A bathing grievance on the part of the Women Munition Workers

Public baths offered both a swimming pool and washing facilities – particularly useful for workers living in rented rooms with no bathrooms. In a more modest era, single sex facilities were normal.

Thursday, June 14th, 1917

Analysis of Flour

The Acting Inspector was requested to take action under the Order of the Food Controller and to obtain samples of the flour used by the bakers in the manufacture of Bread.

Baths – Hours for Women

The Mayor stated that there existed a grievance on the part of the Women Munition Workers in consequence of their inability to use the Public Baths on account of the hours on which the Baths were open to women. The present hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday 11 am to 1 pm.

The Committee decided that the Baths should be open to women in addition to the above, on Tuesdays and on Sundays from 9.30 am until 12.30 pm. The baths would therefore cease to be open to men on the two evenings of the week mentioned, and children would not be admitted on Sundays between 9.30 am and 12.30 pm.

Newbury Borough General, Sanitary, Baths and Cemetery Committee minutes (N/AC1/2/8)

A great demand for women munition workers

The vicar of Reading called for women to sign up as trainee munitions workers.

Notes from the Vicar
Intercessions list:

Lieut. W.T. Stevens (6th Leicestershire Rgt.; Arthur Holt; Corpl. Wm Taylor.

To the list of the departed we must, alas, add the names of Lieut. Wm Marsden Cooper, Lieut. S. Wakeford.

There is still a great demand for Woman Munition Workers (aged 18 to 35) who are prepared to leave the district. They can be trained at University College.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

“This year we shall be obliged to keep Lent, whether we like it or not”

Shortages were beginning to affect everyone.

LENT

It seems that this year we shall be obliged to keep Lent, whether we like it or not. Railway travel has been curtailed, food prices are still rising, food is getting scarce, and all the efforts of the nation are to be devoted to winning the war. As Church-people we are used to the season of Lent, but there is a question whether we have kept it as we ought, in fact it is certain that many Church-people have paid very little attention to the Church’s injunctions in this respect. But we cannot disobey the State with impunity, and we should be extremely selfish if we did not do our bit to practise economy, and so help to save the Nation’s food. There are many who might, with advantage, purchase War Savings Certificates, to help the country and to make provision for the future; and we would beg all our readers to do their very utmost to carry out the Food Controller’s instructions, in the spirit in which they were issued. The Germans are not yet decisively beaten – if this is to be done, everyone of us will have to help.

We should like to offer our sincere sympathy to Mr and Mrs Savage on the untimely death of a good son and promising young soldier. Edward George Savage was confirmed at the Parish Church in 1912. He passed away from the effects of pneumonia, following upon an attack of measles… The coffin was borne by soldiers, and there was a following party of the Royal Flying Corps.

We would also offer our sincere sympathy to Mrs Manley on the death of her husband on service, as announced in the “Newbury Weekly News” of February 15th.

The National Schools have had a bad time during the long continued frost: first of all on account of the heating apparatus misbehaving itself; and secondly, on account of the water being frozen. The Managers have endeavoured to remedy the former by adding to the boiler: it is possible that the coke does not nowadays give out so much heat, as certain properties have to be taken out for the manufacture of explosives.

The Parish Room has now been evacuated by the Military, and has returned to its usual state. The soldiers were very quiet and well behaved during their stay there. The occupation brought in a little money to the Parish Room Fund. We trust that outside people, who have been accustomed to use the room, will now appreciate the privilege more. The men who were billeted in the Parish Room desire, through the medium of the Parish Magazine, to sincerely thank all those who so kindly contributed to their comfort during their stay there.

Mrs L R Majendie would be grateful for gifts of material, such as cretonne, for the members of the Mothers’ Meetings to make “treasure bags” for wounded soldiers.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, March 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

Belgians want peace at any price – and no wonder

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, while Lockinge-born railway worker William Hallam was making weapons for the war in Swindon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 December 1916

Lloyd George forming a ministry. Things in bad way. Greece blockaded. Fear for troops in Salonika….

Met Gustav Kupor. Feel very sorry for Belgian soldiers. No wonder they want peace at any price.

William Hallam
8th December 1916

In to work at 6 to night and by the morning I had finished this war work. Howitzer gun arches.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Collision in the Irish Sea

The tragedy referred to here was the sinking of the SS Connemara (a passenger-carrying steamer) and Retriever (a coal vessel), which collided at the entrance to Carlingford Lough in Northern Ireland on 3 November 1916. There was only 1 survivor. Some of the victims were young Irish women travelling to England to work in munitions factories.

4 November 1916

Collision in Irish Channel owing to storm. 90 killed!

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

Working on howitzer guns all night

Night shifts at the munitions factory in Swindon continued to be hard work.

