German officers in Maidenhead

The Vansittart Neales were involved in efforts to keep farming going in war conditions.

31 May 1917

Henry & I had to go to Maidenhead for meetings – he agricultural, I women on land….

Saw several German officers – prisoners.

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

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“So long since they have had any news”

Reading-born Albert Cusden, interned in German camp Ruhleben, wrote to his young sister. He and his brothers were anxious because the post seemed to be disrupted.

May 31st 1917

Dear Ruby

Your & Mother’s letters of April 15th & 20th recently received. This morning I sent off 5 drawings which I should be glad if you would kindly put by with the rest… I do not think we shall be able to send anything else like this away after this month. Three of the sketches were head studies, one of the others showed an evening in a loft, and the other a charcoal drawing of our hot water boiler upon a winter’s evening. This month has been a very warm one, quite as warm as April was cold.

Three o’clock. Post has just arrived. Letter from Lucy to myself & from Iris to Arch, dated April 29th. It is a considerable time since any letters have been acknowledged. I do like to know whether they arrive. On the average, quite one out of my two monthly letters are sent home, apart from cards. Maybe it is owing to delay in post, most fellows are receiving letters from their relatives complaining it is so long since they have had any news…

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Miss R Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/6)

A hospital ship is sunk

Another hospital ship was sunk by the German Navy.

30 May 1917
Another hospital ship, Dover Castle, sunk in Mediterranean – all saved but 5 of crew.

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

Gifts for the good cause

Warfield women were inspired to replace gifts for the troops which had been sent to the bottom of the sea by enemy action.

On Wednesday, May 30th, the Warfield “Shower of Gifts” to Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild was held by the kind invitation of Mrs. Shard at Warfield Hall. This was a scheme to provide from home the loss of many of the overseas gifts which had been lost by the work of German torpedoes. Mrs. Shard received the gifts in the garden, and the total amounted to 407. Such a number far exceeding anything that we had anticipated. All the donors were afterwards received at tea in the dining room, including a great number of children from the School who were all armed with gifts for the good cause; after which all the gifts were then packed and sent off to the Bracknell headquarters as a gift to Queen Mary for her birthday on June 2nd, to be distributed by her among our Soldiers and Sailors.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

An extraordinary state of affairs

The vicar of Dedworth was a little miffed to be turned down for service as an army chaplain.


All Saints’, Dedworth

Since the publication of last month’s Magazine, I have heard that the Chaplain General cannot offer me a Chaplaincy. I understand that this is the fate of the majority of Priests who are recommended to the Chaplain General by their various Bishops. It seems to be an extraordinary state of affairs, however, I am sure the regular worshippers at All Saints’ will be much relieved, not because they would miss me personally, but because they would be sorry to be deprived of the usual number of Services.

Clewer parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P39/28A/9)

Enthusiasm for cooking lessons dwindles

Enthusiasm for wartime cookery lessons in Bisham had dwindled:

28 May 1917

Only 3 women came for cooking lessons on Tuesday.

Raid was on Folkestone mostly, 76 killed.

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

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Pray for God’s blessing on our cause and gallant men

Children and adults in Maidenhead were urged to pop in to the church in spare moments to pray for the troops.

War Shrine

On Whit-Sunday, May 27th, the beautiful little War Shrine presented and fixed by the St. Luke’s Branch of the C.E.M.S and one or two friends, was dedicated and unveiled by the Vicar at the Children’s Service…

It is hoped that many who pass by the Church will slip in, if but for two minutes and pray for God’s blessing on our cause and gallant men. The names of the Fallen are well and clearly written up by Mr. Habbin.

Any additions or corrections should be sent either to the Hon. Sec., Mr. E. Hazeldine, 5, College Rise, or to Mr. Habbin, 2 Fairford Road.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world”

The minister of Maidenhead Congregational Church tried to encourage members to look on the bright side of life despite all the horrors and losses of the war.

May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world. The dreadful mud in the midst of which our soldiers have been living is more congruous with the spirit of warfare than sweet grass and hawthorn buds. Many letters from the front have spoken of the start of surprise with which a lark’s song is heard over the trenches. We have all, when some sorrow is heavy upon us, felt a sort of astonishment that the sun should go on shining, and the birds twittering, and passers by smiling, as though nothing had happened. But the worst of sorrows cannot cover the whole sky. We want taking out of ourselves at times. Evils won’t bear brooding over, we only make them worse. We shall be able to bear “the strain of toil, the fret of care” better, if we make rich use of the ministry of the blossoms.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to hear that Reginald Hill is progressing, though slowly. He has had several operations, and probably must undergo two or three more. The doctors think he may have to be in bed for at least three months yet, but they hope he will make quite a good recovery.

We regret deeply to have to record that John Boyd, formerly the Caretaker of the Chapel, was killed in action on March 29th. He enlisted in the 2nd Berks. In June 1916, and was sent to France on Sept. 22nd. He was a most genial and kind-hearted man, and had a wide circle of friends among whom he was very popular. We offer our Christian sympathy to Mrs. Boyd and her family.

