Germans on the run

Florence Vansittart Neale was optimistic.

28 February 1917
News still good – taken [illegible]. Germans on the run!

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

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“Satisfied with the bright appearance of the wards”

A new hospital opened for wounded soldiers in Wargrave.

“Woodclyffe” Auxiliary Hospital, Wargrave. V.A.D. Berks, 58

The Woodclyffe Auxiliary Hospital re-opened on March 2nd, and on February 28th a most successful Pound Day was held, the various gifts filling the empty store cupboard. The Hospital and Woodclyffe Hall were open for inspection of visitors, who expressed themselves very much satisfied with the bright appearance of the wards, and the arrangements made for the comfort of the patients. There are now 50 beds.

A very clear balance sheet has been issued to subscribers showing that each occupied bed has cost 3s. 3½ d. per day, the Government Grant being 3/-. Gifts of vegetables and eggs are always most gratefully received, and flowers on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Wargrave parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

“Glad and proud that we are able to make a patriotic sacrifice”

A Reading church gave up the use of its hall for war purposes.

THE INSTITUTE

As already announced, the Royal Flying Corps have now taken over the entire control of the Institute buildings, and we as a parish may be glad and proud that we are able to make a patriotic sacrifice by surrendering it, and by what sometimes seems harder, attending with equal or greater regularity, meetings arranged elsewhere. The large Hall is still allowed to be used by the vicar for certain fixtures, but notice of these has to be given some time beforehand, and the number is limited.

Reading St. John parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

“A special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close”

A Reading teenager’s burial at the front is described.

Trinity Roll of Honour.

Two more of our “boys” are this month enrolled, one of whom, we are sorry to hear, has already made the supreme sacrifice.

John Bernard Eighteen.
Henry Thomas Eighteen (Killed).


Marsden Cooper.

It is the deepest regret that we have to record the death in action of another of our young men who have gone out from our Church. After a brief two months only at the front, Second Lieutenant Marsden Cooper has fallen in the fight for his country and the right. He was an Officer full of the highest promise, having done well in everything he attempted. Our deep sympathy goes out to Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper in their bereavement.

We print an extract from the Chaplain’s letter to his parents:

“Though he had not been here long he had impressed everyone with his constant cheerfulness and straightforwardness of his character. We laid him to rest in a little Cemetery just behind the firing line late on Saturday evening. There had been some difficulty in preparing the grave owing to a sudden and somewhat violent bombardment, but about 7.45 the news was brought to our dug-out that all was ready and we felt out way out along the communication trench and then over it to the Cemetery.

It was so dark that we could not see that we had arrived at the place until one of the pioneers spoke to us. There were seven or eight of us all told, and as we stood around the open grave we repeated the words, ‘Be thou faithful unto death, and we will give thee the crown of life,’ and ‘I am the resurrection and the life,’ and together we thank God that your boy had not counted his life dear unto himself, but had laid it down for King and Country. I may not, of course say where the grave is, but I have forwarded full particulars with map reference to the Authorities. “A small wooden cross with durable inscription has been made by the Battalion Pioneers, and was placed in position on the following day.”

The following is the appreciative testimony of the Headmaster of Reading School:

“The deceased officer was only 19 years of age, and went to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council Scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate, followed the next year by a Higher Certificate. In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a prize Cadetship.

At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at School, and he gained the position of sergeant in his cadet unit the highest position a cadet can obtain before he left the College. Not only had he considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows, but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all-round cricketer, and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket, and captain of the School. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and masters alike. Those who have watched his career for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities, feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.”

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Is there any demand for allotments?

Allotments were still relatively rare during the First World War, but they offered a way for more food to be grown at home.

A meeting was held in the Reading Room, North Street, to consider the question whether there is any demand for allotments. The Vicar, having explained how allotments may be acquired, asked those who were present to give their opinion. A discussion took place from which it appeared that owing to various reasons the demand would not be large.

