“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle”

A Maidenhead man bears witness to the fighting in Palestine.

OUR SOLDIERS.

Reginald Hill has left Sheffield Hospital, and hoped to have left hospitals for ever, but very shortly after getting home he had a slight relapse, and at the time of writing is a patient at Cliveden. We hope his stay there will be very brief.

Harold Islip is in hospital at Trouville, suffering from trench fever. He expects shortly to be in training for a Commission.

Ernest Bristow will probably be at Cliveden by the time this has reached our readers’ hands.

George Ayres has been transferred to a Field Company of the Engineers, and is at Anglesey.

Reginald Hamblin is in a Flying Corps, and is training at Totteridge.

Herbert Hodgson is in a camp near Salisbury Plain.

Benjamin Gibbons is in Ireland.

Leonard Beel sends a letter (which has evidently had a soaking in sea water) with vivid account of what he has seen in Palestine. He says:

“I witnessed all the terrific bombardment from land and sea against the Gaza defences, and shall never forget the awful spectacle. Afterwards I had a good look around Gaza, and saw the results of the bombardment, but unfortunately missed the several interesting spots associated with Samson’s career through want of a guide.”

He speaks, too, of visiting Ashdod, Lydda, the Vale of Ajalon, and Jaffa, where Simon the tanner entertained Peter, and where Dorcas was raised.

“The native villages,” he says, “are picturesque from a distance only. Inside they are usually worse than any English slum, full of filth and squalor. It is months ago since I last saw an Arab with a clean face.”

His one regret is that he has missed seeing Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

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Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives!

There was news of several Maidenhead men, one of whom had paid the ultimate price while taking part in an important operation.

OUR SOLDEIRS.

Reginald Hill is at a Convalescent Home, but he has not quite done with the Hospital yet. However, he hopes to say farewell to his friends at Sheffield in a month or so. Ernest Bristow has not yet been able to make the promised move to Cliveden, apparently because there has been a slight set-back in the healing process. But he is in excellent spirits. Harold Islip is in Hospital in France, suffering from a slight attack of trench fever. He expects shortly to return to England to be trained for a Commission. Wilfrid Collins has returned to Canada. Cecil Meade has been invalided home from Salonika, with a touch of malaria. He is reporting himself immediately, but does not expect to return to the East. Benjamin Gibbons is out of hospital again, and has been sent to Ireland. Herbert Brand has been gazetted 2nd Lieut. in the Staffordshires. Alfred Vardy went over to France at the beginning of April. Harry Baldwin has been home on leave, and anticipates being sent on active service (naval) very shortly. Wallace Mattingley, after a year’s training at Sandhurt, has received a Commission in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

We deeply regret to record the death of Arthur Ada, who was killed in the attack upon Zeebrugge on the night of Monday, April 22nd. Alas! glorious victories cost precious lives! We sympathise deeply with his sorrowing friends and relatives. There will be a touch of pride and admiration in the recollection of him when the manner of his death is recalled. It is said that before the operation actually took place everyone was informed quite clearly of the risk, but that no one backed out. The body was brought to Maidenhead for burial, and after a service in the Baptist Chapel (where Mr. Ada was organist), conducted by Revs. T. W. Way and T. F. Lewis, the interment was made at the Cemetery. Mr. Ada at one time contemplated offering himself for Missionary service.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Urgent need for extra beds for wounded soldiers

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital patriotically decided to abandon serving private patients in order to accommodate the wounded.

14th December 1917

Letter to War Office.

The Hon Secretary stated that he had written to the War Office as decided at the last meeting re cot cases being sent to the Hospital & suggesting that the Hospital be re-attached to Cliveden, and further that a communication had been received stating that the Hospital had been so re-attached.

Discontinue Entry of Private Patients. Additional beds for Soldiers.

During the meeting an officer having called and stated that there was urgent need for extra beds for wounded soldiers, the Board decided on the proposition of the Rev. T. Lewis, seconded by Mr. Waldron, that for the time being, while the need lasts, that the entry of Private-Patients into the Hospital shall be discontinued, and that an extra bed be put up in the new Men’s Ward giving 4 beds available, further that if the out patient department be required, nine beds could be placed there, but that at present the Hospital had not sufficient beds or furniture for the purpose.

It was proposed by Mr. Fry & seconded by Capt. Metcalfe, & carried, that the Hon Secretary be asked to write to the Adjutant at Cliveden to the above effect.

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors’ minutes (D/H1/1/2, pp. 350-351)

No accommodation for convalescent cases

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital was annoyed that their military patients were now to come from Reading rather than Cliveden.

9th November 1917
Letter from Duchess of Connaught’s Hospital.

The Hon. Secretary had a letter from the Officer commanding the Duchess of Connaught’s Hospital Cliveden, stating that consequently the Maidenhead Cottage Hospital would in future receive its Military patients from the War Hospital Reading, being in the Southern Command. It was proposed by Mr. Walker seconded by Mr. F.C. Webster that the Board confirm the resolution dated April 14, 1916 when it was decided to send a letter to the War Office offering 10 beds for surgical cases, and not for convalescents, as there was no accommodation for the same, and this confirmation be communicated to the Officer Commanding the War Hospital Reading, a copy of the original letter for the War Office to be also enclosed.

This resolution was carried.

The Hon. Secretary was requested to write to the War Office on the above subject pointing out the present position and suggesting that this Hospital might be reattached to Cliveden as there was a difficulty in receiving cot cases from Reading.

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors’ minutes (D/H1/1/2, p. 348)

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)

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)