Delightful excursions for the wounded

People gave according to their means – whether that was lending a luxury yacht or giving handcraft skills.

Colonel Sir Wyndham Murray’s Yacht “Cecilia”

The kindness shown by Sir Wyndham and Lady Murray towards our sick and wounded soldiers is perhaps not so well known as it ought to be. This is the fourth year in succession in which he has devoted his beautiful little vessel during the whole summer to the service of Netley Red Cross Hospital. She is a steam yacht of 200 tons, on the roll of the Royal Yacht Squadron, of which Sir Wyndham is a member. And daily, weather permitting, she has taken parties of patients, medical officers, or sisters, for trips on the Solent, from Southampton Water to Ryde, Cowes, &c. except in the matter of coal, which the Admiralty have supplied, the whole upkeep of the yacht and crew is borne by the generous owner: and no one enjoys the outings more than he and Lady Murray when they find themselves able to be present in person for a few days on board. The Cecilia has carried about 1,000 passengers each summer, and the Hospital authorities have often expressed their appreciation of the benefits conferred upon all who have taken part in these delightful excursions.

The boys attending the handicraft centre at Mrs Bland’s School, under Mr Stavely Bulford’s tuition, have made no less than 2,500 splints and surgical appliances between February, 1916, and August, 1918, besides other work. The demand for wooden appliances is diminishing, owing to introduction of other material, but the young workmen need have no doubt that their labour has not been in vain. Mr Bulford is resigning his appointment as Instructor under the Education Committee, as he wishes to take up honorary work in connection with the War Hospital Supplies Depot. We shall all be sorry to lose him.

Blackberries

School collections sent in: C of E School, 5 cwt, 17 ½ lbs; Mrs Bland’s, 2 cwt, 3 qr 14 lbs.

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

In open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea

Three Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist had a terrifying experience as they travelled home from India.

20 April 1918

Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen, who had left Calcutta March 9th, arrived safely after an adventurous voyage. They had only been allowed to travel with special permission from the Government of India on account of Sister Alexandrina’s state of health, which made it necessary for her to leave India.

Their ship was torpedoed by an enemy sub-marine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Africa. Then passengers were transferred to the ship’s boats and all were saved. They were in open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea. The Sisters & their companions were picked up by a British sloop-of-war and landed at Bizerta, where they remained for 4 days. Then they were taken on board a French mail boat carrying troops and were safely landed at Marseilles after a very uncomfortable voyage owing to the crowded condition of the steamer.

From Marseilles they travelled by train to Paris & Havre, & from thence crossed to Southampton.

Owing to rationing orders limiting the quantity to each House of certain articles of food, & the scarcity of others, the Sisters from the other Houses cannot for the present come to the House of Mercy for tea on Sundays, as has been the custom, nor have their meals there when having day’s retreats.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

“The bomb passed through the bows, exploding on the other side”

Three of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, whose base was at Clewer, were shipwrecked on their way home from India thanks to enemy action.

April, 1918
My dear Associates

You will all be interested to hear that we have just welcomed home from Calcutta Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen after a really perilous voyage. The only route available was via Colombo, which they reached by train from Calcutta. The first part of the voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea was very enjoyable, smooth and lovely weather.

Good Friday was spent in the harbour of Suez, and Port Said was reached on Sunday morning. Along the banks of the Suez Canal they saw many races of the recent fighting in Egypt – deserted trenches and dug-outs, and in one place a camp of a considerable size, but their own course was perfectly uneventful.

After waiting four days at Port Said, their steamer joined a large convoy of vessels bound for England, protected by several destroyers and sloops. All went well during the first six days, and then, at 7 a.m. on a date I am not allowed to mention, the ship was struck by a torpedo. Mercifully no one was seriously injured, the bomb having passed through the bows, exploding on the other side.