The names of those requiring seed-potatoes were then received, and Messrs. Aldworth, Belcher, Douglas, Maxwell Williams and the Vicar were appointed a Committee to make the necessary application and arrangements for the delivery and distribution of the potatoes when received. There was a very good attendance at this meeting.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, February 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/2)

Binding up the wounded in No-man’s-land

A Reading soldier reports on the act of heroism which won his former vicar a medal.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER TO THE VICAR THANKING FOR THE PARISH MAGAZINE, FROM MEN ON SERVICE.

By the way I saw the Rev. T. Guy Rogers winning his honour, in fact I saw him in the trenches and No-mans-land binding up the wounded, with our Chaplain, who also won a Military Cross. The Rev. T. Guy Rogers preached the Sermon at the Church Service held on the evening before we went into action at the time when our Brigade captured the village of Lesboeufs on the 25th. I was talking to him and our Chaplain in the third German line and they asked me where most of the wounded lay in support with a gun team and they went forward. Soon afterwards we had orders to move forward and hold ground won and I saw them busy binding the wounded. It was one of the days I shall never forget.

W. HOLLOWAY.

I was at the Dardanelles through the main operation and our ship did some very good work in landing troops &c. I had the misfortune to see the Italian ship ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ blown up. It was a terrible sight and it made us quite nervy for a week or so . But I am proud to say that our ships did all that was possible in the work of rescue.

L.O. STAGG, A.B.

CARE AND COMFORTS

The following have been sent from the Working Party: 5 pillow slips, 6 shirts, 30 locker cloths, 35 limb bandages, 18 bags; total, with those already acknowledged, 1,940.

Donations have been received as follows:

Senior members of St John’s and St Stephen’s Choir, balance of Outing Fund £3.17.11

Miss K C Lovejoy £1

Anon 10s

Mrs Dimbleby 5s

Reading St. John parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

Germans sink neutral ships

Another German war crime resulted in an attack on Dutch vessels.

25 February 1917
German submarines sunk 7 Dutch steamers which sailed from Falmouth!! Crews saved.

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

“It is nice to think that our friends at home are always thinking of us out here”

There was sad news for some Winkfield families.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING

It is with very great regret that we have to record the death in action of Lance Corporal Edward Thurmer, Royal Berks Regt. Deep sympathy is felt for his parents who have now lost two sons in this war. A memorial service was held on January 14th.

L.M. Donald Thurmer, R.N. Air Service, has had an accident and has been for some time in hospital at Mudros, but we are glad to hear that he is now nearly recovered.

Pte. William Burt who has been in hospital in France suffering from nephritis and “trench feet” has, we are glad to say, recovered sufficiently to be brought to England and is now in hospital in Aldershot.

Pte. Fred Johnson has just joined the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Berks. Regt.

Mrs. Maynard has received many letters of thanks for their Christmas presents from our men. All seemed pleased with them, and especially appreciate the fact that they were not forgotten at Christmas, and the tenor of most of their letters is summed up in this quotation from one of them, –

“It is nice to think that our friends at home are always thinking of us out here.”

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, February 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/2)

Restriction of imports

Florence Vansittart Neale was concerned about upcoming shortages of foods and other goods.

24 February 1917
Lloyd George’s speech on restriction of imports in consequence of submarine menace – all willing to be restricted.

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

“I think we must be winning”

Stanley Spencer missed the art world while serving as a medical orderly. The Raverats were French artist Jacques and his English wife Gwen, also an artist, and the grand daughter of Charles Darwin, who had been a fellow-student of Stanley and his brother Gilbert at the Slade. Their daughter Elisabeth was born in 1916.

Feb. 24th, 1917.

Dear Florence,

I do not know how many letters I owe you, but I will do my best. I got the Lond. Univ. Coll. Pro Patria and Union Magazine to-day which contained a lot of real interesting news about a lot of my old Slade friends.

I am aching and aching for a good book to read. Of course the boys have a few cheap novels, but I would rather waste my life away than read a sentence from one of these ‘books’.

