Soldiers on leave from France see their little ones at work

Maidenhead men on leave were able to see their children’s school, while a school in Bracknell had to go without heating due to fuel shortages.

20th December 1917

We had an “open day” for parents of Standard I children this afternoon. Thirty eight parents, including soldiers on leave from France, took advantage of this opportunity to see their little ones at work.

20th December 1917

Coal supply has lately been short. This morning no fires could be lit owing to being without coal.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, p. 407); and Bracknell Church of England Mixed Primary School (C/EL45/3, p. 410)


By reason of the war there are great difficulties in the railway transport of coal

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was common for parishes to set up voluntary societies where people on low wages paid in over the year and then could draw on the fund to purchase seasonal goods like winter fuel, thus spreading the cost through the year.


The Trustees have accepted the tender of Messrs. Drake & Mount, Ltd. The same quantity of coal will be distributed as last year, and, if possible by two deliveries. As by reason of the war there are great difficulties in the railway transport of coal, depositors must bear with patience any necessary delay in delivery. Messrs Drake & Mount may be relied upon to do their best in the difficult circumstances with which they have to contend.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

Several people try to see a plane

William Hallam heard the newfangled sound of an aeroplane overhead.

21st July 1917

Worked till 5 again. Got home at ¼ past 5. Dot was out so got my own tea. Then I cut up more wood and stacked away more coal. Washed, shaved and changed, and as usual along Bath Rd. Bought 4 War Savings Cert. 15/6 each. Then down Victoria Rd and bought a pair of working boots 10/9. Brought them home and then went to the Reading Room till nearly 9. Coming along Bath Road home I could hear an aeroplane but could not see it, it was too high up. Several more people were looking for it. A close and oppressive evening.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“100,000 tonnes of potatoes could be added to the food supply of the Nation”

Winkfield people hoped communal effort would help with food shortages.


Mr. Asher has generously presented a spraying machine for potatoes for the use of the parish, but though it was ordered by the Association 5 or 6 weeks ago it has not yet arrived. When it comes it is hoped that we may be able to have a demonstration on the allotments in Winkfield Row and make arrangements whereby the machine can be used to the best advantage.

The Board of Agriculture assert that if small growers of potatoes in England and Wales would spray their crops this year, 100,000 tonnes of potatoes could be added to the food supply of the Nation.
The Association has also taken steps to try and insure that an adequate supply of coal shall be available next winter for those who cannot store coal in large quantities in the summer, and they have applied to the Coal Controller for leave to buy 250 tons at once. No reply has yet been received, but we hope to be able to state that this effort has been successful and give full particulars of the terms on which the coal can be bought next winter.

Owing to War conditions it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep our Choir up to anything like full strength in either men or boys. We should therefore welcome any assistance from the congregation, and in the hope that it will lead to more hearty congregational singing we ask all able to do so to attend the short practices which will be held in the Parish Room every Sunday evening at 6 o’clock.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

An extra good tea

An enjoyable fete in Burghfield in aid of Red Cross funds attracted some of the recuperating soldiers.

Red Cross Fete

On Thursday, July 12th, a Red Cross Fete was held at Home Close. Sixteen wounded soldiers from Mortimer VAD Hospital were driven over, some in a brake and others in the car kindly lent by Mr and Mrs Willink. The proceedings began by a Rummage Sale and the goods were soon cleared off. There were various side shows. One of the most popular was guessing the name of a doll, 3 guesses for 1d. of course the name had frequently to be changed! Aunt Sally was also much appreciated. The soldiers able to walk about enjoyed helping with these and other games. The weather was perfect and we had tea on the lawn. The soldiers had a table to themselves and an extra good tea….The Misses Gripper’s GFS girls and Sunday School children, also many helpers, had free teas.

After tea, Mr Bulford kindly gave a most excellent Conjuring Entertainment, which the soldiers and everybody much enjoyed. The hearty singing of “God Save The King” brought a happy afternoon to a close, and the soldiers drove away amidst much cheering.

Of course the teas did not pay their way – food being so expensive and so many being given free. By the Rummage Sale and Side Shows we raised about £6. Most of this will go to the Red Cross, but a cauldron of coke has been bought for the Mission Church as a reserve, the cold having been so much felt by the congregation last winter.
We think of giving £2 towards the greatly needed dining hut and recreation room to be erected at Mortimer VAD Hospital.

