The pleasant mudscape

Perhaps a brother’s experiences informed this schoolgirl’s creative writing.

Dialogue Between Two German Owls, or An Elegy written in Flanders

The shrapnel shrieks the knell of parting day;
In Flanders, mud above his gouty knee,
A sapper backwards ploughs his watery way,
To mend the telephone, and have some tea.

Now sinks the pleasant mudscape from the sight,
For, from the air, a sleety drizzle drenches,
Save where a lorrie [sic], with its floundering might,
Takes touzzly [sic] Tommies back towards the trenches.

Save that, on yonder splintered stump,
A German owl doth of her lord enquire,
“What bird is that, who buzzing round our dump,
Usurps our birth-right in this black quagmire?”

“Oft did our faint hearts to those bomb-shells yield,
In burrows hiding, while the crockery broke,
For England drives her aeroplanes afield,
Often to perish, ‘neath our strafing stroke.

Let them not mock what German soil,
And lager beer, and morning hates upbore,
Soon we shall hear, with a disdainful smile
Some long and glorious lies about that corps.

The boast of daring and the pomp of power
All that the British War Office e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour,
A reckless start-off to a German grave.”

Thus spake the German, heedless of the waste
For female ears this eloquence to raise,
And, as with long-drawn screams the shrapnel raced
Around her, she could see no cause for praise.

“Can leaking urn, or animated bust
Back to its mansion drive that floating flock?
Make those propellers churn the silent dust,
Or flatten out upon a cold dull rock?”

The applause of listening generals to command,
And angry threats of martial courts to raise,
To scatter pamphlets o’er a smiling land,
Or works like these their hapless nation pays.”

Haply some hairy headed swine may say,
“Oft have we heard him at the peep of dawn
Blowing with hasty bombs our food away
To beat the Hun upon the upland lawn.”

Then sank her head upon the lap of earth,
An owl, to fortune and to fame unknown;
A sniper frowned not on her humble birth,
And, very hungry, marked her for his own.

H. MOSS, Va.

Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1919 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

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Missing since March 1918

Hope was lost at last for two Ascot men.

Mr and Mrs J. Smith received news on 8th April from the War Office, that their son, Sidney Alfred Smith, 2/4 Oxford and Bucks L.I., who has been missing since 21st March, 1918, was now reported as killed, and on the 1st May, Mr. and Mrs. Bowyer received the same news as regards to their son Harry Bowyer, 5th Berks (transferred to Oxford and Bucks L.I.) He, too had been missing since 21st March, 1918. A Memorial Service for those soldiers was held on Sunday afternoon, May 4th, which was largely attended by relatives and friends of the respective families.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, June 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11/6)

Now going to Russia

More soldiers shared their experiences back home.

May 2nd
Visit of Fred Dore and Reg. Claridge, two old boys who have seen service in Flanders, France, Italy, and are now going to Russia.

St Mary’s CE School, Speenhamland (C/EL119/3)

“I am afraid he will not stay”

Postwar wages had not kept up with price rises.

Ap 29th

Visit of Charles and Cecil Burningham who have just been demobilised, and Robert Tompkins and Leslie Booth who were demobilised some time ago.

New scale of salaries came from Office, but teachers are not very satisfied. Mr Robbins has £142.10s which he says is not enough, and I am afraid he will not stay.

St Mary’s CE School, Speenhamland (C/EL119/3)

Death has now been officially presumed

We regret to learn that the parents of Arthur Longhurst, reported missing many months ago, have been informed that his death has now been officially presumed.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11/4)

No further appeal for vegetables is necessary

Another war hospital closed its doors.

Hare Hatch Notes

Congratulations to Corporal John Milford upon his having gained the Military Medal for Gallantry in the Field.

With the closing of the V.A.D. Hospital no further appeal for supply of vegetables is necessary. We desire to thank those who sent their gifts so regularly.

A.E.C.
Wargrave parish magazine, April 1919 (D/P145/28A/31)

War was always unspeakably dreadful

A pupil at St Barthomolomew’s School imagined a future where war was unknown. It may be a creative writing exercise, but it shows the effect the war had on young people’s views of the world.

WAR.

Scene ——————– A room in a house
Time ——————— 2000 A.D.
Dramatis Personae — One sister, one small brother.

Small brother. Sissy, what does war mean? I read it in a book, something about the termination of war or something.

Sister. War, dear child, is the settlement of national quarrels by fighting.

When two or more nations had a quarrel, they used to fight each other till so many people on one side got killed or driven back, that they had to give in.

Sometimes nations just made war for greed because they thought they were stronger than their opponents, indeed this was nearly always the case.