Do tell me all about Mrs Raverat’s baby. Oh, what would I not give to see it. When I heard about it I laughed for sheer joy, and when the chaps in the tent asked me what I was laughing at I said “I don’t know; I think we must be winning.”

The photo of J.M.I. has not come yet, but I get mails everyday just now, so I expect it will be here soon. Much love to him and to you, Flongy dear.

From your loving brother

STANLEY.

Letter from Stanley Spencer to Florence Image (D/EX801/20)

We shall never regret complying with the new restrictions

The new food restrictions were a worry in Cookham Dean, especially for the poorer who were already struggling.

The Vicar’s Letter

I expect we are all, more or less, feeling worried about the Food Regulations, not that we do not wish to do all we can do to support the Government’s arrangements at such a crisis, but the difficulty is, how to do it. In households where, as is the case with so many of you, there is never too great a supply of food, it must be most anxious work to know how best to carry out the regulations.

Let us try loyally and conscientiously to do our best: after all what is the inconvenience that we have to put up with compared with what our Allies in Belgium, France, Serbia and Roumania [sic] have had to suffer. If, as we are assured over and over again by those in authority, it is one of the ways that we can each one do our best to assure ourselves and our Allies of Victory, for which we long and pray, let us do our part as cheerfully and uncomplainingly as our brave men in their trenches and in the North Sea are doing theirs. We shall never, never regret it.

Notices

The week-day collections during Lent (apart from Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) will be given to the National Institute for the Blind, which is doing so much at the present time for those of our wounded soldiers who have alas lost their sight.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Beer and bottled water to be in short supply

Sydney Spencer underwent training in gas exposure, while Florence Vansittart Neale was shocked by the amount of items to be restricted.

Sydney Spencer of Cookham
Feb 22

I go through chlorine gas for first time (in a P.H. helmet).

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
22 February 1917

Large contingent of nurses & MOs from Cliveden. Saw everything & had tea in hall. Came at 3, left 5.30….

Good speech by E. Carson on submarine menace – very serious, but hope it will get [illegible].

Importations of timber, apples, tomatoes, raw fruits, tea, restricted, meat, paper, wines, silks, only 10,000,000 barrels of beer – spirits also restricted, aerated water and table water.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Fine clothes for wounded officers

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society had been very productive, sending masses of bandages, clothing and bedding for the uses of the wounded. Note the class-related distinctions, with officers given better quality items.

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society
Feb 22nd, 1917.

Fifteen Bales have left the Wargrave workrooms since January 5th, 1917, in answer to the requisitions of the Director General of Voluntary Organisations.

Six Bales have gone direct for the use of the troops at the Front containing:
564 pairs of Knitted Mittens
277 Knitted Mufflers
148 Knitted Helmets
226 pairs of Socks (heavy hand-knitted)
12 heavy long sleeved Cardigans
12 pair of knitted Gloves
5 dozen pieces of Soap.
And oddments of knitted Comforts.

These all went addressed to the A.M.F.O., Le Havre, France, for immediate distribution.

The other Nine Bales contained:

228 Pneumonia Jackets
308 treasure Bags
156 Long heavy operation Stockings
58 pairs of fine pyjamas for Officers
16 fine Flannel Shirts for Officers
156 Surgical Boots and Slippers
13 Pillows
24 Pillow Cases
36 Handkerchiefs
108 Knitted Washcloths
6 double-lined fine twill Flannel Dressing Gowns for Officers
8 fine flannel dressing jackets for Officers
6 pairs of soft grey flannel ward suits for Officers

Hospitals sent to:

C.O 11 General Hospital, B.E.F., France
Sister-in-Charge, 8 Ambulance Train, B.E.F., France
Military Orthopaedic Hospital, Duncane Road, Shepherd’s Bush
The Stewart Norfolk War Hospital for Officers, Thorpe, Norwich
The Matron 17 Park Lane, London (for Officers)
The Highland Casualty Clearing Station, B.E.F., France
Military Hospital, Park Hall Camp, Owestry (Urgent).

