“It was nearly five years since we have sat on a roundabout”

Belgium rejoiced in its freedom, despite financial pressures.

THE BELGIANS

The subscribers to the Belgian Home Fund met in the Lecture Room, August 13th, wind up accounts. It was reported that the furniture and fittings not returnable had been sold and all liabilities met, and that £14 12s. 9d. remained in hand. Mrs. Lewis proposed that the amount be sent by banker’s draft to Mr. Van Hoof, at Boom, to be divided between the two girls, Jeanne and Eliza. Mrs. Hews seconded, and the proposition was carried unanimously. A hearty vote of thanks was passed to the Secretary and Treasurer for their services, and to Mr. A.T. Taylor for kindly acting as Honorary Auditor.

Mrs. Hews read a letter she had received from Jeanne Van Hoof, and we print an extract here for the benefit of those who were not present:-

“I hope you do not think we have forgotten you already. I know I have waited a long time before writing, but I have to do such an enormous amount of home work, that I scarcely find time to do anything else. Here in Boom everything is very much like before. We came home just on the day of the yearly Carnival, and the people are as merry as before. A fortnight after there was a big fair on the market place. Liza and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, because it was nearly five years since we have sat on a roundabout. There was a circus, three roundabouts, and a barracks where you could go and buy sweets. The food is at the present time dearer than when we first came. A two-pound loaf costs 8½d., meat 4s. a pound, and an egg is nearly as dear as a loaf. Shoes are scarcely obtainable, so that we sell those we have still left, and can’t get any new pairs……”

Jeanne made a lot of friends in Maidenhead, and we shall be glad to hear of her welfare, and that of the whole family, from time to time.”

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, September 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

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“We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England”

The Van Hoof family, who had spent the war as refugees in Maidenhead, returned home.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEE FRIENDS.

41, Kapelstraat, Boom,
Prov. (Anvers), Belgie,

March 8th.

Dear Mrs. Lewis,-

I am very sorry I have not been able to write before, but we have been so busy that we have not found time to do anything but arrange things at home. We spent nearly a week travelling before we were home. Before going on the boat we had to stay two days in London, which we spent in sight seeing.

We went on the boat about one o’clock on Friday, 28th, and started to sail about 4 o’clock the same day. The weather was glorious all through the sea journey, so that we arrived in Antwerp on Sunday morning about 12 o’clock. Before we were off the boat nearly an hour had passed. One of my uncles was there to meet us, so that it was quite 5 o’clock before we got home. You can imagine our relatives’ joy at meeting us again. We spent the whole of that day in talking, talking, talking.

Our home was quite alright, but the furniture and many other things that were in it have been stolen or else much damaged. The blankets you gave us have come in very useful, for they are things of the past here. The people have suffered very much, and the clothing has been so dear that they used to have all spare blankets dyed (for garments). The food is now much cheaper, about the same as in England, except the meat and bread. That is nearly twice the price as that in England.

We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England, and by the help of the Committee we suffered nothing to complain of. Thanking you for your goodness towards us, and hoping to receive an answer from you,

I remain, yours faithfully,

J. VAN HOOF

Think of that from a little Belgian girl, who did not know a word of English when she came to Maidenhead!

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, April 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Discontinuing oatmeal

The food supply was now getting back to normal.

11th February 1919
re Dietary

Letter from the Local Government Board that the Guardians might now revert to the use of the dietary tables in use before the introduction of rationing.

Letter from the Matron re dietary suggesting the reverting to the old scale of bread for Breakfast and supper only, discontinuing oatmeal, the present allowance of bread for dinner to remain, and the Guardian approved the suggestion.

Faringdon Board of Guardians minutes (G/F1/44)

Children’s eyes glistened when they heard that chocolate cake was more wholesome and more nutritious than bread

Food shortages led to attempts to teach working class somen new methods of food preparation. Hayboxes acted as a combination of slow-cooker and thermos flask, to allow a cooked dinner to stay hot all day, and also saved on fuel.

A meeting was held on November 5th, at the Old Schoolroom at which were present Mrs. Bennett, Vice-President; Mrs. Noble, Hon. Sec.; Mrs. Wedderburn; Mrs. Chenery, Hon. Treasurer; and a large attendance, to bear a lecture given by Mrs. Hallam on Children’s Diet and Pocket Lunches. The relative values of various foods were fully explained, and the mothers were strongly urged to alter their methods of prearing food and to adopt the advice of London Food Committee whose President, Mrs. Peel, supplied practical instructions.

Several children came early and heard the lecture and their eyes glistened when they heard that chocolate cake (made with cocoa) and madeira cake, were more wholesome and more nutritious than bread – and that hot potatoes and cheese formed a nourishing meal, without meat.

The wives were advised to send out their husbands provided with small portable hayboxes, that they might have a hot dinner in the middle of the day during the cold winter months.

The Lecture was received with warm approbation.

A generous tea followed, given by Mrs. Bennett – assisted by Mrs. Chenery and other helpers.

