Both Constance Sutton (Astley) and Nina Corbet (Astley) knew only too well the nervous and physical effects that anxiety tended to have on Kittie.
But Kittie had her own well-developed pattern of techniques for coping with it. She clung to her faith in benign outcomes (was ‘stalwart’ and ‘stout’), believed in taking positive action, and sought the company of friends for comfort.
Today, Sunday 13 June 1915, she went to church and prayed for George’s safety. Telegrams were delivered on a Sunday, but none came. She decided she must do something, but what? The War Office was basically saying ‘wait for our next telegram’, so on what pretext could she get back to them and try to hurry them up?
She noticed that in the telegram George had been described as ‘2nd Lieutenant Calderon’, when he was certainly Lieutenant. Although Calderon was hardly a common English name, the error could be made out to be significant in tracing him through the military hospital system. She therefore probably went this evening to see the ‘Godfather in War’, Coote Hedley (q.v.), not far away in Belsize Avenue, and persuaded him to write an internal note at the War Office to the Casualties section pointing out George’s true rank. This he did next day.
She also wrote to Gertrude Bell, who was running the ‘Enquiry Department for Wounded and Missing’ at the British Red Cross and Order of St John in Arlington Street. Bell was a brilliant administrator, linguist and archaeologist, who had been George’s counterpart in the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League when he was Honorary Secretary of the Men’s League for Opposing Woman Suffrage. They got on well and she thought highly of him. But for him, she wrote to George on 18 July 1910, the anti-suffrage demonstration in Trafalgar Square on 16 July, which was meant to be a joint WNASL and MLOWS event, would have been a ‘disaster’ scuppered by MLOWS misogynists.
It is possible that Kittie had not known of Bell’s war work until told by Percy Lubbock, Violet’s brother. He was working for the British Red Cross at Arlington Street himself, as his extremely poor eyesight meant he could not sign up. Percy (1879-1965) was gay, had greatly admired his uncle Archie Ripley, Kittie’s first husband and George’s Oxford friend, and he became very supportive of Kittie from now on.
Whether Kittie had yet told George’s mother Clara that he was ‘wounded’, we can only speculate. Perhaps she was waiting first for confirmation.
Next entry: 14 June 1915