Italians holding their own

Florence Vansittart Neale was pleased with the latest news.

22 November 1917

Smith home from France.

Italians beginning to recover – holding their own. Hope we are behind them by now, & France.

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

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A muffled peal rings in Reading

The parish of Reading St Mary had to mourn a number of losses.

The Vicar’s Notes

We have to mourn two losses lately, which have brought the War sadly home to us at S. Mary’s. William Holloway, Sergeant in the Royal Berks, was our Cross-bearer, a member of our Choir, the first server at our Altar, and Secretary of our Men’s Club. His whole character was marked by the strongest loyalty, loyalty to his country, and to his Church. His influence was wholly and entirely for good. We are thankful that his death was painless and instantaneous. A “Requiem” was said for him on Monday, Oct.22nd, at 7-30, and a wreath placed on the War-shrine by the Servers on Sunday, Oct. 28th.

The other loss is that of Alfred T. Reeves, one of our youngest bell-ringers. He was seldom absent from the belfry on Sundays, and a muffled peal was rung, out of respect for his memory, on Wednesday, Oct. 17th.

May they both rest in peace.

Notice
Men of Engineering or Seafaring experience, also Tradesmen or Labourers, of any age, who are desirous of doing ruminative war-work are advised to apply to the Rev. R. Wickham Legg, of S.Mary’s Vicarage, Reading, who is in a position to help them to this end.

Intercessions

For all our Allies, especially the Italians.

For all our fighting men, and also for those who have lately joined the Army, especially Harry Frewin (one of our Altar Servers).

For the sick, the prisoners and the wounded, especially Walter Towner, one of our Choirmen, severely wounded in the head and thigh; for Fred Eggleton, one o0f the Banner-bearers; for Arthur Stokes (of Cherry Court).

For the fallen, especially for William Holloway, our first Altar server at S. Mary’s; for Alfred T. Reeves, one of our Bell-ringers; for Cecil Coulton (of Lavender Street).
R.I.P.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

A brave bride

New bride Elizabeth Paget (nee Vansittart Neale) had to say goodbye as her husband’s leave was up.

2 November 1917

Bubs & E. down by 4.50. Boy [bridegroom Leo Paget] gone that morning. Our poor dear bride very good & brave but must feel it dull…

Italians still retreating.

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

Awful Italian debacle

The Italians’ defeat was getting even more disastrous.

30 October 1917
Awful Italian debacle.

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

Italians terribly beaten

Florence Vansittart Neale was correct in her assessment. The Battle of Caporetto, as this fight was known, was to be notorious as one of the nation’s worst ever defeats.

28 October 1917

Italians terribly beaten, I fear.

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

Plodding on

Will Spencer’s quest to change nationality was going well. Florence Vansittart Neale continued to be anxious about the war news.

Florence Vansittart Neale
27 October 1917

No air raids mercifully, tho’ bright moon. Germans pushing Italians back. Germans claim 20,000 prisoners. We plodding on.

Will Spencer
27 October 1917

Called & spoke for the first time with Herrn Fursprech Engeloch, who expressed himself very pleased that the matter of my naturalization would now end satisfactorily. He returned to me my Aufeuthaltsbewilligung, for the event of our going to Goldiwil.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)
and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX810/26)

Italians getting on splendidly

The current guests at Bisham were having a good time, while there was good news from our Italian allies. Monte Santo is now Sveta Gora in Slovenia, close to the Italian border.

1 September 1917

Lt McFarlane left 9.45… The Canadians had been on river (Austman and Kelly, RFC).

Italians getting on splendidly. Over 20,000 prisoners Monte Santo.

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

Binding up the wounded in No-man’s-land

A Reading soldier reports on the act of heroism which won his former vicar a medal.

EXTRACTS FROM LETTER TO THE VICAR THANKING FOR THE PARISH MAGAZINE, FROM MEN ON SERVICE.

By the way I saw the Rev. T. Guy Rogers winning his honour, in fact I saw him in the trenches and No-mans-land binding up the wounded, with our Chaplain, who also won a Military Cross. The Rev. T. Guy Rogers preached the Sermon at the Church Service held on the evening before we went into action at the time when our Brigade captured the village of Lesboeufs on the 25th. I was talking to him and our Chaplain in the third German line and they asked me where most of the wounded lay in support with a gun team and they went forward. Soon afterwards we had orders to move forward and hold ground won and I saw them busy binding the wounded. It was one of the days I shall never forget.

