A pill for the Kaiser

The pro-German King Constantine of Greece was forced to abdicate by the Allies and his own government, in favour of his younger son Prince Alexander (1893-1920), passing over the elder boy, Prince George. The king and his wife Sophia, sister of the Kaiser, went into exile. Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced.

14 June 1917
Tino gone! & family & suite leaving P. Alex to take his place. Pill for the Kaiser.

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

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“So ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick”

Hungry young art student turned medical orderly Stanley Spencer was equally desperate for food, books and art while serving in Greece.

March 27th 1917.

Dear Florence,

I am no longer in the 68th or 66th F.A., so note my new address. Simply alter number of F.Amb. to 143rd. The remainder of the address is the same as it always has been. I was sorry to lose the C.O. of the 68th and I was getting on well in the 66th. If you think you can afford it could you send me out some eatables of some kind, say biscuits or those tinned cakes – cakes in air-tight tins.

Send me one of those little 6d Gowan’s and Gray’s books of Masterpieces of Art. Send me Raphael.

You must not think that I ask for eatables because I am not getting enough food. On the contrary, I am getting good rations, as we all are, but I get so ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick. It is being out-of-doors so much.

And about books: it is impossible to get them here. A field Amb. is not like a hospital at Salonique where you can buy books, etc. Robert Louis Stevenson is a man whose writings I love.

I do not know if any parcels containing eatables have been sent to me; if so, none have ever arrived. But with the exception of the wonderful ‘Daily News’ Christmas pudding which I never got (and would like to know why), I do not think anything in that line has been sent to me ever since I left England on August 22nd last.

With much love

From your ever loving,

STAN.

Letter from Stanley Spencer to Florence Image (D/EX801/20)

Italy may be troublesome

Cabinet Minister Alfred, Lord Milner (1854-1924) accompanied PM David Lloyd George to a international conference with the Allied leaders in Rome.

6 January 1917

Lloyd George & Lord Milner gone to Rome – settling, I hope, about Greece. Italy suggests being troublesome, I think.

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

Belgians want peace at any price – and no wonder

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, while Lockinge-born railway worker William Hallam was making weapons for the war in Swindon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 December 1916

Lloyd George forming a ministry. Things in bad way. Greece blockaded. Fear for troops in Salonika….

Met Gustav Kupor. Feel very sorry for Belgian soldiers. No wonder they want peace at any price.

William Hallam
8th December 1916

In to work at 6 to night and by the morning I had finished this war work. Howitzer gun arches.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

The difference between fair terms & absolute surrender

The son of the vicar of Radley, Captain Austin Longland was serving in Salonika with the Wiltshire Regiment, where he struggled with the heat, but hoped the Germans were about to give in.

Thursday July 6th [1916]

Temperature in here continues at 95-105 degrees I’m told by the doctor. Also I’ve just had my 2nd dose of typhoid & perityphoid inoculations & have a day off duty in consequence. Twice clouds have gathered, & once we had a violent storm of thunder & lightning but never a drop of rain. Needless to say all beauty’s gone. The sun glares down, trying the eyes, and our view of the town is blurred by a continuous cloud of fine grey dust. I have told you that from the sea up to the hills the ground rises steadily till the last steep ascent, & we’re therefore, tho’ considerably below the level of the actual hills, some height above the town which is about 5 miles away. We are to the left of the road this time, but we can see the sites of our 2 early camps and get a rather different view of the town & the citadel. You remember the shock I had on returning our bivouacs last Sunday fortnight & finding them gone and all my kit packed. My first idea then was that we were going forward – first stop Nish or Sofia, but when it was known that we were to march back over the hills no one knew what to expect.

The men were more cheerful than I’ve seen them in this country – all firmly persuaded that they were going back to France – an opinion which I hadn’t the heart to discourage, but did not hold myself.
Since then nothing has happened. From about 6 to 6.45 each day in the morning the battalion does its old physical drill, & parade which the officers, except Waylen who takes it, do not attend, going out instead to study tactics with the NCOs, each company by itself. This lasts 6 till 9. Three days a week we go a route march from 5-8 a.m. In the evening we parade from 5.45 till 6.15. doing physical exercises gain, officers & all – & that is the day. The NCOs class was ordered by the Brigade & is most useful – tho’ of course it’s what we ought to have done at Marlboro’. So from 9 till 5.45 every day & from 6.30 onwards we have nothing to do except sit in our hut.

