School swimming lessons saved his life

Children at a Slough school got to hear first hand about the near miss enjoyed by two old boys who had joined the Navy when their ship was torpedoed.

November 3rd 1914

Mr Greenaway has enlisted in the Army Pay Services.

Two old boys Frank Gomm and William Hobbs who were saved from the ‘Hermes’ when torpedoed by a German Submarine on Sat. last – came to the school. The scholars were delighted to congratulate them on their fortunate escape. Hobbs told the top class boys that the school swimming lessons had been the means of saving his life, as he had to swim 200 yards in his clothes before getting some support from a petrol can. Gomm managed to get on a waterplane float. They were in the water for ¾ of an hour.

Other schools continued to see disruption. A teacher at Bradfield CE School was involved with the movement to help Belgian refugees, when she took one group to the Benyon family at Englefield:

November 3rd 1914
Miss Robinson was allowed to leave before the close of the afternoon session to escort Belgian Refugees to Englefield House.

A Cookham school depleted of staff had to completely rearrange its classes:

November 3rd 1914

School reopened after Half Term holiday.

In consequence of the depletion of staff owing to the war, the Upper Standards V, VI, VII have been today rearranged. Standard V has been placed in No.2 classroom and the Boys and Girls of the First Class put together in the 1st Classroom. This has appeared to me to be the most reasonable way of dealing with the classes under the present circumstances.

Stoke Road School, Slough: log book (89/SCH/28/1, p. 359); Bradfield CE School log book (D/P22/28/2, p. 124); Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 240)

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“We have hold of them now”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s diary mixes anxiety for family friends, war news and rumours. It was true, however, that Lord Kitchener was not a fan of Winston Churchill, who was at this point First Lord of the Admiralty.

2 November 1914

Heard from Dot. Charlie in firing line. Joined Bombay Brigade. Feel very anxious. Fierce battle still raging….

Found Sir George & M & Mme de Bistrade (Belgians) here.

Heard Lord K. told someone about our position. “We have hold of them now.”

Germans sunk the “Hermes” in Channel.

They say story of Russians is about 2000 from America came through here & joined French troops.

Winston from Antwerp telegraphed Kitchener he had made this man Colonel, that a Major etc etc. Kitchener, riled, wired back “Just made Mrs Snooks rear admiral”!!


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