Not a few of our brave lads have made the great sacrifice which helped to bring Peace to the Nations

Those who had not returned from the war were remembered in the midst of rejoicing.


The Sunday School

The Peace-time Picnic was greatly enjoyed at Beacon Hill, on Wednesday, 13th August. The day was very fine – the sun’s rays being tempered with a delightful breeze, and the sylvan beauties of the park with the glorious views from the downs were never before seen in such perfection by the majority of those present.

The last School Picnic at Highclere was held in July 1914 – almost on the eve of the great world tragedy of August 4th of that year – and not a few of our brave lads have made the great sacrifice which helped to bring Peace to the Nations. We bow our heads in reverent remembrance of them, and thank God for those who have been spared and have been enabled to take up their work again.

The work on this occasion was indeed joyous, as load after load of happy people of all ages, but mostly young, were discharged on the soft turf from the motor lorries provided by Messrs. Pass & Co. Three journeys were made each way, the first company starting at 1 o’clock and the last at 3.45 from the Lecture Hall and the return journeys were made, the first at 6.30 and the last at 9.15, thus giving all a fair average of time at the Hill.

The all important function of tea was celebrated on the slopes near the Lodge at 4.30. Mrs. F.C. Hopson and a willing band of helpers catered for the hungry throng, 300 strong, while Mr Henry Marshall eclipsed all his past efforts by the splendid brew he produced. All were unanimous in saying that the tea was an unqualified success. After the tea, sports and games, under the direction of Mr. H. Allen and Mr. Spalding, held in the field, and the first hoot of the lorry’s siren sounded all too soon.

The whole of the arrangements worked perfectly under the direction of the Superintendents of the School, and the result was a day of pure and unalloyed enjoyment. Mention must be made of the kind assistance rendered by Mr. Harris, who in the absence of our newly elected Minister, officiated at the tea, also of the numerous friends in the congregation who contributed so liberally towards the expenses, and are hereby tendered the grateful thanks of the Officers and Teachers.

It may be interesting to shew by way of contrast the cost of a pre-war picnic at Beacon Hill with that of a post-war expenditure for practically the same number.

1914
£ S d
Total expenditure 16 15 1

Less Tea and Rail Fares 3 4 6
Paid for by 43 friends at
1s 6d each
Net Cost £13 11s 7d

1919
£ S d
Total expenditure 17 17 8 ½

RECEIPTS

Balance previous treats 17 0
Contributions 11 3 9 ½
Provisions sold 1 9 2 ½ 13 10 0

Balance Due to Treas. £4 7s 8 ½ d

The cost of transit was the most expensive item this year owing to 50% increase of railway fares and the unsuitable times of the trains an expenditure of £9 had to be incurred for motor lorries. Leaving this item out of the account the other expenses work out to even less than the pre-war picnic.

The cost of tea, including the boiling of water and hire of crockery, was about 5⅓d. per head, inclusive of teachers and helpers – a wonderful result, which, in these days of high prices, reflects great credit on Mrs. F. C. Hopson and those helping her.

The Newbury and Thatcham Congregational Magazine, September 1919 (D/N32/12/1/1/1)

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Such a happy day

Inmates at Wokingham Workhouse got to join in the peace celebrations.

29th July, 1919

The Chairman, on behalf of the House Committee, reported …

That the Master reported on the Peace celebrations held at the Institution on the 22nd instant, as follows:

The Peace Festivities were carried out in accordance with the programme arranged by the House Committee. On Saturday, July 19th, those who were able went out and participated in the Town Festivities and those who were unable to walk and cared to go were taken in motor cars.

On Tuesday, July 22nd, the date fixed for the Festivities at the Institution, the proceedings commenced with dinner, which was served at 1 pm, and in the regrettable absence of the Chairman through illness, the Vice-Chairman presided, the following Guardians also being present: Miss Sturges, Miss Gregorie, Capt. Coston, Messrs Bennett, Aldridge, Rasey and Allnatt, also the Chaplain, Mr Sargeant, and other ladies and gentlemen. After dinner the Town Band played on the lawn, a Roundabout, Races, etc, of all descriptions, and Dancing, were indulged in. A very fine exhibition of dancing was given by the Misses Lauman, Bisher, and Claude, the children from Bear Wood School gave a most excellent display of Plaiting the Maypole and Old English Dances, also singing some charming songs. Tea was served and afterwards the sports and dancing were resumed and continued until dark.

