Germans in England claim to be Swiss

Florence Vansittart Neale and her Admiralty official husband Henry, owner of Bisham Abbey, were holidaying on the Isle of Wight, but kept in touch with war news.

28 February 1915

To Trinity – saw telegram of Dardanelles outer fort destroyed. “Queen Elizabeth” there. Heard from [illegible] officer there last Friday. Went to tea with Venables. Watched “Mine destroyers”, also ship at night – queer lights.

Heard new ship “Queen Eliz:” at Dardanelles. Three times put back – spies on board – narrow risk of explosion – changed suddenly whole of crew.

German here (Ventnor) Freemasons tavern always a German before the war, now says Swiss & put up sign “Hier spricht man Suisse”. V’s tell me a German tailor opposite called Fess – also man “Spenser” with motor boats & pilot boats for hire in secret service here. Rumoured also in German Secret Service. Had German uniform & refuses to let any of his sons fight for England. (Wrote Sir G. Greene March 21st.)

Heard from Mrs Sholto Douglas at that air raid in Essex, bombs fell only 200 yards from barracks (artillery) – full of terriers.

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

Swindon full of drunken Scottish soldiers

Drunken soldiers swamped Swindon, according to the diary of our friend Wlliam Hallam:

27th February 1915
After tea to Bath Rd Reading Room. Saw two girls when they came in tonight said the town was full of drunken Scots who were in from Draycott camp.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)

Loyal Christian Indians and Ugandans

The British Empire’s contribution to the war effort was a significant one. The Germans had hoped that colonial unrest would be to their advantage, but instead, many men from across the Empire volunteered, from all faiths. Here is the response to that, perhaps unexpected, loyalty, in Berkshire, from a Christian missionary perspective:

This cutting from our newspapers will be read with interest by those who follow the missionary work of our church and its results in the steady character of the Christian populace of India during the time of unrest. If all had remained as loyal as the Christian portion and those influenced by it, Germany would never have deceived herself with the thought of a rising in India.

Reuter’s Agency understands that, according to information which has reached this country, the Katikiro or Prime Minister of Uganda, Sir Apollo Kagwa, has announced his intention of placing himself at the head of an army of 5000 men to march against the Germans.

Sir Apollo Kagwa was one of the earliest Christian converts. He is reported to have brought a body of chiefs and warriors, nearly all Christians, to the number of 30,000, and placed them at the disposal of the Governor.

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

Scouts and the war

The Boy Scout movement had militaristic undertones from the start, and it is no surprise that young men who had been involved with it were among those who joined the services. These Sulhamstead men were typical:

The following connected with the Sulhamstead and Ufton Scouts are now serving with His Majesty’s Forces:-

W N Carter (Assistant Scout master), Lieutenant, Queen Victoria Rifles, 9th City of London
W G Collings (Assistant Scout Master), 2nd Lieut., King’s Shropshire L. Inf. Territorials
S T Price (Assistant Scout Master), 4th Wilts
Wm Halfacree (Scout), HMS Victory
Wm Tigwell (Scout), HMS Venerable
Ed. Tuttle (Patrol Leader), 1st Berks

Captain Norris, CA (Assistant Scout Master), formerly Church Army Officer in charge of the Lower End is also reported to have joined the Forces.

The following Scouts have volunteered for the Scouts Defence Corps:-

Albert Hannington
George Butler
Alfred Bracey

This list may be further increased.

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

Good work in Wargrave and district

Time and money for war work sometimes had to be taken away from other charitable endeavours. In Wargrave, those who had formerly knitted socks etc for disadvantaged children and were now knitting and sewing for soldiers, at least gave a monetary gift for the chdren.

The Children’s Union
For the support of Crippled Children Waifs and Strays Society.
Miss Mair begs to thank all the members for what they have so kindly done during the past year. Some members, who owing to the War had no time to work, have sent money instead, this money has been spent in socks and stockings for the crippled children. £3. 19s. 0d has been collected in the boxes – Miss Joan Willis having collected the most. All this has been sent with three parcels containing worked garments and picture books to Head Quarters, and Mrs. Ward Pool begs to send her grateful thanks to the members.

J. J. Mair,
Wargrave Branch Secretary,
January 1915.
League of Mercy, Wargrave
For 1914 £. s. d.
By Subs 24 6 6
Proceeds of Jumble Sale 32 17 9
Total: 57 4 3

H. H. Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, President for Berks, desires me to convey her thanks to all those who have so kindly subscribed and helped the League of Mercy, and hopes Wargrave will again do its utmost to further this good cause as funds are more needed than ever by the hospitals owing to the war.
M. B. Rhodes,
Lady Vice-President

Berkshire Needlework Guild
Two hundred and two warm and useful garments were sent from Wargrave to H. H. Princess Victoria of Schlewswig- Holstein who is now president of the Wokingham Branch, and H. H. requests that her thanks be conveyed to all those who contributed to the splendid collections sent.
M. B. Rhodes,
Vice President.

