#whitefeather diaries

Let the politicians fight

Thursday 12 November 2015

Despite being in the Friends Ambulance Unit, Laurence was increasingly sympathetic to the war. At the same time, his brother Bertie, a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service, was becoming more critical of the war, as revealed by his letters to Laurence.

Bertie wrote to Laurence, using colourful language, on 20 November 1915. His manner, his language and his attitude to women all seem rather different to Laurence's. Here's an abridged version of his letter.

Dear Laurence,

Thanks very much for your letter, the first I have received from you since the outbreak of hostilities! I heartily agree with you in regard to this bloody murder that is going on–nearly all the men I know have been done in and I wish to God that those long caned nimble footed cocksuckers who arranged for and saw that we got war could be made to fight it out.

My great desire is to get away from anything mechanical–go on a long shooting trip somewhere as you suggest, or buy a farm miles away from anywhere with good shooting, fishing and one or two bloody fine horses. There is one thing I am quite certain about and that is that I never want to fly again. Of all the goddamned pursuits flying takes the bun. The novelty and excitement has long since gone.

As regards my marriage prospects, it would be the greatest joy in my life (bar of course a successful and immediate cessation of war) to get married. Unfortunately I do not see any likelihood at present for reasons which I stated before–coupled with the fact that we never by any chance get any leave.

There is one gentleman farmer named Cubbit near here with three passable daughters whom I often see, as he is the owner of the land of one of the substations where I go, or rather am sent, nearly every fine day to practise bomb dropping. These people are not bad but I do not think much of the others: one or two men here are mad over them.

By far the nicest girl I have met, I met accidentally. I had engine failure the other day about twenty miles up the coast at a place called Palling. I pegged down my machine and came home. Next morning I motored out with a new engine. Crowds of people had collected and watched the changing of engines with great interest.

Amongst the crowd I noticed the prettiest girl I have ever seen in my life, who was surrounded by officers. I got into conversation with the officers, but the shits would not introduce me to the girl. However, about half an hour before I left she at last summoned up courage enough to ask when I proposed to leave. I, like a silly goddamned fool, said as soon as my engine was ready, it then being about 12 o'clock, and rather uncomfortable weather for flying because of the heat bumps and low clouds.

But my God I made good use of that half hour and cut the officers clean out, much to their annoyance. By God she was some girl.

However, in the short time I had, I found out that she knew this farmer Cubbit and his family well. I learnt from them that she was called Doris–I did not catch the surname, but was known as the "Gypsy Maiden" because of her phenomenal beauty. Needless to say she was a lady and not any man's bitch. But I do not suppose I shall ever see her again, but am trying to make arrangements.

Why do not you get fixed up somehow? Not that I really want you to get married, as after the war if we lived through it we should find ourselves fettered.

Your affectionate brother,

Bertie

Source: This is an edited extract of a letter from Bertie Cadbury to Laurence Cadbury, dated 2 August 1915 and stored at the Cadbury Research Library in the University of Birmingham. Used by kind permission of the Cadbury family.

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Laurence Cadbury was present at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915, the first time in the war when poison gas was used. He not only saw the battle but he helped to heal the victims.