For those who perished


On Whit-Tuesday evening [13 June] a special Memorial Service was held for those who perished in the Jutland Battle, especially George Gibbins, who was lost on “Black Prince” also for those who perished on the “Hampshire,” especially our great Field Marshall Lord Kitchener.

Warfield section of Warfield District Magazine, July 2016 (D/P151/28A/8/7)


A tribute of respect to Kitchener

Bracknell people shared in the national mourning for Lord Kitchener, and in an age before televised services, did their best to replicate his official memorial service. Meanwhile patriotic efforts had replaced charity for the East End.

A Memorial Service for Lord Kitchener was held at noon on June 13th in Bracknell Church. The service was, as far as possible, the same as that held at the same hour in S. Paul’s Cathedral, the same hymns and psalms, and the Dead March played solemnly in the middle of the service. There was quite a large congregation, and all felt glad to be able to join together in paying a tribute of respect to the memory of the great man who had done such good service so devotedly to his country.

Owing to people being so busy over war work, it was felt that it was almost impossible to arrange a Lent Working party for the Isle of Dogs this year; but Mrs. Sheppee most kindly collected 43 garments and sent them to Mr. Mirrilees last month. We have received a very grateful letter of thanks from him.

Bracknell section of Warfield District Magazine, July 2016 (D/P151/28A/8/7)

A German invasion is not an impossibility

The Newbury parish magazine urged parishioners with military experience to consider joining a new local defence force to act as a last line of defence in the event of invasion.

Christmas is coming, and although it seems certain that the war will not be over, and that there must still be much sadness and anxiety on all hands, which will naturally interfere with the usual festivities.

Mrs Lionel Majendie having made a private appeal for warm garments for the men of the 4th Battalion of the 60th Rifles, met with a most generous response, and was enabled to send off the following:-

1 Sweater
8 Shirts
30 Pairs of Mittens
35 Helmets
56 Belts
75 Mufflers
109 Pairs of Socks
Total 314

Major and Mrs Bernard Majendie send their best thanks to all those who have so kindly sent warm garments for the men of the 4th Battalion Kings Royal Rifles, for which they are most Grateful (November 1914).

The number of the National Reserves at the Race-Course is growing less, as also is the number of prisoners; the reason being that the authorities have decided that the camp is too cold and damp to have men quartered there during the winter, and the prisoners are now being removed elsewhere with their guards.

The C.E.M.S. have shewn their interest in the welfare of the troops by giving a concert to the Yeomanry, and another to the National Reserves. The former looked as if it would be a failure, for at first there were considerably more performers present than audience, but more were fetched in, and in the end the entertainment was quite a success – moreover it was continued on the following night with the help of the men themselves. The other concert was held in the Y.M.C.A. tent at the Race Course, and the performers boldly ran the gauntlet of the armed sentries and of a powerful draught which raged in the tent. The concert ended with prayer and the singing of hymn 27, in which all present joined heartily.

The number of men appealed for by the government and Lord Kitchener has not yet been by any means completed, and it is a question whether other means should not now be employed to obtain them. The Rector has received an invitation from the War Office to see if he can find any non-commissioned officers among the congregation, for such are needed for drilling the new recruits, – so that if this catches the eye of any such, perhaps he will remember his duty to King and Country, and offer his services. Mr. Ranshaw, with his usual energy, is taking an active part in raising the new Newbury Defence Force, which is intended for those who are not eligible for the Army. Let us remember that a German invasion of England is not an impossibility, and that the more men that get ready now, the less will be the danger should it come.

Newbury parish magazine, December 1914 (D/P89/28A/13)

10,000 more Belgians

Yet more Belgians fled their homeland. Florence Vansittart Neale’s sister-in-law Edith and her friend Edith Frere made immediate efforts to raise money for them.

15 October 1914
EVN & Edie’s jumble sale for Belgians…
Believe Allies well holding their own. Charlie corps under Lord K. 10,000 more Belgians come over. We taken Ypres.

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

Longing to hear the army is reinforced

The realities of war were beginning to dawn on Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey.

18 September 1914

Feel uneasy about our army. Long to hear it is heavily reinforced…
Saw Evelyn Bradford killed. Austrians almost demolished. Kitchener predicts continuance of war.