W. HOLLOWAY.

I was at the Dardanelles through the main operation and our ship did some very good work in landing troops &c. I had the misfortune to see the Italian ship ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ blown up. It was a terrible sight and it made us quite nervy for a week or so . But I am proud to say that our ships did all that was possible in the work of rescue.

L.O. STAGG, A.B.

CARE AND COMFORTS

The following have been sent from the Working Party: 5 pillow slips, 6 shirts, 30 locker cloths, 35 limb bandages, 18 bags; total, with those already acknowledged, 1,940.

Donations have been received as follows:

Senior members of St John’s and St Stephen’s Choir, balance of Outing Fund £3.17.11

Miss K C Lovejoy £1

Anon 10s

Mrs Dimbleby 5s

Reading St. John parish magazine, February 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

A “fine display of assmanship” in Earley

Wounded soldiers being nursed in Reading were treated to a party in Earley, complete with a possibly rather overworked donkey.

21st June

The longest Day in summer was the occasion of the entertainment of about 40 wounded soldiers from two of the town hospitals to a garden party at the Vicarage. The hostesses were the members of the Girls’ Club. Of these, with others who were present to assist at the games, there were a goodly number, and although the party amounted to about 100 persons. The manager of Tramways was good enough to provide two cars without charge for the conveyance of the soldiers, and the home send off at 6.30 occasioned quite a flutter in the neighbouring windows.

The soldiers were received by Mrs Norris, as head of the club, and the members at 3pm; and the weather being all that could be wished proceedings opened quietly enough with skittles and bowls for the active, and a rest for such that were tired. But the spirit which moves between guests and hostesses who have not met hitherto, and which is especially welcome on these occasions had not yet arrived. His appearance, however, at a quarter to four was unmistakeable in the form of an ass harnessed to a barrel organ and guided by an Italian, arriving on the lawn suddenly in the midst of the company.

Henceforth the soberness of the games and the sweet music of Mr Cyphus at the piano gave way to donkey rides for nothing accompanied to the familiar airs associated with the streets, and until the tea bell sounded the bowls and the skittles lay idle on the grass. Earlier in the day the girls had decorated the Parish Hall with flags and flowers and had provided a sumptuous tea, of which all partook with great satisfaction. After which the Vicar, on behalf of the hostesses, offered a welcome to the guests of the afternoon. As was fitting he touched lightly both on the grave and gay sides of the occasion, and drew in response an excellent reply from the senior representative from Struan House Hospital which was concluded in much cheering.

The hundred then took up their position on the lawn and submitted themselves to the menacing eye of the camera, which doubtless will on this occasion make us all look beautiful. This ordeal over, and our brother the ass having been refreshed, moreover the courage of those who wished to ride and had no experience of it being quickened by the successful gallops of others – a fine display of assmanship was given especially when the fair rider was supported by footmen on either side: and all went as merry as wedding bells until the inexorable call of time at 6.30. So ended a memorable occasion.


Earley parish magazine, July 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)

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)

News from Bucharest “is invariably all skittles”

Basil Thorold Buckley, the Director of Military Intelligence, told Ralph Glyn that he was suspicious of the veracity of “secret” information passed to the British by the Romanians. Buckley was a cousin of Berkshire peer Lord Radnor.

General Staff
Director of Military Intelligence
War Office
Whitehall
SW

17 Apr. 1916

My dear Glyn

Your request for maps is receiving attention, but I think you have in one case asked for something that does not exist.

We cannot understand the craze which exists (& has always existed) in the MEF Intelligence for news from Bucharest. It is invariably all skittles & we never can rely on it.
Here is a very fair sample of it. I have a similar thing from W Clayton on 24th March by bag to show what rotten stuff. Comes from the Romanian GS [General Staff]. The Germans know jolly well that the RGS pass it on to us. So they feed the RGS up with all sorts of lies.

Critical times in the House of Commons this week. I think LG [Lloyd George] may chuck his place in the Cabinet if the PM does not show he is strong enough to bring in Conscription. Old Leverson paid me a visit yesterday on return from Egypt. I was in an awful fright he would as to be re-employed in MI2C.

