A hundred years ago today George V, Queen Mary, the Prime Minister, and their entourages, visited Windmill Hill Camp. The Third Cavalry Division had now been officially formed and was being reviewed by the monarch.
George Calderon described it as ‘rather a dull day’…
He wrote to Kittie that this ‘suited’ him, as he had a crick in his back ‘from jumping badly’. ‘I let the Division ride past the King without me (as I am not a member of it) and trotted about with a Transport officer in something of the same position, on the outskirts.’ Amongst the King’s entourage was Lady Constance Sutton, née Corbet, who was a very close friend of Kittie’s. Her son, Sir Richard Sutton, was present in the 1st Life Guards. George ‘chatted a bit with her’, then returned to his position ‘on the outskirts’.
This enabled him to observe the proceedings with a writerly eye. For the first time since he arrived at Windmill Camp, it seems, his usually irrepressible sense of the grotesque and ridiculous was awoken.
His stories, satirical novels, and plays, had always featured impostors, or at least people whose identity was transgradient and disconcertingly difficult to put your finger on. His attention now was drawn to such a person in the crowd at Windmill Hill:
A wretched little crazy fellow, or else a spy, dressed up in what he said was an Indian uniform, was the only point of interest. He came early into our mess and was given ginger ale and a cigarette, offered meals, and lavishly promised a job with the Blues ‘if anything turned up’. (They are very kind and polite to everyone.) He gave himself out variously as an Indian Hussar and Transport officer, but wore a warrant officer’s badges (so somebody said). At the Review he was everywhere in the crowd, chatting with everybody, ladies, soldiers, chauffeurs and policemen. Nobody bothered about him and he went off across the Plain on foot (he looked like a sort of Das Gupta [the Bengali K.N. Das Gupta, who founded the Indian Art and Dramatic Society that staged George’s Tagore adaptation The Maharani of Arakan in 1912 at the Albert Hall]) amid general unresentful suspicion. One of the Military Police (having his attention directed to him) said Oh, he was all right; they knew all about him; he was the Interpreter. A nice compliment for me!
However, this was not the only thing that suggested a sort of doppelgänger or distressed parody of George himself: the man said he was ‘connected with the Hamiltons’. The Hamiltons were one of the great families of the realm, and George was himself ‘connected’ with them through his marriage to Kittie, whose father was not just an Irish landowner, but related to the Wellesleys, Stewarts, Pakenhams…
When Kittie received this letter, she jumped to the conclusion that George himself had mentioned to the ‘pseudo-Das Gupta’ that he was ‘connected with the Hamiltons’! Two days later, therefore, he had to explain: ‘Das Gupta did not associate me with his connexion with the Hamiltons. It was a general remark to endear him with the Colonel. The poor creature was a harmless drink-demented person.’
There was evidently something slightly unsettling about the whole incident.
Next entry: 29 September 1914