There is a new spirit amongst our young people

An elderly nonconformist clergyman had hope for the post war world and the new generation.

The Gates of Youth, By Rev. Monro Gibson, M.A., LL.D.

I am now about as far away from the gates of Youth as any one in this world can well be, but the remarkable thing is that the father I go from them, the increasing distance, instead of making them look smaller, makes them seem larger and ever larger – so much so that in my old age I confess to a great and increasing longing to help my young friends to see what a glorious, magnificent life which is opening before them.

The adventure of life begins with the dawn of personal responsibility. In childhood we are in a garden, a Garden of Eden, let us say, sheltered, secluded, happy in its limitations; but sooner or later the gates of Eden open outwards, and the world is all before us with its continents and islands, its seas and oceans, its illimitable possibilities; its fearful risks on the one hand, its great reaches on the other.

Difference between Men and Animals

Herein lies the immense difference between the life of man and that of lower animals. They have each their limits imposed on them by nature. In every case there is growth along certain fixed lines, and up to certain fixed limits; but in no case is there any possibility of a development at all corresponding to that of the boy into a Shakespeare or a Newton, or the girl into a Florence Nightingale or a Catherine Booth; and that altogether irrespective of the infinities and eternities which lie beyond. On the other hand, there is no peril corresponding to that which may transform a noble youth into a Judas or a Kaiser or a sot.

These things being so, there is call for the most earnest thought in passing through these fateful Gates. It will not do simply to yield to the impulse of the moment as if it did not matter much how you set out or what you were aiming at. I do think, however, that there are some warnings which, though very much needed four years ago, are not called for now. For there is a new spirit amongst our young people. There has been a high summons to whole-souled devotion to a great cause, and to that summons there has been a noble response, so that I believe there are very few young men or young women either, who would be willing now to welcome a life of self-indulgence or pleasure-seeking or easy-going mediocracy; and those who would still prefer that kind of thing are too far down to be likely to be reached by any high appeal. The great majority now, I am sure, demand the strenuous life, the life of active service with something in it of adventure or peril, calling for courage, resourcefulness, sacrifice if need be. The cricket pitch and the golf course, the dance and the supper party may still find a corner in life but only a corner. Surely the feeling now is practically universal that to put one’s life into any such things as these is despicable in the last degree. How encouraging it is to find that when there is a call for volunteers to an enterprise which means almost certain death, like the attack ion Zeebrugge or the final Voyage of The Vindictive, every one is not only ready but is disappointed if he cannot be accepted.

A New World

You may say: It is the War that has done this, and we are all very glad that it has come to an end. Yes: but is there any reason why the spirit the War has called forth should come to an end with it? By no means. We are constantly reminded that it is a new world we are entering into, with greater opportunities, nobler prospects and more difficult problems that we have ever known; and there will be a new call for the exercise of all the noblest faculties the War has evoked, and for many others for which even its multiplied demands have not afforded scope and opportunity. Surely it is not without significance that a man who represents so large and in many respects so unpromising a constituency as H. G. Wells has done should even passionately urge the claims of the Kingdom of God upon the service of us all, and especially of our young people who will be the chief agents in the new developments before us. We have all along had before s the call to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” to make that the great ambition of our lives; but so far it has kindled the souls of only a very small minority. May it not now “catch on,” to use the common phrase, and gather itself the patriotism, the enthusiasm, the devotion, courage and self-sacrifice of the generation now coming on the scene.

Moreover, we are now apparently entering on a new era of democracy whose success will depend not on a small number of super-men or heroes of the Nietschean or Carlylean type to subdue the masses to their will; but on the people, each with his share of responsibility, every one with his full share of opportunity, with education that will open up fields of service to every variety of talent, and with institutions that will give full scope for its exercise. Even as things have been in the world, our young people have had much encouragement to put forth every effort in the beginning of life to train their powers for usefulness; but it is more worth while now than ever it was before. In the old Book of Proverbs it is written, “A man’s gift maketh room for him.” True now in a fuller sense than when the wise man wrote it down, it will still be more so in the days that are coming. Therefore I would congratulate our young people especially on the prospect before them, entering on life in times like these which are more full of portent and of promise than even those of which the poet Wordsworth wrote:

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven.”

