Americans saved from mines

Florence Vansittart Neale had a dramatic sea crossing returning to the mainland from her Isle of Wight holiday.

22 April 1918
Lovely crossing. Two mine sweepers saved large American convoy by clearing 5 mines!

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

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“He died gloriously doing glorious deeds during the course of our brilliant advance “

Tribute was paid to former students at Reading School who had fallen in recent months.

Killed in Action.

Central Ontario Regt. Pte. F.C.(Eric) Lawes, eldest son of Mr. F.J. laws., of 116, Hamilton Road, Reading, aged 22 years. On August 8th.

Captain Brain, Killed In Action.

The sympathy of the whole town will go out to Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Brain in the loss of their second son, Captain Frances Sydney Brain, Royal Berks Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd October. Born IN 1893, he was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School, and in 1912 he obtained a scholarship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Cambridge University O.T.C., and on February 26th, 1915, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, being promoted Lieutenant on July 29th, 1918. He proceeded to France in June, 1916, and was recently promoted Captain. The news of his death was received by his parents on Wednesday, and was contained in a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, who wrote as follows to Mr. and Mrs. Brain:-

“I am so grieved to have to tell you of the loss of your gallant son in action on the 3rd inst. He was hit on the head by a shell during the course of our brilliant advance and died instantly. I hope it will be of some little consolation to know that he died gloriously doing glorious deeds. He is a great loss to the regiment, as he was one of our most promising officers. In him I, too, had a friend, and more than a friend, for we were both of the same Varsity, and had mutual friends. I was able to get his body and bring it back to a little cemetery which we started here, where he lies with others of his regiment. We had the service of the Church of England, the last post and a funeral party. My prayers go up that the Almighty will give you strength to bear your sorrow.”


Lieut. H.M. Cook Killed.

Lieut. Howard Mortimer Cook, who was killed on August 8-9, would have been 29 September 1st had he lived. He was the elder son of Mr. John R. Cook, late of Lloyds Bank, Reading, and Mrs. Cook, and grandson of the late Town Clerk of Reading (Mr. Henry Day). He was educated at Reading School and St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, where he rowed in the eight. Although his original intention was to take Orders, at the outbreak of war he was on the point of leaving for Holland to take up teaching in schools, and his passport bore the date of August 4, 1914. He applied for a commission at once, having in the meantime joined a Public Schools Battalion as a private, and in November, 1914, he was gazetted to the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment. He went to the front in February 1916, being attached to the 5th Battalion, and shortly afterwards was wounded in the head by shrapnel but after a few months at home he returned to the front. He and two other officers were especially mentioned in certain orders of the day as having accomplished some very good work at Cambrai, in which the 5th Berks played so prominent a part. In May last he was transferred to the machine-gun corps. He was killed by the explosion of a mine when taking his section into action during the night. His commanding officer wrote that although he had only been in his battalion a short time he was very popular and his death meant a sad loss to the regiment.

Mathews.

Previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action on the 31st July, Captain John Waldron Mathews, F.A.F., of San Julian, Patagonia, elder son of E.J. Mathews and Mrs. Mathews, Brockley Combe, Weybridge, aged 28.

Death of Lieut. F.L. Hedgcock.

We greatly regret to record the death of Second Lieut. Frederick Leslie Hedgcock, M.G.C., who was killed in action on Sunday Sept, 29th, at the age of 20, after having served with his Regiment in France over seven months. He was educated at Reading School and Brighton College, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hedgcock, of St. Margaret’s, Shinfield Road, Reading. Mr Hedgcock has two other sons serving in the Army, the eldest, Captain S.E. Hedgcock, now on the staff in Mesopotamia, and Lieut. S.D. Hedgcock, recently gazetted to the R.E. Both have been on active service, the eldest at Suvla Bay and the second son twice in France.

A brother officer writes: –

“we were fighting in a very important sector, and had done very well. Your son was shot through the heart, and was therefore instantly killed.”

