“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

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

Free to leave internment

The Cusden brothers from Reading had spent the entire war cooped up in a German internment camp. Now they were free. Albert was interested in the revolutionary movement and headed for a day in Berlin; back home he would become a member of the Labour Party, and 30 years later his wife Phoebe, as mayor of Reading, would welcome German children from war torn Dusseldorf to the town.

Spandau-Ruhleben 21 November 1918

Der hier internierte
A. E. Cusden & R. G. Arthur
Ist heute aus dem Englanderlager Ruhleben nach Berlin von neun bis sechs Uhr nachmittags beurlaubt worden.

Der Kommandant [signature]

Der Soldatenrat

Pass for Albert and a friend to leave the camp at Ruhleben (D/EX1485/4/6)

The retreat of the helpless women and children of a whole people across interminable mountains, under inconceivable hardships

A Berkshire audience heard first-hand details of the horrors endured by civilians in the Balkans.

Serbian Relief Fund

In spite of unpropitious weather the meeting at Mortimer Lodge on July 22nd was a great success, a large number of people being present. Miss Parkinson’s able speech was brimful of pathos, as well as thrilling interest. Her account of the retreat of the helpless women and children of a whole people across interminable mountains, under inconceivable hardships, stirred her audience deeply; while her sketch of the conditions of life in Berlin and Vienna, even 18 months ago, made people appreciate how fortunate this country still is. £9 6s. 3d. was given for the Serbian Relief Fund.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, September 1918 (D/P120/28A/14)

A war experience of singular and thrilling interest

A Reading woman bore witness to the war in Serbia.

The Work for Serbian Boys.

A lecture will be given in S. John’s Institute on Monday, May 6, at 8 p.m. on behalf of this work by Miss A. F. Parkinson, who has been acting as Superintendent of the hostel for Serbian Boys in the Bulmershe Rd.

Miss Parkinson has had a war experience of singular and thrilling interest. She was the only English person in Nish when the invading army of Germans and Bulgarians entered and after being kept prisoner for some months, was finally released, given her passport and sent home to this country via Austria and Germany. She stayed a short time in Vienna and a fortnight in Berlin and had unique opportunities of seeing both these capitals of enemy countries under war conditions. She is also very well acquainted with the peoples of the Balkan Peninsula and also knows the full story of the terrible Serbian retreat in which the boys now in our town took part.

No charge will be made for admission to Miss Parkinson’s lecture, but there will be a collection in aid of the work in which she is interested.

Reading St. John parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

The man who made the escape key

The governor of Reading Prison wrote to the Prison Commissioners about one of the foreign internees he considered to be a bad influence. Paul, alias Henry Mayer, was duly transferred to Brixton Prison in December 1917, for transfer to the Isle of Man. He was a German engineer, aged 26 when interned in 1916.

29 Nov 1917

P Meyer [sic]
S of S Order 12.7.06, Aliens Act Deportation

The above prisoner has been one of the leading agitators here as regards the proposed hunger strike.

He was also in touch with the men who escaped – and though I cannot prove it I am convinced in my mind from all the information I have obtained that he was the man who made the key with which the men opened the gates to the exercise court. His conduct is bad and today he has just completed 3 days No. 1 diet and 14 days No. 2 for refusing to obey orders and using filthy and grossly insubordinate language to a warden.

He is treated in the “Friendly Alien Wing” – now abolished, but claims to be a German and his record shows him born in Berlin – in my opinion he is certainly a German. As his influence is for the bad, I should be glad if he could be removed either to a prison or if he is a German to a Camp.

C M Morgan, Governor

He is an old criminal convicted in this country.

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

German prisoners say we (English) do not know what shelling is!

Food shortages were a problem for both sides, as blockades of shipping limited imports, and labourers fought rather than brining in crops. In Germany, the problem was serious enough to result in food riots.

26 January 1917

Miss Buck says her friend just from Germany says in Berlin riots 1000 killed! Will Howard says German prisoners say we (English) do not know what shelling is! (Ours so much more awful.)

No pheasants to be fed or reared.

Spirits & beer restricted.

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

A ghastly pantomime

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith with news of a visit from a distinguished former pupil; reactions to a threatened air raid; and a book he had read by ‘Ian Hay’ (the pseudonym of a serving officer).

