VADs to Reading for a meeting

26 April 1919

Took my VADs to Reading for meeting – Mary, Phyllis, Lottie, Mrs Mead & Katie Paine. Had tea at Heelas.

Found 3 Canadians arrived on our return! 2 brothers Erb & one Williams.

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

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“Now the beds are always kept full”

Many wounded soldiers were treated at Newbury District Hospital, with much help from local people.

The Thirty Third Annual Report of the Managing Committee of the Newbury District Hospital For the year ending December 31st, 1917.

The Past Year has been a very important one for the Hospital.

The figures, giving the number of Civilian Patients admitted, shew a decline compared to the previous year by 34, whilst there is an increase of 27 in the number of Soldiers admitted: this is due to the extra accommodation of 24 beds in the New Annexe constructed during the early spring.

There was a certain amount of delay before these beds were filled, and but for that fact, there would have been a very much larger increase in the number of Soldier Patients for the year.
The Benham Annexe was erected, at the very urgent request of the War Office, at a cost of £386. The Buildings, though similar to the previous one, cost rather more owing to the higher price of material and labour. It is situated on the West Side of the Main Buildings, and adjoins the Thurlow Ward.

Many very useful gifts have been received during the past year. The Local Branch of the British Red Cross Society have provided useful articles for the new ward, amounting to over £50, as well as defraying the cost of entertainments got up for the soldiers. Mr. Fairhurst and the late Mr. Vollar presented a large circulating electric fan for the Benham Ward. Mr. Porter, of Bartholomew Street, did the entire wiring gratuitously, and Miss Wasey gave the sun blinds, which were much needed.

Sir R. V. Sutton kindly lent all the beds, bedding and furniture for the same ward.

The Newbury War Hospital Supply Depot have again supplied a large quantity of bandages of various kinds, also swabs, shirts, and dressing gowns, all of which were much appreciated. Miss Wasey again came forward to organize Pound Day, which took place in June, and was most successful. Many Entertainments were got up by various ladies in the town and district, which were much enjoyed by the soldiers.

Special Donations towards the Benham Ward were received from Mrs. Caine, Sir. W. Walton, Mr. Fairhurst, and the Hon. Sec. Mr. Tufnail sent the proceeds of a week’s Cinema performance which amounted to £67 17s. 0d., and Mrs. C. Ward’s Garden Fete at Burghclere, realised £30 18s. 0d.

During August the War Office transferred the distribution of soldiers from Tidworth to Reading; this was done for the purpose of economising transport; the result has been quite satisfactory to the hospital, for now the beds are always kept full. Whilst the change was being carried out, we were able to close the Wards for a month for the purpose of painting and cleaning, which was thoroughly done.

The Berkshire Branch of the British Red Cross Society asked us to receive paralysed soldiers for special treatment in the hospital; this was willingly agreed to, and also the promise of two beds to be allotted for that purpose.

A very important service that the Hospital is doing just now, is the treatment of discharged soldiers sent to them by the Military War Pensions Committee, who have appointed Dr. Heywood as their Medical referee; these men come to the Hospital either as in-patients, or out-patients, for special treatment, and arrangements have been made that they come at fixed times on certain days for their treatment.

The Financial position of the Hospital is quite satisfactory; it has been well supported with liberal Subscriptions and Donations. The Hospital Saturday Fund amounted to £160; this is a record, and well to be proud of. The success of this fund is entirely due to the energetic Secretary, Mr. W. H. Paine, and his many willing workers. The League of Mercy kindly sent a grant of £15.
The Committee wish to thank, very heartily, all the Medical Staff, in Drs. Adams, Hemsted, Coplestone and Simmons, for all their useful work to the Hospital during a very strenuous year. The Committee’s thanks are due to Dr. Heywood, who returned from abroad in the autumn, and resumed his work at the Hospital; he has been appointed Medical Officer to the soldiers, thus releasing the other Medical Staff.