Wood as usual is scarce, so there’s not chance to make a chair. At present I am seated on 2 sand-bags, which raises one off the ground a bit. We have a hut for a common room, but tho’ it has forms and a table, it’s very hot & full of flies. Here the flies grew so unbearable that I ordered yards of muslin from the town & with its aid we ae at last at peace. We feed in a hut off a sand bag table & seated on sand bag seats. I’ve just been busy trying to make that fly-proof – harder but even more necessary. If you sit still for a moment you can always count over 50 on the plate in front of you.
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“Let us help, how, when, and where we can, but let us do our bit”

Wargrave women worked hard providing medical supplies for wounded soldiers, and their work inspired ladies across the country.

Wargrave: Surgical Dressing Emergency Society

An American Fete was held at Riverside Lawn, on July 1st, by kind permission of Mr. Cain, in aid of the Society’s funds. The splendid sum of £165 was realised. There is no space to mention all who helped to make the Fete a success, buyers and sellers all did their very best and those present represented a large gathering of interested friends, with a keen appreciation of the work being done at “Millwards” for the Casualty Clearing Stations in France, Greece, Egypt and Mesopotamia.

There are now nine branches:-

Long Parish (Hants). Pangbourne.
Chigwall Row. Wimbledon.
Heswell (Cheshire). Peppard.
Shiplake. Ledbury (Gloucestershire)

Knowl Hill is part of the Wargrave branch.

Wargrave being the Head Branch is in direct communication with the Director General of Voluntary Organizations, New Scotland Yard, and is responsible for all the sterilization of Dressings and the packing of Bales.

The Bales are sent direct from Wargrave Station, (as Government Requisitions) to the points in the Firing Line, most in need of help.

Between the Dates of Oct. 19th, 1915 and June 19th, 1916:

1316 Kits of Sterilized Dressings
4989 Spare Bandages
2915 Comforts including Shirts, Pyjamas, Slippers, Tooth Brushes, Soap, etc., etc., have gone out to help out Wounded, straight from the Trenches or Field.

Several Emergency Calls, including one last week for 200 made swaps, and another for 200 Wargrave Surgical Oakum Pads (a special request from the Front) were filled, in each case the Bales left Wargrave Station 24 hours after the call was received.

Medals were awarded through Miss Choate, as head of the Society, to Members of Wargrave and also Members of the Branches, who had worked 100 hours in three months. The list of names will be printed in the next month’s Magazine.

The work of the Society is growing, so alas is the number of Wounded. We are glad of Comforts, especially socks and warm winter garments. One pair of socks, one shirt will comfort one Wounded Man. Let us help, how, when, and where we can, but let us do our bit.

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

Work for the “common cause”

Two of Ralph Glyn’s friends based in London – one orking in Intelligence at the War Office, the other an army officer seconded to arms manufacturer Vickers, wrote to him.

War Office
London, SW
M.I.1/113/NE

7th April, 1916

My dear Glyn

Very many thanks for your letter of March 13th. I was very glad to hear from you again after such a long time. I understand that Holdich is taking Tyrrell’s place and I expect to be writing to him by this mail also.

As regards your suggestion about I.a work in the B.C.I., I am afraid that any suggestion to strengthen this part of the B.C.I. will not be regarded with favour, because, when the B.C.I. was started, it was agreed by the representatives of the various Allies that this International Intelligence Bureau should not deal with matters which had hitherto been subjects of direct correspondence between the various GHQs concerned, and it was agreed that the B.C.I. was to be primarily a clearing house for information about contre-espionage [sic] and military statistical intelligence of a permanent or semi-permanent nature. Consequently, any attempt to meddle with enemy orders of battle or 1.a. work generally has been most severely discouraged.

I think that, when you realise this, you will probably not want to go to the B.C.I. and I shall, therefore, take no action on your part until and unless I hear from you again.

Yours ever,
C French

36, Sloane Court, SW
7th April, 1916

My dear Ralph

What has become of you?