Wargrave parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

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)

“More might spare time from the river or their gardens to pray for the brothers and fathers and friends, who in our defence have neither our pleasures, our comfort, nor our safety”

The vicar of Maidenhead found wartime bread substitutes were inappropriate for Holy Communion.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

Ascension Day and Whit-Sunday have come to us in glorious weather, and we had satisfactory numbers of Communicants and good congregations. Both might have been rather better, for though well up to the level of other years, in this time of stress, I think more might spare time from the river or their gardens to pray for the brothers and fathers and friends, who in our defence have neither our pleasures, our comfort, nor our safety…

St Luke’s is going to ask for some extra donations to wipe off our deficit. Collections have been up in both churches, but the price of fuel, light, etc, has soared like an aeroplane…

Lastly, I have to ask for your consideration in a very delicate matter that needs reverent treatment. We are very fortunate in being able to get a special loaf of bread made for Church use, which is purer and whiter than the ordinary war bread. This, I hope, we shall always be able to get for Sundays, and we are much indebted for the trouble that has been taken by those who supply us with the bread. But frequently there are (in addition to Thursday) occasional week-day Celebrations. Sometimes I can arrange for a special loaf; sometimes it is difficult for me to do so. In these last cases, on week-days I propose to use wafer bread, made in squares that one can break, thus preserving the symbolism of the “One Loaf”. It is made of pure wheat, flour and water, and thus obeys the spirit of the rubric at the end of the Holy Communion Service. And there is no Scriptural or Church Warrant for the use of potato flour, etc, in church bread.

I must ask you to believe me when I say that I do it reluctantly, but I feel that in the circumstances the use of the very crumbly war bread makes devout persons of all schools of thought in the Church feel that something else should be secured that can be more easily and reverently divided. In France, I believe, the Army almost always uses wafer bread for the Holy Communion Service. No one attending the week-day Services will, I think, be made uncomfortable by the change; and old-fashioned people will not be disturbed by any change on Sunday as long as I can get a special loaf made.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

No local Tea rationing necessary

Newbury set parameters for the use of potatoes in making bread.

21st June 1918

The Committee considered a recommendation from the Rural District Council with reference to the rationing of Tea, and considered that no local Tea rationing was necessary.

A complaint with regard to the sale of sugar to a retailer was to be referred to the Sugar Commission.

An application for the re-opening of the Bread Business carried on by the late Mr Keep was approved.

The Committee decided that the quantity of potatoes to be used in the manufacture of bread should be 15 lbs, to 280 lbs of flour until the 30th of October next, and 20 lbs to 280 lbs of flour after that date.

Newbury Borough Council Food Control Sub-committee minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

Not much to grumble at

The Governor of Reading Prison was defensive about complaints about the food put forward by one of the Irish internees.

Place of Internment
Reading
29 May 1918

W L Cole

1. The Commissioners’ instructions are – no letters in or out – no visits.

2. When formerly here, the Home Office allowed parcels of food &c. Now food is controlled & parcels mean letters to acknowledge.

3. By Commissioners’ orders these men were on Local Prison diet. This does not carry tea or coffee. Further as tea is rationed in Reading, 1 ½ oz per head per week, they could not buy it without coupons, and they cannot write [for it]. Now the diet has been altered – as for the remainder of the interned aliens – they can have tea for breakfast or coffee.

4. They receive 3 ½ oz a head a week, the same as other interned men – Reading maximum ration is 4 oz per week. They receive 14 oz of bread daily, the same as other men. Cereals are limited to 117 oz a head a week.

5. They receive potatoes daily and on most days of the week a second vegetable – leeks – or something else as well – where procurable.

I will give their food today – not much to grumble at. They can supplement that by purchasing non controlled articles.

Breakfast – 6 oz bread, 1 pint porridge, ¼ oz margarine, 1 pint coffee.

Dinner – 2 oz bread, 1 ½ oz salt pork, 4 oz haricot beans, 16 oz potatoes, 4 oz stewed rhubarb (fresh), 4 oz leeks (from garden).

Supper – 5 oz bread, 1 pint cocoa, ¼ oz margarine, 6 oz potatoes, 1 ½ oz salt pork (alternatively with cheese).

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

Compulsory powers for the use of potatoes in making bread in order to obtain uniformity within the district

Tea was set to be the next item on the rationing list.

17th May 1918

A Memo. From the Ministry of Food with reference to the proposed system of Tea Distribution based on the registration of customers, was considered. The Committee expressed themselves in favour of compulsory rationing throughout the Kingdom, but considered the ration proposed by the Ministry to be insufficient.

A Circular letter with reference to the National Kitchens Order 1918 as to the desirability of providing a National Kitchen for this area, was considered; but as the matter was under consideration of the Education Committee, it was considered desirable to await the result of that Committee’s report.

The Committee considered it desirable to obtain compulsory powers for the use of potatoes in making bread in order to obtain uniformity within the district, and the Executive Officer was instructed to communicate with the Ministry accordingly.

A special supply of jam having been obtained, the Committee decided that the same should be distributed through the medium of customers’ margarine cards, which were to be specially marked.

Surplus butter was allowed to be preserved up to 10 lbs per person until the 1st July next.

Newbury Borough Council Food Control Committee minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

The lives of these PoWs seem to depend on the food sent them from England

PoWs depended on food sent from home.

