May God grant us this perfect peace before 1919

Teenager Joan Daniels, whose family had been evacuated from London to Reading, was optimistic about the war ending, as we come to the end of her diary.

August 19th 1918

I have now written in this book for over three months and this page completes the first book. Let us hope that by the time that I finish my next book I shall be writing at home & we shall have the blessing of peace …

May God grant us this perfect peace before 1919. Reading itself is not a nice town but the surrounding country is really beautiful & we have had some glorious times.

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

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“May this terrible war not last another year, but may the world be blest once more with peace, but this time for evermore”

Here is our diarists’ take on the war’s fourth anniversary:

Joan Daniels of Reading
August 4th Sunday

The fourth anniversary of the war & therefore Remembrance Day so Mummie, Elsie, Ruth & I went to church to intercession service.

May this terrible war not last another year, but may the world be blest once more with peace, but this time for evermore….

War news still splendid, we have now advanced 30 miles at some points.

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
4 August 1918

½ an hour too early for early church – then went again at 11. Nice little service – Intercessions to Russian hymn.

William Hallam of Swindon
4th August 1918

Wife & Marj. to St. Sav. at 8 to H.C. & I went to St Paul’s at XI.

F & L. went up to Lockinge at 3 o’clock.

To-night we had a cake for tea with currants in, the first time since before Xmas.

Diaries of Joan Daniels (D/EX1341/1); Florence Vansittart neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“Her young man who was missing is now a prisoner in Germany”

July 22nd Monday
Florence had a letter this morning to say that her young man who was missing is now a prisoner in Germany.

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

The German offensive is an utter failure

Reading teenager Joan Daniels was excited by the latest news.

July 18th Thursday
The German offensive is an utter failure & the French counter attack most successfully.

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

“For how much has God given us to be thankful”

Joan’s father escaped conscription at least for a while.

July 10th Wednesday

Daddie appeared before the tribunal yesterday unknown to us & got four months exemption with leave to appeal again. However the military representative may appeal against this, but it is by no means certain that he will, nor his success should he do so. For how much has God given us to be thankful.

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

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air

Officers were well treated on their visits home, on leave or wounded.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 June 1918

I & two officers motored to Oxford. Saw Dorchester, had lunch en route. Saw Magdalen, New College & Christ Church. Two MO Canadians here for Sunday, Captains Johnston & Reay. They out all evening. We brought Phyllis home. She left Oxford.

Joan Daniels
June 22nd Saturday

Bruce McPherson has come for the weekend… Bruce has had a very nasty wound in the back of his head which he got last October.

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“Wounded in the back. Hope it is not serious. Poor boy”

Elisabeth, a German relative of Johanna’s had been visiting Will and Johanna Spencer in Switzerland. She was planning to sneak some gifts through customs inspection. This ruse proved successful and the gifts passed muster when Elisabeth returned to Germany on the 29th.

Will Spencer
21 June 1918

During the afternoon Johanna was wearing the shawl which she is asking Elisabeth to take with her for Mutter [Mother]. She wears it, in order that it may have a better chance of passing the Customs House as a worn article of apparel. Johanna also dried some lemon peel today, for Elisabeth to take with her.

Joan Daniels
June 21st Friday

Mummie had a PC from Gerlad saying that they had received a telegram from the War Office to say that Leslie [McKenzie] was wounded in the back. Hope it is not serious. Poor boy.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Sneezing gas or hay fever?

Sydney was plagued by hay fever and thirst.

Sydney Spencer
Monday 17 June 1918

Got up at 6.45. Paraded at 7.45 for inspection. After inspection half an hour’s PT followed by a half hour’s run & then dismissed. Spent a lot of time reconnoitring. It was a scorching hot day, & the scent of clover fields so strong & pollen so strong that 4 out of 8 of us were set to sneezing violently. Some thought that it was sneezing gas as we were shelled pretty closely while on the trench line in front of A-y Wood, but I don’t think so.

This reconnoitring scheme took place from 9.30 till 3.30, 6 hours in a scorching sun with two biscuits & not a drop of drink! ‘No [won?]’ as the troops would say. The landscape was lovely. Saw numbers of swallow tail butterflies, scarlet pimpernels in abundance. A glorious walk if it had been a pleasure walk. A sleep. Dinner at seven. A turmoil of chits & arrangements & bed finally.

Joan Daniels
June 17th Monday

This morning the Austrian report said they had taken 10,000 prisoners, but tonight the paper says that they were completely squashed, which is a good thing. I am afraid the McKenzies will be anxious about Leslie, but trust he is alright.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation

Beer was in very short supply.

William Hallam
9th June 1918

Much colder to-day and heavy storms which were wanted badly but a N. wind with it. Didn’t go out all day except at 1 with Geo. to the Frome to have a drink. He says the first comfortable drink in a pub he’s had for months, for in Coventry if a pub has beer in it’s a fight for it.

Joan Daniels
June 9th Sunday

[After description of pleasant family day]

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation.

