A pretty wedding at Bisham

Nurse Elizabeth Vansittart Neale, co-heiress of Bisham Abbey, had enjoyed a wartime romance with 27 year old officer Leo Paget, and today was their wedding day – at Bisham Church. Mother Florence’s diary entry was brief:

20 October 1917

Bubs’ wedding day.

However, she went into more detail in another book she kept.

20th October 1917
Elizabeth married Capt Leo Paget – Rifle Brigade. Wedding took place in Bisham Church – very pretty – good music with Dr. Bath at organ & Marlow choir boys to reinforce ours.

Over 60 guests at luncheon, almost all relations.

Bridal pair repaired [?] to Reading to Malets Cottage at Norcot–Lynton [?].

Young Paget came over on leave from the front in France – he arrived the day before the wedding- he had 2 weeks leave (4 days extra for marriage).

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2, p. 222)

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Bright moon, bad air raids

The Vansittart Neale girls were both home for the first time since they started nursing the troops.

28 September 1917
Waited [at Maidenhead station] for both girls who had been to London for day’s shopping. All motored home. First time we all 4 together. Bad air raid nearly every night this week – bright moon.

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

A war bride’s banns

While nursing the troops, Elizabeth “Bubble” Vansittart Neale had fallen in love with Leo Paget (1889-1951), a Captain in the Rifle Brigade, whose father was a General in the Royal Artillery. The couple’s wedding would take place at Bisham Church in October 1917.

16 September 1917

Bubs’ banns read for 1st time.

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

An awful disappointment

Florence Vansittart Neale was disappointed that her nurse daughter could not make it home on leave as planned.

1 August 1917

Telephone from Australian officer wanting to come. Arranged to come that night – Lieut. Maxwell….

Heard Bubs leave stopped – awful disappointment!

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

From prison to Parliament

Future Irish President Eamon de Valera made his first appearance on a world stage in July 1917 when he won a parliamentary by-election for the constituency of East Clare, aged 35. He was a veteran leader of the Easter Rising the previous year, explaining Florence Vansittart Neale’s disapproval.

11 July 1917

Set back by Ijder. Fear our troops surrounded.

Sinn-Fein man got in for Clare – rebel – released from prison….

Heard Bubs had put in for leave.

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

Tactfully teaching young nurses

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale was not a qualified nurse, but she had gained a lot of experience during the war.

28 April 1917

Big speech by Lloyd George very good….

Nice letter from Bubs – she “tactfully teaching the new bemedalled sisters”!

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

Difficulties for the Vansittart Neales

The Vansittart Neale girls were struggling with their nursing work, while Sydney Spencer had spent Christmas at home on sick leave. He returned to Yorkshire to find his battalion had moved again.

26 December 1916
Florence Vansittart Neale

Heard from Bubs at last. Very bitter. She in new hut. Medical ward. Her clock stolen. P’s hands full of chilblains.

Sydney Spencer
December 26, 1916

I arrive at new quarters, F block Hillsboro barracks.

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

Not many at sale for wounded Frenchmen

Sydney Spencer was ill – just in time for Christmas at home.

Sydney Spencer
December 14, 1916

I go home on 12 days sick leave.

Not every effort to raise money to support the war was well attended.

Florence Vansittart Neale
14 December 1916

Bubs & I went to Bear Place for Dottie’s sale for French wounded. Glee singers from Windsor & Eton. Not many people there.

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

Remounts in Bisham

The Vansittart Neale ladies went to inspect a base for getting horses ready to be sent to the front, at Temple House, Bisham.

12 December 1916

Bubs, Baba & I went to Temple to see remounts.

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

Night duty – alone with one orderly

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale of Bisham was struggling nursing.

1 October 1916

Heard from Bubs. She on night duty – very low bout it. 60 beds in ward – she alone with one orderly. 2 months!…

Another Zepp raid – one came down in flames at Potters Bar – all crew burnt.

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

Busy in the surgical ward

Florence Vansittart Neale heard from her daughter Elizabeth (Bubbles) who was now nursing in France.

8 April 1916

Nice newsy letter from Bubs – in acute surgical ward. Very busy. [Convoys?] almost every night….

Grieved Canadians lost some ground gained by RF & North F. March 27.

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

Reading nurses stick together in France

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale let her mother know how she was getting on in France.

5 April 1916
Nice letter from Bubs. She got to Camiers, 4 miles from Gladys. In huts with [illegible] Smith. Spent night Boulogne. Met Ag. Lovely crossing. Beginning work next day – all Reading 5 together. Ag also wrote.

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

No April fooling in the shadow of air raids

Air raids were a worrying experience for people at home – even if they were not directly affected.

Florence Vansittart Neale
1 April 1916

Papers & letters very late owing to Zepps – big raid over east coast. 5 Zepp: altogether. One brought down in Thames – crew captured….

Wire saying Bubs safe at Boulogne. Also letter from her from Folkestone.

Community of St John Baptist
1 April 1916

Air raid during past night in some parts of the country. Stricter orders as to lights.

William Hallam
1st April 1916

I had just gone up to bed at 10 last night when the hooter blew a Zepp warning but still, I was not at all anxious but got into bed and went to sleep although the rest were nervous. No April fooling here now to-day.

To night I put 4£ in P. B. bank and 15/6 in War Saving Certif.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5);
Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Germans jeer at drowning victims

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale, set out for France, where she was going to nurse wounded soldiers. The Revd Edward Lyttelton, referred to here, was the headmaster of Eton, and was forced to resign after stating that peace terms should be generous towards the Germans.

30 March 1916

Bubs off too early for us to go up. 9.5 at Charing X. Most disappointing!… Bubs leaving for 7 months in France with 5 other pro’s… Had wire from Bubs, sleeping day, Folkestone that night…

Liner sank. Over 100 drowned. German submarine crew looked on & jeered!!

Dr Lyttelton’s sermon much criticized.

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

The army clears fallen trees in Bisham

The Vansittart Neales had a farewell visit from daughter Bubbles before she went to nurse in France. Meanwhile damage on the estate was repaired by local troops.

28 March 1916
H[enry] to Maidenhead. Bubs came back in motor. Heard soon after she came that they were to start Thursday, so the Matron let her stay here till Weds evening.

Estate memorandum book
28th March 1916
Abbey & Grange

A violent blizzard took place – doing much damage to trees. We must have lost 150 or so. The big elm in the old orchard was blown down and 8 other large trees in the Warren & grounds – no one was injured. The Engineers at Marlow helped considerably in clearing roads & paths.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Bisham estate memorandum book (D/EX73/1/8/2)