“Our Government’s policy renders it absolutely necessary to come in every morning to the food shops, your cycle bearing a basket, which you bring home crammed!”

Several years’ worth of university intakes were crammed into one as demobilised young men flocked to Oxford and Cambridge.

29 Barton Road
19 Oct. 19

My very dear old man

Cambridge overflows just like Oxford. Miss Allen speaks of 5000 u.g.s at the latter, I have heard of 7000 here, and it’s possible that 7000 applied – but this is a small town, and though artisans’ cottages are turned into lodging houses, and at incredible distance from St Mary’s, we certainly cannot overtop the Oxford entry.

You should see the streets at midday, when lectures are over and even the sidewalks become mob. Every u.g. seems to own a motorcycle, and not know how to ride it with safety…

You will understand that our Government’s policy renders it absolutely necessary to come in every morning to the food shops, your cycle bearing a basket, which you bring home crammed!

Ever affectionately yours
Bild

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

A rude German hotel manager causes riots

Germans were still not popular.

22 July 1919
H & I started off about 10 o’clock in pouring rain for our 2 days journey to Dovedale. Cleared at Oxford. Lunch at Banbury. Lovely afternoon. Arrived at Coventry 5.30. Found riots going on. Shops barricaded. Not much relieved by hearing our hotel the chief offence – rude German manager. Mob threaten burn it down. Many police… (All quiet that night.)

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

A memorial to which it is thought that all, whatever their religious opinions, would be glad to subscribe

Clewer planned on two war memorials – one in the church, and one for everyone.

Clewer War Memorials

As our readers are aware there are to be two Memorials to commemorate those of our fellow parishioners who gave their lives for their King and Country in the Great War which by the Blessing of God has been crowned with victory after more than four years of stupendous effort and heroic endurance on the part of the Allies. To commemorate this glorious consummation and the debt we owe to those in this Parish who made the supreme sacrifice in order to achieve it and as a thank offering to Almighty God it was decided more than a year ago in a Vestry Meeting, to restore the Side Chapel in the Parish Church, commonly known as the Brocas Chantry, by placing an altar there and using it for the purpose of the Daily Eucharist. This has long since been accomplished, but as yet it has not been decided what form the Special Memorial shall take. The best way of recording the names of the fallen, which is an essential part of the scheme is not so easy a matter to decide as some may think, especially in an old church like ours. Brass tablets for the inscription of the names, of which we have too many specimens already, are out of keeping with the architecture of the church, and we are strongly urged by the Diocesan authorities to avoid them as a distinct disfigurement to an ancient church. They advise as an alternative that the names be inscribed on a parchment scroll, or in a book which could be kept in the church as a permanent record of our local heroes. For this purpose a beautifully bound book has been presented by the Hon. A. P. Henderson, as previously announced. As soon as the lists are completed and arranged in alphabetical order they will be transcribed, and the book will record in one portion the names of the fallen and in the other the names of the survivors. The architect whom we are employing, Mr. Howard of Oxford, has suggested some further improvements for the renovation of the Chapel which may in time be carried out when sufficient funds have been obtained. At present we have about £70 in hand. So far with regard to the Religious Memorial.

In addition to this a secular and more public memorial has been suggested, which is to take the form of a public Recreation Ground, and to which it is thought that all, whatever their religious opinions, would be glad to subscribe. Towards this purpose some £450 has already been contributed and negotiations are being carried on for the purchase of a suitable piece of ground. Certainly a recreation ground would be a valuable asset to the parish, and would tend to the physical and moral well-being of our young people, who often get into mischief from not having sufficient scope for the legitimate exercise of their physical energies. We commend both the memorials and especially the former to the favourable considerations of our readers.

Clewer parish magazine, June 1919 (D/P39/28A/9)

Vive l’Entente Cordiale!

A wealthy Frenchman living in Burghfield enmtertained wounded British soldiers on river trips. Georges Fiessinger – possibly the obscure artist of that name – married Gertrude Davidson in London in 1912. The couple later moved to Sussex.

More Water Trips for Wounded

A propos of the kind owners of the “Cecilia”, and their good work (see November magazine), it is pleasant to record the kindness shown last summer by our new neighbours at the Manor House, Mr and Mrs Fiessinger, to convalescent soldiers at Oxford. Having fitted out a good sized motor boat with cabins, etc, they took her up the Thames and made Oxford their headquarters, living on board her there for several months, during which time they took wounded soldiers from the War Hospitals daily for trips up and down the river. Mr Fiessinger is of a French family, and was rejected in France for military service, owing to a weak heart. This, however, as our readers will agree, has not affected its warmth, or his will to be of use, somehow, to his Allies, his wife’s native country. Vive l’Entente Cordiale!