Diaries of William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“Down here because the raids upset her so”

The Daniels family welcomed an additional guest fleeing from air raids in the East End – a young relative of their maid.

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 June 1918

Amusing lunch. Officers described German prisoners! They both left (Granville & Knapman).

Joan Daniels
June 5th Wednesday

Florence’s little sister came with her mending. Mummie has had her down here because the raids upset her so. They live in Plaistow & had bombs very near them last time. She is a most amusing kiddie…

Uncle Jack went to be medically examined & is passed Grade 3. That means if anyone goes it has to be Daddie, but it strengthens the latter’s position with regard to exemption.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“May it please God that the Germans may advance no further”

As the need for men at the front continued to increase, older men were now being called on.

Joan Daniels
June 1st 1918

The news is not too good today, the Germans are advancing and are now 47 miles from Paris again. However, may it please God that they may advance no further….

Daddie went to be medically examined & is in Grade 1. Of course it is nice to know that he is healthy but I would rather he had been in Grade 3. Oh may it please God to leave him with us.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 1 June 1918

Today I took over a large platoon – for me. Under the new arrangements there are 3 platoons per company, Nos 5, 6 & 7. No 5 is under Dawkins & Hervey. No 6 under myself. No 7 under Peyton & Kemp. I have now 2 LG sections, 2 Rifle sections & an employed section only shewing on paper. Sergeant Timby & Sergeant Seeley are the two additions to my platoon as NCOs.

Parades for today. Company training in morning & march in evening, or rather afternoon from 2 till 3.20. CO’s inspection at 3.30. After inspection paid out company with Dillon. Had a guest night. Knights & Cook came in. After dinner A company came in in force & my duties as Mess President became fast & furious to say the least of it.

Percy Spencer
1 June 1918

Another fine day. Battalion relieved 24th in line. I went to depot near [Coutary] with Gray. Bailey got kicked & went to hospital.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“My platoon beat No 5 platoon at football”

Sydney was enjoying time away from the front line.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 31 May 1918

Today I went on parade again. Paraded at 7 o’clock. Inspected platoon & then we went for a route march under Capt. Rolfe. A glorious morning again & I very much enjoyed the march. The country round here is glorious. We are already at high summer, dogroses are all out & trees in the first beauty of summer foliage, before the dust dims their shrill green.

After lunch to the range. My platoon shot well. I got an 8 inch group and a possible at the application.

By the way my platoon beat No 5 platoon at football 5-4. We are very anxious to take on Mo 7 platoon which beat No 8, 2 nights ago. Got to bed fairly early & read for a time.

Bombardment fairly heavy which disturbed me somewhat in so far as I had a night full of dreams!

Percy Spencer
31 May 1918

A lovely day. Fritz shelled near 17th a little, relieved 24th in front line, and bombed us at night.

Joan Daniels
May 31st Friday

Mummie had a letter yesterday from Auntie Lavinia. Her brother was killed at the front. Also a letter about Eina Furness. He is getting on better than was hoped for so that is great. He was on the third floor of the hospital, & was the only one on that floor who was left alive, falling from there to the basement. Besides having a piece of shell in his head he was injured in the back & arm. Mr Douglass is back from France.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“The brutal diabolical Hun: may God frustrate their wicked purpose”

Civilians followed the war news closely.

Joan Daniels
May 28th Tuesday

We all went down to Caversham to see a boat race between Reading Flying School & the Henley Equipment Officers. Reading won by straights, a great triumph.

The Germans slightly advance on the Ancre. May this be their last chance & may God frustrate their wicked purpose & give peace to our beautiful country once more.

Elsie went to Hendon yesterday & saw Mrs Douglass. Eina has been gassed & was back in the hospital that the brutal diabolical Hun bombed so mercilessly for three hours last week. He (Eina) got badly wounded in the head with a piece of shell during the raid. Mr Douglass has gone over to France.

Florence Vansittart Neale
28 May 1918

Line not broken. Hard fighting but we going back slowly.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and
Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“Was it a bomb?” “No, a mouse got in”

Joan Daniels’ father inspected the damage from the air raid on his factory.

May 23rd Thursday

Daddie did not come home to lunch as he had to settle up some things about the bomb. They now find that there were two dropped a few yards apart. Daddie told us rather an amazing thing. An old lady was peering in between two sheets that have been fixed across one of the windows now that the glass is gone. The fat old policeman who was on guard came up & said “Ere mother, you clear off”. She turned to him & said “Was it a bomb?” “No” he whispered, “a mouse got in”.

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

“I’m getting sick of living on tiptoe”

German aeroplanes were bombing both in air raids and at the front.

Joan Daniels
May 21st Tuesday

We heard today that there were seven Gothas at least brought down in Sunday night’s raid which is splendid, let us hope that it will put them off coming a bit.

Percy Spencer
21 May 1918

Frightful row at 3.40 am by us, but Huns again failed to come up to scratch. I’m getting sick of living on tiptoe. A glorious day closing with a heavy storm. Bosch planes active bombing La Boie Hautvilliers.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)