14th October 1916

When I got home at ¼ past 6 this morning I lit fire, washed, fried some sausages for breakfast and got to bed at ½ past 7. Got up at 3 and went down town to get some safety razor blades sharpened and stamps for Income Tax. Home and had my tea and in to work again at 6. Working on 6” howitzer gun arches. A rough windy night.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Night shift in the munitions factory

William Hallam was doing night shifts making guns at the GWR works.

10th October 1916

Dull again. I have to shift on to another lathe to-morrow on gun work and work nights. A very rough night.


Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Blood money

William Hallam, originally from Lockinge, worked at the Great Western Railway works in Swindon, which had been converted to munitions work. He had an unexpected reaction to higher wages.

5th October 1916

Heard to-day we are getting a War Bonus on our wages of 5/. a week. – blood money I call it.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Finished gun work

William Hallam worked at the GWR works at Swindon, at this time including munitions work which meant higher pay.

4th September 1916
Finished gun work and back on wheels again so no overtime.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Working on gun plates

William Hallam, originally from Lockinge, was working hard making munitions at the Great Western Railways works in Swindon.

2nd September 1916
Working on gun plates till 5. Limed my cabbage plants. Had a bath and went to bed at 9 o’clock. Didn’t go out at all.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Leaving to take up munitions work

Two female teachers come into the spotlight today. One woman was leaving teaching to work in a munitions factory, the other had lost her soldier brother.

July 28th 1916.
Miss Robinson finished duties here today, she is

1916, July 28
Miss Lock has been absent all this week – owing to brother’s death (War)

Mrs Bland’s School log book (86/SCH/1/1, p. 209); Katesgrove Girls’ School log book (SCH/6/8/2, p. 420)

Providing hostels for Girl Munition Workers

Women and girls in Bracknell were supporting the war effort in various ways.

G.F.S.

A sum of £26 6s. 5d. has been collected by the Association and Members of the Sunninghill and Warfield Branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society and sent to Headquarters for the provision of hostels for Girl Munition Workers. Of this sum £6 13s. 11d. was collected in Bracknell.

WAR WORK DEPOT.

The work at the depot continues with unabated energy. On March 22nd 300 badges, with accompanying certificates, from Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, of which Bracknell is a Branch, were distributed to all those who, having worked regularly for the Guild for three months, had thus become eligible. A few days later the Secretary received the following letter from the Central Depot, Cavendish Square:-

The Council have much pleasure in informing you that Her Majesty the Queen has been graciously pleased to sanction the issue of a Royal Certificate to your Depot, as a Branch of the Central Depot, Surgical Branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild. Very few of these Royal Certificates are to be granted, and the list of depots was submitted to Her Majesty, who graciously approved of the recommendation of your Depot. The Council are confident that your Depot will appreciate the honour bestowed by Her Majesty.

The granting of this Royal Certificate has given the greatest pleasure to the Committee, as it came as a complete surprise; and they share with our Workers the satisfaction which we all feel at the recognition by Her Majesty of our united efforts.

There are still a number of Workers qualifying for their Badges and Certificates, and the Committee wish to take this opportunity of saying, that as soon as they have worked regularly for three months for the Guild, they are entitled to apply to the Secretary for them.

Chavey Down section of Winkfield District magazine, May 1916 (D/P151/28A/5)

A refugee makes munitions

A Belgian refugee being supported by Maidenhead churchgoers had found work – which was also supporting the war ewfort.

OUR BELGIANS.

At a meeting of the Committee on May 8th, it was decided that since M. Van Hoof was earning wages as a worker of munitions (at High Wycombe) it was no longer necessary to pay him the weekly allowance in money, but that for the present the Committee should continue to be responsible for the rent, coal and gas. In consequence, subscribers were invited to reduce their weekly contributions once more by one-half.

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

A ghastly pantomime

John Maxwell Image wrote to his friend W F Smith with news of a visit from a distinguished former pupil; reactions to a threatened air raid; and a book he had read by ‘Ian Hay’ (the pseudonym of a serving officer).

29 Barton Road, [Cambridge]
3 April ‘16
My most dear old man

That was a tumultuous week just passed. Tuesday’s blizzard came on in an undreamed of fury. We were delightedly entertaining an old pupil – now CE and General Commanding a Brigade of Cavalry, who passing thro’ C[ambridge] on the day previous, had learnt my marriage, and came off at once with his congratulations and the remembrances he was charged with by his brother – another pupil and now Colonel of an Infantry Battalion and DSO. It was a happy meeting. Florence apologised for having to put his teacup in a writing table in our tiny drawing room, because we had not yet set up one of those cunning nests of teatables. Next day arrived a beauty from him, begging we would accept it as a belated wedding present. A day later, and he was ordered away again: but the flying call was such a delicious whiff out of the early past.

