Heroic gallantry under fire

A proud father in Thatcham wanted everyone to know about his son’s heroism.

A Letter from Mr. Vallis, Master of the Blue Coat School.
Rev. Sir, I am wondering if you have room in your next issue of the Parish Magazine for a short paragraph re my son’s D.C.M. The brief official notice was as follows:-

“The Distinguished Conduct Medal has been awarded to Band Corpl. Albert S. Vallis, Scots Fusiliers, for heroic gallantry and devotion to duty throughout the campaign as a stretcher bearer, notably on Oct. 18th, and the 19th and 20th, 1914, when he brought in wounded men under heavy fire.”

Believe me, Yours obediently, S. Vallis.

We are most pleased to be able to publish this letter in our magazine. It is a real joy to rejoice with Mr. Vallis and his son in the latter’s gallant conduct and its due recognition; more especially is this so, as it has several times been our duty to sympathise with the same family on the occasions when members of it have been wounded.

Thatcham parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P130/28A/1)

Collecting for French Flag Day

Florence Vansittart Neale and her daughter Phyllis, and several friends, were involved with collecting for the French.

30 September 1915

Still fighting. Heard Steptoe wounded….

Phyllis & J[ohnson?] off for French flag day. Dot’s motor came so Edith & I went too. Mr Hart Davis & Olly to lunch – we all off [in] 3 motors. Did Cookham & Cookham dene [sic] – out till 6.30. Did fairly well. 18.6.0 in all.

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

Balkan news causes perturbation

About to return to the Dardanelles, Ralph Glyn offered to take parcels out for various acquaintances who didn’t trust the post. Neill (later Sir Neill) Malcolm (1869-1953) was a senior officer in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders.

1 Princes Gardens
Sept 30, 1915

Dear Captain Glyn

I have just heard from my sister-in-law, Jeanne, that you say you will take out some warm clothes for Neill to the Dardanelles. It is most kind of you, – & I really can’t tell you how grateful I am! I have been rather worried about the clothes question, as Neill has asked for “woollies” etc, & there seems to be no safe means of sending them out. Jeanne’s message found me in the very act of sending off a parcel – rather hopelessly! – so I am extremely grateful to you for offering to take things.

I am leaving this with two parcels; I do hope you won’t think them too big – but it is such a splendid opportunity!

If it would be more convenient to unpack the parcels, & pack up the contents among your things, or in any other way – please do.

I had a letter from Neill this morning – still very well – it will be nice for him to get you back & hear all the news.

Thank you again, ever so much,
Yours sincerely

Angela Malcolm

Dear Glyn

Very many thanks for your letter. It’s good of you to write as I know how busy you are.

If I don’t answer, or answer only shortly, it’s because I know you hear the essentials and all I can add is a little “personal colour”, and really I prefer not to express my own opinions in a letter.

Recent Balkan news has caused us much perturbation. Minister Sofia’s suggestion for sending troops to Salonica & thence (I presume) to occupy the uncontested area seems rather [illegible]. I imagine it’s purely a political move & that if it fails we shall not attempt to embark on a third line of operations but shall withdraw.

Meanwhile I fancy the withdrawal of 2 of our & 1 French division will bring us down pretty low here. That it precludes any question of an offensive va sans dire [goes without saying].

G Lloyd has had a great success over his coal in the Black Sea Campaign and is being sent home this K-M to confer in London & thence go on to Russia. It’s quite one of the most important questions here.

I have little or nothing in the way of news to give as nothing is doing. Only a few visitations by [Turks?] who are trying to do in Sykes old air ship & also drop their “shorts” on our heads. I have much enjoyed renewing an acquaintance of 20 years ago with Willie Percy. Goodbye old boy. I wonder where your next task is to be?

[Illegible signature]

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/25-26)

We must win or die

Florence Vansittart Neale was greatly excited by the latest rumours. Claude Grahame-White (1879-1959) was a pioneer of aviation who was the first Briton to hold a pilot’s licence, and also made the first aerial post delivery, from London to Windsor. He served in the Royal Naval Air Service at the start of the war, before turning to manufacturing aircraft for the war effort. This particular rumour was a very wild one.

29 September 1915

Still advancing. Many more prisoners. Awful slaughter. Joffre says must win or die now! Letter from Ken – he safe. 40 [of] his company killed, & 7 officers, altogether 300 men!… Bubs’ day changed to Wednesdays. They have had convoy.

Heard Grahame White is a spy! Been shot!!

Hear that 24 aeroplanes had been tampered with so could not start that night. One man found & shot.

Heard many spurious officers found out by army orders given out, no khaki to be worn for 24 hours by officers! Many found out in consequence.

