The American President wishes Kaiser a happy birthday

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey was aware of – and indignant about – the Americans’ continuing neutrality.

Read Sidelights of the War from National Review…
President Wilson sent congratulations to Kaiser for his birthday!!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A Cookham Dean man is honoured by the French

The Vicar’s letter in the January issue of the Cookham Dean parish magazine gives the latest news of parishioners serving in the armed forces:

I have carefully corrected the Roll of Honour; a few additional names, and a few alterations in rank which are proud to notice, and especially the fact that the Cross of the Legion of Honour has been conferred by General Joffre on Capt Cecil Saunders, R.F.C., will be found upon it.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Learning to shoot of paramount importance in case of invasion

The Sulhamstead parish magazine exhorts men to learn to shoot in case of a German invasion:

In face of the attempt to raise regiments for Home Defence in case of invasion, of men of all ages, the necessity for accurate shooting by every man becomes of paramount importance, and the membership of the Rifle Club should enormously increase.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, January 1915 (D/EX725/3)

Christmas presents from America for soldiers’ children

Christmas was never likely to be a happy one for the children whose fathers had volunteered to serve. Not only did they fear for their father’s safety, but money might well be in shorter supply than usual. Happily well wishers in America (still neutral) sent a selection of gifts.

Presents have been sent from America, and were added to by the ‘Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families’ Association’, for the children of those in this Country engaged in War. The numbers of such children in this parish were given by the Rector to Mrs. Benyon, who very kindly sent a box of gifts for them. These were distributed by the Rector and Mrs. Angel-Smith in the Parish Room on Saturday, January 30th. The Mothers who received for their children are: Mrs. Bedford, Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Butler, Mrs. William Cox, Mrs. Day, Mrs. Dyer, Mrs. Pusey and Mrs. Van Veen.

Theale parish magazine, February 1915 (D/P132B/28A/4)

Summer clothes in an English winter

Some troops were brought over from service in far flung parts of the Empire, and had relatively little time to prepare for the change in climate. One battalion who had been serving in the summer heat of India suddenly faced a chilly English winter. The parishioners of Newbury offered them some warm clothes (not to mention something to smoke).

The warm garments so generously contributed by the members of the congregation were distributed to the men of the 4th Batt. Kings Royal Rifles the day after they arrived at Winchester from India, and were much appreciated, especially in view of the cold and wet weather into which they came. Another appeal was made, this time in the Parish Church, and resulted in the following articles being given:

1 sweater, 1 cardigan jacket, 4 vests, 6 helmets, 6 khaki handkerchiefs, 22 pairs of socks, 32 body belts, 33 pairs of mittens, 34 mufflers, 16 packets of tobacco, and some strong leather bootlaces.

Major Majendie in a letter of thanks said “they were magnificent gifts and very much appreciated, as we all arrived in summer clothes. Every man in my company had something. Please let the workers know how grateful the men were.” The Battalion is now at the Front, and as Mrs. B.J. Majendie hopes to send out contributions to them every fortnight, any additional gifts will be welcome at the Rectory.

Newbury parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P89/28A/13)

Heavy fighting in Flanders

Florence Vansittart Neale had the latest war news.

29 January 1915
Heavy fighting going on in Flanders (La Bassee). They say 20,000 German casualties in 3 days!! Russia moving.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A graphic account of the front delights Datchet children

Children at a Datchet school got a first-hand account of life at the front in January 1915. One suspects it was not quite as ‘graphic’ as the head teacher thought, in this note on the school log book:

29 Jan 1915
Sergeant Poole, an old scholar, came in this afternoon, & gave the upper school a most lucid & graphic account of his days at the front. The children were delighted & heartily cheered him at the close.

Abingdon schoolgirls also paid attention to the war, and collected funds for Belgian soldiers.

25th to 29th [January 1915]
Visited by the Vicar and Mrs Kennedy. The Vicar asked the Upper girls several questions relating to the War.

The girls have sent £1 to the Fund for the Belgian soldiers (sic).

Datchet CE Mixed School (SCH30/8/3, p. 383); Abingdon Girls CE School log book (C/EL2/2)

Donations for Belgian soldiers

The girls of one Abingdon school collected money for Belgian soldiers.

