Amongst the papers of Arthur Stafford Crawley, a Canon of Windsor from 1934-1948, is a letter written to his wife Nancy from her former governess following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1914. Anna M Schminke’s letter of 15th September 1914 gives a fascinating insight into the mindset of a lady who, whilst remaining loyal to her native Germany, retained great affection for Britain and the British family she had worked for.
After apologizing for not being able to send Nancy marzipan on her birthday because it is too difficult to send anything out of Germany, she makes it very clear that the British newspapers “are very badly informed” and goes on to give the version of events found in the German newspapers. She reports the murder of sleeping troops and “unspeakable cruelties” committed against German soldiers by Belgian women and children. She thinks that the Belgian authorities made a mistake and should have let the German troops “pass quietly through their land, which was all we wanted to!”
Anna Schminke is convinced that the Germans will eventually be victorious in the war because they have “raised warfare to a Science”. However, she still had strong ties to England and reports having felt quite ill for a day or two when England declared war – she even wishes Prime Minister Asquith “at the bottom of the sea!” for leading noble England into an alliance with Russia.
She concludes her letter by voicing her feelings of anxiety for Nancy’s brother Billy because she suspects he is fighting with his regiment in France. She then sends her love to Nancy’s siblings and to Nancy.
Kelda Roe (Archives Assistant)