23 July 1915

British Red Cross and Order of St John
Enquiry Department for Wounded and Missing
20, Arlington Street,

July 23

Dear Mrs Calderon,

Mr Lubbock telegraphs to us from Alexandria that 6424 Sergt. Smith, K.O.S.B. returning on the hospital ship Delta can give some information about Mr Calderon. Perhaps you have already been put into communication with Sergt. Smith? If not the War Office will be able to tell you into what hospital he goes in England.

I fear it cannot be definitely good news he has to give; if so Mr Lubbock would have telegraphed it.

Believe me yours sincerely

Gertrude Bell

Clearly Gertrude Bell is preparing Kittie for the worst; this rather reinforces the idea that she has not yet broken to her the contents of Mrs Ludolf’s statement from SM Allan, whose opinion was that George had been killed outright and his body ‘left on the open ground’.

We do not know if Kittie tried to contact the Sergeant Smith Gertrude Bell refers to, whether she was successful, and what the upshot was. Curiously, there is also no evidence that Percy Lubbock telegraphed Bell with the name of the ship (the Gurkha, apparently) that the ‘real’ SM Allan was returning to England on. If Percy had, obviously Kittie could have met him and questioned him herself.

This is the last letter from Gertrude Bell in Kittie’s archive.

On this same day, Friday 23 July 1915, George’s play The Maharani of Arakan, adapted from a story by Rabindranath Tagore (see my posts of 9 and 13 April), was performed twice at the Hampstead Conservatoire by members of the Indian Art and Dramatic Society ‘in aid of the wounded Indian troops’, as the press explained. The Morning Post reported that the distinguished actor Martin Harvey ‘complimented Mr Das Gupta [q.v.] and the other players upon the charming performance’ and ‘urged that further efforts should be made on behalf of the Indian soldiers who were lying wounded in this country’.

The Hampstead Conservatoire was a private college for music and the arts, of which Cecil Sharp had been Principal 1896-1905. According to Wikipedia, ‘the building is now part of the Central School of Speech and Drama’.

It would be good to know whether Kittie attended one of the performances. It is a reasonable guess that she did, because she and George had so many friends amongst the members of the Indian Art and Dramatic Society. But if so, it must have been trying for her. Everyone present would know that George was ‘missing’, and what that all too often meant.

Next entry: REVIEW. Lorna C. Beckett, The Second I Saw You: The True Love Story of Rupert Brooke and Phyllis Gardner (British Library, 2015), 208 pp.


About Patrick Miles

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