The pleasant mudscape

Perhaps a brother’s experiences informed this schoolgirl’s creative writing.

Dialogue Between Two German Owls, or An Elegy written in Flanders

The shrapnel shrieks the knell of parting day;
In Flanders, mud above his gouty knee,
A sapper backwards ploughs his watery way,
To mend the telephone, and have some tea.

Now sinks the pleasant mudscape from the sight,
For, from the air, a sleety drizzle drenches,
Save where a lorrie [sic], with its floundering might,
Takes touzzly [sic] Tommies back towards the trenches.

Save that, on yonder splintered stump,
A German owl doth of her lord enquire,
“What bird is that, who buzzing round our dump,
Usurps our birth-right in this black quagmire?”

“Oft did our faint hearts to those bomb-shells yield,
In burrows hiding, while the crockery broke,
For England drives her aeroplanes afield,
Often to perish, ‘neath our strafing stroke.

Let them not mock what German soil,
And lager beer, and morning hates upbore,
Soon we shall hear, with a disdainful smile
Some long and glorious lies about that corps.

The boast of daring and the pomp of power
All that the British War Office e’er gave,
Await alike the inevitable hour,
A reckless start-off to a German grave.”

Thus spake the German, heedless of the waste
For female ears this eloquence to raise,
And, as with long-drawn screams the shrapnel raced
Around her, she could see no cause for praise.

“Can leaking urn, or animated bust
Back to its mansion drive that floating flock?
Make those propellers churn the silent dust,
Or flatten out upon a cold dull rock?”

The applause of listening generals to command,
And angry threats of martial courts to raise,
To scatter pamphlets o’er a smiling land,
Or works like these their hapless nation pays.”

Haply some hairy headed swine may say,
“Oft have we heard him at the peep of dawn
Blowing with hasty bombs our food away
To beat the Hun upon the upland lawn.”

Then sank her head upon the lap of earth,
An owl, to fortune and to fame unknown;
A sniper frowned not on her humble birth,
And, very hungry, marked her for his own.

H. MOSS, Va.

Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1919 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

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Peace terms given

The Peace Conference decided on the terms of the treaty which would formally emd the war.

8 May 1919

Peace terms given to German delegates!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Today the Peace Terms are to be handed to the Germans

It was an important day.

7th May 1919

Reminded boys that today the Peace Terms are to be handed to the Germans and that it is also the fourth anniversary of the sinking of The Lusitania with 1,198 souls.

Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3, p. 51)

A danger board due to the PoW camp

Traffic associated with a PoW camp was a danger for local children.

May 6th 1919

Wrote to the Education Secretary recommending that a danger board be placed on the road above the school as owing to the German Prisoners’ Camp there is a good deal of motor traffic now passing the school.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 469)

“They drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up”

Now the war was over, William Hallam was hoping to retire back to his birthplace in the Vale of White Horse. On a reconnaissance trip he saw German PoWs hard at work.

22nd April 1919

Up at 7 this morning and went to Uffington by the 20 past 9 train. I walked up to Fernham. Looked over the churchyard and the church (modern) was locked. Just under churchyard a piece of ground occupied by the ruins of 2 old wattle & daub cottages which would do to build a new house on, I thought, if it could be bought cheap. Here an old man who was chopping the hedge tidy told me it was a sharp frost this morning, and if we had many more like it, it would do a lot of harm to the fruit.

I went on to Longcot and when I got there went into Pub to have a drink but the hostess said they hadn’t a drop of anything, she said you know Sir we had a wedding yesterday and they kept it up, yes, and they drinked and drinked till they had drinked it all up.”

I enquired of her where the houses were which were for sale and then went and looked at them. One was too big and another too small (one room down 2 up), another property was a block of 3 cottages – but I don’t want neighbours when I get into the country. I’ve had enough of their borrowing and gossiping ways here in Swindon. This property had high sounding names for instance the little cottage was Priory Glen, the 3 cottages Priory Place and the largest house the Priory, but all this is misnamed for I don’t believe a religious house or property ever existed there. However none of it will suit me.

I then went and looked round the Churchyard. I quizzed some of the stones – must go and copy them down. At the SW corner of the C.yard is a little house or room where they hold the Church… over the door is date 1821 & initial. Then I walked on to Shrivenham.

In a garden at Longcot I was 2 German prisoners at work planting potatoes- working very leisurely and smoking cigarettes. As I had plenty of time before getting to the station I went into Church & churchyard. Sat down in a pew and rested……..”

