A geographical error

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to her son Ralph with her comments on the news. The Appam was a British civilian ship transporting some wounded soldiers and German prisoners of war, as well as civilians, from West Africa. Sir Edward Merewether (1858-1938) was the British Governor of Sierra Leone, and was also onboard. The ship was captured by a German vessel, and taken to neutral America.

My own darling Scrappits…

It is Monday Jan 31 [1916] …

I have been seeing people all day – no time to write or read – even the account of the Paris Zeppelin raid. Poor Sir Edward & Lady Merewether of Malta [dogs?] lost in this Appam tragedy. It is too sad. And Lady Wake’s brother Beau St Aubyn in the Persia – doing a good turn to Johnny Ward whose place it was to go. There seems to be little hope of his having been saved, though the man standing next to him at the time of the explosion was picked up. So the whole round world is full of tragedy – but the assurance is that the Germans cannot hold out much longer. Lettice has heard that there is most certain information as to the economic conditions being desperate & quotes Bishop Bury of N Europe….

Poor Mackenzie, stationmaster – has his son home desperately ill – consumption of the throat. He has not been to the front but serving with Kitchener’s Army & it has been too rough a life….

We began the evening with a Zeppelin excitement, One reported at Bourne – & then at Ryde near Thorney, & Peterborough was warned. Now, 11 pm , I hear the Zeppelin dropped a bomb at Stamford and one other place, & we shall hear more tomorrow, & I only hope it will not come back upon its track to right this way. I am conscious of most inadequate precautions! & worry myself to think how we could protect the children [Meg’s little Anne and Richard, who were visiting]. “The safest place is just where they are”, says T’Arch [possibly the Archbishop] & counsels no move to any quarters other than where they are, as we have no cellars.

Patriotic self sacrifice of Christmas crackers

The children of St Peter’s Church, Earley, agreed to donate the cost of Christmas crackers and sweets at their Christmas party to disabled soldiers.


St Stephen’s House
Westminster, SW

31st January, 1916

Dear Sir,

I am very much obliged for your letter of the 29th instant, and will ask you to convey to the children of St Peter’s, Earley, Sunday School, the grateful thanks of the committee of these hospitals for their self-sacrifice in foregoing their sweets and crackers at their Xmas treat, which has enabled a generous contribution of £2 2s 0d to be sent in support of the hospitals at Roehampton. Will you kindly express to these children my personal thanks and those of my committee for their patriotism and help.

Yours truly,
C H Kenderdine,
Hon. Secretary

The Rev. H. Wardley King,
Tanaki, Earley, Reading

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

A dark year, full of perplexities and sadness

The Congregational Chapel in Broad Street, Reading, was entertaining soldiers and war hospital staff every Sunday evening.

Most of our readers will know that each Sunday, after evening worship, the men of the RAMC, now serving as Orderlies in the various Reading War Hospitals, and other men in khaki, are being entertained at a social gathering in the Schoolroom. Different members of the congregation are acting as host and hostess. And by this we mean that they are paying for the refreshments, which are being supplied each week by Mr Tibble. The ladies and gentlemen who have generously helped in this way, thus far, are:

On Nov. 28th, Mr and Mrs E Taylor Malley
Dec 5th, Mr and Mrs Nott
Dec 12th, Mr and Mrs H J Pocock
Dec 19th, the PSA Brotherhood

All our brothers who are on active service have received a splendid Christmas parcel from the church, and a letter from our Presidents, and we are receiving most grateful replies.

1915 has been a very dark year, a year full of perplexities and sadness. We are looking forward to 1916 with every hope that it may be brighter, and that this worldwide turmoil may have come to an end.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, January 1916 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“We are not well prepared for anything but defence”

Former Intelligence boss General Charles Callwell was on his way back from Russia. Fr the diary of Hanbury-Williams, see here.

Grand Hotel & Grand Hotel Royal

31st Jan 1916

My dear Ralph

I got a budget of letters, including two from you, at Petrograd just before leaving, and take the opportunity of a rest here to answer some of them.

I am glad to hear that you are settled in the Intelligence line with Tyrrell and hope that you have not been displaced under the Staff reorganisation which has I presume been carried out. After three weeks absence from England one seems to know nothing. As far as I can make out there is not at present much sign of a serious attack on Egypt, and the sands are running out. K & Maxwell worked themselves into a fidget over it but I never believed that there was danger of a really formidable attempt by the Bocho-Turks – the Boches are too wide awake.