Small brother. Please, what’s reponents?

Sister. Opponents, I said, it means enemies.

Small brother. O yes, I understand enemies; please sissy, why didn’t you say enemies if you meant enemies?

Sister. When you’re a little older, you’ll understand perhaps, but don’t fidget or I shall have to send you upstairs.

Small brother. Go on about war, sissy.

Sister. In the beginning war wasn’t quite so bad, although morally, of course, it was always unspeakably dreadful.

People used to fight hand to hand, and kill each other from quite near, with spears, long steel spikes and other weapons, then later, they shot with bows and arrows, you’ve heard of bows and arrows.

Well, everybody regarded it as a sort of game, with definite rules, particularly we English, who were always slow and stupid.

Small brother. Sissy!!

Sister.
Now don’t interrupt.

Well, people liked fighting very much really, or at any rate some did, they used to put on expensive armour and ride about on beautiful horses, and when there wasn’t a war, they went about saving fair maidens out of enchanted castles, and it was all very nice.

Everything went well, because all the countries used the same weapons, and fought in the same way, but gradually men began to invent more deadly weapons, and some of the countries invented the before their enemies knew anything about it, so of course they said it wasn’t fair and were very cross, and lots of them got killed.

Guns were invented, and other dreadful things, and people fought from a long way off. Nearly everybody fought, and they still had rules like in a game.

Things got worse and worse till the last war, that was about 1914, and then thousands of people got killed, and it was all like a very bad nightmare, men, women and children got killed and aeroplanes dropped bombs about in the town and no one was safe anywhere. After everybody had spent most of their money on the war and lost most of their sons, and had some of their houses knocked down, they got very tired of it, but it had to be finished, because a very wicked country called Germany was threatening the peace of the whole world, not that the whole world really wanted peace, mind you, because they didn’t, but they liked to think they did, and anyhow, they hated the Germans very much, and not without cause.

However, the people who were running the war for England began to see that it wasn’t a game any longer, because they didn’t get enough to each and their sons being killed; so when Germany invented clever things to kill people quicker, which weren’t allowed by the rules, they invented cleverer ones back and said nothing about it, and in the papers the people read all about the wicked things Germany was doing and thought Germany dishonourable for disobeying the rules, and some people say that the English people who were working the war for the English broke the rules first, but this isn’t certain, and anyway, the Germans were a greedy and unscrupulous people, much worse than us, though we were far from perfect, and they were beaten.

And people began to sit down and think a bit, which wasn’t often done in those days, and they came to the conclusion that war wasn’t a game any longer, and that they had better prevent its happening again, so they got together a kind of jury and they called it the League of Nations.

They talked for over a year; some said there must be no more fighting of any kind, and others said that the nature of man couldn’t exist without fighting, so they talked and talked until at last they came to a decision.

They decided to go back to the bow and arrow method, because it looked so nice and wasn’t as dangerous as the other methods, only bows, arrows and armour, were to be used, and directly anybody was wounded he would count as dead, and directly a quarter of the fighters on one side were dead, the other side would have won, and in case of any contravention of the rules, the whole world would punish the offender very severely, and since no country could ever be stronger than all the rest put together, the idea seemed practical and sound.

Well the next fight after the real war was between France and America, it was brought about by a difference of opinion as to whether Paris or New York should lead the fashions in ladies’ hats. It was, of course, a difficult problem, and the League of Nations discussed it for three months, at the end of this time there was a terrible hat strike, and women had to go about bare headed and many of them caught colds and died.

At last the League decided that France and America must figure it out.

The battle was arranged in Hyde Park, London, 100 men from Paris and 100 men from New York were chosen, the battlefield was railed around and people had to pay £20 to watch. The proceeds went to the society for stray cats.

Just before the battle began an Englishman invented an impregnable armour, so he sold the secret for a million pounds to the Paris men, and then got another million from the New York men for telling them, too.

So the first day’s fighting killed no one, and broke a lot of arrows, also it rained hard and the people who had paid £20 to come and watch were very sick about it.

On the second day someone invented an arrow which could pierce the armour, and both sides got hold of the secret, but everyone got to know of it before the battle, so they all wore double armour and again no one got killed, and still it rained, and the fighters sank up to their ankles in mud, because their armour was so heavy, and at the end of the day their friends had to pull them out with ropes.

Now this sort of thing went on for six days; each day better arrows were invented and thicker armour was worn to shield off the arrows, and as a result no one was killed and hundreds of arrows were broken, and still it rained very hard, and all the people who watched got wet and angry, and many died of chills.

And each day, the fighters sank deeper in the mud, because the ground got softer and their armour got heavier.

