Dearest Blue Eyes
These letters were written by Major Henry James Drew Smythe, M.C., in January 1919 to his wife, Enid.
At this time, he was with the International Commission for the Repatriation of Prisoners in Bavaria and she was at the Hotel Crystal, Boulogne, serving as a V.A.D. They had been married in November 1914, soon after the outbreak of World War 1 and saw each other only on infrequent leave opportunities.
This is the portrait of a relationship as much as an observation, with anecdotes, contained within a complete personal report of a few weeks of his work and travels in Germany and Austria less than two months after the Armistice that ended The Great War.
Note: The spellings of towns, areas and vocabulary are as they appear in the original letters. Students or researchers should make their own geographical or linguistic verifications.
Dearest little cupid heart, I had hoped to have started this letter on my way back to Italy this week but yesterday we had a telegram from HQ at Spa reporting that from American sources we have been informed that British prisoners are still being detained and worked in the salt mines in Salzburg and district and we are ordered to investigate. So the day after tomorrow we are off there. That will take us two or three days but we ought to start back sometime during the next week.
At present we are spending the night at a place called Strauburg on the Danube having motored from Munich to a place called Cham this morning (150k) to see a British prisoner who is very ill there. We saw him and found that he was comfortable and was being well treated and looked after but he will not be able to be moved for another fortnight and so nothing can be done in that way at present but we shall report him to the British Commission in Berlin and they will see that he is evacuated when he is well enough.
On Saturday last, the Colonel went off to Wurzburg and left me in Munich to look after Ingoldstat and suddenly I heard that a hospital train had arrived that day, the 11th instead of the 12th. I immediately rushed off to Ingoldstat with a car and saw the four British men, who had arrived there since the last hospital train, off in this train and then rushed back to Munich in time to go to the Opera House to see 'The Barber of Seville' which was awfully good and I enjoyed it immensely. I went with Major S - he got the tickets and there was quite a sensation to see a British Officer there. Every one thinks we are prisoners of war which is very amusing and they are quite astonished when we tell them that we are not but have come to dictate etc. to their government.
On Sunday I went to Kempton to see an officer there who has charge of all the prisoners of war working parties in the district, to see if there were any left. I had Major S. as my interpreter and from his looks etc. it seems there are some left. We went by train, starting off at 8o'clock in the morning, got there at lunch time, did our business in the afternoon and started back at 6.30 and arrived at Munich at 10.30. The district of Kempton is that part of Bavaria near to the Swiss border.
When we got back I found a telegram from the Colonel saying that he was arriving that night at 2am but I did not wait up for him. I heard from him however, in the morning, that he had cleared all the prisoners from the Wurzburg area by a hospital train on the 12th and so, except for this sick man at Cham, Bavaria is absolutely cleared of British. There is a big Commission (British) coming down from Berlin to Bavaria: 6 officers, 15 ambulance cars etc. to search all Bavaria for any who may not have been recalled to their largers and when they come we can depart; but of course we shall have to finish the Salzburg stint first. If we do find any British there we shall kick up a terrific row and that will not be the end of it for the Austrians either. I am so sorry for the dirt on this paper my Baby, but I am afraid that it is the pencil and I have no ink my precious little lambkin.
The Colonel is awfully bucked that he has cleared Bavaria before this other Commission comes down as that was part of their job and now it is all finished.
There was one very annoying incident on our way today at Landshut. We were stopped by one of the emiciaries of these Soldiers and Workman's Councils and asked for our answeis which we showed and then proceeded on. However, later in the day, the same man - accompanied by three others (all soldiers) - stopped us again, they having caught us up for that purpose. We had to show all our answeis and they said they were no good but handed them back. The Colonel told them they were good and told the car to start on again at which, one of the men jumped on our car and caught hold of the Colonel's arm so the Colonel hit him under the jaw and knocked him off the car and we prodeeded on to Cham. Here again they came on us, this time with a police officer and there was a devil of a row. They insulted Major S. and he got red hot and the Colonel was boiling with rage and I could only stand by as I could not understand what was being said but I was just waiting for an opportunity. Can you imagine your hot headed little hubby "just waiting" my Pinkie heart? However, in the end, we got rid of them without anything more than words and we were no more interfered with but the Colonel is bent on satisfaction tomorrow at Munich.