It is indeed true as it always was, that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life”; but now that there is this new spirit in the land for enduring hardness, for concentration of energy, for ventures of faith and courage, and now that the life which is set before us, which and full as it has always been, promises to be richer and fuller than ever, we may hope that it will no longer be true that “few there be that find it,” but that multitudes of our young people, young men and young women, will press through the gates into the new life.

Newbury and Thatcham Congregational Magazine, May 1919 (D/N32/12/1/1/1)

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“What we have sunk to makes me sad”

John Maxwell Image had some interesting view on the effects of the war (some unfortunately anti-semitic).

29 Barton Road
7 April ‘19

My very dear old man

We have the American influx on us in full swing – u.g.s as plentiful as before the War: Navy blue and gold by the hundred: and now suddenly the Yanks. Where can all be accommodated?…

Ye take too much upon ye, ye sons of Zeruiah – that is the natural feeling as to the American air. They came in at the last hour – to receive every man a penny, and claim to boss the show.
Britain, bled to the white in men and money, cannot stand up against them. Grousing is no good. Our fighting class are killed off. Those now alive, want only panem et circences [bread and circuses]. They can‘t look beyond the day. Those who can make money, squander it: the unhappy ones with fixed incomes, and with a little saving, to tax for the proletariat’s advantage, won’t find England a fair country to live in, except for the Bolshevik. What claim to his own property will be regarded by Parliament.

Half an hour ago I was shewn Punches Almanack for 1915 – i.e. in the first 6 months of the War. It made me sad! What we expected then; and what we have sunk to. The retreat from Mons had but convinced us that we should thrash von Klack, and certainly – ; that, driven back to Germany, the Kaiser’s Army will be met by Cossacks in occupation of Berlin. No mention could I see of submarines! None of air-raids of any kind! What is more striking still, there was no hint of brutality by German soldiers, anywhere. There seemed in the country a contemptuous disdain for our German opponents. We should stamp them down, as did our fathers, and then Russia would mop them up. Poor Russia! And her German Tsaritsa – the cause of it all!

There was a curdling leader in the paper a few days ago on the Bolshevist Chiefs. Lenin, the writer who knows him [says], has brains and energy: and he is of noble birth. But Trotsky and the others – their names were all given – are one and all of them JEWS – and with the Jew characteristic of making a good thing for themselves, while others do the fighting.

It was a leader in the Times on April 1st (Tuesday). Read it. Trotsky, Zinovieff, Svendloff, Kameneff, Uritsky, Yoffe, Rodek, Litvinoff, many others – Jews one and all.

The Hon. Russell’s new book was reviewed in the Observer, did you see it? The Russell has the impertinence to pretend that Bolshevik ruthlessness is the offspring of Love! Is the man sane? or merely dishonest?

Your dear friend
JMI

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

In reference to the handing over of the Ex-Kaiser for trial

Feeling against the enemy leadership still ran high, even as people adjusted to peace.

23rd December 1918

The following letters were read and ordered to be filed for future reference:-

1. From the Local Government Board
(1) in reference to the steps to be taken for application for the release of men from the Forces
(2) as to the amounts of War Bonuses granted to the administrative technical and clerical staffs of Local Authorities and setting out copy of such bonuses now authorised for permanent Civil Servants
(3) stating that the Board would shortly forward to the Treasurer an order for the payment of the sum of 18s/3d in respect of the cost of the funeral expenses of John Meikalik
(4) in reference to special allowances at Christmas time
(5) setting out a copy of Section 10 of the War Pensions (Administrative Provisions) Act 1918 in reference to application of any part of a pension towards the relief and maintenance of a person not being his wife or child
(6) requesting that the returns of pauperism may now be sent weekly as heretofore instead of monthly during the War. Resolved that the returns be made weekly as requested by the Board.

2. from the Clerk to the Wallingford Union in reference to the grant of war bonuses and inquiring what steps the Board had taken and requesting a reply by the 10th inst. The Clerk reported that he
Had replied giving particulars of the recent grant of war bonuses by the Board to the Officers.