25th-29th January

The girls have sent £1 to the Fund for the Belgian soldiers.

Abingdon CE School log book (C/EL2/2, p. 84)

The most terrible struggle in the history of the world

At their annual meeting in 1915, it was inevitable that Broad Street Congregational Church should ponder the impact of the war. They were evidently disappointed that it had not led to mass conversions:

The Annual Meeting
The Annual Meeting of the Church and Congregation was held in the Schoolroom on Thursday the 28th January…
The next point dealt with was the war. This was inevitable in connection with a review of the past year, for 1914 will ever stand out as memorable for the commencement of the most terrible struggle in the history of the world. Its effect upon church life had not been what might reasonably be expected. In the face of the awful peril which menaces our land and threatens our very existence as a nation it would not have been surprising to see our churches and chapels crowded with men and women truly penitent for sin and seeking comfort and guidance from the services of the Sanctuary.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, February 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A most welcome gift of vegetables aboard ship

Our friend Florence Vansittart Neale was heavily involved in getting hold of fresh vegetables for the Royal Navy. Here we see one parish’s response, when they abandoned their usual horticultural show in favour of donating their best crops to hungry sailors.

At the meeting of the Wargrave and Knowl Hill Horticultural Society held in January, it was decided that owing to the War the Annual Show would not be held. A letter was read from the Vegetable Products Committee asking for vegetables for the Fleet. The Hon. Secretary was asked to organise the sending of some hampers. In answer to her appeal hampers have been forwarded to the naval base from Miss. Choatem, Mrs. Young, Rev. H. Wells, Mrs. Groves, Mrs. Rhodes, Major Bulkley D.S.O., A. E. Huggins, Esq., J. Shepherd, Esq., W. E. Cain, Esq., Sir Charles Henry, Bart., Mrs. Nicholl and Mrs. O. Young.

That the vegetables have been greatly appreciated is evidenced by the following letter received by Mrs. Oliver Young.

14, Mess, H.M.S. Hecla,
c/o G.P.O.

I am writing to thank you for your most welcome present of vegetables. It has never been an easy matter, even in peace time, to get a sufficiency of such things and so I leave to guess how much we appreciate your thoughtfulness.

My mess-mates join their thanks with mine and wish you all the good things imaginable in return for your kindness.

Yours sincerely,
R. Larcombe

Mrs Oliver Young will be very glad if those who are not able to send a complete hamper will send her contributions of vegetables on Tuesdays in March as she can make them up and dispatch consignments.

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P145/28A/31)

Our gunnery far better than the Germans!

The convalescent Belgian soldiers at Bisham Abbey had an enjoyable outing.

All the men to cinema. Farewell visit…

We prevented saving more German sailors as Zeppelin aeroplanes came to drop bombs on us. Our gunnery far better than Germans!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Uniforms allocated according to height

Sydney Spencer was beginning to get accustomed to military drill, when he met an old acquaintance from his YMCA work at the start of the war:

27 January 1915
This morning’s drilling was much more satisfactory. The Sergeant made us so several new motions which go under several terms which I recognise when I hear them but which I cannot yet remember apart. At 10 o’clock we went to the OTC headquarters and there we were measured for our overcoats. Not a careful examination, but according to height. I am 5’5”. After Latin Prose I went to Shepherds with Loughton & we were both measured for our OTC uniforms. We are to be fitted on Saturday. I met two people whom I knew. One was, of all people on earth, Hayes of Merton, with whom I worked at Harwich (YMCA work). He is staying at No. 41, only just a few yards down. He has been doing YMCA work at Havre for some time & has left his studies at Edinburgh for a time. The other person I met was the Rev. Demans of Hedsor.

We won’t be hearing from Sydney for a couple of months, as he was too busy with his new activities to write in his diary.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/14)

The Italians “prefer money to fighting”

Ralph Glyn, a young officer attached to the War Office, was on a diplomatic mission to our allies in Serbia. He took the opportunity of a break in Rome to report on a country preparing to join the war – sometime. Colonel Sir Charles Lamb (1857-1948) was the British military attache at Rome, while the less positive Captain William Boyle (1873-1967),_12th_Earl_of_Cork was the British naval attache. Both were from upper class families – Lamb was a baronet, while Boyle was cousin and heir to the Earl of Cork and Orrery. Italy eventually declared war on Austria in May 1915, and on Turkey and Germany in August. We will be hearing much more from Ralph Glyn and his family – see the Who’s Who page for more information.

