By boat from Cliveden

A group of wounded soldiers recuperating at Cliveden visited Bisham by boat.

strong>30 July 1917
Wounded from Cliveden came by launch.

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

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A happy set of wounded soldiers

More wounded soldiers visited Bisham Abbey from the hospital at Cliveden.

30 April 1917
Fine day. Dug Ellie’s allotment with Hilda. Wounded came from Cliveden. Went round garden & farm after tea, & sat out by river. Some went in boats. Nice set – all very happy.

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

An offer to go to Italy

Phyllis Vansittart Neale was invited to nurse in Italy.

2 March 1917

Phyllis & May [illegible] to tea at Cliveden. Nurses forgot they had invited them! Phyllis offer from Devonshire House to go to Italy – field ambulance hospital at once, but refused it.

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

Beer and bottled water to be in short supply

Sydney Spencer underwent training in gas exposure, while Florence Vansittart Neale was shocked by the amount of items to be restricted.

Sydney Spencer of Cookham
Feb 22

I go through chlorine gas for first time (in a P.H. helmet).

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
22 February 1917

Large contingent of nurses & MOs from Cliveden. Saw everything & had tea in hall. Came at 3, left 5.30….

Good speech by E. Carson on submarine menace – very serious, but hope it will get [illegible].

Importations of timber, apples, tomatoes, raw fruits, tea, restricted, meat, paper, wines, silks, only 10,000,000 barrels of beer – spirits also restricted, aerated water and table water.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Food rations begin

Our diarists had a variety of interests. In Switzerland, Will Spencer saw the US was coming closer to war; in training, his brother Sydney was learning to shoot; and in Bisham, Florence Vansittart Neale was worried by food rationing and strikes.

Will Spencer in Switzerland
5 February 1917

News in the paper that diplomatic relations between Germany & the United States have been broken off by the latter.

Sydney Spencer in army training
Feb 5th

General Musketry course results (extract). Lt S Spencer, A company, Marksman 130. This was fired at Totley with 2 feet snow & hard ports!

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
5 February 1917

Expected men from Cliveden – arrived late as motor broken down. Came in 2 ambulances.

Wild argument from miners!…

Food rations begin. 2 ½ lb meat – 4 lbs bread or flour – ¾ lb sugar per week.

Diaries of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27); Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Nice Canadian soldiers

The latest visitors to Bisham Abey were probably from the Canadian Red Cross hospital at Cliveden.

23 January 1917
Wounded came in afternoon. Such nice men – mostly Canadians.

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

17 men from Cliveden

A group of wounded soldiers came over from Cliveden for an afternoon at Bisham Abbey.

9 October 1916
Had 17 men from the Cliveden Hospital headed by a Presbyterian Canadian chaplain. They saw all over the house, then had a substantial tea, & then we walked round garden, farm & Grange. Left before bed.

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

10 beds for surgical cases, none for convalescents

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital offered ten beds for the use of wounded soldiers requiring operations.

14th April 1916

Letter to War Office offering 10 beds to surgical cases of wounded soldiers. Proposed by Capt Pretyman seconded by Capt Metcalfe that a letter be written to the Secretary of State for War bringing to his notice the offer made by the Governors in their letter of Sept 3rd 1914, of ten beds for surgical cases & pointing out the impossibility of taking convalescents as there was no accommodation for same, also that a copy of same be sent to the Officer commanding the Duchess of Cornwall’s Convalescent Hospital at Cleavden [sic].

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors minutes (D/H1/1/2)

No accommodation for convalescent cases

A small Maidenhead hospital was unable to accept convalescent wounded soldiers.

10th March 1916

Letter from Col. Gonell at Cliveden. The Sec. was instructed to write to Col. Gonell explaining that the Board had offered the ten beds at the commencement of the war for surgical cases only & that there was no accommodation at the hospital for convalescent cases.

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors’ minutes (D/H1/1/2)

15 beds available at Bisham

Florence Vansittart Neale was ready to reopen Bisham Abbey as a hospital.


1 January 1916

Colonel Covell, 5th Command Medical Officer, living at Cliveden, to lunch. Talk over opening hospital. Agreed to have 15 beds if wanted.

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

Not a good enough sailor to nurse on a hospital ship

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale wanted to nurse on a hopital ship, but unfortunately she was prone to seasickness. Meanwhile her parents were hosting a day out for some wounded soldiers recuperating at Cliveden.

8 December 1915

Bubs came to discuss going on Hospital ship. She not good enough sailor – so refused….

Sent motor to Cliveden for 5 wounded. Drive first, came here about 3.30. Showed them some of the rooms, then tea in hall. Smoke with Harding after. Very nice men. 2 Canadians, 1 NZ, 2 English – a Sheffield man most difficult to understand.

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

Over to Cliveden to see the hospital

The Vansittart Neales got a guided tour of the Red Cross hospital at Cliveden.

19 October 1915

H[enry] to London. C[onstance], E[dith] & I motored him to Maidenhead, & we on to Cliveden to see Hospital. Very interesting. Met our friend the Maori & Rutherford.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/317/8)

A day out from Cliveden

Florence Vansittart Neale invited some local Belgian refugees to lunch at Bisham Abbey, and also hosted a day out for wounded soldiers from the British colonies being nursed at Cliveden.

8 October 1915
Had the 4 Belgians to lunch: M. Vandewerve & son & daughters. Then about 30 or more wounded from Cliveden came with Lady Boston. Australians & Canadians & New Zealanders. Much interested – most on Sir George. We kept 5 & sent them back. Saw death of Kenneth Mackenzie – awful.

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