The difficulty of obtaining food

Food shortages meant the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist could not have their regular retreat at the mother house in Clewer.

18 January 1918

Notice was sent to the Community from the Warden & Mother that the Sisters’ Retreat fixed to begin Jan. 28th must be indefinitely postponed owing to the difficulty of obtaining food for such a largely increased number.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

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A commercial kitchen for school children

School dinners, promised a week or two earlier, were instituted in Aldermaston, while an old boy came to visit his old teacher in Sandhurst.

Aldermaston School
15th January 1918

A commercial kitchen was started in the village hall today, for the benefit of the school children, 57 children availed themselves of the opportunity, and were made up as follows- 23 over 10 years of ages, 20 under 10 years and over 7, 14 under 7 years.

Lower Sandhurst School
January 15th 1918

William Worrall, an old boy of the school, now a midshipman in the Royal Navy, came to see me to-day.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 80); Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 421)

Showing generals how to perform card tricks

Will Spencer was glad to hear how his soldier brothers and family friends from Cookham were getting on. One brother, Horace, was a professional conjurer in peacetime, a skill which entertained his superiors.

13 January 1918

Read a long letter which had come for me by the morning post from Mother, describing their quiet Christmas – none of the boys, & Natalie [wife of Harold Spencer] not able to come, through having an influenza cold. Percy had been with them on the 22nd, leaving on the 23rd. Notwithstanding that the plums Mother had obtained proved to be old ones, the puddings, of which she made two, had been pronounced to be a success. Percy had said they were the best of her making he had ever tasted. She wished I might have been there, & then also have had a piece. The second pudding was still intact, save for the piece cut out which Percy had….

Katie Poskett’s elder boy is in the army, & the younger called up. She finds it difficult to bear. That Percy had passed all his exams I had previously heard. Mother now writes that he is Second Lieutenant & down in Wiltshire. Horace, in France, has been showing generals how he performs his card tricks, & then talks of ‘his friend General — ’ to comrades who “can only boast of corporals’ friendships”.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

Demonstrations of War Time Cookery

The Education Committee was facing challenged with fewer teachers and more children (the latter due to the arrival of voluntary evacuees). They also encouraged cookery teachers to learn how to cope with food restrictions.

Report of the Higher Education Committee, 12 January 1918

Secondary Schools

MAIDENHEAD COUNTY BOYS’ SCHOOL
In consequence of the increased number of pupils and the difficulties caused by a further member of the staff leaving for military service, the Sub-committee have approved of the vacant place being filled by a whole-time Mistress and a part-time Master.

WALLINGFORD COUNTRY GRAMMAR SCHOOL

Mr Preece, one of the Assistants, has returned from military service, and in view of the increased numbers in attendance, the Sub-committee have authorised the retention of the substitute Mistress on the staff for the present.

Report of the School Management Sub-committee, 12 January 1918

WAR TIME COOKERY

The Domestic Subject Instructresses of the County attended on December 13 and 14 a series of demonstrations on War Time Cookery arranged by the Ministry of Food, who paid their expenses.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/21)

“We hope none have been forgotten”

Christmas presents were sent out again this year, with even wounded soldeiers helping to wrap them.

Warfield

CHRISTMAS PRESENT FUND FOR WARFIELD MEN ON SERVICE.

A meeting was called early in October and a Committee appointed as follows: the Vicar and Mrs. Thackery, Mr. H. Lawrence, Mr. and Mrs. Crocker, Mrs. Crailsbam, Miss Leach, and Miss Hardcastle (Hon. Treasurer.)

The appeal for funds again met with a warm response as will be seen by the figures given below. Special thanks are due to Mr. Pearce and Mr. W. Lovejoy, who took much pains in collecting from a large part of the parish.

