“Although we always anticipated the ultimate success of the Allies, we hardly dared to hope for the great and glorious result which has been achieved”

Reading Board of Guardians reflected on the war and its impact.

28th November 1918

Report by the Chairman

As this is the first meeting of the Board since the Armistice was signed, I should like to say a word or two on the triumphant termination of the terrible war which has raged for over four years and has ended in the complete downfall of German domination. Although we always anticipated the ultimate success of the Allies, we hardly dared to hope for the great and glorious result which has been achieved.

Our thanks for victory, however, are tinged with regret by the losses which have been sustained. The War has been brought home to nearly every household in the land, and there is hardly a family in which some beloved relative or friend has not fallen or been disabled. The members of this Board have had to mourn the loss of many dear ones. I am sure that we should all like to express our sympathy with Mr Guardian Waters whose stepson was killed on the very last day of the War.

It has been my privilege to preside over the Board during the whole period of the Warm, and I am very glad to be the “Peace” Chairman as well as the “War” Chairman. We have had many serious difficulties to contend with, but with the able guidance of Mr Oliver we have been able to surmount them all. Our Institution was one of the first to be taken over as a Military Hospital & it has been found to be so splendidly adapted for the purpose that I expect it will be one of the last to be given up. The Master, Matron, Superintendent Nurse, Nursing Staff, & Officers generally have shown splendid devotion to duty under the most trying and arduous conditions, and we thank them one and all for the self denying services they have rendered. Many of the members of the Board have been engaged in War Work in various capacities, those taking part being: Mr W G Cook, Mr F E Moring, Mr A E Deadman, Col Kensington, Mr Hall-Mansey.

Staff:
Office: J R Beresford, K L Jones, G H Turnbull, A Dawson, K Garrett, K Ayling, K Hawkes
Relief: Mr F H Herrington, Mr G M Munday
Institutional: H Challis, A Sanders, G Smith, W Bibby

Out of this number Challis has been killed & Dawson has lost a leg.

Mr Guardian Waters
Mr Waters thanked the Guardians for their expression of sympathy in the sad bereavement he and his wife had sustained.

Election of Mayor

As the Guardians and Officers had not received the usual invitation to attend the election of Mayor, to accompany him at the Thanksgiving Service held at St Mary’s Church on the 13th November last, strong criticism was adversely expressed ad the Press asked to make a note thereof.

Minutes of Reading Board of Guardians (G/R1/58)

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A sailor visits Bisham

More acquaintances of the Vansittart Neales were serving.

23 December 1917

Oswald Powell & sailor son came to luncheon…

Innes! to France!

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

Germans “too downtrodden to rise”

Florence Vansittart Neale was glued to every wild rumour about the war, while Will Spencer’s love for his German wife had only grown stronger through their difficult years of exile in Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
November 1917
[inserted before 23 November]

Hear P. Innes says state of Germany awful. People too weak to rise, able bodied men only able to work half time, too downtrodden to rise.
Hear the Pope instigated the Italians to give up. He encouraged Austrian spies everywhere!

23 November 1917

Hear Boy cannot get Paris leave. Hope for January…. Hear most domestic servants to be requisitioned for work – only allowed 1 servant each person! Counting the gardeners!!!

Hear General Plumer & staff have been in Italy 3 weeks to see how many necessary to keep Italy. Our troops must go over Mt Cenes pass.

Hear through Marga that a Florentine Regiment who deserted was sent back to Florence with “traitors to their country” on their brassades.

Hear many battalions would willingly shoot 1 in 10 of strikers [illegible].

Will Spencer
23 November 1917

During the afternoon I called & had an interview with Herrn Fursprech Engeloch. Father need take no further steps to obtain attestation of my residence in Cookham before Jan. 19/15, as it may not be needed. As soon as the matter comes before the Gemeinde (I told him we had chosen Oberburg [as their official home town in Switzerland]. Herr E. will let Oberst Reichel know, in order that he can then write on our behalf, stating that we are friends of his, as he has kindly offered to do. Probably the best means of letting the German authorities know that I had become a Swiss subject would be to apply to have Johanna’s money sent here, mentioning thereby that I am a Swiss subject, & if that is questioned, to then place the matter in the hands of the Swiss Political Department. My naturalization cannot finally be ratified until the Grosser Rat has met again. It only meets twice a year, & will meet next, Herr E. said, in Feb. or March, or at the latest in April….