I have had a short but pleasant visit to Russia. They did Ralph Wigram & me tophole and I had much talk with bigwigs and got some things settled. Alexieff the new C of S is a capital man and very easy to deal with. We are on our way back to report & to go to GHQ to Chantilly, and then expect to return and to go through to Japan so as to see the working of the Siberian railway and ginger them up if necessary at Vladivostok; with luck we may manage a visit to the Grand Duke at Tiflis [Tbilisi] en route.

Wigram makes an excellent SO and is a bright, cheery companion – he has abandoned me tonight and I fear the worst. We get many messages for you from the Russian Staff & the Yacht Club. “Mon Dieu – quell applomb [sic] ” said La Guiche of you with a reminiscent sight, but Hanbury Williams referred gloomily to the way AP & you left him in the lurch.

The Germans seem to be beginning a big push on the western front which ought to be good for us and to lose them men whom they cannot afford to lose. It seems to be playing our game as at the moment we are not well prepared for anything but defence – thanks to Salonika and such like.

I hope that you are keeping very fit and find your job congenial. Anyway you are in a good climate for the present. Give my love to Tyrrell, and believe me

Ever yours
Chas E Callwell

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

The outlook is dark and uncertain

The vicar of Christ Church in Reading (serving the Whitley area) offered encouragement in dark times.

The outlook at the present time is dark and uncertain; but we should fail in courage and in faith if we thought of it as hopeless. The supremacy of our Sea Power (and while that is kept nothing is lost), the unshaken courage and endurance of our sailors and soldiers – those have not failed us. It is the slow awakening of the nation to the sacrifices required of it, the insistence on class interests, the narrow outlook, which have postponed the end. A united nation, sobered, unselfish, repentant, would, I believe, before the close of the year bring us within sight of a victorious and lasting peace.

Christ Church parish magazine January 1916 (D/P170/28A/24)

Things have been lively lately

A soldier from Stratfield Mortimer writes home:

‘A Letter from “Somewhere in France,” from a C.E.M.S. member

This is a very different life out here. We were back resting the other Sunday, and we had a very nice Church service out in a field. Then we had a Communion service in a room, which was very nice. It is a treat to get back for a few days out of range of shell fire, for they like to keep us awake with them. Things have been lively in places out here lately, but thankful to say we escaped it, but we are ready for it when our turn comes, ready to go anywhere. What a happy time it will be when it is all over, but it is hard to say when that will be. But everyone is happy doing their bit, and it will be much better here this winter than last as a lot of work has been done since to make it more comfortable. It has been foggy here the last day or two: it makes more watching at night, for you never know who is moving about…

I often picture you all and wonder what you are doing, but I hope we shall get back to it all some day if God spares us. The other boys are very well…

May God bless you all, and keep you safe and well.


Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, January 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)

A Tramp Sister in Russia

A nurse from Wargrave was working in Russia, where the Winter Palace in St Petersburg (now the Hermitage Museum) had been converted into a war hospital.

A Tramp Sister

The following letter has just arrived from Russia. Nurse Borlase is a “Tramp Sister”; when met by Miss S. in London, she had just come back from Serbia. She had been doing special work, going on to any vessel where there were wounded, where no nurse and often no doctor were to be found to tend them on the first hurried journey – She just did what she could, with nothing to do it with, to make the lads more comfortable and cheer them up.

This letter has arrived from her and tells of the new work just starting, but I feel very sure that before long she will be down on the shores of the Baltic – She has been “a Tramp Sister” and a tramp sister is never cured of tramping.

Dear Miss C.

I am working at the Anglo-Russian Hospital, we have arrived, but the palace and club are not quite ready, so we cannot get to work. We are gong to the “Winter Palace” daily, to help cut dressings. If your Society can spare me some dressings I should be so grateful. I hope soon to be sent outside to a Field Dressing Station and shall require lots of things. The cold is intense, lots of snow and everything is expensive.

We have a Canadian Sister on the staff, who is rejoicing in the snow and cold. I am taking the opportunity of seeing work in the other hospitals, and, of course, am doing the Churches; they are very fine, and glorious singers.

There is such a noise from the workmen and a great deal of chattering, so I hardly know what I am writing, therefore excuse such a poor letter.

I am, yours sincerely
Jessie. E. Borlase.

This Society is now recognised by the War Office. All parcels are sent to Hospitals named by the War Office as most in need. All parcels are sent “Carriage free” by Government Authority.’