The contents of the parcels were chosen by Mrs. Thackery and Mrs. Crocker, and wee as follows, the total number of parcels being 101. For men at the Front, 77 – sock,s writing case, soap, trench powder, potted meat. For men in England, 24 — socks, handkerchief and writing case, potted meat or soap, chocolate. The parcels were packed at the Brownlow Hall by the ladies of the Committee assited by a few others, and each one contained a card with the words: “With all good Christmas wishes from your friends at Warfield.” A great many acknowlededgments have already been received by Mr. Lawrence, all expressing much satisfaction with the parcels and appreciation of the remembrance.

The balance, after paying all expenses of the parcels, was expended on presents for the widows of the six men who have laid down their lives during this year.

Account of the Fund.
Received. Balance from 1916 £1 9 7
Proceeds of Whist Drive 6 10 2
Subscriptions, 1917 13 0 6
£21 0 3
Spent. Contents of Parcels 15 12 1
Paper and String 0 9 1
Postage 4 4 0
Presents to 6 Widows 0 15 0
£21 0 3 ‘

The Warfield Schools War Savings Association have now £207 12s. 0d. to their credit. This is mainly due to the thrift of the majority of the 113 members who have paid their contributions each Tuesday without a break.

Bracknell

CHRISTMAS PRESENTS to the Men Serving.

Parcels have been despatched to all out Bracknell and Chavey Down men serving abroad; we hope none have been forgotten. The money to pay for these presents had been collected by many kind workers, and a great number of people made some contribution. The parcels were packed and sent from the Vicarage, a number of people, including some of the wounded soldiers, helping to do them up.

Cranbourne

SOLDIERS’s PRESENTS

A Christmas present has been sent from Cranbourne to each of our men serving in His Majesty’s forces. A Christmas card has also been posted with a note saying that a present has been sent in a separate parcel. To defray the cost, £7 was contributed from the takings at the recent concert, donations amounting to £5 10s. 0d. have been received, and a house to house collection realised £6 8s. 0 1/2d. We are grateful to Miss Dodge, Miss Jennings and Miss Smith for their kindness in making this collection.

Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, January 1918 (D/P 151/281/10)

Dinners for the children during the War

Wealthy villagers in Aldermaston volunteered to fund hot meals for schoolchildren, whose families must have been struggling with the food shortages.

7th January 1918
Mr & Mrs Keyser and Mr J. F. Cambridge called about providing dinners for the children during the War. It was decided to start them on January 15th provided the food could be obtained.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 79)

Punch and Judy and wartime fare

Controversial today, the Punch and Judy puppet show was very popular in the early 20th century, and its broad comedy entertained soldiers on leave.

St. Luke’s and North Town Sunday School Treats

St. Luke’s Sunday School Treat was held on Thursday, February 7th, in the Town Hall…

One of the best “Punch and Judy” shows that I, personally, have ever seen, kept us amused for quite an hour. One could only wonder at the impunity with which “Punch” threw the baby repeatedly out of the window, while one constable, at least, not to count returned soldiers from the Front, were to be seen in the hall…

Miss Chambers and the North Town Mothers again produced, as if by magic, a sufficient, if war-time fare…

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

A new price for butter

Newbury implemented price controls to stop retailers cashing in on shortages.

January 1st 1918

Home Defence Corps

A letter was read from Second Lieutenant F A Greet asking for the support of the Council to an effort to increase the number of the Newbury Corps so that it might be continued as a separate unit instead of being merged in the Reading Corps.

Food Control Committee

The report of the meetings of the Food Control Committee was referred to from the chair. The Mayor also mentioned that the steps taken by the Committee with respect to the distribution of margarine.

Report of the Local Food Control Committee (appended)

Meetings of this committee have been held on the 29th October, the 5tyh, 12th, 19th and 26th November, and the 3rd, 10th and 19th December.

In October last the Committee fixed the price of English Farmhouse Butter at 2s 4d per lb. subsequently at the meeting on the 19th December, the Committee having fixed a rate for Blended and Imported Irish Butter at 2s 6d per lb, the Committee decided to raise the price of English Farmhouse Butter to 2s 5d per lb….

Potato Licenses.

The Committee have granted licenses to various applicants as wholesalers and retailers. By agreement with the Butchers, the maximum retail prices have been fixed for the sale of Meat within the Area.