Best of luck.
Yrs ever
B T Buckley

(more…)

“Endless young men of foreign extraction”

Weapons manufacturer C W Laird wrote to Ralph Glyn with some impressions of life on the home front.

58, Pall Mall
London, SW
3/4/16

My dear Glyn

One of the things the War has certainly scotched is the polite sort of letter writing. Have intended to write you a dozen times since my last letter and then have not done so, not having a notion where you are or when you are likely to get a letter. I repeat what has been the burden of previous letters that I hope when you get back to town you will look me up.

We have had a bad spring for the farmers until quite recently. The constant wet made ground unworkable until very late and short handed as farmers have been in many districts even the splendid spots of quiet drying warm weather we have had recently haven’t enabled them to make up for lost time.

In London one is struck not so much by the numbers of military age unattested or not in khaki, as by the endless young men of foreign extraction, French, Belgian, Italians, etc, in the streets. Another salient feature is that the average female doesn’t look her best driving a delivery van or working a cycle under present dress conditions.

Have just been watching an airship carrying out elaborate training moevements in range of my windows.

Poor Ritchie has lost two of his sons. Archie is at the front having done fine work.

I am still shoving along at my Guns more than ever. [Command?] is what is wanted, but failing to arouse any enthusiasm in our enthusiastic circles.

Rumours of bombardments and fleet engagements more [frequent?] than ever. Told today that it was now certain there had been a big fleet engagement with serious losses on both sides because it had some things on the Tape at a Club, but then been suppressed. I asked what Club and was told the Conservative. As I dined and slept there without seeing any such thing in the tape this shows the circumstantial terminological inexactitudes that find currency.


C W Laird

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/23)

“Housewives – you can help your country in this hour of need”

The vicar of Reading St Mary outlined a programme of prayer for our allies, and encouraged women to respond to the Food Economy Campaign.

The Vicar’s Notes
The week-day Eucharist’s suggested intercessions

1. In connection with the War. Prayers for our Allies.
Mondays. The Serbians and Montenegrins.
Tuesdays. The Belgians.
Wednesday. The French.
Thursday. The Russians.
Friday. The Italians.
Saturday. The Japanese.

On Fridays, intercessions will also be offered
1. For all the wounded, the prisoners, and the sick.
2. For all the suffering nationalities, e.g. the Armenians, etc.
3. For our enemies, that their hearts may be turned, and that our own hearts may be renewed.

S. Mary’s
Save the food of the Nation

To the Housewives of Great Britain and to all who are responsible for the buying and cooking of food. You can help your country in this hour of need. No one too rich or too poor to help. You are asked to save food so that those who are destitute though the War may be fed. Do this wisely and your family will be better fed.

Under the auspices of the Reading Health Society and National Food Economy League, Four Demonstration Lectures in Food Economy will be given in the Reading Gas Company’s Lecture room on Fridays, March 3rd, 10th, 17th and 24th. Morning Lectures, 11-1, for mistresses and cooks, Course Tickets, 2/6. Afternoon Penny lectures, 3-5, for working woman. Tickets may be had from Mrs. Childs, Principal’s Lodge, Upper Redlands Road; Mrs. Coleman, Muttusmore, Castle Hill. Ask for the Handbook for Housewifes, price 1d.

All Saint’s District
Roll of Honour

Walter James Banten, Richard John Darvall, F. H. Hill, Charlie Morgan, Robert John West Saunders, William John Saunders, Frederick Taylor.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P98/28A/13)

“The French and Italians seem imbecile”

Meg Meade, visiting her sister and brother-in-law in Wales, wrote to brother Ralph Glyn with her frank views on our allies. Her friend the boil-afflicted Hopie was Victor Hope, Marquess of Linlithgow (1887-1952).

Jan 4th [1916]
Voelas
Bettws-y-Coed
N Wales

My darling Ralph

I came here last Sat. to give the glad eye to Maysie & John for a few days…

John looks very well, but when I was honoured by being allowed a glimpse of his shrapnel hole in his back yesterday, I regretted to see that it was really beginning to heal up, so I must look round for a rusty nail! But when he saw the Med. Board on Dec 23rd in London his back was no more healed than when he left hospital at the end of October, so they gave him another month’s sick leave, & he enjoys life, & he’s always been able to shoot every day since he came here. I expect at the end of his month they will give him light duty at Windsor while he has his teeth & mouth seen to: they need a bit of repairing…

The Bosch seem to be having it too much their own way in the Mediterranean. I wonder when we shall send a few Destroyers out there to teach them a lesson. The French & Italians seem imbecile. Captain Wigram rang me up one day from the WO & told me that he was going out to Russia, so in future I am to address my letters to you c/o Captain Kellett. I hear that Robertson has been making things hum a bit in the WO since he took over.

