Archive for category First World War

Kate Frye’s Diary: Armistice Day 1918

Kate Frye had worked as an organiser for the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage from 1911 until the summer of 1915. In January 1915 she had married her long-time fiancé, John Collins, an actor who had for many years been a member of the Territorial Army. Now an officer, John was stationed at Shoeburyness with the Essex and Suffolk Royal Garrison Artillery until shipping out for France in December 1916. He spent the next two years on the Western Front and in June 1917 was awarded the Military Cross. His letters home to Kate are held by the Imperial War Museum.

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs of herself and John

Letter from John 1 Nov 1918

Dearest

So it is all over or practically so I wonder what happens next. Please to look for a flat for us duckie. I am longing now to get home to my dear one for good. Oh, won’t it be lovely.

It is a very wet day and I have been running about all day expecting anything but I don’t think we shall ever move again except to go home. There is practically no great excitement here over this morning’s news. Everyone seems to take as a matter of course. It feels just like the end of a term at School where one does not quite know the time the train goes home or how to employ ones time until that is known. It is a most peculiar feeling. I expect the feeling will suddenly burst out however. I wonder how the people at home are taking it. Oh dear Muzz you don’t know how lovely it is to think I shall soon be home with you. It is almost unthinkable after all these years but it’s going to come true after all. I am quite well and safe and fancy I have heard the last shell burst that I shall ever hear. I am now thinking of getting up some of the plays and a concert. What about my mustache – shall I take it off yet, or when I get home? There used to be a German Captain in this house. He was in charge of a German Dog School and he had an English wife who was here with him. The old party who owns the house says that his wife hated the Germans much more than the Belgians did. They left one Doberman behind a great big wolf dog not a bad party but a bit wild. Well dearest there is no more news except that I do love you ever so much.

Fondest love

John

On the day the War ended Kate was at home in her cottage at Berghers Hill in Buckinghamshire and wrote in her diary:

Monday November 11th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

I was thinking and wondering every inch of the morning, and could not settle to anything. Was cleaning a collection of shoes about 11.30 in my room, the windows were open – I sat up and listened. Boom-Boom-Boom – then a Hooter and then I thought it time to bestir myself and went in to Agnes then downstairs to Kathleen [the daily maid] and out to listen to the various sounds proclaiming that the Armistice has been signed. And thank God for our many and great mercies. Mother was down the hill and had called at the Manor House – the news was all over the green and soon up here – and the remarks of the hill were marvellous. As soon as I could settle to anything I sat me down and wrote to John. Is he safe, and will he really be spared to come home to me? [She eventually manages to buy a copy of the Daily Telegraph] ‘Yes, the glorious news, as announced ‘Surrender of Germany’ Armistice signed at 5 a.m. Cease fire at 11 a.m. The D.T. has news of Abdication of the Kaiser and Crown Prince, and flight to Holland. The whole of Germany is seething with revolution. It seems as if it will be a second Russia.

Sunday November 17th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

A fine day, though cold. Woke up at 7 and went off to Church as a beginning to my day of Thanksgiving. I did wish I could have had a letter from John but I tried to give a whole hearted thanksgiving for our many and great mercies….[After Church] When I got in the Postie has just been bringing me a letter from John, written on the 11th. Oh I was thankful and feel indeed to have a grateful heart. He is safe and well and of course very very pleased and looking forward to coming home. [In afternoon] Mother, Agnes and I off to the special service of Thanksgiving at 3 o’clock. The Church was just packed, every one there including Sir John and Lady Thomas. Such singing and the reading of that wonderful and extraordinary lesson from Isaiah – a nice sermon from the Vicar and the singing by him more or less of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

Kate wrote many plays during her lifetime but the only one published, Cease Fire!, was set at the Front, in a cellar of a ruined house ‘Somewhere in France’, during the final hour before the Armistice was declared. One of the main protagonists is clearly based on John, the character’s military career following the same somewhat idiosyncratic pattern as had his, his deep love for his wife driving the plot. Published by Samuel French in 1921, ‘Cease Fire!’ reads very well today.

You can read more about Kate – and John – in Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary  and Kate Parry Frye: The Long Life of an Edwardian Actress and Suffragette. Both books are drawn from Kate’s voluminous diary, now held by the archives of Royal Holloway College

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Suffrage Stories: ‘Lloyd George’s War’ on BBC Wales

First World War Prime Minister David Lloyd George

Broadcaster and historian Dan Snow presents an examination of the role his great, great grandfather David Lloyd George played in the First World War in a 3 part series for the BBC produced by Made in Manchester in association with LJD Productions, Cardiff.

