How the high wages are spent

Good news was tempered with sadness as men continued to die.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 October 1918

Dear old Christopher died of pneumonia or flu. None of his family there. Up at the Orkneys. On hospital ship “Agadir”….

Had letters from girls. Wonderful entrance into Lille – all inhabitants kissing. Bring sugar & sweets for our soldiers.

William Hallam
19th October 1918

This afternoon I went through the town.… I could not help noticing this afternoon all the people especially women are dressed up to the nines and even then looking into the drapers windows for more clothes. This is how the high wages are spent.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

Efficiency and gallantry

A Burghfield doctor was commended for his contributions.

Honours and promotions

2nd Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), before being taken prisoner (see last month’s magazine) won 1st Prize Bayonet Fighting (Officers) in the First Army Corps; Sergeant E Cooke (Royal West Surrey Regiment) to be Sergeant Instructor, April 1918.

Casualties

2nd Lieut. T Warner (RAF), flying accident, Salisbury Plain; Private Stretcher-bearer Albert Painter (Royal Berks Regiment), missing since 21st March, now reported died. Company Sergeant Major Albert Manners (17th Lancers) died 10th July in hospital (gastric complaint). Sergeant Manners served through the South African War, and through the present war. Private T Searies (Royal Berks Regiment), wounded (doing well).

Discharge

Private Frank J Cooke (Worcester Regiment), 24th July (heart).

Lt-Col. Anderson

Lt-Col. H S Anderson, RAMC, who is the brother of Mr W C F Anderson of Hermit’s Hill, and who is himself on the Burghfield Electoral Register, was in the New Year’s list of honours, and received the CMG. His name also appeared in the Gazette of February 8th among those who had been “brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War by the Army Council, for very valuable services rendered in connection with the war, up to 31st December 1917”.

HRH the Duke of Connaught, on his visit to the Citadel, Cairo, invested him with the Order at the Hospital which is under his charge. Among such services may particularly be mentioned those in connection with the “Britannic”. Col. Anderson was in command of all the medical staff and hospital arrangement of the huge vessel during several voyages out and home, with marked efficiency, and was on board when she was torpedoed and sunk off the coast of Greece. For his gallantry and conduct on this occasion he received especial thanks and mention.

Burghfield parish magazine, August 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Oh the brutes!

Reading teenager Joan Daniels was indignant about German targetting of the wounded.

August 6th Tuesday

Ambulance transport sunk & 123 lives lost by the Germans. This is what riles us more than anything. Oh the brutes!

Diary of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Torpedoed but able to land!

A hospital ship was attacked.

15 March 1918
Glenart Castle torpedoed but able to land! All saved I think.

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

No warning as a hospital ship is targetted

The hospital ship Rewa was sunk just of Harland Point in Devon on 4 January 1918. Florence Vansittart Neale was appalled.

4 January 1918

Hospital ship Rewa torpedoed in Bristol Channel, no warning. All [illegible] cases saved in 20 minutes!

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

“Many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Christmas”

An army chaplain with links to Mortimer shares details of his life in Normandy.

Mr Bowden writes:-

Dear Vicar,

It is a long time since I sent a contribution to the Magazine, not that I have forgotten Mortimer but I have so little of interest to relate. My work is now in the docks area – I have charge of No. 2 General Hospital, on the quay alongside which the hospital ships lie and take in the wounded direct from the trains to convey them to Southampton. Any cases which prove too bad for the boat journey we take in to our hospital which is directly over the railway station, and occasionally we get a train load for treatment at No. 2. We have three very fine, airy wards; and a broad balcony facing the sea runs the whole length of the hospital; in the summer we place many beds out there – the men love to be in the open air and watch the shipping and the aircraft. The hospital commands a fine view of the town on one side and the mouth of the Seine with Trouville and Honfleur on the other.

In addition to hospital work I have some 1,500 Army Ordnance and 650 Army Service Corps men to work amongst. These are busy on the docks all day long but can be seen in the Recreation Huts and in their billets in the evening and at meal times.

There are plenty of amusements provided for them – some sort of entertainment almost every night. We also have recently acquired a recreation ground for their use and a cricket ground as well as a tennis court for officers and N.C.O.’s.

It might be of interest if I give my Sunday programme – I start early with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 6 a.m. for the A.O.D. in a little chapel near their quarters – another celebration at 7 a.m. for the hospital staff in a hut on the quay. This is always followed by a series of private Communions to sick men and officers in the various wards and huts; [sic] then back to breakfast. I used to have a Parade Service at 10-30 for the R.A.M.C. but have dropped it as it was an inconvenient time for the men. At 11-30 we have a Parade Service for the A.O.D. in one of the warehouses on the docks – the men climb up on the boxes all round a space left for the purpose – we have a good choir, an hearty service, and then the men go straight off to their dinner at noon, or soon after.