It having become necessary to appoint an Officer whose special duty it would be to see that the Orders of the Food Controller were carried into effect, the Committee appointed Mr G W Stillman as Enforcement Officer at a salary of 30s per week….

Complaints having been received as to the sale of Matches and Bread in contravention of the Orders dealing with these articles, prosecutions were ordered by the Committee, and the cases were subsequently dealt with before the Justices.

Newbury Borough minutes (N/AC1/2/9)

“2 Divisions ran away & so caused Cambrai defeat”

Florence Vansittart Neale was puzzled as how to manage Bisham Abbey with less food available, while the news – and rumours – continued to fascinate her.

1 January 1918
Worried morning over rations. Very difficult but must do it. Edith arranging next Sunday’s “chain of prayer”.

January 1918 [inserted at front, no date]

Hear Haig in London, very sick about things. He had refused to send Divisions to Italy, but had to. Wanted to resign. He said a great deal too much fuss made about Sir J Byng’s push & also a great deal about the subsequent retreat!

Hear we send up stuff against [balloons?] which make the men so deadly seasick they have to come down. On return Irish leave this Xmas, 1000s stuck at Holyhead 5 days. Too many submarines there. At last escorted over by American destroyer & gun boats.

Hear 2 Divisions ran away & so caused Cambrai defeat. Hear General [illegible] sent back after it., then returned by Army Council & again sent back after St Quentin retreat! Hunter-Weston “honouring heroic deed” (drunken Tommie). Foch becoming Generalissimo (March 1918).

Meat & butter rations begin.

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

“Now the beds are always kept full”

Many wounded soldiers were treated at Newbury District Hospital, with much help from local people.

The Thirty Third Annual Report of the Managing Committee of the Newbury District Hospital For the year ending December 31st, 1917.

The Past Year has been a very important one for the Hospital.

The figures, giving the number of Civilian Patients admitted, shew a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of Soldiers admitted: this is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the New Annexe constructed during the early spring.

There was a certain amount of delay before these beds were filled, and but for that fact, there would have been a very much larger increase in the number of Soldier Patients for the year.
The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386. The Buildings, though similar to the previous one, cost rather more owing to the higher price of material and labour. It is situated on the West Side of the Main Buildings, and adjoins the Thurlow Ward.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The Local Branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments got up for the soldiers. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew Street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds, which were much needed.

Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward.

The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages of various kinds, also swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated. Miss Wasey again came forward to organize Pound Day, which took place in June, and was most successful. Many Entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers.

Special Donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir. W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the Hon. Sec. Mr. Tufnail sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance which amounted to £67 17s. 0d., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18s. 0d.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading; this was done for the purpose of economising transport; the result has been quite satisfactory to the hospital, for now the beds are always kept full. Whilst the change was being carried out, we were able to close the Wards for a month for the purpose of painting and cleaning, which was thoroughly done.

The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital; this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose.

A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their Medical referee; these men come to the Hospital either as in-patients, or out-patients, for special treatment, and arrangements have been made that they come at fixed times on certain days for their treatment.

The Financial position of the Hospital is quite satisfactory; it has been well supported with liberal Subscriptions and Donations. The Hospital Saturday Fund amounted to £160; this is a record, and well to be proud of. The success of this fund is entirely due to the energetic Secretary, Mr. W. H. Paine, and his many willing workers. The League of Mercy kindly sent a grant of £15.
The Committee wish to thank, very heartily, all the Medical Staff, in Drs. Adams, Hemsted, Coplestone and Simmons, for all their useful work to the Hospital during a very strenuous year. The Committee’s thanks are due to Dr. Heywood, who returned from abroad in the autumn, and resumed his work at the Hospital; he has been appointed Medical Officer to the soldiers, thus releasing the other Medical Staff.

