Letter from Gertrude Crompton to Frances Hodgkins

03 Jan 1915
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03 Jan 1915
Thriplands, Kensington Court W. Sunday Jany 3rd 1915
My dearest Frances
These are bewildering times but thank goodness we have got Christmas & New Year over and done with and can get out on our normal doings again. I have been wondering so much of how you spent the time & do hope Mr Lindner came and invited you up to spend the day with them. It wd be so very forlorn alone. I am hoping for another letter soon!
What shall I tell you? My impressions of this week are very like a futurist picture, disjointed bits of the most incongruous doings and sights – all jumbled together in my brain. A preponderance of khaki clad boys with creaking leather belts, now singing music hall jingles like “when we’ve wound up the watch on the Rhine” – now singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing – with equal gusto. Wounded men blocking the gangways with their slow & painful gait, tenderly made way for by the crowd. Carols at Westminster. Again foreigners on all hands. Many Japanese. A fat policeman who waved the crowd in at the West entrance with one hand while he explained the action of fire nosed bullets upon Zeppelin envelopes to me with the other. Belgian women with no hats in the streets. Men from the front home on 5 days leave from Boxing Day. [?Shelton’s] cousin Harry Trevor for one who took me to the Queen’s Hall concert yesterday & is off back to the firing line today – 15 yards from the German trenches. They and the Saxons made an unauthorized truce on Christmas Day – waved bunches of holly above the trenches & then bare hands & finally cautiously emerged & our people did the same & played round together all one blessed trusting day. Mutually reviling the beastly war & wishing it was over. Headquarters heard of it & sent a sharp reprimand down the line that hostilities were not to cease ... so they reluctantly returned to the job of blowing each other up but they had had their Christmas & Day of Peace – dictated by a higher Headquarters! In spite of military discipline and it is a wonderful sign of the times that this should be so. The old war hate is dying out of existence. Harry says there is none of it at the front (except where the prussians are) the men on either side positively like each other. There is a bond of fellowship in having to be engaged together in such dirty work and mutual commiseration for each other & respect. This is all a modern product – doubtless in violated & devasted Belgium it is different & as the Japs say (at the sights there) “honourably the stomach rises”.
Nigel was here for two nights – looking very smart in his uniform & very keen about all his work. But we kept no Christmas & gave no presents. Which personally I found very flat! & don’t quite see the point of. Seeing the troops made all of it they could & didn’t pull a long mouth! I find the change to London is doing me good though I couldn’t stand it for long and the welcome was about as flat as usual! Still I am hardened to that now! & I got a warm enough one from Em Clark & one or two other friends whom I have seen. Every day that I can stick on here reduces expenses at Ken! But I shall have to be going back soon now.
I am so sorry not to see the Nickalls but they have let Boxley for Jan[uar]y so there was nowhere I could see them as they were at hospital all day & I can’t stay at a stranger’s house with them! It is a pity. I should have liked to hear all their news. I have been in bed two days too which took up some time. Crosbie was here today – jolly as ever & improved too. His tongue wags just the same. He says he believes Olathea who has been learning motor driving has got a billet to drive round a lady inspector of Hospitals at the front in France. How do people get these billets that I never get a sight of! I am so glad to hear of pupils coming along Frances dear, it is capital. Though that again seems a miracle to me! I’ve never seen a sight of one.
[Letter ends here]
2 pages
Sender's address
Thriplands, Kensington, London
Institutional No.
Credit Line
Letters from Frances Hodgkins. Field, Isabel Jane, 1867-1950 : Correspondence of Frances Hodgkins and family / collected by Isabel Field. Ref: MS-Papers-0085-29. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.