I never saw such blinding snow before, and oh the prostrate treeboles next day – like spillikins on the grass. I counted 50 khakis labouring on their trunks in our paddocks, and at least as many in St John’s…

On Friday evening I was finishing a letter when suddenly the electric light went down, then rose, then sank – three times altogether, and left us with the faintest glimmer, just shewing enough that someone else was in the room. The official C. warning of Zepps. We packed the servants in snug armchairs by the kitchen fire: and ourselves went out into Barton Rd, where were sundry residents, chattering under the stars, – and a Trinity friend of mine in khaki, stopping all cyclists and compelling them to put out their lights. The sharp military “Halt” in the dark made at least one fellow tumble off his bike in terror! People said they heard bombs. I heard nothing, not even the drone of a Zeppelin – though one or more did pass over C – but innocuous. The Berlin news claims, I see, C among its victims.

Yesterday, at 11 pm, I was pulling off my trousers for bed, when down once more went the ghastly pantomime of the lowered lights and I had to rouse those integuments and go forth to see what was to be seen. On both nights the lights were kept down till 4 am. This morning the sudden raised flash woke me up from the sweetest slumber.

I hear from our carpenter that much damage has been done at Woolwich, where he has a couple of sons. Not a hint of this is suffered to appear in the Press….

“In Germany the devil’s forge at Essen was roaring night and day: in Great Britain Trades Union bosses were carefully adjusting the respective claims of patriotism and personal dignity before taking their coats off.

Out here we are reasonable men, and we realise that it requires some time to devise a system for supplying munitions which shall hurt the feelings of no pacifist, which shall interfere with no man’s holiday or glass of beer, which shall insult no honest toiler by compelling him to work side by side with those who are not of his industrial tabernacle, and which shall imperil no statesman’s seat in parliament.”

Read “The First Hundred Thousand” by Ian Hay (of Joh.[St John’s College]. I Hay (I forget his patronymic) is at the Front and describes the training and subsequent war experiences of a Kitchener’s Battalion so graphically that I have never seen it better done.

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

“All the poor Serbs died like flies”

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph with news of an escaped British prisoner of war’s horrific experiences.

March 27/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My darling R.

Thank you for yours of 16th. It must be very boring for you with so little doing. You must all feel very like sea-weed left high & dry after a gale! Still you never know. Things in France seem settling down again rather. It’s a comfort anyhow to think the Hun cannot re-make all the men they’ve just thrown away anyhow. Beeky Smith writes a most amusing account of the French in their part of the line. He says they all look about 70 & wander about with brown paper parcels in their hands, presumably food, & generally a bottle of wine sticking out somewhere, & they never appear to carry any weapon or equipment whatever!

The last excitement here is a private just escaped from prison in Germany. Taken (wounded) Sep. 14, 1914. He gives the most gastly [sic] account of things. They think he’s truthful as he’s so shy it’s a job to make him talk so he’s not likely to invent. Like them all he says the journey after being taken was the worst time, & always it was the officers who either ordered or if need be personally ill-treated the prisoners. He was in 3 prisons, & twice before tried to escape. He says it’s fairly easy for men to escape really, but practically impossible for officers, they are so terrifically guarded. He finally got away with two Frenchmen – acrobats. They went through what was supposed to be impassable swamp land swimming two rivers, & so into Holland, where the Dutch were awfully good to them & did all they could & apparently loathe the Huns.

He had various punishments various times for trying to escape & also because he refused to work in munition factories – one punishment they call sun punishment in the summer is to stand a man 12 hours to attention with cap off facing the sun. The idea being to blind the man. Prison imprisonment [sic] means solitary confinement in total darkness. He had one go 4 days in the dark & one in the light & then 4 days dark & so on. Prison food is a piece of bread 3 inches square per day, & water.

He says our men live solely on parcels from home. The camp food is impossible, but as this man fairly says, it’s not any worse than the German soldiers guarding them had, & at all times Germans eat worse food than us. He says when he first went to Hun-land there were men & women to be seen everywhere, now every place is deserted – the men to fight & the women doing the men’s work. For 5 days & nights they had no food or drink when they were 1st taken. Apparently they all loathe & distrust the Belgian prisoners. All the poor Serbs died like flies when they arrived as they had been starved, absolutely to death, during the journey to the camps.

There is much more but it’s the same as all these men say & no doubt you’ve heard it all before. One amusing thing is that when our men work on the land as they have to, they do everything they can to foil the show. Plant things upside down etc!!…

Your ever loving Maysie

It was angelic of you sending that letter off to that man in hospital.

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3)