Thursday evening when I got back to London from my day’s outing [to Sussex] I found a note from Hopie waiting for me, & that night I dined with him at the Carlton & went on to the Gaiety. He had had Xmas leave which he’d spent at Hopetoun, & was on his way back to the Front when he went to see a doctor about a boil he had on the knee. He’s given to having them, & generally goes in for a crop at a time, so he’s been given a month’s leave, & he calls the disease Strombolis, & when I left the doctors were taking his blood twice a day….

I do hope you will get the socks from Mother alright. I addressed them to you to GHQ BMEF (in full of course). Jim writes very well, but they seem to have had an uneventful Xmas, & he never even got the turkey I sent him which is too sad. I hate to think it was eaten by an unknown Scotch thief! Apparently the midshipmen of one of the ships got up a very good entertainment for the benefit of the Destroyer sailors, which was thoroughly appreciated…

Best love darling & bless you so OO very always loving
Meg

Letter from Meg Meade to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)

“We are all very cheery about the war”

The army chaplain with friends in Mortimer had more information about his life behind the lines in France, preparations for Christmas, and dramatic and musical entertainments for the troops.

Mr. Bowdon writes happily about his cinematograph; “quite a lot of stuff has been given, and the Globe Film Co. have promised to supply me with a weekly programme free of charge except cost of carriage.”

He also sends the following for publication:

14, Stationary,
Wimereux,
Boulogne.

20th December.

Dear Vicar,

I feel I must devote half-an-hour or so to writing a few lines for the magazine, though I am busier than ever in the midst of preparations for Xmas. We are arranging a concert party to go round to all the wards in the hospital, and in the largest there will be a Xmas tree for patients there, and all convalescents who can crawl so far. On Xmas Eve a party of sisters and officers are going round singing carols with lanterns, &c. Then on the Monday we have a big Xmas dinner for our orderlies and N.C.O.’s and a concert and tea at the Recreation Hut in the evening. I regret to say the cinema is not yet ready – the goods are delayed at the Millwall Docks. It is a terrible job getting things out from England and getting work done here, but we hope to overcome all difficulties in time.

I am also arranging a pantomime, a play, and a grand concert by the officers of the A.S.C., to include if possible Kennedy Rumford and the chief tenor from the Italian Opera, so we look forward to a very gay and enjoyable Xmas season. We have built a magnificent stage at the Hut with spacious ‘green rooms,’ draw curtains, electric head and foot-lights. The hut has become very popular, and our lady helpers are kept hard at work from early morn till dewy eve. They all work like bricks, and have been serving on an average 200 hot lunches and suppers a day, in addition to all the usual canteen fare.

The hospital, I am glad to say, is rather empty, so I am not quite so rushed as I have been – at any rate I have more time for seeing to the Xmas festivities. There will be a great number of Xmas communions, in almost all the wards, all over the compound and in the camp services will have to be held. I think they will have to extend over Xmas Day, Sunday and Monday. Much time will be occupied in preparing the patients. We also have three celebrations at our little church, and a special service for the orderlies of our isolation compound who are not allowed to go outside.

We are to have the great pleasure of welcoming Dr. Gore amongst us on Sunday week. He is going to preach, at my request, at our church in the evening, and will dine with me at the Mess afterwards. He is visiting the Boulogne Base for a fortnight. We are having splendid congregations at church, especially at Evensong; when the Bishop comes I doubt if we shall fit them all in.

We are all very cheery about the war, and expecting great things in the Spring. I could a tale unfold but mustn’t. One hears interesting things at our Mess from the innumerable visitors of note who come to dine with the general and other of the Olympians.

With every best wish for Xmas and kindest remembrances to all friends at Mortimer.

Yours very sincerely,
W.S. Bowdon.
C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, February 1916 (D/P120/28A/14)