Dan Snow

David Lloyd George was the last Liberal to be Prime Minister and took Britain and its then Empire to victory over the Germans in 1918.

Lloyd George’s War charts how Dan’s great, great grandfather went from being ‘anti war’ to become Britain’s biggest recruiting sergeant – persuading millions of men to sign up to fight and rallying millions of women to work in the munitions factories. His sparkling oratory won over a generation and he gradually became the most important figure in the wartime Government. By December 1916 he was Prime Minister and by November 1918 he was being hailed a hero and ‘the man who won the war’ all over the world.

Producer Ashley Byrne says: ‘People think of Winston Churchill and the Second World War but rarely talk about Lloyd George and the First World War. Yet arguably he had a more difficult war. We’d never fought a war like it.

‘Lloyd George also had to deal with the Easter Rising in Ireland, the Russian revolution and trouble in the Middle East. The decisions he made 100 years ago – good or bad – are still being felt today. To tell the history of the modern world you really can’t do it properly without mentioning David Lloyd George,’ Ashley adds.’

The series also looks at Lloyd George’s influence on a young Winston Churchill, on his clash with the Generals and at how in his memoirs, published years later, he appeared to regret the conflict which killed so many people.

‘When LG died,’ says Ashley ‘Winston Churchill called him the Greatest Welshman since the Tudors.

As part of the programme Dan looks through his great, great grandfathers papers and letters and tries to assess why he made the decisions he did.

Dyfan Rees brings to life the voice of Lloyd George

The programme sees Pobol Y Cwm actor Dyfan Rees (who recently won a mental health award for his portrayal of someone with OCD) plays David Lloyd George and veteran character actor Christopher Strauli (Edward VII and Only When I Laugh) is Winston Churchill.

Actor Christopher Strauli

The first episode of Lloyd George’s War on BBC Radio Wales is available on the BBC iplayer – here with Episode 2 and 3 to be broadcast on the 9th and 16th December. It includes a special title theme composed by the musician Rebecca Applin.

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Kate’s Wedding Day – 103 Years Ago Today – 9 January 1915

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs

One of the pages from her diary in which Kate describes her wedding day. It was she who attached the photographs

After an engagement of eleven years Kate Frye and John Collins are at last about to be married – in All Saint’s Church, Hove. No wedding photographs were taken so we have to imagine Kate in her ‘best black frock – new boots, my silk hat which is quite pretty – squirrel coat and muff. Agnes’ present [a gold watch and bracelet] has blue stones in it and I borrowed a handkerchief from Mother. I was wearing a mixture of old and new.’ John, of course, wore his officer’s uniform.

The moment of departure arrived, the hiatus between the old life and the new.

 My Wedding Day and my Birthday. 37. 

 ‘Just after 12.30 Mother, Agnes and I left in the taxi for All Saints Church, Hove. We walked up the Church – Mother and I together and she and Agnes went into a seat. Then I saw John coming from the Vestry. I was only conscious that he looked alright and not nervous. I spoke very, very slowly I noticed, as if I were weighing every word – and I said “obey” most deliberately and carefully. I would have rather had it left out altogether but had come to the conclusion that if I had the Church of England marriage service at all there wasn’t much more objection to that one word than to much of the other. That I still object fundamentally to unequal vows is one thing very sure, but it has been so restful not to have to go and argue with the Vicar beforehand, which I meant to do and should have done if I had not been so tied to the house. He would not have altered it I am sure and it would have spoilt all the joy of the good feeling. It probably sounds lazy. One ought to battle for one’s conviction.’

There was no father figure to give Kate away, no best man to support John and no bridesmaids. It was as simple a wedding as could be. Perhaps one All Saints regular might have slipped in a pew, but otherwise Mother and Agnes were the only witnesses. Did Kate have any moment of regret that hers was not a grand wedding? She had witnessed so many over the years as Gilbey, Blyth and Gold brides, bedecked with satin and lace and trailing bridesmaids, were supported up the aisle by their prosperous fathers. She had inspected mountainous displays of presents, listened to the congratulatory speeches and seen the happy couples depart on honeymoon visits to the Italian Lakes, or Paris, or Switzerland or Rome.  But, if there was ever a twinge of disappointment, Kate did not confide it to her diary. She thoroughly enjoyed herself, taking pleasure from everything the day had to offer.

‘Brighton was all en fête as the King and Queen had come to visit the wounded – and as chance would have it when we were turning off the front we saw a little group of people and finding the King was expected we waited for about ten minutes. Then past they came, the King quite deliberately turning to John and returning his salute. It was exciting and on my Wedding day too. I wanted to stop them and tell them all about it.’