It’s nearly a year since last I saw or heard of you and I’m now stirred into writing by seeing in the papers that your father is leaving Peterboro’.

I am so sorry: however, I expect he feels that after many strenuous year [sic] he wants to retire to a more peaceful life…

I am with Vickers now and am fairly up to my eyes in work all day and every day: it’s very interesting and real hard work; how long the WO will keep me at it I don’t, of course, know. I’ve never done a day with the W. Gds [Welsh Guards?] yet since I was transferred to them. However, as long as I feel I’m doing some work for the “common cause” I’ve nothing to complain of.

I occasionally hear scraps of news about you from Rome, or Greece, or Russia! I suppose you are dashing about all over the place on every sort of mysterious mission.

If you ever are in London, let me know – do: I’d love to see you again. Vickers House finds me all day & every day, except when I’m away at gun trials: and here we are installed in a flat – our first home!…

Yours ever,
Jack O’W

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/24-25)

“The war is doing us a lot of good”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn in Egypt with the news that she and her wounded husband were going to be based in Windsor until he was well enough to return to the Front. Their aunt Sybil was still receiving letters from her son Ivar, written before his recent death in action.

Feb 11/16
11 Bruton St W
Darlingest R.

I had a mysterious message from Meg’s house today saying Colonel Sykes had called leaving a small parcel from you, & saying he was just home from the Dardenelles [sic]. I had the said parcel brought here, & it is a couple of torch refills apparently unused from Stephenson. I must get hold of Colonel Sykes for an explanation.

Our plans are now fixed up to a point. The doctor, [dear?] man, said John was not to return to France for 3 months, this being so the regimental powers that be used much pressure to get him to reconsider his refusal of the 5th Battalion Adjutancy, & so after being told they won’t try & keep him after he’s fit for France, he has said yes. There is no doubt it’s good useful work for home service, if it has to be, & I am glad for him, though I suppose I shall now see little or nothing of him at all. He begins on Monday. He went house hunting on Tuesday – a depressing job, as there are hardly any houses to be had, & those one more beastly than the other! However – nothing matters – it’s just wonderful to be there at all. We shall take what we can & when we can – that’s all. The house we long for, but it’s not yet even furnished, is one, & a charming old house done up & owned by that old bore Arthur Leveson Gower, you remember the man, we met at the Hague, years ago. Tony has been ill again with Flu, the 2nd time this year…

We’ve just had tea with Aunt Syb. She got another letter from Ivar written Jan 1, last Friday. It’s awful for her, & yet I think there is most joy, rather than pain, the hopeless silence is for a moment filled, though but as it were by an echo. Joan looks pale & oh so sad. She’s wonderfully brave & unselfish to Aunt Syb. Poor little Joanie…

I hear Pelly’s opinion is that Kut must fall. London was filled with rumours of a naval engagement on Monday & Tues, but as far as I can make out without foundation.

I met Ad[miral] Mark Ker[r] in the street the other day, & we had a long talk. I fear he’s not improved – & I think very bitter at being out of it all. He was interesting over Greece etc, but there is so much “I” in all he says, one cannot help distrusting a great deal. He’s very upset as he was starting to return to Greece a week ago & at the very last moment was stopped, & now he’s simply kicking his heels, not knowing what’s going to happen next. “Tino” now is of course his idol & here – I feel a pig saying all this, as I do feel sorry for him, & he was most kind. Yesterday he asked us to lunch to meet Gwladys [sic] Cooper, Mrs Buckmaster, how lovely she is, & seems nice, almost dull John thought! We then went on to the matinee of her new play. Most amusing, she is delightful, & Hawtrey just himself…

As you can imagine air-defence & the want of it is now all the talk. One of our airships has taken to sailing over this house from west to east every morning at 8.30 am. I hear we broke up 6 aeroplanes & killed 3 men the night of the last raid. All leave is now stopped from France. We’ve just lunched with Laggs Gibbs, who came over a day before the order came out. He says it’s said to be because of some new training scheme we have & not because of any offensive either way.