Then I have nothing till 5-15 when I hold Ward Services in hospital – these are very much appreciated by the patients and are of an informal nature as all denominations join in. The men love singing hymns and the Sisters come and help form a choir. At 7 p.m. we are now having open-air services in the A.S.C. camp on the river front between the docks and hospital. Here the men are mostly getting on in years – I believe the average age is about 42 – All younger men have long since been sent “up the line.” Of course a large portion of both A.S.C. and A.O.D. men have done their bit at the front in various units and have been sent back to work at the Base owing to wounds or some physical disability rendering them unfit for the fighting line.

Sometimes my day ends here or I have a service at the Y.M.C.A. or in one of the other huts, in turn with other Padres.

We have many destroyers constantly alongside the quays, the escorts for hospital ships, transports, &c. I go aboard when I can but generally most of the sailors are sleeping as they are working all night and its [sic] not often possible to hold a Service for them, but one gets some interesting talks with men and officers.

Just now we have a Mortimer man in hospital – Sergt. Shackleford – he is doing very well. He is only the second man I have met from the parish since I joined the B.E.F. – the other being Frank Parsons.

We are all very cheerful about the position of things just now and many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Xmas.

With best wishes to all friends.

Yours very sincerely,

W. S. Bowden, C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

A hospital ship is sunk

Another hospital ship was sunk by the German Navy.

30 May 1917
Another hospital ship, Dover Castle, sunk in Mediterranean – all saved but 5 of crew.

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

Mesopotamia had a bad name, but things are greatly improved

Some of the surgical dressings made by volunteers in Wargrave were put to use on a hospital boat in what is now Iraq.

Surgical Dressing Emergency Society, Wargrave, Berks

The Society is now sending regular Monthly Bales as follows:
To the 2nd New Zealand Hospital, Walton-on-Thames, Requisition 18856:

24 Handkerchiefs
24 Limb Pillows and Pillow Cases
12 Towels
30 Pairs of Carpet Slippers with Firm Soles
(Due on the 6th, of each month)

To the 25th, General Hospital B.E.F. France Requistion 23,111.

100 Hospital Treasure Bags
200 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
6 Flannel Dressing Gowns
25 Bed Jackets
12 Pairs of Flannel Pyjamas
50 Slings
12 Pairs of Carpet Slippers
12 Paris of Surgical Slippers or Boots
500 Gauze Dressings (Small)
500 Gauze Dressings (Large)
200 Medical Swabs
200 Round Swabs
500 Operation Swabs
And a quantity of old Linen.

To the 30th, General Hospital, Requisition 20519, B.E.F. France.

100 Abdominal Many Tail Bandages
50 Knee Bandages
100 Shoulder Bandages
50 Capeline Bandages
500 Roller Bandages
100 T Shaped Bandages
50 Triangular Bandages
500 Large Gauze Dressings
500 Medium Gauze Dressings
20 Pairs of Operation Stockings
500 Operation Swabs
500 Round Swabs

A good many other Bales are being sent out also, containing all kinds of comforts – one very beautiful present of 18 fine white winsey pyjamas.

We are glad to receive comforts to send out, especially knitted socks, for which there will be a great sudden demand in September and October.

A River Boat
Basra
Mesopotamia,
April 12th, 1917.
Dear Madam,

This is to inform you that a bale of dressings from your Society was opened by me a few days ago. The contents will be most useful and they were just what we needed. We are employed in conveying the sick and sounded from places up the line, down to Basra. Boats, such as this, travel up and down the Tigris. The hot weather has now arrived so we expect more sick than sounded, especially now that the fighting here is almost over. You will of course have read in the paper of the splendid advance and capture of Bagdad [sic] a few weeks ago.

Yours faithfully,

J…. T…. R.A.M.C.

P.S. Mesopotamia had a bad name, but after six months here, I can say that things are greatly improved.

Wargrave parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Russian diplomats delighted at revolution

Florence Vansittart Neale reflects in more detail on her experience seeing the tragic sight of the sunken Gloucester Castle hospital ship.

5 April 1917
I saw the Gloster Castle partly submerged, it had been towed into the Solent. Hospital ship torpedoed, burnt engines, darkness, people in boats 2 hours before picked up by destroyer.