Returning to Portland Road from All Saints, which Kate described as ‘such a gorgeous Church – like a small cathedral’, Mr and Mrs John Collins walked up the short tiled path and into number 58. The winter sun shone through the decorative door panels of art-nouveau stained glass as married life at long last began. ‘I just took off my hat and coat and John came upstairs. And John kept kissing me and I said “someone’s coming” in the old way, forgetting it wouldn’t matter.’ For tea ‘we had a wee cake covered with white sugar and I cut it with John’s sword’ and then it was off to Brighton station ‘to catch the 4.40 train. It proved slow – but it didn’t seem to matter – we just sat and hugged each other – Government compels us now-a-days to travel with the blinds down so it was alright.’

From Victoria they took a motor taxi to the Great Central Hotel at Marylebone Station, where they had decided to spend their wedding night. ‘I suggested we had better not pay too much, but it was really rather nice on our arrival not to be consulted and just taken to the first floor – Room No 123. I suggested to John – my husband – that he could go on down while I changed but he flatly refused so he sat and watched me do my hair and then did my dress up for me.

We went straight into dinner about 8.15 and had nine rather bad courses. Very few people there and the room gradually emptied till we were the last. I was hungry and ate quite a lot. Then we strolled round the palm court where a band was playing but we didn’t seem to want people so we went in the drawing- room.

Then we both said we were tired so I said I thought I had better go to bed – it was then 10. John said he would come, but I told him not for twenty minutes. He didn’t like it but gave in and I went and got the key and went up alone. I was so excited – who isn’t at such a moment?

I undressed all backwards and was only just done when John arrived. Ours was a gorgeous room, the bed in an alcove. We had meant to have a fire, it would have been nice, but really the room was so warm we didn’t need it. I laughed at first. Later I shed a tear or two and John would turn up the light to look at me. Then he saw my tears and wept himself. We did try to go to sleep, but I don’t think John had more than two hours and I had considerably less. But we were very, very happy.’

The bill for Kate's two nights of honeymoon - together with the identification number of their room. Although these items were not inserted into the diary, Kate kept them with her other papers for the rest of her life.

The bill for Kate’s two nights of honeymoon – together with the identification number of the room allocated to ‘Capt and Mrs Collins’9. Although these items were not inserted into the diary, Kate kept them with her other papers for the rest of her life.

The Hotel Great Central is still there – now the Landmark Hotel. In 1919 Kate was to renew her acquaintance with it in very different circumstances when it had been turned into a hospital for officers and John was admitted as a patient, seriously ill with Spanish Flu.

[Incidentally – very incidentally –  it was on the site of the  Hotel Grand Central that in the 1870s and 1880s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson ran her first ‘New Hospital for Women’. It was because the houses in which  the hospital operated were due to be demolished to make way for the new station and hotel that she was forced to look elsewhere – eventually selecting the Euston Road site on which to build what became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital – see Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Gallery.]

Kate’s wedding day was re-enacted in episode 2 of ITV’s The Great War: The People’s Story (shown on 17 August 2014) – in which Romola Garai plays Kate and Tom Turner plays John.

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here.

Kate

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All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 25 December

Kate is spending Christmas with her mother and sister in digs at 58 Portland Road, Hove. This is their first Christmas since the death of Kate’s father, Frederick Frye, and very different from the glorious festivities that they enjoyed in the days of wealth and plenty. John Collins, Kate’s fiancé, is in the Army, stationed at Shoeburyness. They are to be married at All Saints Hove on 9 January 1915. Miss Green, who lives in Warwick Avenue, London, and is very well-off, is a very keen and active supporter of the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage.

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Friday December 25th 1914 – Christmas Day

Called at 7 – and off to All Saints Hove for Communion at 8. Such a gorgeous Church – like a small Cathedral – I am glad its a nice Church.

Back again and Mother and I had breakfast together – then leaving dear love [Kate’s little dog – aka ‘Mickie’] for Miss Miles to look after the 3 of us to morning service. Agnes came back for Mickie and Mother and I went on the Parade and met Agnes coming back. In at 1.20 to a Christmas Dinner of hot Roast Beef and a weird pudding pretending to be a Christmas Plum.