I was sorry to have to tell Johanna how long we might have to wait for the ratification of our naturalization. After we had had coffee in Johanna’s room, something moved me to tell her that I had learned to know her better & that she had become more to me than ever during these last years – in some ways years of trial – in Switzerland. Johanna had afterwards to go into the town, but she would not let me go with her, as I was not quite up to the mark, & she thought it better for me to rest. When she returned, she thanked me again for what I had said. I said that I was sorry that they were only words that I had spoken, that I felt such things were better expressed in deeds, but she comforted me with the assurance that what I had said had not been merely words.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Postcards for the wounded

Florence Vansittart Neale and friends had a visit from some badly wounded soldiers.

13 November 1916

Mary & I went to Marlow & bought postcards for the wounded.

15 arrived with Lieut. Upton, some badly wounded. Usual arrangements. All rather tired. Lady Innes, Mary & Edie came to help.

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

A Military Cross

Florence Vansittart Neale was proud of a family friend.

6 October 1916
Heard Percival Innes had Military X.

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

Wounded in the other arm

An acquaintance of the Vansittart Neales was wounded for the second time.

19 September 1916

Percival Innes again wounded, other arm.

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

Wounded soldiers will be fit subjects for these dreadful germ-carrying flies

The arrival of wounded soldiers to Reading gave a new impetus to the battle to fight contagious disease in the town.

SAVE THE WOUNDED

The Municipal Authorities have joined forces with the War Office in a great crusade, the object of which is the extermination of flies.
It is a matter of common knowledge that the house fly is a carrier of diseases, including the germs of consumption, typhoid fever, diphtheria and other infectious diseases.

A committee was recently formed to deal with this question which is a most serious one in view of the fact that there will be in Reading hundreds of wounded soldiers, who will be fit subjects for these dreadful germ-carrying flies.

It was decided that every house within a quarter-of-a-mile radius of each war hospital shall be regularly and systematically visited, and that fly traps shall be provided to each of these houses.

Many V.A.D. Nurses, District Visitors, and other ladies have already offered their services for this work, valuable not only on behalf of the soldiers but for the benefit of the health of the entire community.

This is a tremendous undertaking, as many thousands of houses will require to be visited, and the offers of help at present received are not nearly adequate to deal with the work.

There must be, many ladies, who would be glad to do any useful work on behalf of our soldiers, more especially for the wounded who have already risked life and limb for us as a nation.

As we in Caversham now have a Red Cross Hospital the work has to be taken up here.

The Hon. Secretary (Miss Innes, Health Department, Municipal Buildings, Reading), or Mrs. Cleaver, who has undertaken the work of Supervisor for Caversham, will be glad to receive offers of help, and to give particulars with regard to the duties of the voluntary inspectors.

A lecture will given on “Flies” at Balmore Hall, at 2.30, on Thursday, June 3rd, by Dr Stenhouse Williams, and it hoped that all who are able will be present.

Caversham parish magazine, June 1916 (D/P162/28A/7)

Commended to prayer

More Earley men had joined the armed forces.

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional men have been added to our prayer list:
George Embery, Leicester Scaife, Dick Innes, Jack Deedes, William Chandler, Bertie Purver, Alban Fixsen, Jack Bell, Jack Ballard, Francis Martin, Edward Wright, Henry Holmes, Frank Fisher, Henry Fisher, George Downes, Arthur Morrice.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

Prisoner: John Scaife
Sick: Reginald Gatehouse, George Harding, George Norris
Killed in action: Francis Black

Earley St Peter parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

The men of Earley serving their country

An extremely long list of men with connections with Earley St Peter were receiving the support of parishioners’ prayers.

