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Letter from Gertrude Bell to her father, Sir Hugh Bell

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Reference code
Bell, Sir Thomas Hugh Lowthian
Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Person(s) mentioned
Malcolm, Ian
Extent and medium
1 letter, paper

50.725231, 1.613334

Boulogne Dec 23 Dearest Father. I have found A Way - let him remain anonymous - of sending my letters censored and unread. I was deeply interested in your account of the bombardment. I see the King has written you a kind letter about it. As for your portrait - oh not John Collier! almost anyone else. They might be good, but he can't. I don't visualize Harold Speed much - Figgis Watts, who painted Mother, has done some goodish portraits. Orpen isn't bad - Llewellyn - all better than John Collier. What about our friend Laszlo? he's good you know. Or Lavery - he would do a nice picture of you. Only not John Collier - I feel very strongly on that point.
I woke this morning with such a raging desire to see M. [Maurice] before he leaves that I could scarcely bear it. But I won't come. It would be silly to go all the way to Newcastle to spend 2 hours with him. I am, however, writing to Harold, asking him to let me know if he possibly can when and which way the 4th will go, so that I might catch them when they disembark and see them. It would be easy enough to get to - or - I'm on my honour not to mention names! When once he is out it will be a great comfort to be here. For if he is wounded it is almost certainly here that he would be brought, or if not brought here I should have exceptional means of getting up to him. And if he ever has a little leave he can come here and see me and I can make him happy. But whatever happens mind you send me at once any telegram the W.O. sends you about him after he is out so that I may at once take steps from here. I should not know of anything that had happened otherwise.

I do not believe they will go on trying to storm trenches. It is impossible and they all know it. The recent efforts may have been partly on account of Russia and partly because the French wanted to push the Germans over the frontier before the New Year. But it can't be done. Don't believe what the papers say about advances. They are too small to count, but the loss they imply is terrible. And I don't think the policy will continue, that's my private impression.

As to my office - yes it's dull of course, you know the kind of thing it is. I go in early every morning so as to have a general view of the letters and start the day's work before anyone else comes. Just as you do! Then I'm hard at it without a pause till 12.30. I've got through yesterday's reports - with luck - corrected the book of enquiries for the 3 men and dictated the letters. Meantime Diana does the hospital lists. In the afternoon there is sometimes a little more breathing space. Sometimes I haven't finished copying out the last day's reports for my own cards and I go on with that, always there are odd jobs left over from the morning because they would have taken too long. And since I've been here there has always been much work at verification and re-indexing. Before I came it was chaos - I may tell you in the strictest confidence. The lists of enquiries were full of errors and everybody had a different list of his own quite unlike any other. It's been a great task to get them pulled straight, but I've done it at last. Now I have another on hand - the classifying of enquiries, the taking out of those with which we are satisfied we can go no further (they are many) and finally the duty of persuading London and Paris to adopt my scheme and my classification. And then it has all to be kept up to date. As also the books of Fabian Ware's people who are working at the front and who get the enquiries through us - that's the new and admirable arrangement which Lord Robert has made. But the classification for Fabian Ware at the front is necessarily rather different than that which applies to us and Paris. They can get at things which we can't reach.

I've got all this into my own hands now - here at least. That's why I didn't want to come home for Xmas. If I went away it would all fall to pieces again. You see the great advantage I have over the Russells is that I'm always here and have all the strings in my hand. I wouldn't care to do the work otherwise. It was being very badly done in Boulogne and excellently in Paris while Mrs Buckler was there, and if she goes back there we shall play into each other's hand. I hope she will go back. But I won't leave go here. It wouldn't be worth going on at all if I did. And as long as I have the running of it, it's not, after all, dull. And it has the blessed quality of keeping me hard at work from 8.30 AM till 7 PM. Don't repeat all this - I need not say. Ever your very affectionate daughter Gertrude

Ian Malcolm said "You know I was flooded out with Russells!" Bury that in your bosom.

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