Fearing another attack, the Captain immediately transferred all the passengers to the boats, and after rowing about on a rough sea for two hours, a sloop picked them up, and conveyed them to Bizerta, a French town on the coast of North Africa, the actual site of ancient Carthage, about four hours by rail from Tunis. At once everything was done on a most generous scale for their comfort and protection, and four days later a mail boat from Tunis conveyed all the passengers to Marseilles, and from there the homeward journey was continued via Paris, Havre and Southampton….

Letters to Associates of the Community of St John Baptist (D/EX1675/1/24/6)

Awful explosion in ships

The explosion of a French ship carrying munitions in Canada has been called the worst manmade explosion before the invention of nuclear weapons.

8 December 1917

Awful explosion in ships at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Town almost destroyed! Roumania [sic] having truce….

Wrote to prisoners. Mrs Pack & Mr Rich [visited]. His son died of wounds. My Bubs to start for Paris 4 pm via Southampton & Havre.

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

“Many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Christmas”

An army chaplain with links to Mortimer shares details of his life in Normandy.

Mr Bowden writes:-

Dear Vicar,

It is a long time since I sent a contribution to the Magazine, not that I have forgotten Mortimer but I have so little of interest to relate. My work is now in the docks area – I have charge of No. 2 General Hospital, on the quay alongside which the hospital ships lie and take in the wounded direct from the trains to convey them to Southampton. Any cases which prove too bad for the boat journey we take in to our hospital which is directly over the railway station, and occasionally we get a train load for treatment at No. 2. We have three very fine, airy wards; and a broad balcony facing the sea runs the whole length of the hospital; in the summer we place many beds out there – the men love to be in the open air and watch the shipping and the aircraft. The hospital commands a fine view of the town on one side and the mouth of the Seine with Trouville and Honfleur on the other.

In addition to hospital work I have some 1,500 Army Ordnance and 650 Army Service Corps men to work amongst. These are busy on the docks all day long but can be seen in the Recreation Huts and in their billets in the evening and at meal times.

There are plenty of amusements provided for them – some sort of entertainment almost every night. We also have recently acquired a recreation ground for their use and a cricket ground as well as a tennis court for officers and N.C.O.’s.

It might be of interest if I give my Sunday programme – I start early with a Celebration of Holy Communion at 6 a.m. for the A.O.D. in a little chapel near their quarters – another celebration at 7 a.m. for the hospital staff in a hut on the quay. This is always followed by a series of private Communions to sick men and officers in the various wards and huts; [sic] then back to breakfast. I used to have a Parade Service at 10-30 for the R.A.M.C. but have dropped it as it was an inconvenient time for the men. At 11-30 we have a Parade Service for the A.O.D. in one of the warehouses on the docks – the men climb up on the boxes all round a space left for the purpose – we have a good choir, an hearty service, and then the men go straight off to their dinner at noon, or soon after.

Then I have nothing till 5-15 when I hold Ward Services in hospital – these are very much appreciated by the patients and are of an informal nature as all denominations join in. The men love singing hymns and the Sisters come and help form a choir. At 7 p.m. we are now having open-air services in the A.S.C. camp on the river front between the docks and hospital. Here the men are mostly getting on in years – I believe the average age is about 42 – All younger men have long since been sent “up the line.” Of course a large portion of both A.S.C. and A.O.D. men have done their bit at the front in various units and have been sent back to work at the Base owing to wounds or some physical disability rendering them unfit for the fighting line.

Sometimes my day ends here or I have a service at the Y.M.C.A. or in one of the other huts, in turn with other Padres.

We have many destroyers constantly alongside the quays, the escorts for hospital ships, transports, &c. I go aboard when I can but generally most of the sailors are sleeping as they are working all night and its [sic] not often possible to hold a Service for them, but one gets some interesting talks with men and officers.

Just now we have a Mortimer man in hospital – Sergt. Shackleford – he is doing very well. He is only the second man I have met from the parish since I joined the B.E.F. – the other being Frank Parsons.

We are all very cheerful about the position of things just now and many of us feel there is a reasonable hope of a termination of hostilities before Xmas.

With best wishes to all friends.

