A German commander with a sense of humour

On their trip to Cornwall, Florence and John Maxwell Image heard an entertaining if unlikely tale.

29 Barton Road
27 Aug. ‘17
My most dear old man

On Thursday to Landsend, stopping our car for tea at the famous Gurrend’s Head. Here was current a pleasing myth. It is a desolate scene, with one tiny farm house and a shabby aleshop calling itself an Inn. To this latter came, recently, an affable stranger in mufti, who called for a drink, wrote his name in the guest book, and went. Not until afterwards was he discovered to have been the Commander of a U-boat in the sea below! That man had a sense of humour.

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

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Holidaying dressed in khaki, with a string of medal ribbons

Holidaying in Cornwall with his Cookham born wife Florence, John Maxwell Image noted a senior officer on leave.

Polpurrian Hotel
Mullion
S Cornwall
12 Aug. ‘17
My most dear old man

The Hotel is becoming abominably full. This morning we beheld, in khaki, and a string of medal ribbons, a Brigadier General…

Very affect.
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Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“Scalps” secured by our airships

Even an idyllic seaside holiday for the Images was interrupted by the war.

Polcurrian Hotel
Mullion
S. Cornwall

Monday, Aug. 6, 1917

My very dear old man

O but this is a heavenly morning! Brilliant sky, such as I never saw in England before, in August – and the bay underneath my window of such glorious dazzling blue as I think would equal – or put to shame – South Seas or Tropics – and underneath it all, the sneaking deadly submarine. One came in here ten days ago, but had to quit re infecta, without any murders.

But a couple of young ladies from this hotel actually saw, last week, at the Lizard, 6 miles away, a U-boat torpedo strike a steamer and heard the explosion. And a man, who had cycled over, described to me the passionate race of 3 English destroyers to the rescue and our own Mullion airship hovering overhead. They did not get that submarine, though: or at least will not own to it. Discipline makes them very reticent. Still, in less guarded moments, hints are dropped as to several “scalps” secured by one or other of the airships….

Letters tell us … of two raids there – raids never mentioned yet in any newspaper!

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Donations for wounded army horses

Berkshire schools were affected by the war in varying ways.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School
1917, 23rd-27th July

As last year the County Council gave War Time Certificates instead of Prizes.

During the year the girls have sent:

1. To the Jack Cornwall Fund for Memorial Ward – 13/
2. Xmas puddings for soldiers at the Front – one guinea
3. To the RSPCA Fund for sick and wounded army horses – 12/
4. The Overseas Fund on Empire Day – 7/

Broadmoor School
27th July 1917

Miss Haines was allowed to leave school at 2 o’clock on Monday to see a friend from the trenches.

Charlton Infant School
27th July 1917

The usual school treat is not taking place this year, in accordance with the wishes of the Food Controller.

Abingdon Girls’ CE School log book (C/EL 2/2); Crowthorne: Broadmoor School log book (C/EL100); Charlton Infant School log book (C/EL12)

The children’s generosity speaks for itself

Children in Crazies Hill were generous contributors to war charities.

Crazies Hill Notes

We commend the Children of the Day School for their generosity in contributing time after time towards the needs of the county during the War. We append the following particulars and consider that they speak for themselves.

In the year 1915 they sent 12/6 to the Fund for the Over-Seas Empire Day Gifts, and before Christmas of the same year 18/6 was sent to the Over-Seas Christmas Gifts Fund.

During the present year the following contributions have already been forwarded:-

15/- to the Star and Garter Home Fund; 10/- to the Over-Seas Empire Day Gifts; 6/- to the ‘Jack Cornwall’ Memorial Ward in the Star and Garter Home, and 13/- to the Wounded Horse and the A.V.C. Fund.

Wargrave parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

“The Huns ran from the tanks like hares”

John Maxwell Image wrote to a friend with his latest thoughts, and passing on brother-in-law Percy Spencer’s impressions.

29 Barton Road
Tuesday 10 Oct ‘16

My Very Dear Old Man

I quite understand, and share with you, the absorbing interest of the daily War News. Nothing else matters, now-a-days. What do you make of this morning’s news of the U boat blockade of the United States coast? If America really shuts them out from supplies in her ports, it must be over in a month or so – and if it succeeds, the exasperation of the Yanks’ commerce must kick Wilson into activity. Anyhow it is a risky move for Germany on the brink of a Presidential election. Therefore I should judge it a sop to soothe German home politics – now that things are growing so disastrous on the Somme.