Heard our hospital ships painted black & no lights.

Phyllis tells me one ran into French mines, hit & then destroyer sank. No wounded on board but nurses& orderlies.

Mrs James says when 20,000 prisoners were taken there, we may [have] her flag & feel the end is nearly coming! She says Russian attache’s & legation delighted at revolution.

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

Submarine destroyed

Florence Vansittart headed home after her Isle of Wight holiday, and witnessed an exciting naval fight. She also saw the sad remains of the Gloucester Castle, a hospital ship which had been sunk by the Germans a few days earlier.

4 April 1917
Nice crossing on deck. Saw submarine dest[roy] a submarine; also the Gloucester Castle here under water. Last hospital ships torpedoed off Culver (Sat).

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

‘He has now volunteered for Field Ambulance work at Salonika’

Will Spencer had news of several of his brothers. Stanley and Gilbert, both art students and a year apart in age, were very close to one another, and both had joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.

31 August 1916

Letters from Mother & from Florrie. Both contained the news that Gilbert had recently written from a hospital ship at Marseilles. He has now volunteered for Field Ambulance work at Salonika. Stanley hopes he may be going to Salonika, as he so much wants to be with Gilbert. Horace better, & making himself useful by making tables & chairs.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Lives complete in self-sacrifice

A naval and army chaplain with links to Windsor reports on his experiences at Gallipoli ad in Egypt. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he was open to learning from the non-white and non-Christian peoples he encountered, and respected the Turks as an honourable enemy.

The Vicar has received the following letter from Mr Everett:

Hospital Ship “Asturias”
Alexandria
February 1st, 1916

My dear Vicar

Since I last wrote I have seen so much, and gathered so many new impressions, that I find it difficult to decide what to write, and what to leave out. I have been several times through the Aegean Sea, either from Malta or Alexandria, on my way to Lemnos, the Gallipoli Peninsula, or Salonica [sic], from which places we, of course, brought back sick and wounded…

What thoughts are produced by Mount Olympus – hoary Olympus – once believed of men the home of the greater Gods! There, standing lofty and snowcapped, it has looked down through the ages on the surrounding country and the Gulf of Salonica. What has it seen in the past, and what now! Then, men seeking an unknown God in their own way, making wars, too, or carrying on their simple business, or cultured lives, on land and sea; using their frail ships with their banks of oars, or driven by contrary winds, and now, watching the great ships go by, battle cruisers and hospital ships (two strange contrasts), huge transports for the gathering of armies, and busy torpedo boats, all more or less independent of storm and tempest, and defeating space with their wireless installations.

But my pen has run away with me over my fascinating travels, nd I must turn to twentieth century history. The Dardanelles campaign is over, but I am not likely to forget my brief visits to Anzac Beach or Cape Helles; nor will those splendid men of all ranks, who spent months there and at Suvla Bay, under conditions which are well known. At Cape Helles I was sometimes ashore, and went over ground once held by fire and sword. It would take too long to describe it – the camps, landing places, “River Clyde”, and the town and fortress of Sedd El Bahr; but one enclosed space, of pathetic interest, held me – the little grave yard studded with crosses, some elaborate, but the majority rough and ready, marking the resting places of some of the many on the Peninsula whose lives, though so short, were so complete in their voluntary self-sacrifice. I eagerly scanned the names and rude inscriptions, in case I could recognise some brave friend from Windsor or elsewhere, in order to tell someone at home about it, and bring back a photograph, but found none I knew. I venture to think that the Turk, who has been an honourable foe, now that he is again in possession of Cape Helles, will reverence that little spot. I might add that I carefully looked at the crosses on Lemnos Island, over the graves of those who had died in hospital there, and have also seen the military burying place in Alexandria, but have only come across one name I knew.

(more…)

Not a good enough sailor to nurse on a hospital ship

Elizabeth “Bubbles” Vansittart Neale wanted to nurse on a hopital ship, but unfortunately she was prone to seasickness. Meanwhile her parents were hosting a day out for some wounded soldiers recuperating at Cliveden.

8 December 1915

Bubs came to discuss going on Hospital ship. She not good enough sailor – so refused….

Sent motor to Cliveden for 5 wounded. Drive first, came here about 3.30. Showed them some of the rooms, then tea in hall. Smoke with Harding after. Very nice men. 2 Canadians, 1 NZ, 2 English – a Sheffield man most difficult to understand.

