30 July 1914

I got a porter and was making for the boat at Portsmouth Harbour station when I met Evey on the platform, with a nice dry man Bland, Ipswich branch of Barclay’s bank: he had a motor launch and we came back [to Bembridge] by that, an hour and a half what with going in to Southsea.

Trains full of sailors all recalled by early telegram this morning. Soldiers moving everywhere. Men at all the guns along the shore on the mainland and in Isle of Wight. Groups of soldiers in marching order posted on watch at improvised telephone stations on the beach. It looked as if the Germans were expected at any moment. Strict regulations about all unofficial craft; no one to move on sea after sunset, or to approach men of war at any time.

The first fleet went out 2 days ago no one knows where.

The children good and hearty, still whooping; they came running over to greet me at my room in the villa opposite…

A hundred years ago today, George Calderon left 42 Well Walk, Hampstead, for a working holiday at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. He would be living close to his friends the Pym family, who were already there. ‘Evey’ is Captain Charles Evelyn Pym (1879-1971) of the Suffolk Yeomanry. He was married to Violet, née Lubbock (1882-1927), sister of Percy Lubbock and niece to George’s wife, Kittie. The Calderons had no children themselves and were very close to this family: the two children who ran to meet George were Jack (aged six) and Roly (aged four), who had recently both had whooping cough. Violet was seven months pregnant.

I think this previously unpublished letter to his wife suggests that George and Kittie were following military developments closely and had probably already discussed what their contribution would be if Britain went to war. On 28 July Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia, and the first shots of World War I were fired next day. Captain Pym must have been expecting to be recalled to his regiment at any moment. He and George undoubtedly discussed the international situation from day to day. This letter was posted to Kittie on Friday 31 July 1914, the same day that Russia mobilised and Germany sent ultimatums to St Petersburg and Paris.

When would the Pyms have to cut short their holiday, and what would George do?

Next Entry: 1 August 1914


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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