Difficulties for the Lunatic Asylum due to this terrible war

The annual report of Berkshire Lunatic Asylum (later Fair Mile Hospital, Cholsey) for 1915/16 shows the impact of the war in that institution. The hospital was the home, temporary or permanent, of the mentally ill in Berkshire.

The number of patients in the Asylum on March 31st, 1915, was 402 males, 467 females, total 860. These numbers include 60 patients received from the West Sussex Asylum, at Chichester, on this Asylum being vacated for uses as a Military Hospital… During the year … 30 patients [were] received on February 21st from the Middlesex County Asylum, at Napsbury, on its being taken over by the War Office….

Dr S E Holder, the Second Assistant Medical Officer, left on April 28th, 1915, to take up military medical duties. The vacancy has not been filled…. There has been a marked shortage amongst the male staff in all departments, the result of enlistments for active service. Every eligible man for military service attested under the Derby Scheme. The Committee appreciate with what willingness those remaining have successfully overtaken the extra duties imposed upon them.

In view of the risks incurred the Committee deemed it advisable to insure the buildings and furnishings against damage from aircraft….
The Committee desire to state their appreciation of the energetic and ables services of Dr Murdoch, the Medical Superintendent, who, in common with the other officers of the Asylum, has had additional duties thrust upon him during this war time. Dr Murdoch has coped with the difficulties which have arisen owing to this terrible war in a very satisfactory way, and has cheerfully carried out the wishes of the committee.

Annual report of Committee of Visitor of Berkshire Lunatic Asylum, 31 March 1916, in BCC minutes (C/CL/C1/1/19)

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Virtual civil war in America

Ralph Glyn’s cousin Niall, Duke of Argyll, paid an inspection visit to France.

Coombe
31 March 1916
My dear Ralph

Your [letter] arrived today. Many thanks. I was not telling you however about any Charlie French but of Lord French. I lunched with him last Thursday to meet Sir Arthur Herbert, just back from the USA, who was most interesting a – virtual civil war going on as an average of 4 munition places a week are being blown up of which Europe hears nothing….

I had a very interesting time away [in France] and saw Vornelot (now a hospital) on my way back. Queen Amelie had been there for a bit which excited Aunt L [Princess Louise, Dowager Duchess of Argyll] terribly, but once you lend a house what does it matter. 780 nurses have already used it as a rest. I thought it a beastly place anyway, a mad thing to go and build anyway.

I had a long & very interesting talk with the Bishop of Amiens about the invaded part of his diocese – French politics etc, he told me many interesting things…

Yesterday I met Carben de Viard a very clever Belgian at the de Lalaings. He was secretary for years to King Leopold & told me curious details about his last hours and words. He is just back from 4 months mission to the USA as to which I heard a lot. The position there is extraordinary….

The French & Belgian Generals I ran across at Amiens etc were all very optimistic as to duration.

Your affect. Cousin
Niall

The former Royal Naval Air Service friend of Ralph’s who wrote to him on 27 January was bitterly disappointed with his new assignment as a quartermaster.

United Service Club
Pall Mall, SW
March 31st, 1916

My dear RG

Very many thanks indeed for your letter. I am going off to take up my new duties as an AA & QMG to one of the Home [illegible] Mounted Divisions. About the last thing I wanted!

I am glad to hear that things are fairly smooth in your patch now. I hope they will get even better.

I have seen Buzzard at home and he will probably now have given you all the news. I hear he is taking command of a Howitzer Brigade now.
I will write again soon if there are developments in my case. I am so sick about it all that I cannot write any more now and must go off to my job.

All good luck to you.
Yours always

[Illegible – MD?]

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C16; C32/21)

For the sake of economy

A school in Slough shut not because its buildings were taken over for the war, but to save money:

30th-31st March 1916

Two days holiday that desks and apparatus may be removed to Upper School Buildings as, for the period of the War for the sake of economy, the infants will be taught there. I take charge of the [Touman Mosley] Infants School, at Slough, on April 3rd.
Rose Down.