29 Barton Road, [Cambridge]
3 April ‘16
My most dear old man

That was a tumultuous week just passed. Tuesday’s blizzard came on in an undreamed of fury. We were delightedly entertaining an old pupil – now CE and General Commanding a Brigade of Cavalry, who passing thro’ C[ambridge] on the day previous, had learnt my marriage, and came off at once with his congratulations and the remembrances he was charged with by his brother – another pupil and now Colonel of an Infantry Battalion and DSO. It was a happy meeting. Florence apologised for having to put his teacup in a writing table in our tiny drawing room, because we had not yet set up one of those cunning nests of teatables. Next day arrived a beauty from him, begging we would accept it as a belated wedding present. A day later, and he was ordered away again: but the flying call was such a delicious whiff out of the early past.

I never saw such blinding snow before, and oh the prostrate treeboles next day – like spillikins on the grass. I counted 50 khakis labouring on their trunks in our paddocks, and at least as many in St John’s…

On Friday evening I was finishing a letter when suddenly the electric light went down, then rose, then sank – three times altogether, and left us with the faintest glimmer, just shewing enough that someone else was in the room. The official C. warning of Zepps. We packed the servants in snug armchairs by the kitchen fire: and ourselves went out into Barton Rd, where were sundry residents, chattering under the stars, – and a Trinity friend of mine in khaki, stopping all cyclists and compelling them to put out their lights. The sharp military “Halt” in the dark made at least one fellow tumble off his bike in terror! People said they heard bombs. I heard nothing, not even the drone of a Zeppelin – though one or more did pass over C – but innocuous. The Berlin news claims, I see, C among its victims.

Yesterday, at 11 pm, I was pulling off my trousers for bed, when down once more went the ghastly pantomime of the lowered lights and I had to rouse those integuments and go forth to see what was to be seen. On both nights the lights were kept down till 4 am. This morning the sudden raised flash woke me up from the sweetest slumber.

I hear from our carpenter that much damage has been done at Woolwich, where he has a couple of sons. Not a hint of this is suffered to appear in the Press….

“In Germany the devil’s forge at Essen was roaring night and day: in Great Britain Trades Union bosses were carefully adjusting the respective claims of patriotism and personal dignity before taking their coats off.

Out here we are reasonable men, and we realise that it requires some time to devise a system for supplying munitions which shall hurt the feelings of no pacifist, which shall interfere with no man’s holiday or glass of beer, which shall insult no honest toiler by compelling him to work side by side with those who are not of his industrial tabernacle, and which shall imperil no statesman’s seat in parliament.”

Read “The First Hundred Thousand” by Ian Hay (of Joh.[St John’s College]. I Hay (I forget his patronymic) is at the Front and describes the training and subsequent war experiences of a Kitchener’s Battalion so graphically that I have never seen it better done.

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

“We shall need some adventurous courage”

The Bishop of Oxford was at best a grudging supporter of the proposals for a National Mission in response to the war.


We would call especial attention to the Bishop’s Message regarding the National Mission to be held in all parishes in October or November next; and also to our list of Lenten services which will be found inserted in this number of the magazine. Never has there been a time in the history of our nation when more prayer and self-denial were needed, and it is to be feared that this is by no means realized by a large majority of our countrymen; it behoves all Church people, therefore, to make an especial effort to keep the Lenten season.


The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the March Diocesan Magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked,
For the good hand of God upon us in the war.
For the spiritual enterprise of the National Mission,
That the clergy may prepare themselves,
That the faithful may be filled with zeal,
That expectation may be aroused,
That those who guide may be filled with wisdom and courage.


It has been decided by the Archbishops, after much consultation, and with the general consent of the Bishops, that there shall be held in October or November of this year “A National Mission of Repentance and Hope”, which will doubtless be commonly called “The National Mission”. Some of us have been somewhat critical of the proposal. But now that it has been decided to hold it, and a letter from the Archbishops has been issued, it behoves us all to arrest our critical faculties and to turn the opportunity to the best spiritual purpose.

What concerns the method of the mission and its details will in the main be left to each diocese and parish to determine. We shall all need to be adaptable, and we shall need some adventurous courage. But it is desired that the plan of each diocese and parish shall conform to this outline: that the earlier part of this year should be given to preparing spiritually the clergy and the faithful church people, men and women; and that the great effort of the prepared Church should be in October or November next, and should be devoted to the awakening to the call of God of all that great body of people who, with more or less reality of allegiance, belong to the Church. The Mission will be purely a Church Mission to those who belong to us. But it is anticipated that a similar effort will be made at the same time by other bodies of Christians.