It is distressing too to hear that Stephen Harris is returned as “missing.” The Captain of his Company has written to Mr. and Mrs. Harris that he has made all possible inquiries and can gain no information. The best that can be hoped for is that he may be a prisoner in German hands. Robert Harris was killed in July last. May God grant His patience and consolation to the distressed parents.

Wallace Mattingly has been admitted to Sandhurst Military College for eight months’ training. G. Frampton is expecting to be called up immediately. We are glad to see Cyril Hews at home again on leave, looking in the pink of health. P.S. Eastman writes in good spirits from “somewhere in the East.”

He says, “I have not yet left for the special work for which I was sent out, but may do so any day now. In the meantime I have had quite a variety of work, until at present I find myself in the C.O.’s office. Yesterday I had a line from Frank Pigg, who is with the R.F.C in Salonica; may be one of these days I shall be able to pay him a visit.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Another old boy has given up his life for his country

There was yet more sad news for Lower Sandhurst School.

May 26th 1917
Another old boy Alfred Seaby has given up his life for his country.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 403)

Heavy raid on the south coast

A massive air raid hit the south of England, the news making waves for our own diarists.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 May 1917

H[enry] took Ag on river and brought back word heavy raid on S C woods. Lot of casualties.

William Hallam
26th May 1917

A great Air Raid on S.E. coast in to-night’s papers.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Mercifully preserved from an air raid

The Clewer-based Commnity of St John Baptist had a big convalescent home in Folkestone on the Kent coast, and also did mission work in the town. They faced the danger of an air raid in May 1917.

25 May 1917

A bad air raid took place at Folkestone in the evening. About 60 killed and many more injured. Our 3 houses, and all our Sisters, patients & workers mercifully preserved from any injury, for which special thanksgiving was made afterwards at the altar.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

An old boy dies in action

There was a sad postscript to the previous day’s celebrations at Lower Sandhurst Schoool.

May 25th 1917
Have learned to-day of the death in action of Albert Dorset, an old boy of the school.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 403)

A splendid address on Duty and Patriotism that even the tiniest could understand

Empire Day was the focus for patriotic expressions in schools across the county.

Piggott Schools, Wargrave
Empire Day

The children of the Piggott Schools celebrated Empire Day (May 24th) in right loyal fashion. They assembled at the School, and with flags flying, marched down to Church where a short service was held. The Vicar gave an appropriate address. Re-assembling on the Church Green they proceeded to the Schools and took their places round the flag pole from which the Union Jack was flying. A good number of parents and friends of the children with many of the soldiers from the hospital were waiting their return. As the boys passed the soldiers they gave them a salute in recognition of what they had done for their country.

The National Anthem was sung, and the flag saluted, and Miss. E. Sinclair gave a splendid address on Duty and Patriotism in such a way that even the tiniest could understand it. Capt. Bird proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Sinclair and hearty cheers were given in which the soldiers joined. Three Patriotic and Empire Songs were sung by the children, the Vicar called for cheers for the Teachers, and Mr. Coleby announced that Mrs. Cain had most kindly provided buns and sweets for all as they left the grounds. Hearty cheers were given her for her thoughtfulness. Cheers for the King concluded the proceedings.

Alwyn Road School, Cookham
May 24th 1917

Empire Day was celebrated today. The Headmaster addressed the children assembled in the Hall, and the National Anthem was sung. The children then went to their classrooms and ordinary lessons proceeded till 11 o’clock. Each class teacher then gave a lesson on “Empire” and kindred subjects till 11.30. This was followed by a Writing Lesson when some of the important facts were taken down.

The school assembled in the Hall again at 11.55 and after a few more remarks by the Headmaster the national Anthem was again sung and the children dismissed.

Opportunity was taken of this morning’s addresses to instil into the children’s minds the necessity of economising in the use of all food stuffs, and more especially of bread and flour.

A holiday was granted in the afternoon. (more…)

A Cross in memory of those belonging to Cookham Dean who have given their lives for their Country

Cookham Dean made some initial steps towards a parish war memorial.

The War Memorial

The principal Parochial event of the past month was the Meeting held in the Drill Hall on Thursday evening, May 24th, to consider the possibility of erecting a Village Memorial in connection with the War. Preliminary steps had been taken by the distribution of a circular throughout the Village by Mr. Edwards, the circular having been drawn up by Sir R. Melvill Beachcroft and signed by a considerable number of residents in Cookham Dean. The result of this was that the attendance at the meeting was large and thoroughly representative; apologies for absence were sent by the Vicar and Mr J.W. Stone, who were both unavoidably prevented from being present.

After considerable discussion the following resolutions were proposed and seconded, and carried unanimously:-

1) That a Cross be erected in memory of those belonging to Cookham Dean who have given their lives for their Country: that the Cross be erected on one of three sites suggested in the circular.

2) That a Committee be and is hereby appointed to give effect to the foregoing resolution, with authority to invite subscriptions; and that the Committee consist of those whose signatures were appended to the circular, dated May 1st, if willing to act, with power to add to their number, and that the question of the actual site to be selected for the Cross be determined by voting papers to be circulated by the Comnmittee.

The Singing of the National Anthem and a vote of thanks to the Chairman (Sir R. Melvill Beachcroft) brought the meeting to an end.

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