Wraysbury Infants School log book (88/SCH/22/2)

Germans jeer at drowning victims

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale, set out for France, where she was going to nurse wounded soldiers. The Revd Edward Lyttelton, referred to here, was the headmaster of Eton, and was forced to resign after stating that peace terms should be generous towards the Germans.

30 March 1916

Bubs off too early for us to go up. 9.5 at Charing X. Most disappointing!… Bubs leaving for 7 months in France with 5 other pro’s… Had wire from Bubs, sleeping day, Folkestone that night…

Liner sank. Over 100 drowned. German submarine crew looked on & jeered!!

Dr Lyttelton’s sermon much criticized.

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

“I hope before you get this that the relief of Kut will be history!”

A soldier friend of Ralph Glyn’s had been asked to tracks down where Ralph’s fallen cousin Ivar might be buried in Mesopotamia.

HQ
13th Div
30/3/16

My dear Glyn

So far I have been able to find out nothing about Ivar Campbell’s burial place but I have only been up country (Staint Saud) a few days and will do all I can to find out.

I have written to one Macrae in the Seaforth Highlanders who got a DSO on 7th Jan and he may be able to put me on the track.

I hope before you get this that the relief of Kut will be history! I may not say more as every letter is censored but where you are you probably know officially sooner than I can give you private news.

Not too hot yet but stoking up.

Yours ever
Douglas Brownrigg

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/20)

A single cabbage helps the war

Sulhamstead people were supporting the war effort in their vegetable gardens, while rejoicing in good news of local soldiers.

THE WAR
Lieutenant H. A. Grimshaw has been mentioned in Sir John French’s despatches. This makes the second time that he has been so honoured. He has also been awarded the additional honour of the Military Cross.

It is with great thankfulness that the news has been received that Lieutenant Albert Marsh, RNR, of the “Tera”, sunk in the Mediterranean Sea, is safe, although held a prisoner.

ROLL OF HONOUR
George Derring, second footman at Folley [sic] Farm when the war broke out, was killed by the bursting of a shell at the Front in France.

VEGETABLES FOR THE SOLDIERS’ HOSPITALS
It is a bad time of the year for vegetables, but the Boy Scouts are trying to send a hamper to Reading every week. If any have got vegetables they would like to give to the hospitals, and would send them to the School on Mondays, or leave word at the School in the previous week, a Scout would fetch them. The hamper goes on Tuesdays. A single cabbage, half a dozen potatoes, etc, soon swell the contents.

THE LIGHTING ORDER
This order will not affect our Lower End Service as the room is furnished with dark green curtains, but it will prevent services being held on week days in Lent in the Church or School, and accordingly special meetings will be held in the large room at the Rectory on Thursdays at 7 pm.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, March 1916 (D/EX725/3)

An attack of home-sickness

Reading men at the front were homesick.

Park Church and Institute
War Time Chat

Mr Jordan, our caretaker, is now out at the front in France, and in his correspondence mentions an attack of home-sickness. This seems a common complaint out there. Rupert Harris, I believe, and others have been down with it too. Friends please note that letters from the home folk are the best way to alleviate the suffering and in time to cure the malady. Gilbert and Leslie Smith are also out in France, being in the same place as Mr Jordan, and probably in the same plight.

Park Church section of Trinity Congregational Church magazine, March 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

Intolerant militarism is “alien to the British tradition of fairplay, freedom of speech and conscience”

Leftwingers in Reading took an interest in a case involving a teacher who was publicly criticised as unpatriotic by his headmaster for expressing his conscientious objection to war.

Reading & District Trades & Labour Council
19, Hagley Road, Reading

29/3/16

Dear Sir,

I am desired by the members of the above Council to call your attention to a letter appearing in the local press of Saturday, March 25th last, from the Headmaster of Reading School in which one of his subordinates is publicly castigated.

The members passed the following resolution unanimously and we desire that the same may be brought to the notice of the Education Committee.

