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)

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Working on howitzer guns all night

Night shifts at the munitions factory in Swindon continued to be hard work.

14th October 1916

When I got home at ¼ past 6 this morning I lit fire, washed, fried some sausages for breakfast and got to bed at ½ past 7. Got up at 3 and went down town to get some safety razor blades sharpened and stamps for Income Tax. Home and had my tea and in to work again at 6. Working on 6” howitzer gun arches. A rough windy night.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Satisfactory results on the Howitzer course

Sydney Spencer excelled at his howitzer training course.

1916
Sept 15th

By order 1493, Otley. The undermentioned who attended the 2nd Howitzer course Sept 4th to 9th obtained marks as under.

Lt S Spencer – 93. 3084 Sergeant Harrod 67.

The GOC Brigade wishes to congratulate Lt Spencer, The Commanding Officer thinks the results are very satisfactory & congratulates both officer & NCO.

Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Howitzer training for Sydney Spencer

Sydney Spencer was sent on howitzer gun training.

1916
Aug 27

By order 1378. Howitzer course. Capt Loughton will not attend this course. Lieut Spencer will attend in his place.


Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12)

Italian Intelligence methods are “totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent”

An Intelligence officer contact of Ralph Glyn’s trying to work out how the Austrian army was deployed was unimpressed by his Italian counterparts.

MI2C
War Office
Whitehall
SW

3.V.16

My dear Glyn

Many thanks for your two last letters & the paper on artillery. I’m just back from a visit to the Comande Supremo, where I had a chance of seeing the Italian Intelligence at work. Their methods are totally different to ours & in my humble opinion rather unintelligent. However of that more when we meet again.

Since your last letter of 25/4/16, the Italians claim to have identified the 57th, 59th Divs & 10th Mountain Brigade from Albania in the Trentino. The 57th & 59th Divs appear to form an VIIIth Corps (not an XVIIIth, as they previously swore). I don’t think much if anything has gone to Macedonia from Albania. The containing force there at the moment appears to be 47th Div (probably keeping order in Montenegro), 53rd Div & 10th, 14th, 17th Mountain Bdes, two of which may be incorporated in the 62nd Div, if it still exists.

The only artillery unit I can definitely locate in Balkans is the 2nd Howitzer Bg of the 10th Mountain Artillery regiment (from intercepted correspondence of interned Austrian!) with the 103rd German Div. There are certainly many more Austrian artillery units there, but Lord alone knows which they are. The Italians won’t dish up the enemy artillery on their front other than in terms of guns – never by numbered regiments, batteries, etc, as the normal GS does, & information from Russia, seeing that the Intelligence mission is at Petrograd dependent for its information on Russian War Office, & not at GHQ, is correspondingly scanty & inaccurate.

The composition of units in the AH [Austro-Hungarian] army changes so rapidly that any attempt to reduce it to cut & dried book form in watertight compartments (as you can with the Boche army) seems foredoomed. The book as soon as written is found to be out of date.

However everyone here is anxious that I should carry on with it; and it certainly has been useful here in many ways, so I am going to produce it eventually. But it is awful work, so little reliable information being forthcoming, & so much being left to pure conjecture, that I sometimes give up all hope of making anything out of it.

I had a very interesting visit to the Italian front, of which I will tell you something; it was a welcome change after all the months of unrelieved monotony I had had at the WO.

No time for more
Yours

E M B Ingram

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/34)

Virtual civil war in America

Ralph Glyn’s cousin Niall, Duke of Argyll, paid an inspection visit to France.

Coombe
31 March 1916
My dear Ralph

Your [letter] arrived today. Many thanks. I was not telling you however about any Charlie French but of Lord French. I lunched with him last Thursday to meet Sir Arthur Herbert, just back from the USA, who was most interesting a – virtual civil war going on as an average of 4 munition places a week are being blown up of which Europe hears nothing….

I had a very interesting time away [in France] and saw Vornelot (now a hospital) on my way back. Queen Amelie had been there for a bit which excited Aunt L [Princess Louise, Dowager Duchess of Argyll] terribly, but once you lend a house what does it matter. 780 nurses have already used it as a rest. I thought it a beastly place anyway, a mad thing to go and build anyway.