Yours very sincerely,

W. S. Bowden, C.F.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Some disabled ex-soldiers are refusing to work

Berkshire County Council found the war coming close to home when its Deputy Clerk, who had joined the army soon after the start of the war, was reported killed. Meanwhile they had begun to tackle the problem of those men who had returned home from the front with a permanent disability as a result of wounds. How might they be retrained?

DEATH OF THE DEPUTY CLERK

Resolved on the motion of the Chairman [James Herbert Benyon]: That a vote of condolence be forwarded to the widow of Lieut-Col H U H Thorne in her bereavement, and that it be accompanied by an expression of the great loss sustained by the Council in the untimely, though gallant, death in action of their Deputy Clerk.

Report of the Berkshire War Pensions Committee

The War Pensions Committee commenced their work on the 1 October, 1916.

The County, in accordance with the Scheme arranged by the County Council, has been divided into twelve Sub-committees, being, for the main part, one Sub-committee for each petty sessional division; but there have been certain adjustments, for the convenience of working, between the divisions of Wokingham and Easthampstead, while the Lambourn division has been divided between Wantage and Newbury division, with the exception of the parish of Lambourn itself, which is being worked by a Secretary and Treasurer.

Almoners have been appointed for each parish throughout the County, and the Almoners and Sub-committees respectively have had powers given them to deal with all urgent cases of wives and dependants of soldiers and sailors requesting financial assistance, each case being reported to this Committee for approval or revision as the circumstances may require.

During the six months alterations have been made in the amount of the State Separation Allowances and valuable additional powers have been given to the Pensions Committee in the way of making additional grants to meet to some extent the increase in prices, and the work has been now thoroughly organised.

Since the 1 October, 1916, up to the 30 April, 1917, the Finance and General Purposes Sub-committee have dealt with 1326 cases of Advances, Supplementary and Temporary Allowances, Temporary and Emergency Grants, etc. The payments made up to the 30 April, in respect of these Allowances and Grants, amount to a sum of £2299 2s 11d.

In addition to this the Sub-committee have dealt with 33 cases of Supplementary Pensions, which have been recommended to the War Pensions etc Statutory Committee.

The other section of the work of the committee is the very important and constantly increasing work of dealing with discharged and disabled soldiers and sailors. The principle adopted has been that so soon as the notification of the discharge of a man into the county has been received, the particulars are sent down to the Secretary of the Sub-committee in whose district the man proposes to live; enquiries are made in the district as to the man’s physical condition with a view of ascertaining whether he needs further medical treatment or training for some form of employment other than that to which he was accustomed prior to his disablement, and further inquiries to ascertain whether he needs financial assistance of either a temporary or permanent character, other than that provided by his pension, if any.

Considerable difficulty has been found in many cases where men have refused to work for fear of endangering the continuance of their pension, or because they are satisfied to remain as they are for the time being at any rate with the pension that they hold. The new Royal Warrant, however, will considerably strengthen the hands of the committee, as the Ministry of Pensions are entitled to withhold a portion of a pension if a man refuses to undertake treatment which the Pensions Committee, acting on medical advice, consider necessary for him, and the Pensions Committee will be enabled to grant a Separation Allowance for the wife and children where the man is undertaking training, and, further, to pay the man a bonus for each week of a course of training which he has competed to their satisfaction.

The provision of training is a difficult matter, as the necessary organisations are few and far between. In Berkshire the committee have three Schemes in course of formation. (more…)

More wounded men arrive in Windsor

King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor was continuing to receive patients.

3 May 1917
Wounded soldiers

It was reported that since the last meeting, 9 soldiers had been discharged to Woolwich and on April 14th, 29 more wounded had been received from Southampton, bringing the total number in Hospital to 52.

King Edward VII Hospital Committee minutes, pp. 397-398 (DH6/2/4)

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men

Maidenhead Congregational Church had news of its young men serving their country.

OUR SOLDIER LADS.