Resolution
The Reading and District Trades and Labour Council expresses its strong disapproval of the action of the Headmaster of Reading School in casting opprobrium upon one of his subordinates in the public press because of his courage in taking the opportunity the Military Act gives to him of stating his conscientious objection to War. Such conduct, the Council considers most cowardly, alien to the British tradition of fairplay, freedom of speech and conscience, subversive of discipline in the school and calculated to instil into the pupils the spirit of intolerant militarism.

Yours faithfully

H Sanderson
Secretary


Letter to the Clerk to the Governors of Reading School (SCH3/5/50)

Lost in the desert

Lady Mary Glyn was anxious but optimistic as she wrote to her son in Egypt:

March 28th

I long for news of the naval fight…

I know how oppressive it must be for you there in the desert where the individual seems so lost, and the day merged in aeons of a dead world & civilization, but Gordon’s triumph in the Sudan now supplying all the needs of a new time, and all you have done to keep out the Turk will act as inspiration…

I do not love the thought of French Front. Though if you are sent there I know you will be in the House of Defence set very high – as you are now…

My own darling blessing
Own Mur

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)

The army clears fallen trees in Bisham

The Vansittart Neales had a farewell visit from daughter Bubbles before she went to nurse in France. Meanwhile damage on the estate was repaired by local troops.

28 March 1916
H[enry] to Maidenhead. Bubs came back in motor. Heard soon after she came that they were to start Thursday, so the Matron let her stay here till Weds evening.

Estate memorandum book
28th March 1916
Abbey & Grange

A violent blizzard took place – doing much damage to trees. We must have lost 150 or so. The big elm in the old orchard was blown down and 8 other large trees in the Warren & grounds – no one was injured. The Engineers at Marlow helped considerably in clearing roads & paths.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2)

Lord Harmsworth “stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers”

A female friend wrote to Ralph with her views on the domestic political position and the trashier end of the press. Their mutual acquaintance Major General Sir Cecil Bingham (1861-1934) had commanded the Cavalry Corps in France until it was dismantled in March 1916 and he was brought back to England.

26 St James’ Place
SW
28th March 1916

Dearest Ralph

I love getting your letters, and in imagination have written to you every week at least! But I admit my imagination occasionally is like the Yellow Man’s, so perhaps you have not received them quite regularly!! I miss you very much. I wish you were still on your old jobs in France, and popping home occasionally so that I could see you. Is there no chance of your getting home soon?

There is really very little news from home. We have passed a most uneventful spring, if the villainously cold weather of the last two months can be called spring!…

I think the Government is very rocky, and I should not be surprised if there is a split any day now over this Compulsion business. Squith [sic] has carted Eddie Derby, as he has carted everybody else. No truthful straightforward man is a match for that wily old fox. I am very glad that Carson has come back to the House during the last two days. I am sure he is the only man to form a Government if Squith does have to go. I expect they will be obliged to bring in a Compulsion Bill all round, in which case McKenna and Runciman for sure, and various others probably, will go. It is a pity you are not home, you would revel in it all.

Harmsworth has behaved quite abominably, stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers, and at the same time trying to humbug in a dignified manner with the “Times”. It really makes one quite sick.

Military matters have been very quiet and I have heard of no rows or rumpuses. Georgie writes quite happily from billets. They had a bad time in the trenches about a month ago, but he fortunately came through it quite all right. I think what he has felt most has been the cold. He is delighted to think that the worst of this is over now.

It was bad luck for Cis Bingham losing his command, wasn’t it? He says he would not have minded so much if he could have only had one slap at the Boches with his mounted Army, but it was not to be, and now they are all split up and he is sadly at home doing nothing…

I have seen nothing of Meg for some time. I think she has been paying a prolonged visit to your parents at Peter. She will have to break out badly when she returns to London as a reaction!

I tried to let your flat for you to a lady, but she did not think it would quite meet all the necessities of her wardrobe, a nail behind the door being all that I could suggest to hang up her numerous garments. But surely now everything in Egypt has quietened down you will agitate to come home? I can’t imagine your restless spirit being content to slumber away the hours with the old Mummies and Rameseses.