A most enjoyable day was spent, the inmates were most grateful to the Guardians for providing all the good things, and to the ladies and gentlemen who assisted in making such a happy day.

That the Committee had considered the question of a holiday for the Officials in connection with the Peace Celebrations and suggested that each Official should be given a day’s holiday and £1 for expenses.

On the motion of Mr Rasey, seconded by Mr Bennett, a vote of thanks was passed to the Master, Matron and Staff, for the able manner in which they had carried out the Peace Celebrations.

Wokingham Board of Guardians minutes (G/WO1/26)

The final downfall of German militarism: the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen

A woman who grew up in Windsor was present at the celebrations after the signing of the treaty which brought a formal end to the war.

The Peace of Versailles

Probably the most epoch-making moment of the year nineteen hundred and nineteen was that marked by Hermann Muller signing the Treaty of Peace in the name of the German Republic. We did not see that signature affixed. We reached the palace of Versailles as the first gun fired its signal to the waiting crowds. In fact, we were late, for motor cars had been sorely taxed, and we had come with a relay. But the rush in this car from the Arc-de-Triomphe in Paris to Versailles was full of vivid impressions.

Our route lay through the woods of Boulogne-sur-Seine and St Cloud, then in the full flush of their summer glory and lit by a warm sun. The road all the way was kept by French soldiers posted every hundred yards, and at every bend, and as our car dashed furiously along the clear road, people looked at us so curiously, that we felt we must be taken for late arrivals, who hoped at least to defer and perhaps to annul the Treaty.

At last we swung into the long straight avenue leading up to the Palace gates. On either side, dense lines of cavalry – chestnut mounts, azure blue uniforms and helmets overtopped with gleaming lances and red and white pennons, al in perfect alignment. As our late car approached, the whole formation, till then “at ease”, sprang to attention, and we felt we were very fraudulent, and quite undeserving of such salutes. We got out quickly, and as we reached the terrace beyond the Palace, the first gun told us that peace had been signed. The followed a great scene in a great setting: the long park front of the Bourbon’s home, the wide formal gardens of the terrace, the great fountains which play so seldom, and all of these were bathed in sunshine. The Republican Guard were much in evidence, the infantry in dark blue, with befeathered kepis, while the sun was reflected from the dazzling rows of the cuirassiers.

Whilst the German delegates were departing there was silence, but when the “Big Four” appeared, the assembled company on the terrace could restrain itself no longer, and their reception was immense, while the leading representatives of France and England, on making their way to the far edge of the terrace, were well-night carried off their feet by the crowd. The view which these leaders of the Congress had when they eventually reached their goal was unique – in the foreground, the steep slope of the formal gardens, then the high boundary rail, behind it and with the superb avenue and lake for background, the Parisian in his thousands, and with his wife and family all densely packed and cheering.

This was the picture which we left by a side entrance, to seek contrast in the solitude of the great park of Versailles, and there, buried in silent glades, or roaming amidst the artificial rusticity of the “hamlet” it was easy to see again as in a Watteau picture, the senseless but harmless frolics of the Court of Louis XV. Here we were free to muse upon the epochs of history which have had their opening and closing scenes in these surroundings. The revolutionary oath taken in the Tennis Court beyond the palace spelt doom to the regime of artificial shepherds and shepherdesses and all that they implied; from this a span of eighty-two years saw, in the Palais de Glace, the triumph of German militarism, and this day June 28th, 1919, after a further lapse of forty-eight years, had seen its downfall.

An Old Girl.


Clewer: St Stephen’s High School Magazine, 1920 (D/EX1675/6/2/2)

A danger board due to the PoW camp

Traffic associated with a PoW camp was a danger for local children.

May 6th 1919

Wrote to the Education Secretary recommending that a danger board be placed on the road above the school as owing to the German Prisoners’ Camp there is a good deal of motor traffic now passing the school.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 469)

Driving round the decorated route for President Wilson

Florence Vansittart Neale gave one of the nurses caring for her daughter a trip out.

27 December 1918

Sat a little while with Phyllis, then took Sister Bonsall a motor drive round park & decorated route for Pres: Wilson. Could not see much of Phyllis so went to meet H at Paddington. Settled to stay at the “Lawn” till Monday.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Awfully ill

Complications from influenza meant an operation for Phyllis Vansittart Neale.

