A ship in the Irish Sea

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Paul Eddis was back in the swing of things after his daring escape from Denmark.

13 December 1917

Paul has got ship in Irish Sea.

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

Advertisements

Marching into Jerusalem tomorrow

The Allies were doing better in the Levant.

10 December 1917

Jerusalem surrendered. Our troops, some French & Italians, marching in tomorrow.

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

Awful explosion in ships

The explosion of a French ship carrying munitions in Canada has been called the worst manmade explosion before the invention of nuclear weapons.

8 December 1917

Awful explosion in ships at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Town almost destroyed! Roumania [sic] having truce….

Wrote to prisoners. Mrs Pack & Mr Rich [visited]. His son died of wounds. My Bubs to start for Paris 4 pm via Southampton & Havre.

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

Germans massing in Flanders

There was ominous news from the Front.

7 December 1917

Germans massing in Flanders. Rumours of Roumania [sic] joining Armistice.

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

15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!

With revolutionary Russia out of the war, many German troops were freed up to face the Allies.

6 December 1917

Heard of our giving up Bourlon Wood. Very bad, but 15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!!

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

Farms willing to have women workers

Florence Vansittart Neale and Miss Dane continued to work on the initiative to get more women in farmwork.

5 December 1917

Miss Dane & I dropped Henry at Maidenhead, then on to Holyport. Miss Coatt saw nice old farmer – no good. Then visited our farms about women on the land – all willing to have them. Home for lunch. Sent Miss D. to Hurley farmers after lunch.

America declares war on Austria.

Russian terms for Armistice!!

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

Women on the land

Florence Vansittart Neale was active in the effort to get more women taking the place of men in agriculture during the war.

4 December 1917

To Miss Dane to see about “Women on the land”. Discussed plan of campaign.

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

Nice cheerful lads

Another group of wounded soldiers visited Bisham Abbey.

3 December 1917

Wounded came in afternoon. Very nice cheerful lads. Same programme. They left about 7 o’clock.

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

We refused peace terms thinking the Germans were “on the run”.

Inserted at the front of Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary are her notes made sometime in December 1917 on war news. The impact of America joining the war was beginning to be felt.

December 1917

Hear 4 generals sent home without return tickets!

Hear Germans offered good peace terms 3 months ago. We refused thinking they were “on the run”.

Our troops hissed going through Rome. Cadorna hated by Army – he the Vatican’s party.

Coldstreams scared 91,000 prisoners being taken.

One HQ taken – generals and colonels still adding.

Hear American troops to be trained in Ireland to shame the Irish.

500,000 Americans already in France.

Hear through W Grimmett last push we took any amount of stores & clothing, made light railway & sent it to base before 2 days.

Hear another push is to begin soon.

Americans getting to France about 5000 a week.

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

A useless horse

28 November 1917

Man came to fetch chestnuts. Horse from Government useless….

Wire from Boy [their son in law Leo Paget] to say Paris leave on from 10th to 16th.

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

Filling sacks with chestnuts for munitions

Short of gardening staff thanks to the war, the Vansittart Neales collected chestnuts like Berkshire’s children.

26 November 1917
Henry & I cut down ivy on wall by dining room & under staircase. All filled sacks with chestnuts for munitions. 29 sacks!

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

A chum he last saw on the banks of the Somme

A friend of the Hallams had an unexpected reunion while home on leave, while a maid at Bisham Abbey had suffered a family bereavement.

William Hallam
25th November 1917

Up at ¼ to 7. Emptied the bath, lit fire and went to H.C. at St. Paul’s at 8. A bitter cold wind. I also went down to the XI [11 o’clock] Service with Muriel & Frank Britten. Coming out of church he met an army chum of his – a St. Paulite – Richards whom he last saw on the banks of the Somme.

Florence Vansittart Neale
25 November 1917

Colonel Wells to lunch about soldiers for allotments….

Annie off home, her brother killed.

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Soldiers dig allotments

The drive to maximise food production continued, while there was a change in leadership of the British Expeditionary Force in Italy.

24 November 1917

Soldiers came to dig allotments….

Herbert Plumer in command in Italy.

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

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)

Italians holding their own

Florence Vansittart Neale was pleased with the latest news.

22 November 1917

Smith home from France.

Italians beginning to recover – holding their own. Hope we are behind them by now, & France.

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