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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her stepmother, Dame Florence Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Dame Florence Eveleen Eleanore
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Malcolm, Ian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 letter plus envelope, paper

50.725231, 1.613334

Dec 1 Boulogne Dearest Mother. The horrible censor says he must read all our letters - hitherto we have had them passed unopened. Whenever I can I shall send a letter by someone who is going over, otherwise you will understand that censored letters must be very colourless. I don't know why they take so long on the way. They will probably take longer now. Anyhow I understand why I have not had a telegram from you today. Flora has come and Diana goes back to London tomorrow - taking this letter. We are horribly overworked with our index, but when it is done we shall have an easier time. We have got 3 men who do our enquiries. First Mr Durell who is very nice, and very clever at his job. He has been here some time and is delightful to work with. He has a wife in India, oddly enough. Then there are 2 whom Mr Malcolm brought over to fill Col. Duncombe's place, Mr Dove who has some part in the Round Table, and Mr Deed of whom I know nothing. I don't think either of them very good. Mr Dove writes us Round Table articles instead of concise reports and it will take a great deal of tact to persuade so distinguished a literary man to adopt a different style. Mr Deed doesn't seem to get hold of the right kind of information either. Perhaps they will improve. We who have to handle the reports are acutely conscious of these differences but we have to walk very warily in making suggestions. Diana is very good and very accurate, I think Flora won't be so quick but she ought to know the work as she has been at it a long time. Anyhow we shall all get on together excellently which is the main thing. I can't in my censored letters give you these descriptions of my colleagues! We have so much to do that unless it all goes to perfection we can't get through it. Our present stumbling block is a very slow typewriter. He sets everything dragging and though the office is supposed to shut at 5 it was past 6 today before we got our letters to sign. It didn't matter as we were working on till dinner time at our index but it would be intolerable under ordinary conditions. Mr Malcolm comes back I believe on Thursday and I shall have to discuss this and other matters with him. In time I think we ought to have one of the best run offices in France. We are already scheming to get into closer touch with the front which is our weak point. Lord Robert asked the ... General to let us have a representative and he refused categorically. Now we have a great plan for getting hold of army chaplains, for it is quite clear that we shall have to make our own channels for ourselves. Also I have several other ideas in my head which I am going to put into execution gradually. I'll tell you about them as they evolve.
We have the most pitiful letters and we see the most pitiful people. It's so blessed when one can give them some news, even if it's not very decisive. And at least we can often find out where people died and are buried. But we shall be able to do that much oftener if we get our links with the clearing hospitals which is what I am now trying to do. We never know where these hospitals are as their position is kept secret.

Don't let all this discourage you at all from bringing me home if you want me. Ever your affectionate daughter Gertrude

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