Of the motives of the mission I said enough, perhaps, last month. By way of preparation for it, I am taking the following steps:

1. I am summoning the parochial clergy into Retreat in the first week of August, July 31st-August 4th, at Bradfield and Radley Colleges. In answer to many questions I would say that I hope to arrange that the assistant clergy (or those whom it is necessary to leave behind in the parishes) should come into Retreat in the following week.

2. I hereby ask each Rural Dean to form a Mission Committee of clergy, laymen, and laywomen in his Rural Deanery, and when they come to the Rural Deans’ meeting on May 8th to come ready with suggestions and to bring the names of one priest, one layman and one laywoman whom I can summon to whatever general meeting may prove to be necessary.

3. I am hoping that shortly before Easter the Bishop of London, the Chairman of the Central Council of the Mission, will come to address all those who can gather to listen to him in Oxford or Reading.

4. I am summoning the Society of Mission Clergy to take counsel on March 2nd.

5. I hope to get the main lines of our arrangements fixed at the Rural Dean’s meeting on May 8th.

6. I want all who will do so to say daily the Collect for the 4th Sunday in Advent or the 1st Sunday after Epiphany.


The nation is being called to thrift on grounds of public economy under the burden of war. This year, as every year, the church is calling us to fast in Lent. The two calls reinforce one another. Let us be serious this year in keeping Lent. I note in The Times of February 23, “Two more meatless days have been added to the Berlin regime, making four in all” (in the week). We could most of us, I think, observe three meatless days in Lent.


Whatever expedient we adopt to meet the requirements which the dangers of air raids at night have rendered necessary, I hope that we shall see to it that the spiritual profit of the people is provided for. An earlier Evensong in church and a later Mission service in the school might be profitable for the parish until the days gain their full length.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

Gruesome news

Lady Mary Glyn reported the latest war news to her son Ralph in Egypt. SS Maloja was a civilian liner carrying women and children as well as some army personnel when she was sunk by the Germans. Many of the sailors were Indians.

Feb 28th [1916]

Today brings the news of the mining of the Channel and the horror of the great P&O Maloja & the rescuing ship. So gruesome, within two miles of safety – if land is safe on any coast! till we find that welcome for the Hun aircraft which today a letter speaks of as preparing for them. The Verdun news from France is different from Verdun news from Berlin, and certainly they are colossal in their untruth and unscrupulousness of “method” however diabolical.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

A haven of rest and good nursing

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, wrote once more to Ralph Glyn, her late husband’s nephew, with some kind thoughts about a fellow soldier of Ralph’s (possibly his batman?). Her Royal Highness was Colonel in Chief of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and had news of a high ranking prisoner of war.

Rosneath House
Dumbartonshire, NB

23d Sept 1915

Darling Ralph

I hope Coxon is in a good hospital. If you want anything done, I can get or try to get him to real good Hospital, he is such a devoted little man & all my people are devoted to him, he must get every care. Instead of going home had you only sent him to our War Hospital Balham Red X, Kensington Barracks, he wd have found a haven of rest & good nursing. All the men are extra well cared for there, it is clean, bright, cheerful & – as private as you like. The matron a most kind, clever little woman…

Your table in Library always ready, & dear Uncle Lorne’s chair empty, it’s very dreadful hear [sic] without him & I feel so lost…

Ardgowan is moved to near Berlin, & is much more comfortable now, & is with Colonel Stewart of the Gordons & another A & S officer…

Ever yours affectionately


Letter from Princess Louise to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C15/3)

Unfit for peace

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn to tell him of her joy at having her soldier husband home from the Front – and the excitement of experiencing air raids.

Cliffe Close

My darling R.

…I am very sorry it’s so long since I wrote, I missed one mail & then last week I was hopeless as John got his week’s leave. Oh it was heavenly, only I didn’t know time could go so quick. I got a wire the 31st and he cane on Wed – no time for me to meet him in London. To my sorrow he caught a 5 a.m. train from Euston, having arrived 2.30 a.m. so he didn’t waste much time. The Parents fled as if we were plague struck. However they came here so are more than happy. Meg [her sister] has been splendid & fitted them in. John went back Wed evening & Meg & I came here that night. Addy is an angel & I am with her. Somehow I couldn’t face going straight back home. I am going on the 18th I think.

