vain endeavour to find, the whereabouts of Mrs Dwyer Russell whose friendship I had formed when she visited Australia to take the part of Mrs Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch. She had, I found long retired from active theatrical work, and I had just given up hope of finding her address when I mentioned my failure to Miss Cutting. She by one of those strange chances I was always encountering had just that morning received a letter from Miss Amy Lowell of Boston who mentioned that Mrs Dwyer Russell was spending the summer with her, and assisting her in reading proofs for her new book that she expected to be published in September.
The result of that discovery was, in answer to a lettergram I sent that night, a long telegram inviting me to spend a few days with them at Boston, holding out the most alluring inducement of a motor tour. The difficulty was then to accept all, but I found by curtailing time at each it might be managed.
I left for Hudson River by the morning train and though I had heard much of its beauty was hardly prepared for the noble breadth of water that all other rivers I had seen were mere pigmies.
Mrs Roosevelt's house was situated on one of the prettiest beaches giving a view of several miles, where the gay steamers from New York pass up and d.own. Mrs Frank Roosevelt (whose husband is assistant Secretary to the Navy) was spending the summer with her family there, and it was she who met me at the station, and laughingly hoped I would, not object to being made an experiment, for she was just learning to drive. She seemed however, extremely competent though the Chaffeur cast an apprehensive eye.
I recall the delight of those two days with supreme satisfaction. The gracious hospitality of my hostess -the charm of her grandchildren for whom she had built a special wing, so that with their French Governess, and their Nurses they might not lack
any of the comfort they had in their winter home in Washington. Then we walked in the morning through some of the beauty spots of her estate, and they reminded me of Sassafras. In the afternoon we motored, and in the evening talked in interludes of beautiful music.
Mrs. Roosefelt was most anxious that I should go to Washington and we found that by leaving an hour earlier than arranged, it would be possible. So she telephoned to Washington and I arrived on the evening of the 3rd of July and found a message to say that arrangements had been made for me to attend the Congress meeting in the morning, and View the Pageant from the President´s Stand in the evening. In the afternoon a motor would call to take me Into Virginia and there came a charming lady at whose home I had dinner, and she saw me to the station to catch the mid-night train to New York. A very strenuous but very interesting day. The next morning I left for Boston and was met by Mrs. Dwyer Russell, and driven to Miss Amy Lowell's home. I had not realised who she was, but when 1 saw the magnificence of her home, I felt that besides there was a distinctiveness that marked it out, and was not surprised to find that she, besides being the American Poetess, was the daughter of the famous literateur, and sister of Harvard´s Professor.
With only two days at my disposal there was not much time to see all that my kind hostesses had arranged, but by making the most of every minute a wonderful amount was accomplished. We saw Boston from every view point, glanced through the magnificent Library, Picture Gallery with its famous Mural decorations.
Motored along the water promenade en-route to dinner at the summer house of the famous publisher Mr. Putman who is Miss Lowell´s brother-in-law, and returned in the small hours of the morning.
Mrs. Dwyer-Ruseell spoke with much affection of her happy time in Australia.
The next morning I left for New York, gathered my belongings, and the same evening wae on my way to Buffalo; it wae an all night journey, arriving there at half past seven. I sought an hotel, enjoyed my bath and breakfast, and left for Niagra. A tram car took me there in three quarters of an hour, and I have to confess to disappointment that at the terminus it looked like and ordinary suburb, and looking for a conveyance to take me to the falls, I was told that they were opposite, and there just as on a sea-side water front were shops and a pavement. I had dreamed of wonderful canyons and mighty gorges and here was just what looked like a fast running river. I was always sorry that this was my first view, because later when advised to take a oar and drive round the whole eight miles, and viewing it from every point it was miraculous and awe inspiring. Both the Americans and the Canadians have, I think, in their desire to make it a paying proposition, lost much of the spirit of grandeur. For instance to view the rapids where Captain Webb lost his life, in his foolhardy attempt, one goes through a souvenir shop and down an almost perpendicular cable tram, where at the bottom it ie impelling in its rugged mightiness, but its artificial entrance detracts.
