18th July - Thirteenth Letter to Poppy
Secret diary: Sun. Poaching expd.
Official diary (18th July): No entry
Location: Waterpark House, Hartigan’s near Castleconnell
My darling old Pip,
Am following your example and writing this in bed. Got your Wed and Thursday letters last night Cutlett certainly seems to be developing on the right lines, temper and plenty of bone. I wonder how long it will be now before I see him. I dont suppose Percy will get much news but he would get more than Lord Robert. The man who is doing my work is the artillery general from Cork, so it is not likely they will turn me on to do his. They might give me a command somewhere else when I get out, but it is just as likely to be abroad as in England, anyhow it is no good counting on anything yet.
My main occupation is lying about out of doors reading, or playing patience. Breakfast in bed about 10AM, tea bread + butter 1PM, meat tea 4PM. Tea bread & butter etc 8PM, bed 11PM is the usual programme. A game of bridge a nap sometimes before bed. I have other things to amuse myself with during the day, but I cant tell you as it would tell you the sort of house I am in.
Nurse is a good sort bringing you all sorts of good things. I have not grown a beard which will disappoint you, but my hair will want cutting very soon. I understand your plans are The Hall for a month on Aug 1st and then to Marjory Bax, that will suit me very nicely.
No other news. Look after yourself and dont go overdoing it.
Thirteenth Letter sent to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, 1 Cleveland Gardens, Hyde Park LONDON W2 postmarked EASTBOURNE 7:45 pm 21 July 1920 .The paper is similar to and the envelope is identical to that of letter No.11. Written in pencil.
Breakfast was a very important meal for a British soldier. Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy had argued for a higher allowance for breakfast in the Army Act 13th April 1920 stating: 'The Englishman has always gone in for a substantial breakfast unlike the foreigner who starts his day on coffee and rolls. Our greatness is attributed by some people to the fact that we insist on a good breakfast before we set out on the day's adventures'. There’s little doubt that the British general would be provided with a good breakfast especially as he had ‘the day’s adventures’ to look forward to! An Irish breakfast would be similar to a traditional British one: ‘The full Irish breakfast usually contains Irish bacon and sausage, but also traditional regional ingredients such as white pudding, Irish soda bread and Irish potato cake.’ Source This was possibly a better breakfast than many of his guards would have got.
Irish tea tended to be stronger than traditional English Breakfast tea, with the Irish tea containing a fair amount of Assam which gave it a malty taste. There would be no complaints from CHTL over this. One of his favourite tales from the trenches which he no doubt told his new Irish ‘friends’ was about the making of tea:
The story went that CHTL (or whoever the officer was) was assigned a new batman*. The man’s first job was to make the officer a cup of tea. The officer gratefully received the hot brew but spat out his first sip out as he had a mouthful of tea leaves.
“I’m sorry sir,” said the batman,”but we don’t have a tea strainer”.
“Well for goodness sake, man, use some initiative and improvise!” roared the officer.
The batman produced a second cup of tea and this time it received the officer’s approval. “Well done, this is much more like it! Out of interest what did you use as the tea strainer?”
“One of your socks, sir.”replied the batman.
“One of my socks!” spluttered the officer in horror.
“Oh don’t worry sir, it wasn’t one of your clean socks”, the batman assured him.
*A batman was a soldier assigned to an officer as his personal servant
The fact that CHTL writes; "My main occupation is lying about out of doors reading, or playing patience" shows that he was in a very secluded spot, well away from a road. For a hostage he was having a very good time.
Lord Robert Cecil had shown interest in CHTL's kidnapping by asking questions in parliament (Source: HC Deb 28 June 1920 vol 131 cc30-1, HC Deb 29 June 1920 vol 131 c245245). As he was the MP for Hitchin, standing as an Independent Conservative, Poppy was hopeful that this great man could help free her husband. CHTL being more of a realist knew that even a Lord had very limited powers in such matters. Cousin Percy was more likely to know more about CHTL's position.
The Lucas family knew Sir Robert well, being among the most influential families in Hitchin.
CHTL's father was not only a banker, a local magistrate but also very involved with the North Herts Conservative Association and no doubt sat on various committees with the MP. It would have been one of the first ports of call to contact Lord Robert and request his assistance.
On Monday 19 July 1920 the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954) reported on an incident the British newspapers had printed the previous day, that must have shocked the Lucas' in Welwyn and brought icy fear into Poppy's heart:
POLICE COMMISSIONER ASSASSINATED AT CORK
A CONSTABLE MURDERED
London July 18.
A message from Cork states that Police 'Commissioner Smyth, of Munster, has been assassinated at the County Club. Cork. Fourteen armed men forced their way into the club and fired on the Commissioner who fell riddled -with bullets and died almost immediately.
There is unusual military activity at Cork, and some arrests have been made. An ex-soldier who was seen talking with, the military was killed. Official documents taken in a Dublin "hold-up'' have now reached the Viceroy. They are marked, "Opened and censored by the Irish Republic."
A Limerick constable was shot dead while motoring. At Londonderry William Gallagher has been arrested for wearing a naval uniform in order to secure information for the Sinn Fein about warships.