Wargrave parish magazine, January 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

The greatest war of history still rages

The Burghfield parish magazine reported on the numbers to join up in the parish, as well as those contributing at home.

The second War Christmas has come and gone; the Angels’ message of “Peace on earth” seemed strangely out of tune with actual facts when, instead of peace, the greatest war of history still rages and there is upon the earth “distress of nations with perplexity”. Yet it served to remind us once more of what we believe was the Divine intention for mankind, and of how far, alas! man has thwarted the good purposes of God. And yet there is a sense in which the beautiful story of Bethlehem and the “Peace that passeth all understanding” must have come home to many hearts this year…

We are all, I hope, beginning the new year seriously and hopefully. The solemn act in which we are called to join on the first Sunday in the year means – in the words of our archbishop – “nothing less than the rededication to God of our life as it is, in the firm belief that He will pardon and mend and strengthen us. We brace ourselves anew, soldiers and civilians, at home and abroad, to discharge the trust of so arming and fighting and conquering as to establish hereafter among the nations of the earth a simpler life, a simpler faith, a firmer fellowship, an enduring peace”.

War Hospital Supplies Association
(Officially recognised by the War Office)

A branch in connection with Holiday House was formed early in November. Mrs George, Mrs Gripper, and Mrs Kirkwood will be glad of all the help they can get. Up to date over 400 articles have been sent into the Reading Depot. Work parties meet on Mondays, at Miss Gripper’s, and on Fridays at Holiday House, where samples and materials will be supplied. Splints, bandages, towels, pillows, bed-jackets, etc are wanted in hundreds. Contributions of money are gladly received where personal service cannot be given; and an Entertainment in aid of the fund will be given in the New Schools, by the Holiday House Dramatic Society, at the end of January.

The “Roll of Honour” hanging on the inner doors of the church has grown steadily until it now contains more than 190 names of “Burghfield men” who either (a) are or have been actually serving during this war in some naval or military capacity, or (b) have offered themselves under Lord Derby’s Scheme, have been accepted, and are enlisted in the Reserve for service in due course. No doubt the Roll is not too exclusive. On the one hand, members of any well-known old Burghfield family have been treated as admissible (under certain conditions) for enrolment, though no longer living in the parish). And, on the other hand, it was impossible to leave out men who in fact had enlisted or been called up from the parish, although they were only temporary residents, e.g. migratory labourers, employees of private persons, etc.

But, allowing for extreme cases, it is still a goodly list; and if account is also taken of the men, numbering more than 40, who since the beginning of the war have definitely offered themselves, but have been rejected as medically unfit, and of the 20 or so who have served, but are past the age of useful service, the parish may well feel some patriotic pride, saddened though we may be by the recollection of those who have given up their lives for their country.


Sydney Spencer trains with grenades

Sydney Spencer of Cookham was doing well in training.

Jan 28th
Battalion order 164. Grenadier training. 2nd Lt Spencer is appointed Assistant Grenadier officer to Brigade Grenadier officer.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Seaplane carriers

Cecil L’estrange Malone (1890-1965) was a young naval and RNAS officer. In later years he became an MP representing successively the Liberal, Communist and Labour Parties.

28th Jany 1916
HMS Ben-My-Chree
c/o Navy House
Port Said

Dear Glyn

I am writing to ask you if you know of anyone available who would care to come and assist me in the Military Intelligence work connected with Seaplane Carriers.

Wemyss has appointed me in command of the four seaplanes-carrying ships so I hope we may now get something done.

6 to 12 volunteers for observers have been asked for officially, so if you know of anyone, he could come in under that heading.

Perhaps you could drop me a line to the above address if you think there is anything doing, as soon as possible, if not I must make other arrangements.

I am confident it would make for efficiency, and keep us in closer touch with your requirements.

I enclose a copy of Smyrna reconnaissance, perhaps you will be so good as to circulate it to anyone interested.

Yours truly,

Cecil L’estrange Malone

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/5)

Parcels for prisoners

Women in Earley decided to contribute to the sending of food and home comforts to British soldiers taken prisoner.


A Meeting was held in the Parish Hall on January 28th, when about sixty members were present….

It was … agreed that all members who cared to should subscribe some small sum each month, ranging from one penny to sixpence, and the amount given to a fund for providing parcels for our prisoners in Germany; Mrs Jordan kindly undertook to arrange that two should be sent off at once, eleven shillings and sevenpence having been subscribed.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

A concert for wounded soldiers

Local children entertained wounded soldiers recuperating at stately home Basildon Park.

