Indian soldiers witness German “civilisation”

The rector of Newbury was optimistic that the war would have positive results.

The Missionary Guild meeting was held on June 28th. The Rector in opening the meeting said all our thoughts were at present on the coming National Mission, but we must not forget or neglect our duty to Foreign Missions…

The Rev. A F Bliss … said “It was rather surprising, but all the great calamities in history had been preparations for progress… After our past wars Christianity had made great strides. The Napoleonic Wars, Chinese, Indian Mutiny and Boer War, were all followed by greater progress in Foreign Missions and Missionary Societies had received more support. There are already noticeable changes during this war. The missionaries in Madagascar have found some of their hindrances removed and their efforts encouraged.

The Indian Soldier is beginning to know from experience that all white men are not Christian, and is contrasting German civilisation with Christianity. In the past destruction had always been followed by construction. We shall be faced with great opportunities, and the whole Church should be prepared, and looking forward to the dawn of a far greater day than had ever yet dawned.”

Newbury parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P89/28A/13)

“Oh! dear – Has God forsaken us?”

It was definitely bad news as the Easter Rising still raged close to home, and the British were forced to surrender the town of Kut in Mesopotamia (Iraq) to the Turks.

30 April 1916

Heard fall of Kut! General Townshend [Q. over?] British born Indians – Oh! dear – Has God forsaken us?

In Dublin, fighting going on still.

Kut! We destroyed all guns & ammunition.

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

“There is no glory in this war except the glory of sacrifice and friendship”

An anonymous army chaplain shared his experiences seeing off troops headed for the front line with the parishioners of Windsor.

A Draft: A Sketch. By a Chaplain to the Forces at the Front.

Mud and rain and darkness! I looked out of my hut. The station was four miles off. My bicycle was heavy. I was not sure that my lamp was in order. I had already got thoroughly wet. Should I give the train a “miss”?

There were five or six hundred men going from “my” camps. Part of my task is to see men off to the Front. Some chaplains do it, and some do not. One gives out Woodbines and Prayer-card from England, one says something. I am usually reduced to saying “Good luck,” even though I do not believe in luck. (more…)

Gruesome news

Lady Mary Glyn reported the latest war news to her son Ralph in Egypt. SS Maloja was a civilian liner carrying women and children as well as some army personnel when she was sunk by the Germans. Many of the sailors were Indians.

Feb 28th [1916]

Today brings the news of the mining of the Channel and the horror of the great P&O Maloja & the rescuing ship. So gruesome, within two miles of safety – if land is safe on any coast! till we find that welcome for the Hun aircraft which today a letter speaks of as preparing for them. The Verdun news from France is different from Verdun news from Berlin, and certainly they are colossal in their untruth and unscrupulousness of “method” however diabolical.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“These Indians are splendid fellows, and such fighters”

A wounded soldier from Ascot had words of praise for the Gurkhas and Indian soldiers he was serving with, while two Bracknell men had been killed.



Two of our Ascot lads, Eric Ferns and Sidney Sumner, are amongst the wounded, of Sidney Sumner we shall have more to say in our April Number. The following extracts from a letter of Eric Ferns will be read with interest:-

“I have been very queer for a month now after my smash up. It was on December 9th. I was taking a car full of Gurkhas on to the field, and there came a German aeroplane, and dropped a bomb, and it missed my car, and a crowd of people gathered round to see if we were hit: and the same aeroplane dropped another bomb and took the back of my car off, and pitched me yards into a ditch. I don’t remember any more until I woke up, and found myself in Hospital. That was on the following Tuesday. I got 3 in me, one in the foot, one in the leg, and the other in the wrist: but the shock was dreadful. My foot and leg are much better: but my wrist is still bad, but I have much to be thankful for, as they told me 24 were killed and 4 injured by the same bomb…

These Indians are splendid fellows, and such fighters, they think of nothing else but this war. It is all rain, and up to your knees in mud…”



At the end of January news came that two more of those who are on our list on the Church door and fallen in the war.

WILLIAM KING GEORGE was the eldest son of Mr. S. King George of the Brackens. He was serving as Captain in the 3rd Gloucesters, and was killed at La Bassée on 25th January. His Colonel wrote of him, “We feel that we have lost a most gallant comrade and a true friend.” Captain George was married and leaves two sons.

GEORGE BRANT, who fell about the same time, was called up as a Reservist at the beginning of the war. He was a Private in the Queen’s West Surrey Regiment. His parents now live in Martin’s Lane, and were formerly living at Chavey Down. Brant was a widower and leaves two children.

Winkfield District Magazine, March 1915 (D/P151/28A/7/3)

Shocked and depressed by war deaths

Florence Vansittart Neale noted down the latest war news. Lieutenant Colonel Guy du Maurier (1865-1915) was the uncle of the writer Daphne du Maurier. He was a distinguished officer who had served in the Boer War and was killed on active service in Flanders on 9 March 1915. Major George Newstead (1875-1915) had a similarly distinguished army career.

11 March 1915Saw Col. Guy Du Maurier died – dreadfully shocked, also George Newstead in Cameroons.

British victory – 1000 prisoners taken & guns….

Think Indian contingent also had victory. Feel dreadfully depressed.

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

The French are not to be relied upon

One young wounded soldier told his nurse, Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter Phyllis, that he had a poor opinion of the reliability of our French allies. The troops from India, on the other hand. were making a strong impression on the enemy.

28 October 1914
Car .. had gone to fetch Phyllis & Gladys from Windsor. Phyllis very well & bright. Young Needham there – wounded been at front all the time. Says the French not to be relied upon. Sometimes fight well, then turn tail.

Germans still trying to get through our lines – to Calais! Strongly reinforced. Our Indians much alarm them – great slaughter.

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

Indian troops get great reception in France

Phyllis and Elizabeth Vansittart Neale, heiresses to Bisham Abbey, were both committed to nursing during the war. One important step was being vaccinated against infectious diseases.

1 October 1914

Girls both 2nd inoculation – did not affect them.

21st day of the Battle of the Aisne! Not ended yet. Hope Allies are outflanking the Germans. Strong reinforcements (no). Indian troops in France – great reception at Marseilles. Lady Amherst’s son killed.

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

News from France at last

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham had been very frustrated with the lack of news from the Front. At last there was some news. Meanwhile Florence continued making preparations for her home, Bisham Abbey, to be used as a war hospital. There is an interesting reference to a nurse from India (the now obsolete term ‘Eurasian’ was the Colonial word for people of mixed Indian and European ancestry).

19 August 1914
At last account of troops in France & Belgium. All carried out in secrecy. Boulogne, Havre, etc. Poor Dan as youngest officer [must] stay in England [to] train recruits from Colchester.

Lorna & lady came in morning; also Eurasian nurse. Made washing flannels [for the hospital].

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