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

It could not be a very happy Easter for “us Germans”

There was an awkward exchange for Will Spencer in Switzerland.

Wed 16th April 1919

The first lesson for some weeks to Fraulein K Miller. When, in leaving, I wished her a happy Easter, she thanked me, but said it could not be a very happy one for “us Germans”. I had believed up till now that she was Swiss.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/29)

“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

178,000 tons food a week for starving people in Germany

Germany’s surrender was complete.

15 March 1919

Germany accepted Allies’ terms – begin giving up merchant ships today, & to receive 178,000 tons food a week for starving people.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

10 miles behind the German lines, with no hope of rescue

A small Sulhamstead church would have an organ as a war memorial.

We are very thankful to hear that our two prisoners of war have returned safe. Sergeant George Steel, MM, has been a prisoner of war since May 1918. It will be remembered that it was at first reported that he had been killed. Private Ernest Adams was made prisoner in March 1918. His company was left 10 miles, or so, behind the German front line after their sudden sweeping advance in that month, and defended themselves there for many hours without any hope of rescue.

Lieutenant Colonel Greenley, DSO, Royal Army Service Corps, whose marriage is reported in this number, has been further distinguished by the conferment by His Majesty of the Companionship of St Michael and St George.

Major Gilbert Shepherd, RE, DSO, Chevalier Croix de Guerre, has been promoted to Brevet-Major.

AN ORGAN FOR ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH

Mrs Tyser has most generously promised to give an organ for St Michael’s Church in memory of Major George B Tyser, East Lancashire Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs Tyser of Oakfield, who was killed almost instantaneously on July 6th, 1916. He was last seen in the act of encouraging his men across to the enemy trenches in one of the brilliant assaults that we were then making.

Mr J Price, Wilts Regiment, has received his commission as Second Lieutenant, on discharge from the Army. We congratulate him and his family on the well-merited promotion. His brother, Mr Stanley Price, has received a similar promotion. He has been gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, and is now engaged in instruction work. He, too, receives our best congratulations.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, February 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Our “Burghfield Belgians” are trying to return home

A refugee family who had found asylum in Berkshire were now hoping to return home.

Our “Burghfield Belgians”

It will be remembered that our honoured guests, the Laurent family of Louvain, after a year’s sojourn in the Old Schools, migrated on October 19th, 1915, to Reading, partly for Mme Laurent’s health and partly to get work. The step was successful in both respects. But still better prospects opening up in London they moved there after about 15 months, and have since supported themselves entirely. The enemy having been driven out of Belgium, they are now trying to return to their native country, for though their home at Louvain is destroyed, they have friends in Antwerp and mean to go there, at any rate for a time.

At the last meeting of our Committee it was resolved that any funds left after the payment of small bills should be retained by the Treasurer and handed to the family on repatriation.

The balance in question has grown by interest accretions, from £16 4s 4d to £18 9s 0d, which latter sum was paid by Mr Willink, the Hon. Treasurer, on 13th February, and he holds the receipt. The whole family begged him to thank the Committee and all Burghfield friends very warmly for their help in time of need.

They will probably set up a boot shop again – they had the biggest one in Louvain. The two sons have both served right up to the end of the war – Arthur in fact wishes to remain a soldier. We wish them all happiness and good fortune.

Burghfield parish magazine, March 1919 (D/EX725/4)

Inciting to Bolshevism

Eduard Soermus was an Estonian musician and revolutionary who had been living in Wales.

8 February 1919

Dottie says German prisoners are no longer to be used but make way for our own men. Tuck came back demobilized!…

Strikes still continuing. No undergrounds or tubes running,. Many people taken to work in Army lorries. Conferences going on. A Russian violinist “Soermus” taken up – inciting to Bolshevism. He in Brixton, is to be deported.

Phyllis changed room – by herself to escape flu patients.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

The case of the three German children

Wokingham Poor Law Union wanted to hand over responsibility for three children whose father had no doubt been interned.

28th Jan., 1919

The Chairman, on behalf of the House Committee, reported …

That the Committee had considered the case of the three German children at the Cottage Home, and recommend that steps should now be taken for their removal to their place of settlement.

Wokingham Board of Guardians minutes (G/WO1/26)

“They all bring the same report of ill treatment, suffering and semi-starvation, which makes the blood boil and raises the strong desire that a stern reckoning should be paid for such brutality”

Released PoWs had a tale to tell.

