May 26th 1920

The most recent issue of ‘The Draconian’ contains no fewer than 26 pages of letters from the Carline brothers, recording their time as war artists gathering material on their grand tour of 1919.  It is now six months since the Imperial War Museum packed them off on this mission and from Mesopotamia, where Sydney Carline‘s last letter was posted, they have moved on to Persia, which they reached at the end of July 1919.

“Kuretu (Persia) July 31st 1919.

If you look on the map you will see that on the borders of Persia and Mespot there are endless successions of mountain ranges. My sketch shows the craggy peaks of the first series as seen from the camp in which we are quartered till tomorrow, when we continue by car to Kirmanshah, Hamadan and Kazvin

We are blessed with a servant in the form of a little Arab boy about 13 to 14. He puts our beds out, fetches water, polishes our boots and so forth. It is very nice to have someone to attend to us on a journey of this sort, as there are no conveniences anywhere, no hot and cold water laid on etc. But already we are faced with a counterbalance of extra worry about what he is to eat, where it is to be got from, where to sleep and so forth…

Though he made my dressing easy by having everything ready, in return it took me most of the morning to arrange for his boiling of his mid-day rice. You see everything has its proper place; one caste of Indians use this fire, another that, and so on, and to find the one where our boy is to boil his is quite a job…

To understand the country one must understand the heat, as it produces problems that are exactly opposite to all the conditions that one is accustomed to and looks upon as proper…

After I have washed in our one and only basin, should Dick want to do so also, what does he do to get rid of my dirty water? Does he call a servant, have it tipped in a bucket and carried in search of a drain down which to pour it..? Oh, dear no. He may chuck it out the window, in which case it may allay the dust on the lane for a brief moment. But water is precious, evaporating water produces a coolness in the air, our room is hot, the brick floor is hot to touch and dusty; taking the basin Dick therefore pours the contents on our bedroom floor. The bricks are porous, they drink up the water; there is a dark patch for a few moments, the room is perhaps slightly cooler, and, as Dick finishes his wash, all is as it was before.”

May 15th 1920

Sydney Carline and his brother Richard have moved on since their last letter from Cairo in May 1919, and this one is from Mesopotamia:

“Mespot, 12th July 1919.

I am sorry I have not written a proper letter, but it is very difficult to find time for writing in this country. The early morning is sacred for work, as the afternoon is silent and universally given up to sleep. One complies with this not from indulgence, but because one’s eyes will not keep open. After tea one can again work and by dinner one is quite exhausted, and by reason of our getting up at sunrise, I, like a boy after the jam in the cupboard, slink off early to bed on the roof-top.

Everyone sleeps on the roof-top in order to get the cool breeze. Towards dusk there is quite a chatter, as all the many wives of each household are busy putting the beds out on their roofs, which are of course flat, and in the better class houses have low walls separating them from the neighbours…

Occasionally the silence of the night is perturbed by a wife who has still some household work to perform for her lord and master, who is probably reclining and smoking on his wooden bed…

It is now 7 and breakfast time. I must get to work on my picture of dropping bread on Kut, after which I have only one more to do to finish my work here.”

 

 

May 3rd 1920

The Carlines have moved on into Egypt on their journey and it is the turn of Richard Carline to write, this time from the Hotel Continental in Cairo on May 20th 1919.

“A day was spent in riding along the edge of the desert on camels, from the Gizah Great Pyramids to the old Step Pyramids and the necropolis of Sakkara about ten miles south, and from there on to the site of Memphis, where we saw the colossal statue of Rameses. But all the journeys were so long and took so much time that not much was left for seeing the most interesting things of all, namely, the tombs of Sakkara.  We ended by doing much of the ride in the dark…

We were accompanied by our dragoman, and two small Arab boys ran the whole way with sticks to drive the camels, in order to keep a good speed up and in order to take care of them while we are enjoying ourselves; neither of these boys could have been more than twelve, and we did more than thirty-two miles during the whole of the day – running all the way. I remember my young days, when I walked to Windermere once, a matter of about eighteen miles in all, and I was practically dead at the end of it.”

Richard also includes this delightful little sketch (and explanation):

Picture by Sydney giving an impression as he saw it of our journey to Sakkara. In the distance to left is the Step Pyramid, and all about under the sand are the tombs. The further figure is the dragoman; the nearer is myself.

 

 

April 23rd 1920

This is the third of the letters from the Carline brothers on their travels last year and appropriate for today, which is St George’s Day.

Arriving in the Middle East in January 1919, the brothers followed the suggestion of General Salmond (General in Command) to travel round Palestine and Syria by train or car before making flights over the areas of interest. Thus Sydney had made preliminary sketches in February before he wrote this letter from Damascus, dated April 24th 1919.

“Dick has mentioned the picture he is painting of the town from the air, and I am painting another of my aeroplane pictures, depicting the attack on the Turkish Army trying to escape along the pass between the mountains leading from the town along which the famous and beautiful Baroda flows. I have got to take another flight tomorrow if the weather is good in order to finish it…

The only news one ever gets here is of the troubles in Egypt, expecting massacres of Jews in Palestine on account of the Zionist movement, and odd bits about the Peace Conference, so that we are really quite ignorant as to the state of affairs at home or in Europe.

