Letter from Alexandria


Percy Lubbock sketch by Adrian Graham

Percy Lubbock, by Adrian Graham, 1923


June 27.

Dear Kitty

Your letter of June 16 just reaches me. I scrawl one line to go to you at once.

I think it certain that you must know by this time where and how George is. He is not in Egypt. If he is at Malta you will have heard — if very slightly wounded he was probably kept at Lemnos. The only other alternative, so far as I know, would be sending him home.

Anyhow you must know now.

If he is very slightly wounded and may be going back soon, don’t think of coming here. It is only one of several chances that he would be sent here if wounded. If he were, I should instantly telegraph to you. If he were sent to Malta you might find yourself hung up here for days before you could get there — boats are so uncertain.

It is magnanimous of me to say don’t come here — it wd be so joyful to see you. But you command the whole field best from home.

Kitty dear I think of you daily and long to hear more. I wish I could write as I feel — life is a scramble here — this must go — Dear love to you and wishes

from PL

Assuming letters took on average eight days to get from Alexandria to an address in England, Kittie may have received this letter from Percy Lubbock today, 5 July 1915. There is circumstantial evidence that she had returned home to Well Walk, Hampstead, from staying with Nina Astley at Hoe Benham by 1 July, and this letter of Percy’s was not redirected from Well Walk.

Clearly, Percy has concentrated on finding George in the hospitals of Alexandria; presumably he has not yet met or heard of anyone from the 1st KOSB who was with George on 4 June 1915. Given that Percy has not found George, and still assumes he is ‘wounded’, the reasoning of the rest of his letter is surely impeccable.

However, Kittie did not know ‘where and how George is’. But by now she may have received a letter from Captain Hogan, who had been with George at Brockhurst and commanded D Company of the 1st KOSB on 4 June. This is a vital document that we know she received, but it is not in her archive. It proved that Hogan, who had been in the successful second wave on 4 June and was reported ‘wounded’ (see my post of 16 June), survived and had been evacuated from Gallipoli. It seems likely that Hogan’s letter encouraged Kittie to believe George had been taken prisoner.

Next entry: The last blurt


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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1 Response to Letter from Alexandria

  1. Clare Hopkins says:

    There is something peculiarly tantalising about a correspondence of which only part survives. Percy is replying to a ‘missing’ letter that Kittie wrote on June 16. Can we infer any of her letter’s contents from what he says here?

    l rolled back through the blog and see that on that day Kittie received a letter from George’s former adjutant – causing you to wonder whether she was cheered or depressed by the fact that the Oxford & Bucks had had news of Captain Hogan’s injury but nothing at all about George. We know that Gertrude Bell (with Kittie’s connivance) had already instructed Percy to travel to Alexandria to look for George – on June 17 you blogged about Percy’s letter of June 15, in which he confirmed that he was about to depart for Egypt. Given the excellence of the Edwardian postal service, even in wartime, we might assume that Kittie’s letter of June 16 was in reply to Percy’s of the day before. (It makes little difference to this attempt at reconstruction if their letters crossed.)

    ‘I scrawl one line to go to you at once,’ he says; no doubt Kittie has begged him to write immediately. And ‘you must know by this time where and how George is. He is not in Egypt,’ is surely a response to ‘Have you found him?’ So far, so obvious. I would like to postulate further that Kittie then proposed that she herself could –or should or would – follow him to Alexandria. Percy is emphatic – ‘don’t think of coming here’; he repeats this advice – ‘don’t come here’; and he reinforces it with reasons why ‘you command the whole field best from home.’ Why would he say these things if not to deter her from a risky and in all probability futile impulse? Percy’s detailed arguments about the possible destinations of a man wounded at Gallipoli (he is resolutely not considering death or capture) incline me to think that she suggested making the journey whether George had been found or not.

    You tell us that Percy’s letter of June 15 was ‘scrumpled’. Did Kittie first hurl it into the wastepaper basket before picking up her pen? In reply to your question as to how she felt on June 16, I might posit the answer ‘desperate’. What do other followers think?

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