We are having great Zep days. On Tuesday we were just turning in when there was a noise & John said it was a gun – then we heard another & fetched Reg. We saw nothing & heard only a few more distant shots. It turned out they’d been over Kennnington. They destroyed some houses in the Old Kent Road. Fire engines were dashing about all night. Then Wed night seems to have been more exciting. There were 3 Zeps & everyone saw them for about 10 minutes, as our searchlights got them. Lord Colville writes to Addy & says for 10 minutes the sound of bursting bombs & guns was terrific – & they did a lot of damage – 15 people were killed by one bomb hitting a motor bus in the City. They caused several fires & one very large one close to the Bank. I suppose we shall have a spell of the devils for a bit. I wish we could catch them. So long as they don’t get our munition works it won’t matter much.

Dear old Sir Edward Goschen was here yesterday. We hadn’t met since Berlin. He has taken a house here. He brought word of these Russian successes in Galicia, he also said he heard on good authority that the Russians would be able to make an offensive on less than a month, & that their immediate reserve was a [division?] now ready. In fact he was so cheering I can’t believe him! Everyone seems to think we are going to make a big move in the west now at once. I suppose we ought & shall. John expected it. Meantime the new Guards Div. are still right back – not formed even, apparently they have no guns yet even. But that is probably not true & they are sure to be in any push, if there is one.

You seem to be fairly “in it” now. Your story of Coxson is priceless. How he must hate it. I wish your news was better – it must be so sickening for you all – especially seeing the awful price we paid & without the result. Now one wonders so what next. There seems precious little light anywhere just now. Every day I am getting more convinced there is going to be no big Fleet action, aren’t you? I’m afraid the Russians didn’t destroy the Nolke, but anyhow the Huns are properly taken on evidently.

I expect you’ll be sad about the Grand Duke. He wouldn’t change his C of Staff so was told he must or go with his own man, so he went. That’s the yarn I heard from Edmund Charteris, & he generally knows the right of things…

There has been great excitement at Cefre over these submarine [illegible] glass balls which are being washed ashore. At least that’s what they are said to be. They caught a submarine string on the sand of some Tripper beach in Anglesey the other day! 57 is said to be the number of Fritz’s we’ve now disposed of. Not too bad.

That Trades Union decision about National Service was pretty rotten, it shows how utterly unfit we still are for peace & how little better a year of war has made us. Dreadful. These boys here are splendid…

John has brought home a beautiful specimen of a rifle [bomb crossed through] grenade thing. They must be the devil.

Bless you darling. Take care of yourself…

Your ever loving

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to her brother Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Keep the old flag flying: Clewer Green children boost army morale

The children of Clewer Green School were enthusiastic suppliers of not only warm clothing for the troops, but of morale boosting letters. The parish magazine reported on their work, and quotes from the letters they got in return:

Since the return of the children to school after the summer holidays, the girls under the able direction of Miss Hughes have been busily engaged in making comforts for our troops at the Front.

The industry they have displayed may be gathered from the fact that 20 nightshirts have been made during School hours and have been despatched through Mrs. Cowie.

The children’s patriotism has not ended with their work at school. In their own time they have made numerous pairs of socks, sleeping socks, scarves, mittens, and gloves. These have been sent direct to the Front, each parcel being accompanied by cheering letters from the children.

Judging by the replies received by teachers and children the articles seem to have given great satisfaction to the recipients, whilst the letters served to remind them that the thoughts, hopes, and prayers of the Clewer Green children were with them.

The following extracts are worth recording:-

I am glad you are so cheerful and not expecting the Germans over there. They will never pass our troops…The enemy in the trenches are trying to learn our song, their trenches being less than 100 yards away in some places. They have a gramophone, and our fellows like this and join in the chorus.

Your letter made us really proud to think that even you and your fellow-mates, so young, should think of us in these times. We notice how you hope we shall get through to Berlin, and I must tell you that we all hope the same thing, and when a lot of ‘English Tommies’ set out to go to a place, they usually get there.

We are very grateful to all the little girls and boys who are not old enough to join the Army or Red Cross Nursing Society for helping by kindly making warm clothing for the troops.

