“THE WAR TO END WARS” follows hard upon “The Years of Change”, seeing the Bellamys and their servants at 165 Eaton Place through the four years of the First World War. Richard Bellamy, the father, a Member of Parliament, is given - as the war progresses - additional duties and responsibilities through his work with the Admiralty. His son, James, has rejoined the Army and is sent to France before the end of 1914. At first, the war is like a liberation for James from the discontent and restlessness that had a great effect on his moods from time to time. (Hazel, his wife, suffered from his neglect and occasional harsh temper – yet busied herself in various social activities in support of the war effort.) He takes pride in being in command of troops at the Front and sharing in their joys, sufferings, and sorrows. But as the war drones on into stalemate, James becomes disillusioned with the war and while home on leave, made the mistake of making his views known to a journalist. As a result, he was posted to a staff position in the UK, which he hated. But eventually, he is given active command of a new unit and is sent back to France. (Unbeknownst to James, it was Hazel’s influence with one of the Army’s high-ranking officers she knew as a social acquaintance that brought about James’ combat posting.) In the meantime, young Georgina Worsley (she was 19 when the war began), determined to do her bit, volunteers in a nursing program and upon passing, does a lot of the menial work nurses were often given in UK hospitals. She also worked with doctors and tended to wounded soldiers brought home from France. Eventually, Georgina is sent to France, where she works in a field hospital not far from the Front.
The servants in the Bellamy’s household (Mr. Hudson, the head butler and the acknowledged leader of the staff ‘downstairs’; Mrs. Bridges, the cook; Edward, the footman; Ruby, who worked closely with Mrs. Bridges in the kitchen; Rose, the head parlour maid; and Daisy, the under parlour maid) experience many ups and downs that seem to parallel the course of the war itself. Edward joins the Army and marries Daisy (both are very much in love) shortly before he is posted to France with a close friend who had been Best Man at his wedding. There, he manages to survive the hell of the Battle of the Somme. After many months in France, he is granted leave and returns to Daisy just before Christmas 1916. Together, they see in the new year, 1917, along with the rest of the Bellamy staff. But Edward is not quite the same. His nerves are shot. Shell-shock.
How it was that Mollie Hardwick was able to pack in so much drama and suspense in 220 pages amazes me. There were moments in reading “THE WAR TO END WARS” that I had to hold my breath or hold back tears. The world of the Bellamys and their servants became my world, too. For anyone who was a fan of the original ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ TV drama or became a fan of ‘Downton Abbey’, you’ll love this book.