The best Christmas present

There was good news at last for the Vansittart Neales.

25 December 1918

Xmas Day at The Lawn, 101 Denmark Hill SE5.
Very crowded early service. Not back till past 9 o’clock. Went off directly after. Heard shade better. Then to Hospital service. Met Mr Edmunds. So pleased temp: coming down slowly. Best Xmas present.

Henry went to [his cousin] Frank Dickinson’s for tea. I sat quietly with Sister in ward. Had tea. She very kind.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)


No modification of food restrictions for the Lunatic Asylum

Even the county’s mental hospital was affected by wartime conditions.

66, Victoria Street, S.W.

12th April, 1917


Food Restriction.

I am directed by the Board of Control to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 9th instant, and to say that they think the allowances set out in their circular letter should be adhered to as closely as possible, so far as the occupations and health of individuals among your staff and patients will permit.

The Board have no reason to think that the Food Controller has any intention of modifying his previous instructions which were issued to you.

The conditions of course which obtain in hotels and restaurants, where visitors are obviously quite unable to secure any control over cooking, are entirely different from those obtaining in a public institution or a private house.

I am, Sir,
Your Obedient Servant,

O.C. Dickinson, Secretary

The Medical Superintendent, Berks Asylum

Berkshire Lunatic Asylum correspodence (D/H10/A6/6/1/6)

Netted submarines

Henry Vansittart Neale’s late sister Henrietta, to whom he had been very close as a child, had married into the Dickinson family.

21 March 1917

I hear that Dover Harbour is full of netted submarines (Muriel Dickinson).

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

21 March 1917

Wrote a letter to Percy, wishing him many happy returns from us both, & thanking him from us both for handing in an enquiry to the British Graves Commission with regard to our missing relative. Asked him to mention to Florrie some books or songs or some other little thing he would like to have, which she could then send him on my behalf. To assist him in choosing (if he decided for books), gave him alist of about 25 volumes in the Everyman’s Library Series, a catalogue of which I have here. Johanna brought a copy of the photograph Frau von Tobiesen took of us at hergiswil, which I enclosed.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

It is more important to reduce the consumption of bread and flour than to reduce the consumption of meat

The Lunatic Asylum received official instructions explaining how to adapt food supplies under the current restrictons.

66, Victoria Street, S.W.

2nd March, 1917


I am directed by the Board of Control to advert to their circular letter of the 13th February asking to be informed how far the amount of bread, meat and sugar issued for the patients and staff in your Institution conform to the limitations imposed by the Food Controller, and to thank you for your reply thereto.

The Board have now learnt that the Food Controller considers the following articles of diet may properly be utilised as partial substitutions for the above-mentioned foods:-

For Bread per 1lb. or Flour per ¾lb.

¾lb. Barley, or

¾lb. Oatmeal, or

¾lb. Rice, or

¾lb. Sago, or

¾lb. Tapioca, or

¾lb. Maize Meal (Cornflour, Hominy, &c.), or

5ozs. Butter, Margarine or Fat.

B. For Meat per 1lb. (uncooked without bone)

5ozs. Cheese, or

8ozs. Beans, (dry) or

8ozs. Lentils, (dry) or

8ozs. Peas, (dry)

The various ways in which Beans, Lentils and Peas may be cooked so as to render them savoury and appetising are no doubt known to you.

C. For Sugar per ¾lb.

1lb. Treacle or Syrup, or

1lb Honey

The Board understand that the amounts of Meat, Bread, Flour and Sugar indicated in the limitations prescribed by the Food Controller, must be taken as the broad average applying to households containing an average distribution of adults and children of both sexes and various ages. He recognises that in institutions not satisfying this condition the actual scale would, in some details, require modification and adjustment to circumstances.

At present, it is more important to reduce the consumption of Bread and Flour than to reduce the consumption of Meat. Bread should not be substituted for Meat. The Board suggest that, in institutions where the amount of Bread per head considerably exceeds the limitations prescribed by the Food Controller, a reduction might be effected by substituting a small ration of cold fat bacon for some of the breakfast bread.

It should be borne in mind that while substitutes for bread may be utilised to a certain extent, the object of the Food Controller’s scale is to effect a net reduction in the consumption of food.

I am, Sir, Your Obedient Servant,

O.C. Dickinson, Secretary

To the Medical Superintendents, of all institutions for Lunatics and to the Superintendents of all Certified Institutions or Houses for Mental Defectives and Approved Homes.

Letter to Berkshire Lunatic Asylum (D/H10/A6/6/1/4)

Death from wounds

Humphrey Dickinson was a relative by marriage of the Vansittart Neales. His story Thomson’s Friend, written in c. 1912-13, was privately published after his death by his grieving mother. A copy is held at Berkshire Record Office.