3. from the Clerk to the Lewisham Union setting out copy of a resolution passed by that Board in reference to the handing over of the Ex-Kaiser for trial …

Minutes of Abingdon Board of Guardians (G/A1/33)

Fever coming on again

Phyllis Vansittart Neale continued to be very ill with influenza.

5 December 1918

Heard fair night & not worse. A & I to flat, & I went on to Kings CH. Found her brighter, more able to talk. Lunched Victoria. Saw Ag then back again. Distressed to see fever coming on, & head bad again.. L. Williams’ sister there. Did not expect temp. to be higher but it was up to 104.8. I luckily did not know it. Went back home.

Ex Kaiser & ex CP to be handed over.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world

Unlike many, John Maxwell Image did not believe the Armistice meant peace.

29 Barton Road
17 Nov. ‘18

My very dear old man

The town – even in London – is full of riot and devilry. I send you the Cambridge Daily News of the first day – and nightly bonfires have succeeded – with the Kaiser for Guy Faux [sic]. The u.g.s that evening, and on Tuesday, are said to have gone to Girton with music, and serenaded the fair captives “in dismal dance about the furnace blue” – dismal, for on Monday evening no dove would listen – on Tuesday a few weakened, and the whirl became epicene. Then the Mistress phoned to Cambridge for Proctors – who hurried up with bulldogs in motor cars: and at their mere aspect – pulveris exigui jacta quiescent – the u.g.s scattered and fled.

Each day that passes heightens my conviction that the Hun has done us – as it was prophesied by his own people he would. Who can believe that Foch was left free handed in the matter of this armistice? Foch, who had everything matured for the final battle that would have left the Hun army a run away rabble, howling for mercy on any terms – and the Armistice simply gives them a fortnight (or is it a month?) of Rest Cure, to rehabilitate discipline and morale unhindered, and at the end confront us with a restored army well-equipped – Foch knows his Hun. Unhampered by the politician allies, he surely, if grant an armistice he must, would have demanded as sine qua non the bridge heads over the Rhine – over which he would have guaranteed a peaceful passage to the German forces after surrender of their arms.

He would never have allowed this debating about Terms. The man who has his boot heel on the adder’s head, and suffers the reptile to wriggle free, deserves his fate.

Directly debates begin, US (the only safe terms) is lost. The Hun will promise anything; and stick to no promise he can find means to evade. He has himself carefully taught the world that.

I should like to see Germany broken up into free republics. If German Austria unites with the Hohenzollern empire, the agglomeration will be numerically the ‘Predominant Power’ of Europe. An overpowering Germany is shewn by this war to be a Curse to the world.

Ever your affec.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

What a feeling to wake up to the weight lifted

Henry and Florence Vansittart Neale were honoured by the Belgian government for having opened up Bisham Abbey as a hospital for Belgian soldiers earlier in the war.

12 November 1918

What a feeling to wake up to the weight lifted. Germany in revolt all over. Rumour Crown Prince shot. Ex Kaiser escaped to Holland. Armistice 6 weeks. meanwhile we must feed Germany. I went to Reading for Red X meeting. Hear King Albert giving us medal! for taking Belgian wounded.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Kaiser abdicated yesterday!

Things were going from bad to worse for the German authorities, with Kaiser Wilhelm II forced to step down.

10 November 1918

Heard the Kaiser & Crown Prince abdicated yesterday!! Mauberge taken. Revolution extending in Germany….

Charlie Tuck [flu victim] better this morning.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

White flags

The war definitely seemed to be approaching the end.

Will Spencer
28 October 1918

Seeing Herr Dr Mai in the Rondel, I asked him whether he had already been for his morning walk, & he replied that he had not, & would be glad to come with me. He told me that he had just fetched his paper, & seen that Ludendorff had resigned. I told him that I had just read in yesterday’s paper the report of a speech of Lloyd Geroge’s, in which he spoke of what England had still to learn from Germany – that the German people was a better educated people than the English, etc.

Florence Vansittart Neale
28 October 1918

Allenby in Aleppo! We still going on.

Balfour & Lloyd George went to Paris. Seems like preliminaries.

