A heavy death toll

Our diarists heard the distressing news of massive air raids in other parts of the country.

Florence Vansittart Neale
13 June 1917

To tea with Krohutres. Mrs Iscombe there – told us about London air raid…

Big air raid in East End, London. Heavy death toll – school & near Liverpool.

William Hallam
13th June 1917

Great excitement amongst the people to-night hearing of a great air raid on London.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

New laid Easter eggs for wounded soldiers

Easter 1917 saw the children of Crazies Hill not longing for chocolate eggs for themselves, but real fresh eggs for wounded soldiers to eat.

Crazies Hill Notes

The children of the Sunday School, their parents and friends, during Lent and Easter week contributed £2 6s. for the purpose of purchasing Easter Eggs – new laid – for wounded soldiers. Mrs. Woodward acted as Hon. Treasurer to the fund, the success of which is entirely due to her energies in the matter. Mr. Woodward most generously provided packing cases and also packed the eggs with the satisfactory result that the following were dispatched and arrived still fresh and unbroken at various hospitals:-

100 eggs to Woodclyffe Auxilliary Hospital, Wargrave
100 eggs to 3rd London General Hospital, Wandsworth
72 eggs to King George Hospital, Stamford St., London
72 eggs to No. 1 War Hospital, Reading
66 eggs to 1st Western General Hospital, Fazekerley, Liverpool

The total number sent being 410.

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Complaints about the canteen

Ludwig Paul Selbach, 58, was a German from Hamburg, interned in Reading. Ferdinand Louis Kehrhahn, 33, was an art publisher born in Birkenhead, presumably of German parentage. He was only at Reading for a few months, being handed into the custody of the Liverpool police in April 1917, whence he had come in January.

3rd March 1917

L P Selbach, an Alien Prisoner, asked the committee for assistance by making enquiries why he was not receiving letters from his son who was interned at Knockaloe Camp. The Clerk was instructed to write to the Commandant.

F L Kehrhahn, an Alien Prisoner, made several complaints respecting the Canteen &c. The Chairman informed him that the Committee had no power to interfere with rules laid down by the Secretary of State.

Reading Prison Visiting Committee minutes (P/RP1/6/1)

Cats bless food restrictions

John Maxwell Image wrote to his old friend W F Smith with news of how food rationing was affecting his household, including the pets cats, formerly fed on scraps and leftovers, but now treated to tasty offal not fit for human consumption. Lord Devonport was the Government Food Controller. More sadly, Rudolph Cecil Hutchinson, a graduate of Trinity College, Cambridge, had been exceptionally severely wounded at the Battle of Loos back in 1915. After over a year’s suffering, he finally died in Cambridge in February 1917. He seems to have been generally known as Cecil. A memoir of him was published privately in 1918 and can be downloaded free.

29 Barton Road
13 Feb. ‘17

Praeclarissime EMY


The Signora … is away at a Newnham College concert, with a fair Marylander, youthful spouse of a Trinity MA, who on his part has been spirited off to scientific War Work at L’pool…

Well, as for Devonport, she accepted him enthusiastically. The hosue is put on rations of bread, meat and sugar – and so cannily that I can’t discover any difference. Helen and Ann, two excellent sisters, are devoted to their mistress’s will. Joe and Binnie bless Devonport all day, for, obviously, the house-meat cannot any longer be cast to the cats: so special supplied – I trust not 5 lb weekly – of lights and such like dainties come in for their use and behoof. Their little barrels bulge – and the 2 tails are rolling pins for size.

We have for many months baked our own bread – the best standard bread I ever ate! 12 lbs of flour produces a long loaf each day, which is bisected each morning, one half for the parlour and one for the kitchen. Helen, who is the surgeon, rigorously adheres to the Devonport law, and always I see some over on our table at night. The only difficulty is there being so very, very little flour for puddings. I don’t mind, and the petticoats don’t grouse….

We had a military funeral in Trinity this morning. A BA Lieut. There must have been over 100 troops – the coffin on a gun carriage, draped with the Union Jack. The first part of the service in Chapel at 11.45. And then the procession – band playing (very poorly) the Dead March went down Trin. St and Trin. Lane, through the Paddocks. Rudolph Cecil Hopkinson, Lieut. RE – died of wounds on Feb. 9th.