28th January 1916
Tomorrow several of the school children repeat their concert to the wounded soldiers at Basildon Park Hospital.

Basildon CE School Log Book (90/SCH/16/1)

“Blunder after blunder – what can you expect from politicians if the only soldier of influence & in power is no d— use.”

Maysie Wynne-Finch informed her brother Ralph about her wounded husband’s latest operation. She had also met an old friend, the distinguished soldier Sir Hereward Wake (1876-1963).

Jan 28 [19]16
11 Bruton Street
My darling R.

Here we are back in London & my poor John in hospital & to be cut open again in about ¼ hour’s time, so if this letter is ga-ga – you’ll understand. His face swelled up again so badly that we had to come up to London on Friday. We saw the surgeon yesterday who said he must operate at once or the abcess might burst outwardly & there’d be the devil then of a mess. This morning they gave him proper anisthetic [sic] & it will be a longer job than last time, I fancy, as they have to dig out the wisdom tooth & then clean up & scrape the jawbone….

In the train on Friday we met Hereward & Daisy Wake… H looks better & is back in his old dept at the WO… He spoke strong & straight over the hopelessness of the conduct of the war in general, & says all the blame lies at our door. There is no doubt it’s the general opinion on all sides now – how can it be otherwise. Blunder after blunder – what can you expect from politicians if the only soldier of influence & in power is no d— use.

I saw poor dear Aunt Syb yesterday. She is quite splendid, but it just breaks our heart to see & hear here. It’s terrible. No doubt you know far more about Frank Balfour’s doings than I do, but he seems to have done a splendid thing, & to have had the fact duly appreciated, not at all always the same thing. I am so glad. Poor Lesley is naturally in a great state of anxiety over Arthur. They have been in action. I am lunching with Addy & the Admiral today. Judging from a conversation on the telephone he is wildly excited, off to France tomorrow, & evidently determined to be in the thick of anything going. There seems to be considerable liveliness too just now, judging from the casualties anyhow.

Later – John’s op quite successful. They cleaned up the bone & removed the wisdom tooth. He has been in great pain, poor darling, all day…

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“It’s not very pleasant out here”

The people of Wargrave continued to contribute to the war effort, but were starting to slack off a little. Perhaps the war was already seeming too long. They may have been inspired to redouble their efforts by the letters in the parish magazine from serving soldiers grateful for their gifts of cigarettes.

Surgical Dressing Emergency Society

The society has had a great many dressings and comforts sent in from the Branches and outside friends, but, the workers in Wargrave have considerably fallen off. The need for dressings is becoming more urgent every day and we do hope very much that those who can spare more time, and make a special effort to come to the workrooms more often, will do so, as the Hospital is taking away some of our best workers. Mr Butcher has become a regular worker, and has undertaken to entirely pack all the bales. This is heavy work, taking up a great deal of time, and it is an enormous help.

We have most thoroughly enjoyed the Thursday Readings by the Vicar, and we are most grateful to him for sparing us so much of his time.

Harvest Gifts

Letters continue to arrive from Sailors and Soldiers, at sea and in the trenches, expressing their thanks for the Tobacco and Cigarettes sent from the Harvest Festival. During the last month there have been letters from Fred. Brown, A. Creighton, Percy Elsley, W. A. George, J. H. Hodge, A. W. Hall, M. Hutchings, F. G. Mayne, H. Ogbourne, C. Pugh and H. Shaw. (more…)

Very sad to see the Royal Naval Air Service break up

A friend in the Royal Naval Air Service wrote to Ralph Glyn with his news. One of those mentioned was Robert Marsland Groves (1880-1920). There is more about the RNAS at Gallipoli here.


My dear Ralph

We are just breaking up and I am returning to England to clear up my points then may be at the Admiralty. With the complete withdrawal from the Peninsula there was no longer need of our headquarters here. We are all separating up. It is very sad. Groves and [Buzzard?] go to Egypt and will give you this if you are still there. Perhaps by this time you will have got to Mesopotamia or East Africa or somewhere?!

I have absolutely no news. G & B will tell you of our recent happenings. I think it is right and [fit?] for me to go home for a few days.

I wonder what you are doing. Let me have word soon, to US Club, Pall Mall.

All good luck.
Yours always

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/4)