The Boches are getting unpleasantly active in sinking our merchant ships, and I can’t help thinking the Authorities are getting anxious about it. If only America could be gingered up to seize all the German ships in their ports, it would help us quite enormously, as tonnage is getting very short, and daily now the Government are prohibiting fresh imports. There is no doubt about it that very soon we shall be distinctly uncomfortable, which will be a horrid crow for the old Boches.

I heard rather a nice story – which you mustn’t tell at Peter. A man appeared before a Tribunal for Exemption from Service saying “I am a soldier of the Lord!. “You are a hell of a long long way from your Barracks then” – said a voice in the background.

Goodbye dear Ralph. I wish you weren’t so far away. Take great care of yourself & come home soon.

Best love from
Edith

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/19)

Cigarettes and cakes for wounded soldiers

The people of Earley continued to support entertainment for wounded soldiers, complete with food and smoking sessions.

EARLEY WOUNDED SOLDIERS’ ENTERTAINMENT FUND

Since my report of 28th February, two more Entertainments have been given, and as they have been on similar lines, there is no need for me to occupy space regarding same, except to say that they are still very greatly appreciated by our guests. In justice to those who have so generously supported us by contributions in cash and kind, I append a list, made up to date, in continuation of that published in December last, except the Christmas Entertainment which was reported in the March Magazine. In the March Report on the position of the Fund it was subsequently found that payment had not been made, as agreed, for the use of the Hall, or for hire of conveyances; consequently it was necessary to issue a further appeal, which I am glad to report has met with a most generous response, and there will be no difficulty in continuing the Entertainments up to Easter. The Committee desire em to express their gratitude to all.

List of Donors
£ s d
Nov. 29th Cash received to date 32 4 11
Miss George 2 6
Mrs Lily 5 0
Mrs Jordan 5 0
Mr Heelas 1 0 0
Heelas, Ltd 5 0
Anon 2 6
Miss Montizambert 10 0
Mr and Miss Jordan, for prizes 1 6
Miss Maurice 10 0
Collected by Miss Eileen Joel 3 0 0
Mrs Lilly 1 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr A C Jordan 10 0
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr Jas Hissey 10 0
Mr Rogers 1 6
Mrs Lilly 2 6
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Anon 2 6
Mrs Witherington 5 0
Mrs Marshall 5 0
Ms Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0

The following since second appeal:

Mr Wooldridge 2 6
Miss Goodwin 5 0
Misses George 5 0
Mr F F Ellis 5 0
Miss Pither 5 0
Mr and Mrs Francis 5 0
Miss Schofield 1 1 0
Mr and Mrs Robb 10 0
Mrs Marshall 2 6
Mrs Evans 2 0 0
Mrs King 5 0
Mrs Lilly 4 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0

Collected by Miss Eileen Joel as follows:
Mr Watson 1 0 0
Miss Eileen Joel 6 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Mlle Weill 10 0
Master Stanhope Joel 5 0
Master Dudley Joel 5 0
Mr Collins 5 0
Miss Dellow 2 6
Miss Goodfellow 2 6
Stud Groom 3 0
Miss Lovegrove 2 6
Miss Eyles 2 0
3 13 6

Mr E Shaw 10 0
Capt. Wheble 2 0 0
Mr Rushbrooke 1 1 0
Mrs Witherington 5 0
The Misses Hannaford 10 0
The Misses Beauchamp 10 0
Mr and Mrs S O Bastow 5 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0
Mrs Wilkinson 2 6
Miss May 5 0
Anon 2 6
Rev. Canon and Mrs Fowler 1 0 0

Total to date 57 13 11

Loan of motors since last report: Mrs Joel, Mr Barnard, Mr Heelas, Mr Richard Lea, Mr Helps, Mr Bonnett, Mrs Dunlop.

