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The 1919 Letters of Henry James Drew Smythe M.C., T.D. Royal Army Medical Corps.

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.


Eichstatt. Bavaria 7.1.1919

Dearest little Blue Eyes,

I am starting your letter from a little country town hotel which you would just love, my angel. It is quite old but quite comfortable. We are on our way to Bayreuth to see if we cannot get rid of all the prisoners over there and also to clear up the confusion which exists as to the numbers there. We started from Munich this morning at lunch time and got here about four o'clock after passing through Ingoldstat on our way.

The morning was spent attending a conference at the War Office with a French Commission which is in Munich and going over the whole prisoner question with the Bavarian authorities and a representative from Berlin.

In my last letter I told you that we were going up to Ingoldstat to see the prisoners off from there in a hospital train. We set off accordingly, early on Saturday morning and took Dr. Schueeli the Swiss with us. We arrived at Ingoldstat at 10am (80 kilometres) and went straight to the larger where we interviewed the chief who told us that all the British were not going, so we asked "why" and got no straight answer, so went from there to the man above him in the town and from him to a General but could get nothing definite from any of them, so we went to the larger, told all the men that they were going that day and to prepare accordingly, even 11 stretcher cases we determined to get away. We then had lunch and then went to meet the train which arrived in at 12.45 and went straight to the Swiss officer i/c of train and we arranged with him to take all the English prisoners on board and then went off and while the Colonel interviewed the Commandant I got all of the prisoners to the station and packed into the train and then we laughed at the German authorities.

At one time we had got everyone in but two men and the Swiss people absolutely refused to take these two as they said that they were full up and so they locked the carriage doors so that they could not get in. However, we determined that they should go and while I engaged the Swiss Major in conversation at one end of the train, the Colonel pushed the men through a window and so into the train. The Swiss Major, unfortunately saw it and was furious but he eventually saw the funny side of it and burst into laughter and so all went well.

We saw the train off and then motored back to Munich and arrived in time to have some dinner at the hotel. We have changed our hotel at Munich from the Bayerschu Hof  to the Grunwald. It is not such a nice hotel but is quite passable. We have done so because Schlagantweit is staying there and also the French Commission so that we can all work together better and get the latest information from each other.

We met Schlagantweit that night and he was dining with a Frau Hoffmann who is a merry widow and according to Miss S. is after "father's ... " and methinks is doing it pretty successfully.

On Sunday we did nothing special but went to the American Church to Service in the morning and took Communion there. In the afternoon we slept (methinks) and at 5o'clock we went to call on the Baroness Gleichen who had asked Dr. Schueeli if he would ask me to have tea with her. He also came soon after we had arrived. Her husband, Baron Gleichen, is a writer of socialistic ideas but moderate in his views and he has spoken out all through the war against Germany's doings and even starting the war. She is the great-niece of Schiller, the great German poet and she has all sorts of his pictures, works and furniture and a very fine painting of him. She has also some other old paintings and etchings, one by Goethe and a lot of real Wedgwood china. She spoke English very well and was altogether very interesting and the things in her house were even more so. She asked if she might present the Colonel and I with one of her husband's books each and we accepted and she is to send them to our hotel and so I shall have a nice little souvenir for my Baby's drawing room!

On Monday we had a conference with the French Commission in the morning and as it was one of Bavaria's numerous holidays we could do nothing more but we arranged for our today's journey and then there were two notable happenings: 1 - and the foremost - our ration lorry arrived and with it letters and there were two from my Baby, one from Dad, first for many moons, and one from Mother and a tin of cigarettes. Also found my Blu.J. I will answer your letter at the end of the week my cupid angel, this part must be a chronicle of my doings, Then 2 - also notable - James had a lovely bath in a huge big baffie with unlimited hot water and it took him one hour from entrance into bathroom to exit from same. He then went to bed, darned a pair of socks (Iron Cross 1st. Class) read the Blu.J., read letters once more and then went to sleepy bye.

And now he must go to sleepy bye again for he has to be up at 6o'clock tomorrow morning so goodnight dearest, dearest love of mine …

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