Goodbye to an Australian

The task of hosting a colonial officer ended early for the Vansittart Neales.

17 August 1917

Our Australian officer left by 9.45.

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

Back to Australia

Bisham Abbey had two visitors. Phyllis Vansittart Neale was at home for a break from nursing, while a wounded Australian visited before being sent home.

10 August 1917

P. had long lie…

Captain Yates (DSO) came. Fractured skull. To go back to Australia.

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

An awful disappointment

Florence Vansittart Neale was disappointed that her nurse daughter could not make it home on leave as planned.

1 August 1917

Telephone from Australian officer wanting to come. Arranged to come that night – Lieut. Maxwell….

Heard Bubs leave stopped – awful disappointment!

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

“One can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable”

Florence Vansittart Neale despaired of the situation on the Russian Front, while William Hallam and his wife offered some home comforts to Australian soldiers.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 July 1917

Russia hopelessly rotten. Retreating all along.

William Hallam
29th July 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and to work. How I am getting fed up with this week and work. Home at ¼ past 1 to dinner. Our Tasmanian came in to dinner and tea with his two chums Gordon Inglis and Percy Crane from Hobart. They are certainly 3 of the nicest fellows I’ve ever met and I feel one can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable and give them a home comfort when we can. Very wet, raining hard.

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

A pathetic last letter

Florence Vansittart Neale was saddened to receive a posthumous letter from a young pilot who had been shot down a few months earlier.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 July 1917

Hear through Manchester we have brought down 11 machines. Got Reg Lownds’ last letter to me just before he was killed – very pathetic – found in blotter.

William Hallam
8th July 1917

Up at 20 past 5 and to work from 6-1. It rained hard all day long. When I got home at dinner time, as I had got wet through, I washed and changed as soon as I got in. After dinner I had a cigar and a sleep. We had a Tasmanian soldier in again to dinner and tea – Donald Blackwell – such a nice fellow.

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

Great excitement at news of air raid

Our diarists were concerned by news of a major air raid in London.

William Hallam
7th July 1917

We had a Tasmanian soldier in to tea to-night. After tea I had a bath and shaved, dressed and along to Bath Rd reading room till 9. Bought 3 15/6 W. Sav. Certif. This makes 80 I have. Great excitement again – news of a big air raid on London but not much official news so probably exaggerated.

Florence Vansittart Neale
7 July 1917

Another bad air raid in London. So far 27 killed, 141 hurt. Have not heard extent of damage. (Over 40 killed.)

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

Quite a nice Australian

The Hallams invited an Australian soldier home. 22 year old Gordon Ingles had joined the Anzac Cyclist Battalion a year earlier.

24th June 1917
We had a young Tasmanian soldier in to dinner and tea – Gordon Ingles – from Hobart – quite a nice fellow.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Wounded play the usual games

More officers were welcomed to Bisham Abbey.

4 June 1917
Young Lillyman (another Australian) came in afternoon. The wounded spent afternoon here & played usual games & went on river.

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

74 killed in Folkestone

The peace of Bisham Abbey seemed like a million miles from the south coast, hit by air raids.

2 June 1917

Captain Kennedy arrived – another Australian. Sat out. Men boated.

Bad raid on Folkestone – 74 people killed.

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

An Australian gunner visits Bisham

An Australian officer visited Bisham Abbey.

1 June 1917
Found young Lt Rickards had arrived for weekend – Australian gunner.

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

Ashamed to be connected with strikers

Lockinge-born William Hallam, living and working in Swindon, felt strikers and trade unionists were behaving in an unpatriotic way.

20th May 1917

There was a Trade Union demonstration and procession round the Town. I left it severely alone. Thousands of our T.U. men are out on strike in different parts of the country and as I told some of our fellows I should be ashamed to be seen in anyway connected with them by young fellows in khaki who have come from all parts of our Colonies to fight for us; for hundreds come in every Sat & Sun from Draycott Camp. Australians, New Zealanders & Canadians.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Khaki chit-chat

There was plenty of news of men belonging to a Congregational church in east Reading.

Khaki Chit-Chat.

