Request a high resolution copy

Letter from Charles Doughty-Wylie to Gertrude Bell

There is currently no summary available for this item.
Reference code
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Wylie, Charles Hotham Montagu Doughty-
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

8.9806034, 38.7577605

11 Sept.
British Legation,
Adis Ababa.
My dear Gertrude

What should I do without you I can’t imagine – your letters are so welcome always & so delightful. Two last night, the last one from London the 13th – not bad for war time, and in these very heavy rains – My dear, we must think of the war, the war, the war – I mean rather that it is very hard to take one’s mind off it – Yesterday came the news (Sept 8th) War Office communique – the F. O. are very good indeed about telegrams – giving news of the check to the Germans from Verdun to Meaux [sic] – May it lead to a retirement, turning rapidly to disorder & ruin – for they have far to go & fortresses behind them - & Belgium. But there’s no good talking of it because already to you its very ancient history.

Its interesting to know that Sir V. C. is the [?] bureau – a very excellent thing. But I must tell you my grief – Tyrell wired to me yesterday that Grey wished me to stay here –

Very well – I stay – this isn’t the time to disobey orders – but its really extremely hard on me – For years I have stayed on in the army with some secret thought in the back of my mind of this war – my time with the F. O. is up in October, had Thesiger returned at his leave’s end – and in war time there should be no leave – if I went to war I might (I say to you my dear things I say to none else) I might have come out with honour – for I am really a much better soldier than anything else, and though I am hasty for peace, I have had great experience of war for my rank – now of course after this inglorious imprisonment, I must leave. I couldn’t face my regiment, and even if I could they would never have me back, the War Office – younger men who have fought would pass over me – It’s the finish - & all because they don’t send the Minister back, who is no soldier, & whose permanent job it is. He has gone as a [?] censor to France – so after a few months I am turned loose, after being debarred from the one thing my soul has always longed for, the command of men in war – for they have always liked me & followed me gaily & well –

However – there it is – I stay – As a matter of fact with such as is left of my mind I am working hard – Abyssinia is mobilising, collecting money, boasting, threatening, getting drunk – and I am trying to hold them back. They want at one time to fight all the whites, at another us, at another Italy – Now if Italy had gone to war & attacked the Sudan (as they telegraphed me she was going to do) I would not have cared – I would have conquered Eritrea – but now we have to help her - & I do – I gather meetings of my French & Italian colleagues, & I go to Abyssinian Ministers & talk & listen & talk. Today I am to see the Prince to try to get from [him] a declaration of peaceable intentions to Italy, which he had refused to give the French Minister. If he refuses it or breaks it, Italy will send re-enforcements to Eritrea, which will be as a torch to all Abyssinia, and the row begins – So you see I have something to do – But all the time the Austrians & Germans say that we are beaten, say that Germany has taken British East Africa at their doors, that India & the Sudan have risen – that now is the time to strike – As for Italy that she has remained neutral on purpose to invade Abyssinia – that now is the time to kill the meddlers, the time to give Ministers their kick out – a million lies - & the departure of the French Govt from Paris is taken to be surrender & defeat.

It will all pass off quietly – at least I think so – in the providence of Allah -

But there’s little use in talking of treaties & such things – I cannot do anything of the sort, and perhaps this afternoon may show me worse things than I know of. I have an idea of course – they’re cheap & grow well like my roses – it is that the 3 of us here of the Triple agreement, should re-iterate to Abyssinia what is written therein, that we will respect her integrity if & as long as she remains quiet – if she on her side will removed what thorns we have in our feet – let her give me Tsana for my olive branch – But Italy would not do it I think – she has Tsana & other things in her eye – Still I believe it might be done – it is better than war & division and a long & very costly administration of some difficult & distant countries –

Yes – I talk of this & think of it, when my mind isn’t with my regt on the Oureg, seeing battered Germans suddenly give ground – as they will.

& some of it, my mind, goes out to you my dear, to thank you and to want to see you – that isn’t so much my mind alone, as some foundation out of which grow mind & thoughts & griefs & all the little personal wishes & unwishes –

& you work at rolling bandages & stringing Charpoys - & village hospitals - & I expect relief funds & distress, & plans for the winter. But there will be no invasion of England –

Just for pure soldiering the Germans please me – I like the stroke as it seems to me – to divide the French armies, to live on France, till they are rounded up & surrender – there is a remedy, attack, attack – We have done too much retreating – now we’ve got back to the war – Lets leave it – for I must go & see the Prince –

A very unsatisfactory interview – no assurance given – I’m beginning again –

IIIF Manifest