I viewed also the home of the shredded wheat, and marvelled at its huge organisation, so skilfully and artistically handled. Every worker dressed in white, baker's, packers, printers, manipulating the most effective machinery with the deftest dexterity. A hostess, who receives one at the well furnished lounge, and courteous guides who conduct parties at intervals, as though it was their greatest pleasure in life.
The next morning I left for Toronto, and with some of the other passengers toured the town and its environments in a Char-a-banc, known to the Americans as a rubber neck, by reason of turning one's head in every attitude in order to follow the direction of the guide. Ours on the occasion was even more voluble than the usual and greatly facetiously he, in broad Canadian accent, informed us when passing a park that at the moment though there was no sign of fruit trees there might be seen any evening many 'pears' and an occasional peach. He was very careful too, to have the car drawn into the side walk, so that we might
see the house where Mary Pickford, the successful Picture actress was born, and although many towns might claim her, we were begged to remember that here with the number plainly visible, was the bona fide spot.
Leaving Toronto at night I travelled for the next two days and aights, passing Winnipeg. For all that time there was little of Interest in the Prarie lands beyond the tremendous production, for all were planted with crops, and it is to these largely that Canada owes its successful Settlement.
It was not till we got to Calgary that we came into the beauty of the well-famed Rookies, then there were soul satisfying scenes that baffle my poor descriptive powers. Towering mountains capped with snow in the back ground and ridges and domes In wonderful formations, with firs, peculiar to them, growing. The roaring torrents rushing over huge boulders. The mighty water falls, the deep and wondrous canyons, the flowering foliage, all making the sublimest picture of Nature's ordering, all the way there is no diminution of Interest, look where you will there is, hour after hour, the same magnificence.
I met many travelling companions, and among them an American lady end her daughter, who usually spent their summers at Bautt where I had arranged to spend a day. She most kindly took me under her wing, and included me in the motor that awaited her, to drive by the noted Bautt Springs Hotel. That built hundreds of feet high among the mountains is one of the wonders of Canada, and a tourist resort of world wide fame patronised often by Royalty. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught with Princess Patricia, during their sojourn in Canada, spent many delightful vacations there.
Oa my arrival I found there Mrs. and Miss Falkner, with whom I parted on the Maritania. My newly found friend constituted herself my hostess during my stay, and drove me to several places of interest and through her I met some of the habitues, not so numerous as formerly because many had remained in New York to continue their war work, and keep in'touch with those who were at the war
The next morning Mrs. and Misa Falkner having joined me, we then left for over two hours journey by train to Lake Louise, reaching the railway station about eleven o´clock on a perfect Sunday morning with the sun shining on the snow of the mofmtain tops, and causing little riverlets to trickle down the sides. A scenic oar took us to most wonderous scenery, practically every turn bringing a fresh surprise and beauty. Climbing for half an hour we came to the Chalet at the Lake, and reams could not convey its charms.
People had talked of it, and we had seen much that we thought incomparable but that gem tucked away in the exclusiveness of the mountains, was beyond compare. As if to guard it, the mountains clothed in snow, rose sentinel like, and the shadows made its opalescent waters even more varied.
The Canadian Pacific Railway known throughout the length and breadth of Canada as the C.P.R. have with wonderful enterprise built hotels in these spots, and they have in commercialising added rather to their beauty for the architectural design each is suited to the respective situation. The Chalet with its wide verandahs and gabled windows looked out on to a lawn that sloped to the water´s edge, and flowering ice-land poppies from the palest cream to the deepest mandarin grow as a fringe.
After lunch we drove to the "Seven Sisters mountain peaks so called because of their similarity and nearness. That too, was a most exhlliarating experience with our four horse team.
At the base is also a beautiful lake that is a favourite fishing resort, two enterprising isnglish women have erected a shack, and in the tourist season do good business in providing light luncheons and teas. They also let out tents, and a great number of city tired people get back (to the primitive
life and return thoroughly rejuvenated.
