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Lansdowne Crescent: Chapter 20

…That holiday too, like the walking tour of the preceding year, was a very happy one. We were a large party, the whole family, except Charlie (who was speedily making himself a millionaire by coaching dukes' sons at the rate of about £20 a day), and several friends. We filled two houses, and hit on the most sensible plan of having the quiet members of the party in one house and the noisy members in the other, and of course freely interchanging…

Jean Day tells of a group of friends from the town of Worcester who still managed to enjoy a holiday just after the outbreak of World War One.

To read earlier chapters of Jean’s book please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/lansdowne_crescent

Peter got through Pass Mods. in Oxford at the end of his second term, and he has had one term of the really intellectual side of University life. He is studying History, and keenly enjoying even that small taste of it. He read fairly assiduously during the first month of the vacation, and then threw aside his studies for a time to join the family for our summer holiday at Barbrook, near Lyton.

That holiday too, like the walking tour of the preceding year, was a very happy one. We were a large party, the whole family, except Charlie (who was speedily making himself a millionaire by coaching dukes' sons at the rate of about £20 a day), and several friends. We filled two houses, and hit on the most sensible plan of having the quiet members of the party in one house and the noisy members in the other, and of course freely interchanging. We had excellent weather, and every day saw us going off to some near spot to bathe and play cricket on the sands and lounge and bathe again, or else taking a journey inland into the Doone country and pitching our camp near a moorland stream. And the day ended almost always with the whole party gathering round the lamp, pencil in hand, playing what Frank was pleased to call ‘childishly intellectual games.’

A good time, but over all a shadow hung, albeit for the moment no bigger than a man's hand. For war was declared a few days after we arrived, and into the gaiety there crept at times forebodings of what might be. And when Peter, as a member of the Oxford O.T.C., was commanded to report himself and the news came that Charlie had actually volunteered, we held our breath and wondered what would happen next. But Peter returned in a day or two unconscripted, and we all believed that a month or two at the most would see the matter through, and so, save for the morning rush for the papers, the days passed serenely enough, without much reference to the war.

Frank utterly disapproves of war, regarding it as a barbarous and wasteful manner of settling disputes. I well remember a long argument we had at the beginning of August in which both Frank and Pete maintained that war was an unmitigated evil and yet that very week Pete went to Oxford to volunteer for service, and the following month both were in the army, a striking example of volunteering purely and simply from a sense of duty. War had no glamour for them.

As I said, war was declared while we were at Lynton. So little did any of us understand its significance that it struck us almost with amusement when the news came that Charlie, who was home at the time, had already volunteered. It. seemed so extraordinary to think of Charlie, of all men, as a soldier, and so unnecessary too, for had it not been proved that it was economically impossible for a war on this scale to last for more than three weeks?

However, as the three weeks went by and August grew into September and things grew worse instead of better, it seemed probable that we should have to face, three months of it instead of three weeks. And then came Kitchener's appeal for three years - or for the duration. And we left off theorising as to how impossible it was for the war to last much longer, for we felt we were up against the unknown, and we began to consider how we could each one of us ‘do our bit.’ To Frank and Peter their course of action was obvious, they without any fuss, and as the natural thing to do, joined up. Frank was gazetted to the l0th Worcesters, and Peter entered the ranks in the Public School Corps.

For these first months all three boys have remained in England, and we congratulate ourselves on our good luck. The amount of leave obtained by the two elder boys was very uneven; this was partly due no doubt to the difference in the characters of their Company Commanders, but partly also to the difference in their own characters.

Charlie, rather conscientious and shy, seldom asked for leave and seldom got it. Frank's attitude towards life, on the other hand, was ‘have as good a time as possible, and combine pleasure with duty as far as possible.’ Besides he was to marry a wife, and a week-end leave he considered a necessity. (He had in May become engaged to Lucy Thompson, a college friend of Janet's, and a granddaughter of our old friends Mr. and Mrs. Walter Webb.) He had, too, luckily for him, a Company Commander who was anxious for his officers to marry before they went out, and who gave away leaves to likely candidates as often as possible. So since August, Frank we saw about one week-end in three, Charlie we have only seen once since he joined.

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