16 October 1916
Heard of Humphrey Dickinson’s death from wounds.

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

Sad but interesting: blinded by the war

Florence Vansittart Neale visited St Dunstann’s Hospital, where blinded soldiers were being rehabilitated.

14 March 1916

Fighting at Verdun begun again. French seem confident. Went to see Helen, stayed about 1 ½ hours. C is back from German lesson, trying for PO censorship. Evelyn [possibly Evelyn Dickinson, wife of Henry Vansittart Neale’s nephew] & I to St Dunstan’s to see blind men’s work. Very sad, but interesting.

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

A critical time in the history of the Balkan states

More Reading men were serving their country – and one female nurse had also gone to the front.


For God’s guidance of the Balkan states at this critical time in their history.

For God’s good hand upon our Navy and Army, and on all preparing to serve their King and Country.

Roll of Honour
Frank Thomas, Arthur Ford, Frank Tothurst, Ian Duncan Dickinson, Henry James Brian, Ronald Dyson, Stanley Curtis.

William Heath, Frederick Clemetson.

All Saints District
Roll of Honour

The following additional names have been sent in for Remembrance at the Altar.

Alfred Ashby, Arthur Austin, Charles William Adair, Lionel Austen-Leigh, Fred Bartholomew, Lilian Simpson Field (Nurse), Hugh Douglas Hawkins, Arthur Stanley Hawkins, Henry Maule Kemble, Algernon Kink, Harold John Cooke Neobard, Harry Tims, Cecil White, Ernest Woodley.

William Henry Bodie, Frederick Charles Clemetson, William Porter.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, October 1915 (D/P98/28A/13)

Irish are “traitors all”

Florence and Henry Vansittart Neale paid a visit to Henry’s former brother in law Henry Dickinson and nephew Harry.

16 August 1915
Words about “Per Shaw”. Shaw says he physically unfit….

To the Dickinsons. Found Harry home. Had tea. Expecting news of Lionel’s arrival in England – he severely wounded in shoulder.
Heard that we cannot have conscription because of the Irish. They are full of rebellion. Traitors all.

Heard General Paget came back from the Front to beg our government would agree to France making us “trench mortars”, very deadly. They agree to see after them but we cannot afford them! So Kitchener refuses!!

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

Outside St Paul’s Cathedral

Florence Vansittart Neale attended an open-air service in London in support of the war. The Bishop of London preached an inspiring sermon on the soul of the nation. But there was worrying news about a nephew of Florence’s husband Henry.

25 July 1915

Service outside St Paul’s. Bishop. Troops – [illegible] bands.

Heard Lionel Dickinson wounded in Dardanelles.

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

French Flag Day

On Bastille Day, people across Berkshire celebrated our ally France. Even the poor gave what they could. Children learnt about the country.

Sulhamstead has warmly taken up the cause of our Allies in France who have been rendered destitute and homeless through the North Eastern industrial portion of their land being in the occupation of the Germans. A collection was given to this cause on Sunday July 14th, and although unannounced, amounted to 17s 9 1/2d. Mademoiselle Delphine Payat has taken a list to certain of our parishioners, and has raised a sum of £4. many sent word that they wished to give, or sent their gifts, and it has been very touching to read the number of small sums of 6d that have been given by the working classes, even by the very poor.

A further use of the balance left from the Jumble Sale and the Children’s Concert has been made in preparing bags and tray cloths for the Reading War Hospital. The material for 44 of these was purchased, and the tray cloths and bags made by residents in the parish. It is hoped that the small balance still remaining may be used for sandbags.

14th July 1915
Children have been saving for the French refugees and today we celebrated “French Flag” Day. We marched round playground saluting both English and French flags and singing English and French National Anthems.

Coleshill CE School
On Wednesday (14th) [July] lessons on France and tales of her people were given to the Upper Group. The Marseillaise was sung, the French flag saluted, and each child wore a small one.

French Flag Day Relief Fund.
The Scholars and their Teachers at the National School have not been unmindful of the calls made upon all for help in these distressful times. In answer to an appeal from the Overseas Club as long ago as May last, the children made a collection among themselves and their friends, and succeeded in raising a sum of 9/-. The Overseas Club undertook to add 2/- to each 1/- raised, and to forward it to nine soldiers at the front, with postcards for replies. Then on the French Flag Day – July 14 – the children again made a collection, amounting to 10/- for the French Relief Fund. This was forwarded to the Secretary, Mr. F. H. Dickinson, and suitably acknowledged.

14th July 1915.
Special reference was made to France today; the Marseillaise was sung, and a sum of five shillings was contributed by the scholars towards the fund for helping wounded French soldiers.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, August 1915 (D/EX725/3); Coleshill CE School log book (D/P40/28/4, p. 288); Aldermaston CE School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 40); Wraysbury Infants School log book; Thatcham parish magazine, August 1915 (D/P130/28A/31)