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

“To waste food is as bad as to waste munitions”

The War savings movement was not expected to attract much interest in a poor rural village like Sulhamstead, where labourers were constantly on the verge of destitution, and had no savings to invest. But the Rector encouraged them to support the war effort by thrift. Their children, meanwhile, volunteered to weed the churchyard since there was a labour shortage with so many men in the forces.

The Rector [the Rev AJP Shepherd] has received the following official letter:



We are instructed by our Committee to invite your kind co-operation … in encouraging thrift and economy at this time, and the investment of savings in the new War Loan….

We shall be much obliged if … you think it would be desirable to hold a Public Meeting in your parish….”

In many homes the increased cost of living is proving a great strain upon the amount earned in weekly wages in our agriculture districts. It is thought, therefore, that a public meeting be of little use in Sulhamstead. But the paper circulated in this Magazine may help the cause of some, and these three maxims from the paper “Silver Bullets” issued by the Parliamentary War Savings Committee may be useful to all:

1) Waste nothing; to waste food is as bad as to waste munitions
2) Save, especially in all things which have to be got abroad; that is to say, food and drink of all kinds, tobacco etc
3) Use home products, and use them sparingly

We are sending abroad £1,000,000 per day for the purchase of goods consumed by the country, and it is of the utmost importance that this should be reduced, if possible.

Lieut. Herbert Merton has been gazetted from the 6th Bedfords as Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.

As a side-issue of the war, the delightful action of the school children, helped and guided by Mr and Mrs Leake, must be distinctly recorded. St Michael’s new Churchyard was sowing a rich crop of weeds owing to the difficulty of obtaining labour to seal with them. The School came to the rescue, and in their play-time, entirely removed all the weeds. The pile of weeds beneath the tree shows the large amount of work done. The children did it as an offering to their church in the present serious issue of their country. The thanks of the whole parish are none the less due to them for saving the situation.

We have just heard, on going to press, with deep regret, that Sergeant James Price, 5th Wilts, has been wounded. No details have as yet been received.

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

At great personal risk

Two Longworth men who had joined the forces were mentioned in the parish magazine. A sailor had been killed, and a soldier from the village was recognised for an act of bravery, rescuing a fellow soldier from drowning.

It is with greatest pleasure that we put into the Magazine the following words about two of our old boys. It is happiness, indeed to know of George Painton’s faithfulness to his religious duties and privileges and a delight to see the things which are said of him in the Looe Parish Magazine, from which we take the word:

“On the night of the 12th May, George Painton, 1st Class P.O., lost his life through the sinking of H.M.S. Goliath by torpedo in the Dandanelles. By his death the country has lost a brave, capable, petty officer, who was a devoted husband and father, and a good Christian. The only Sunday he was home on leave since war broke out, he received the Holy Communion with his wife at the Parish Church.”

“The news makes me shiver all day long”

Lady Mary Glyn, wife of the Bishop of Peterborough, wrote again to her beloved son.

Sept 28 1915
The Palace

My darling

The news makes me shiver all day long, but I know I ought to be quite different, and I try to think how miserable you would all be if you were not “fit” to serve, and to be in it, and of it, and to have your part in the great days of renewal after it, as those only can who have done their share. It helps to go and see old Collingwood & his misery tied to a paralysed arm, chafing and miserable.

But oh! I long for the Peace that is surely nearer than we thought for the dawn wind is blowing and light is breaking and we can lift up our heads & know redemption is drawing night. Have you read B P Talbot? Wonderful, to the point he is a great man.

Dad has been all over two great Hospitals today. Many wounded from Dardanelles

Own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Additional men join up from Earley

Yet more Earley men had joined up.

List of Men Serving in His Majesty’s Forces.
The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:- Albert Snell, William Benham, Albert Benham, Ernest Benham, Arthur Jerred, Sidney Marshall, Albert Eeles.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:- Archie Gilkerson (lost at sea), William Gilkerson (died of wounds).

The following were omitted by mistake from our full list last months:- Stanley Platt and Hilton Parker; and the following mistake has been corrected:- Hubert Blyde instead of Herbert Blynde.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, September 1915 (D/P191/28A/22)

Great news

Florence Vansittart Neale was excited by the latest war news.

27 September 1915
Heard great news. Ours & French victory, over 22000 unwounded prisoners! Moved on some way.

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

Two bugles and a drum

The semi-military boys’ group, the Church Lads’ Brigade, was doing well in Wargrave.

The following report on the Church Lads Brigade has been sent for publication:

The usual routine has been somewhat interfered with during the month because of the outbreak of fever. The Church Parades have been as usual, but only fairly well attended. There has been no Bible Class. The Company has now received the two bugles and a drum.

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

A roaring farce

Ellen, the daughter of newly elected Glasgow MP John MacLeod, wrote to Ralph Glyn with details of the campaign. Her father beat rival Gavin Ralston decisively in the end,with over 5000 votes to little more than 500. Oddly to today’s eyes, both candidates were Unionists, with no other parties standing. College Division, incidentally, was the Glasgow constituency Ralph was “nursing” with a view to standing in the next General Election.


