Letter from Ambrose Pinney

Wonderful letter from Capt Ambrose Pinney to Lady Mary - life in France and Belgium, the comedy of smuggling prisoners taken after 11am, the Belgians greeting British with bouquets and Germans with bricks

Namur, November 1918

My Dear Lady Monkswell, How very nice of you to write to me. It was a great moment when the Hun finally caved in, and since then the situation has not been without a humour of its own.

By mistake we captured some Hun prisoners after 11am. Various regiments wired in as to what was to be done with them. GHQ said that they were to be released at once and followed it up with a number of worries as to why their orders had not been obeyed...

Ambrose Pinney Letter to Lady Mary

With a large crowd of the Brave Belge waiting around with meat choppers, shovels etc, as is their playful habit, it was easier said than done. Finally they were put into lorries, run at dead of night into the Hun lines and slipped there.

A great deal of sympathy has been wasted on the Belge. The difference between the state of the country here and the occupied parts of France is immense. The people here have never been short of food, and really the worst they have had to submit to is being turned out of some of their rooms and not being allowed to travel or be out after dark.

The farmers are reported to have made fortunes out of the Hun and all their land is well cultivated and a number of cattle and horses still remain. In the case of the French country not so much as a rabbit remained and all the land was uncultivated.

At present I am having a very busy time going round in cars with German delegates taking over guns from them which they have to leave behind. The situation is rather comic as we are careful to put a British officer in each car, and the efforts of the Belge to throw flowers at the one and bricks at the other is rather comic.

Of course we go armed and so far all has been well, but it is rather nervous work at times and it would be an awful thing if they got damaged while under our protection.

We have arrived at Namur tonight and as I did not get in until after dark I don’t know what the place is like, but I am billeted in quite a good hotel, a new experience, and I ought to do justice to the bed after 9 hours in as car on a cold day.

Our entries into towns are rather fine, Corps Commander and a large staff mounted, greeted by a band at the entrance to each town, played through the town, speeches by the Mayor bouquets, flowers etc.

I have always wanted to thank you for all you have done for my mother during the war. I am sure that your kindness to her has been of the utmost value to her in keeping her end up during a long, trying and lonely time. With all best wishes, believe me, yours very sincerely GA Pinney

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Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

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