I have just received a parcel and found inside a letter from you, and I think about the finest pair of gloves I have ever had the pleasure to wear. I am most grateful to you for your kindness. We were one and all pleased to know that the boys and girls in England were doing their best for us all and helping to keep the old flag flying.

We are very thankful to your kind teachers for teaching you to be so patriotic and loyal.

It is nice to hear from children at home, and it shows us that you are thinking of us and your country in this sad time. I am sure yours must be a nice School.

[Clewer St Andrew parish magazine, January 1915 (D/P39/28A/9)

Our goal is Berlin

The Reading Christ Church parish magazine considers the war with some (misplaced?) optimism:

As time goes on we are better able to understand what the War really means. Let us take the brighter side first. Thanks to our sailors it is practically certain that there will be no serious rise in food prices. And again if we take the labour market as a whole there will not be anything like the amount of unemployment that was feared. Some trades will suffer badly, others will have plenty of orders; vacancies caused by recruiting or by men who have been called out will help to relieve the situation. And above all the war will be fought out away from our shores. Invasion, if it was ever contemplated, is now – short of some unforeseen disaster – impossible.

On the darker side we must place the duration of the war. Whatever we may think of the methods of the Germans their fighting qualities are undoubted. And if they fight well in France, how will they fight in their own land? For we have to see the matter through and our goal is not the Rhine but Berlin. And the loss of life is and must continue to be terrible. It is only our hope that out of this carnage there will emerge a better, kinder and more enlightened Europe that enables us to endure the thought of it.

Reading Christ Church parish magazine, October 1914 (D/P170/28A/23)

More than a ‘scrap of paper’: what we are fighting for

The Burghfield parish magazine explains the moral impetus it saw behind standing against a militaristic Germany in defence of weaker allies:

The great war, long foreseen, is upon us. Before these words, written in mid August, are published, the issue of the first gigantic conflict in Belgium and Luxemburg [sic] will be more or less gradually becoming clear. And other conflicts whether by our gallant sailors in the North Sea or Adriatic, or by our allies in more remote parts of the continent, will have thrown some light on the prospects before us all. May the outlook give good ground for hopes of complete success.

In the meanwhile, in spite of all that has been written and spoken, many people in quiet country parishes like ours must be wondering what we are fighting for. The short answer is to this effect:-

(1) When we asked Germany and France to keep their word, given long ago, and not send troops into Belgium, Germany refused though France at once gave the required undertaking.

(2) Germany, on the point of declaring war against France, asked England to remain neutral, on the terms that the French territory in Europe should not be diminished, though her colonies might be taken from her.

In short, we could only keep out of the war by breaking our word to Belgium, and leaving France to the mercy of a foe who had just shown his contempt for his own solemn vow. When our Ambassador was taking his leave of the German Chancellor at Berlin, the latter is said to have exclaimed with irritation “Why should you make war upon us for a scrap of paper?” The reply was simple but severe, that the “scrap of paper” (the Treaty guaranteeing Belgium neutrality) bore our signature as well as that of Germany! What faith then can we put in any fresh promise of a promise-breaker?

Our honour is enough. But there are other reasons. The neutrality of Belgium and Holland was guaranteed by the Powers of Europe because they knew that it stood for peace. If any great Power came to hold these countries, she would be too great a menace to the rest of Europe. And knowing what we do now about German schemes of universal dominion, we ourselves can clearly see what would be the result to us if the mouths of the Rhine were in German hands, which would soon fill them with ships and dockyards and fortresses for our destruction. For supposing we had stood aside in the present war, and Germany with Austria were to win, as very possibly they might have done, who can doubt that the independence of Belgium and Holland would have vanished, and what help from others, when our turn came, could have been expected by us if we hd ourselves refused to give help in time of need? Even if Germany had lost, we should have had an embittered France and a resentful Russia, as our neighbours at home and in India.

Honesty has again been the best policy; since if we cannot win with such splendid allies, we should indeed have stood little chance alone.

But it may be a long and terrible struggle, and we may have trials and losses more than can be estimated now. Germany, or rather the ruling military caste, is fighting for its life; and the nation has been hardened and trained to arms, which we have too long neglected.
May strength and determination be granted to us to fight for our righteous cause; and to use the victory, for which we pray, with justice and with no other object than the highest welfare of mankind.

Burghfield parish magazine, September 1914 (D/EX725/3)