The thanks of the committee are offered to Mrs. Sharwood-Smith (Commandant), Miss. Cecile Boldero (Assistant-Commandant), Mrs. Adrian Hawker (Quartermaster), and the Ladies of Newbury Volunteer Aid Detachment for the great work that they are doing; to Miss Cecile Boldero, who has been a most consistent worker during the year, and has been a great help to the Staff; to Miss. Salway, who has given her services by providing special treatments to the soldiers; to Mr. Graham Robertson, for his useful help in the clerical work connected with the soldiers; and to Mr. Alleyne for kindly looking after the recreation room.

The best thanks are due to the Matron and her assistant Nurses during a very strenuous year, the increased number of soldiers naturally added very much to their work, and high praise is due to the efficient way in which they have performed their various duties. The difficulties in catering during the latter part of the year increased the work of the Matron considerably, who deserves praise and thanks of the Committee for her excellent management.

Newbury District Hospital Annual Report, 1917 (D/H4/4/1)

Are you doing your part in this time of the Nation’s Trial?

Maidenhead gardeners were encouraged to grow food.

READ! IT IS URGENT!! IT CONCERNS YOU!!!

URGENT APPEALS AND WARNINGS BY LORD RHONDDA and MR. PROTHERO

LORD RHONDDA, The Food Controller, gives Notice that unless we Ration ourselves, we shall be rationed!

Mr PROTHERO, President of the Board of Agriculture, says without a vast increase in HOME PRODUCTION OF FOOD we can scarcely hope to hold out!

2,400,000 Acres of new land must be broken up before next April to produce Food for next year!

Are you doing your part in this time of the Nation’s Trial? Are you cultivating all the ground you can? Are you securing the Best Possible Crops? Webster’s Noted Seeds will enable you to do so. But they are scarce, and the demand will be heavy. Moral: Order Extra Early. Catalogues will be ready early in the New Year, and can be had Free, on application to

124, High Street, and Station Front,
MAIDENHEAD.
And at the COOKHAM and BOURNE END BRANCHES.

DO YOUR BIT, AND HELP TO WIN THE WAR

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, December 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“The only jarring feature was the never-ending noise of the guns”

Reading men at the front report on their Christmas experiences. Harrison’s Pomade was a treatment for lice, an unpleasant reality for men in the trenches. It was produced by a Reading chemist.

LETTERS FROM THE FRONT

The following extracts from letters from our men on service have been “in type” for several months, but they have had to be “held over” for lack of space. We now have pleasure in publishing them:

The fact there are friends at home who have not forgotten us out here is a very great consolation, and one’s odd moments are often filled with thoughts of those at home. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the time seems to go so quickly. We had a very good time on Xmas day considering the wildness and loneliness (except for troops) of the spot we are in…

The only jarring feature was the never-ending noise of the guns, but somehow even among that there seemed to be a feeling of peace. Certainly there was, and is, a great desire for it. Please convey to all friends my heartiest thanks, not only for the very useful gifts but for the spirit which prompted them.

L. H. N. (OS)

Thank you so very much for the parcel and message. I was so glad to be remembered by Broad St. The church and friends it embraces will always be one of my happiest memories; and memories mean so much when we are far away. It will be my first duty – and a very pleasant one – to look you all up when I come back. Until then letters will have to suffice, I’m afraid, for all we think and feel.
L. J. P. (OS)

I wish to thank you and Broad St Chapel for the parcel which only reached me yesterday. Fortunately the things were all securely packed and none the worse for the trying journey they must have had. Thank you very much…

Although one is of necessity away from home, one’s thoughts naturally are at home, especially at this time of year, and a parcel from the church where one really learnt the elementary lessons of life is always a pleasure to receive.

L. H. F. (OS)

It gave me very great pleasure when I received the parcel yesterday from my friends at Broad St Church, also your welcome letter and circular enclosed, so full of encouraging and cheering wishes. I assure you the contents of the parcel were very welcome both for physical and spiritual needs, and I hardly know how or what to say in thanks…

Often I sit and think of the times I have spent with the choir at Broad St and long to be back again. I shall be with them in spirit when “Merrie England” is being performed and they won’t miss me half as much as I shall miss the pleasure of being there.