Submarines going back to base with white flags & saluting our merchant men!…

Made a helmet. Talk of Kaiser abdicating. Ludendorf resigned.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

“We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to smoking ruins”

Florence Image was devastated by the news that her beloved brother Sydney Spencer had been killed, just after returning to the Front after having shell shock.

29 Barton Road
7 Oct. ‘18

My very dear old man

You and your wife’s thoughts will, I know, be with us. We got home from London last Tuesday evening about 7. I was standing in hat and overcoat, my back to the fire, getting a warm. Florrie, the other side of the table, opened a bundle of letters. Suddenly – in a quiet, toneless voice, I heard her saying, “Sydney is killed”. I did not realise her meaning. It stunned me. And she, poor dear – I knew how passionate was the devotion between the brother and sister – and how he idolized her beyond any other woman in the world. She bore up, but I could not. To spare the old parents in their weakness, he (like his elder brother) had left all to her hands to manage. What a week!

The Major’s letter, scrawled in the hurry of the battle, is all that we have heard – and the pencil scrawl was but a few words.

“I am very, very sorry to have to tell you that your brother was killed on Sept. 24th.” (How matter of fact is the announcement!) “He was commanding B Company at the time. He was, I think, the keenest officer I have ever met. A shell burst near him and he was killed on the spot.”

We have heard no syllable since – nor could I find any mention of the Norfolks in the Times syllabus of those days. Poor boy! I told you how he was blown up by a shell on the fourth day of the advance, and how when he insisted on rejoining, the Colonel sent him down to the reserve, as not healed yet; but he wrote to us that he was less “tired” than those officers who had been years in the field – and he seems to have got his way – to this end.

But an end how glorious! He was BA of Oxford and was meaning to enter the church. Always he was doing something for others. It cheers me to remember that his was such a straight, clean, useful life. To us he is not, and never will be, dead.

Oh how I remember his leaving for the Front. He was staying with us, and went straight from our house without stopping, at so early an hour that I was not up. Florrie was with him to give him his breakfast: but I was abed still, when he came in for goodbye, and at the last moment he lifted to his lips my hand lying on the bedclothes. My last sight of Syd! He was so cheerful and so full of life.

Percy, the elder brother, is still at St Thomas’. The doctors marvel at their success with his left arm but he cannot move it yet: will he ever be able? His letter to her ended: “Thank God you have John, and thank God I have you both”.

The Impudence of the Kaiser! Announcing to the army that this tickling of the President was his own action; that he is still all in all. Wilson won’t be slimed over. We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to towns and villages that are smoking ruins – deliberately destroyed by the retiring Hun. I don’t care about a town for a town. We know that our squeamishness would let Germany off half price. No. We should compel them, by the labours of their own populace, to restore every ruined French town, every village, yes, every house: and keep military occupation of Germany until this has been done, and to France’s satisfaction.

Also, we should demand ample fines and indemnities.

Florence begs to join me in sending love to Mrs Smith and to you.

In all affection.

Yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“The memory of the music of those lives which will ever be ringing in our hearts”

St Nicolas’ Church in Newbury had a novel idea for a war memorial.

THE CHURCH BELLS

Considerable difficulty has been experienced of late in keeping a full band of ringers together. The War Office has from time to time stretched forth a long arm and carried off members to help ring the Kaiser’s knell. Consequently there are very few left of the band of two years ago, but we are trying to keep it up to full strength…
Incidentally the Curfew is being rung again after some months of silence, and the clock once more informs us of the time of day with no uncertain tongue. DORA does not frown on these little efforts now as much as she used…

The tower contains a fine peal of bells, and the chiming apparatus at present is only what is known as a “ting-tang”, which is scarcely worthy of the Church in particular or Newbury in general. Would it not be possible to raise a fund after the War to put in a proper apparatus for “Westminster” or “Dick Whittington” chimes as a memorial of those from Newbury who have fallen in the War? Would it not be a fitting memorial of those who have given their lives for their Country, the memory of the music of those lives which will ever be ringing in our hearts? The cost, we understand, would be something like £100, which should not be very hard to obtain if everyone contributed a little.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, August 1918(D/P89/28A/13)

‘Both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club’

The Reading Dodeka club debated contemporary issues once a month.

