Rachel Bodner offered a comment on last Thursday’s blog concerning the duties of an occupying army. Her comment drew on An English Wife in Berlin, the memoir of Evelyn, Princess Blucher whose German husband had to withdraw to Germany not long after the declaration of war in 1914.
While scanning her memoir, I found the following poignant thoughts.
But for most of us the pain and suffering of humanity have eaten into our souls, and as for love? Is there room for love in any one’s soul nowadays? The dainty, delicate, rainbow-hued god of the past can have nothing to do with the agonizing hurried embrace in between two battles, which love means at present.
In spite of my varied interests and occupations in connection with the war, I sometimes feel terribly lonely. Not the loneliness of being alone, but the loneliness of being one in a crowd, in a country where every one’s sympathies and opinions are so terribly in opposition to my own.
I sometimes feel fairly rent in two, between love of my family and native land and love and loyalty to my husband and his country for his sake.
Throughout the war, Princess Blucher devoted herself to the care of British prisoners and British wounded who were held in Germany.
What must it have been like waiting to hear whether your son or husband has survived a particular battle, whether he will ever come home or ever be the same again? I’ve seen many soldiers diaries and many letters written by soldiers to reassure their families back home. Today I came across a diary written by Mary Martin to “her son, Charlie, a soldier with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, who went missing in action on the Salonika front, in the hope that one day he would return home and be able to read it”.
On February 27, 1916
The Germans claim today that they have taken one of the outer forts of Verdun but the French say all these forts have been dismantled & that there were no guns there or soldiers.
On March 30, 1916
The long looked for letter from Marie [daughter of Mary Martin] arrived, telling of her interview with Pte C Martin. He told her that he picked up your disc on December 7th when you were advancing, he gave it to Lt Mahony. I wonder is this the reason that your name had not come through. On December 8th he described seeing you in command of D Company & hearing the men shout to you to take cover that he saw you hit in the leg & sit down.
The diary also includes entries with information about the Easter Rising which took place in April 1916. It ends in May of 1916 but it’s not until July 1, 1916 that Mary Martin learns of her son’s death in December of 1915.