No seating room

The influx of families fleeing air raids in London had reached the point at which BerKshire schools couldn’t cope any more:

18th March 1918
Four children from London sought admission this morning. As we cannot find seating room for the children in attendance, Mistress decided that these children must wait until after Easter, as there will then be a little more room when Standard I has been transferred to Gordon Rd. School.

Log book of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 417)


A critical time

Reading churchgoers offered their prayers for the war.


For the entry of the British troops into Jericho.


For the spirit of self-sacrifice and perseverance in the nation.

For God’s blessing on Ireland at this critical time, especially on the Feast of S. Patrick (March 17th).

For the Russian people at this critical time in their history.

For all our fighting men and all suffering from the war, especially those in danger from air raids in London and on the East Coast.

For Horace Beesley, one of our altar-lads, just gone out to France as a volunteer carpenter.

For all the wounded, sick and prisoners on both sides.

For the fallen, especially Frederick Mott, Wine Place; John Hannon, Milman Road; William Mason, Stanley Street.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P98/28A/16)

The aurora borealis helps the bombers

A bright starlit night was no longer a cause for delight.

8 March 1918
Sudden air raid in London, 11 villas near St Johns Wood. Helped by stars & aurora borealis.

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

Taking refuge from the air-raids

Another family fled to the safety of Berkshire.

February 11th 1918
Admitted another boy from London whose mother is taking refuge from the air-raids.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 424)

Fallen in German East Africa

This tablet included Mrs Collins’s son, fallen in German East Africa in 1916.

5 February 1918

The Chairman informed the meeting that the Memorial Tablet to be erected to the memory of the late Mrs Collins had arrived from S Africa & was in his custody…

It was decided not to renew the insurance against hostile aircraft.

Wesley Methodist Church, Reading: trustees’ minutes (D/MS60/1A/1)

A child is killed

William Hallam was shocked by rising prices, while Florence Vansittart Neale was distressed by the latest air raid.

William Hallam
16th February

Paid 5/ for my boots being soled and heeled – could have bought nearly a new pair for this before the war.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 February 1918

Gave up golf…
Dover bombarded! 1 child killed. 2 women injured.

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

Our old German trade is going to Japan

Japan was an ally of the British during the First World War, and enjoyed an economic boom as a result.

William Hallam
1st February 1918

Down town to-night in the Woolworth Bazaar I bought two lead pencils, 1d, made in Japan. This made me think where our old German trade is going.

Florence Vansittart Neale
1 February 1918

Bad raid in Paris – several killed.

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

The Goeben has nine lives!

SMS Goeben was a German-built ship which was the Ottoman (Turkish) Navy’s flagship. It had been damaged by both mines and bombs in January 1918, but went on in service until 1950, and was not scrapped until the 1970s.

30 January 1918

Hear Goeben refloated back in Dardanelles!! It has 9 lives!

Henry long day at Maidenhead. District C 2 meetings. Food & Agricultural & National Party at 6.

Another raid but stopped on outskirts. Papers did not come till 12.

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

Many casualties as air raid shelter bombed

Air raids were continuing to take a heavy toll.

29 January 1918
Raid last night – shelters in Long Acre bombed, many casualties.

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

No raids during this moon

Florence Vansittart Neale’s husband was a senior Admiralty official – no doubt the way their married daughter might get an opportunity there.

31 December 1917

Wounded came late & had to go early for evening entertainment. Nearly all Canadians.

No raids during this moon so far.

Bubs may work at Admiralty chart room.

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

A uniform bombed to cinders

Air raids were apparently more damaging and extensive than the general public was aware of.

29 Barton Road
30 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

Are you really thinking of “some sunny place on the South Coast”. Well, but gare les obus – F’s KRR brother called at his London tailor’s on the 21st, to try on a new uniform. The tunic had been bombed to cinders in the raid three days before, and the poor tailor at work on it was in hospital! Much ghastly work, which we’re never allowed to hear of in the newspapers, is done in these raids. London is so vast that the quarters untouched have grown careless and indifferent…

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

“It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading”

Housing in Reading was in very short supply by this stage of the war. Applying for extra lodging allowance for warder Edward Hubbard, the governor wrote to the Commissioners:

It is most difficult to obtain respectable lodgings in Reading, owing to work and also the influx of people from London on account of the raids. People have their names down for many months to obtain a house.


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

All very war weary

The war was taking its toll everywhere.

22 December 1917

Air raid driven back at coast.

All very war weary. Hear stories of Germany being very short of food.

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

Air raid drill in Reading

Battle School continued to prepare for the air raids which never in fact materialised.

7th December 1917

Raid Drill was taken on Tuesday.

Dec 7th 1917

150 of the boys attended a meeting in the Girls’ Dept. The meeting was addressed by the Rev. Wickham Legg and Miss Danker. Subject was “War Savings.”

Reading: Battle Infants School log book (SCH20/8/2, p. 307); Redlands Boys’ School, Reading: log book (86/SCH/3/30, p. 330)

No liability for personal injury as the result of an enemy air raid

Who should pay for air raid losses? One men spirited employer refused to pay out under their workmen’s compensation policy for an employees killed in an air raid on his place of work.

17 November 1917

The Chairman reported that he had agreed to extend the time for the payment of £3 lent to Mrs Lake for an additional month from 27 November 1917. The action of the Chairman was approved, and the Committee decided that Mrs Lake be allowed a further two months extension to 27 January 1918.

The Chairman read the correspondence between the Treasurer, Mrs Coleman and the Government Committee, with reference to the fatal accident to Mrs Coleman’s husband in the air raid on June 13, 1917.

The Chairman stated that following the authority of the Government Committee he had authorised a payment of 12/6 per week to Mrs Coleman pending the settlement of her claim for compensation against her late husband’s employers under the Workman’s Compensation Act.

The following letter from Messrs Griffiths & Gardner was read:

Coleman deceased

Our clients Messrs R Barrett & Son Ltd in whose employ Mrs Coleman’s husband was at the time of his death owing to an enemy bomb exploding, have handed us your letter to her of the 6th instant and requested us to reply thereto.

We have advised our clients that there is no liability under the Workmen’s Compensation Act for personal injury as the result of an enemy raid. The deceased’s death did not result from personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his employment, but purely owing to the raid.

We ourselves ran the same risk in our offices, as the deceased did at Messrs Barretts.

Yours faithfully
Griffith & Gardner

The Treasurer was authorised to send a copy of the above letter to the Government Committee for their observations.

The Chairman read correspondence between the Treasurer, Mr Bowyer, Miss Smith and the Government Committee, from which it appeared that Mr W F Bowyer and Miss G I Smith claimed amounts of £3.4.3 and £1.0.1 respectively, for clothing destroyed in the air raid of July 7, 1917.

The Committee decided to recommend the claims to be paid.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)