20 December 1918

Night nurse came 6 a.m. – said she was no better but had slept a little. Did not go in till 10.30. Looked awfully ill. Newton there. Henry & Johnson motored up from Bisham – arrived about 11. Dr said must pierce lung because of pus. Found there was, so arranged for operation soon as possible. Done 6 o’clock. They said successful. Mr Edmunds the surgeon [will?] look after her “as his own daughter”.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Wretched and tense

Phyllis Vansittart Neale suffered a relapse.

18 December 1918

Rang up early, heard good night & better. Half an hour later they rang up & said she was worse. I rushed off in motor. Found she had rigor, another patch pneumonia – temp: up. Stayed till 5. They wanted to get her ready for night so I left. Edith gone to B[ear] P[lace] so I alone at flat. Felt wretched & tense, most painful.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Very sad at leaving my Pussycat

Phyllis Vansittart Neale was still suffering.

10 December 1918

Up to London 9.45. Straight to Hospital. Saw P[hyllis] was feverish. Has pleuro patch in middle of lung. Cough bad but coughs up something now. Read to her in afternoon & left at 4 when motor came. Down with it. Felt very sad at leaving my Pussycat.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Veritable hell: “We knew that some one had blundered, but obedience is the first rule of the army”

Here is a dramatic account of life in the Army Service Corps taking water to the thirsty troops one terrible day in Mesopotamia.

(We publish the following account of an exciting adventure in Mesopotamia in justice to the gallant men of the A.S.C., in case there should still be any who are liable to despise the man not in the front line. ED)

“A Stunt.”
(By a FORD Driver in Mesopotamia)

We had just completed an eleven days’ continuous run, and were expecting a day or two’s well earned rest, but such was not to be.

We reached —— at midnight and “parked up” our cars outside the old Turkish Cavalry Barracks. I “clicked” for guard, and at 3.30 a.m. took a telegram from a despatch rider, containing instructions to move off and load up immediately, So at the first streak of dawn, amid much “wailing and gnashing of teeth”, we “wound up,” and after picking up supplies we started off on a joy ride across the desert to an unknown destination, for a journey of indefinite duration.

We arrived at ——, and to our great joy were informed that we were to rest for the remainder of the day. What hopes!

For the next two days we had barely time to eat the necessary “bully,” so busy were we rushing supplies of all descriptions to an advanced position.

At the end of the second day, thinking we had earned a little sleep, we had just got into our blankets when the whistle announced “fall in.”

This time (about 8.30 p.m.) it was to pick up troops, under sealed orders. For the first fifteen minutes all was well, then we pulled up, and the fun commenced. All lamps out, no smoking, talking or blowing of hooters, the greatest precautions to be taken.

Of course, you should know that we were on the desert, following a track which we had never travelled before, everything pitch black, laden with troops, with the knowledge that with us rested the success of the action planned for the following day break.

When returning the following morning, we could hardly believe our eyes, when we saw the route we had taken in the dark, deep, yawning precipices and huge boulders of rock, and the places of danger which we passed but “where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.” Anyhow, after about an hour’s ride or so, during which time we had relieved the tension on our nerves by smashing a few radiators, losing the column and sundry other mere “inconveniences,” it was decided to pull up for one-and-a-half hours till the moon should show just a glimmer, for progress under the circumstances was absolutely impossible.

This hour-and-a-half was even more nerve racking than driving, as we hardly dared to whisper, for here we were, stranded in “No Man’s Land,” where, apart from the actual enemy, viz.:- Johnny Turk, the great nuisances were the hostile and cunning Arabs, who do not at all object to using us as targets for practical jokes of a serious nature.

At last we started off again, and after many and indescribable difficulties, we parked up under the shelter of a big hill to drop our men and to wait for dawn and further instructions.

The day broke and with the dawn our brave men went over the top of the hill, but Johnny was not asleep this time, for he soon started throwing a few shells over, and we, being somewhat interested, stood on top of our cars to watch the proceedings, until one of the enemy’s aeroplanes “spotted” our “place of rest” and gave information to his artillery, who got our range to a nicety, and we (reckless, daring spectators) began to discover, a few at a time, that the underneath parts of our cars needed attention, but I freely admit, that to stand and allow someone to throw 6in. shells into our midst, while powerless to reply or defend ourselves, did not greatly appeal to me at least.

However, our time of idleness was brief, for word came through, even in the early dewy hours of the morning, that the only water available for our advancing troops was from the salt lakes.

Then we got busy, packets, tanks, buckets, petrol tins, canvas water carriers, everything capable of holding water is flung aboard and we dash off by two’s and three’s from our “park” to gain a river some few miles across the desert.