The meal was brought to a sudden close by my opening one of the parcels which had arrived in the morning by post. I didn’t know the writing but it was a registered parcel and I found a pair of silver Table Napkin rings from Miss Green for a wedding present. We had so laughed about wedding presents of such a nature that we roared with laughter and I went on reading her letter aloud and then as it was so sad burst into tears. She had once been going to be married on the 4th January but her man had died. Really it was most pathetic. So then we quieted down and sat over the fire and read our letters etc. Nothing from John – when last I heard he was preparing for a Christmas present from the Germans. Dover has already had one – a bomb dropped from an Aeroplane but it fell into a garden and did no damage.

We had a quiet day and my cold came on with great violence and I felt very tired and seedy altogether and not at all Christmassy. I have had £10 from Aunt Agnes [Gilbey] for a wedding present and £7 from Constance [her cousin, daughter of Aunt Agnes] for Christmas and wedding. Mother has given me 5 shillings and Mickie a sponge bag and Agnes a little Jewel Box. Last year this time our Christmas was over  – John was on the point of departure. I wonder how Daddie is enjoying his Christmas – I hope his is a peaceful one.

All Saints Hove - postcard from Kate's archive

All Saints Hove  1914 – postcard from Kate’s archive

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here. I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

cover e-book

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 24 December 1914

Kate  is beginning her Christmas holiday. ‘Young Bernard Shaw’ was the son of her cousin, Agnes Shaw (née Gilbey) Shaw. Almost exactly a year later another of Agnes’s sons, Arthur, was killed in France; he was only 19.

The purchases that, with diffidence, Kate showed her mother, were modest items of clothing – mainly underwear – that she had put together as her trousseau. She felt rather guilty about spending money on herself.

 

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Thursday December 24th 1914

Up 7.30. Breakfast 8.30 and packed up by 9.30. Off soon after in a Taxi for Victoria and the 10.15 train to Hove. A crowded carriage – otherwise a comfortable journey only so saddened by seeing in the Roll of Honour killed in action young Bernard Shaw – Agnes’s second boy – 21 years old. Such a radiant young life ended and done with and what a heart ache for Agnes. Got a porter to bring my luggage and walked to 58 Portland Road. It was a lovely day though wet under foot. Agnes [her sister] and I took dear love [her little dog] just to see the sea after I had seen my baggage in – my room is messy and bitterly cold.

We sat over the fire all afternoon. Agnes went out after tea and I unpacked and showed Mother my purchases – I was a little diffident – but it went very well. Then Agnes had to see them. Then to a little needlework. Very tired and bed early. It’s a queer sort of Christmas.

KateFor much more about Kate’s life – as told in her biography, based entirely on her own diary, – see here. I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Christmas 1914: 23 December

Kate is working at the New Constitutional Society for Women’s Suffrage office in Knightsbridge, superintending the workroom that the society had set up to give employment to women dressmakers thrown out of work by the outbreak of war and the drop in demand for finery. She and John, her fiancé of many years, had at long last decided to get married. The chosen date was to be 9 January 1915, Kate’s birthday. At this time she was living in digs in Pimlico.

Kate c. Christmas 1914

Kate c. Christmas 1914

 Wednesday 23 December 1914

A real busy day at the office getting everything tidied and straightforward for my holiday. Had quite a surprise first thing by a presentation of an Ink Pot from all the girls – so really nice of them. They had given Miss Grey a flower stand – it’s most awfully generous of them. I told Miss Grey later on that I was going to get married and she was very interested and full of good wishes.

Miss Simeon left at lunch time and Gladys who had not come till about 11.30 left at 3.30 – so although I had accepted an invitation to tea up in the Work Room I had to give it up, but they brought mine down – a cup of cocoa and a lots of Scotch cakes made by Miss Grey. The girls were crazy with excitement all day. I had a thorough clear out and tidy up of everything – then locked up – at 5 o’clock. Had such a queer feeling as I came away – like locking my old self within – because probably my old self never will return – if I am married by then it will be so different.

I was rather tired but ate my supper – made up a big fire and started to pack up – had not finished before midnight.

Kate

For much more about Kate’s life – as told in her e-book biography – see here -only £1.19 to download from Amazon . I rather think you might find it an enthralling Christmas read.

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Kate Frye’s Diary: Armistice 1918 And Remembrance Days 1928 and 1956

 

John Collins

John Collins

For the latter part of the First World War Kate Parry Collins (nee Frye) lived in a cottage in the tiny Buckinghamshire hamlet of Berghers Hill – on tenterhooks for news of her husband, John, who had been fighting in France since the end of 1916. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery during the Battle of Arras – and, to Kate’s great relief, came through the war unscathed. We can imagine the emotion that lay behind the following entry in her daily diary.