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

None can fail to see the Satanic origins of the war

The Community of St John Baptist, the Anglican Sisterhood at Clewer, were supporting the war in prayer.

December 4, 1915
My dear Associates,

The Novena of Prayer for the World War has begun, and very many of you will be joining in prayer with the Community, a cooperation which we value more than any other part of the activity of our Associates; and let us pray that our people may learn how to pray; they have much to learn, of not why so small a number at Intercession Services? Why the demand so often made that priests should join the colours, and fight at the front? The priest who celebrates daily, or often at his Altar, is doing more for his country than by fighting, however bravely, at the front. The real battle-ground is probably not Flanders, nor Gallipoli, nor anywhere else on earth, but the heavenly places themselves. Spiritual foes must be met by spiritual forces, and none can fail to see the Satanic origins of this present war, with all its unexampled cruelty, and murder, and its most skilfully organised campaign of lying, and treachery, both individual, and diplomatic.

As this letter reaches you, two of our Sisters, Sister Alexandrina and Sister Dorothea, will be on their way to India, in the P & O SS “Caledonia”. Two more, Sister Mary Frances and Sister Kathleen Prisca, will sail in the SS “Kaiser-I-Hind” on January 1st. I commend them to your prayers; the prayer “for those in peril on the sea” has now a new and terrible significance….

Arthur East, Warden CSJB

4 December 1915
Sister Alexandrina and Sister Dorothea started from here at 7.20 for Liverpool St & Tilbury Docks, where they embarked on the Caledonia for India. Mother went with them to London & returned in the afternoon. Two Sisters went to see them off at the Docks. Originally it had been arranged for them to start on the 27th Nov. in the Moldavia, but that ship was suddenly requisitioned by government.

Letters to Associates and Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/24/6; D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Morning hate

Percy Spencer wrote to his just-married sister Florence to report on life quartered in a civilian village just behind the lines – and close enough to be at serious risk.

21.10.15
My dear Sister

Last night I moved back here. We weren’t very close up, but quite close to what has been our front line, as you can imagine it wasn’t a very cheerful place. All these villages are more or less in ruins, but still a lot of the people remain amongst the ruins and live in the cellars. The children play about in the shell holes and make miniature dugouts.

Yesterday morning the Bosche suddenly began throwing shells just over our roof and into the field behind. We happened to be upstairs at the time and experienced all the delightful uncertainty of “will it hit us; won’t it hit us”. From below grandmothers and mothers burst out, rounded up their various charges and went to ground. Far straying youngsters stopped their play and came pounding along home. And then the gentlemen across the way suddenly came to the end of their morning hate, and peace reigned again pretty nearly all day. But just when we were due to move off, everything was cancelled; an attack was expected near us and there was nothing to do after we had rearranged all our dispositions but to sit tight and wait for the music to begin. The previous night 5 pm had been the chosen hour and the Bosch had made a dart which had fizzled out with many losses to them and no loss of ground to us. But last night they apparently thought it better of it anyway, no attack developed and about 8 pm I moved down here and opened shop again in a larger room. The only thing against the place is that it’s riddled with shell splinters – a shell having pitched on the corner of the doorstep.

You were very generous with the wedding cake; it was excellent. After thinking it over I came to the conclusion that it was no use my trying the dream test, and eat the cake there and then, assisted by sundry sappers of the Signal Section who were all in favour of my applying the dream test, especially as I haven’t a pillow, and the cake wouldn’t have been much improved in mixing with my hair.
All our fellows who got knocked out wounded when I lost my kit are at home in various hospitals, one on Manchester, another in Liverpool, and three or four in London: one in Barts, badly hit in the legs.
Thank you for the Jacobs books. I get very little undisturbed time and they are just the sort of thing for us. You’d be surprised how I’m asked to lend them round. Anything that isn’t about the war is so welcome.

Well, I’m going to close for the present.

On second thoughts, I’ll hold on; the post has just arrived; three big bags around which half a dozen eager boys are scrambling, and here comes my share…

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/4/49-50)