We were fortunate that our visit timed with the moon, for aa we aat on the verandah in the evening listening to a pleasant arches- tra, and watched the moonbeams reflected on the snow capped mountains, and again casting shafts of beautiful light over the lake, It wasIndeed enchantment.
Only that we were threatened with a railway strike, that might prevent our getting through, we would have been tempted to remain longer quite regretfully we left next morning, and two more days and nights travelling always through magnificent and gorgeous greenery, we reached Vancouver.
On reporting to the Australian and Canadian Shipping Office, we found that the Niagra would be delayed and viewed with consternation having to put in at least a week in that strange and apparently uninteresting city.
We put up at the wonderful Vancouver Hotel, another of tha C.P.R.'a creations, conducted on the most lavish lines at a corresponding high tariff.
I felt prepared to submit to the Inevitable and put in time, when another of those happenings, for which it is difficult to account changed the whole of my outlook.
An Interviewer from the 'Provence waited on me and through her article I became known to the 'Daughters of the Empire', a patriotic Society whose President, or rather Regent, called and Invited me to speak at a Garden Party she was holding. From that time I had not a lonely moment for several ladies sent Invitations, and cars were always at the door for me. One lady and her daughter became mj especial friends, and as the time for the boats sailing was still further postponed, I spent all the time I could in their company.
Ron's Captain friend had by this time arrived, and he and a fellow townsman were included in our excursions, that became daily. We were entertained at the different country clubs, that are quite a feature of American and Canadian life, motored to many beauty spots, chief among them perhaps the Capilano Canyon, where we had
a picnic, lunching in the very recess of the mountains beside a torrent that rushed madly over the boulders. The spot was the especial fastness at one time of an Indian Chief and his tribe, and from the chief the Canyon took its name. very quaint and beautiful are the legends written in connection with that and the surrounding country by pauline Johnson, whose father was head chief of the Six Nations Indians, and whose mother was an English woman, but lived in Canada. Johnson is Of course the English name, but in Indian it is unpronounceable - Onwanonayshon.
In one of those beautiful drives I was taken to the burial place of the Authoress very secluded and so pretty with a solid block of stone with a smooth surface, and carved out in deep lettering just her name "Pauline". A Book of these legends was given to me on my leaving by my friend, and a little colerie of passengers shared with me their enjoyment, when I read aloud everyday after lunch. Among the publication sub-committee responsible for compiling them was Mrs. Lefevre, herself an authoress and poetess, and at her beautiful home surrounded by every evidence of artistic taste combined with considerable wealth, I spent a charming Sunday afternoon.
At last the day or rather the night came for sailing, for it was eleven o1clock when we got away. My dear friends came to the boat with books and flowers, and it-was a wrench that ten days ago I would have thought impossible. They had just entwined themselves about my heart strings by their kindness and sweetness, and truly greatness.
After the big boats of my acquaintance the Niagra seemed small in comparison, but it was most comfortably fitted up, and with attention given to every detail proved to be most comfortable, nothing occured to mar our pleasure, the company was excellent, winds and waves were favourable. We had some fine sports, all eagerly contested. A meeting on the 4th August to mark the anniversary of the war at which with a returning medical colonel and a sergeant major, from the second class, I was invited to speak.
We had a glorious day at Honolulu, and drove to the famous Pelee besides several other places of Interest. it all passed so quickly,
that sometimes I wondered if I really did see those gorgeous colourings, or was it a trick of the imagination for I remember flame trees with huge clusters of red flowers, acacia trees growing beside with yellow bunches, purple rhododendrums, foliage so variagated that it looked artificial, even the soil graduated from deep brown to cinamon and plantations of pine-apples addea to their colour quota. And from the hotel window overlooking the sea, were sturdy Hawiaans, with skins like burnished copper, surfing.
The same picturesque tones prevailed at the ship's side when we were leaving. Brightly dressed girls came with, flower wreaths and beads for sale, and all around the sun danced on the water until one could see the same colouring as in the beautiful fish we had- seen at the Aquarium earlier in the day, unique specimens, only found in these lovely waters.