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

The people of Wimereux promise to tend British soldiers’ graves

The people of Stratfield Mortimer were helping to grow fruit and vegetables for the Navy. They were also in touch with an army chaplain, who gave them some information censored from the national press relating to French care of British war graves. These graves, at Wimereux in north-eastern France, three miles north of Boulogne, are now cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Our Splendid Sailors
A local depot is being opened at Mortimer for supplying fresh fruit and vegetables to the Fleet. Gifts, however small, will be gratefully received by Miss Ludlam, at the Red House, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in each week. It is hoped to dispatch a consignment every Thursday, so those who are kind enough to send green vegetables are asked to do so on Wednesdays. The name and address of the donor should be sent – by this means the actual recipient in the Fleet may know to whom to write direct letters of acknowledgment. The scheme has the direct approval of the Admiralty.

The Rev. W. S. Bowdon C.F
Mr. Bowdon now writes:-

We had an interesting ceremony here on All Saints’ Day when the kiddies put flowers on the graves of our men – some 700 are buried here. The Mayor promised in the name of the people of Wimereux that they would always tend their graves as if they were their own men. It was all very nice, and I wrote a long account for the Daily Mail, but the Censor wouldn’t pass it – couldn’t create a precedent! I was amazed and surprised, seeing that my C.O. took the matter up and sent in the article for me. It seemed to us both just the kind of thing to interest people at home and augment the kindly feeling between the two peoples.

Am busy as ever – 16 Services last Sunday, 4 Sermons, and quite a lot of Private Communions during the week. It is very difficult to find time for letter-writing. As for books, I haven’t opened one since my arrival – but I didn’t expect to. Have only been outside Wimereux once, for 1½ hours, since I was attached to the Hospital, except for business journeys (1/4 hour’s tram ride) to Boulogne. I must try and get a half-day off sometimes, but just now the Recreation Hut and business connected with it occupies all my time that I am away from patients.

Awfully sad about the hospital ship sunk yesterday – quite a number of our patients and doctors were on board from Wimereux. We are anxiously awaiting further particulars.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P120/28A/14)

War in a nutshell

Ralph Glyn wrote to his father from the Dardanelles. He painted a vivid picture of the compact fighting area, not to mention the shirtless Australians.

HdQr XIII Division
August 27th [envelope postmarked Field Post Office Aug 27, 1915]

My darling Dad

The weather is changing a bit & it is blowing great storms of dust all over us. I together with four other fellows have had a go of dysentery – but after an injection I am nearly all right. It takes it out of you all the same. Nearly everyone here is the same! Aubrey Herbert who is with the NZ Division next door has had it badly & is being sent on board a hospital ship today.

I have now been with the general round all the [fire?] trenches of our own & the adjoining Brigades. It is like trying to capture Gib: & the moral is that the men had been able to do what they have done. As for going further from their spot I rather doubt it being worth the inevitable cost. The Divisions all are reduced to about ½ strength but reinforcements are on their way. We are having shells all round us today & a good many bullets. The casualties have not been heavy so far. One great difference between the fighting here & in France is that here everything is so much more compressed – sort of war in a nutshell. The firing line is close by – not more than a few hundred yards in some cases. Then close behind are the supports & reserves – hospitals, cemeteries – supply depots. There is therefore no peace for man or beast.

Last night was lovely & calm. We have our ‘mess dug-out’ in the side of the hill facing the sea about 50 ft up. One cannot go down to the sea-edge because they can snipe out – here we are just sort of round the corner from direct fire. Well, about 9 last night up came a destroyer & monitor close off shore & put her search-light on a Turk trench at the top of the cliff behind. In a minute the row was tremendous – the 6” guns & the machine guns & rifles action. It soon died down but was lively whilst it lasted. There is so little elbow room. That’s what one feels. And all the time in spite of all these difficulties the spirit of the men is splendid & they are cheery & happy all the time. The physique of the NZ & Australians is extraordinary. They wear nothing except a pair of shorts & are burnt by the sun as dark as Indians.

There is a move in the wind for this Division. We shall go for a period in reserve. I don’t know yet how long I’m to remain with this Division. It is all very interesting & the General was very kind indeed. I shall, I think, have to go to GHQ again before I’m sent back with dispositions by Sir Ian [Hamilton]. One knows very little being here – even in comparison with GHQ, & then the outside world is fairly remote. I’m longing to know what is going on – usually I know so much that I suppose I’m spoilt!

I wonder if my other letters have fetched up all right…

Yours
Ralph

Letter from Captain Ralph Glyn to his father E C Glyn, Bishop of Peterborough (D/EGL/C1)