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

German fleet begin surrender

Some severely wounded soldiers came to visit Bisham Abbey.

18 November 1918

Fleet begin surrender. Hope submarines going to Harwich.

Fine day. Henry & 2 officers motored to Oxford for the day….

Phyllis’s hospital party came. 3 men & a sister. Great success. They took them everywhere in bath chairs. Left about 4, after tea…

Many prisoners came back.

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

“What keen, sensible, often attractive faces the Huns had: nothing vicious or brutal; even kind-looking, sometimes!”

Florence Image and her frail elderly parents were dealing bravely with the loss of Sydney.

29 Barton Road
28 Oct ‘18

My very dear old man

On Thursday [Florence] goes up to London (and to Cookham), to settle poor Syd’s affairs. She has been in correspondence with the WO (how feelingly and touchingly some of them can write) – the disposal of his kit would be an overstrain for the broken old father. The mother appears so abnormal in the unnatural cheerfulness and insouciance she shews that Florrie dreads the crash which must come, when at last she begins to realise her loss. Both parents inundate poor Florrie with constant reams of letters, of portentous length: and besides, there are numberless letters eternally reaching her from officers, and Oxford people, who loved Sydney. I think these keep her life up – for she is full of energy and even bright…

I saw a posse of Hun prisoners march by, this afternoon, escorted by a soldier with fixed bayonet, and another whose rifle looked innocuous, behind. What keen, sensible, often attractive faces the Huns had: nothing vicious or brutal; even kind-looking, sometimes! And how coarse and vulgar and unheroic look our Tommies – I have often wondered why Punch, for instance, always gives our men animal countenances – and so do the photographs in the D. Mail, whereas the photographs there of Germans are often clean cut and amiable.

Florrie received today from the Front a letter saying that news had just reached the Regiment that the Military Cross had been awarded to Sydney Spencer! Poor Syd, it was promised to him as far back as August. I recall the joy with which he told us as a secret not to be spoken of. It will be a pride to us, in token that, in his 6 months’ active service, he bore himself manfully.

Florrie isn’t the least scared about Influenza. Our streets reek of eucalyptus and all the ladies are sucking Formamint.

With our dear good wishes to you both

Your loving friend
J M Bild

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

Flu at Oxford

The epidemic had now struck the University of Oxford.

20 October 1918
Heard Jack Farrer ill with “flu” at Oxford.

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

How sad it is to lose one’s friends in this terrible war

Sydney’s university landlady sheds new light on him as a soucrce of comedy.

12 Southmoor Road
Oxford

Oct. 4th / 18

Dear Mrs Image

Your sad news came as a great shock to myself & Mother, we do indeed feel Mr Spencer’s loss very deeply, he was a true friend & we always enjoyed his company. He did one good with his bright ways. We never enjoyed a good laugh so much as when he was here. How sad it is to lose one’s friends in this terrible war. Please accept our deepest sympathy, for you have lost a dear brother, & I feel so for his mother, how terribly grieved she will be.

It was good of you to write to tell me. As regards his wish which I appreciate very greatly, will you kindly choose something for me, what you think he would like me to have.

Yours very sincerely
Mary Hobbs

Letter of sympathy from Sydney Spencer’s former landlady (D/EX801/81)

Wounded in his last stunt

The Hallams’ young friend had been injured.

13th August 1918

M. had a letter from Lieut Girling. He is now in hospital at Oxford wounded in his last stunt.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

On a football field in France

Old Boys from St Bartholomew’s Grammar School in Newbury shared their news.

Several letters have come our way from O.N.’s, among them being one J. Allee, who wants to know if there are any other O.N.’s in Palestine, where he is serving as a Captain in the A.S.C., as he has seen no one but Brooks since he has been there, for nearly three years. He seems rather disappointed with Jerusalem, but says that the country around the Dead Sea and the Jordan was well worth seeing, the hills being ablaze with flowers.

H. Pappin, in another letter, tells how he met Newman on the football field in France, where they both had been picked for the same team, the latter recognising Pappin’s name in the list. There seems a favourite place of recognition, for it was in Egypt that Pappin met Hobbs and Beard under similar circumstances. He has been running his battery team, “The Lily Whites,” all the winter, a combination in which what is lacking in science is made up with enthusiasm.