But Johnny had anticipated our movement and had the river banks nicely covered with snipers and machine guns, so instead of running “en bloc” and filling up altogether, we had to dash up one or two at a time and fill up our receptacles.

When all the difficulties were overcome, and we were ready to commence our return journey, it was approximately 10 a.m., with a temperature of 110° in the shade, when we regained sight of our troops it was practically midday, with a temperature of 128° in the shade.

Then came a veritable hell, the water had to be got to the troops and orders came through that the M.T.’s were to “carry on.”

We knew that some one had blundered, but obedience is the first rule of the army.

The M.T.’s had never been under fire in Mesopotamia before and never since, except in cases of single cars on special detail, but here we were, about eighty cars in column, ordered to practically reach the front line trenches, shells bursting right and left. Did someone mention “Brooklands?”

Never before had Ford cars travelled at such a speed, sixty pounders make excellent accelerators. There were many miraculous escapes, cars riddled with machine gun bullets and shrapnel, some cars put out of action, here and there was a man putting on a spare wheel under fire, but marvellous to relate, not one of our men was touched. I shall not forget a shell dropping and rolling under a car about two yards away.

Thank God, ‘twas a “dud.”

Eventually the trenches were reached, the sight was almost beyond description, dead and dying, troops mad with thirst, they had been drinking salt water, and more men had been “laid low” by sun and thirst than anything else.

Disregarding discipline, our cars were raided, the water speedily drunk, and all craving for more. Then we drove, hither and thither, picking up wounded and dying, and made our way to the field hospital. By this time it was “every man for himself,” and we practically worked individually, using our own discretion. During this time, two of our men gained Military Medals, and one of our officers was “mentioned” and has since received promotion.

Night was now drawing near, but it made no difference to us. Half was ordered to move the Casualty Clearing Station and then drive thirty miles (this time in safety) across the desert for more ammunition.

On the return journey, I, personally, and several of my “pals,” I know, fell asleep over the wheel, to be suddenly and rudely awoke by a “gentle” drop into a hole or a bump against a sand bank.
When we got back we found that our troops had retired about seven or eight miles, and while we were fetching the stores and wounded back, the Arabs had great sport “sniping” at us, and some of us nearly got into trouble for stopping to reply to their “overtures of good will.”

But we successfully completed the retirement, and Johnny did not follow up, so the “stunt” s finished, and we returned to —- for a rest, — what hopes, we were dead beat, no sleep for over fifty-six hours, but within twenty-four hours we were again on our ordinary work of carrying supplies from one dump to another, to be forgotten until the next stunt, but don’t forget, — when the M.T.’s are wanted again, they will be there.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air

Officers were well treated on their visits home, on leave or wounded.

Florence Vansittart Neale
22 June 1918

I & two officers motored to Oxford. Saw Dorchester, had lunch en route. Saw Magdalen, New College & Christ Church. Two MO Canadians here for Sunday, Captains Johnston & Reay. They out all evening. We brought Phyllis home. She left Oxford.

Joan Daniels
June 22nd Saturday

Bruce McPherson has come for the weekend… Bruce has had a very nasty wound in the back of his head which he got last October.

The Austrian offensive seems to have vanished into mid air.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“Even here aeroplanes are more ubiquitous than motor cars and went droning thro the blue at a great height like beetles”

On an antiquarian trip to his home region in the Vale of White Horse, William Hallam took the time to pay his respects at a war shrine.

18th May 1918

Got up at 7. Went to Challow sta. at 20 past 9. Walked thro’ Goosey across the fields – then onto Charney. Here I looked in the church as a young woman was cleaning it and getting ready for a wedding she told me. Notice that queer carving in chapel. Then I copied down all the Inscriptions I could decipher. The I went to a cottage and enquired the way to Cherbury Camp but the old man said I meant Chawberry. He told me the nearest way but I mistook it and went a devil of a way round. However I enquired again and got there alright about 1 o’clock. I was surprised to find such a perfect camp still existing in the midst of agricultural land. I sat on the bank and ate my lunch of bread and butter and a hard boiled egg and revelled in the sun. The cuckoo had been on all day long. The first day I’ve heard him this spring. There was not a cloud in the sky and even here aeroplanes are more ubiquitous than motor cars and went droning thro the blue at a great height like beetles. I sat here and thought for an hour. I looked over the ploughed field in the encampment and found one flint chip.

