CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3290/2/28c
TitleLetter from Amelia Nyasa Laws to her parents, Robert and Maggie Laws
Date9 August 1914
Extent12 sheets
DescriptionLetter from Amelia Nyasa Laws, Hotel Victoria, Aosta, Italy (end of letter written in Rome) to her parents, regarding stopping of mails from Italy; adding political details as their news will be different from hers; Aunt Amy has probably not received her post which may not have crossed the Channel, but they have sent a telegram via the African Lakes Co. to her parents to prepare them for a gap in letters; Aunt Amy will be worried as she will not have heard of their escape; recapitulation of the situation between Austria and Serbia since the assassination of Austria's heir in Sarajevo in June; members of the Serbian government were involved, and it was the latest and worst of various irritations committed against the Austrians by Serbia; Austria sent an ultimatum to Serbia but its terms were 'so imperative' that Serbia rebelled, particularly against the condition that Austria-Hungary was to help Serbia look for the culprits; Austria declared war; the news reached St. Ulrich on Sunday 26 June, and the visitors reacted immediately, though the locals took longer for it to sink in; most who left in the first rush were Viennese, Germans and Jews; the Viennese had to prepare to fight, the Germans expected to be called to fight, and the Jews went to see to their financial affairs and fight, for they are very loyal to Austria; the village emptied quickly; next day all the men on the Brenner were called out; Emperor Francis Joseph's manifesto, calling on the country to fight, was pasted up; all men between 19 and 42 have been summoned; those who had served their time are to join the troops being mobilised, and those who had paid for exemption are to accompany the horses; 40,000 horses have been called out from the whole of Austria; dry goods are coming into the village; Russia has partially mobilised to assist Serbia, in reaction to Germany's promise to assist Austria; Sir Edward Grey proposed to mediate between Austria and Serbia but this failed; the fleets of France, Britain and Germany are on the move; the Serbians' first act was to blow up the bridge between Semlin and Belgrade, and to move their capital to Nisch; the Netherlands has declared neutrality, and Russia has now completely mobilised; general mobilisation in Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium and Holland; Belgrade has been bombarded; Bulgaria and Spain have declared themselves neutral; Switzerland has partially mobilised to protect its borders; there were some patriotic demonstrations in St. Ulrich but then the nights were silent, as men prepared for war; ovation for an Austrian general called to serve, followed by three cheers for Austria-Hungary and a cry of 'Viva l'Italia!'; watching the horses going; sad scenes of farewell to the men in the village square; a priest addressed them, telling them to fight bravely for the Kaiser; the men were more emotional than the women; the women have to take on the men's work as well as their own, and as well as worrying about them; the men were carrying 'rücksacs'; the women were wearing the traditional Grödner costume, described; the harvest has been left in the hands of older men and boys; the women cut the corn anyway but the men hurried with the hay in case of further mobilisation; description of the Seis Alps and the difficulty with the cows there; the merchant shops are run by women and the boys are baking; the women are even butchering; the bank has closed; they had French and Swiss gold as well as British banknotes and lost in the exchange which had to be via the Adler Hotel; the village is very quiet; the weather is good, which is some consolation; the Dolomites are beautiful; the woodcarvers' families will do badly; the families are too large, because the Roman Catholic church encourages it; there is no time or money to bring them up properly; France agreed to uphold Belgium's neutrality but Germany did not; Britain came down in favour of Belgium and mobilised army and fleet; Germany asked Belgium to let its armies pass through to France, but Belgium refused and Germany decided to carry on anyway, and declared war on France; the Belgians fought hard for Lièges and the number of dead and wounded is terrible; the Germans have begged for a truce to bury their dead and recuperate, because they did not expect Belgium to resist so strongly; the Germans have made a terrible mistake; they could have gone through Alsace and Lorraine instead; Kaiser Wilhelm received permission from Emperor Francis Joseph to send the Tyrolese to guard the French frontier; this is unfair on the Tyrolese; Britain declared war on Germany because of Lièges; Germany bombarded Bona and Philippeville, French towns in Algeria; then sailed for refuge to Messina pursued by the British; they had to leave within 24 hours, during which time many of the officers made their wills and left them with the consul; the Germans were then pursued into the Adriatic where they joined the Austrian fleet; as regards Germany, Uncle has said 'Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first send mad'; her admiration for many aspects of the German nation is swamped by the horror of so much bloodshed; there was an incorrect rumour that the German Crown Prince had been wounded by an attempt on his life; one son's engagement and another son's marriage both happened last week; the German press accuses Britain of using Belgium as an excuse to join