His Major writes that he was killed while leading his men into action.

“On behalf of the officers and man of the company, I would tender you our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement. We have lost an excellent officer and you have lost an excellent son.”


Pte. L.C. Shore

Pte. Leonard C. Shore, Lincolns, who died on August 19th of wounds received in action in France, was the son of Lance-Corpl. Shore and Mrs Shore, of 51, Francis Street, Reading, and was 19 years of age. He was educated at the Central School, and at Reading School, having won an entrance scholarship to the latter. Prior to joining up in April, 1917, he was in the office of the surveyor of taxes at Richmond (Surrey). His father, an old soldier, is serving with the Rifle Brigade in Egypt, where he has been for the past three years.

Funeral of Capt. S.J. Hawkes.

At St Bartholomew’s church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Capt. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Captain. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt, who died suddenly in his barrack quarters at Dublin on the previous Wednesday. The Rev. T.J. Norris was the efficient clergyman, being assisted by the Revs. A.T. Gray, B. Mead and H. Elton Lury, C.F., the latter reading the lesson. The deceased officer was before the war, greatly in the boys of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and held this position of Scoutmaster of the St. Bartholomew’s Troup. Educated at Reading School, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps and of the Rugby xv. He joined the University and Public Schools Brigade. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, and subsequently transferred to the Military College, Sandhurst, where he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks Regt. He soon went to France, and after serving there for some time was wounded and returned to England, and later, with the rank of Captain, went to Ireland. As recently as last month Capt. Hawkes was on leave in Reading on the occasion of the wedding of one of his brothers, at which ceremony he performed the duties of best man. A short time ago Capt. Hawkes successfully passed the difficult examination for the Royal Air Force to which he had transferred just prior to his death.

Reading School Magazine, December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

“One of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across” offers an answer to U-boats

Gustav Stichl, alias Steel, was a German wool merchant from Hamburg, aged 48 on internment in 1916. He was clearly very disaffected, and the Governor of Reading Prison, or Place of Internment, was annoyed by his complaints of ill treatment. Another internee, Belgian Charles Slingeneyer or Slingermeyer, was an engineer from Bruges, aged 36 when interned in 1916. He was classified as ‘alien, not enemy’, and was trying to support the war effort with his ingenious invention, but remained at Reading Prison until 1919.

9th February 1918
G Stichl

As regards this prisoner’s petition, I have no knowledge of his treatment before he came to Reading – but during the time he has been here every consideration has been shown to him not only by the officers but by the other prisoners.

He is a dirty, untidy and idle man. To my knowledge prisoners have cleaned up his cell for him on many occasions to avoid him being reported – and also because the smell was most offensive.
He has been offered every kind of work time after time, but refused all. The trade instructor by my orders has tried him 4 or 5 times at bags – he only spoils canvas. He refused cleaner’s work, and the only work he has attempted is unravelling some socks & balling the wool which he started a few days ago & which I gave him out of charity – but he won’t work full time even at that & earn the money he could, as after the Prisoners of War were removed to isle of Man, all men were located in one hall – this man considered it a grievance that he had to remove his furniture etc to his new cell & to assist other men in cleaning up the wing. The only one who [grumbled?].

As regards his teeth, his wife offered to pay half the regular charges if prisoner would work & earn the other half – he refused & did nothing. He is one of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across and most of his troubles are of his own making. He has never been punished while here – simply because he is so hopeless & helpless – except by having his petitions stopped for a time by order of the Home Office.

C M Morgan
Gov.
9.2.18

February 9th 1918
Sir,

I beg of you to consider the following rough description of a device for dealing with U-boats.