Wargrave parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Much pleasure for children and wounded soldiers

Maidenhead children entertained wounded soldiers – possibly those confined to their beds and unable to attend the more elaborate entertainments elsewhere.


21st February 1917

Some of the bigger children were taken to the Red + Hospital at 5 p.m. to give a short entertainment (of work done in school) to the soldiers. Afterwards they distributed fruit, cigarettes & eggs which had been collected in school. This small effort gave much pleasure to children and men.

Log book of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 388)

The finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area

A Reading church sponsored a place of recreation for soldiers at the front.

“Words Fail Us.”

Such are the words used on a Christmas card by the Y.M.C.A. to convey their deep gratitude to all who have helped in the erection of Huts in France and elsewhere. The words may be even more fittingly used to emphasise the desperate need for these buildings, and we rejoice in having been privileged to take part in this good work. It will be remembered that soon after our pastor’s return from France in March of last year, he announced his wish to erect a Y.M.C.A. hut, and was met by so gratifying a response from his many friends in Trinity and elsewhere that, by the end of August it was being used by our fighting men on the Western “Front.” This month, by the help of the above-mentioned Christmas card, we are able to show our readers a picture of our own hut.

It is situated La Clytte, about 4.5 miles south-west of Ypres and within three miles of the front firing-line very, very near danger. It is by the side of a road, along which is passing a continual stream of men to and from the trenches. Near by is a rest camp, into which the men are drafted after having served a certain time actually in the line. Hence our Hut, capable of accommodating from two hundred to three hundred men, meets the very real need of a large number of men actually in “the thick of it.”

The picture represents its actual appearance from outside, which resembles many other Y.M. Huts, but the interior is most beautifully and artistically decorated with about 250 coloured pictures, with the result that Mr. Holmes (Sec. Y.M.C.A. 2nd Army) pronounces it to be the finest, cosiest, and prettiest place in the whole Second Army Area. For this proud distinction we must thank its present leader, Mr Cecil Dunford, who is an artist, and so in touch with colour-printing firms. To him, too, we are indebted to him for our picture. His helpers are the Rev. Eric Farrar, son of Dean Farrar a most interesting fact and the Rev. Herbert Brown, Chaplain to the Embassy at Madrid.

At Christmas-time, our thoughts flew naturally to the men in our Hut, and Mr Harrison, anticipating our wishes, telegraphed that a sum of £20 was to be spent on festivities. It will interest all to hear what was done.

On Christmas Eve a Carol service took place, assisted by a regimental band, followed by a distribution of free gifts and cake. On Christmas Day the Hut was crowded for service at 10 a.m., and 45 men present at Holy Communion. From 12-1 a free distribution of cakes and tea was enjoyed. An afternoon concert was held, after which the men were again supplied with tea and cakes. At 6.30 p.m. a very informal concert was held, interspersed with games and amusing competitions ducking for apples bobbing in a pail of water, drawing in to the mouth a piece of toffee tied to a long string held between the teeth, pinning blindfold a moustache to the Kaiser’s portrait, etc. Free drinks and tobacco were again distributed, and after three hearty cheers for the people of Reading, the National Anthem brought a memorable day to a close.

To the men this day was a bright spot in their cheerless, dangerous life, and their enjoyment is depicted by Mr Dunford in some clever sketches one of a man straight from the line, in a tin helmet and with pack on his back, beaming happily at a steaming mug of cocoa, and murmuring “Good ‘ealth to the Y.M.”; another man, whose swelled cheek testifies to the huge mouthful of sandwich (evidently “tres bon!” in quality and quantity), wittily designated “an attach in force on the salient.” To the helpers the Christmas festivities evidently proved exhausting as shown by two laughable sketches of utter collapse, one worker clinging feebly to a post, the other being dragged along the floor to a place of rest. Yet we venture to think that even they, with us, rejoice to do something to brighten the lot of our brave boys in khaki.


Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: magazine, February 1917 (D/EX1237/1)