Bright moon, bad air raids

The Vansittart Neale girls were both home for the first time since they started nursing the troops.

28 September 1917
Waited [at Maidenhead station] for both girls who had been to London for day’s shopping. All motored home. First time we all 4 together. Bad air raid nearly every night this week – bright moon.

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

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Scarborough under attack

Sir Henry Vansittart Neale served on the local (Maidenhead) Tribunal hearing conscientious objectors’ and essential workers’ cases against conscription. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire town of Scarborough was being attacked from the sea.

5 September 1917

Men out on river. About 40 came. Henry at Tribunal & Food Production meetings…

Bombardment of Scarborough.

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

To Windsor to see the Queen

The Vansittart Neales’ Australian guest, a wounded hero, got a royal audience.

14 August 1917

Captain Yates & I went dog walk – then golf and croquet. We all motored to Maidenhead, I to meetings about work – new secretary…

Captain Y[ates] to Windsor & saw Queen.

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

24 hours

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter came home on leave.

9 August 1917

We fetched Phyllis home for her 24 hours…

Heard officer wished to come next day for a week.

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

German officers in Maidenhead

The Vansittart Neales were involved in efforts to keep farming going in war conditions.

31 May 1917

Henry & I had to go to Maidenhead for meetings – he agricultural, I women on land….

Saw several German officers – prisoners.

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

Calling on the Belgians

Florence Vansittart Neale invited local refugees to lunch at Bisham Abbey.

9 May 1917
H & I to Maidenhead – he to massage. Left screens at Red X Hospital. Called on Belgians – asked them to come tomorrow to lunch, 4!

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

A fighting board at the Admiralty

Phyllis Vansittart Neale started nursing in Reading – less exotic than France, but still working with seriously wounded soldiers. Her father Henry, at the Admiralty, found changes afoot.

5 May 1917

H., I & Phyllis last dog walk – we on to Vicarage with flowers to say goodbye to Willy. We all motored to Reading & Pussycat [Phyllis?] started on her new venture.

3 [SJ?] destroyers mined in Channel. We going on in Western Front, very hard fighting.

2nd dish asparagus – economising in salmon!

Changes at the Admiralty – a fighting board – Lloyd George has been at it.

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

Shall we starve?

The Vansittart Neales were shocked by the implications of food shortages. Lady Nott-Bower (yet another Florence) was the wife of a senior police officer.

26 April 1917

Henry & I to Food Economy Meeting at Maidenhead. A Lady Nott-Bower – very good but most alarming. Shall we starve!! Sorry everyone was not there to hear.

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

Netted submarines

Henry Vansittart Neale’s late sister Henrietta, to whom he had been very close as a child, had married into the Dickinson family.

21 March 1917

I hear that Dover Harbour is full of netted submarines (Muriel Dickinson).

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

21 March 1917

Wrote a letter to Percy, wishing him many happy returns from us both, & thanking him from us both for handing in an enquiry to the British Graves Commission with regard to our missing relative. Asked him to mention to Florrie some books or songs or some other little thing he would like to have, which she could then send him on my behalf. To assist him in choosing (if he decided for books), gave him alist of about 25 volumes in the Everyman’s Library Series, a catalogue of which I have here. Johanna brought a copy of the photograph Frau von Tobiesen took of us at hergiswil, which I enclosed.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

“The German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s Admiralty official husband, or one of his colleagues, was encouraging about the Navy’s successes.

19 March 1917

I hear through the Admiralty we think we have mastered the submarines, but the mines are still troublesome & will be for some time.

Also the German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us.

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

Pounding the Germans

Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced in the war news.

14 March 1917

Almost at Bapaume, pounding the Germans. Outer defences are gone. Our guns doing great havoc. Gunboats up Tigris.

Heard from Maisie 2 subs sunk in Clyde.

C. Menzies told me 9 sunk in 5 days. Navy jubilant. We had new bomb flung from destroyers, if it does not hit the periscope makes such commotion in water submarine comes up. Then our guns go at them.

Henry busy day at Maidenhead – District Council – massage – Tribunal.

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

Wounded soldiers enjoy themselves

It was a busy afternoon at Bisham Abbey.

19 February 1917
Went with Henry to Maidenhead while he had massage…
Meanwhile 15 wounded arrived before 3, till past 7. Quite enjoyed themselves. E Farrer & Polly & May came too. Very exhausting.

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

Six months on the Somme underage

Florence Vansittart Neale and William Hallam came from different backgrounds, but both their daughters were affected by the war. Phyllis Vansittart Neale, now 25, was nursing, while the teenage Muriel Hallam’s boyfriend had been called up, having already seen service underage.

Florence Vansittart Neale
9 January 1917

Got telegram from Phyllis, arrived Monday night in London – crossing 5.45. Henry went to [illegible] & on to London, & came down same train. I met them at Maidenhead on my way from Polly….
Phyllis seemed very well, except chilblains on her hand.

William Hallam
9th January 1917

Poor Muriel’s sweet-heart Frank Brittain has been called up again for the Army. He had 6 months on the Somme and was then claimed by his father as under 18. Now he is 18 this last week & has to join up again.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Major Dinkum

Florence Vansittart Neale heard some gossip and tall tales from army officers. “Dinkum” is actually an Australian word, and the story, ascribed to an Australian officer, is recorded as being in circulation elsewhere.

25 December 1916

Had 5 Remount Depot to dine with us.

Major Remount Depot told me – hear [Colonel?] RFA told him how a spy had been caught. Posed as a Major who came to their Division & gave orders to bombard [later?] a salient! Said he had been sent from the HQ, also seen and arranged for other divisions etc etc. A Canadian present said. “Is this dinkum”, a slang word meaning is this true. He answered Yes, I am Major Dinkum. Whereupon the C[anadian?] rushed on him & held him down & they found he was a spy & was taken out & shot.

One day the artillery was told to bombard heavily but unluckily the ammunition was forgotten!!

Hear the new Government dare not conscript Ireland.

I hear Sir D. Haig sent for 1000 miles of railway lines, 400 engine drivers & heaps of locomotives, & that has caused the reduction of trains & increase in the price of tickets to begin Jan 1 1917.

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

Dreadful news for the Vansittart Neales

Frederick Septimus Kelly was a tenant and near neighbour of the Vansittart Neales, living at Bisham Grange. He was a remarkable figure, Australian born but educated at Eton and Oxford, who was an Olympic rowing medallist in 1908, a musician and composer, and a friend of the poet Rupert Brooke. He was killed near the end of the Battle of the Somme.

21 November 1916
Henry came – brought dreadful news of dear Sep’s death on 13th. Went back home with Henry.

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