The army continues to make its demands upon our young men. George Ayres has joined the ranks of the London Electrical Engineers, and his friend Harry Baldwin is on the point of assuming khaki. P.S. Eastman sailed for the East on February 13th, and was delighted to discover Arthur Ada upon the same boat. Robert Bolton is in the R. M. Light Infantry. Arthur Rolfe has been promoted to corporal. Alfred Vardy has been moved to Southampton. Ernest Bristow went over to France at the end of January. Cecil Meade has arrived at Salonika.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“They wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost”

Newbury District Hospital was taking more and more wounded soldiers, and even had to build an extension at their own expense.

Annual General Meeting held at The Newbury District Hospital on Friday March 9th 1917

Committee’s Report

The record of the past 12 months may be told in a few words. Though the year 1916 has been in a sense an uneventful one, having been marked by no additions or alterations to the structure of the hospital, it shows an increase in the amount of work done amongst both civilians and soldiers over all former years. The resources of the hospital have been taxed to the full, as many as 74 beds having been occupied at one time. As in 1915, five convoys of wounded soldiers have been received from the Front. The total of civilian patients, amounting to 365 (not counting X-ray cases) exceeds the number of those treated in the previous year by 10, whilst 63 more soldiers have been treated than in 1915. Of these latter, there has been a considerably larger proportion of severe cases.

When the temporary annexe was put up at the end of 1914 for the reception of the wounded, there were not many who supposed that it would still be in use during a third winter. But the building, in spite of its light construction, has served its purpose well, and beyond some strengthening of the roof, has needed little repair. A sum of about £100 has been spent in painting the outside woodwork of the hospital and in completing the decoration of the Kerby Wing.

Military Hospital

A notice had been given that at the conclusion of the annual meeting a special meeting would be held to pass a resolution for the expenditure of a sum, not exceeding £300, of the capital funds of the Hospital, in providing further accommodation for military patients.

The Chairman, in introducing the subject, said the Medical Officer at Tidworth saw the Matron and asked her to provide further beds, as 25,000 wounded soldiers more would be placed in the Southern Command. It appeared to them that the one hospital especially suited was Newbury as being on the main line for Southampton. The matron pointed out to him the impossibility of further beds in the present building, and that the staff, which was sufficient for the present accommodation, would be too few for a different building. Miss Atkins brought the matter before the Chairman of the House Committee, and the House Committee referred to the Managing Committee.

It appeared at first that the Government might be induced to provide some, if not all of the money necessary. That was not received with enthusiasm by the authorities. The Managing Committee and Mr. Vollar went into the matter thoroughly, and decided that the Army appeal was of such a nature that they could not do otherwise than accept the proposal and the obligation involved. Efforts were made to get the Government to provide the additional cost of an annexe. The hon. Secretary interviewed the Medical Officer of the Southern Command, and he interviewed the War Office. The authorities’ attitude was that they wanted the beds badly, but were not in a position to provide the extra cost. It was pointed out that the hospital as arranged at present was sufficient for the needs of the neighbourhood, and that these extra buildings would only be used for the War Office. They had strong grounds therefore to ask for assistance, but it was definitely stated that they would get no money nor extra doctors or nurses. They decided to do their best. The conditions in the building trade made it difficult to get work done. At a special meeting it was arranged that Mr. Hitchman should do the work, and at once order the materials. He proposed that they authorise the expenditure of not more than £300 out of capital funds of the Hospital, and ratify the action the Managing Committee had taken before the meeting.

Mr. Savill said that he had been in communication with the Medical Colonel, and he could not promise any financial assistance. He did give one concession, and that was that formerly they had received 3s. 6d. per man per week; now it was suggested that 4s. would be paid. They would save £100 for beds and bedding, which would be supplied by Sir Richard Sutton. Mr. Hitchman had been able to get the galvanised iron. The cost would be £300, anything over that amount would have to be paid out of revenue.

Mr. Vollar said Mr. Hitchman had agreed to work on a five per cent profit. He would show his receipts. It was a very handsome and liberal offer on Mr. Hitchman’s part.

The resolution was passed, Mr. Peake seconding, and the meeting concluded.