Monday November 11th 1918 [Berghers Hill]

I was thinking and wondering every inch of the morning, and could not settle to anything. Was cleaning a collection of shoes about 11.30 in my room, the windows were open – I sat up and listened. Boom-Boom-Boom – then a Hooter and then I thought it time to bestir myself and went in to Agnes [her sister] then downstairs to Kathleen [the daily maid] and out to listen to the various sounds proclaiming that the Armistice has been signed. And thank God for our many and great mercies. Mother was down the hill and had called at the Manor House – the news was all over the green [Wooburn Green] and soon up here – and the remarks of the hill were marvellous. As soon as I could settle to anything I sat me down and wrote to John. Is he safe, and will he really be spared to come home to me?

[She eventually manages to buy a copy of the Daily Telegraph] ‘Yes, the glorious news, as announced ‘Surrender of Germany’ Armistice signed at 5 a.m. Cease fire at 11 a.m. The D.T. has news of Abdication of the Kaiser and Crown Prince, and flight to Holland. The whole of Germany is seething with revolution. It seems as if it will be a second Russia.

Kate snapped shopping in London in the 1920s

Kate snapped by a street photographer while shopping in London in the 1920s

Ten years later, Kate and John were living in a tiny north Kensington flat. For the past three years, at 11 o’clock on Remembrance Day,  they usually visited the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner – John having been a member of the RA. But on this special 10th anniversary of the Armistice they planned to join in the main London celebration. Kate was determined that she would have a Sunday free from domestic chores in order to dedicate herself to remembrance.

Saturday November 10th  1928 [Leinster Square, London]

A great day of preparation so as to be free for Remembrance tomorrow. So John went out for me and did the rest of the shopping and I first did the usual housework and a bit extra then dinner at 5.30. Shoulder of lamb, onion sauce, potatoes, sprouts, apple crowdies and a large one for tomorrow. Then cleared away, washed up, put all ready for the morning and scrubbed the kitchen. Sat down rather broken – but determined to wake at 7 tomorrow.

Sunday November 11th  1928

I woke at 7.30 and up straightway and J and I both up to breakfast. Up – washed breakfast and off. Train to Westminster – a packed tram and an impossible place – such a crowd. I jumped on a bus to get out of it. fortunately it took us to Charing Cross. We tried Whitehall from top – no good. I was afraid of the crowd – so eventually just off by Whitehall Court and heard the singing and the last post – a marvellous two minutes silence. A rest in the Club – then an hour and a quarter pilgrimage to pass the Cenotaph – again most wonderful. Came on to rain so made for Lyons for lunch in Victoria Street. Then to go through the Abbey past the Tomb [of the Unknown Warrior] and for the 3 o’clock service.

 

Kate in bed - headphones at the ready

Kate in bed – headphones at the ready

Home by bus, raining still – the queue [stretching] from Trafalgar Square. Our dinner – frightfully tired. Service on wireless. Bed – then Albert Hall meeting in bed with one earphone each up to 11pm. A really wonderful day of Remembrance.

Twenty-eight years later, after several years of caring for John at home as he became increasingly afflicted with dementia, Kate was finally forced to allow him to be admitted to the local asylum. They did not have sufficient money to pay nursing-home fees. She recorded the following entry in her diary on the first Remembrance Day after he was lost to her.

11th November 1956 [Hill Top, Berghers Hill]

To Cenotaph at Wooburn. I sat and wept – but tried to pull myself out of the tears. But so sad without John here with me. Remembering all the 11 o’clocks we had heard together.

KateTo discover more about the entirety of Kate’s life – her upbringing, her involvement with the suffrage movement, her marriage, her London flats, her life in a Buckinghamshire hamlet, her love of the theatre, her times as an actress, her efforts as a writer, her life on the Home Front during two world wars, her involvement with politics – and her view of the world from the 1890s until October 1958  – do read the e-book, Kate Parry Frye: the long life of an Edwardian actress and suffragette published by ITV as a tie-in with their series ‘The Great War: The People’s Story’. It can be downloaded from  from iTunes – http://bit.ly/PSeBKPFITVal. or  from Amazon.

I’d love to hear what you think of Kate and the life she lived. 

To read in detail about Kate’s involvement in the women’s suffrage campaign – in a beautifully-produced, highly illustrated, conventional paper book – see  Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Frye’s Suffrage Diary.

Copyright

All the articles on Woman and Her Sphere and are my copyright. An article may not be reproduced in any medium without my permission and full acknowledgement. You are welcome to cite or quote from an article provided you give full acknowledgement.

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