War production papers

It isn’t immediately clear who the Mr Attlee Florence Vansittart Neale knew was.

31 January 1917
Phyllis & I to Marlow to take new war loan. Gave papers about war production to Mr Attlee.

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

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A million sheets of notepaper

Reading St Giles Church of England Men’s Society had contributed to the well-being of soldiers at the front through the CEMS Huts.

The following letters have been received giving information concerning the Reading and Windsor C.E.M.S. Huts…

January 31st 1917

This is a large and important centre always well organized. The religious and social side of the work is everything that can be desired. We also have a tea room built in addition to the hut. This gives us more room. It is a most valuable hut being in the centre of many things: hundreds of letters are written daily, Services are not forgotten, and it is now being used by the Canadian Chaplain, the Canadian troops being quartered in that district.

Funds are now urgently required to enable the headquarters to supply the huts with the proper necessaries which is very large. The provision of stationary is a considerable matter and already the society has sent out about a million sheets of notepaper and 500,000 envelopes for the use in the forty huts in France, Flanders, Egypt, Malta, Salonika and England.

I am sure the members of S. Giles’ who contributed to the hut mentioned above will be glad to hear of its usefulness.

H.J. HINDERLEY Hon.Sec.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

Playing the piano for interned soldiers in Switzerland

Will Spencer visited two British officers interned in Switzerland as wounded PoWs.

30 January 1917

In the afternoon to Chateau d’Oex to visit Lieut. Hedges at “La Soldanelle”. Had the company of Herrn von H. & Ilanga as far as Saanen, where they were going sledging.

Found Lieut. Hedges sitting with a friend, Lieut. Gracie, who was “taken” at the same time as himself, on balcony in the sun. Had tea with them, & played Brahms op. 79, no. 2, La Fileuse, Chopin op. 10, no. 7, & Schumann Fisdur, Romanze. Back by 5.30 train.

Diary of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

Reading did well in the War Loan

Patriotic savers contributed to the war effort by putting their investments in government backed War Loans.

The War Loan meeting held in the town hall on January 30th was a great success. S. Mary’s people must have been pleased to hear their school mentioned particularly as a capital instance of how little sums grow. £126 is a goodly sum when we realize that it is the result of quite small savings. Reading altogether did well in the matter of the War Loan, raising nearly £1,500,000.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Husband ordered to the front

A teacher had time off to see her husband before he headed for the front line.

29th January 1917.

Mrs Butcher was absent today having gone to Bath to visit her husband who has been ordered to the front.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p.64)

‘The “liveliness” hereabouts not at all conducive to steady nerves’

Percy Spencer wrote from the Front to his sister Florence to thank her for her gifts.

Jan 29, 1917
Dear WF

I’m a shocking correspondent these days, but business is fairly brisk, the weather simply freezing and the “liveliness” hereabouts not at all conducive to steady nerves and letter writing.

Thanks, dear, I’ve got all the clothes I want, except perhaps one or two pairs of socks, if I have any.

Did I ever thank you for the mittens – they are fine.

And the books too – I haven’t had an opportunity yet to read them but a friend of mine who is off duty sick has been devouring them with great relish.

The other week a subaltern RE in charge of the reconstruction of our NCOs mess turned out to be the younger of the Rev Lewis’s sons…

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/11)

The spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause

Reading churchgoers were asked to contribute towards the cost of building a chapel at the closest army camp.

The Vicar’s Notes
Best greetings and blessings to all the parish for the New Year. There seem to be real signs at last of the prospect of peace. God grant that, when it comes, it may be real and lasting.

The Following Appeal comes from the Bishop of Buckingham.

Halton Camp.

With the approach of winter the problem of holding the church parade Services for this large camp has become acute. The accommodation provided by the Churches in the immediate neighbourhood, and by the Y.M.C.A. huts (which are readily lent for the purpose, and which are doing such excellent work), is quite insufficient for the purpose. With the present accommodation it would require many more parades than are possible every Sunday to take in all the troops attending Church.

It is proposed therefore to erect a large wooden building capable of holding 1,000 to 1,500 men, such has been found suitable in other large camps. The primary objective would be to make provision for the Church services during the winter, but the building would also be available for other purposes. It is estimated that the cost of such a building would be £1,000. Voluntary help would be given by qualified architects among the troops and Royal Engineers.

This is the only large camp in the Diocese of Oxford, and we feel that the Church people of the Diocese will be desirous of showing their interest in the spiritual welfare of those who are so ready to give their lives in the great cause by making by making a prompt and adequate answer to this appeal. It is most desirable that the matter should be put in hand at once, before the severe weather sets in.

The scheme has the hearty approval of the General Officer Commanding and the Bishop of Oxford and the Bishop of Buckingham.