Mrs. Barnett has undertaken to collect eggs for the Reading Branch of the National Egg Collection for Wounded Soldiers. Gifts of eggs will be gratefully received at the Vicarage.

The Vicar has had an appeal to help to collect for the Royal Berkshire Regiment Prisoners of War Fund on May 11th. 1918.

The Care Committee are responsible for sending parcels of food to 405 prisoners and bread to 473, the cost of which exceeds £14,000 per annum — £2000 of which is spent on bread. This is a very urgent matter as the lives of these men seem to depend on the food sent them from England. The Vicar will gladly receive donations, large and small, and if they are sent to him before May 11th he will forward them to the Committee as a gift from Bracknell.

Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, May 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/5)

‘He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete’

The Schraplowsky saga rolled on. Had his hunger strike caused the Polish internee to lose weight?

Place of Internment
Reading
8th May 1918

H. Schraplowsky

I have previously reported fully on this man’s case, and the letters he refers to are with the Prison Commissioners.

Taken from his record his weights are:

On arrest 23.6.15 – 222 lbs (dress not stated) – was then at Brixton
Reading 21.3.16 214 lbs
31.3.17 203 lbs (dress – without cap, coat or boots)
19.3.17 [sic?] 194 lbs

H M Prison
Reading
May 8 1918

From the MO to the Governor

Concerning the petition of H. Schraplowsky. He has lost a certain amount of weight, rather in my opinion to his advantage than otherwise. He is a dyspeptic to a moderate extent. This is not to be wondered at considering his fits of temper and his stand upon his grievances.

I have allowed him rice in place of bread, with pint of porridge extra. The bread however is digested by both officers and interned men. He has lately been on “hunger strike”, although I had my doubts about it being complete. The mixture that he refers to is a suitable one for gastric and intestinal dyspepsia.

W S Freeman

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

Temporary apparent chaos

The Spencer brothers were both subject to a temporary reprieve.

Sydney Spencer
Wednesday 8 May 1918

After a good sleep from 4.30 till 9.30 I was called to go with Dillon to BHQ, to speak for 2 lance corporals (vide April 29). This was postponed so I washed, shaved & had a thorough good clean up after yesterday night’s escapade. Felt much lighter round the nether regions after I had removed the mud from trousers & boots. Had a short snooze after lunch. Then viewed scene for new bivys.

At 3 pm this afternoon we were informed that the company would move up a bit – consequence temporary apparent chaos while everyone ‘scrounged’ bits of wood & corrugated iron, old doors etc lying about for making new bivys. Finally we got the men fairly settled in by about 7 pm. Had dinner at 6.30 so as to give the men a chance of getting mess stuff away. While cutting ‘broom’ for our bivy, men from D Company passing by, not knowing me: “Hullo George, what yer doing… [remainder illegible but seems to be vulgar].

Percy Spencer
8 May 1918

A lovely day. Huns didn’t come up to time. Field cashier who had no cash – aide to contrary. Walk up to Hunancourt. Saw 1st shell hole for 10 months. Haven’t heard them shell again yet.

A jolly evening. Col. Parish gloating over leave & going down walks in various parts of London. Me le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Fitzclarence lunched with us & told good stories of 3rd degree trial re loss of 5000 francs. Also of Mrs R- of Rouen.

Hun attack reported postponed 3 days.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“The bread is quite good, and I buy it myself”

Herman von Shraplowsky was a middle aged Russian stockbroker. Neither convicted or an enemy alien, why had he even been interned for over two years?

Place of Internment, Reading
22nd April 1918

H. Schraplowsky
22.5.15 S of S Order, Aliens Act, Deportation

The above named Alien was visited on the 20th inst. by Mrs Schraplowsky and Miss Cornish (friend) of 66 Station Rd, Church Rd, Finchley, London.

The conversation was upon family matters. The Alien stated he had written a letter to his wife concerning the bread, which he was unable to eat, but that the letter was suppressed.

C M Morgan
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

22 April 1918
H. Schraplowsky

Prisoner wrote a letter to his wife abusing the Medical Officer and stating that he could not eat the bread. I told the man that the letter was untrue and offensive, and that he could rewrite it. He began again to abuse the Medical Officer and said he would write the same thing. So I ordered letter to be suppressed as a forfeit.

C M Morgan
Governor

The bread is quite good, and I buy it myself in preference to bread that can be bought elsewhere.

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

Experimental baking

The impact of food shortages is reflected in the new recipes for bread tried at Reading Prison.

9th March 1918
Circular No. 41 – 15.2.18

Referring to the above on the subject of the use of potatoes in breadmaking, I have to report that a new supply of Government Regulation flour has this week been obtained from a local firm, Messrs S M Soundy & Son, and an experimental bake produced. The percentage of only 23 per cent. With previous flour 24 was [used?].
Governor

Noted – No doubt the percentage of grain will vary with the flour.
Is the bread otherwise satisfactory?
[Illegible signature]
12.3.18

Yes, the bread is now quite good, we tried adding more water to make a larger percentage, but the flour would not take it up, and the result was bad.
C M Morgan
Gov
13-12-18

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