List of Names on the Roll of Honour and Prayer List
Duncan Adams, John Adams, Henry Adams, Frederick Allen, John Allen, Frank Allum, George Allum, George Ansell, Robert Ascroft, Frank Aust, William Ayres, Henry Ayres, Cyril Ayres, Reggie Ayres, John Ayres, James Auger, Samuel Auld, Charles Barton, William Barton, Clarence Burnett, Harry Bosley, Benjamin Bosley, Robert Beeson, Walter Bluring, Gordon Brown, Leonard Brown, Walter Brooker, Charles Baker, Ernest Balding, Albert Ballard, George Breach, Phillip Breach, Ernest Breach, Alfred Breach, Percy Bunday, George Bungay, William Bungay, Charles Bolton, Herbert Blyde, Lewis Blyde, Wilfrid Blyde, Arthur Buskin, Herbert Broadbear, Louis Bunce, Frank Berry, James Bowden, Henry Blathwayt, Harold Bennett, Harry Borroughs, Henry Barney, William Brett, Alfred Broad, Harry Ching, Charles Chesterman, George Chesterman, Ernest Chapman, Edwin Coldman, Edward Cottrell, Percy Cotterell, Hubert Collier, Alfred Cooper, George Comport, Guy Comport, Frank Cook, Ernest Cook, Eric Cook, Fernand Camus, John Cane, Charles Carpenter, Charles Clarke, William Clements, Charles Carpenter, Charles Clarke, William Clements, Charles Capel, Leonard Dann, Frederick Douglas, Reuben Dowsett, Renton Dunlop, Tom Durman, Jack Durman, Hugh Deeds, Ralph Deeds, Sidney Davis, Ralph Durand, Albert Denham, Frederick Dawson, Alfred Dee, Hugh Denton, Sidney Dormer, William Elliott, Charles Elliott, Reginald Elliott, Eric Evans, Alec Evans, Ernest Embery, Cyril Eaton, Eustace Finnes, George Forge, John Forge, Henry Fisher, George Fisher, William Fisher, John Fisher, George Fulford, Bernard Fixsen, Theodore Fixsen, William Farmer, Bert Farmer, Arthur Fulker, Cecil Fowler, William Fowles, Charles Goddard, Guy Goodliffe, Ernest Gowers, George Grey, Cecil Grey, Victor Gaines, Reginald Gatehouse, Herbert Garlick, Charles Phillips Groome, Samual Gould, Wilfrid George, Frank George, Gilbert Green, Frederick Goodger, Richard Goodall, Leslie Grinstead, Albert Howlett, Frederick Hearn, Arthur Hearn, Bert Hearn, Harry Harding, George Harding, Albert Harwood, William Harwood, George Harwood, Charles Haines, George Hitchcock, Albert Hitchcock, Henry Hayward, Percy Hamilton, Frank Hawkins, Albert Hosler, William Hall, Albert Hall, Henry Hall, George Hall, William Hall, Francis Harris, Arthur Harris, Richard Hayden, Fred Hull, Charles Hague, James Hague, Stanley Higgs, Leslie Heelas, Leonard Hedges, Harry Hambleton, Reginald Hawes, William Hope, Jack Howlett, Percy Howlett, Bertie Iles, Edward Iles, Percy Ilott, Thomas Ilott, Albert Ilott, Melville Innes, Walter Jeskins, Albert Jerome, Alfred Jerome, Walter Jerome, Frederick Jerome, George Jerome, Charles Jefferies, Henry Jones, Leopold Jenner, William Jeram, George Jeram, Henry Jeram, Woolf Joel, Alfred Jacobs, (more…)

A plane over Bisham

It was an exciting moment for Florence Vansittart Neale when she saw a British aeroplane practicing in the skies above Bisham.

26 June 1915
Belgians & Lady Innes came. Stayed till 4 – rather enchanting…. Special Constables to tea. F & I saw aeroplane flying over house.

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

Firing and explosions from a Zeppelin raid

William Hallam heard that his daughter Marjorie in London had beem terrified by experiencing a Zeppelin raid, while Florence Vansittart Neale and two friends volunteered for the day at a YMCA canteen at an army camp.

William Hallam
4th June 1915

We had a letter from Marj. She was nearly scared to death by that Zeppelin Raid, as she heard the firing and explosions all the time.

Florence Vansittart Neale
4 June 1915

I took Edie and Mary Innes to camp – Bovington Green (Grenadiers). We did canteen, YMCA. I sold tobacco & cigarettes 2-6.

Dairies of William Hallam (D/EX1415/23) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Mother sends secret brandy to soldier son

Three of the Belgians at Bisham Abbey got an outing on 19 February.

19 February 1915
Edie took 3 men, Jean, Dominique, Jules, to Reading in the motor.

Heard Captain Long Innes men drunk (Irish Guards). At last discovered mother sent brandy inside a cake. Man had mild punishment – wrote stinger to mother. She prays for his soul, wishes to injure his body.

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

Another spy unmasked

Karl-Gustav Ernst was at the centre of the German spy ring in London at the start of the war. He was a London hairdresser, born in Britain but of German ancestry. Unluckily for him, MI5 had been aware of his covert role passing information, and he and his confederates were rounded up and arrested early in the war.

16 November 1914
Girls to Cookham to see wounded…. Sir George & Mme de la Bistrale came to luncheon. Then Mrs Puxley & Florrie Stainton came, & the Riches for tea. Went over hospital. May Innes to dine. Percival [Innes] told he to go guard Lord Roberts at Wellington Chapel 4 a.m. tomorrow!

Heavy fighting round Ypres. Germans can’t break through. One spy Ernst (hairdresser) to have 7 years!

An on dit of Kitchener when the P. of Wales went to him to beg him to let him go with his regiment. K said “Well, sir, if you were wounded that does not matter, & if you were killed that would not matter, but it would put us in such a hole if you were taken prisoner!” So he refused. Now he has gone out on Sir J. French’s staff.

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