Syracuse 26/1/15

Dear General

We have arrived here after a very good journey with a break at Rome. We cross to Malta tomorrow night arriving there on the 28th. I don’t know whether we shall leave that day or the following but it is blowing a bit and I doubt if we shall reach the Piraeus before the 31st.

When I was in Rome I had a long talk both to Colonel Lamb & to Captain Boyle. They have both the fixed idea that Italy will not come in for some little time. Boyle is doubtful if they will come in until some very good excuse is forthcoming. He thinks that the Italians would feel some difficulty in going against their old ‘friends’ without some obvious cause. The northern manufacturing centres are making so much profit that they prefer money to fighting. Their naval yards are working overtime but very few extra men are being employed. All the energy is being devoted to military rather than naval work. Boyle pretends to believe that he will know the Italians mean to fight when they ‘come in’. I rather think he wants to get a ship out home!

Lamb on the other hand, although he has only been out a very short time, has found out a very great deal. Nobody better could be in his job. He has looked up all his old friends & learnt a great deal from them. Besides this the King gave him a long audience when he went to the Quirinal. Colonel Lamb was when I saw him writing a long report which will be in your hands as soon as this. From what I gathered Lamb is sure that Italy will come in – late in April. The transport section is the difficulty. There is no organised mechanical transport & the Rome WO is divided into two – Operations & Transport. All the Transport staff officers on mobilization go to their various districts & there bring together what transport is on the district list. It is now thought to be too late in the day to have a service for ‘conductors’ & the trouble already looms large. To operate until the snow is off the hills is almost impossible. Bologna will be the advanced base, & the doubling of the railway through the Appennines is not yet completed – this is another worry. The whole of northern Italy was full of troops on the move as we came through & the Swiss have strong guards at all the stations. There is an idea in Rome that the Germans & Austrians are now massing troops near Triest [sic] & that their objective is not Servia [sic].

It is difficult to believe this as they can have no object in bringing Italy in against them, & much might happen if they give the Serbs a knock before Italy or Roumania [sic] come in.

The Italians have found that much of their Krupp bought shells are loaded with faulty powder. They are busy now emptying & refilling. This puts their normal output back a good deal. They can put 1,200,000 men in the field with 259 4-gun batteries. The Deport gun is great success & the mobile militia batteries are being given the Krupp guns as the Deport are given to the active batteries.
These are only very rough impressions – I know you will so soon have full details from Col: Lamb.

I shall hope soon to send you other letters more worth reading.

I am, Sir,
Ralph Glyn

Letter from Ralph Glyn to General Charles Callwell (D/EGL/C24)

Rides in an observation balloon

Purley schoolchildren had an exciting experience in January 1915. Hydrogen-filled observation balloons were used for reconnaissance during the war.

26th January 1915

At 3pm a balloon was sighted, and the airman, Lieutenant G H Scott, most kindly descended in a neighbouring field on purpose to give the children rides and an object lesson in packing it up, so the remaining hour of the afternoon session was spent out of doors.

Purley CE School log book (C/EL85/2, p. 71)

Prayers in Flemish with the refugees

Florence Vansittart Neale reported on life at Bisham Abbey, where some of the Belgian soldiers had recovered.

Dr Downs came. Settled 6 men could go. 2 to Folkestone on Saturday: 2 to rejoin, 2 to Cottage, 2 to Eastbourne, leaving 4 or 5. I to see Horace Howard, he to go to Reading Hospital. Henry & I to see Belgians in cottage….

Said prayers in Flemish.

Hear difficulty in getting coal as all goods trains hung up – moving of troops. Idea Dan & 4 senior officers of each battalion : W.O. for week to France to see the sort of work.

William Hallam reported on measures against air raids:

26th January 1915
A notice has been posted that hearing 6 blows on the hooter, signifies hostile aircraft, and all lights are to be extinguished and refuge taken; not to get in crowds out in the streets.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)