Burghfield parish magazine, November 1917 (D/EX725/3)

Lonely and sad

Putting the clocks forward or back by an hour is one of the ongoing legacies of the First World War. First introduced in 1916, 1917 saw the experiment repeated.

Soldiers’ Club

The lighter evenings, with their out-door attractions, and the Daylight Saving Bill, caused the committee to decide on closing the rooms to the soldiers, and this was done on Wednesday, April 4th. The evening was marked by a most enjoyable concert, after which our Pastor made a short speech assuring the men of the welcome they would still find at Trinity. Second A.M. Rose then voiced the thanks of the men. Until they knew Trinity they had been lonely and sad, but the hand-shake and kindly welcome had done much to dissipate the loneliness. Second A.M. Morgan then spoke of the men’s great appreciation of all our Pastor had done for them, causing amusement by his remark that Mr Harrison was unlike many ministers of his acquaintance, who were invisible all the week and incomprehensible on Sunday!

The evening closed by singing! Auld Lang Syne, after which our guests sadly and reluctantly dispersed.

The committee gladly recorded that all expenses, including the gas and coal, have been met, and a complete balance sheet is printed elsewhere.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1/12)

“French very tiresome”

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a lot of gossip in her social circle, including criticisms of our allies’ expectations.

2 April 1917

Hear French very tiresome, expect us to use all our ships for them.

Hear we have to send coal to Italy, use private shipping – much against their will!

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

“This year we shall be obliged to keep Lent, whether we like it or not”

Shortages were beginning to affect everyone.


It seems that this year we shall be obliged to keep Lent, whether we like it or not. Railway travel has been curtailed, food prices are still rising, food is getting scarce, and all the efforts of the nation are to be devoted to winning the war. As Church-people we are used to the season of Lent, but there is a question whether we have kept it as we ought, in fact it is certain that many Church-people have paid very little attention to the Church’s injunctions in this respect. But we cannot disobey the State with impunity, and we should be extremely selfish if we did not do our bit to practise economy, and so help to save the Nation’s food. There are many who might, with advantage, purchase War Savings Certificates, to help the country and to make provision for the future; and we would beg all our readers to do their very utmost to carry out the Food Controller’s instructions, in the spirit in which they were issued. The Germans are not yet decisively beaten – if this is to be done, everyone of us will have to help.

We should like to offer our sincere sympathy to Mr and Mrs Savage on the untimely death of a good son and promising young soldier. Edward George Savage was confirmed at the Parish Church in 1912. He passed away from the effects of pneumonia, following upon an attack of measles… The coffin was borne by soldiers, and there was a following party of the Royal Flying Corps.

We would also offer our sincere sympathy to Mrs Manley on the death of her husband on service, as announced in the “Newbury Weekly News” of February 15th.

The National Schools have had a bad time during the long continued frost: first of all on account of the heating apparatus misbehaving itself; and secondly, on account of the water being frozen. The Managers have endeavoured to remedy the former by adding to the boiler: it is possible that the coke does not nowadays give out so much heat, as certain properties have to be taken out for the manufacture of explosives.

The Parish Room has now been evacuated by the Military, and has returned to its usual state. The soldiers were very quiet and well behaved during their stay there. The occupation brought in a little money to the Parish Room Fund. We trust that outside people, who have been accustomed to use the room, will now appreciate the privilege more. The men who were billeted in the Parish Room desire, through the medium of the Parish Magazine, to sincerely thank all those who so kindly contributed to their comfort during their stay there.

Mrs L R Majendie would be grateful for gifts of material, such as cretonne, for the members of the Mothers’ Meetings to make “treasure bags” for wounded soldiers.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

“Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village”

Cranbourne people were invited to grow vegetables, while church services were disrupted.

For the purpose of saving fuel and light in Lent week, Evening Services will be held in the Sunday School on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., and Evensong will be said on Sundays in Church at 3 p.m. instead of 6 p.m., until we can do without the gas. It seems to be almost impossible for the Coal Merchants to deliver fuel just now, there is coke and coal at the stations, but no carts are to be had. Many empty lorries driven by the men of the Flying Corps pass daily through the village, how helpful it would be if they could “dump” a few sacks of coal for us at some central place.

