Soldiers from Cliveden as usual

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter was the latest flu victim.

2 December 1918

Had party of soldiers from Cliveden as usual….

Heard P. had flue – high temp. I telephoned – heard “easier”.

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

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So many officers down with flu

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughters saw the German submarines being surrendered.

25 November 1918

Heard from Phyllis. They watched the submarines all Friday afternoon. Boy had to go to Felixstowe. So many officers down with flue….

Feel on a holiday. No soldiers, no officers! Captain Carswell left this morning.

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

People in London rather wild

It was understandable after four and a half years of war that some of those celebrating its end behaved badly.

19 November 1918

People in London rather wild. Burnt some of the German guns in bonfire.

Stayed in bed for Dr Moore. Said I could get up. Take it easy. Not go out yet.

Lt Knapman & Hay came about 11. on leave from France. Going to Cologne – army of occupation. They on river in canoe…

Henry to London. Saw guns in St James’ Park.

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

German fleet begin surrender

Some severely wounded soldiers came to visit Bisham Abbey.

18 November 1918

Fleet begin surrender. Hope submarines going to Harwich.

Fine day. Henry & 2 officers motored to Oxford for the day….

Phyllis’s hospital party came. 3 men & a sister. Great success. They took them everywhere in bath chairs. Left about 4, after tea…

Many prisoners came back.

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

Hope for coalition government

Influenza meant some missed the peace celebrations.

17 November 1918

General election Dec 14th. Hope for coalition government.

Our thanksgiving services today. Johnson & I spent it in bed [with flu]. Most vexing. Dr M. [Moore] came, said I might come down tomorrow… Dorothy bad with flue.

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

Laurel wreaths round Roll of Honour

Laurel leaves were a symbol of victory from the Classical world.

16 November 1918

I still in bed. Johnson too. Dorothy now bad.

Phyllis & Mary decorating church with flags & laurel wreaths round Roll of Honour.

Believe “little Willie” escaped to Holland also.

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

A touch of flu

Florence Vansittart Neale caught the flu.

15 November 1918

Took to my bed & had Dr Moore. Said touch of flue to chest & right side touched. Bubbles left 9.45 so went in her room as warmer – bed very hard! Johnson also in bed. Same thing.

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

German Navy flies the red flag

Germany was in even greater disarray.

8 November 1918

Delegates left Germany for Western Front. Navy revolt in Germany. Fly the red flag. Refuse to come out against our Navy.

Heard an overseas officer coming same train as Boy & Bubs [Leo and Elizabeth Paget]… B & B & Mr D[avidson]. came by 4.40 train. All seemed well. Mr D. wounded in leg.

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

7000 from 1914 have gone back home

As the war approached its end, some of the soldiers who had been fighting the longest had already been discharged or sent home on leave.

4 November 1918

Soldiers came in afternoon. Quite a nice set. Got here rather late, so hurried up to see house as getting dark. They stayed till past 7 o’clock. One told me 7000 from 1914 had gone back home. Others 90 days rest behind line.

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

Land for a memorial

The Vansittart Neales were planning to provide the site for the Bisham war memorial.

21 October 1918

Met Maisie about the bit of land for memorial….

Soldiers came in afternoon. 16. Usual entertainment – tea – billiards & cards, after seeing house. Felt much exhausted!

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

Servant hunting

It was getting much harder to find young women willing to work in domestic service, when the war had opened up other opportunities.

25 September 1918
Busy morning [in London]. Servant hunting… Strike on, so advised to go not later than 3.20… Strike getting over.

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

German retreat going on

Florence Vansittart Neale and her daughter relaxed while studying the war news.

14 August 1918

Sat in garden & read Bubs the paper. German retreat going on.

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

A new star

Always interested in the natural world, Sydney Spencer was excited by news of a newly discovered nova.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 15 June 1918

I was orderly officer today & got up at 5.45, & saw the men’s breakfasts. Came back to mess, washed & dressed. After breakfast I wrote to some Scotch firm about shortbread. Looked round billets, then gathered up officers’ advance pay books & orders for pay for Battalion. Dillon let me have his horse ‘Charlie Chaplin’ & I rode to Acheux & got the money. A glorious morning. Saw Barker’s batman & sent message to him. Got back at 12.30. Dished money out.

After lunch took drummers up to range & picked up clips & ‘empties’. After tea wrote letters. After dinner a staff parade. Capt. Weave is back with Battalion. Dillon taught me double patience & we played a game, up till 11 pm. I used my new field glasses to try & find the new star in Aquila but I couldn’t find it.

End of 10th week [at the front].

Florence Vansittart Neale
15 June 1918

Expected 2 officers but they did not come.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

French holding fairly, lost in some parts, but fighting very hard

It was the last day of Sydney Spencer’s gas training course.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 10 June 1918

Got up at 7.15. After breakfast, I wrote up some of my notes. Then to lecture given by chemical adviser Major Edwardes-Ker, on Responsibilities of Officers.

Then the usual last day of course lectures by students. Very droll, some of them, too. Major Knights was asked about Green X shells & spoke lengthily about what his CO had said concerning yellow X shells. Jones the Welsh man had a fit of spoonerisms, talking of ‘belastic lands’ for elastic bands! Poor Bin – he was dumb! Hardwick knew nothing but was so droll as to pass it all off. Graham was very good indeed. I had to speak on ‘Reliefs’ & gassed areas, etc. Major Ker promised to send my notes down to Broadbent in England. Wore SBB for an hour. After lunch a short lecture by Ash. Then break up of school.

After tea to Hesdin shopping & a bath at common dark place. Dinner, a short walk with Major Knights and then the completion of note writing up to 12.30 am. Wrote letter to Major Ker, reference notes & to bed & read Tartarin de Tarascon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
10 June 1918

Canadians left 9.45…

Disturbed siesta. Soldiers came early – nice set of men. Boats, bowls, croquet & tennis. Left 6.30.

French holding fairly. Lost in some parts, but fighting very hard.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Battalion HQ in very deep dugout

Sydney had a sightly better journey today, and paid more attention to the controversial Billing case at home.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 6 June 1918

Rose at 5 am. Got breakfast, & into the train for Hesdin by 6.30. It is now 9.30 & we haven’t yet started. Another glorious morning, all sunshine.

Billing has been pronounced ‘not guilty’. Justice Darling makes use of the following expression, ‘I tell you now that I do not care a bit for you or anyone like you, or what you say about me’ seems ridiculously childish. A street boy would have pulled a face & said ‘yar ‘oo cares for you’ & would have called for more conviction with him!

Started for Hesdin (30 miles) at 9.30. Got there 11.30. Wonderful. Lorry jumped to Marronville, arriving at 12 noon. Graham & I billeted at the mead, a long low white cottage facing the church. Mess will be started tomorrow morning.

Had lunch at the Hotel de Commerce. Walked back to billets. Slept. Got some [illegible] out of the sergeant. Walked down with Graham & Barker to Hesdin. Had dinner at the Hotel de France. Back by 9.15 & to bed. Started reading Tartarin de Tarascon by Alphonse Daudet. A very droll book.

Percy Spencer
6 June 1918

17th relieved us and we went into support. Battalion HQ in very deep dugout.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 June 1918

Early church – dog walk – then fussed to find rooms for farm workers till lunch. Heard another officer coming today & one tomorrow. Captain Petcher AFC Maidenhead called on Miss Areson.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)