John had a Med Board today, & narrowly escaped being given another 3 months sick leave apparently. They implored him to go to Brighton & said he was very below parr [sic] etc, however he bounced them into giving him home duty, & they’ve made it 3 months, & “no marching”, etc, tc, etc. Of course as Adjutant he wouldn’t have that anyhow.

We think we have got a house, but can’t get in for a fortnight.

Bless you darling
Your ever loving Maysie (more…)

An awful, awful tragedy

Lady Mary Glyn wrote to Ralph again to let him know how her Red Cross and other war work was going.

Jan 18th [1916]…

We heard of the great doings at the G[reat] E[astern] Rest Room. Over 100 men there last night – 40 sailors, 60 men & then more, and an efficient staff of helpers. All night. Then in afternoon I … called on Recruiting Officer’s wife…

From 6 to 9 (with break for dinner) the Knights Chamber Private Registered Red X Work Party. 32 workers all in caps & white aprons and sleeves, and it is really a joy to see that Room full – all happy, and the long tables covered with clean oil baize, and your old nursery cupboard moved there to hold the material. I hear there is a tremendous “muddle” at Northampton, & as these inanities here appealed to Lord Spencer they have dragged him into their mesh of muddle, and I have written no word & keep silence, but events move, and things must take their course. Sir George Pragnell looks like a bulldog that will not easily let go, and the evidence he took from me was quite sufficient to show misapplication of money, and a vast trickery of the public they feared my action would bring to light. They would have done better to leave me alone!…

I read the papers and wish I knew what to think! Montenegro and its heights to add to the pecuniary burdens of ruined nations, but in the meantime how far adding to their resources?…

My whole love always
Own Mur

Ralph’s sister Meg also wrote to him, with thoughts on politics, and more on the Campbell family’s loss with the death of their cousin Ivar. (more…)

“Arab treachery” in Mesoptamia

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey continued to be worried about the war news from the east. Mesopotamia, now in Iraq, was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire which had joined the war on the side of the Germans.

5 December 1915
Greece still uncertain, also Roumania [sic]. Meanwhile we landing troops at Salonika.

Bad setback in Mesopotamia. General Townshend had to retreat 80 miles from Bagdad [sic]. Treachery of Arabs. Chris wounded in it.

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

Watch Greece well

Florence Vansittart Neale was wary of our potential new ally.

25 November 1915
Hope Greece coming down, but do not trust her. Hope we shall watch her well.

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

Greece still uncertain

It was always frustrating when there seemed to be no real news.

21 November 1915
No particular news. Greece still uncertain. We hold their ships.

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

Greece still impossible

Florence Vansittart Neale was worried about the war in the eastern Mediterranean.

16 November 1915
Our troops still landing Salonica. Serbians very hard pressed! Greece still impossible.

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

Is Greece on our side or not?

Florence Vansittart Neale was working with women at home towards the war effort, while paying close attention to the war overseas.

15 November 1915

Servian [sic] phase disquieting. Greece asked to give answer – our side or not!…

I to Reading for meeting about women’s work in war scheme.

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

“I wonder what the Archangel Michael thinks of destroyers and aeroplanes”

The Bishop of Peterborough and his wife wrote to their son Ralph, serving in the Dardanelles, with the latest news of political developments at home, and an encounter with two disillusioned soldiers serving with the Canadian forces. See here for more about Munro.

Nov 13 [1915]
The Palace
Peterborough

My darling Ralph

Thank you so much for your great letter to me of Nov 2nd & telling us of your going off in the Destroyer on work – & that we possibly may catch you by a letter to Marseilles – so here it is.
You will indeed have a good experience – & going about in this way will be full of new interest – but I can understand your reluctance to leave General Headquarters. I see that General Munro is gone to Salonika, & when I saw it in today’s papers, I wondered if you would have gone there with him – but you will not have gone off on your “destroyer cruise” before he left.

Everyone tells us that Munro is first rate & I heard also that in France he did a job that Haig got praised for & held a tough corner & saved us at one time, & then was not as fully appreciated for it as he should have been.

Your name appears in today’s Times, with K’s and 3 or 4 others, as “persecuted” by HM to wear your Servian & Russian orders – so there you are!

God bless & keep you
Your loving father
E C Peterborough
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