Tomorrow is St. George‘s Day. Curiously he is supposed to be buried at Ludd near Ramleh, where there is a church to him. The story of Perseus and Andromeda is also supposed to have been enacted at Jaffa, in the same neighbourhood, and the rocks out to sea from Jaffa (which I have painted) are supposed to be the dragon turned into stone…

St. George and the dragon was, I believe, a local story that the crusaders brought back with them.”

 

April 16th 1920

This letter is the second from a series of letters from the Carline brothers on their journeys as war artists working for the Imperial War Museum. This one is from Richard Carline, dated April 22nd 1919.

“We are back at Damascus once more, to fly over the places we are painting in this district. I came by train on Good Friday and Sydney flew over on Easter Sunday…

We have now practically finished our work on this front. I have taken my two flights over Damascus, and Sydney has done a sketch of the Sea of Galilee with the Turkish boats being attacked by our aeroplanes, and is in the midst of his sketches of attacking the Turkish army in the pass of the River Baroda, just outside Damascus…

Damascus makes a very good subject as is to be expected with such a beautiful place situated in such beautiful scenery. I am painting it from rather high. It is in the midst of its green fertile oasis of gardens and orchards, and behind it are the Anti-Lebanon Mountains rising up, and behind them snow-capped Mount Samnin.

I think it about time we left the country and the Headquarters are getting very impatient for us to go…

First we have to go to Cairo and I hope that we shall not be murdered by the natives, as the trouble in Egypt appears to be just as bad as ever… Life in these parts is more like the Cowboy West than anything, it being usual for a man to go about on horseback, with his revolver and ammunition pouch on his belt and his servant riding behind him…”

April 10th 1920

 The Goupil Gallery

The paintings and drawings of Sydney and Richard Carline of Egypt, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, India have been exhibited at the Goupil Gallery in London throughout February and March.

The brothers wrote a series of letters back from their travels, which stretched from January until October 1919, whilst in the employment of the Imperial War Museum as official war artists, and they have kindly allowed us to print them in this term’s edition of the ‘Draconian.’

Their first letter from “near Malta” was written on January 11th, describing their journey from Havre to Marseilles on a troop train. Letters followed form Port Said and Ramleh and then, on February 9th 1919, Sydney wrote from Jerusalem:

“Dick started a water colour here of the Mosque of Omar, the great mosque on the site of Solomon’s temple.

This is a sketch of his picture of the mosque. It is in blue and yellow tiles, making the sides of it a beautiful colour, and having a black dome. Around it is a white marble court, surrounded by grass and paths, and surrounding that again in the distance are the walls of Jerusalem going sheer down for 50 ft.

The space around the mosque is most impressive, especially as the city wall that encloses it here is built on the edge of a ravine some 200 feet deep, on the other side of which are the Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, and the village of Bethany. In this ravine are thousands of tombs covering it on either side, as the Jews believe that the Resurrection will take place in this spot and like to be close handy.”

 

September 18th 1916

2nd Lieut. Sydney Carline (RFC, 19th Squadron) was shot down and wounded at the end of August over the Somme battlefield, on a bombing expedition against a railway cutting some 20 miles behind the front line.  His brother, George Carline, visited him in hospital and has extracted the following details:

George Carline

“After Sydney had dropped his bombs and was returning, it appears he got separated from the rest of his squadron and was attacked by four German machines. These machines had been flying at about 15,000 ft on the look-out for any separated machine to tackle. It is one of their methods to fly high and dive at a great speed on an enemy machine, firing their machine gun as soon as they are within range until they catch it up, when they turn to one side and continue their dive to their aerodrome and safety.

My brother was apparently unconscious of any enemy machines about, until he heard the firing of the gun behind him. He says that owing to the noise of the engine it is impossible to hear anything except a gun at close range or the explosions of anti-aircraft shells.

The first German machine damaged his engine slightly and wounded him in the leg. He says there were eight holes in the petrol tank, and other shots hit the back of the seat he was sitting on.  With his damaged engine he had to put his nose down to keep up speed and consequently could not bring his gun into play. His machine was a single-seated scout, with a Vickers gun timed off the engine to fire through the propeller, and to aim the gun the whole machine had to be directed towards the object, as the gun is a fixed one.

Not being able to turn and fly upwards at the German machines and so use the gun, he had to continue his course and keep turning about trying to escape the Germans or at least make their firing harmless, and at the same time firing a Lewis gun fitted behind him. But this gun, he says, is very difficult to aim with success and fly a machine at the same time.

One after another of these machines dived on to him firing their guns, and after he had dropped about 5,000 ft., the Germans made off home, and he was able to get over the lines again at about 5,000 ft. up. Crossing again by the Somme, ‘Archie’ left him alone, anywhere else he would have made a good target at that height.

His leg was numbed by the wound, so that it did not pain him, and by using his heel on the rudder instead of his toe, he was able to manage his machine all right and get back to the aerodrome. The petrol pouring from his tank was very useful, he said, as it kept his leg cool and he was able to drive his engine off his spare tank.”

b-e-12-carline

A B.E 12 aircraft of the type flown by the 19th Squadron.

Sydney has told George that he is spending his sick leave in helping with an invention connected with flying.

Sydney Carline

Before the war Sydney was a budding artist, following in the footsteps of his father George Carline. In 1911, W. Davis of Turl Street commissioned him to complete six charming etchings of Oxford.

On the outbreak of war he became a dispatch rider before joining the RFC.