Edible offal versus falling into a sewer

Food rationing had now hit the universities, accustomed to lavish tables. But if John Maxwell Image felt dismayed, he also knew of the privations at the front, and those suffered by French civilians, courtesy of his brothers in law.

29 Barton Road
5 May ‘18

My VDB

Your letter arrived on Friday, and I can’t tell you how it rejoiced me to find you writing in such good spirits. Cheltenham is the place for you, evidently… I am prostrated before… a Communal Kitchen that provides edible food. (So does NOT ours here.)
I am flooded with printed notices from Trinity “in consequence of a change in the Meat Control Regulations”. Butchers’ Meat will, from May 6 (tomorrow), be served in Hall only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. On which days a whole Coupon will be required from each diner.
If he dines without one, or is absent, sans notice, the Fellow incurs a fine of 5/-.

On Mondays and Thursdays, Poultry, Game, Bacon or “edible offal” (!!) will be served instead of Meat. (Note, every item headed with a capital, except “edible offal”.) “And on these days a half coupon only will be required.”

Anyhow, it is “for the period of the war”.

What is to be eaten on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday we are not informed. More “edible offal”?

But the word “Fish” is not mentioned once on these Bills of Fare!

Florence is a genius of a Food Provider. I don’t feel the pinch of hunger. Indeed she and Ruth (the Cook) dish up food that is distinctly “edible”. Salmon, Sole, Bloater, Woodpigeon, etc, and ‘made dishes’ that do the pair credit.

Florence’s two officer brothers write very cheerfully and much oftener than one would expect. Two of their epistles came with yours on Friday, both are in the middle of the great Push, and keep their tails up well.

One had difficulty in getting there. He and his men were stranded within 5 or 6 miles of the British line by the French “borrowing” their “train complete with kits and rations and half their men”.

“The climax (he went on) came when at 2 a.m. this morning one of the party pitched into a ditch which was really the outfall from a sewer. The proceedings were trying for the victim. However he’s quite scraped down now. We dried him in sections before some boilers, and if one keeps up-wind, he’s all right. The worst is, if his kit doesn’t turn up, he has nothing else in France to escape into”.

The other brother sent a very mixed bag. He had been out on a raid the night before. He spoke of cuckoos, housemartins, song birds – lying on his back in an orchard reading the Lady of Shalott, white and blue and tortoiseshell butterflies, – and “when the battery behind us ceased fire for the moment, chaffinches making melody on the trees above” (he must have read Chaucer as well as Tennyson) – then, more sadly, of a “poor old badly crippled woman” who sobbed, in patois, pouring out her troubles to him, and “pathetically asked me whether I would do her the kindness of shooting her! My Captain, who says that he is a well-seasoned soldier, was quite overcome by the incident, so you can imagine that I had to take very great care to preserve an outward calm.”

Most affec.
Bild

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

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“At last, Sir, I’ve got my blighty”

One of Sydney Spencer’s men was quite pleased to receive a mild wound – it meant going home to England.

Monday 29 April 1918

Got up early and had a cup of tea & smoke in the cook house. Washed & shaved etc before breakfast, being the only one up! At 9.5 I took usual parade with my platoon. I also inspected No 7 platoon. At 12.30 shrapnel came over & a man in No. 8 platoon got a small wound in the back.

2.45 pm. Just going for a hot bath at the brewery. This did not come off as the rations came & I had to wait & send a note down to Sergeant Green. Had a letter from OB, & one from Cubitt.

After tea went over & had a chat with my men. Made a map of our position.

After dinner, Hervey & Peyton took out working party. My platoon got lost under an NCO who had not been out, and there were some casualties. Some arrived home & some went to dressing stations. I went down to them & saw the casualties. [Cheney?] was one of them and he beamed on me & said, “At last, Sir, I’ve got my blighty”.


Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/15)

“He sang a cheery song to me which for a wonder was not disturbed by the boom & shriek of shells”

Sydney Spencer could still delight in birdsong.

Saturday 27 April 1918

Got up at 7.30. Last night our goods came up, also drinks. Thank goodness the drinks came as everyone was getting very weary of waiting & I was wondering how long my popularity as MP would last! We had our usual parade at 9.45. Inspection of rifles… I got a lot more camouflage done. Wrote to Florence.