7 June 1918

The 291st meeting of the club was held on Friday June 7th 18 at Gibbons’….

No paper being forthcoming, the remainder of the evening was devoted to settling the “food questions” – “conduct of the war”, & “peace terms” – the general feeling being that both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

“Oceans of blood and billions of money squandered – and for nothing”

John Maxwell Image was outraged by the latest American peace proposals, as well as strikers in vital munitions factories. He would of course be proved right that a second war would follow 20 years later, though not about the cause.

29 Barton Road
15 January ‘18
My very dear old man

Do you see soldiers and men-of-war’s men in any numbers? I frequently wonder how appalling the dullness here will seem when the longed-for Peace removes our military element…

And about those gunshies [sic] in munition-works who have the daring rascality to threaten “down tools” and hang the war, should an attempt be made to comb them out. Surely the Defence of the Realm Act empowers the placing them under military law? Or will this, like evry other step of government, be taken just too late?

I was shocked by Wilson’s language. It used to be “no terms with the Hohenzollerns”. That we all understood and felt it to brace us up. But today an absolute disclaimer of any wish to interfere with the internal arrangements of Germany and its vassals. The military autocracy to be left in full possession (for how can it be deposed while it has the Army?) – and 20 years hence a fresh war upon a purblind and probably divided Europe. Oceans of blood and billions of money squandered – and for nothing…

Ever yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Camouflage with a vengeance

The Images experienced a power cut as a result of an air raid, and heard some interesting Navy news.

29 Barton Road
22 Oct. ‘17
My Most Dear Old Man

On Friday evening we were at dinner – the clock, I remember, was in the middle of striking 8 – when, in a flash, down went the electric light, and up bounced Florence to find whether it was so all through the house. It was! and we had in a candle, to the accompaniment of bombs and anti-aircraft guns, seemingly 2 miles away to the north. I wonder, were they trying for the aerodrome at Hardwick? for they are reported to have attempted that at T in Norfolk. Well, we went unconcernedly to bed, and were awakened by a glare at 2.10 – sign that the raiders were clear of England. But oh how humiliating! They can drop bombs at will, and unharmed, in England. Once cross to France, and they are chivvied and hustled, go wherever they attempt. The French can bring them down. Never has there been such a field day before, for Zepps.

Some friends, fresh from Liverpool, told me the other day of the steady silent inundation of Americans now overflowing the place. Especially of the hundreds upon hundreds of Yankee aeroplanes, beautifully packed, daily landed on the quays.

In one dry dock these people came across a large Yankee man-of-war, painted blue with pink spots (or was it, pink with blue spots. Those were the colours anyhow.) Camouflage with a vengeance: but it has the effect of destroying outlines and muddling them up at a distance. This they observed especially in the case of HMS Ramillies lying out in the stream – a battleship, painted the most bizarre horror, chiefly black and white stripes.

All this is very fine – but as today’s Daily Mail asks, in Italics, ‘Who commands the North Sea?’ The British navy may be the ‘incomparable’ weapon we hear it called, but it is bluffed by the Huns and its convoys and their escort snapped up by a small force of 2 raiders, almost in hearing of the Grand Fleet. The Kaiser’s vaunt of Germany’s future being on the water looks justified – Nelson went to the Gulf of Riga – but we can’t.

Our united love to you both.
Ever yours,
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

A pill for the Kaiser

The pro-German King Constantine of Greece was forced to abdicate by the Allies and his own government, in favour of his younger son Prince Alexander (1893-1920), passing over the elder boy, Prince George. The king and his wife Sophia, sister of the Kaiser, went into exile. Florence Vansittart Neale rejoiced.

14 June 1917
Tino gone! & family & suite leaving P. Alex to take his place. Pill for the Kaiser.

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

We are not fighting the German nation

John Maxwell Image reminds us all that the war was not really against the German people, but against their leaders, the militarised Prussian aristocracy (the ‘Junkers’) and royal family.

29 Barton Road
3 April ‘17

I should like to announce that we are fighting Hohenzollerns and the Junker Oligarchy – not the German nation.

Your affect.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)