Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – July 1915

JULY 1915

Natasha sent me exciting news in her last letter. A week ago Her Majesty the Queen came to visit the Royal Pavilion. As Empress of India she wished to meet the Indian Army officers and seniors Indian soldiers who had been injured at Neuve Chappelle. It was a private visit, she being only accompanied by her Lady-in-Waiting. Natasha said that her smile helped lift the morale of the men. She also spoke on behalf of the King who valued their contribution to the efforts of the Empire.

Natasha was asked to join her for tea. The Queen had heard of how Natasha went into the front line and was gassed. She thought the selfless act of nursing the injured soldier in the trench was brave. Being aware of the Canadian sensitivity over the ‘Limouged’ doctor, the tea party was just for the three ladies. The Queen asked of the family and noted I was assisting in the national rail transport programme. Perhaps when, in the Queen’s words “this beastly war is over”, Rose can be presented at Court. That would be a great honour to our family.

The Royal visit has also lifted her morale and she hopes the doctors will release her to come home next month. But there is still the question mark over damage to her lungs, even though the coughing spasms have abated.

British troops have been fighting ferociously at Ypres, however the front is largely at stalemate. Yesterday’s internal report tells of the Germans projecting liquid petrol: first gas, now fire. The Italians have found attacking in the mountains is as terrible as Russians attacking on the plains.

The French forces in Gallipoli suffered the loss of their inspirational General in command, Henri Gouraud, when he was blown over a wall by a Turkish shell, losing his right arm and being transported back to France. On Kereves Dere his forces had almost broken through. The aftermath was a collapsed morale which even affected the British troops. Twice they refused to advance. Hamilton has lost an important ally towards making sense of this campaign.

The past three months’ reports tell of the Turks continuing to massacre thousands of their Armenian christian subjects because the Ottoman Empire is muslim. Religious differences cannot justify the rapes and murders of countless women, children and babies.

The British conduct of the war should now become more urgent that Lloyd George has taken over Munitions and urging women to work making cannon shells. Our earlier battles were weakened by too few to bombard the Hun trenches. We shall have to improve their safe transportation to the guns in France, no repeat of the ‘Bulwark’explosion !

John, now living in the village, has just told me he wishes to volunteer. He served in the Zulu war, but I think he now is far too old for active service. Rose and Becky have said, being aged 16, they want to do their bit to ’defeat the Hun’. The past fortnight they have been harvesting with our nearby farmer, Mr. Fenn. I have let Thom go as well and he now looks after the working horses. Flora remains a stalwart support, preparing meals. Nat is kept occupied taking the knapkins with meals to the girls in the fields. He is devoted to Flora in his mother’s absence, but whether it is her warmth or her cakes ’seducing’ him I cannot say.