THE MESSEL LETTERS
written from serving soldiers to Lt. Col. Leonard Messel of The Buffs
(Royal East Kent Regiment)
A REQUEST FOLLOWING A BROADCAST ON BBC RADIO 4 ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY 2001
Many people will know the magnificent gardens at Nymans in Sussex, formerly the home of the Messel family and now administered by the National Trust. Much of the garden's glory was created by Leonard Messel during the 20s and 30s, but during the First World War Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Messel was responsible for raising and training the 4th Reserve Battalion of the The Buffs (the Royal East Kent Regiment). Barred by his German ancestry from serving overseas, he nevertheless continued to correspond with a huge number of soldiers of all ranks who served with and under him, amassing nearly 500 letters written between 1915 and 1919 which are now in the possession of his granddaughter Victoria Messel. Although he was a shy man, these letters show the deep respect and affection in which he was held and his sense of responsibility not only towards the men serving abroad but also to their families at home - a welcome contrast to the often unquestioned opinion that all senior officers at the time were callous and indifferent to the massive suffering so many endured.
Unfortunately, the letters survive only in carbon copies, though these carefully retain all the spelling and grammatical idiosyncracies of the originals; and, sadly, no copies at all remain of any of the Colonel's letters TO any of these correspondents.
Are any of the names on the following list familiar to you? Have you any letters from the Colonel in your family archives?
so, please contact Richard Hills, who is the editor of the Messel letters,
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
ALPHABETICAL INDEX OF CORRESPONDENTS TO COL. MESSEL
* indicates an incompleted dated or undated letter
Ede, Pte. T.
Neve, 2nd Lt.
and Mrs. J.