15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!

With revolutionary Russia out of the war, many German troops were freed up to face the Allies.

6 December 1917

Heard of our giving up Bourlon Wood. Very bad, but 15 more German divisions coming from Russian front!!

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

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Farms willing to have women workers

Florence Vansittart Neale and Miss Dane continued to work on the initiative to get more women in farmwork.

5 December 1917

Miss Dane & I dropped Henry at Maidenhead, then on to Holyport. Miss Coatt saw nice old farmer – no good. Then visited our farms about women on the land – all willing to have them. Home for lunch. Sent Miss D. to Hurley farmers after lunch.

America declares war on Austria.

Russian terms for Armistice!!

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

“My thoughts are with my country”

The exit of Russia from the war led expat Will Spencer to worry for the future of Britain.

1 December 1917

Have serious thoughts with regard to what the present defection of Russia may mean for the Entente, & particularly for my country. According to the papers, peace negotiations between Russia & Germany are to begin tomorrow.

Felt that my letter to Father, finished last night, talking chiefly about my new pupil, Pastor Burri, & about the beauty of, & my affection for Wimmis, was a strange one to have written under the circumstances. Was glad that I had just room to add the following postscript:

“I refrain from speaking about the war in my letters. I can only say that my thoughts are with my country & with you all.”

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Russia governed by Leninites!!

As the gardens of Bisham Abbey were ploughed up, Florence Vansittart Neale continued to be appalled by the news from Russia.

20 November 1917

Have ploughman & horses sent us to plough up Long Walk & Moors into arable (15 acres in all)….

Russia governed by Leninites!! We & Allies have nothing to do with it – propose Armistice of all powers!!

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

Almost ludicrous if not so horrible

Opposition to the war had led to revolution in Russia, and the fear of getting drawn in caused riots in neutral Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 November 1917

Russia almost ludicrous if not so horrible. A subaltern made Commander in Chief.

Will Spencer
19 November 1917

News that a policeman & two other men had been killed in “anti-military” riots in Zurich on Saturday night…. After dinner I read the account of the Zurich riots on Friday & Saturday. (They began on Thursday.)

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Russia hopeless

Russia and rationing were the topics exercising Florence Vansittart Neale.

16 November 1917

More rationing going on. Butter, cereals, only 10 oz butter or fats each. H & I have our pats each per week.

Russia hopeless.

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

Ploughing new ground

Lawns and other land not normally ploughed was turned to growing crops for food during the war. Meanwhile, the news from Russia seemed to be better, although this was a false dawn.

14 November 1917

Ploughman & horse coming to plough up new ground (15 acres), more this year…

Russia better. Kerensky, Korniloff & Kaledin beaten rebels.

Allenby in Holy land very good.

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

“We are soldiers”: German prisoners refuse to work beside the Conscientious Objectors

German society was even more strongly opposed to pacifists than their English counterparts.

29 Barton Road
13 Nov. ‘17
Desideratissimo

Today she [Florence] has had [visitors including] … one Oldham, a B.A. engaged in war work for aeroplanes.

A General from the Front was lunching in our Combination-room the other day, and said to us that in his section the German prisoners refuse to work beside the Conscientious O.’s “We are soldiers”, they say.

Ten days or so ago, at one of the dinners which the College gives to Cadets on receiving their Commissions, we had a couple of officers of Zouaves as guests. Mumbo (whose health is much improved) proposed their toast in French. Capt. Marcel (he looked a handsome Englishman) responded in his own tongue, and ended with a shout which sent the Cadets wild, “England for ever”!!

What think you of Ll. George’s speech in today’s paper? It is depressing but not depressed. I personally have no fear of any harm except what the English baser natures can induce our Government to do. Surely Russia teaches what must be the result to a nation of slaves who are suddenly emancipated from control. So will it be in Germany until they have settled down. Meanwhile it’s the present English people worth dying for?

Our love to you both.

Always affect. yours Bild.

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

Russian news horrible

It was bad news at home (with additional voluntary food restrictions) and abroad, with more news of the revolution in Russia.

12 November 1917

More food vol: rations [into?] bread rather more, meat less, cereals and fats. Butter to all limited.

Russian news horrible. Petrograd in hands of rebels & Lenin!!

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

Russia’s faithlessness leads to terrible news

Our Italian allies were under severe attack at the Slovenian town of Kobarid. Florence Vansittart Neale blamed the Russian Revolution, which had taken a turn for the worse, and allowed the Germans and Austrians to devote their efforts to other fronts. Meanwhile, Will Spencer had decided that after nearly three years in Switzerland he should seek citizenship.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 Oct 1917

Terrible news about Italy. All owing to Russia’s faithlessness! We started again & made good progress.

