Alcie - WW1 Diaries 1914

Friday July 31st 1914
I shall always remember this as a kind of “Black Friday”. A maddening kind of unused-up energy of excitement possessing me, with suspense as to the threatened war. The people about here (even the gentle people mamma thought, but of course that may be only in appearance) seem quite taken up with tiring local affairs, and utterly unaware of the fearful catastrophe which I believe is impending. Yesterday afternoon where we called they never even mentioned the war and all are going away, planning holidays and amusements, as if things were perfectly normal. If it were not for facts I should think I must have been suffering from a kind of madness in the way of overwraught imagination – it being more natural to think one is mistaken than numbers! Ever since last Saturday it has been an undercurrent of disagreeable thoughts, but today it is acute anxiety.

Saturday 1st August 14
Worse news still – had to wait such ages for the paper boy – so hard when one is dying for news. I could not keep still and went after tea to call at Fariseat hoping for news and counsel. But no, no apprehension, no news, no talk of this, only made to play croquet! I am sure we ought to be getting in provisions and securing cash in coin, but all put off. I have sent to draw out my money from P O but that will not last us long.

Sunday, 2.8.14
At church this morning the Rector spoke to the purpose thank goodness, and we had prayers for peace with solemn and suitable references. A great relief to me who had hardly slept last night going over different contingencies and possible , unthinkable results to England. And then on way down to church, 2 or 3 people talked lightly of things. Also bands of holiday-makers wasting money they will need as carelessly as children on carriage and motor drives! Fancy them keeping Bank Holiday tomorrow when we are on brink of possible destruction of Empire! How can we believe in Democracy after such exhibitions? Later. Mamma went down to church and tried again hard to get a paper, but could not. Was told Russia had declared war. How we long for news to end this suspense, though how one can hope when ever since Austria’s ultimation to Serbia there has been no reasonable ground for it. I do not know. Yet one does hope against hope.

Monday 3.8.14
All bad news confirmed in to-days paper, with the additional “ last straw” that Kitchener is going (or going) to Egypt. We sent off orders for some provisions ( in addition to the few extra ones ordered last Friday) but 10 to 1 they don’t come. Went to see S’s at Fariseat. He said perhaps Kitcheners’ going to Egypt would be cancelled – do hope this may prove true. A nephew of theirs had just left who told them the excitement on Sunday in London was intense and the crush of foreigners piling into the trains to get out of England. He heard one sweet young German Madchen bid adieu to a young German fellow with this agreeable and courteous wording “ Goodbye aufwiedersehen, till we come back here again with the guns.” Fancy the audacious insolence, in a London station! Of course she said it in German, but that alas, is not so incomprehensible as sanskrit might be. Talking of Sanskrit, Prof. Eggerling (Prof. of Sanskrit) vowed and protested to me in Edinburgh) that it was all a foolish, hysterical scare to imagine that the Germans desired war. I suppose a good many people were frustrated of their Bank Holiday, bean feasts, but loads indulged. Here, near us, flower shows and bands. In the evening, sitting behind a hedge with dog Jenny, I heard talk of about 40 couples or little groups as they went homewards and in no case was there a word about the war. “ Rachel walks out with John” “ my veil is off” “ I call her ladylike” “ never put on a brake hard at a corner” such were the scraps of conversation. It is rather curious nowadays when everyone can read. A beautiful evening, fresh, clear, moonlit. The scene peaceful and harmless. God Defend the Right.

Tuesday 4. 8. 14
At last in this morning’s paper there is a certain relief from suspense in that George has stated that England is to play her part and use her fleet in protection of France. He also (practically) says we are to assist Belgium. So that the last terror of the last two days, the fear of dishonour is stilled. The Morning Post makes brave and almost pathetic efforts to glass over certain ambiguities and defections, and represent us as united and loyal. So we are but it is deeply humiliating that at the tag end of the most certainly vital and historic speech ever made, other nations and (above all) future generations should read of the yapping of heartless and brainless cons, one of whom would achieve a deathless immortality I should think by the incredible, abysmally degenerate objection he had the wretched courage to make “ Old Age Pensions, National Insurance, and every social reform were in danger if we joined in this war.” While honest men are willing to lay down life and all for their Mother Country, this person, this Welsh thing (his name is Llewellyn Williams) grudges the sacrifice of comforts. The incredible imbecility he shows is nothing, that is an infirmity: the mean, dishonourable, material spirit is what so sickens one. Kitchener is said to be going to stay. We got no evening paper and are longing for tomorrows. In the village there was a rumour of a naval engagement at Farnborough Head. Oh God assist our Navy and dear sailors – everything worth being English for, for ever depends on them. And the first actions are so important and the engines of destruction so vast and deadly – it is impossible not to fear. A gleam of amusement in noting the abstention of reviewing the 19th Cent. Article on our “unpreparedness for War”! One liberal member who protested against the war said “this country is now asked to involve itself in all the perils of this great adventure because Germany is going to insist on its “right”. What can he even think he means? How is any sort, not only of civilisation but existence possible if countries may invade non-combating neutral ones and dictate to them what policy they are to presume. Why does he think Germany may exercise a hegemory over Holland, Belgium, Switzerland who have no sort of quarrel with her and have committed no aggression. Another liberal said in plain words that if starvation came to the “people” would raid the country and steal food and not being the gentle serfs they were 100 years ago would not put up with starvation, but cause a revolution. (labour cheers) There is patriotism. Admire those who will not suffer for their country more than the “docile serfs” who would. I have noticed myself how many of the “poor” are more material and care more for money (judging people and esteeming them solely for that) than the richest financiers so that one’s admiration and reverence for poverty cannot be diminished. It does seem cruel at such a crisis that such things should even be said by even the irresponsible.

Wednesday 5. 8. 1914
England declared war last night. We are now desperately anxcious that Kitchener put in Asquith’s place. Managed to get an evening paper this morning – full of rumours I dare not believe. The feeling of all the world, with the exception of Austria and Turkey seems to be against Germany. She has her hands full but is terribly strong I fear.

Thursday 6. 8. 14
English have sunk a German mine – layer. Had letter from M.G. in great distress about Phyllis penned up in Zurich. From the papers things seem awkward in Suisse. No one can get a line from there anyhow. Sophie and I neither hear from Aunt Dorcas nor can I get a line from M. de M. which seems odd as communications between here and Paris is not as yet interrupted. Germany is to Europe just the Bull in the china shop Napoleon was last century. May her end be as his!

Friday 7. 8. 14
The evening papers yesterday were all full of rumours that Italy might break her neutrality (for Germany was said to have sent her an ultimatum) and join our side. I wish it would be so for that would give lots of occupation to Austria; but to-day nothing confirms this. The English war-ship Amphion has been sunk by a German – laid mine – so they have drawn first blood as it were. I do dread their power and feel as if a giant were coming against us and we militarily so unprepared.