After lunch read a little. Went down to company, inspected ammunition, gave the men some cigarettes. Came back to orchard behind my platoon & read Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott” & a few others. Saw a blue butterfly & other butterflies. I saw also a lovely cock chaffinch. He sang a cheery song to me which for a wonder was not disturbed by the boom & shriek of shells.

After tea wrote to Florence. Then came post with rations, bringing me despatch case & lots of useful articles & a long letter from Florence. She pulled my leg by addressing me as Sir – yours to hand etc, & signed it Yours faithfully, Image & Co.

Went on working party Suffs with Peyton from 8-11 pm.

After tea officers of A Company called on us. Then went for a walk towards windmill on our left. At 8 I took a working party to Suffs. In orchard over way about 8 ten shells burst all round us, one slight casualty only. During work on CT Trench was [enfiladed?] by shell fire & luckily all shells landed on parapet.

Heard a nightingale singing in the orchard this morning.

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

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)

A game with Johnny Turk

A Sunningdale man was fighting in Turkish-ruled Palestine.

Bevis Jerome’s letter from Palestine we are reluctantly obliged to condense for we have not space for the whole of it. He writes on April 23.

‘We have made some big moves since I wrote last to you, and have been through some heavy fighting, but I am glad to say I have come through it safely so far. We started off for the first push from Beulah and the first place we went through was Beersheba. I expected to find a town, but it had only a few nice buildings and mostly mud huts. We then went up into the Judean hills and came up with the Turks again. They were holding some very strong positions and just behind them were some wells that we wanted to get.

Well it took us four days to drive them from the hills and I can tell you we were jolly glad when they were on the run again for we had had just about enough of it. Then we had a short rest while the mounted troops chased till they were held up and of course we had to go in again.

We have had some very long marches and it was wonderful how they managed to get our rations up and the guns along for it is a very bad country. After a time we came to Solomon’s wells outside Bethlehem. The Turks were holding some strong positions but soon had to give way. The weather at this time was very bad as the wet season had started and we had only thin drill suits.

We had a very rough Christmas as we were in the lines and it rained hard all day and it was February before our mails arrived, still better late than never. Our boys had a game with Johnny Turk a few days before Christmas. It was an early morning stunt and I do not know who were more surprised, our lads or the Turks, for they were at each other before they knew it, and some of the Turks were still under their blankets, you may guess it did not take long to hustle them out. We got over 100 prisoners and 3 machine guns. Not a bad Christmas bow.

I have been to Jericho and do not think many of us want to go there again. The weather is a treat now and we are in the line at a pretty part of the country. I am enclosing a photo of the Hill of Temptation just outside Jericho which I bought at the Monastery that you can see about half way up. It is a wonderful place and built right into the mountain. It is the hill where Our Lord was tempted by Satan.

Again thanking you for the nice parcel,

I remain yours respectfully,

Pte. B. Jerome.’

Sunningdale Parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P150B/28A/10)

Soldiers’ pay for digging the garden

Scattered Homes were small children’s homes intended to provide a more homelike atmosphere for children in the workhouse authorities’ care.

26th March, 1918

The following Committee is appointed to consider the application of the Porter and Porteress for an increase in their salary and to consider a scale of war bonuses for the Officers, viz Messrs A. Frogley, W. L. Bennett, J. A. Gauntlett, R. K. Slade, Revd C W H Griffith and Miss Campbell.

It is resolved that L/C Buckley be paid the usual Soldiers pay of 1/8 per day with rations whilst employed in digging the garden at the Scattered Homes.

Minutes of Wantage Board of Guardians (G/WT1/23, p. 305)

“The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground”

A Reading man writes of his latest experiences at the front – and the death of a friend.

Our “Boys”

This terrible war has taken from us yet another of our brave soldier lads. Horace Pinker, who quite recently lost his brother and mother, was killed in France on the 5th of April. May the God of all comfort be very near to his father, sisters and brother – to console them in their keen sorrow!

