The best return that can be made to those who have fought for us

Earley adults were urged to follow the thrifty patriotism of teenage girls.

Our Girls’ Club have contributed no less a sum than £305 in the War Savings Fund. A letter to the Journal of the War Savings Committee contains a strong appeal to those who are saving nothing. The best return that can be made to those who have fought for us on their return, will be the greeting that we at home have been careful, saving, and have put by something out of our earnings for them. How can we meet them if in return for the hardships they have borne we have been spending money thoughtlessly and carelessly? A War savings certificate is in reach of us all.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)


“Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad”

Will Spencer heard from soldier brother Horace, who offered a pleasant view of army life, and from the wife of another soldier brother, Natalie.

19 March 1918

When I got back, Johanna asked me if it was my birthday. Letters from Natalie & from Horace, & a parcel [and letter from a Swiss friend]…

Reading the [three] letters to Johanna, with running comments, after dinner, was quite a long proceeding, as Natalie’s letter was one of 8 large pages!.

Horace writes to me,

“Perhaps you are sometimes pained at the conjectured hardships that we have to undergo, so I will try to relieve your mind on that point. Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad, there are kind words and deeds exchanged at all times, & so the atmosphere is pleasant. He has heard concerts & lectures, visited 6 cathedral towns in France, has learned to play chess, & read – amongst other books – Holmes’ Life of Mozart….

Natalie writes that Harold “had a rotten [underlined] time one way & another, tho’ now his lines seem to have fallen into pleasanter places”.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

The duties of children during these strenuous times

Bradfield children were subjected to a lecture on the war.

Bradfield CE School
March 8th 1918

Mr E Forster of Newbury addressed the children on the War, its causes, progress etc. and the duties of children during these strenuous times. He also spoke upon the subject of War Savings Certificates.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School
8th March 1918

School closed for teachers to assist with Food forms.

St Peter’s CE School, Earley
8th March 1918

Owing to her husband being home on leave from the Front, Mrs Webb, Assistant in the Infants’ Room, has been absent since Tuesday – Miss Hatch has been in entire charge of the Infants.

Log books of Bradfield CE School (D/P22/28/2, p. 196); Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School (90/SCH/5/3, p. 41); St Peter’s CE School, Earley (SCH36/8/3)

“Camp life makes them familiar”

Thousands of civilians from interned countries were housed at a camp at Holzminden in Germany throughout the war. Ernest Delfosse, a 32 year old motor mechanic from Belgium, 5 foot 6 ½ inches, with brown hair, was among the inmates there, until he escaped to England with the help of his sweetheart. Sadly, this did not mean freedom, as he was arrested on arrival as a suspected spy. He was transferred to Reading from Brixton Prison on 5 February 1917. He was classified as a Friendly Alien but stayed at Reading and was eventually deported in 1919.

HM Place of Internment

6th March 1918


With reference to your letter … dated 5th March 18 on the subject of correspondence between the interned alien E. Delfosse and Mrs E Owen, 54 New Compton St, London EC.

The first letter received from Mrs Owen by Delfosse was dated 22.12.17. This was sent to the Commissioners and I drew special attention to it, giving such information as I was able. It was passed.

Prisoner replied on Jany 5th 1918 – submitted & passed. A second letter was received on 12th January 1918 – submitted and passed. Both these letters are attached to this [though not to the letter book copy]. Please send them back as prisoner does not know they have been forwarded to the Home Office.

Prisoner’s reply to the last letter is the subject of the Home Office letter.

The history of the prisoner’s acquaintance with this woman appears to be:

He was interned at Holzminden, a camp of about 24,000. Men and women were allowed to mix for the purpose of visiting restaurants and cinemas in the grounds. He struck up friendship with this woman – also interned – [he] believes for trafficking in letters – but not sure. The majority of the women were interned for that reason. She stated she was a Russian. (I cross-examined Delfosse, who admitted that she might be a German Pole). He cannot (or will not) remember her name – always called her by her Christian name of Emmy. Camp life makes them familiar. She could speak no English and but little French – he could not speak Russian. Conversation carried on in German, in which both were fluent. Does not know if she was then married – thinks not – her maiden name could be obtained from his note book, black, 9” x 4” (about), taken from him by police at Gravesend 20th Oct 1916 (plain clothes man).

On 7th Oct: 1916 Delfosse escaped from Holzminden, “Emmy” keeping the sentry in conversation while Delfosse got away.

Heard nothing more of her until the letter dated 22.12.17. Does not know how she escaped.

Learns she is married to a Canadian officer. Does not know him. She wants to come & see him. Would like to see her.

I think that is all the information I have obtained.

I am Sir
Your obedient servant

C M Morgan

The Under Secretary of State
Home Office

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Desperate smoker “will pay for it all tenfold after the war”

A nicotine addict interned in Reading Prison was desperate for his English friends to send him supplies.

March 5th 1918
G Stichl
S of S Order 20.8.16 Internment

Letter to Miss [Hemmerle] – he wants her to get Mrs P Danes to send him another parcel as soon as possible – double or four times the quantity, as he has nothing more. Will pay for it all tenfold after the war – it is fearful when he has nothing to smoke.