Allow me to explain first on what grounds I based this device.
A Submarine is a very difficult thing to deal with, because:
1st It is always difficult to ascertain the presence of submarines without using detectors. (Without knowing how far the detectors in use are able to discover submarines I humbly remark here that if I had been able to work out my detector referred to in my letter to you on 4th of December 1916, I am almost certain that I would have had the means of not only detecting them but of “spotting” them also. Anyhow a detector, so constructed that by taking for instance the [main?] length for calculating the distance and the strength of sound for giving the direction, would enable vessels to keep out of the way in most cases.)

2nd A submarine is almost or wholly invisible to the vessel she intends to attack.

3rd Minefields are no barrier to submarines.

4th If a submarine is provided with a detector her commander must not fear to come to the surface and is guarded against unexpected attacks.

5th When destroyers or submarine chasers approach a submarine can dive and evade also her enemy.

Those five points are already enough to convince me that the best and surest way for dealing with submarines would be under the water, because it is the only way in which she cannot escape destruction, being caught unawares.

My device therefore would consist of a floating peculiar shaped nutlike structure, which lower part would reach the depth at which a submarine can safely remain under water, so as to prevent her from going under it or passing over it.

Floating body to be made out of mat[erial?] as invisible as possible from the surface.

Special mines to be attached to the aforesaid structure in such a way that, in the case of a submarine striking the structure they would without fail destroy her.

If this device were tried one would have the means of laying minefields against submarines as well as one has minefields against other vessels and the now dangerous zones could be well protected without loss of life or danger and operations by submarines as for instance at present in the Irish Channel could be made impossible.
If laid near a submarine base I am convinced that very few of them, if any at all, would pass through.

Nothing whatever will happen to any surface vessel on striking this structure.

Willing to answer any questions and to give all further necessary information on this subject if required, I remain, Sir,

Your humble servant
Charles Slingeneyer

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Disturbed about further rationing

News was bad both at home and at sea.

29 December 1917

Disturbed about further rationing!!

Heard 3 destroyers sunk or mined off Dutch coast Dec 22-23.

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

A fighting board at the Admiralty

Phyllis Vansittart Neale started nursing in Reading – less exotic than France, but still working with seriously wounded soldiers. Her father Henry, at the Admiralty, found changes afoot.

5 May 1917

H., I & Phyllis last dog walk – we on to Vicarage with flowers to say goodbye to Willy. We all motored to Reading & Pussycat [Phyllis?] started on her new venture.

3 [SJ?] destroyers mined in Channel. We going on in Western Front, very hard fighting.

2nd dish asparagus – economising in salmon!

Changes at the Admiralty – a fighting board – Lloyd George has been at it.

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

Russian diplomats delighted at revolution

Florence Vansittart Neale reflects in more detail on her experience seeing the tragic sight of the sunken Gloucester Castle hospital ship.

5 April 1917
I saw the Gloster Castle partly submerged, it had been towed into the Solent. Hospital ship torpedoed, burnt engines, darkness, people in boats 2 hours before picked up by destroyer.

Heard our hospital ships painted black & no lights.

Phyllis tells me one ran into French mines, hit & then destroyer sank. No wounded on board but nurses& orderlies.

Mrs James says when 20,000 prisoners were taken there, we may [have] her flag & feel the end is nearly coming! She says Russian attache’s & legation delighted at revolution.

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

“The German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s Admiralty official husband, or one of his colleagues, was encouraging about the Navy’s successes.

19 March 1917

I hear through the Admiralty we think we have mastered the submarines, but the mines are still troublesome & will be for some time.

Also the German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us.

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

Will the neutral countries come in?

Florence Vansittart Neale continued to be excited about the prospect of new allies.

9 February 1917

Will America come in? & other neutral countries?

A destroyer sunk this week in Channel by mine.

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

A great French victory

The Battle of Verdun came to an end after nine months of fierce fighting on the River Meuse. The Germans offered to negotiate peace terms on terms favourable to themselves.

17 December 1916

Germany’s peace terms come here thro’ America!!

A great French victory at Verdun – taken 11,370 prisoners (284 officers), 115 cannon, 44 mine throwers, 107 machine guns.