The following extract from a letter sent by Eric Chapman to his mother is especially interesting, as it refers to the circumstances and death of his friend:-

“To return to my personal doings, it is unnecessary of course for me to allude to the German retirement on the western front, seeing that the papers are full of it. As you must have guessed, this has made a great difference to our lives, as we have had to be constantly hot on their heels. At times we come to close quarters with them, but on the whole they do not show much fight, and easily surrender or retire. The country over which we are advancing has been most thoroughly and diabolically destroyed. The villages have been ruthlessly pillaged, burnt, and razed to the ground. Not a thing of any value has been left behind by these barbarians. Even the young fruit trees have been deliberately maimed and rendered incapable of bearing fruit. Naturally this has made it most hard for us following in their tracks, as they intended it should, but we are able to overcome all difficulties and continue our victorious advance. There is not the slightest doubt we are winning by force of arms and smashing the Huns back to their own country. May the end come suddenly and speedily!

“Our battalion has just returned from a special attack, in which it distinguished itself, and about which the Colonel has given permission to write, so I am quite in order in relating a few facts without giving valuable information away. Our objective was a large village, fortified and held by the Huns. We commenced the attack in the early hours of the morning, and had to advance a distance of over 2,000 yards, before we came to grips with the enemy. It was snowing slightly at the time and a thin layer covered the ground as the men moved forward in waves to the attack. After we got fairly going I felt strangely exhilarated, and, much to my surprize quite unconcerned by the possibility of danger. The Huns yelled when they saw us coming, but our fellows yelled still louder, and never wavered a moment under the enemy’s fire. Barbed wire impeded our movements to a small extent, but in short time we had reached the village and were careering like mad through the streets. The Huns did not stand a ghost of a chance then, as our men paid back old scores, and in a few seconds they were doing their best to retreat. Many got back to tell the tale to Hindenburg, but I am thankful to say many not. It was not long before the whole village was in our hands, and after we had consolidated our gain we had some sport looking for souvenirs. The most interesting thing to us was the Germans’ rations which they left behind. Some of the men ate them, but although I am not dainty on this job, I did not have! The meat looked tempting enough, but had the undoubted characteristics of worn-out cab horse!

“I am glad to say our casualties on this occasion were comparatively few, although I regret to have to relate the death in action of Horace Pinker. He was killed by a bullet, and died before the stretcher–bearers could get him to the dressing station. It is very sad for his people, but they can have the satisfaction of knowing that he died bravely and nobly, and was accorded a decent burial.”

It has long been felt that we have not done all that we might for those of our numbers who are taking part in this bitter struggle. At Christmas our young people collected enough to send parcels to all on the Institute Roll of Honour. Now it is wished to do the same for the others, and the kind help and generous support of all our friends if asked. We feel confident that this appeal will not be made in vain! Contributions may be sent to Miss Gough, Mrs. Hamilton Moss, Mrs. Streeter, or Miss Austin.

Trinity Congregational magazine, May 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Cambridge is crammed with cadets

The Image cats’ joy at the effect of food restrictions on their own diet, mentioned by John Maxwell Image on 13 February, inspired his wife Florence to write a comic article. It became her first publication when it appeared in Punch. Dr Image also noted sadly that all the new undergraduates were international students, all the British school leavers having joined up.

6 May 1917
My dearest old man

Cambridge is crammed with cadets. There are also youths in caps and gowns. I saw some in the Great Court when I dined last in Hall – alas not one English face above the white collars.

Your kind congratters on “Rations” pleased the Signora greatly. This morning she had a letter from her brother at the Front containing the compliments of the Mess to whom he had, dutifully, read it – and about three day ago another brother, in another part of France, vowed that the Punch so stuck out his pocket that he went about gingerly, fearing a reprimand for the misfit of his tunic. How fond the brothers are of her!

Tuissimus
JMI

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

Village party to talk rations

Florence Vansittart Neale was impatient when others failed to do their share of the work.

2 May 1917

2 hours Food Meeting of Executive. Really ought to have got on, but secretary seems to have done nothing. Fixed workers’ meeting Friday. Had village party (30) to talk Rations. War tea & garden after. Quite pleasant. All willing.

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

A sermon on rationing

The vicar of Bisham preached on the food situation.