Crazies Hill Notes
Miss Cole is to be congratulated upon the success of her Red Cross Working Party, which has met every week and laboured with untiring energy. Two large parcels of garments have now been sent to Queen Mary’s Needle Work Guild.

Hare Hatch Notes
Miss S. N. Huggins acknowledges with many thanks to the collectors and subscribers towards our Belgian Guests Fund, the sum of £1. 17s. 11d. “The third instalment”.

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

More than was promised: Longworth supports refugees and wounded soldiers

The parishioners of Longworth contributed to the war effort in their prayers, and in their donations for war related good causes. The parish magazine for March reported:

I would remind the Diocese that the second Wednesday in Lent (February 24) is the day appointed for Intercession for Home Missions. I would suggest that, besides the ordinary subjects of intercession, we should pray especially for the work among the troops.

As our readers know, Longworth has promised to send help to the Belgian refugees in Oxford to the extent of £2 a week for three months. It is delightful to be able to do more than was promised. Help will be sent as long as subscriptions continue to come in. The amounts already received are as follows:

per Mr Webb – W.J. Church, £1; Mr E. Webb, 10s; box in Post Office, 1s 2d;
Per Mr Hunter – W. Goodenough, 2d; Mr G Hunter (six weeks), 3s; Mrs Rivers, 2d; Nurse King (ten weeks), 5s; Charles Broad, 2d; Mr Prince (sixteen weeks), £2; Miss King, 2s.6d; Mrs W. Edmonds 2s; The Rector (eight weeks) 16s; Mrs Cooper (ten weeks) 5s; Anon 9d; from Church Box £1 16s;
Per Mrs Crum – Lady Hyde £13 (thirteen weeks); Mrs Powell, £1, Mr Crum £13; Miss Liebscher 10s (twenty weeks) ; Mrs Porter 2s.

The collections on the Sundays, January 3 (Intercession day) and 10th, including the contents of the collecting box, amounted to 15s 2d, and were given to the British Red Cross Society, for the benefit of the wounded soldiers now in hospital at Faringdon.

Longworth parish magazine, March 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/3)

A teacher joins the RAMC

The head teacher of George Palmer Boys’ School reported the loss of a member of his staff to the armed forces:

24th February 1915
Mr Stevens left to day to enrol in R.A.M.C at Southampton. Being accepted, a vacancy in the staff is for the time being created.

George Palmer Boys School, Reading: log book (89/SCH/8/1, pp. 125-126)

‘All’s well that ends well’: Will and Johanna Spencer are reunited

Will Spencer, the eldest brother of our friends Percy and Sydney, had been living in Germany before the war with his German wife Johanna, where he taught piano at a conservatory. He was trapped in England when the war started because he had come home to Cookham on holiday, while Johanna remained behind. Eventually, they decided to reunite in neutral Switzerland – a happy ending for the couple, but not a perfect one, as work was hard to come by. Will wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how they were getting on:

Hotel Glockenhof
Wed. Feb. 24th, 1915

Dear Flo,
Thank you very much for your letter, which was forwarded to me from Basle, & also for your postcard of Feb. 4th. I did not answer either at the time, as I had no good news to tell, for as you have no doubt heard at Fernley [the family home in Cookham], Johanna was not able to join me here until Feb. 16th, owing to delay on the part of the authorities in sending her her papers, & until she had got her papers, I had a strong misgiving that she might not be able to join me here at all. But all’s well that ends well, as we say – which isn’t true, but when we have arrived at the good ending we feel as if it is.

I am writing this in the writing room of this hotel before breakfast, while Johanna is dressing. Johanna seems quite as well as usual, I am glad to say, & is still able to laugh if anything amuses her (which I am glad of). She has heard a couple of times from [her sister] Agnes since she has been here, & I hope that the portal of communications between the two countries may remain satisfactory, as she would feel it very much, I am sure, if communications became very slow or were cut off.

Johanna brought a lot of my music & books with her, & I have played to her several times on the piano in the little reading room adjoining this. Just now I have a cold in my head, but when I have got rid of it I am going to call on the American consul here, & leave my name & address with him, as I believe a certain number of German Americans have come into this part of Switzerland of late (on account of the war) & I have thought of the possibility of my finding a pupil or two among them. From what Johanna tells me, there is no present need of my getting any teaching here, but I would rather have some if I can. There is so little for the Swiss musicians at this time, no doubt, that I can’t expect the Swiss to employ a foreigner like myself.

