Alexander Pepys’ War Diary – August 1915


Sir Percy Jones, our Minister, called me in. As a Devon Parliamentarian who stables his hunting mare at the Barracks, he enjoys country pursuits. Having heard from the Court he was willing to give me ten days in the South-West so that I can take Natasha to convalesce. Two days later she was discharged from the hospital, leaving Brighton by train. Waiting at the platform we were all emotional when the train pulled in and she stepped from the carriage. Driving home the children did not find time to stop talking. This continued until Monday when we left, the children returning to the farm.

We drove along the coast road in the Vauxhall with the hood up. Warmly dressed for protection from the wind, Natasha was able to enjoy the warmth of the autumn sun. Above the noise of the engine we brought ourselves up to date with what has passed since she was at Ypres in April. She had heard of the Russian losses, now the withdrawal from Warsaw. Petrograd has become a broodingly sad place with so many families having lost sons, killed or taken prisoner. Her French family writes often, but there is so much grief expressed for their armies’ casualties.

In the early evening of the second day we arrived at the hotel, a converter Georgian mansion near Praa Sands. It was very pleasant to relax together with cocktails and a fresh fish meal. Retiring at nine, we found it strange to undress in front of each other after the months apart. Once in bed she slipped into my arms. During the next few days we enjoyed a level of intimacy we had forgotten since the arrival of Rose. During a tender moment she let slip that she had welcomed our daughter receiving letters from the Midshipman she met in March, I could not be angry.

The staff were most accommodating, not troubling us to keep to the hotel meal times but making sure we could eat when we sought meals. Clearly instructions had been passed to treat us ‘Royally’. Our room overlooked the sea and we could just see St. Michael’s Mount beyond Cudden Point. Two days we spent exploring the Mount, other days we visited St. Ives, Penzance and Newlyn, leaving the car to walk on the cliffs overlooking them. When we stopped at Land’s End to enjoy a picnic, it was difficult to believe we were at war. However we did note the passing of warships on the horizon, the smoke trails giving away their presence off shore.

The week passed like a second honeymoon. Driving home we sang songs from Carmen and other French operas, Natasha’s voice rising above the passing wind – a magical experience. Once home I had to return to London, leaving Natasha with our children to decide her future plans. She cannot return to front-line nursing.

Back in Whitehall I was briefed. The urgency to move ammunition wagons is less than expected. Greatly increased munitions production is proving more difficult to achieve then Lloyd George predicted. War news is grim. A new landing at Sulva Cove was badly handled, three generals were sacked. The supporting attacks above Anzac Cove and Krithia gave nothing but more casualties. With the stalemates now in France and Gallipoli hopefully the great efforts to come against the Germans will weaken the resolve of the Central Powers.