A shortage of starch

The Sisterhood of St John Baptist had to amend its habit due to shortages.

26 March 1917

Notice from Mother that owing to the difficulty in obtaining starch, we should discontinue wearing cuffs for the present as a war measure.

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

When the evening shadows fall: a valuable service for soldiers in Maidenhead

Maidenhead Congregational Church continued to provide a homely environment for off-duty soldiers billeted locally.

The room continues to be thronged every evening, and is undoubtedly doing a most valuable service for the men. There is always a large number engaged in letter-writing, for which paper and envelopes, ink and pens are provided free. The five bagatelle tables are never idle, the piano has little time for rest when the evening shadows fall; the news-papers and magazines are well thumbed. The ladies at the refreshment buffet take about £5 weekly, mostly in half-pence, for coffee, tea, cocoa, Oxo, buns, cakes and cigarettes. The B.W.T.A. ladies in the mending room “take in washing,” and see that it is returned darned and patched up. Two Concerts and a Conjuring Entertainment have been thrown in as extras, and other delights of a similar character are in process of being arranged.

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

“England is worth dying for” – and Winston Churchill is the devil on earth

Meg Meade let her brother Ralph know the details of the last moments of their cousin Ivar Campbell, together with news of various friends and relations – plus her very unflattering views of Winston Churchill. Ralph had political ambitions, and subsequently became a Conservative MP. The controversial Noel Pemberton Billing, mentioned here, had just won a by-election standing as an Independent, but his political career (perhaps fortunately) lasted only a few years.

March 16th [1916]

My darling Ralph

I hear Wisp is coming to London as he has six weeks leave, lucky thing, but the reason is he has had such a bad dose of flu he has lost a stone! Jim says lots of them have had it in the north. If it produced leave on that scale, & Jim doesn’t catch it, I shall have to send him a bottled germ of it!

I posted my last letter to you from London when I went up to see Arthur. He was looking very well indeed, he says the English soldiers have invented a sort of pidgeon French which is now used by the French soldiers to make themselves understood by the English & vice versa, & it’s frightfully difficult to understand. One day Arthur came out & found his servant looking up into his horse’s face & saying “Comprennie? Comprennie?” He said Frenchwomen always come to him about every conceivable thing, even to if they are going to have a baby, & one had highstrikes [sic] in his office the other day.

I hear that Bertie is convalescent on crutches now & they are trying to prevent his being sent home to England on account of his health.

Poor old Mrs Hopkinson came in here today, broken hearted; for Pen’s husband, Colonel Graeme, was killed in France last Friday behind the lines by a stray shell. Killed outright mercifully. But oh dear, how sad one is at these ceaseless sorrows, and all the broken hearted people all round one. “But England is worth dying for” as Noel Skelton wrote to Aunt Syb about Ivar. I dined with Aunt Syb the night I was in London. She is so wonderful, so is Joan, but it has told hard on both of them. Aunt S has aged & Joan carries the mark in her face too…


Church parade, from a distance

Percy Spencer wrote from France to his sister Florence with details of his life over there. There are references to his artist brothers Stanley and Gilbert, and the latter’s susceptibility to a recruiting band. Percy felt that the artistic pair were unsuited to battle.

Mar. 29. 1915
Dear Florrie

Thank you for your letters.

Don’t send any more socks or linen out of any kind until I ask for some, as so far I have arranged laundry all right.

Today the Bishop of London held Church parade here for some of our men. I contented myself with a near view of his Lordship through field glasses and a more distant view of the band. It played very fairly through the opening hymn “When I survey the wondrous cross”. Somehow I always enjoy church music more as a listener. I’d much rather sit in the churchyard at home and listen to the service than take part in it.

I got your lovely parcel – its neatness was a marvel. You must have been hours packing it.

The guns have been very busy early today, but this afternoon there was nothing to hear but the hum of aeroplanes, of which quite a few have been over.

Your letters are not censored at all so far as I know – at least I’ve never heard of anything censored, so say on.

I think I told you we are quartered in a lovely house but the blinds have to be down to protect the tapestries! And that’s a shame in springtime. Anyway I doubt the supposed value of some of the tapestries. They appear to me to belong to a late and poor period, nothing like the beautiful specimens they have at the Victoria & Albert Museum. I should like to have Stan’s opinion on them. That reminds me, where is Ravenal’s place – it would be funny if I were in his chateau.

Gil tells me Jupp has taken a commission in the artillery, and writes of the effect of the recruiting bands upon him when he was at the National Gallery the other day. Don’t let him do anything foolish.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/18-19)