I came back into Charney the way I should have come – much nearer- and went into the Pub and had a pint and a ½ of ale. This landlady Shepherd knew me by seeing me regularly at St. Paul’s as they lived at Swindon until 3 years ago when they took this Pub. Her husband a smith now working she told me at Cheltenham in aeroplane works and rides on a bike to & from every week end- 45 miles. I asked about this old house near the Church. She told me a lady had bought it 2 or 3 years ago and spent a lot of money on it – then before she had finished it got tired of it and sold it to a Col. Colmes for 1800£ and now he is spending as much as he gave for it in restoring it. Fortunately in antiquarian lines the chapel & all being put back as it should be. When I started back I sat on the Oak bridge and saw the wedding – not a khaki one – party came out – quite a village wedding – all walking.

It was a scalding hot day and as I sat on a heap of stones resting and having a smoke 2 Swindon men passed by and had a chat on their way to Longworth. Further along the road I turned off and went to Denchworth & looked over the Church & churchyard and here I saw the first war shrine. A frame with a crucifix and list of the names of all the young men gone from the village with a prayer for the passer by to offer up for them so took off my hat and said it. Before it on a ledge were 2 brass vases of fresh flowers. I got back to Challow St. at 6 o’clock and got up home here at ½ past 7. The Country is at its best now especially the Vale.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

The honourable list of those who have laid down their lives for their country and the right

A Burghfield woman volunteered to help behind the lines in wartorn Serbia.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Mr J Rapley has been appointed “Warrant Mechanician” (HMS Superb)

Casualties

Captain G O W Willink, MC, 2/4th Berks, killed in action, 28th March

Private J W Cox, 1st Royal Berks, died under operation for wounds (April)

William Duffin, Royal Berks, died in hospital (pneumonia)

Albert Hathaway, Royal Berks, killed in action

Corporal Arthur J Pearse, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, wounded (April)

The parish will have learnt with sorrow that Captain George Willink was on 5th April reported “missing, believed killed, 23-3-18”. No further official notification has been published at the time of writing; but a telegram has been received from records, and private inquiries confirm it, removing all hope. His name must therefore be added to the honourable list of those who have laid down their lives for their country and the right. A fuller statement will be made in the June Magazine. Meanwhile his father and the family are well assured that they have the sympathy of all their neighbours in this fresh trouble.

Mrs Howard, so well known in the parish for her good work at Holiday House and with the Boy Scouts, has gone out as a motor driver with the Scottish Women’s Unit in Serbia. We wish her a safe return.

Burghfield parish magazine, May 1918 (D/EX725/4)

During the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace

The new vicar of Wargrave took on a new role as school inspector for church schools, mainly because his ownership of a horse meant he had transport denied to others.

Diocesan Inspection

There is one General Diocesan Inspector in this diocese who gives his whole time to the work, but the area of the three counties is so large that he can only visit one in each year. He is therefore assisted in each Deanery by an Honorary Inspector, appointed by the Bishop, who examines the Schools in two out of every three years.

The Vicar resigned this office when he left the parish of Medmenham in the Deanery of Wycombe. He has been asked to resume it in this Deanery. There are twenty-six schools to be inspected in the sixteen parishes of this Sonning Deanery. Somebody must do the work and it requires somebody with a horse, (even motor cars cannot run without petrol). So the Vicar has felt that it would not be right to decline. It is very congenial work, but acceptance of any additional task seems to require a word of explanation when we are shorthanded here and the things already left undone are evidence that the Vicar has no time to spare.

The fact is that during the war we all have to make ourselves responsible for more than we could rightly undertake in time of peace. And if we happen to have experience which makes a particular task lighter than it would be to a new hand it is not fair to decline it, unless it is an absolute impossibility. This work is done in the morning in the Schools and late at night at home so it will not much interfere with parochial visiting.

Wargrave parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

Tanks break the Hindenburg Line

Personal tragedy was alleviated by the success of the British forces.

21 November 1917

Henry at committees all day Maidenhead, so motor brought back Dottie & took her to the station. She spent the day with me. We talked & worked.

I have undertaken 2 pr socks & 2 mufflers a week for France.

Heard Willie Parker missing, fear killed. It’s awful!

Brilliant success of our Western Front. “Byng”, tanks & cavalry – broken Hindenburg line. Great surprise to enemy – nearly to Cambrai.

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

Bright moon, bad air raids

The Vansittart Neale girls were both home for the first time since they started nursing the troops.

28 September 1917
Waited [at Maidenhead station] for both girls who had been to London for day’s shopping. All motored home. First time we all 4 together. Bad air raid nearly every night this week – bright moon.

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