GIFTS IN KIND

Mrs Honey, Mr B Francis, Mr Hedington, Mr Culham, Miss Dellow, Mrs Masser, Miss Carlsson, cigarettes; Mrs Robb, cigarettes and cake; Mlle Weill, prizes and cigars; Miss Lea, cakes; Mrs Bright, cakes; Mr A C Jordan, sweets; Mrs Ballard, cake, bread and butter; Mrs Porter, cakes; Miss Pither, apples; Mr Harris, bread; The Misses Hannaford, cakes, Mrs Friedlander, apples; Mrs Dracup, prizes; Miss Carlsson, sugar and tea; Miss Wain, prizes; Mr and Mrs Masser, oranges.

NB – The Hon. Secretary, Mr Love, 55 Wokingham Road, would be obliged by a note of intended gifts in kind at least one day before an Entertainment, so as to avoid ordering similar provisions. Next Entertainment, Wednesday, April 5th.

Chas J Howlett,
Hon Treasurer
27th March, 1916

Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/4)

“All the poor Serbs died like flies”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph with news of an escaped British prisoner of war’s horrific experiences.

March 27/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Thank you for yours of 16th. It must be very boring for you with so little doing. You must all feel very like sea-weed left high & dry after a gale! Still you never know. Things in France seem settling down again rather. It’s a comfort anyhow to think the Hun cannot re-make all the men they’ve just thrown away anyhow. Beeky Smith writes a most amusing account of the French in their part of the line. He says they all look about 70 & wander about with brown paper parcels in their hands, presumably food, & generally a bottle of wine sticking out somewhere, & they never appear to carry any weapon or equipment whatever!

The last excitement here is a private just escaped from prison in Germany. Taken (wounded) Sep. 14, 1914. He gives the most gastly [sic] account of things. They think he’s truthful as he’s so shy it’s a job to make him talk so he’s not likely to invent. Like them all he says the journey after being taken was the worst time, & always it was the officers who either ordered or if need be personally ill-treated the prisoners. He was in 3 prisons, & twice before tried to escape. He says it’s fairly easy for men to escape really, but practically impossible for officers, they are so terrifically guarded. He finally got away with two Frenchmen – acrobats. They went through what was supposed to be impassable swamp land swimming two rivers, & so into Holland, where the Dutch were awfully good to them & did all they could & apparently loathe the Huns.

He had various punishments various times for trying to escape & also because he refused to work in munition factories – one punishment they call sun punishment in the summer is to stand a man 12 hours to attention with cap off facing the sun. The idea being to blind the man. Prison imprisonment [sic] means solitary confinement in total darkness. He had one go 4 days in the dark & one in the light & then 4 days dark & so on. Prison food is a piece of bread 3 inches square per day, & water.

He says our men live solely on parcels from home. The camp food is impossible, but as this man fairly says, it’s not any worse than the German soldiers guarding them had, & at all times Germans eat worse food than us. He says when he first went to Hun-land there were men & women to be seen everywhere, now every place is deserted – the men to fight & the women doing the men’s work. For 5 days & nights they had no food or drink when they were 1st taken. Apparently they all loathe & distrust the Belgian prisoners. All the poor Serbs died like flies when they arrived as they had been starved, absolutely to death, during the journey to the camps.

There is much more but it’s the same as all these men say & no doubt you’ve heard it all before. One amusing thing is that when our men work on the land as they have to, they do everything they can to foil the show. Plant things upside down etc!!…

Your ever loving Maysie

It was angelic of you sending that letter off to that man in hospital.

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

No return home

Will Spencer’s German wife was disappointed that she was not allowed to return to visit her family. German women who married foreigners were automatically deprived of their citizenship, so Johanna was now counted as an enemy alien in her own homeland.

26 March 1916
This morning Johanna received a letter from the German consul in Berne, informing her that her request to travel into Germany could not be granted. A pity for Johanna, still more for [her sister] Agnes’ sake.

Diary of Will Spencer of Cookham, exile in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

90 noncombatant lives lost

Florence Vansittart Neale noted the loss of a British civilian vessel carrying passengers from several neutral countries. The dead included a member of the Persian royal family.

26 March 1916
“Sussex” torpedoed in Channel. Nearly 90 lives lost.

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