Two most interesting letters have come to us from F. W. Taylor and W. H. Bradfield. The former, who is serving with the Nigeria Regiment at Zungeru, has met our plea for an article by saying that he is writing a Grammar of the Fulani Language, but promises to do his best; while Bradfield, who is with the R.F.A. in France, is in the thick of the present heavy fighting.

J. J. Hurrell, who left the N.G.S. for Bradfield College, in 1913, has just passed through Sandhurst and goes into the Indian Army in September.

A double good fortune is the lot of D. W. Rosling, who is serving at Salonica; for simultaneously with his majority comes the following announcement: May 28th, at Cambray House, Carmarthen, to Florence, wife of Major D. W. Rosling, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, the gift of a son. – Congratulations.

We also have to congratulate two O.N.’s on their marriages; Lieut. E. J. Widle, T.M.B., to Miss Daphne Collette, at St John’s Church, Oxford; and Henry Hoskings, 1st Life Guards, to Miss Phyllis Richens, at St Anne’s, Westminster.

Our casualties are again heavy, though the proportion of wounded is, as last term, small. A. B. V. Brown and I. C. Davidson are both in hospital in England, after having been gassed, while A.L. Sandbach has been discharged through his wounds, after an exciting career. Volunteering for service on the outbreak of hostilities in Africa, he served against German West Africa, under Botha, in Greyling’s Commando, where he was one of the sole two white men serving. German West having been quelled, he returned to his civil duties, but soon after answered the call for men for German East. This time he joined the 2nd South African Horse, with whom he saw some hard fighting, on one occasion having his horse shot from under him. He was promoted to Sergeant and served for about three months longer, after which time he was hit in the thigh by shrapnel at Germinston, with the result as stated that he has been invalided out, returning to his work at Johannesburg. By a curious coincidence, each of these in this branch of the list is an old Victor Ludorum, Sachbach having also tied with Evers for a second year, while the dates of Brown and Davidson respectively, are those immediately preceding the War.

I. K. Fraser, whom we reported as having been wounded, in our last number, has so far recovered as to be able to pay us a visit towards half term. He is looking remarkably fit in spite of all.
Congratulations to G. W. Hall on his Mention in Sir Douglas Haig’s last despatch, and also to J. Allee on his mention in General Allenby’s.

John Cannon has been transferred from the A.S.C. to the 1st Somerset Light Infantry, and is now in the trenches.

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)

A friendly princess

Bisham Abbey received a royal visit.

11 May 1918

Prepared for the Princess Victoria’s visit. Mme d’Hartpond brought her to tea to see house. She very charming & friendly …

Phyllis left 7.21 for Oxford ….

Officers stayed out on river.

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

Both scout and cadet training should form part of the ordinary curriculum

Berkshire teenagers, whether they were still at school or had left to start work at 14, were encouraged to undertake semi-military training in cadet corps.

The following letters have been referred to us for consideration, viz:

9/3/18, from the Secretary of the County Territorial Association to the Secretary of the Berks Education Committee.
23/3/18, from General Sir R Scallon (Director General’s Department, War Office) to the said Association.
2/4/18, from General Sir H Sclater (GOC in C Southern Command) to the same.

The general effect of these letters is as follows, viz: The
Education Committee are specifically asked:

To give official recognition to the Cadet Companies already raised in the County Boys’ Schools of Windsor and Maidenhead, both of which units are recognised by the War Office and are affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks Regiment.

(Note – It is to be noted that the only other cadet units so recognised by the War Office as operating in the county are The Douai Cadet Company, affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks, and the 2nd and 4th Oxford Cadet CLB Battalions, both affiliated to the KRR. The Reading Cadet Company, affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks, is also mentioned as recognised, but this unit draws its recruits from the Borough rather than the County area.)

To urge upon other school masters the importance of raising cadet companies “in the schools throughout the County”.

It is, further, strongly recommended that a Committee should be formed in the County (Sir Robert Scallon suggesting that the Education Committee should undertake the formation of it) with a view to the development of the cadet movement. This Committee would be composed of the Director of Education (i.e. the Education Secretary), of leading gentlemen in the County who are interested in the movement, of employers of boy labour, of the secretary and representative of the Territorial Association, and of representatives of the volunteers and of labour interests. The functions of the Committee would be the encouragement and co-ordination of cadet corps, boy scouts, wolf cubs, and similar organisations, and would also have regard to boys outside any existing organisation. The Committee would not interfere with existing units. Sir H Sclater remarks that a Committee of this kind has been formed for Worcestershire and that it is doing excellent work.