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

A P & O ship strikes a mine and passengers take to the lifeboats

Two Anglican Sisters from Clewer had to take to the lifeboats on a dangerous voyage home from India. The incident was hushed up, and the ship repaired.

17 December 1916

Sister Katharine Hope & Sister Georgina arrived about 1 pm having come overland from Marseilles. Their ship, the Caledonia P&O, had struck a mine when about 1 ½ hours journey from Marseilles. Though she did not sink & eventually reached Marseilles, all the passengers had to take to the boats. Our Sisters were taken off the life boat by one of HM destroyers and brought to Marseilles. The only lives lost were those of 2 of the crew.

The P&O particularly requested that this accident should not be publicly spoken of, for fear of the news reaching German ears.

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

Awful news – Lord Kitchener drowned

One of the biggest shocks in the war was the tragic drowning of national hero Horatio, Lord Kitchener on 5 June 1916. We have heard from Ralph Glyn and his friends that Kitchener was not well thought of at the War Office or by politicians, but he was very popular with the general public. He was heading on a diplomatic trip to Russia when his ship was mined. 600 others were also killed. Florence and Phyllis Vansittart Neale seems to have heard the shocking news while visiting Florence’s sister-in-law Constance and the other Sisters at Clewer.


Florence Vansittart Neale
6 June 1916

Did some village visiting about women on land….

Phyllis & I to Clewer for tea, then meeting at Windsor – National Mission. Canon D. told me about Lord K. drowned – too horrible!!…

Awful news. Lord Kitchener and all his staff drowned. Struck a mine off Orkneys going to Russia!!

Lord Kitchener started for Russia in heavy storm. Ship mined. All drowned.

CSJB Annals
6 June 1916

News reached us that Lord Kitchener & his staff had been drowned on the evening of the 5th near the Orkneys. He was on his way to Russia in HMS Hampshire. The ship struck a mine.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8); Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A fine body of young women

The Revd E C Glyn, Bishop and Peterborough, and his wife Lady Mary both wrote to their soldier son Ralph. The Bishop was anxious that his letters were not reaching Ralph:

The Palace
Peterborough
15 March [1916]

My darling Ralph

Thanks for your letters – & your news – but we long to hear what & where your next move will be.

I have written by each “bag” every week, & I can’t understand if & why you have not had a letter from me each time! Unless it is that Captain Kellet does send every letter as well as General Callwell used to do! I wonder what is to be done with General Callwell & if he will want to get you for his work somewhere?…

Lady Mary was busy with her own war work, not to mention a feud with a rival Red Cross branch.

March 15, 1916
The Palace
Peterborough

My own darling and blessing

This has been a bad week for me and there has been nothing but futile fuss, perhaps – but fuss! And I have had no leisure. Meg went to London on Thursday, and was away one night in London, and all Friday I was at the Rest Room seeing to Canteen worries…

I went to see Colonel Collingwood who has seen your reappointment as GSO General Staff vice [under] Captain Loyd, & he was much excited and wanted to know what it meant. I could only say I supposed some redistribution of work at the end of your previous work of all this winter. But it set me thinking and this week with the news of Verdun always in one’s head, with the rumours always in every paper of German naval activity, and of the mines everywhere, one knows that one needs to have a stout heart for a stae brae….
The Rest Room is crowded out some days with the troops moving about, and we had over 1100 last month. We have a splendid hand of workers night and day.

Any my Red Cross Room is such a joy – it was quite full last night and I have enough money to go on, but must soon get more; the material is very expensive, & the County Association (now definitely under Sir Edward Ward) gives no grants to these private Rooms. The Town depot now “under the War Office” and having a pompous Board announcing its connection with the British Red Cross & the “Northampton Red Cross (??)” has collected 680 pounds, and intends to get 1000£ in order to sit upon all BRC work. Not sent to the War Office – to be distributed by them, & not by our Headquarters, 83 Pall Mall. It is from here quite incomprehensible when one knows how these people have behaved, & the lies they have told to cover up the defects of their organization, but I suppose Sir Edward had to level up all sorts of abuses & get the whole into his hand before any order could be restored. And the BRC did not organize its work in time. Now the Central Work Rooms have had to move from Burlington House to 48 Gros: Square & they have taken that big corner house for six months.