Sept. 26, 1915

Dear Mr Glyn

I think “many happy returns of the day” is rather a happy remark to make to you when your name appears as having been decorated by the Czar. Many congratulations. Of course that makes College Division a certainty now!

Father’s election was a scream! The whole thing was a roaring farce, but the trouble involved was too sickening. Imagine the GPF getting up at 7.30 a.m. in order to make speeches at the dockgates. His sacred second cup of coffee had to go to the wall that day! The story goes that one of Mr Ralston’s meetings the hecklers were busy. Ralston managed to give them sly answers which evaded the point but served as an answer. This annoyed the hecklers to distraction. At last they gave it up and the last of them sat down. Ralston said “And now my friends I would like to ask myself a question”. A voice from the back of the hall “And a rotten silly answer ye’ll get!” (Rotten was not the word used though!)

Mother & I were fortunate in getting seats in the Serjeant-at-arms gallery to see him take his seat in the House, make his bows, etc. It was v. interesting.

I hope you are keeping fit & having an interesting time…

George is off to France, but of course we don’t know when. He was very happy to get off after 12 months training in Wiltshire.

Norman is at Portsmouth undergoing gunnery training prior to getting a new “small craft”. He has been on a detector net trawler the last few months.

I must now go & write to your GPF who is performing Parliamentary duties. (Doesn’t that sound fine!) One of the evening papers said he well deserved the nickname of “Conscientious John”. What new insult will they hurl at him next!

With renewed congratulations

I remain

Yrs very sincerely
Ellen MacLeod

PS Awful thought! I quite forgot to put Captain Glyn at the beginning. Very sorry, I hope you’ll forgive.

Letter from Ellen MacLeod to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C31/23)

Tremendous bombardment of Belgian coast

Florence Vansittart Neale was still paying attention to the war news – and to the progress of family and friends.

26 September 1915
Tremendous bombardment of Belgian coast going on. Old Dan still Brigade Major on trial.

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

A time that calls for sacrifice from us all

Theale Church decided to cancel its usual harvest offerings in favour of a cash collection for the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

We propose to hold our Annual Thanksgiving Services, as usual, on the last Sunday in September, the 26th inst. Even during this terrible War time, with all its sorrows and anxieties, we must remember to thank God for his gifts, through our thankfulness is inevitably chastened by the horrors and suffering with which the world is afflicted. It is meet, we think, that this chastened feeling should be reflected in our Services this year, and that they should be of a less festal character than usual. The afternoon Service, at which offerings of vegetables, fruit, etc. have been made in former years, will not be held; but we urge that the value of them should be added to our offerings of money, which will be given of course to the Royal Berks Hospital. The Hospital is making a special appeal for increased funds this year, because, among other reasons, it is providing 100 beds for sick and wounded soldiers. This is a time that calls for sacrifice from us all, especially on behalf of those who are making the greatest sacrifices, and are willing to give their lives, if need be, in the service of their Country.

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

Flowers on a soldier’s grave

Following yesterday’s funeral, Florence Vansittart Neale was still in a pensive mood.

25 September 1915
Edith & I to decorations for Harvest Festival Sunday. Did altar rails with maize & dahlias – very good. [After lunch] I back to do the grave & see Mrs Martin.

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

“I wish people realised more the awfulness of the war”

Most of the young men of Cookham Dean had volunteered by the autumn of 1915.

The Vicar’s Letter

The fact that there are so few young men in the parish at the present time and also, alas, that Mr Edward Dunscombe – the respected Superintendent of the Club- has been, and I fear still is, seriously unwell, has determined me that it would be well for this winter to suspend the Young Men’s Club. The Statement of Account for the past year will be published as usual in the October issue of the Magazine, and the balance in hand banked for future use in happier times…

The Roll of Honour will probably be printed again next month… We may indeed thank God that out of our long list, at the time of writing, no further casualties have to be recorded than those mentioned in July. Many have since gone to the Front – some to France, some to the Dardanelles. The marvel to me is that those near and dear to them at home care so little to come to the Intercession Services. I wish from my heart that people here realised more the awfulness of the War, and showed their earnestness by pleading our cause and our country’s need, and for the safety of those who are nobly offering their lives for us before God week by week.

The Roll of Honour

William Wicks, previously rejected as ‘medically unfit,’ has now been allowed to join the Army, and has enlisted in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry. Corporal Arthur Horne, R.E., has been promoted Sergeant….

Mrs Ernest Gardner has written to Mrs. Hunt asking her to assist in organizing a House-to-House Penny Collection in aid of the Sick and Wounded. The Collection will be made sometime during October.

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