It is pointed out that “the cadet movement is not a military one”, the aim being “the improvement both in character and physique of the boys”. Organised games should form a large part of the training.
Boys, it is considered by the War Office, should be encouraged to be scouts until aged 14 or 15; they should be cadets until 17, when “they might join Section C or the Volunteers if they are so willing”. Scouts wishing to be cadets need not cease to be scouts.
With regard to secondary schools, the writers suggest that both scout and cadet training should form part of the ordinary curriculum; also that school units should as a rule be grouped together, and not form part of either an adult unit nor of a cadet corps composed of boys who have ceased to attend school.
Corps composed of several school units should come together for the yearly Battalion camp, and be under the command of a suitably qualified man, whether a military officer or not.

We are not clear what “official recognition” of existing cadet companies would imply, or what expenditure by the Local Authority would be involved, or how far this could be legally incurred. Moreover, we are disposed to think that any recognition afforded to cadets should be available for scouts…

The Local Education Authority have no authority over secondary schools not maintained by them. Of boys’ schools so maintained, Wallingford School is the only one without a cadet unit. We recommend that the question of the formation of a cadet company at that school be brought to the notice of the governors with a view to their favourable consideration.

We think that such a Committee as is suggested might do good spade-work locally… Whether the Education Committee should take the lead in this matter, or whether it should be left to the Territorial Association is a matter for consideration. On the whole, having regard to the facts that the cadet movement is definitely non-military and that the Local Education Authority is likely to have increasing opportunities of keeping in touch with the lads, the advantages of the former course seems to us to be greater. On the other hand, the work, if taken over by the Education Committee, must eventually throw greater burdens on a depleted and overworked staff, and the suggested constitution of the proposed committee hardly seems to secure to the Local Education Authority such a voice in the proceedings as would be necessary if public money, assigned for educational purposes, is to be expended.

Report of Cadet Training Sub-committee to Berkshire Education Committee, 27 April 1918 (C/CL/C1/1/21)

The work of vandal hands

Sydney Spencer was distressed by the signs of looting and damage by the enemy, but could still delight in natural beauty.

Friday 26 April 1918

I got up at 7.30 & Peyton & I went into the cook-house, & we sat by the fire & talked about Oxford & had a cup of tea, & then we had breakfast. Morning spent in gas drill, rifle inspection & mouching [sic] round & lying about.

After lunch we went down to the platoons & O ticked them off about camouflage. Then went for a ‘scrounge’ with Harvey through the town. Very pathetic. In one house I found beautiful books, furniture & china all pelmel [sic] smashed & broken & torn by vandal hands on the ground. Upstairs large cupboards ruthlessly torn open, quantities of women’s apparel lying thick on the floors, & [illegible] lying full sprawl on the apparel a massive black dog with weak brown eyes, also looked long & sadly at me. In a ruined chateau I found a curious letter written on Sept 25 1915 from here.

After tea rations came. While I was away at D company HQ, 2, 15 point 9 shells got used. B company HQ. No damage to life but a hole in wall just outside the cellar. Tonight Rolfe and [illegible] have gone on working parties.

I gathered some lovely apple blossom from an apple tree blown up by a shell today. Also some forgetmenots, wallflowers, [peonies?], cowslips & bunches of blossoming branches of Tulip Tree.


Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

Help our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy

Mortimer people were chastised for not contributing enough cash to the war effort.

War Savings Association

I am sorry to say that this deserving work of National importance is not receiving from the parishioners the support which it ought to receive.

Although started nearly eight months ago, the number of members is only about 110 – principally school children – and the total subscriptions are less than £100.

In comparison with other villages with similar populations and occupations these figures are lamentably below the average, and it is to be hoped that Mortimer will yet rise to a sense of its responsibilities, and do all in its power to help, by financial assistance, our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy.

Deposits however small, will be gladly received by the Treasurer, at Springfield, on any Friday evening between 5.30 and 6.30, or at S. Mary’s and S. John’s National Schools at any time during school hours.

War Distinctions

Mrs. Gould was at Oxford presented, by the Major-General in Command, with the Military Medal won by her husband Samuel Gould at the Battle of the Somme.

We also congratulate most heartily Driver William Milne on having received the Military Cross.


Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P120/28A/14)