Two lectures on “Vegetable cultivation in War time” have been given in the Reading Room by Mr. F. W. Custin, F.R.H.S. Unfortunately there was not the large attendance that might have been expected when all of us are being urged to add to the food supply of the nation. The lectures were most practical and helpful. Great stress was laid on the need of spraying not only potatoes, but the young vegetable plants. The lecturer gave the following recipe for a spray of paraffin emulsion:- ¼ pint of paraffin, ¼ -lb. of soft soap, 3½ -gallons of water. Mix the soft soap with a little hot water, whisk it up and then add the paraffin slowly, beating it up as it is poured in, then add the remainder of the water. This should be used for onions and celery in May and June. Potatoes should be sprayed with Bordeaux mixture at the beginning of July and also early in August. We expect the delivery of the seed potatoes at an early date.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/3)

On food rations

Cookham-born expat Will Spencer found that food shortages at home were mirrored by those in Switzerland. His mother Anna, meanwhile, expressed her sympathies to the German family of missing soldier Max Ohler.

17 February 1917

Read in the paper that the hotels, etc, are to give no meat on two days of the week, & never more than one meat course at a meal. Further, land is to be put under cultivation to the extent required to meet the needs of the situation now in prospect….

A letter from Mother…. Mother tells me they are “on food rations” now, but the amount allowed is exactly what “they have of meat & bread, but not so much sugar”. Mr Sandalls, aged 85, saws wood, & says “if anybody wants a boy to saw wood & bring coal, he can do it”. Mother is very sorry for Max Ohler’s parents.

After tea, together to the Hauptpost, from whence I sent money home.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

Coal supply uncertain

Coal Clubs were common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and often based at churches. They enabled the poor to save money in a structured way and to get cheaper prices for bulk orders of fuel by banding together. But the shortages due to the war put paid to at least some of them.

The Coal Clubs

All the Coal Clubs in the parish must be closed as from the end of September. We are advised that this is necessary on account of the uncertainty of supply later on. Members are specially warned of the necessity of making arrangements to receive their coal as soon as their coal merchants can deliver it.

Members who have earned full bonus to the end of September, will be given the bonus for the remaining months.

Cards not yet made up must be sent in at once, to Miss Sturges, Miss Stanton, or Mr. Chenery as the case may be.

Wargrave parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Much appreciated: soldiers’ recreation in Thatcham

Soliders billeted in Thatcham had the benefit of a special centre providing hot drinks, snacks and entertainment for their off-duty hours.

Soldiers’ Recreation and Reading Room.

The Infant Schoolroom in the Broadway was opened as a Soldiers’ Recreation Room at the end of October last, and from that time to this has been much appreciated, we understand, by all of them. Certainly it has been much resorted to by them. Two ladies, Miss Ida Worthy and Miss Taylor, have most kindly provided tea and coffee and light refreshments at a very small charge, and have also brightened the time spent there by an hour’s music most evenings. In this they have been considerably helped by several other ladies and by Mr. Fyfield and his orchestra. One evening of the week has been devoted to a “concert” or “social” … and on these occasions the room is usually crowded.

It is not of course without some considerable expense that it has been found possible to place this room at the disposal of the soldiers – heating and lighting alone are two expensive items this winter. We are glad to say, however, that many kind friends have come forward to assist, and what was required has been provided up to the present time. It may be some weeks still before the A.S.C. are summoned to leave their winter billets, and however long it may be they are quartered here, we shall endeavour, with the help of kind friends, to continue to them their recreation and reading room. We take this opportunity of thanking those who by their contributions have assisted in maintaining the Room up to the present time.

Thatcham parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P130/28A/1)

Economising on coal

A Basildon school closed in the mornings in order to save on rising fuel costs.

25th October 1915
School opened at 1 pm to day, for afternoon session in order to economise in the consumption of coal.

Lower Basildon National School Log Book (C/EL7/2, p. 166)

Saluting the Union Jack on Trafalgar Day

Berkshire schools respond to the war, one with enthusiastic patriotism celebrating Trafalgar Day, the others saving fuel for patriotic reasons.

Coleshill CE School
22nd October 1915

Yesterday was observed as ‘Trafalgar Day’ – lessons were given on Lord Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar – the children saluted the ‘Union Jack’ and each child wore a tiny flag made by the boys.

Conduit Road Infants School, Abingdon
22nd October 1915

An experiment has been made this week by all the Church Schools, in beginning at 1-30 and closing at 3-30 – in order to economise fuel and light. The experiment is successful so far – the children come very punctually.

Abingdon Girls CE School
18th to 22nd [October 1915]

Received notice from the Education Committee that economy must be studied with regard to Artificial Lighting and warming of the School.