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Appointed for the period of the War

Workhouse staff demanded higher pay.

26th February, 1918

An application from the Porter and Porteress for an increase in their salaries is referred to a Committee to be appointed at the next meeting who will be asked to consider also a scale of war bonuses for Officers.

A letter is read from the Local Government Board offering no objection to the temporary arrangement made by the Guardians for the nursing of the sick inmates in the Infirmary for the period of the War.

It is therefore resolved that Mrs Eliza Anna Staniland, the Matron, be appointed for the period of the War to take charge of the nursing at the Infirmary.

Minutes of Wantage Board of Guardians (G/WT1/23, p. 299)

Meat and butter tickets

As rationing began to kick in, wounded soldiers visiting Bisham Abbey for a day out considerately brought their own refreshments.

25 February 1918

Soldiers came in afternoon,bringing their tea, sugar & margarine.

Meat & butter tickets in London & Home Counties.

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

Willing to pay a substitute

A Maidenhead teacher was so desperate to spend her husband’s short leave with him, she paid the salary of her substitute.

25th February 1918

Mrs Wells wanted leave of absence for three days owing to her husband’s leave before returning to France. She was willing to pay a substitute & Mistress obtained services of Mrs Eustace of St Luke’s Rd. Notice of this leave was sent to the office.

Lower Sandhurst
February 25th 1918

Admitted 3 children from London.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 413); and Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 424)

An internee tries to join the army

Internee Rudolph Koch was admitted to Reading Prison in January 1916, aged 25. He was a lace agent born in London, but presumably of German parentage.

22nd Feby 1918
R Koch
2.10.15 S of S Order, Defence of the Realm Regulation: Internment

The above named Alien was visited yesterday by Miss Doris Thain of 56 Gladstone Avenue, Wood Green, N.

The conversation was of personal and family matters. Prisoner told his visitor he had petitioned to join the Army, but had been informed his request could not be granted.

The Commissioners

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Pigs, women’s vote & Revolution

Florence Vansittart Neale presided at the Bisham Church Mothers’ Meeting, where she led the discussion on some significant issues of the day.

22 February 1918

Last Mothers’ Meeting. Read Charlie Lucas “Call of the War” with success. Discussed pigs & piggeries & women’s vote & Revolution.

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

Hoping to establish as many new War Savings Associations as possible in the neighbourhood

Ascot and local aristocrats contributed financially.

At a War Savings Conference held at the Reading Rooms, Sunninghill, on Wednesday, February 20th, it was resolved to form a local War Savings Committee for the district to be known as “The Sunningdale and Ascot District War Savings Committee”, its chief object being to establish as many new Associations as possible in the neighbourhood, the ladies and gentlemen elected being Mr. Percy Crutchley (Chairman), Messrs. H. J. Whitehead and A.J. Merton (Hon. Secretaries), Col. Blackburn, (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs. Ninian Elliott, the Hon. Miss Gordon, Mr. E. Wolseley, Hersey Marchioness of Linlithgow, Mr. G. J. Francis, Mr. F. J. Patton, Mr. C.W. Searle, Mr. J.W. Abbott, Mrs. Trotter, Mr T.A. Woods. The Committee was given power to add to its number, and it was intimated that if Sunningdale cared to join up with this Committee the inclusion of this parish would be cordially welcomed.

The Ascot War Savings Association has just completed one year’s working. The total number of certificates sold during that time being nearly 1000.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

Wounded soldiers in a farce

Struan House in Maitland Road, Reading, was one of the big houses used as hospitals for soldiers. Some of the walking wounded were improving well enough to take part in local life.

Short notes

We welcome Nurse Sturges back from France for a while.

We also regret to learn that Pte. W Waters has been wounded and has been sent to Base hospital. We sincerely hope the wound is a slight one. Up to the time of printing, Mrs Waters had only received a field card dictated by her husband, and characteristicly (sic) making the best of it.


The last month saw a good many of these. First in order came the annual gathering of the Mothers’ Meeting in the Parish Hall, a packed room of over 200 persons with a most excellent programme. The tea of course was dispensed with. The chief feature of the evening’s amusement was a farce entitled “Mary’s sister John” performed by wounded soldiers from Struan House Auxiliary Hospital, Lce.Corp A Snow, Pte. Kirkham, Pte. J Whyte, Pte. E P Proctor and Pte. Newman. The part of the widow was played by Pte Whyte, Lucy by Pte Proctor, Mary by Pte Newman, Septimus Liverpad by Pte. Kirkham, Jack by LceCorp Snow. The farce was extraordinarily amusing from start to finish.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

The pressure of work caused by a chaplain’s absence with the troops in France

The CSJB Sisters’ Lenten preparations were disrupted due to the army chaplaincy of one of the clergymen who normally served them.

15 February 1918
Notice was given that the Warden would not give the usual course of Lenten lectures this year owing to the pressure of work caused by the Sub-Warden’s absence with the troops in France.

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

Help with ration cards

Feb 14th and 15th 1918

Miss Birch was granted permission to go and help with Ration Cards at Town Hall.

Redlands Boys’ School log book (86/SCH/3/30, p. 333)