Our next port was Suva, but we reached there in the evening, and due to sail again at mid-night, only had time to go to the hotel for dinner.. That was an unusual experience. Of Bungalow design, in the artificial light it had an oriental aspect, with its palms and tropical foliage. From its wide verandahs on every side there were beautiful sloping lawns. In front a group of Fijians gathered to give an exhibition of their national dance. It could hardly be called the "poetry of motion", and rather resembled the Maori "Haka". Another group were at the boat side going through evolutions of contortions when the boat saileu., and all along the route were men and women and children in their bright coloured garments, looking strangely fantastic in the half light of lanterns that they carried, selling beads and souvenirs, by this time at much reduced prices.
From Suva we left the tropical weather behind, and discarded white clothes and coverings that gave such an air of festivity to the sh'ip, and as we neared the New Zealand coast the weather became very forbidding and threatened to undo our arrangements for a last concert on board. However by dinner time it took on a kindlier tone, and there were only a few absentees when the Captain presented the prizes, won in the various competitions.
We had bad weather for our two days stay at Auckland, and belied the reputation I had given it to my fellow passengers as a beauty city. Somehow it seemed to have shrunk-, that, I conclude, was the result of my extended vision since my visit to it sixteen years previously.
There was nothing to detract from Sydney´s Harbour reputation when we arrived four days later. It was a beautiful refreshing morning. No one grumbled at the early call for the medical end passport officials, who came aboard.
With war precautions still existent, the formalities were long and tedious, but news from home helped to wile away some of the time. Mine was by no means pleasant, for my husband's letter said there was no news of Ron, and Cecil had grown tired of his inactivity, and before he knew of my home-coming had arranged to return as adjutant on a troopship, and had sailed a fortnight previous. My heart sank for I thought after all I must have done the wrong thing. Perhaps Ron had suffered a relapse, and was unable to leave. Here I was and again separated from my boys.
I was disappointed too, in that there was no word from a Sydney friend whom I hoped would meet me, and concluded she was away at her station home.
With the day before me, there seemed no need for hurry, and I leisurely made my adieux, and waited for the Customs examination.
'That done, I made my way through the barrier, and to my great surprise the first of a long row of waiting people was my dear friend, who loyally had stood for two hours to receive me.
We drove to the station, found there was no sleeping berth available for that night, and I readily yielded to her persuasion to wait until the next and alter my strenuous travel, very much appreciated the comfort of her home, and her warm welcome at Neutral Bay.
In good time the next evening, we got to the station and saw to my luggage. Everything satisfactorily fixed up, we strolled towards the entrance to meet an expected friend, when I saw a flight-lieutenant
in uniform that made my senses reel. And my heart almost stopped beating as he came towards me, and I realised it was Ron, who that
morning had arrived by the Makura. His surprise was not as great a mine for he heard that the "Niagra" was only two days ahead, and he thought there might be a possible chance of catching me up. We found that we were actually booked for the same section in the same train and the number was - 13 -.
We talked hard for the next three hours, and I found that nego tiations set afoot when I was in London had taken effect, and he was able to leave by passenger ship three weeks after me. He also came through America by another route, taking in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake Qity and embarking at San Francisco. Everywhere he was treated with the greatest kindness. He and a friend also an aviator, met men who would not allow them to pay their way, and arranged for motor drives at their various stopping places. He had sent a cable from San Francisco, and I found afterwards that as it exactly synchronised with my expected arrival on the 20th of August, was signed 'James' my husband made the very natural mistake of thinking that it was mine.
Only that his overcoat was in my berth the next morning, I should have thought I had dreamt seeing him. The weather was disagreeable at Albury, but I did not mind anything then, my heart was very light and joyous. Even those last hours that I thought would be very long, after two years absence, sped like lightening, and when the train drew in at Spencer street, my own people were all there to meet me, not a single face missing. There were too, many dear friends who gave me a joyous welcome home The flowers that I could nd hold nearly filled my car, and best of all my dear brave boy saved from the dangers, (none knew better than I how great was there almost restored to health.
My heart over flowed with thankfulness, and it was through a mist of tears that I bade them all this time a temporary-