7 May 1915: Farewell to friends

A telegram arrived at tea-time on the Friday [7 May 1915] saying he would be home that evening for one night’s leave only to return next day to Fort Brockhurst to await immediate orders to go on active service.

His Mother, sister, brother and some other friends who had been coming the next night were hastily telephoned for to come that night — some for dinner and a good many after. Dinner was practically over when he arrived.

I heard his knock and went out to let him in. I think even then in that first minute I felt there was something different about him.

He was extraordinarily himself except that he looked years and years younger. His smile was radiant but something, some part of him had gone.

This may seem fanciful and ridiculous, but it is neither fancy nor is it ridiculous. Months afterwards a friend here that evening — a most unfanciful friend — told me and has since written to me what she felt. She told her daughter as she drove home that night. She too clearly was aware of the same thing about him.

He himself was unconscious, no I don’t believe entirely unconscious, of the difference.

Was it that he, in some deep subconscious way, knew that he was never going to return — that the final sacrifice that to us seems to have been offered on June the 4th in Gallipoli for him was already over? Who can tell — no word of it passed his lips.

This an excerpt from the end of Kittie Calderon’s memoirs. George’s ‘Mother’ is of course Clara Calderon (1836-1921). The ‘sister’ is Marge Calderon, the ‘brother’ most likely Frank. It is not known who of George and Kittie’s friends were present, but they may have included Percy Lubbock, the writer William Caine, and the sculptor Emanuele Ordoño de Rosales.

The friend referred to in the third paragraph from the end above is Kittie’s friend Leonora Bagg, who I believe to be an American feminist and ‘progressive thinker’. I shall quote from her memoir about George on 9 May. The daughter mentioned is almost certainly Louise Bagg, Kittie’s long-standing friend from art school, married to Rosales.

We do not know what the conversation was about round the dinner-table. Those present presumably knew, however, about the sinking of the Lusitania off Ireland that afternoon, with the loss of over a thousand passengers and crew. This act, together with the Germans’ use of poison gas on the Western Front, stoked hatred of the enemy to a new pitch.

Altogether, one cannot help feeling that everyone present on this never-to-be-forgotten occasion admired George’s courage boundlessly, but none of them wanted him to go.

Next entry: 8 May 1915


About Patrick Miles

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