Nursing the convalescent

The Community of St John Baptist had been taking in wounded soldiers at their convalescent home by the sea in Kent.

2 November 1917

Notice sent that the Royal Red Cross decoration had been awarded by the King to Sister Laura Jane as Sister Superior, St Andrew’s Home, Folkestone, where convalescent wounded soldiers have been nursed since the beginning of the war.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Advertisements

A great air raid

The Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist were relieved not to have suffered at the hands of the latest air raid.

31 October 1917
News came of a great air raid by the Germans on the eastern counties & London. No damage done in any of our Houses in London or at Folkestone either to the Sisters and those in their care, or to property. D. G. [Deo gratias – thanks be to God].

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

The Russians are giving in

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, both at home and abroad – and concerned about new food restrictions on sugar.

3 September 1917

Raids at Chatham & Sheerness – 107 sailors killed…

Mr Austman still here. All down about Riga gone. Russians giving in.

Wrote for sugar for jam!

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

Meanwhile the Sub-Warden of Clewer House of Mercy was heading to France as an army chaplain.

3 September 1917

The Sub-Warden returned from Strensall Camp on short leave before reporting himself at the War Office previously to going to France.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Invalided solider sent to a Convalescent Home

Hospitals didn’t want wounded soldiers to block beds.

8th June 1917
Convalescent Patient.

The action of the Hon. Secretary in sending an invalided soldier not an inmate of the Hospital to a Convalescent Home at Folkestone was approved.

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors’ minutes (D/H1/1/2, p. 338)

74 killed in Folkestone

The peace of Bisham Abbey seemed like a million miles from the south coast, hit by air raids.

2 June 1917

Captain Kennedy arrived – another Australian. Sat out. Men boated.

Bad raid on Folkestone – 74 people killed.

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

Mercifully preserved from an air raid

The Clewer-based Commnity of St John Baptist had a big convalescent home in Folkestone on the Kent coast, and also did mission work in the town. They faced the danger of an air raid in May 1917.

25 May 1917

A bad air raid took place at Folkestone in the evening. About 60 killed and many more injured. Our 3 houses, and all our Sisters, patients & workers mercifully preserved from any injury, for which special thanksgiving was made afterwards at the altar.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Reading men serving

More Reading men had joined up, while others had been killed.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions

Albert Maskell, R.N.; Private J. Taylor, M.G.C.; Private A. Victor Brown, 6th Worcestershire Regt.; Private Frank Griffin; Reginald Midhurst, 8th Royal Berks; Alfred Thomas Hinton, E. Kent Rt.; Private Kent, M. Marine.; Lieut. Laurence Edward Wells. Fullbrook Leggatt, 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.

Prisoner: Lieut. E.A. Floyer, R.F.C.

Sick and Wounded: Cadet A. Fielding Clarke; Lieut. Hugh Kenney; Capt. F. J. Shirley.

Departed: Sec. Lieut. G.W. Baxter; Lieut. M. Floyer Williams; Lieut. Vaughan Floyer Williams, R.F.C. Private A. Moule; Private William Fleming Robins Oxf. and Bucks. Lt. Inf.; George C. Moppet.
R.I.P.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

A very gallant officer and gentleman, recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage

The Old Boys of Reading School were distinguishing themselves at the Front.

O.R. NEWS.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Norman A. Howell, King’s Shropshire Light infantry. On December 23rd.

He is the second son of Mr. W. Roland Howell, architect, of this town. Born at Reading in April 1897, he was educated at Reading School and St. Laurence College, Ramsgate, and had been about a year in his father’s office before joining the Army in November, 1915. His cadet training at school and college enabled him to get his commission. He was posted to the King’s Shropshire’s, was ordered to the front at the end of June last, and has been in the thick of the Somme fighting for six months. Lieut. Norman Howell came home on his first leave on December 6th and returned on the 16th. Within a week he had made the great sacrifice.

His Commanding Officer wrote to Mr. Howell on December 24th:

“I deeply regret to report the death of your son, who was serving in my Battalion. Whilst going up to the front line trenches in charge of a party last night an enemy sniper shot him through the head, killing him instantly. This morning his body was buried by the Chaplain near where he fell, with military honours, officers and men attending.

