For fear of confiscation

The great estates of England had started to be broken up for sale in the late 19th century, but the imposition of taxes on land just before the war, and fears of socialist revolution, both hastened the process.

October 1918
Work on Estate

Decided to sell outlying portions of estate, for fear of confiscation.

Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2, p. 175)

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A demonstration against raising the food prices

The rising prices of food were causing discontent at home.

William Hallam
1st October 1918

A sharp frost this morning the roofs of the houses quite white when I went to work at 6. We all came out at 4 to make a demonstration against raising the food prices. I came home- didn’t go up to Town Hall.

Florence Vansittart Neale
1 October 1918

After tea to Freres & Mrs Hester. Dicky short leave (one day!).

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

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)

A wild mass of soldiers

Railway workers went on strike.

Florence Vansittart Neale
24 September 1918

A & E to dine. E receiving War Badge from Sir F. Loyd. Paddington a wild mass of soldiers. Wicked strike of railway men. Government firm.

William Hallam
24th September 1918

Aeroplanes were flying over all night long last night.

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

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)

“May this terrible war not last another year, but may the world be blest once more with peace, but this time for evermore”

Here is our diarists’ take on the war’s fourth anniversary:

Joan Daniels of Reading
August 4th Sunday

The fourth anniversary of the war & therefore Remembrance Day so Mummie, Elsie, Ruth & I went to church to intercession service.

May this terrible war not last another year, but may the world be blest once more with peace, but this time for evermore….

War news still splendid, we have now advanced 30 miles at some points.

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
4 August 1918

½ an hour too early for early church – then went again at 11. Nice little service – Intercessions to Russian hymn.

William Hallam of Swindon
4th August 1918

Wife & Marj. to St. Sav. at 8 to H.C. & I went to St Paul’s at XI.

F & L. went up to Lockinge at 3 o’clock.

To-night we had a cake for tea with currants in, the first time since before Xmas.

Diaries of Joan Daniels (D/EX1341/1); Florence Vansittart neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

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)

Naturalization to be overhauled

Sir George Cave, the Home Secretary introduced plans to revoke citizenship from some naturalised Britons.

12 July 1918

Read long debate about aliens. Sir G. Cave made speech. End up German banks – not open for some years after war. Naturalization to be overhauled….

Letter from Phyllis from 4 London General. Thinks she will like it.

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

This dreamy life

The Russian Imperial family was still alive – but would be murdered in less than a fortnight.

Friday 5 July 1918

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 July 1918

Horrible rumour Tzar, Tzaritza & Tatiana been murdered.

We all nibbling on satisfactoring [sic]. Germans not making push. Our air work very good & upsetting to them.

Sydney Spencer
5 July 1918

Got up at 7.15. Breakfast as 8.15. At 8.30 inspected men’s rifles, hair, SBRs & feet. Dismissed them till 11.30 to clean up. I rested meanwhile in my room, & sewed up my torn breeches etc. At 11.30 I inspected men in full marching order & have them some arms drill. At 12 I went to my room & slept for an hour.

Dear old Maddison arrived at 1 pm & I spent the afternoon lying in a field of cut clover with him. He told me some of his life history. After tea this dreamy life was dispelled by the news that I report back to the Battalion tomorrow at Hedanville.

Domqueur is a delightful spot. Spent the rest of evening playing patience & resting. To bed at 11 & read a stupid ill written novel.

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

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air

Officers were well treated on their visits home, on leave or wounded.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 June 1918

I & two officers motored to Oxford. Saw Dorchester, had lunch en route. Saw Magdalen, New College & Christ Church. Two MO Canadians here for Sunday, Captains Johnston & Reay. They out all evening. We brought Phyllis home. She left Oxford.

Joan Daniels
June 22nd Saturday

Bruce McPherson has come for the weekend… Bruce has had a very nasty wound in the back of his head which he got last October.

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

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)

“Down here because the raids upset her so”

The Daniels family welcomed an additional guest fleeing from air raids in the East End – a young relative of their maid.

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 June 1918

Amusing lunch. Officers described German prisoners! They both left (Granville & Knapman).

Joan Daniels
June 5th Wednesday

Florence’s little sister came with her mending. Mummie has had her down here because the raids upset her so. They live in Plaistow & had bombs very near them last time. She is a most amusing kiddie…

Uncle Jack went to be medically examined & is passed Grade 3. That means if anyone goes it has to be Daddie, but it strengthens the latter’s position with regard to exemption.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Americans fighting now

Was the tide on the turn at last?

Florence Vansittart Neale
3 June 1918

Rather better news – done some counter-attacks. Americans fighting now.

William Hallam
3rd June 1918

Still on overtime…

To-night I wrote to my nephew in Mesopotamia who is in hospital wounded in the arm.

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