Will Spencer
26 October 1917

Letter from Fursprech Engeloch: my application for naturalization will be granted within the next few days. To his buro after coffee, but closed.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX810/26)

War in Russia

The Russian Revolution was turning into civil war.

11 September 1917
War in Russia – troops marching on Petrograd.

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

A lovely afternoon

It was non-stop action at Bisham Abbey, as one party of guests left just as a group of wounded officers arrived for the afternoon. Meanwhile an attempted coup in revolutionary Russia by the head of the armed forces was making the international headlines.

10 September 1917

Canadians left quite early, 7.55…

Played croquet till lunch. Rested after till the 16 wounded arrived.

Lovely afternoon – played bowls. Others went on river. Went about 7.

Kerensky orders Korniloff to give up being C. in C.

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

The unique privilege of visiting several of the camps where our own soldiers are imprisoned in Germany

The Revd Herbert Bury was the Anglican Bishop of Northern Europe, in charge of congregations across the continent. He had published a book on Russia in 1915, lauding its paternalistic government. He must have been surprised by the Revolution.

COLONIAL AND CONTINENTAL CHURCH SOCIETY

A Garden Meeting in connection with the above will be held (weather permitting) on St John’s Lawn on September 10th at 6.30 pm. The speaker will be Bishop Bury, who has seen so much of the life of Russia and Europe during the war, and has been allowed the unique privilege of visiting several of the camps where our own soldiers are imprisoned in Germany, besides being on the Belgian Front near Niewport last Whitsuntide. Should the weather prove unsuitable a service will beheld in St Stephen’s Church at the same time, at which Bishop Bury will speak.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

“One can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable”

Florence Vansittart Neale despaired of the situation on the Russian Front, while William Hallam and his wife offered some home comforts to Australian soldiers.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 July 1917

Russia hopelessly rotten. Retreating all along.

William Hallam
29th July 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and to work. How I am getting fed up with this week and work. Home at ¼ past 1 to dinner. Our Tasmanian came in to dinner and tea with his two chums Gordon Inglis and Percy Crane from Hobart. They are certainly 3 of the nicest fellows I’ve ever met and I feel one can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable and give them a home comfort when we can. Very wet, raining hard.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“Personally, my hopes lie in the Constituent Assembly choosing a Constitutional Monarchy” in Russia

Customary insistence that churchgoers should wear their Sunday best had gone by the wayside.

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

This short line comes to greet you in the midst of what I hope will be pleasant summer weather. The very beauty of Nature around us must make us in our green Island think of the goodness of God’s bounty to us all ; and it must in our thankfulness suggest to us how great our sympathy should be with all those of our kith and kin, who in weariness too often, in hardship too frequent, are on our behalf in the shell-scarred, dusty, noisome trenches of many foreign lands.

I would not exhort, as Vicar, for just now we are all very ready to stir each other up to action, but I would rather beg of you as a fellow worshipper, that we should try not to grow weary or fainthearted in our prayers for those we love, whether at home or in Church. St Luke’s Church is open always from 8 am to 6 pm, later on Fridays and Sundays; St Peter’s is open, too. Those who cannot find a quiet corner at home, can find one there. Working clothes do not matter; God wants our hearts, not fine clothes.

There is, too, the War Shrine to provide a centre for our prayers. And many could come to the weekly Friday Intercession Service. We have to remember that life is not the only boon we can ask for those we love but that honour, purity, and straightforwardness are even greater things. I think we are all doing this pretty well; but I suppose we could none of us honestly say we could not do a great deal better…

Now may I say one ward as regards Treats, etc. The War certainly imposes on us the need for great economy. All expenses should, so far as possible, be cut down. But the War has already lasted nearly three years, and owing to the Republican disorder in Russia, the hope of an early Peace has faded away; though the entry of the United States into the War has made more certain than ever before a full and final victory. We must all hope for a speedy settlement in the land of our great Russian Ally; personally, my hopes lie in the Constituent Assembly choosing a Constitutional Monarchy.

So, many children are fast growing up without much memory of the peaceful days before the War. For them there should be, I think, very simple and economic Treats. I hope those who agree with me will support our Sunday School Fund during this month. I feel that the Mothers are another class who should have some little outing, as cheap as possible, of course, still a little change from the daily work and anxiety…

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar

C.E.M. FRY

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)