On the evening of 17 July 1920 Colonel Smyth, V.C., Divisional Commissioner of Constabulary In Munster was in the smoking room of the Cork & County Club after returning from London where he had been summoned by Sir Hamar Greenwood to give an account of his conduct in Listowel. He was chatting to County Inspector Craig when a six man (according to IRA sources (Rebel Cork's Fighting Story p133) IRA team rushed into the room. The leader of the gang, Dan "Sandow" O'Donovan, asked: "Where is he?" One of the men pointed out Commissioner Smyth.
O'Donovan said to Smyth, "Colonel, were not your orders to shoot on sight?
Well you are in sight now, so prepare."
Smyth jumped up as he was being fired upon. Though having two bullets in the head, one through the heart and two through the chest, he managed to reach the passage where he dropped dead. He was 34 years old.
Rebel Cork's Fighting Story, various writers, page 133, Mercier Press, Cork reprinted 2009 Irish Times, Dublin, 20 July 1920
The cold-blooded assassination of Colonel Smyth shook the country and even more so a family who knew that their loved one was being held by men who held the same beliefs as the killers of Smyth. Their anxiety increased greatly along with the earnest prayers offered daily at family prayers for the safe return of their Cuthbert.
Meanwhile in Whitehall, Henry Wilson was complaining to Churchill about the confused government policy for Ireland and the military. The need for troops at home to deal with civil disturbances was real. There had been many incidents of returning discharged soldiers rioting, as they were disillusioned and angry about the lack of government support for them.
18th July 1920
S. of S.
I said I had ‘no knowledge of the policy being pursued in Ireland’ because I have no such knowledge.
I do not see the Cabinet papers on Ireland.
I have no idea what the Cabinet Committee recently established discuss nor what decisions if any they reach.
You yourself have never once given me any idea of what the Government policy consists of.
But on the other hand I see, by the newspapers, that men arrested one day are released the next. I am told by the C. In C. Ireland that proposals made by him, after the capture of General Lucas, were turned down by the Secretary for Ireland. I see the battalions sent to Belfast to quell a coming disturbance kept in Ireland when no disturbance takes place in Belfast; I am assured by the C. In C. That if we hold 8 battalions at short notice he will ask for as few as he can, he hopes he may not have toast for any but he is fairly confident he will not ask for more than two, and these within a few weeks not only have all the eight battalions been sent over but eight more have to be put under orders and these also are rapidly disappearing across the Channel, as well as a small matter of four cavalry regiments. I know that a proposal to raise eight Garrison battalions, which were considered necessary, was abandoned; I know that an attempt to recruit 3,000 war-trained men has signally failed; and I believe that an effort largely to increase the R.I.C. is not meeting with much success. How then am I to grope for and to find a policy in all this tangle of contradictions.
It is true that “I am in close touch with the C. of C.” but he has never yet been able to tell me the policy of the Government beyond calling for on me for troops and transport without limit for either.
I never see General Tudor who is not under my orders and with whom therefore I have no concern beyond helping him in every way to find officers for his needs.
No! I warmly resent the statement that I am “extremely unhelpful”. On the contrary I have helped in every possible way and there has not been a demand made by the C. in C., whether for personnel or for material, that we in the War Office have not strained every nerve to meet. But on the other hand it is my duty to point out to you that these urgent and repeated demands from Ireland, demands which go on increasing, leave us with too few troops in this country to meet a civil disturbance and with no troops at all to answer the call of other theatres.
It is the uncertainty of the present and the impossibility of forecasting the future, especially for this coming winter, which makes me profoundly uneasy.
Two years later almost to the day Sir Henry Wilson, a staunch Ulster Unionist was gunned down on his doorstep in London. On June 22nd, 1922, in broad daylight two British- born IRA men, Reginald Dunne and Joe O’Sullivan did the deed. They were surrounded by a crowd, arrested and several weeks later hung for murder. There is a debate as to whether Michael Collins was involved or not. Collins was not a fan of Wilson, blaming him for a lot of the trouble post Treaty in Northern Ireland. (Dwyer, pp. 256–258). He described Wilson as being ‘a violent Orange Partisan.’ (The Times, 24 March 1922) Wilson on his side thought the Truce of 11 July 1921 "rank, filthy cowardice". Wison hoped that it would fail so that more troops could be sent into Ireland to crush Sinn Féin.
Former British government minister, Michael Portillo recently made a documentary on RTE, ‘Hawks and Doves: The Crown and Ireland’s War of Independence’ which examined the attitude of the British government to Ireland at this time. Ronan McGreevy writing in the Irish Times commented:
‘The documentary is set in the post-war context: British prime minister David Lloyd George has abdicated responsibility for domestic affairs and is too busy reordering the world at the Paris peace conference to pay attention to what is happening in Ireland.
“As far as the British are concerned, Ireland is an awful distraction,” Portillo says.“The British are always dealing with Ireland I’m afraid in this ignorant, off-hand way. The policies are driven forward by the one or two people in the cabinet who have given the matter any thought at all, but they have given it from a unionist point of view.”
The Irish Times (Source)
Field Marshall Sir Henry Wilson was one of those giving their thoughts to cabinet ministers from a unionist point of view and paid for it, becoming another casualty in this tragic avoidable war.