“I had trench mortars and rifle grenades on the sniper’s post, patrols had reported 8 to 10 Huns there, none there now! On behalf of his comrades, officers, N.C.O.’s and men, I wish to convey to you our profound sympathy . He was loved and respected by all of us, and we mourn the loss of a very gallant officer and gentleman. To all of us he was known as recklessly brave and a fine example of cool courage, devoted to his duties, which he discharged most cheerfully under the most trying conditions.”

“I placed him in charge of the Lewis Gun detachment, on which he had set his heart and soul. He belonged to my own Headquarters’ mess, and I took particular interest in him. A cross has been put up on the grave near Les Boeufs.”

It will be remembered that in October, 1915, Mr. Howell’s elder son, 2nd Lieut. Roland Basil Howell, was reported “wounded and missing.” Nothing has since been heard of him, and any hopes of his being alive hangs on the very slenderest thread. On the 16th of last month the War Office wrote saying that they were now forced to believe he was killed.

Lieut. Basil Howell was born in October, 1895, and received his commission in the 4th North Staffordshire’s three months after the war started. He was attached to the Northumberland Fusiliers (the Fighting Fifth), and went to the front in May, 1915.

Reports received from the front show that on the night of October 1st-2nd, 1915, the battalion to which Lieut. Howell was attached were in severe action. After all the officers of the company had been killed he gallantly led a bombing party to attack a German trench, but was never seen again.

Every possible enquiry was made through the War Office, the American Embassy, the Red Cross, and the wounded men who returned to England. Many references were made by the latter to the respect and love they had for the brave young officer. Like his brother he was educated at Reading School and St Laurence College, and had started his training to follow in his father’s profession. For many years he was an enthusiastic scout, and took a big share in starting the South Reading Troop.

Lieut. Cedric Charles Okey Taylor, East Kent Regiment, attached to Trench Mortar Battery, only son of Mrs. Taylor, 39, Weltje Road, Ravenscroft Park, W., and of the late Mr. Charles Warmsley Taylor, of Reading. Further details are now to hand of Lieut. Taylor’s death.

He died for King and country on December 3rd, 1916, in his 22nd year. Young in years but old in endurance, he was in constant action for 15 months at Ypres in 1915 and on the Somme in 1916. He is laid to rest in the cemetery, at Faubourg d’Amiens, Arras.

2nd Lieut. W. Marsden Cooper, Worcestershires, only son of Mr. and Mrs. John Cooper, 107, London Street, Reading, aged 19.

Cooper was only 19 years of age and went out to the front in the Worcestershire’s about the middle of December, shortly after completing his course at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was educated at Reading School, where he gained a Council scholarship in 1909. His School career was unusually distinguished. In 1914 he gained a School Certificate followed the next year by a higher certificate.

In response to his country’s call, he decided to take a commission, and in the entrance examination for the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, held in February, 1916, he came out second on the list, gaining a Prize Cadetship. At Sandhurst his success was no less pronounced than at school, and he gained the position of Sergeant in his cadet unit, the highest position a cadet can obtain, before he left College. Not only did he have considerable intellectual gifts, as his record shows but he was a fine athlete as well. He was an excellent all round cricketer and his natural powers as a bowler would have enabled him to make his mark in really good company. As a Rugby Football player he showed great promise, and before he left school he had the distinction of being captain of football, captain of cricket and captain of the school. Yet he was never elated by success, and perhaps it was more than anything else his modesty which made him so popular with the boys and the masters alike. Those who have watched his career, for the last two years, and marked the way in which his development always seemed to keep pace with his new responsibilities feel a special grief that a young life so full of promise should have been brought thus prematurely to a close.
(more…)

Shot in cold blood, and now “beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image was excited by the new tanks rolling into action; philosophical about air raids – and horrified by first-hand stories of the executions of young men for cowardice or desertion.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]

23 Sept. ‘16

Mon Ami!

I share your views about the ghastly War. With its slaughters and its expenditure, where shall we be left after it is over. Any peace that leaves Germany still united – united for evil – is a fool madness that deserves the new War it will render a certainty.

I am in a fever to see the photograph of a Tank in action. I can’t imagine its appearance. I don’t believe them lengthy like caterpillars – but more like mammoths, Behemoths – “painted in venomous reptilian colours” for invisibility – and “waddling on” over trenches.

