A bargain price for citizenship

Part of the process of obtaining citizenship in Switzerland for Anglo-German couple Will and Johanna Spencer as finding a home parish in their new country, which is still necessary to gain naturalisation.

19 December 1917

Before breakfast Johanna was called to the telephone. It was Frau Oberst Reichel very kindly telephoning to let us know that a letter had just arrived for her husband from Herrn Engeloch, which she had opned before sending it on to him, to say thast the Parish Council of Oberburg had on Sunday consented to our becoming parishioners of that parish.

I afterwards found on the breakfast table a letter for me from Herrn Engeloch in the same sense, & mentioning that the fee would be 500 francs. The Parish Council had at first said 500-600fr., so this is the smallest amount we expected to have to pay.

We afterwards walked to Muldenstrasse to call & thank Frau Reichel & introduce ourselves as the new fellow-parishioners, but she was not at home. We returned by tram, breaking our journey to order a Christmas decoration (a hanging bunch of sprays of fir, mistletoe, etc) to be afterwards sent to the Oberst Reichels, at flower shop in the Bubenbergplatz.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

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Germans “too downtrodden to rise”

Florence Vansittart Neale was glued to every wild rumour about the war, while Will Spencer’s love for his German wife had only grown stronger through their difficult years of exile in Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
November 1917
[inserted before 23 November]

Hear P. Innes says state of Germany awful. People too weak to rise, able bodied men only able to work half time, too downtrodden to rise.
Hear the Pope instigated the Italians to give up. He encouraged Austrian spies everywhere!

23 November 1917

Hear Boy cannot get Paris leave. Hope for January…. Hear most domestic servants to be requisitioned for work – only allowed 1 servant each person! Counting the gardeners!!!

Hear General Plumer & staff have been in Italy 3 weeks to see how many necessary to keep Italy. Our troops must go over Mt Cenes pass.

Hear through Marga that a Florentine Regiment who deserted was sent back to Florence with “traitors to their country” on their brassades.

Hear many battalions would willingly shoot 1 in 10 of strikers [illegible].

Will Spencer
23 November 1917

During the afternoon I called & had an interview with Herrn Fursprech Engeloch. Father need take no further steps to obtain attestation of my residence in Cookham before Jan. 19/15, as it may not be needed. As soon as the matter comes before the Gemeinde (I told him we had chosen Oberburg [as their official home town in Switzerland]. Herr E. will let Oberst Reichel know, in order that he can then write on our behalf, stating that we are friends of his, as he has kindly offered to do. Probably the best means of letting the German authorities know that I had become a Swiss subject would be to apply to have Johanna’s money sent here, mentioning thereby that I am a Swiss subject, & if that is questioned, to then place the matter in the hands of the Swiss Political Department. My naturalization cannot finally be ratified until the Grosser Rat has met again. It only meets twice a year, & will meet next, Herr E. said, in Feb. or March, or at the latest in April….

I was sorry to have to tell Johanna how long we might have to wait for the ratification of our naturalization. After we had had coffee in Johanna’s room, something moved me to tell her that I had learned to know her better & that she had become more to me than ever during these last years – in some ways years of trial – in Switzerland. Johanna had afterwards to go into the town, but she would not let me go with her, as I was not quite up to the mark, & she thought it better for me to rest. When she returned, she thanked me again for what I had said. I said that I was sorry that they were only words that I had spoken, that I felt such things were better expressed in deeds, but she comforted me with the assurance that what I had said had not been merely words.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Plodding on

Will Spencer’s quest to change nationality was going well. Florence Vansittart Neale continued to be anxious about the war news.

Florence Vansittart Neale
27 October 1917

No air raids mercifully, tho’ bright moon. Germans pushing Italians back. Germans claim 20,000 prisoners. We plodding on.

Will Spencer
27 October 1917

Called & spoke for the first time with Herrn Fursprech Engeloch, who expressed himself very pleased that the matter of my naturalization would now end satisfactorily. He returned to me my Aufeuthaltsbewilligung, for the event of our going to Goldiwil.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)
and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX810/26)

Russia’s faithlessness leads to terrible news

Our Italian allies were under severe attack at the Slovenian town of Kobarid. Florence Vansittart Neale blamed the Russian Revolution, which had taken a turn for the worse, and allowed the Germans and Austrians to devote their efforts to other fronts. Meanwhile, Will Spencer had decided that after nearly three years in Switzerland he should seek citizenship.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 Oct 1917

Terrible news about Italy. All owing to Russia’s faithlessness! We started again & made good progress.

Will Spencer
26 October 1917

Letter from Fursprech Engeloch: my application for naturalization will be granted within the next few days. To his buro after coffee, but closed.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX810/26)