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

Dreading having to obey for three years

Sydney Spencer was still agonising over his future, as he found out a friend had joined up. He confided in his diary:

Sunday 6th September
Editarton, Lynwood Road, Epsom

Yesterday morning two things happened. One, a letter from Mr Ruscoe, & the other a letter I wrote to London. Hence I am here in Epsom just for the night. The following is my letter to the Secretary of the Ex-Public School & University Corps:

Fernlea, Cookham, Sept 5th

Dear Sir

I have spent three days in Oxford trying to get some work to do with the following result: Mr Cookson of Magdalen College advised me to get some drill practice and then join the OTC.

As I am not satisfied that I have done all in my power I apply to you to ask you whether I might have a chance of getting into the ex-public school and university corps in formation. I would willingly cycle up to London any day if you thought that the following statistics concerning myself would not make such a journey fruitless.

I am still a University man but it is doubtful as to whether I can continue my studies at Oxford. My age is 25 years 22 months. My height is 5 ft 4 ½ ins. Weight 8 stone 1 lb. Chest measurement 32 ½ ins. Constitutionally strong but physically rather weak. A good walker & good lungs! No military experience. I should be obliged for any advice or information you could send me.

Yours truly

That letter may mean my going up to London on Monday. Mr Ruscoe’s letter was to ask me to come and stay for a bit. As yesterday seemed the only chance, I cycled down here, getting a puncture en route. I got here at about 1.45. I found that Willie Birch has joined the East Surrey & is off on Monday! Poor, poor Mrs Birch, it does seem terribly sad for her. It is a hard thing that a mother should lose her only son! I hope too, & pray, that Willie will bear the brunt of what he has undertaken. It will be a fearful strain on him, I feel sure, & when temptation comes, may he be guarded & kept from all wrong. I am very glad that he is joining with four or five others whom he knows. So he will not be altogether alone. I am going to eight o’clock celebration in a few minutes, & shall sit with him. There is one thing about this corps I am trying to join, I fear that one has to bury oneself in it, also supply one’s own kit. But that remains to be yet proved. This failing, I can make no other efforts for I feel sure that I have then done all that is expected of me.

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham, meanwhile, was hearing of various family friends who had joined up including one with similar qualms to those of Sydney Sepncer.

6 September 1914
Church [at] 11. Willy read out names of those gone to volunteer…

Sep joined Public School Corps – rather dreads having to obey for 3 years!…

Papers signed by Allies. None will make peace without the others. Signed Kitchener – Cambon – Beckendorf.

(Diary of Sydney Spencer, 6 September 1914); Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

A ready response from Bisham’s women

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey was ready to turn her home into a hospital for wounded soldiers if required. The village women were willing to pitch in and help with the extra laundry which would be needed. But the lack of real news was frustrating.

7 August 1914
Edith & I in village to ask people to be laundresses if we are a hospital. Found ready response. After luncheon all VAD came & our trained nurse to be attached to us. Then all worked at making swabs & splints & covering them…

Kitchener War Minister. Wants 500,000 more soldiers, 75000 sailors.
No news – we hear nothing. Except Belgium victory at Liege & large defeat of Germans seems true.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/37/8)

Feeling queer in the face of the war cloud

William Hallam and Florence Vansittart Neale both continued to record their feelings about the war. One was an ordinary working man, the other an upper class lady, but both had strong feelings and followed the news closely. The heroic M. Garros, referred to in Florence’s diary, was Roland Garros, a pioneering airman after whom the Paris tennis stadium where the French Open is played was named. The alleged feat may or may not have actually happened.

William Hallam
In to work at 6 and a fine day. War cloud blacker than ever this morning and seems almost at breaking point. To-night just as I was finishing the entry for yesterday at a ¼ to 8 the Works Hooter [at the Great Western Railway works in Swindon] began blowing and gave 10 blasts to call all the Territorials and Reservists up. I thought it meant war was declared & went out on the street and saw lots of people rushing down to the town. Then I went along to the Reading Room to look at the papers this evening but not much news but when I came back home Davies next door came up from the Institute and said Germany had declared war on Belgium so that means us as well. I think every one went to bed to-night feeling queer.

Florence Vansittart Neale
So glad Sir E Grey made manly speech – abiding by promises to France, Belgium & Holland. War inevitable but mercifully England not dishonoured….

Ultimatum to Germany to preserve neutrality of Belgium – ending 12 pm tonight. Burns & [illegible] left Cabinet. Kitchener War M[inister]. We sent ultimatum to Germany not to violate Belgian neutrality – war practically dec[lared, mobilization. Splendid heroism of Garros (French aeroplane rammed Zeppelin).

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/22) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)