I hope influenza has taken flight from Grovefield by now. Hoping, too, that you are well, & with best greetings from Johanna & love from me,

Yr affec. brother Will.

Letter from William George (Will) Spencer, formerly Professor of Music at Koln, and now residing in Switzerland, to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/3/2/1)

Sobbing in the library

Some of the Belgians were distraught at the thought of leaving Bisham Abbey at the end of their stay there:

Poor dear Jules sobbing in library. Very sad parting with him. Gustave to stay a bit for his arm.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey, 23 February 1915 (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Farewell to the Royal Engineers, champions of manliness

Wargrave gave a warm welcome to the troops billeted in the parish, and were sorry to see them moving on. The affection was returned, with the Royal Engineers donating a cup for “manliness” and other good qualities for a boy at the Piggott Schools.

The Royal Engineers
All Parishioners of Wargrave were sorry to say goodbye to the Officers and Men of the 83rd and 84th Companies of the Royal Engineers when they marched away on Monday, February 22nd, to the strains of their new band.

They did a great deal, during the two weeks of their visit, to establish a very close relationship between us. First there was the concert which they arranged for the benefit of the District Nurse Association and which resulted in the contributions of six guineas. Then there was the Treat for the children; an amusing entertainment played to a liberal accompaniment of buns and sweets, with a toy for every child at the end. Lastly, there was a Sacred Concert on their last Sunday with a collection for the Organ Fund amounting to £2. 11s. 6d. But the most touching act of kindness was the gift of a Silver Challenge Cup to the School explained by the following record:-

83rd and 84th. Companies

This cup is presented to the Wargrave Piggott Schools, to be held in trust by the Managers of the aforesaid Schools.

It is a mark of appreciation, from the Officers and Men of the 83rd and 84th Companies of the Royal Engineers, for the hearty way they were received during their training for active service in the Great War in 1915.

It shall be held yearly, for one year only, by the best boy in the Schools.

The method of awarding the cup shall be in regard to:

Half Marks to be given by the Headmaster, and half Marks by vote of the boys themselves.

Signed on behalf of the Donors:
E. R. Kenyon,
C. R. E., 20th Division
February 13, 1915.
God save the King.

After all these acts of kindness it is pleasant to think that the concert arranged for the benefit of their new band was a thorough success in every way, and that they were enabled to get their instruments in time for Wargrave to hear them. We trust that they may be played in triumph after glorious victories.

We are now happy to welcome the 89th Company and hope that their stay in Wargrave may be a pleasant one.

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

Why are the churches not thronged in support of the brave soldiers?

The members of Maidenhead Congregational Church continued to support the war, by prayer or personal service. But were enough of them doing so? The church magazine complained:

These meetings are somewhat disappointing from the point of view of numbers. Very few are present from any other Church than that in which the meeting is, for the time, being held. Remembering the greatness of the need, and the numbers in the Free Churches of the town, it might be expected that the buildings would be thronged each week. It does not seem easy to maintain a vivid belief that by lifting up holy lands without doubting, we may sway the tide of battle, and bring victory nearer. But let us stir up our faith, and make it glow again. Our brave men are facing incredible hardship and danger upon the battlefield for us, and if we cannot go and stand beside them, let us at least not be neglectful of the use of this mighty engine of intercession. We must not allow ourselves to become weary. Nothing truly and lastingly great and effective is ever done without something of that overmastering fervour which counts all effort small for the great end in view.

One other name must be added to our Roll, that of Mr. Donovan Wilson, who was a member of the Church, and an active helper in the Institute. He has joined the Army Service Corps.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine D/N33/12/1/5

“The war will be over on April 28th”

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a strange and almost certainly apocryphal story of a prophecy about the war.

20 February 1915

Moll tells me a deaf and dumb mute of Herefordshire suddenly said “The war will be over on April 28th & then fell back dead.”

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

Darning socks for the Navy

This week, Abingdon girls were busy mending sailors’ holey socks.

15th to 19th [February 1915]
The Upper girls have darned 3 doz pairs of socks for the Navy through Mrs Reynolds.

Abingdon Girls CE School log book (C/EL2/2)

“What terrible weather for our soldiers”

William Hallam gets a pay rise thanks to inflation – and has a thought to spare for the troops:

19th February 1915
Showery again. What terrible weather for our soldiers. To-day we begin to receive 2/. extra a week on account of high prices.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)

Mother sends secret brandy to soldier son

Three of the Belgians at Bisham Abbey got an outing on 19 February.

19 February 1915
Edie took 3 men, Jean, Dominique, Jules, to Reading in the motor.

Heard Captain Long Innes men drunk (Irish Guards). At last discovered mother sent brandy inside a cake. Man had mild punishment – wrote stinger to mother. She prays for his soul, wishes to injure his body.

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