Today’s paper speaks of a seaplane over Dover yesterday. This is the very general prelude to a Zepp raid: and we expect one accordingly tonight, if their courage hasn’t oozed out. There is a Flying Camp near here – at Thetford, I believe. Daily, Planes soar over us – a sight I view every time with fresh pleasure. Twice we have had an Airship – huge, but not like the pictures of the German Zepps. I may as well tell you of our own experience on Saturday 3 weeks ago. Peaceful and unsuspecting, we were sitting in the drawing room at 10.30 when suddenly the electric lights went down and left the house in darkness. This is the official warning of Zepps. So we went out into Barton Rd. Not a glimmer, nor a sound. Quite unimpressive.

We turned in to bed – all standing (in Navy language) – and I into the deepest slumber, from which I was eventually shaken to hear an agitated voice, “they’re here”. I bundled out, lit a match and read on my watch 2.50. There was no mistaking – a thunderous drone, such as I had never heard before – and, seemingly, exactly overhead. We hurried down into the road. The roar grew fainter, and then began – deep and dignified – the guns. I guessed them to be on the Gogmagogs – then sharp explosions, which we took for bombs, thrown haphazard by the Zepp which was undoubtedly fleeing for the coast.

Robinson’s Zepp had come to earth at 2.30. Possibly ours was the wounded bird, which dropped a gondola or something in Norfolk when making its escape?

At 4.5 our electric lights went up again, and we to bed. Decorous night-rails, this time.

The Signora has a wee aluminium fragment from the Zepp that was brought down at Salonica. It was picked up by a young soldier who had been in her Sunday School Class. We had a sudden visit from her youngest brother, Gilbert, home on 6 days leave from Salonica. You have heard me speak of him as the rising artist who at 20 years of age sold a picture for £100, and is now a Tommy at 1/- a day. I fell in love with him on the spot. So simple, so lovable, – above all, such a child – going about the world unprotected!

By the way Gilbert saw the Zepp come down in flames at Salonica.
He had many yarns. The one that most made me shudder was of the announcement at a morning parade, “Sergeant So-and-so of the Connaught Rangers was shot this morning by sentence of a Court Martial for refusing to obey an order”. Just that! I have heard of these shootings in cold blood, several times, at the Front in France. Always they made me feel sick. A boy (on one occasion) of 17 ½, who had fought magnificently at Hill 60: and then lost his nerve, when his 2 brothers were killed in the trench at his side. Pym (our TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge] chaplain) sat with him all night and gave him the Sacrament. He

“could only feel what a real comfort it was to know that the boy was now beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”.

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

News brings great joy

Friends in Maidenhead were happy to hear news of a missing soldier.

Mr. Frank Bingham, now of Orpington, is serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery, and is at present in Dover.

It is with great joy that we hear 2nd Lieut. A. Hedges, who was reported missing, is alive, although a prisoner in Germany.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1916 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Italy declares war on Germany

Our diarists Florence Vansittart Neale and William Hallam were busy in different ways. Italy had been at war with Austria for a year, but now formally added Germany to her enemies.

Florence Vansittart Neale
28 Aug 1916

Most lovely. Submarines about….

Went to Folkestone… Invited soldiers for Wed.

Italy declared war on Germany.

William Hallam
28th August 1916

Fine day. Gun work came in to-day so working overtime till ½ past 7.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8);
and William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

A terrible blow

Petrol shortages meant a blow for Florence Vansittart Neale, on holiday in Kent. Glycerine was needed for explosives.

21 July 1916
Heard all petrol stopped for private cars! Terrrible blow. Went into Folkestone to try to get some. Heard we could not. Wired to [Kidnes?] – no use!…

Still going well, but awful casualties.

Also no glycerine to be sold without doctor’s orders.

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

Plane spotting

Sightseeing in Kent involved many sights of aeroplanes, as there was a Royal Flying Corps airfield at Lympne, from whence planes flew across to France.

20 July 1916

Motored to Dymchurch & round to Lympne. Very pretty drive. Saw many aeroplanes…

Still good news – rewon our ground.

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

An open ward by the sea

Florence Vansittart Neale might have been on holiday in Kent, but she was still interested in what war-related matters were going on around her, and at the front.

19 July 1916
[Still on holiday in Kent]
Ag & I in motor bus to hospital – the Bevan – at Sandgate.
Talked to 2 men in open ward by sea. Home for tea. Took Sisters after to church…

British still doing well. Hard fighting.

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

A distant roar

Florence Vansittart Neale was still in Kent and heard the artillery again.

12 July 1916
Still good news. Our gains consolidated. Severe fighting. Heard guns again – very distant roar.

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