I went last Friday to see the German “Albatross” (captured by us on 15 October last year) which the WO has presented to the University. It is said to be a fine specimen, tho’ the class has been cut out since. I was very little impressed. For one thing it was so much smaller than I expected – a snout nosed, biplane, 2 seater.

We have had 2 Zepp raids since my last letter. I slept peacefully through both. In the latter of the two the Zepp dropped a starshell on Grantchester: and then passed over Barton Road, probably over our own garden, for Prof. Stanley Gardiner (opposite us) heard its drone, and turning over in bed said to his wife, “the raid is over – there are the trains running again”. We were at tea in his lovely house and garden yesterday when he told me this…

Brandon, one of the two airmen who got DSO for bringing down the flaming Zepp was at Trinity Hall.

A Tank passed through Camb[ridge] on Friday. The Signora got an amusing letter from one of her brothers at the Front, last Saturday, in which he says of the Tanks, “they are very funny, but the boundless faith in them of the folks at home is even funnier. On the day when they were first used, the Huns ran from them like hares – this, although they were aware of their advent” (clearly, nothing can be kept from the Hun spy). Two are known to have got in once to the place near Thetford where the Tanks were secretly built. To go on with Percy Spencer: “One of these contraptions was observed going through the main street of a captured village with our boys riding all over her and hanging on the back.” His chief praise, however, is for our Aeroplanes. “In the air, the Hun is a nonentity – and he owns it every day” – and I remember how, when he first went out, he used to laugh and vow that he had seen hundreds shot at, but never one brought down!

These submarine brutes, who torpedo ships without warning! Did you notice that the first question asked by the Submarine at Newport was for the Bremen? Why, his Government, weeks ago, published to the world the safe arrival of the Bremen in America. Does he presume to disbelieve his own Government? The Americans honestly know nothing of her, but we in England for some time past have heard it whispered that she is safe at Falmouth. The Falmouth watch for U boats is very strict, and has been (so they boast) inordinately successful. A lady who came back a few weeks ago from a holiday, recounted to me how she was one afternoon walking by the shore when a destroyer tore past her in furious haste, all the funnels vomiting columns of black smoke. No sooner as she past Pendennis Point than the firing began. It died away – and presently, soberly and slowly, the destroyer came back, another destroyer keeping pace, and between them – the German submarine. What wouldn’t I have given for that sight.

I am told – by Ball, so it is likely to be correct – that Trinity expects this term 47 men of all years, including BAs!

The Fellowship dinner was for tonight. It is postponed till Thursday – after the funerals of Keith Lucas (killed from an aeroplane) nd poor Alfred Humphry. He is buried today at Thaxted…

Our most affectionate wishes to you both.
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Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

This terrible war puts everything else into the shade

Organising his family’s summer holiday, William Hallam reminisced about the innocence of life back before the war.

12th July 1915

Applied for passes for my wife and children to Newquay. This week last year we were at Newquay, and our only worry was would there be a strike at Swindon on our return, no idea of this terrible war which puts everything else into the shade.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)

‘Out of five sons, three have been killed and one is a prisoner’

The June issue of the Longworth parish magazine reported on the latest news of local soldiers.


Walter Carter, Fred Carter and our morning postman, Albert W. Walker, have joined the Army during the last month. Several more did their best to join, but were rejected on the score of health or age.

George Painton was serving on H.M.S. Goliath, and his name is not among the list of survivors. There was not a more popular lad in the village than George, or a nicer one. We do most sincerely hope that even yet it may be found that he was rescued. His home is now in Cornwall, and we are deeply grieved for his wife and family in their anxiety. And every heart in the village, we have cause to know, goes out in sympathy to our neighbours, Captain and Mrs Loder-Symonds and their family. Out of five sons three have been killed in this war and one is a prisoner. We give below some words of great comfort, and hope from our Bishop’s paper on “Patriotism in the Bible” (Mowbray, 2d).

The courage and self-sacrifice of the soldiers is a magnificent and inspiring virtue, and we are thrilled with a kind of holy exultation in the quality of our soldiers and sailors. A great many of us who cannot be soldiers find ourselves envying them a road so direct and simple into the divine kingdom. They are ordinary Englishmen, most of them by no means saints. But we cherish the words, ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ And we trust that, whatever their faults or vices, Christ can find in those who, so simply and unostentatiously, give their life for their country, that of which He can avail Himself, even in the world which lies beyond death, so that all that is inconsistent with the divine kingdom may be purged away, with the help of the prayers of all the Church, and those brave sons who have fallen in battle or died of their wounds may be fitted for an eternal fellowship with ‘the spirits of the just men made perfect.’

Longworth parish magazine, June 1915 (D/P83/28A/10/6)