Letter to Mrs Fryer
Postmarked WOOLWICH 11 pm 3 September 1916
Joan of Arc
Deary love mine,
And how did you get on last night? We had a rather sleepless time but b’ Jove it was worth it – for there was a wonderful sight which I wouldn’t have missed for worlds. Augustus in flames hurtling to his doom! He had been rather noisy for some little while, but a long way away – however a couple of guggars next door to me came & hauled me out after a bit, & several folk woke up in this corridor, & we went down & watched the searchlights from a window. Then things seemed quiet again & we said we would go back to bed. I stopped to talk to a woman opposite for a minute & then quite suddenly we heard a tremendous burst of cheering – somebody said “They’ve brought one down” & ran & opened the Emergency Fire door , & we went out & stood on the doorstep, & there, my dear, was Augustus, wreathed in flame, sinking slowly to the earth. A long way off, of course, but it’s flat hereabouts & we got a perfect view – I’ve never seen anything so impressive – he was diving down, nose first, like a great red hot cylinder. & the men in the Arsenal were cheering like maniacs, & the trains blew their whistles, & the steamers on the river blew sirens – no end of a pandemonium there was! & then he disappeared from sight. Rumours are many as to where he fell, but the most general & apparently well-authenticated, is that he came down near Enfield. I’ve been told that the reason why everything was so quiet just before they got him, is that our aeroplanes signalled to the guns to stop firing as they had located him, so I suppose it was a ‘navy who did the deed. No end bucked that navy must be feeling – eh what? I was talking to a man at “dinner” today about it, & he said “The chaps round my part seemed to go quite balmy, clapping their hands & shouting”. I think we all wanted to.” Another man was very much aggrieved because his wife had hustled him down the cellar & wouldn’t let him move, so he missed it all! I shall be awfully interested to hear what happened at home.
I’m afraid this letter will bore Shim nanny but you can tell her that the first evening I was here a girl got on to the piano & the tune she played was – “Oh I saw a Fish a-floating down a stream” I nearly died of it – & yesterday there was a barrel organ making the same statement – so I’m evidently recognised!! There are 500 girls in now – & possibly 200 more coming tomorrow – the odd thing is, nearly all of them slept through the fun last night – rather a mercy as when you get 500 on the move in the dark they take some settling back again. I’ve been helping Miss Macnaghten serve out their suppers, as the staff gets a bit pushed when they all want food at once.
Two new canteens arrived yesterday – middle aged ladies, one rather a good old sort, the other an obvious Governess ( I believe she is one) rather like Miss Goldsmith, but not bad – have to take them under my wing & show them round – I rather like being able to swank along knowing the ropes! We all went to one of the Arsenal canteens for dinner, & now I am catching a little on my bed (by the way, the extra pillow just makes all the difference) till tea time, after which I shall probably go to church. I went to tea with Mrs La Brouy at Eltham yesterday, “3d return, by tram.” She is rather an old pet, a cross between Mrs Telford Smith & a cod fish – but has a couple of very suburban daughters – a type I’ve met often in books but never quite in reality – quite worthy suburban you know – more dowds that Knuts! Tell Pa I passed his cricket ground going there – a nice space. & the Academy too & Woolwich Common, which is a sea of mud with huts along one side.
In Eltham there is a huge signpost To Dover, To Folkestone –to Canterbury, & I feel quite convinced that it’s the road we went by when we motored to St. Albans – could it be? I seemed to recognise it. It poured with rain most of yesterday & today there has been a thunderstorm but it was a nice fine night luckily. I hope you were not boomed & that the staff were not scared too much.
If you are making a book list would you be thinking of putting down any of these? I got them out of the Morning Post so daresay you have done the same. I wonder if you are having Uncle Malcolm to tea today – you ought just to be going in to see if the kettle’s ready, bless you!
Love everybody, yours always Cecily