We rejoice to welcome home in time for Xmas, four of our Prisoners of War, C. Brant, W. Harwood, R. Mitchell, and F. Onion. They all bring the same report of ill treatment, suffering and semi-starvation, which makes the blood boil and raises the strong desire that a stern reckoning should be paid for such brutality.

We shall naturally wish to erect a parish memorial to those Winkfield men who have given their lives for their country in this War, and as this concerns all in the parish, it is proposed shortly to call a Public Meeting in the Parish Room, to discuss plans and particulars. Probably the meeting will be held towards the end of January, and due notice of it will be given.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11)

“The war is likely to be the most striking event of the 20th century”

Newbury Museum planned to remember the war and its impact.

Museum and Free Library Committee
Monday, January 19th, 1919


The Hon. Curator laid before the Committee the following report for the past quarter:

Borough of Newbury Museum

Typical Collection.

The war is likely to be the most striking event of the 20th century, and we shall probably not be wrong in devoting the 1 foot 6 inches of wall space allotted to the century almost, if not entirely, to war exhibits. In the table-case there should be nine small but choice objects illustrating the following regions: Britain; North Europe; the campaign in the Murmansk Region; Central Europe; Germany or Austria; Italy; The Balkan Peninsula; Gallipoli; Serbia or Salonika; Egypt; Western Asia; Palestine or Mesopotamia; India; Japan. These objects must be small, as the space at our disposal is very limited, but should be choice. An instructional sectional Mill’s No 5 hand-grenade, an iron cross, and a Turkish cannon-ball, and such-like objects, would be most suitable. Besides these we might exhibit a German shrapnel-helmet, a British gas mask, and a French 75 mm shell-case.

Local Collections

These might be placed in a special case to illustrate the effect of the war on Newbury, and the share in it taken by the Borough and neighbourhood. It would be interesting to collect a complete series of posters, circulars and notices issued by the Police, the County Council, the Borough Council, and the Rural District Council, and by officials and committees acting under their authority; also a complete set of the issue of the “Newbury Weekly News” from the declaration of war to the conclusion of the peace celebrations. These cannot be displayed upon the walls of the Museum owing to lack of space, and the Museum possesses no accommodation for storing them in such a way as to be accessible to students. Perhaps this part of the record could be undertaken by the Free Library.

The special Museum case might, however, contain: Badges of officers and men of the Berkshire regiments; badges and insignia of Newbury Special Constables; badges and arms of the Newbury Volunteers; shell-cases made by Newbury munition firms. These seem to be all that we shall find room for, and ought to be sufficient to show posterity how the war affected Newbury and its neighbourhood.

War Collection – the following special report by the Hon. Curator on a war collection was held before the Committee.:-

Report on War Collections

Now that hostilities have ceased, it is time that the Committee decided what steps should be taken by the Museum to put on record the chief features of the war. In considering this question it will be well to give the matter careful thought, and to make sure that it is approached with due regard to proportion. On the one hand we must avoid concluding that, as the war is an affair of yesterday, it should not be represented in our Historical Collections, still more is it well to remember that, though at the present moment it seems to overshadow in importance all other events, yet it must not occupy an undue amount of space in our cases, but must take its place with other events of a perhaps less dramatic nature. There are two ways in which the war may be considered part of the Museum: one as part of the general history of the Old World, as exhibited on our typical collection; and the other as part of the history of Newbury, as exemplified by our Local Collections.

The Hon. Curator’s report was adopted and efforts were to be made to secure suitable exhibits.


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

“The Buffs were smashed but our own line was intact”

Another of Sydney Spencer’s comrades made contact.

Hope Cottage
Baguley
Cheshire

23rd Decr 1918

Dear Mrs Image

I received your letter some days ago. As regards Sydney’s narrative I can add only a few particulars as I was hit the day the Boche attacked. I remember the strafe we got; Sydney had just relieved me and was in the front line when Johnny’s 27th Division attacked the Buffs on our right. The Buffs were smashed but our own line was intact. That evening (it was 6th Aug) we were told of the attack due on 8th, shortly afterwards I was hit and saw my last of Sydney and the others.

At present I am enjoying twelve days Xmas leave, and I hope that it will be my last leave. I expect to be discharged soon.

Thank you very much for your kind invitation. If ever I am in Cambridge I shall look you up.

You may rely on my doing my best to get any further information re Sydney that I can.

With best wishes for a Happy Xmas and New Year

I am
Yours sincerely

W I Dilworth

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of Sydney (D/EX801/81)