W. H. D. (OS)

It was a big pleasant surprise to receive yesterday the splendid parcel from dear old Broad St. Please accept my sincerest thanks. Candles especially are very welcome, and Harrison’s Pomade is a gift which only those actually here can appreciate fully. I believe this is the third Xmas on which I have received this concrete evidence of your continued interest. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say I sincerely trust that there won’t be a fourth – under such circumstances as these at all events….

My thoughts are often in Reading, and Broad St always fills a warm corner of my heart.

W. F. H. (OS)

I am writing to thank you for your kind Xmas wishes, and most useful parcel…

I spent a happy Xmas, and even enjoyed the luxury of turkey and pudding – quite a contrast to the previous year, when I spent the festive season between the trenches and sundry “Bairnsfather” barns with “bully” stew as a constant dinner companion. I received your parcel that year during a period in which we were occupying an old brewery cellar. Te building on top had long been demolished by shell fire, but the tall chimney persisted in standing, in spite of decapitation. Naturally with Herr Bosche busily amusing himself with his battered target we were glad to get downstairs. Nor do I remember that any teetotaller had any complaint to make on that occasion upon breweries in general, or brewery cellars in particular.

N. H. (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

No plum pudding

It was a festive Christmas at Bisham Abbey, although the family missed daughter Phyllis and son in law Leo “Boy” Paget, respectively nursing and fighting.

25 December 1917

Had soup, turkey and bread sauce!! No plum pudding, but omnibus with dates. Drank health absent ones, Phyllis & Boy, in champagne.

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

Hope for a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow

A special Christmas letter from Mrs Willink offered kindly advice to the members of Burghfield Mothers’ Union.

Hillfields, Xmas 1917

Dear [blank]

In these days when the shadow of war and suffering and death seems constantly with us, the good wishes for a joyful Christmas seem almost out of place. But I feel I must send a little message of affection and friendship to my dear members of the Mothers’ Union.
I say to you all be of good courage, and may God give you that inward happiness and serenity which surely comes to those who live near him. May He fill our hearts with light and peace, so that if sorrow or loss or accident come to us we may bear them unshaken and accept them as if they were straws on the tide of life.

Bless our absent ones, keep them in life, keep them in growing honour; and, for us, grant that we may be worthy of their love. We civilians at home for whom there are no supreme moments of daring and sacrifice can yet constantly keep our courage at a high level. It has been said that victory is ultimately won, not by the troops in action, but by the spirit of the nation behind them.

We who stay at home have the duty of preserving, for those who are fighting, that heritage for which they are laying down their lives.
Dear wives and mothers, let it be your work to keep your homes sweet and clean, so that when the men and the lads come back, they may find that best happiness, a home of love and welcome ready for them. This can only be done by some self-sacrifice now; food is short, and it will grow shorter, and it is only by strict economy and thought and trouble that the food difficulty can be met, try and buy as many substitutes as you can for bread, meat and sugar, and take pains in cooking them, and you will be helping the War. You are such clever housewives that I am sure you will be able to do so.

I should also like to say especially to the Mothers’ Union members, that they should at this time do all in their power to help and influence others outside the Union, by little acts of kindness and sympathy, and by such example as can shew those others what our Union stands for, and try and persuade them to think seriously as to what it means, and perhaps in time to join it.

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength,” and may the Christmas message of glad tidings give us that strength to work – and be patient, and kind, and helpful, and self-forgetful in the New Year that is coming, and then we may hope that the blessing of peace will return, and find a people braver and stronger and more God-fearing for the long years of sacrifice and sorrow.

Believe me always

Your true friend
Mary G Willink

Special Christmas letter inserted in and probably distributed with the January 1918 parish magazine, Burghfield (D/EX725/4)

All very war weary

The war was taking its toll everywhere.

22 December 1917

Air raid driven back at coast.

All very war weary. Hear stories of Germany being very short of food.

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