Letters

30 December 1914

From/To: Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

[30 December 1914] Boulogne. Dec 30 My Belloved Father. It's most surprisingly kind of you to send me such a handsome present, with Lloyd George and everything. Bless you dearest - I ought not to accept it I think, but I do love your sending it so much. I am going to keep it for things here - I have already presented the office with a complete set of filing drawers, and if ever they say we are costing too much - but we really cost them almost nothing - I can now stump up with a contribution. I long to answer your letter not in writing. I do so deeply sympathise with you about dear Kerley - the trusted friend. We shall all miss him, but none of us as much as you. It's very bitter that it should come just at this time when everything seems to be heaped together, all sorrow and anxiety. Do you much mind my being here, dearest Father? I feel as if I had flown to this work as one might take to drink, for some kind of forgetting, that it brings. Yet, you know it, there's no real forgetting, and care rides behind one all the day. I sometimes wonder if we shall ever know again what it was like to be happy. You sound terribly overworked - I hope Mother is not. She makes light of it all in her letters. In a way the obsession of the war is nearer to one here and in a way it is better to be nearer, to be in it, than to be watching it from far off; since in any case one can think of nothing else. I try to look in the face the thing that may be before us - but it won't bear speaking of. I shall see Maurice I think certainly when he comes out and before he goes to the front; I may very likely have a day or two with him - that's what I hope.

The last fortnight has been awful - we hear so much. The terrible waste of life for such small gains. It's inevitable, I suppose, but one's heart aches over it. We have a man in here tonight, Crum Ewing is his name, come to look for his son, a boy of 18, lost in the recent fighting - we can get no word of him. The chances are he is dead, part of the immense sacrifice we had to make to retake the trenches the Indian troops had lost. I wish we could, without dishonour to them, take them away, the Indian troops - send them to guard Egypt or something. Now that they have lost such an immense proportion of the officers who understood them, they are not much good. It's too high a test, the fighting here, and they suffer so much from the climate, they are bewildered by the strange conditions and the new men over them whom they don't know. They can't, or don't, dig trenches that are any good either for themselves or for those who have to replace them. That's my private opinion; perhaps it is best not to spread it, but I tell it to you. I'm deeply interested about Plumer and wish him well. My letters are not censored now. I have found a means of passing through.

Goodbye my dearest step-mother and father. I think of you both very often and of our Belloved Maurice all the time. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

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