The thanks of the committee are offered to Mrs. Sharwood-Smith (Commandant), Miss. Cecile Boldero (Assistant-Commandant), Mrs. Adrian Hawker (Quartermaster), and the Ladies of Newbury Volunteer Aid Detachment for the great work that they are doing; to Miss Cecile Boldero, who has been a most consistent worker during the year, and has been a great help to the Staff; to Miss. Salway, who has given her services by providing special treatments to the soldiers; to Mr. Graham Robertson, for his useful help in the clerical work connected with the soldiers; and to Mr. Alleyne for kindly looking after the recreation room.

The best thanks are due to the Matron and her assistant Nurses during a very strenuous year, the increased number of soldiers naturally added very much to their work, and high praise is due to the efficient way in which they have performed their various duties. The difficulties in catering during the latter part of the year increased the work of the Matron considerably, who deserves praise and thanks of the Committee for her excellent management.

Newbury District Hospital Annual Report, 1917 (D/H4/4/1)

Great push begun

There was a mixture of tragedy close to home and better news of the war as a whole.

26 June 1916

Charley Paine & young Sweet killed! He flying. Charlie bombing.
Hear Lille is taken by us! Rumour not confirmed. Hear no letters to come from the Front – great push begun.

Hear Admiral Beattie said 6 big battleships, 7 cruisers, 20 destroyers gone down of enemy in Jutland battle. Hear mist helped us. Our big battleships able to come in range & did terrible damage in 10 minutes.

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

“Rather too much” for a hero

A chance encounter at church with a soldier friend on leave gave Florence Vansittart Neale more news of life at the Front. The man awarded the VC was probably Sergeant Oliver Brooks from Midsomer Norton, Somerset. By coincidence, though, there is a Berkshire connection, because he moved to Windsor after the war, where he worked at the White Hart Hotel, and is buried there. (See the link for more about him.)

31 October 1915

Church early… Church again… Harry Paine there, back for 4 days. Not moving much in his part, only keeping the line while the French move on. Michael came – amusing experiences of fellow officers!…
King decorated VC man in ambulance train. Rather too much for him.

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

Asking after the Bisham boys

As the wife of an old-fashioned benevolent landlord and employer, Florence Vansittart Neale visited tenants to ask about their sons at the Front. She was also aware of the case of George Watson Smyth, heir to Wadhurst Castle in Sussex, being nursed at Highclere. He was to have his leg amputated.

1 October 1915

Called on Horner, Howard, Paine, Steptoe, Brooks & Simmonds – enquire after boys. Rumour Bob Paine killed. William Randall died – overworked.

Girls & I took Moll home – round by Wargrave to leave French flags….

George Watson Smyth at Highclere Hospital. Foot shattered.

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

“Feeding and clothing excellent; only need peace and fine weather”

Florence Vansittart Neale has more news of the war, and is given an explosive souvenir:

Another aerial raid – 40 over Zeebrugge-Ostend. 4 French helped. Guarded German aerodrome. Another French despatches.

Hear Kitchener has commandeered 120,000 boats. In France by May 1st.

Received bit of German shrapnel & German high explosive from Harry Paine. Says feeding & clothing excellent. Only need peace & fine weather.

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

Winston Churchill is admired in Bisham

Florence Vansittart Neale gets a souvenir and considers the war news. She was an early fan of Winston Churchill, then First lord of the Admiralty. Here is the Hansard report of the speech which impressed Florence.


Had piece of shrapnel & explosion from Harry Paine. Very good speech of W. Churchill about Navy….

See about Albert Paine, he to Southampton tomorrow! Also our farm boy (now in house) going off tomorrow!…

Heard Jack Farrer badly wounded.

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

An exciting journey home

Neighbours of the Vansittart Neales had an exciting story to report of a voyage home from India hampered by the fears of attack from enemy shipping.

25 October 1914

Harry & Bob Paine came here. Both returned from India. Exciting voyage home. Large convoy destroyers. German boat signalled to them, but was caught. Took 39 days to come.

Added from end: German submarine sunk by a Fremantle. Four destroyers sunk. We lost 2 men & 4 wounded.

Somebody asked Kitchener “Should we end up top dog?” He said No – Person, much disturbed, asked why! “There won’t be any other dogs!!”

Told by Colonel Scott our government had given order for Army khaki to Austrian firm a few years ago. So that is why we can’t get it. We are now trying to get the dyes.

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