Subscriptions will be thankfully received by the Senior Chaplain, the Rev. P.W.N. Shirley, Halton Camp, Bucks, or by the Bishop of Buckingham, Beaconsfield.

Sympathy

During the past month there has been an exceptional amount of sickness and a large number of deaths. Our deepest sympathy is given to all those who have suffered the loss of those near and dear to them. May the divine comforter bring them every consolation and support in their time of sorrow.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P96/28A/15)

“Are we down-hearted”?

A PoW writes home after two years in the hands of the enemy.

Prisoners of War.

We think it would interest our readers to see extracts from letters from one of our Prisoners of War, Private W. Simmonds, of Dedworth. Every month we send in from Clewer a small collection for the Prisoners of War Fund. This month 16/- was sent. The Boys of St. Augustine’s Home contribute largely towards it. Mrs. Buttress and Mrs. Cowie very gladly receive contributions, however small, as they all mount up. They are sent in the beginning of each month, and after reading the letter you will see how very grateful the recipients are. The parcels used to be packed weekly at the Town Hall, Windsor, but now they are sent straight from the London Depot, 4, Thurloe Place, London, S.W.

Letter from Private Simmonds, Kriegsgefangenenlager, Prisoner of War, Langensalza, Germany, Jan., 1917.

Dear Mrs. Cowie,

So pleased to have the pleasure of writing to you, to let you know that I am still in splendid health, thanks to the parcels you send me weekly, for these I think go a long way to keep our spirits up in this very trying time, but I suppose we shall have to stick to our well-known motto – “Are we down-hearted”? At present there is still the same answer amongst us, that is, “No.” But we shall be pleased when it is all finished and we can return to those who are dear to us again.

Madam, I should be very pleased if you can give any instructions as to the acknowledging of the parcels, as no name of the donor is received from the Central Prisoners of War Committee, London. It was a splendid parcel, and of course I should like for yourself to continue packing the parcel, but there we are in war time, and orders are orders, so we must abide by them for the present, but not much longer, I hope.

You say in your letter, Madam, that we must have patience, but I am afraid mine won’t last out; being here two years has tried my patience to its utmost, but still with the help of those fine parcels I have managed to pull through with flying colours. I shall certainly have to visit that War Shrine in Dedworth when I return.

And now will you kindly convey best wishes and thanks to His Worship the Mayor of Windsor, yourself, and all helpers of the Committee and all in the dear old Royal Borough and vicinity for their-never-to-be-forgotten kindness towards myself and all other unfortunate comrades of the Borough. I am sure, Madam, if you and the Mayor heard how good we all speak of you, you would be prouder than the V.C. winner. Again thanking you and all members of the Committee for their kindness,

I remain yours thankfully,

W. SIMMONDS (Private).

Clewer St Andrew parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

German prisoners say we (English) do not know what shelling is!

Food shortages were a problem for both sides, as blockades of shipping limited imports, and labourers fought rather than brining in crops. In Germany, the problem was serious enough to result in food riots.

26 January 1917

Miss Buck says her friend just from Germany says in Berlin riots 1000 killed! Will Howard says German prisoners say we (English) do not know what shelling is! (Ours so much more awful.)

No pheasants to be fed or reared.

Spirits & beer restricted.

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

War tax in Switzerland

The Swiss had introduced a new tax to cover rising costs in wartime. Expat Will Spencer made arrangements to pay it.

25 January 1917

Letter from Swiss Friedensburo for Johanna. (Have not been able to obtain any news of Max Ohler from France. Have not yet heard from England.)

Then to Steueramt in the Junkerngasse to enquire about Kriegsteuer [war tax]. I was referred to No 1 Herrengasse, the elderly clerk who gave me the direction, telling me, in an apologetic tone, that I should find the office in the cellar, but that was “only a temporary state of affairs”. As a patriotic Swiss citizen I suppose he felt that these subterranean arrangements were not quite consonant with the dignity of the state.

Arrived at No. 1 Herrengasse (one of the houses on the southern side of the Munsterplatz), I found, just inside the entrance, a carved stone stairway expected to lead to a series of gloomy dungeons, but which led in fact to a passage from which a young junior clerk summoned me into a small well-lit room overlooking the river. The house stands, of course, on the slope descending to the latter. After conducting an amateur enquiry into what my business was on his own account (in which I humoured him, not being pressed for time), the junior clerk went to speak with his chief, & returned with the news that the latter was engaged – could I call again in half an hour’s time? A welcome suggestion, as it was a freezing cold afternoon, but I acquiesced, & made use of the half hour to go & have a look at the outside of Ex-President Motta’s house in Kirchenfeld.

After my return to the “War-tax office” I found myself signing a declaration to pay 500 francs war-tax. I was expecting it to be as much, but Johanna wasn’t, so I shall speak to Herr Mosimann before paying it.

