29 July 1915

29th July, 1915.

The Military Secretary presents his compliments to Mrs Calderon, and begs to thank her for her letter of July 26th, and to inform her that a form of enquiry on behalf of her husband will be sent to the American Ambassador in due course, and his name shall be added to the ‘Missing List’.

This is a transcription of a carbon copy in George’s War Office file. Kittie probably received the original at Well Walk, Hampstead, today.

One must give the War Office credit for replying to Kittie’s letter (see my post of 26 July) within three days. Moreover, she had not mentioned in her letter enquiring through the American Ambassador in Constantinople about whether George’s name was on the Turks’ list of prisoners, so it seems to imply some initiative on the War Office’s part. Doubtless they were responding to the press campaign about George’s disappearance, and the high-profile people who were taking Kittie’s part (Gertrude Bell, Coote Hedley, Sir Ronald Ross, Constance Sutton, Will Rothenstein, to name but a few).

The United States was still a neutral power in the War. In his George Calderon: A Sketch from Memory (1921) Percy Lubbock writes that ‘a friend in England sent an American agent expressly to Constantinople, a few weeks later, to follow up any clue that might be discoverable there’. There is no documentation of who this friend was and who the American citizen was who acted as ‘agent’. It is not, of course, what the War Office said they were going to do, so sending an agent to an enemy country must have been a private initiative, again possibly by a friend of Kittie’s in high places.

Judging by George’s War Office file, the W.O. literally sent a form to the U.S. Embassy in Constantinople with three questions on it about George: ‘Is he a Prisoner of War? Where is he? How is he?’ It was returned to London with the following typed in the SPACE FOR REPLY at the bottom:

According to information received from the British Foreign Office the above British officer has not been made a prisoner of war by the Imperial forces.

[signed] In Charge of British Interests
Hoffman Philip

American Embassy Constantinople
August 26, 1915.

Hoffman Philip was a career American diplomat. It seems curious that the form had gone all the way to Constantinople for him merely to supply information from the ‘British Foreign Office’ in London. This also struck someone in the War Office, who on 17 September 1915 wrote above ‘British’ the query ‘Ottoman?’. But perhaps the American Embassy had not succeeded in communicating with the relevant Turkish authorities. The ‘British Foreign Office’ seem pretty certain that George was not a prisoner. Where had the Foreign Office got their information from? Military men in the know at the War Office, as opposed to the lower-level administrators who had taken the initiative of sending the form? Or was it actually the ‘Ottoman Foreign Office’ who were so certain of the facts?

The War Office letter she received today gave Kittie the satisfaction of knowing that they had done what she asked and put George’s name on their list of Missing. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion, however, that her Calvary was only just beginning.

Next entry: 30 July 1915: ‘Ends’

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About Patrick Miles

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