Newbury District Hospital minutes (D/H4/3/2)

Netley is pressing for the removal of the insane German soldiers

The use of Broadmoor for insane PoWs (currently all at Netley Hospital in Southampton) was inching ever closer. Broadmoor’s Superintendent, Dr James Baker, wrote:

5th November 1916
Dear Simpson

Youn may wish to know that Colonel Aldren Turner called here last week at the instance of the War Office who are apparently waking up. I am under the impression Netley is pressing for the removal of the insane German soldiers. He was very satisfied with the accommodation. I told him it was too good for the purpose. I informed him all I required was a week’s notice to make a new entrance from the main road. I do not care to pull the wall about until things are definitely settled. I received a letter from him yesterday saying he had presented his report, that the question of orderlies was being put in hand, that Foulerton and I would probably get an outfit allowance of £20 (the usual allowance is £30) but as they have apparently conceded the principle, we shall not quarrel about the amount, which should suffice.

He added in his letter that he had meant to discuss the question of the reception of insane German Officers, but he had forgotten to mention it to me. This will be rather a difficult matter as one does not know whether it will entail extra expense and further financial negotiations. However if the matter comes up and you agree, I think I had better see the War Office people about it. Of course I told Colonel Turner we could not move here until Treasury sanction was obtained.

Yours very truly
[signature missing from file copy]

Broadmoor correspondence file (D/H14/A6/2/51)

Wishing this miserable war would end

Florence Vansittart Neale and her husband returned to the mainland after a stay on the Isle of Wight. Florence then went to see nurse daughter Phyllis.

Florence Vansittart Neale, 18 April 1916

Saw 2 destroyers, the Aquitania & a submarine. Hear they have a V class now. H to London, I to Southampton. Phyllis, Seymour & I spent afternoon together & had tea… Phyllis well & happy – head pro in dining room ward.

William Spencer senior of Cookha, meanwhile, was anxious about his son and German-born daughter in law in Switzerland.

Will Spencer, 18 April 1916
A letter to us both from Father….he is “distressed at Johanna’s position” & wishes that “this miserable war would end.”

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

A visit to Netley

Florence and Henry Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey visited their daughter Phyllis, nursing at Netley Hospital in Southampton. The Royal Berkshire Regiment had a camp on Southampton Common at the time.

21 January 1916
Quite a warm day. H & I walked all morning, got quite exhausted. Motor took men. Phyllis & Seymour came in afternoon to Netley. Saw over hospital & Berks tent, then on to [Netley] Abbey. Lovely ruins.

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

New terms too humiliating

Florence and Henry Vansittart Neale travelled south to visit their daughter.

20 January 1916

Henry & I started in heavy rain to Southampton by motor. Stopped soon – then quite sunny. New way to Basingstoke by Hurst and Wokingham. Reached Winchester 1.10. Lunch at the George, left at 3. Got to Phyllis’s hospital at 3.40. She just starting an operation, so did not come till past 6. H & I walked down to pier, then had tea in town. Unpacked. P & I talked. She dined here. Rather priceless company – she played Chopin! Patience – bed early.

Hear new terms too humiliating. Montenegro continuing war!

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

Phyllis wants to go abroad

Phyllis Vansittart Neale, the heiress presumptive of Bisham Abbey, had been nursing the troops in this country, at Reading and Southampton. Now she wanted to get closer to the action and serve at a field hospital in France. Her parents supported her decision.

10 December 1915
Heard from Phyllis. She wanting to leave soon & go abroad. We agree.

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

Awful casualties feared

Malcolm Blane (1892-1915) was the younger son of the family which owned Foliejon Park. He was a lieutenant with the Cameron Highlanders, his family coming originally from Scotland. The Vansittart Neales would have socialised with the Blanes, and his death at Loos struck home.

2 October 1915
2nd trenches reached. Holding them. Fear awful casualties. Malcolm Blane killed….

We all packed in motor [and] took Phyllis & Magdalen to Reading – they to Southampton. We to try & find Bubs. She on duty. Great procession (recruiting going on)

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