Diary of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

“A cheap and illogical effusion” and “cheeky suggestion” from the American President

Captain Austin Longland was on his way home to Radley for a spell on leave. The SS Kashmir was a P&O cargo ship which had been requisitioned to carry troops.

Jan 25th ’17

P&OSNCo
SS Kashmir

Another note to show you that I am comfortably settled, with far better accommodation than the Atlantic Transport Line gave me on my outward journey – but a fat old doctor in my cabin who looks as if he would snore. The 6 are all together on the boat, so I shall have their company for meals, tho’ their higher rank prevents me from sharing a cabin with any of them.

So, given a calm journey, we ought to have quite a nice trip, especially as I have still escaped any duties, and should now I think get right back without having to shepherd any men.

Each day this week I have taken a walk in the afternoon, and am getting to know the place a little. Should be able to how you round if ever we spend a winter in the South of France! Had hoped to get ashore for one or two small things, but once on board they won’t let us off again. If ever I come on leave again, by the way, I shall be wiser in many ways!

Marseilles is a very large place, without much character, lying at the head of the bay, its harbour guarded partly by a chain of islands where are German prisoners. ..

They would never give us any idea when we were likely to go, or I could at least have wired my address and got a letter from you. As it is there is probably one on the ship, and I shall have to travel in its company for a week or more before I see it. There may even be one or two fresh ones awaiting my return among all the relics of last year.

What a cheap and illogical effusion Wilson has put forward as his answer to our and the German terms, – with a cheeky suggestion that only such arrangements between the European powers can obtain as commend themselves to the USA.

ACL

Letter from Austin Longland of Radley (D/EX2564/1/8)

Fight in North Sea

Florence Vansittart Neale heard of a naval battle – the Battle of Dogger Bank.

24 January 1917

Fight in North Sea by Dutch coast. German ships injured & fled – we lost 1 destroyer, sunk it ourselves. 40 men lost.

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

Real signs at last of the prospect of peace

The vicar of Reading St Mary was optimistic.

The Vicar’s Notes
Best greetings and blessings to all the parish for the New Year. There seem to be real signs at last of the prospect of peace. God grant that, when it comes, it may be real and lasting.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, January 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Nice Canadian soldiers

The latest visitors to Bisham Abey were probably from the Canadian Red Cross hospital at Cliveden.

23 January 1917
Wounded came in afternoon. Such nice men – mostly Canadians.

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

“No other companion than the spit of rifle bullets”

Officer Sydney Spencer was training in musketry at home, and struggling with giving up smoking – a habit enjoyed by most of his fellow-officers. He wrote to his sister Florence to describe a typical day for him – and his cosy quarters.

Hillsboro Barracks
Sheffield

Jan 23rd 1917

My Dearest Sister

First of all let me say that my cold has entirely vanished & am feeling very well & fit & happy. Also you will be glad to know that I have really absolutely conquered my desire to smoke & have given it up. You know the Dr told me to give it up. Well I found it far easier said than done. I tried cutting myself down & when out in the slush & cold absolutely yearned & yearned for it until I was utterly miserably knuckled under & smoked! Well I got so peevish with myself for not apparently having the will power to give up smoking that I suddenly got up on my [illegible] legs & took & swore a big swear, that I would not smoke another cigarette & that is three days ago. It is such a tragedy that I can’t be writing about it. Now Madame do not laugh at me. It is a tragedy & so you would say too, of you knew what a consolation smoking had become to me. After dinner at night & everyone expands into the smoking attitude both physically & mentally, I simply groan inwardly & look with dumb longing at the fragrant cloud of tobacco coming from my neighbour’s mouth & wish & wish & wish until we rise from dinner when I escape & get something to read, or write to sweet sisters to attract my attention away. There now, what do you think of that for a model confession, and does my sweet content condone with or scold her brer Sydney?

One has a very full day out on snowcapped Derbyshire hills, lately with no other companion than the spit of rifle bullets (we are firing a G. Musketry course & I have 28 men at my firing points) & numbers of grouse. Programme for day: Rise 6.30, Breakfast 7. [Tram] 4 miles, march 4 miles. Firing course & freezing till 2.45. 4 mile march & tram 4 miles home. Evening, making up scores & filling in numerous Army Forms this & Army Forms that. Dinner 7.30. After dinner & delicious warm bath in camp bath, by my fire & snuggle in my armchair in my pyjamas when I write one letter (I am becoming a model letter writer once more), read a little – Black Tulip of Dumas at present, just read ‘Dead Souls’ by Gogol, & Pendennis – Thackeray – & then bed.

I have been much in luck lately. My bare room has become adorned with a large square carpet & a cushioned basketchair. Both from billiard room of mess which has been furnished with Billiard Table & so has no need of carpet & chair. Mother mine is sending me some of my photos of my friends to hang on my walls & that will make them a little less bare than they are at present.

[Letter ends here]

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/8/2/8)