At last, on the seventh day, which was a Sunday, the situation seemed impossible, because the armed men knew that they couldn’t even get within range of each other; directly they stepped into Hyde Park they would get stuck, and since the rule was that each side should start at opposite ends of the park, it seemed hopeless.

However, a clever Englishman came to the rescue; he constructed two great rafts, and on these the fighters were to row out to the selected spot.

On a given signal they were to step off their rafts and fight as usual.

It cleared up a bit that day and the sun came out, so that heaps of people came to watch in boats and the stray cat’s shares went up seventy-two points.

The Lord Mayor came specially to give the signal for fighting to start.

Directly he blew the whistle the fighters stepped off the rafts, it was calculated by an American that each man weighed seven hundred pounds, anyhow they were never seen again, they sank right down through the each till they reached the centre of gravity and there they presumably remained.

So the question was never settled and everybody bought their hats in London.

Since then there have been no wars.

K.P.L.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

The expected return of Royal Berks’ men from the Front

Surviving soldiers from the Royal Berkshire Regiment returned home in triumph. Local children skipped school to see them. Some of them may have been expecting to see fathers and brothers.

10th April 1919

The expected return of Royal Berks’ men from the Front led to a fall in attendance on Monday and Tuesday.

George Palmer Boys’ School log book (89/SCH/8/1, p, 157)

The cloud which was hanging over us for the last four years has passed away

St Bartholomew’s School planned to remember the war.

Editorial.

We look back upon a time in many respects unique in the annals of the School. The cloud which was hanging over us for the last four years has passed away, and no longer are we in constant dread lest news should come of the death of one of those who went forth from among us. We have welcomed the return of many from the posts to which they were called by War, and wish that good luck may attend them in their journeyings on the paths of Peace. Those who will never return live in the memory of the School, and it is the duty of those who remain to enshrine that glorious memory in a worthy memorial which shall keep it fresh for the future generations of Newburians. Details of that Memorial Find are published elsewhere in this issue, and we would direct the special attention of our readers to this matter, which is of the highest importance to the future of the School. It would be indeed deplorable if the example of self-sacrifice set by those O.N.’s who laid down their lives were, for lack of a fitting monument, lost to those who come after them.

We are ever at the mercy of the weather in the Spring Term, and this year the football season, spoiled last term by influenza, has been rendered a complete fiasco by the inclemency of the elements, which permitted but two practice games and a single match. On the other hand, the skaters have had their fill of that weather which comes all too rarely for their wishes, and the devotees of Terpichore have been able to give themselves up more completely than ever the cult of their Muse, which is sweeping over the land as irresistibly as did the worship of Dionysus over the world of antiquity. As we write, the Fives Tournaments are in full swing, and training for the Sports is being carried on with enthusiasm; but enough of these things: shall not the results there of be chronicled in our next number?

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), April 1919 (N/D161/1/9)

Red hot with enthusiasm and ideas for reconstruction

Soldiers wanted to change life at home.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Reconstruction is the word in everybody’s mouth today, and it is most essential that we of the Brotherhood should reconstruct our society.

To reconstruct is to rebuild. The foundation of our society is sound; it is the superstructure that requires rebuilding.

We have a large number of our members back from the front, red hot with enthusiasm and ideas, and we hope to harness and put into working order the lessons they have learnt “over there” – such as fellowship and mutual help.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, April 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Peace with honour!!

The struggle continued in Russia.

6 April 1919

Hear by Lloyds Weekly, Lloyd George to return with Peace with honour!!

Sending reinforcements to Murmansk front. General Meynard there. Defeated Bolshevists.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

On leave from France

Would this soldier have to return now?

4/04/19

Mrs Smith has been absent from school – her husband on leave from France.

Log book of Joseph Henry Wilson School, Newbury (N/ES7/1)

Fine views of the War in the Holy Land

Sulhamstead people heard about the First World War in Palestine – and got to see pictures.

April

WAR SAVINGS LECTURES

A Lecture on the war will be given on Thursday, April 3rd, at 7 pm. The subject will be illustrated by lantern pictures on “The War in the Holy Land”.

The Lecture in March was not given, owing to the widespread epidemic of influenza.

May

WAR SAVINGS LECTURE

The last lecture was delivered on April 3rd. There was a good attendance, the subject was “War in the Holy Land”, and some of the views were very fine.

Sulhamstead parish magazines, April and May 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Welcoming the soldiers and sailors home to Hurst

2 April 1919

Arrangements were made for entertaining all the Hurst soldiers and sailors who have returned to their homes, in May.

Hurst WI minutes (D/EX1925/33/1/1)