The acute crisis of the war is on now

Losses were mounting, as the Russians bowed out.

18 December 1917

Met H on return at Marlow & heard with joy my muff found – not parcel yet!

Horrid news of lost convoy between here & Norway. Treachery somewhere. Lost 5 ships in Halifax disaster. Russian armistice begun!!!!

The acute crisis on now of the war.

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

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Shot at dawn for “cowardice” caused by shell shock

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith, who was staying at Hindhead in south west Surrey, not far from the big army camp at Aldershot. Normally very gung-ho in support of the war, Image’s compassion had been aroused by stories of court martials and teenagers shot at dawn. The Revd Thomas Pym (1885-1945), in peacetime the chaplain at Image’s college, was serving as an army chaplain.

29 Barton Rd
6 Dec. ‘17
My very dear old man

The military cars to and fro Aldershot must surely be more or less an interesting sight.

The poor Tommy comes under this [?not clear] penalty quite frequently. Not often from cowardice, poor boy. Most often (I believe) it is from slinking off to some girl in the rear which is called “desertion”, tho’ he would have returned right enough.

Just before I was married there was shown to me a letter from a young Trin. Officer at the Front, describing a visit from one of our Trin. Chaplains, begging this young friend of his to “pray for him”, for he had to pass the night with a boy of 18 who was to be shot at dawn. Pym spoke then of a night with another poor child (of 17!) who had been shot the previous week, for what the CM was pleased to style Cowardice – though he had twice behaved with exceptional bravery, and it was only after seeing his two brothers killed at his side that on this occasion his nerve broke down. In an officer it would have been called “shell-shock”, and the interesting sufferer sent home to a cushy job in England. I know of 2 thus treated. Pym’s words brought the tears to my eyes. I see that he has told the story (slightly altered) in a book that has recently come out by him, Characteristics of the Army in Flanders.

Sir Arthur Yapp at the Guildhall last Friday. The Signora went (non ego) and returned enthusiastic – she and her Cook – over the great man’s dignity and sweetness. That evening he lectured the students (and I believe also them of Girton) in Newnham College – and left by the 9.9 for London.

One remark of his: “The vessels sunk by the U-boats during the week ending Nov. 24 (I forget how many that was) might have carried enough bread to feed Cambridge for nearly 7 years, or enough meat for 8 ½ years, or enough sugar for 64 years.”

He said that Food Tickets have changed Germany to a nation of forgers. He dreaded the like fate for England.

Yours ever
Bild

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

Pray that we may receive in safety the things which we need from beyond the seas

The Bishop of Oxford shared a prayer for the protection of the food supply, while being concerned for Russia following the revolution.

THE BISHOP’S MESSAGE

The following extracts are from the Bishop’s message in the April Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are specially asked

For the Russian people and Government and the Russian Church…

The following prayer for the maintenance of our food supplies is recommended for use and may be used in church:

O GOD, Heavenly Father, Who by Thy Son Jesus Christ hast promised to all them that seek Thy Kingdom and the Righteousness thereof, all things necessary to their bodily sustenance; teach us so to seek Thy Kingdom and Righteousness that we may be worthy to claim Thy Promise. Bless the use of the land for the provision of food, and grant to us abundant crops: and of Thy great mercy, protect, we humbly pray Thee, our merchant ships, and those of our Allies, and of the neutral nations, against the attacks of our enemies; that so we may receive in safety the things which we need from beyond the seas; and may praise Thee always for Thy goodness and loving kindness towards us: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

C. OXON.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

Lord Harmsworth “stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers”

A female friend wrote to Ralph with her views on the domestic political position and the trashier end of the press. Their mutual acquaintance Major General Sir Cecil Bingham (1861-1934) had commanded the Cavalry Corps in France until it was dismantled in March 1916 and he was brought back to England.

26 St James’ Place
SW
28th March 1916

Dearest Ralph

I love getting your letters, and in imagination have written to you every week at least! But I admit my imagination occasionally is like the Yellow Man’s, so perhaps you have not received them quite regularly!! I miss you very much. I wish you were still on your old jobs in France, and popping home occasionally so that I could see you. Is there no chance of your getting home soon?

There is really very little news from home. We have passed a most uneventful spring, if the villainously cold weather of the last two months can be called spring!…

I think the Government is very rocky, and I should not be surprised if there is a split any day now over this Compulsion business. Squith [sic] has carted Eddie Derby, as he has carted everybody else. No truthful straightforward man is a match for that wily old fox. I am very glad that Carson has come back to the House during the last two days. I am sure he is the only man to form a Government if Squith does have to go. I expect they will be obliged to bring in a Compulsion Bill all round, in which case McKenna and Runciman for sure, and various others probably, will go. It is a pity you are not home, you would revel in it all.

Harmsworth has behaved quite abominably, stirring up trouble and strife wherever he can with his infamous little rags of newspapers, and at the same time trying to humbug in a dignified manner with the “Times”. It really makes one quite sick.

Military matters have been very quiet and I have heard of no rows or rumpuses. Georgie writes quite happily from billets. They had a bad time in the trenches about a month ago, but he fortunately came through it quite all right. I think what he has felt most has been the cold. He is delighted to think that the worst of this is over now.

It was bad luck for Cis Bingham losing his command, wasn’t it? He says he would not have minded so much if he could have only had one slap at the Boches with his mounted Army, but it was not to be, and now they are all split up and he is sadly at home doing nothing…

I have seen nothing of Meg for some time. I think she has been paying a prolonged visit to your parents at Peter. She will have to break out badly when she returns to London as a reaction!

I tried to let your flat for you to a lady, but she did not think it would quite meet all the necessities of her wardrobe, a nail behind the door being all that I could suggest to hang up her numerous garments. But surely now everything in Egypt has quietened down you will agitate to come home? I can’t imagine your restless spirit being content to slumber away the hours with the old Mummies and Rameseses.

The Boches are getting unpleasantly active in sinking our merchant ships, and I can’t help thinking the Authorities are getting anxious about it. If only America could be gingered up to seize all the German ships in their ports, it would help us quite enormously, as tonnage is getting very short, and daily now the Government are prohibiting fresh imports. There is no doubt about it that very soon we shall be distinctly uncomfortable, which will be a horrid crow for the old Boches.

I heard rather a nice story – which you mustn’t tell at Peter. A man appeared before a Tribunal for Exemption from Service saying “I am a soldier of the Lord!. “You are a hell of a long long way from your Barracks then” – said a voice in the background.

Goodbye dear Ralph. I wish you weren’t so far away. Take great care of yourself & come home soon.

Best love from
Edith

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/19)

Submarine attacks cargo ships

More war news from Florence Vansittart Neale.

28 November 1914
German submarine sunk 2 English cargo boats. Crew saved. Russian victory mentioned by Lord Kitchener.

Lance [Pope] came back for 9 days.

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