Coleshill CE School Log books (D/P40/28/4); Abingdon ConduitRd Infants School Log Book (C/EL4/2); Abingdon Girls CE School log book (C/EL2/2)

Skimmed milk and margarine are excellent

Cranbourne churchgoers were treated to some cookery advice in straitened times, in the guise of a fictional letter writer, who recommended the novelties of skimmed milk and margarine.

It may interest some people who have kindly subscribed to the Penny Fund for the Sick and Wounded St John’s Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross Society, to know that a sum of £27 14s. 11d. has been collected at Ascot, Bracknell and Cranbourne Wards of the Winkfield Polling Districts.

We print below another instalment of Mrs Smith’s letter. –

As to soup, there are many people who run it down; but it has good value as food. I learned that from my Scotch grandmother, for the poorest Scotch people won’t do without their broth. They take it quite thick. I agree with you that thin soups are not filling at the price. But if you can get vegetables you do not need meat for soups. Take fresh vegetables of any sort, cut them up; onions must be used in plenty. Put them in a pan, and warm them up in a little dripping or margarine. In a few minutes they will take up the dripping. As the dripping disappears cover them with water and boil till the hardest of the vegetables is soft. There should be potato, which helps to thicken it. At the end stir in what milk you can spare, and serve it, thick as porridge.

I sometimes make a pea soup which is fit for a Prince. Soak the dried peas well over night. Put them in a pan with a bit of dripping, and cover with the water they were soaked in. Start them boiling, for they take a long time. Later on put in lumps of potato, carrots, turnips, onions, etc. Boil till tender, but don’t let the peas get mashed up. You should be able to see their shapes. I never put in salt and pepper till ready to serve, for then you know where you are. You can cook lentils this way. Those dried peas and beans and lentils all have something in them which makes children grow, and gives people strength to work. So they are cheap at the money, and the doctors say that they can take the place of meat. The dried beans, called haricot beans, ought to be much better known. The hunters in the Rocky Mountains, where there are no shops, carry these beans with them in sacks, and live on them for weeks, with perhaps some bacon. Now they need soaking over night. The longer the better. You would not believe the water they take up in soak. Then they are slowly boiled, with water only just covering them, letting them drink up all the water. The stewed beans may be served in many ways, with pepper, salt and butter, or with grated cheese stirred in; or made into a hash with gravy; or made into a pie with bits of boiled bacon and onion in, and pastry or potato as a lid; or eaten as a vegetable with any meat you happen to have.

As regards bread, never throw away a crumb. Teach the children to save the crusts. Little bits too small for puddings should be dried in the sun, or by the fire. Then make the children crush them with a rolling pin. Save these crumbs in a tin. They serve many purposes. You can thicken soup or stew with them, or put them in a pan with fried sausages.

Another warning is given us by some of the people who understand great questions. They say do not at the present time buy food which is prepared in other countries, not if you can possibly help it. This is to keep the money in our unfortunate England. This stops the sardines and tinned fruits. I shall miss them sadly, but we all want to help. So give the fish money to our splendid fisherman at home, such of them as the Germans have not blown up. And give the money to our poor English fruit growers and hawkers, and shops, or buy from our neighbours if we can.

Now we come to beer, a very delicate point, for if you name beer you are told you want to “rob” people of it. No one says the word “rob” when you advise them against foods, only against beer. Well, we can’t be robbed of what we give up willingly, and when the money is short I think most mothers want to buy what the children can share with them. So the beer money, or part of it, can go for little extras for us and them, for we can’t give them a taste of the beer; no really good mother wants them to begin while young.

As for milk I have asked the Doctors and they say skim milk is a very valuable food, so don’t look down on it. Unless children are very young and very thin they don’t much miss the cream which has been skimmed. Better to give them plenty of skim milk than only a taste of new milk. It makes them grow and makes their bones strong.

Margarine has got a bad name with some. This is a mistake, good margarine is excellent. I made a pie when my soldier brother was expected; only margarine in it, and all remarked on the goodness of the crust. Dripping in tins is worth buying, and keeps well. Dripping toast need not be despised.

Now we come to coals for cooking. Not much of those now-a-days. All the better for the cooking. A man cook taught me why the foreign cooking is so splendid. It is because foreigners can’t get much coal, and use wood or charcoal. This makes the cooking very slow and gives it a rich taste. Put in your pudding and put on your pot at breakfast time or as ever you like and let it do slowly. It will only want a glance now and then while you are working round.

(To be concluded in September Magazine.)

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Monthly Magazine, August 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/8)