“One of the men had his legs nearly blown off”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall but still had the war forced on him.

William Hallam
20th July 1918

This morning just after breakfast a merchantman’s crew were landed at St. Ives. About 20 Chinese and four English officers. One of the men had his legs nearly blown off and he was taken to Penange hospital. We heard 2 vessels had been sunk about 7 miles off. Stormy again.

Florence Vansittart Neale
20 July 1918

Heard Tzar really shot on 16th. Poor man.

More strikes threatened in Coventry &c. Hope they will come round!!

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

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Bad sanitary conditions

Hygiene was not always ideal, with the inevitable results.

Saturday 20 July 1918

When I got up today I found that I was suffering very uncomfortable things from my tummy. Probably it is the water or perhaps the plague of flies or a combination of both, helped considerably by foetid pools of water, the ubiquitous French Muck heap always in the front garden (!) & the bad sanitary conditions.

Morning parades fairly easy although the march rather tried me. After tea I concluded the day’s performance by being violently sick & having other troubles. I had only a couple of cups of tea today and a slice of bread & butter so that I went to be feeling very cheap! Maddison, Knights & Nixon to dinner.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Good news from France

Florence Vansittart Neale was cheered by the latest war news.

19 July 1918

Read Times.

Good news from France – by counter attack French & Americans retook 8 miles & 5000 prisoners.

Bread to be white soon. No more land to be ploughed up at present.

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

“News came that we were to train in billets as the French were very windy about air raids”

Sydney Spencer, who oped to train for the Anglican priesthood, disapproved of vulgar songs.

Thursday 18 July 1918

Got up fairly early. News came that we were to train in billets as the French were very windy about air raids. This we did & gave my platoon a talk about maps & did musketry & gas drill in the billet. The men were very pleased with the talk about maps.

After lunch little or nothing doing. I helped Plant with his Battalion dinner for tonight. It was not very successful, I thought. I hate big messes. There were 33 of us there. I rather deplored the songs which were sung after dinner.

I walked home with Kemp & Sergeant told us great news of a big French victory. Some 20,000 prisoners & 300 guns in all, south of us.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

Whole of Russian royal family murdered

The initial news had been of the Czar’s murder but now it was known to be the whole family.

17 July 1918
Whole of Russian royal family murdered at Ekaterinberg by Bolshevists!

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

“A torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall, but couldn’t escape the war.

William Hallam
16th July 1918

It was wet until dinner time then cleared and was a beautiful day. We had crabs for tea. This afternoon I took that book – rather big for a guide and went round identifying some of the old houses. The quaintest town – the old part – I was ever in but clean even in the lowest streets.

On the pier to-night we saw 2 merchant vessels come in for safety from the submarines and 3 chasers and then a torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 July 1918

Phyllis quite happy at 4 London General!…

Tzar shot by Bolshevists at Ekaterinberg.

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

A good example of a good defensive position

Sydney Spencer and his men practiced tactics before meeting the locals.

Tuesday 16 July 1918

All the servants were very late this morning & we were not called until 7.55. It meant a rush! At nine on parade. Did a good morning’s work consisting of platoon drill, a very thorough inspection, I took the rifle bombers in cup discharge work, then we did a scheme from 11-1. Hervey took out his platoon to a hill with trenches. Kemp attacked. I was in reserve. A good example of how [sic] a good defensive position.

After lunch censored letters. Then went down to Kemp’s billet & played on an atrocious piano. A mademoiselle charmante [charming young lady] spoke pretty broken English, & prettier French. Madame gave me some flowers. Spent a pleasant evening – a really decent one. Acted as interpreter for a photographer who took our drums. The village crier, a pale looking youth with plaintive voice demanded after beating his drum that we should declare the boites de foin [haystacks] gathered in during the [illegible] in the morning.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

A horrible plague of flies

Sydney Spencer was busy preparing for a return to the trenches.

Monday 15 July 1918

Flies – a scourge of them – woke me up at 5 am & gave me beaucoup d’ennui until 7.30. On parade by 9 am. Had a platoon inspection which lasted an hour. PT for ½ an hour, then got new SBRs, anti [dumming?] composition etc. Had a talk about men’s rations etc. [Illegible] cleared up. Arranged for hair cutting. Got shoulder [illegible], water bottles covered etc, caps changed etc ad infinitum!

Returned to billet. Mended breeches. Got my surplus kit ready to send to Florence. Saw the men’s dinners which were really bad today. We had lots of difficulties in getting water for cooking. Sanitary arrangements in village filthy. Result a horrible plague of flies. The French here seem pleased with us & treat us more courteously than those further north.

Looked round my platoon in afternoon & rested most of evening. There was a fear of our being turned out by N. Hants but this did not come off.


Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

A city of silence

Sydney Spencer was cautious about revealing place names in his diary in case of capture by the enemy, but it is clear that he was now at Arras, whose cathedral was severely damaged by German bombs.

Sunday 14 July 1918

Got up at 6.15. Breakfast 6.45. Am orderly officer today. We move at 9. Parade at 8.30. Marched off at 9. Got to busses [sic] (carrying 23 & 2 drivers) & embussed at 11.20 on RVS Road. Started at 11.35…

12.45 A..s a ruined city from the point of view of inhabitants. A fine cathedral. A city of silence. Left A-s at 1.15. D-y at 1.20. Now lying on road between D & St- awaiting orders. It is now 4.15 pm.

Got into village of “Holy Refuge” at 5.30. Saw men into billets. Found officers’ mess no. 38 ‘La Route de Paris’. Dawkins & I found a bed at no. 39. Mounted guard at 7 pm. Conference at 7.30 pm. Had dinner at 8.15. Saw staff parade at 9.30.

Lights out at 10. Turned guard out at 10.45, & then to bed. Had a bed to sleep on but flies were a great nuisance. Dawkins & I in same bed.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

The Germans make some progress in parts

Florence Vansittart Neale anxiously monitored the war news.

14 July 1918

Germans begun their offensive – some progress in parts. Aim for Epernay & Reims – but not at all wholly successful. Americans helping French.

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

“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

Our manifold necessities in the Great War

The Bishop’s Message

The following extracts are from the bishop’s message in the July Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For the supply of our manifold necessities in the Great War.

For all the great sufferers in body, mind and estate.

For Russia and the Russian Church.

For Serbia and the Serbian Students among us.

For Ireland.

Earley St Peter parish magazine (D/P191/28A/25)

Beaucoup wound up about a move

There was tension in the air when expecting a move to the front line.

Saturday 13 July 1918

Beaucoup wound up about a move but nothing had happened yet. 10.45 am. We are now wearing SBRs for an hour. After lunch we had a good rest. I read & lay down for a time but did not sleep.

After tea a conference. I went down to my platoon & arranged things for tomorrow. Trench stores etc. I then went to church for ½ an hour. I am so grateful to the Roman Catholic Church for at least supplying a form of service in which I can take part without feeling that I am not wanted.

Ferrier came into dinner. After dinner packed & to bed at 10. Talked with Kemp about Catholicism until 11.15 & then to sleep.

Saw an old French man with blue trousers & a drum, who stood at street corners & after performing on his drum gave out much important mayoral news to the villagers.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Our hearty good-will and our deep sense of all that France has and is suffering for the cause of freedom and the Allies

Bastille Day, the French national day, is actually on 14 July, commemorating the fall of the Bastille and start of the French Revolution. Berkshire schools clearly had a rather vague grasp of French history, but cannot be faulted for their admiration for our ally.

Aldworth
July 12th 1918

On Friday afternoon, being France’s National Day, the children were addressed by the Vicar, the French Flag saluted and the Marseillaise sung – the following letter was also sent to the President of the French Republic:

Aldworth Vicarage
Reading
England

July 12th 1918

Dear Mr President,

The inhabitants of Aldworth wish to take the opportunity, which France’s National Day affords, to express to you our hearty good-will and our deep sense of all that France has and is suffering for the cause of freedom and the Allies.

We also take this opportunity to assure you that we are determined that the war shall at length, at whatever cost, be waged to a victorious issue.

Believe us to be, dear Mr President, your most devoted Allies.

(signed) A. L Watson, Vicar of Aldworth, Chairman of the Parish Council

Coleshill
12th July 1918

At noon to-day the children first saluted ‘The French Flag’ and then our ‘Union Jack’ in the playground. After this they sang ‘the Marseillaise’ and our own National Anthem, this being ‘France’s Day’.

Aldermaston
12th July 1918.

Pamphlets have been sent by the local War Aims committee to be given to the children today to commemorate France’s Day July 14th. The Head Teacher will give a short explanation of the subject to the school.

Hinton Waldrist
July 12th 1918

France’s Day. Children assembled in playground at 1.30. An address given by Capt: J. Loder Symonds. The French Flag and Union Jack saluted. The Marseillaise and God Save the King sung.


Log books: Aldworth School (C/EL54/3); Coleshill CE School (D/P40/28/5); Aldermaston School (88/SCH/3/3); Hinton Waldrist C of E Schoolk (C/EL84/2)

The wounded soldiers of France

1918 July 12th

France’s National Day celebrated. Lady Faringdon & Miss Gillett visited the school and joined in celebrating the occasion. The children sang the “Marseillaise”, “O God, our Help in Ages Past” and our own National Anthem.

Badges were distributed and a collection made amounting to £2 18s 5d for the wounded soldiers of France.

Buscot CE School log book (C/EL73/2)