29 April 1917
Willie preached: “Sunday labour” in morning, “Food Rations” in evening.

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

News of the Spencers reaches Switzerland

Sometimes Will Spencer felt isolated from family news in his home in Switzerland. So it was good to hear how everyone was getting on.

8 April 1917

By the first post this morning we received a short letter from Father. Florrie has got a sketch entitled “Rations” into “Punch”. Percy has been offered a commission. Harold better. Stanley & Gilbert cheery. Stanley has sent Mother £5, in addition to the 3/6 a week which he allows her.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

“So ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick”

Hungry young art student turned medical orderly Stanley Spencer was equally desperate for food, books and art while serving in Greece.

March 27th 1917.

Dear Florence,

I am no longer in the 68th or 66th F.A., so note my new address. Simply alter number of F.Amb. to 143rd. The remainder of the address is the same as it always has been. I was sorry to lose the C.O. of the 68th and I was getting on well in the 66th. If you think you can afford it could you send me out some eatables of some kind, say biscuits or those tinned cakes – cakes in air-tight tins.

Send me one of those little 6d Gowan’s and Gray’s books of Masterpieces of Art. Send me Raphael.

You must not think that I ask for eatables because I am not getting enough food. On the contrary, I am getting good rations, as we all are, but I get so ravenously hungry up in these hills that I could eat a hayrick. It is being out-of-doors so much.

And about books: it is impossible to get them here. A field Amb. is not like a hospital at Salonique where you can buy books, etc. Robert Louis Stevenson is a man whose writings I love.

I do not know if any parcels containing eatables have been sent to me; if so, none have ever arrived. But with the exception of the wonderful ‘Daily News’ Christmas pudding which I never got (and would like to know why), I do not think anything in that line has been sent to me ever since I left England on August 22nd last.

With much love

From your ever loving,

STAN.

Letter from Stanley Spencer to Florence Image (D/EX801/20)

A call for economical but wholesome recipes

The vicar of Wargrave was at the heart of the village’s flourishing War Savings Association, and also efforts to encourage food to be produced locally. The March issue of the parish magazine announced:

War Savings and War Rations

A meeting of the Wargrave War Savings Association will be held on Saturday, March 10th at 7 .p.m., in the Iron Church Building. All Parishioners are most cordially invited to attend. The subject of War Rations will also be discussed.

The total sum paid into the Secretary’s hands up to February 26th, amounts to £1014 9s. 6d., which has been extended in the purchase of 726 Certificates value £1 five years hence; 21 value £12 five years hence: and 13 value £25 five years hence.

Bonus

There is no doubt that the Chairman’s kind gift of one sixpenny coupon on every Certificate up to ten has proved a strong inducement to save that number. And he is so pleased with the response that he has most generously determined to extend his offer up to 25 Certificates for each person.

Vicarage Office Hours

On Saturdays 9.30-10.30 .a.m. and 5.30-6.30 .p.m. the Parish Room is open for War Savings Business.

Certificates due members may then be obtained, and Certificates may be purchased.

During the days of the War Loan the Vicar was glad to welcome War Savings business on any day and at any time when he was at home, but he must now ask members to be more particular in the observance of Office Hours.

Money may be sent to the Vicar if accompanied with a clear statement of Certificates required, full names and sufficient postal address.

The meeting duly took place:

War Savings Association

A very well attended Meeting was held on Saturday, March 10th, in the Iron Church Building. Mr. Bond presided and gave an address on Food Production and War Rations.

A Committee was appointed for Food Production of which Mrs. Bulkeley is Chairman, supported by Mrs. Hinton, Miss. Rhodes, and Messrs. Butcher, Chenery, Crisp and Pope.

A good deal of work has already been done in organising parties to dig, and in providing allotments and seed potatoes for those who want them.

A Committee was also appointed for Food Economy in charge of Mrs. Winter, supported by Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Cain, Mrs. Chenery, and Mrs. Hermon.

It is hoped that the committee may give much help in disseminating information and enlisting support. Mrs. Winter will be very grateful for any economical recipes which have proved wholesome and successful. These recipes will be exhibited in the Parish Room.

Wargrave parish magazine, March and April 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

On food rations

Cookham-born expat Will Spencer found that food shortages at home were mirrored by those in Switzerland. His mother Anna, meanwhile, expressed her sympathies to the German family of missing soldier Max Ohler.

