Captain with a capital C

Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall (better known in later years under her married name Phoebe Cusden) was a young Post Office employee in Reading during the war. Later a leading local pacifist, at this stage in her life she was working with a Guide troop in support of the war effort. She wrote to her brother, who had joined up:

52 Beresford Road
Reading
30 Nov. 1915

My dear Hodge [nickname]

Here’s as merry a Christmas as circumstances permit. Guess it’s about the most novel one you’ve ever spent, eh?

My Guides are doing well – getting quite expert signallers besides learning first aid and other useful things. We hope to go to camp next year. I shall expect you to salute me when you come home, ‘cos I’m a Captain (with a capital C).

We have an OTC and a real live Sergeant Major drills us in the approved army style…

Best love and good luck old man
Your loving sister
Nell Blackall

(2 Cockney soldiers lent to a farmer to help with dairy work: one armed with milking stool and pail, other armed with gun, approaching cow). Man with gun: “It do seem a shime to kill the pore thing for the sike of a drop o’ milk.”

Letter from Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall to her brother (D/EX1485/2/8)

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Guides to make sandbags

Girl Guides in Bisham were invited to make sandbags for the trenches.

10 November 1915
To village about GG’s making sandbags.

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

This war is getting worse every day: a child’s view

Young Harold Blackall, whose father had joined the army, wrote to his aunt Phoebe in Reading with his hopes and fears.

24.10.15
Burford
Dear Aunty

You seem to be getting on well with your Guides and I think we ought to do something at home as well as the soldiers out there. I don’t think there is anything better than a Bible that I should like for Christmas but I think we ought to go without some presents this year and send the soldiers some instead. I have not heard from father since he went away, I hope he is all right, he will be quite safe I know….

I think this war is getting worse every day, but I think we shall win in the end…

Your loveing [sic] nephew
Harold

Letter from Harold Blackall to his aunt Phoebe (D/EX1485/2/7)

German prisoners “too well treated”

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey sent letters and chocolate to the young men she knew who had joined up. One of her friends had a strong opinion about prisoners of war.

5 Oct 1914
Wrote letters to boys [and] sent chocolate… G[irl] G[uide]s all knitting jacks or helmets…

Huge Russian battle beginning – our Allies’ battle of the 7 rivers lasting 3 weeks & more. Letter from Ag – she night nurse. Patients not bad. Say German prisoners too well treated – atrocities true. Margaret Butler’s son killed in Africa.

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

A crowded church parade

Florence Vansittart Neale found the morning service at Bisham Church full with people involved with the war effort.

27 September 1914

Early church – Church parade – Nat. Reserve, nurses, men’s VAD, Scouts and Guides, band. Church crowded.

Harold accepted Naval Brigade.

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