Friends will be pleased to hear that Segt. Leslie Smith, who lies in hospital at Stourbridge, is now making very good progress. I believe I am right when I say that he received his wounds as far back as three months ago. The injury to his ankle has been proving rather seriously troublesome, and that, combined with the low state to which his general health sank, gave grave cause for anxiety about a month ago. Since then, however, bad news has turned to good, and good, which we hope will yet grow better.

Sergt. Gilbert Smith, his brother, arrived home last month on leave, to the joy of his family circle and his friends. We congratulate him upon looking so well, and trust that good fortune will continue with him.

We are sorry to hear through Mrs. Jordan that our caretaker has been in hospital recently with frost-bite. This is not altogether surprizing when one remembers that the weather in France where our men are is not one whit less severe than it is at home here. We are glad he is out of hospital again, and hope he will get the boots he needs. If he doesn’t, then we hope that next time he will be invalided home for a spell.

Sergt. Taylor, son of Mr. A Taylor, of Bishops Road, is at present in a hospital in Scotland, going through the slow process of recovering from shrapnel wounds. We sympathize with his home people and especially his wife, in their feeling that to be so far north means that he is just as much out of reach as he would have been had he been kept in France.

Mr. Taylor, of Talfourd Avenue, has been home on leave recently from Salonika. It was extremely unfortunate that he happened to be so unwell for a great part of his visit here. Better luck next time, or rather let us hope that when next he returns it will be for good.

Leslie Newey is “joining up” the 1st of March. We admire his eagerness to follow his brother’s steps, but hope for several reasons that he will be disappointed in his desire to get to France.

Mr. Goddard wrote from Bedford the other day a cheering and encouraging letter to the Sunday School, in he stated that he is taking a class in the Sunday School there. A man who can do that when he joins the army and leaves home is “keeping fit” in more senses than one.

Sergt. Jones, son-in-law of Mr. Lindsey, is in one of our local hospitals undergoing treatment for his right arm, we regret to say that the degree of future usefulness of this unfortunate limb is a matter of uncertainty. There is ground for hope, however, and we trust that the best possible will be eventually be realized.

We were glad to see Mr Planner and Mr. Clement Tregay looking so well during their recent visits home. Mr. Watkins has also been home recently on leave. The first and last of these are now “somewhere in France,” as is also Mr Thomas who, we hoped, was destined to stay in the old country.

Mr. T. Brown is at present enjoying the gentler climate of Lower Egypt.

Jess Prouten is still in Mesopotamia, and I believe would be glad to hear oftener from old Reading friends.

Old friends of Park will be pleased to hear of the visit of a certain man in khaki to the Institute the other day. He was an Australian on leave (Tom Vinicombe, an old scholar of the Sunday School), and he explained his appearance by saying that he thought he would like to have a look at the place where he had spent such happy times as a boy.

Recently our Week-night Services have been rather changing in their character. The subjects taken are matters of general interest and they are treated from the strictly Christian and spiritual point of view. Among those dealt with hitherto have been “The Local Controversy on Spiritualism,” “President Wilson’s Attitude and Ideals,” “The Work of British Women in France,” and “The Housing Problem in the Light of the War.”

Trinity Congregational Magazine, March 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

“Her brother sets out today for France”

Three Berkshire schools saw the war affect them on 20 October 1916.

October 20th 1916

Cookham Alwyn Road School
Miss Eustace asked leave of absence today. Her brother from Australia is home, and sets out today for France.

Ashbury National School
David Low, a boy of Knighton, is leaving as his father is entering the army and the family are returning to Scotland.

Coleshill CE School
Mrs Scofield visited the school on Monday and Thursday; on the latter day to collect the children’s pennies for ‘Red Cross Fund’.

Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 283); Ashbury National School log book (C/EL5, p. 179); Coleshill CE School log book (D/P40/28/4, p. 6)

Wounded Australians visit Bisham Abbey

A group of wounded Australians came for an afternoon at Bisham Abbey.

29 September 1916
Dull day, some rain. Party of 17 Australian wounded came in afternoon about 3. Saw over house – had large tea in drawing room with maids. Miss Billyard Leake brought them! Maisie came & sang. Sapper Jones! Also. Left about 6.

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

Australians wounded at the Somme

Still on holiday in Kent, the Vansittart Neales visited a war hospital run by the Red Cross in Sandgate, near Folkestone.

26 July 1916
Henry & I went to the Bevan Hospital – saw Australians just back from the Somme.

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