Sir George Pragnell’s death has been a blow, as I felt safe behind him from further attack – but the Stores Manager at 83 is so delighted with the work we have now sent up that our position will be assured. Another enemy – not me – quashed!

It is a complication that the Lady Doctor who is our splendid and most efficient Superintendent is expecting to add to the population! (more…)

A sad day

Florence Vansittart Neale has some more Navy news.

10 March 1916

Captain Kelly to say goodbye – going up to join his new ship “Devonshire”….

“Airman” Col in for Herts. Destroyer & torpedo boat sunk by mines off east coast. Sad day.

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

“Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friend”

The parish of Earley was saddened by the death of two of its men, both heroes in different ways: one a regular soldier, the other a teenage recruit who died trying to save a friend’s life.

In memoriam

We record with very great sorrow the death of two of our old Guild boys. The first, Leonard Love, son of Mr Love, 49 St Bartholomew’s Road, was a soldier of many years standing. He served in the Royal Field Artillery and so distinguished himself at Gallipoli that he was offered a commission and had accepted it. He died within two days (apparently) of the evacuation of the peninsula. He had been in close contact with his brother William Love who was among those who fought the rearguard action of the time. His brother Frederick Love is serving in France. From such particulars as have come to hand Leonard Love was in excellent health. On the day of his death he returned to his dug-out after breakfast, and shortly after a shell struck the roof of the dug-out, and his death was instantaneous. He had borne the many hardships of the Gallipoli campaign with never a word of complaint in his letters home. Always cheerful he is reported to have been the life and soul of those about him, and his comradeship will be greatly missed by his many friends. He has left behind him a fine example of Christian courage and manliness.

The other is of a wholly different type. James Benjamin Butler, son of Mr B H Butler, former churchwarden here, was little more than a boy in years when, with his younger brother Charles, he offered himself for service 8 months ago and joined the 605th Co. of Motor Transport. The two brothers had been members of our Scouts Patrol whose rules oblige the members of it to look for opportunities of doing kindnesses, and to embrace them when they occur. His training ended, he left England at the beginning of the year, having made his last communion in this church on Christmas Day. He sailed in the “Palermo City” and in the Mediterranean the transport appears to have struck a mine and floundered. James Butler was a powerful swimmer, but his friend Harold Newbold, who had been a long time billeted with him at his home in Reading, could swim but little. Butler was last seen side by side with his friend in the sinking vessel inflating an air pillow in the hope that it might be of service in the water. He himself could (without unforeseen mishap) have remained in the water a long time and been picked up, but there is little doubt that he determined to remain by his friend, and sacrificed his life in attempting to save him. “Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friend” and better to die young and to offer one’s life for king, country and friend, than to live at ease for many years and accomplish little. Two more honoured names are added to our roll: the mature soldier and the brave lad of nineteen summers. May they rest in peace.

Earley parish magazine, March 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)

Gruesome news

Lady Mary Glyn reported the latest war news to her son Ralph in Egypt. SS Maloja was a civilian liner carrying women and children as well as some army personnel when she was sunk by the Germans. Many of the sailors were Indians.

Feb 28th [1916]

Today brings the news of the mining of the Channel and the horror of the great P&O Maloja & the rescuing ship. So gruesome, within two miles of safety – if land is safe on any coast! till we find that welcome for the Hun aircraft which today a letter speaks of as preparing for them. The Verdun news from France is different from Verdun news from Berlin, and certainly they are colossal in their untruth and unscrupulousness of “method” however diabolical.

Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)