Hearing about ‘the Somme battle’

General Douglas Haig’s despatch on the Battle of the Somme was published in the London Gazette.

29 December 1916

Interesting dispatch from Sir D. Haig about Somme battle – lasting 5 months! Edith read it aloud to me.

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

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“Our streets and homes are becoming rapidly emptied of men”

The war was increasingly striking home as more and more men joined the armed forces – and more and more died.

THE WAR

The Naval Battle off the coast of Jutland and the tragically sudden loss of Lord Kitchener have brought home to us as nothing else has, the awfulness of the war. We can however thank God that we really won the victory, which will probably become clear to us when we read Admiral Jellicoe’s eagerly awaited Despatch and we can truly thank God for the magnificent character of Lord Kitchener and the splendid work which he has done for the Empire. We have also had an additional cause for thankfulness in the wonderful recovery of our Russian Allies and their victories over the Austrians, and also for the courage and grand resistance of the French before Verdun. Please God we shall have still more reasons soon for rejoicing.

Our streets and homes are becoming rapidly emptied of men, and a number more have joined up since last month. There are now from many families several brothers serving, and our sympathy is due especially to those mothers who have several sons at the war.

Several of our old lads have nobly laid down their lives, among whom are Sidney Walter Jones, John Thomas Owen, Ernest Buckle, William Henry Palmer, William Bellinger, and Ernest Westall. Moreover Lieut. William N Gardiner, grandson of the late Rector of Newbury, also died in the Naval Battle, in which Owen, Buckle, Palmer and Bellinger lost their lives. And yet how inadequate is this expression, for indeed they have, we trust, through death found a better and a more glorious life than any that can be ours here.

The Women’s Intercession Service on Friday afternoons is being well attended, though there are a great many more who could come, if they would: the members of the congregation are asked to put any special requests for prayer in the little box which hangs on the church wall, near the Intercession List, and these are used during the service: a certain number of names from the List are also read out.

Newbury parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P89/28A/13)

“A leader will appear – but my! how he’s dawdling”

Meg Meade wrote to her brother with the latest news, and the reactions in their circle at home.

23 Wilton Place
Dec 20th [1915]
My own darling Ralph

It will be very horrid to think of you in cold Gallipoli for Xmas, but we’ll all be thinking of you darling…

Jim has been told off by JJ [Jellicoe] to take charge of the 125th Flotilla, & I suppose his appointment may be gazetted soon. But perhaps not in wartime. He starts off with 3 destroyers, a depot ship, & Destroyer Leader until the rest of them join up. I’m certain he’ll make it a smart flotilla.

They seem to have had an awful gale up there lately, & his passage north wasn’t to comfortable either. It’s only daylight from 9 am to 3 pm now apparently, they’ll be thankful when the shortest day is over. Algy Harris dined here last night. He was passing through London to take up a job under some Colonel of coastal defences, somewhere in the middle of the Lincolnshire coast. He seemed very lame indeed, poor Algy, he has been badly in the dumps, & not feeling at all well. He ought to get to a warm dry climate but everything seems up against him, & he’s very deaf now. But he hears alright when he uses a sort of telephone thing. I do wish one could help him to get out to Egypt or some such place. He’s very good & brave, but it is all bitterly hard on him. Soldiering is the one aim of his life, & he feels he’s a failure, but that’s not his fault, poor dear…

Everyone seems naturally very depressed at the news from the East. It’s horrible, isn’t it, one must just go on hoping & believing that a leader will appear, but my! How he’s dawdling. I met the French Naval Attache lunching today with the Aubrey Smiths. It’s hard for such people to understand why under the circumstances we don’t have conscription, and I don’t blame them for being both annoyed with us, & they must have not a little contempt too for being too optimistically blockheaded. I hear that Mr Jack Wilson, who was nabbed by the Austrian submarine, completely lost his head at the critical moment. He threw overboard one bag of important despatches without weighting it, so that it floated on the water till the Austrians picked it up. But I heard that his other bag of important despatches was “saved owing to the presence of mind & resources of an American lady”. I wonder if she chewed the contents, or hid them up her skirts….

Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)

Ex parte reports are not quite cricket

Ralph Glyn’s officer friend Stephen Pollen had returned from the Dardanelles.

28, Hyde Park Gardens
Nov. 9th [1915]

Dear Glyn

I am so sorry to have just missed you. It was so kind of you to have burdened yourself with a parcel for me & I am only glad to think your trouble was not wasted & that the coat is useful to you.

Many thanks, too, for the cheque although I don’t see why you should pay me a full price for a second-hand article! It is no use writing you all we hear here of what is in the melting-pot about the MEF. The centre of decision & the Decider have shifted to your GHQ.

I am to remain & assist Sir I.H. to finish off his despatches &c, & shall, I fancy, not be available for a few weeks more as we are waiting on various documents from your side. Subla [sic] Bay complicates the matter as ex parte reports have been received at WO & apparently have no small influence which is not quite cricket.

I would have liked to see the show through. It is nice to be home but not nice to come in the way one did! And what a difference being “in” it & “out”! The fortune of war & its no use lamenting.

I hope to be usefully employed again – & after all in this war, if one can be that it should be enough…

Yrs ever
S H Pollen

Mind you make use of me if there is anything you would like done.

Meanwhile a Scottish writer had taken up an idea Ralph had put forward to improve the supply of reading material for the troops.
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