17 February 1917

Read in the paper that the hotels, etc, are to give no meat on two days of the week, & never more than one meat course at a meal. Further, land is to be put under cultivation to the extent required to meet the needs of the situation now in prospect….

A letter from Mother…. Mother tells me they are “on food rations” now, but the amount allowed is exactly what “they have of meat & bread, but not so much sugar”. Mr Sandalls, aged 85, saws wood, & says “if anybody wants a boy to saw wood & bring coal, he can do it”. Mother is very sorry for Max Ohler’s parents.

After tea, together to the Hauptpost, from whence I sent money home.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

“The narrowest escape I ever want”

A Reading man reported on his experiences in the trenches, transporting food supplies under fire – and one very narrow escape.

IN THE TRENCHES “SOMEWHERE IN BELGIUM”
EXTRACT FROM LETTER FROM HARRY CHANDLER, 4TH ROYAL BERKSHIRE REGIMENT

I am writing this letter in the trenches while off duty for a short time. We marched from our last place yesterday about eight miles; the roads are very bad here for marching, being all cobbles in the centre and mud at the sides.

I do not get much time to write letters or do anything for myself.
There is plenty of hard work to do and I will tell you what we did after coming out of the trenches the last time, that is, the four days we have spent at the ‘Piggeries’.

In the morning we were subjected to a very heavy shelling from the Germans – quite a warm time and not at all pleasant, and you never knew what was going to happen next. After dinner we packed up and when the other company came in about three o’clock to relieve us, we gave over our trench and departed for the Piggeries, arriving there about 4.30, had tea and a wash, and then at 7.30 paraded in drill order and marched to a place where all the stores, rations, water jars, and in fact everything is placed for us to carry to the trenches. There you see piles upon piles of timber, mountains of food of all descriptions in tins, all ready for us to carry the distance remaining between the firing lines and the trenches where the transports cannot go. When it is dusk, if you look carefully, you will see numerous parties of men drawn from all the companies waiting by the side of the roads for the signal to take up something or another and move off. I am in A Company’s party, and when the QMS gives the signal our party slowly moves up and each man receives a load; perhaps it is with another fellow to carry a very large sack of bread or coal, etc, one at each end of the sack; perhaps, if your luck is in, it is only 75 lb of jam in bags in tins, or a side of bacon – of course with these last things you get no help, but carry them yourself all the way. Please remember we are in drill order carrying our rifles slung over the shoulder.

When every man has his load we slowly move off and another party takes your place and so on nearly all night. When you get along perhaps a quarter of a mile all sit down and have a rest, and then go on like that till you come to apart where you are out in the open, under rifle fire from the enemy, and then there is no stopping unless they turn a Maxim on us which nearly always happens, then we lie flat down at once until it ceases. Of course no smoking or talking is allowed.

After you arrive at your destination and deliver your goods you return with the empty water jars, etc, and this goes on all night.
When you arrive at the end of your last journey you are stiff, tired, weary, worn and sad, and are not even allowed to take off your boots and puttees, so have to sleep in them after marching all day. It takes us ten minutes when we wake up to find our feet they are so numbed and stiff. We have not had one complete night’s rest for six weeks.

The other day we went into N—, a distance of 4 ½ miles away, and all of us had a hot bath. Just fancy marching nine miles for a wash!

While I was on sentry duty recently in the trenches, it was just time for all the fellows to come out, when buzz – over came German shells bursting all around us; dirt, sand bags, wood, etc, flew, and we were smothered. It was a very lucky escape for me as one shell burst about two feet from me and I picked up the top of the shell with the time fuse, etc, complete, which I shall be sending home shortly.

The last time I was in the trenches I had the narrowest escape I ever want. A sniper was firing and one of the bullets came through the earth which we were throwing up and just grazed my face, the dirt going in my eye. I really thought for the second that I was done for.

We are now going for four days to a rest camp up on the hills. I am pleased to say I am in the best of health and feeling merry and bright. Certainly my four years in the old Volunteer Cyclist Corps has stood me in good stead.

Please remember me to all friends.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, July 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)