the war; Germany itself plans to gain St. Petersburgh, Paris, and the British navy; they had remained at St. Ulrich for the fine air, but had planned to move to Switzerland in case of Britain entering the war; Uncle delayed their departure by wondering what to do and where; Aunt and Amelia packed anyway; the inquiry office's activities were curtailed and transport was increasingly scarce and unpredictable; Uncle asked her for a decision, and she said they had better go; arrangements for hasty departure; Uncle has realised that the haste at the last minute has not been good for Aunt, and is contrite, but he has yet to learn from experience; his illness has made him more considerate towards Aunt but that might just be while he is on holiday; talk with old man on the omnibus, who says that the war is 'simply a wholesale massacre'; the valley is quiet, though beautiful; security checks at Waidbruck; money a problem, both trying to use foreign currency and losing on the exchange; refugees of all sort filled the train, which was the last to cross the border; Bozen was terribly busy; a benevolent society was distributing fruit, bread, sausages, beer, and cigarettes to soldiers; pickets stationed along the line from Trient to Ala; the Italians have never forgiven Austria for taking the Trentino and Trieste; change at Ala and then customs at Peri, unexpectedly pleasant; leaded seals on the ropes holding their trunks prevents the ropes being stolen by the porters; first sight of Italian refugees at Verona; their movements south will be hard on the country; Uncle, Aunt and Amelia arrived at Milan at 11.30p.m., told that they would not be able to enter Italy after midnight; stay at Milan to recuperate and find information and money; Italy had declared neutrality, rather than come in on the side of Austria and Germany, because they had not consulted her; her alliance with them involved helping them to defend themselves, not to attack other countries; Italy has not yet recovered from the Libyan war, and does not look kindly on the alliance anyway, which was Bismarck's doing; they are now in Aosta and hoping to stay for a little as it is cooler than the city, but this plan depends on money; Aosta is dirty, with a central drain; the Dora-Baltea river is the general waste dump; the drain makes the street hard to negotiate, but when the water is turned off it makes the village unbearable; the omnibus splashes the water from the drain over everyone; there are some Roman remains, which Amelia and Uncle have photographed, but the heat is excessive; problems with mails though letter from parents; they have not heard from Aunt Amy for three weeks; the mails which are starting again are irregular; shortness of money meant leaving Aosta for Rome; the train was terribly hot; troop movements in Aosta and disrupting the train service; all the soldiers on the French frontier of Courmayeur were being transferred to the north east, to Veneto; France, thus relieved, is moving her troops north to Alsace and Lorraine, for which they had time because of Belgium's brave resistance; the German Emperor wants to be installed in Paris on 15 August, but it seems that because of Belgium, Britain and France will be able to prevent that; the Germans occupy Lièges, but not the town's forts, but they hold city dignitaries hostage so that the Belgians cannot fire on them; Brussels has been abandoned because it is not fortified; the capital is removed to Antwerp; the Germans are now holding Brussels and demanding huge taxes from the Belgians; they are badly in need of money; the Germans are now gaining in Lorraine and the French in Alsace, and the Russians are attacking eastern Prussia; Serbia is standing up to Austria, and Italy is watching; men are mobilised to go to the frontier, and Switzerland, too, is protecting its borders; the Germans would have ignored Swiss neutrality too but that the Kaiser thinks they are good soldiers; Belgium has surprised them; crowded train to Rome; Maria and Vincenzo opened up the house for them; Vincenzo has improved, but Maria is growing stout on macaroni; Fulvio is the new church porter, a mild man who has come down in the world financially; he lost his drapery at Perugia and his home in standing surety for a friend; he helps with the marketing; fruit and vegetables are unusually cheap and plentiful as it cannot at present leave the country; there is a car now running up the Via delle Quattro Fontane which makes it easier to shop; the weather is hot but not as stuffy as Aosta; they still miss St. Ulrich; Oscar has not looked after the house well in their absence and did only what Uncle would actually notice; the three kettles could not be used as they had been choked with lime; there are 5 pillowslips on Uncle's pillow as Oscar never took the dirty one off when he put the clean one on; he enjoyed Brixen, but is now with his regiment at Foligno; two popes died in the same night this week, Pope Pius X and the 'black pope', the hed of the Jesuits and an Austrian; he had been ill, but Pius X died of a broken heart - the Austrian ambassador asked him three times to bless the army, but he said that he blessed peace; heavy losses, and 10,000 Australians are guarding the Suez Canal; the Kaiser has appointed a Governor of Belgium and has offered Tunis (which is French) to the Italians as bait; the Italians will be governed by self-interest; Uncle has managed to obtain money; visitors have left Rome by land and sea, including by steamers chartered by British and American governments.
Access StatusOpen
Add to My Items