I had a long & very interesting talk with the Bishop of Amiens about the invaded part of his diocese – French politics etc, he told me many interesting things…

Yesterday I met Carben de Viard a very clever Belgian at the de Lalaings. He was secretary for years to King Leopold & told me curious details about his last hours and words. He is just back from 4 months mission to the USA as to which I heard a lot. The position there is extraordinary….

The French & Belgian Generals I ran across at Amiens etc were all very optimistic as to duration.

Your affect. Cousin
Niall

The former Royal Naval Air Service friend of Ralph’s who wrote to him on 27 January was bitterly disappointed with his new assignment as a quartermaster.

United Service Club
Pall Mall, SW
March 31st, 1916

My dear RG

Very many thanks indeed for your letter. I am going off to take up my new duties as an AA & QMG to one of the Home [illegible] Mounted Divisions. About the last thing I wanted!

I am glad to hear that things are fairly smooth in your patch now. I hope they will get even better.

I have seen Buzzard at home and he will probably now have given you all the news. I hear he is taking command of a Howitzer Brigade now.
I will write again soon if there are developments in my case. I am so sick about it all that I cannot write any more now and must go off to my job.

All good luck to you.
Yours always

[Illegible – MD?]

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C16; C32/21)

Good men are wanted at the Dardanelles

Ralph Glyn was now needed in the Dardanelles. His mentor General Charles Callwell wrote to wish him luck:

War Office
21st August 1915

My dear Ralph,

You will have had the note I sent you by Maude. Since sending it I have had a wire from GHQ asking for your services on the staff out there and I have wired back saying you are at their disposal. I know you were anxious for active employment in the field, good men are wanted at the Dardanelles more than in Flanders and France, and although very sorry to lose your services I felt bound to fall in with Braithwaite’s suggestion. As a matter of fact Mackenzie has been quite ready to employ you for along time past whenever I released you; but, for one thing, I was anxious to try and get you back definitely into your regiment as a preliminary. I spoke to K about this some little time ago and he said he would think over it; but since then came the incident about the ammunition which you got out of him and it would not be politic to revive the topic with him just at present.

I hope that you will be able to write to me from time to time, as we understand each other amd you need not be afraid of saying what you think, and letters to the DMO can always go by the KM. Altham mentions your just having reached Mudros with the howitzers &c in a letter received this morning.

Wishing you the best of luck and with many thanks for the invaluable work you have done while under me here.

Chas E Callwell.

Letter from General Charles Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

“We want a definite success in the Dardanelles”

Ralph Glyn was back in London for the moment – but about to set off again to organise the transportation of some desperately need ammunition to the Dardanelles.

War Office
Whitehall, SW

2/8/15

My dear Ralph

We are not quite sure whether you got those three secret Admiralty charts or not, although they were left on your table at 6 pm yesterday & I saw you with a bundle about 7.30. But – anyway I am having a set sent to Sykes to make sure. I shall be glad to hear how your transport arrangements have panned out; in a letter from Le Roy Lewis received today it is stated that the trains from Boulogne with this ammunition will take 54 hours and I do not know whether that will ensure its being at Marseilles by the morning of the 5th.

Lord K is not inclined to move about the Italians if they will not declare war. Grey is going to press them to take the plunge but I doubt if he succeeds. [I will?] write to Delme to do what he can to keep the Dardanelles before Cadorna & the King but what we want is a definite success in the peninsula which your ammunition and your howitzers may contribute to bring about.

Yours ever

Chas E Callwell

By the way, if you want letters sent by the bag, you had better have them sent to me, same as Altham, only in good time. People forget that there is no delivery on Sunday and that if there was, I do not arrive here till half an hour after the bag has departed from Victoria.

Letter from General Charles E Callwell to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C24)

New gun cars for howitzers

William Hallam, an employee of the Great Western Railway, gets a glimpse of new gun carriages in Swindon:

5th January 1915
At dinner time saw loaded up on trucks two of the big gun cars they have built here for howitzers. Enormous things.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23)