Posters on National Service to be placed in a conspicuous position

Berkshire schools were asked to publicise the National Service Scheme.

Yattendon CE School
1917 March 19th

Received poster & letter re National Service, and Inadvertent Disclosure of Military Information, from the Correspondent [probably the vicar]. The latter subject has been dealt with on several occasions.

Lower Sandhurst School
March 19th 1917

Received Poster on National Service to place in a conspicuous position on or near the school.

Newbury St Nicolas CE Boys School
19th March 1917

Mr Pyke left today to take up his military duties.

Log books of Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL66/1); Yattendon CE School (SCH37/8/3);
Newbury St Nicolas CE (Boys) School log book (90/SCH/5/3)

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Schoolboys should guard their tongues and pens

Anxiety about lurking spies was at fever pitch. It is hard to imagine what military secrets Maidenhead schoolboys may have had to spill.

January 19th 1917
In accordance with the Circular of the Board of Education lessons have been given to the boys in the importance of guarding their tongues and pens so as to avoid leakage of information to the enemy.

Maidenhead Gordon Road Boys School log book (C/EL/107/1)

Major Dinkum

Florence Vansittart Neale heard some gossip and tall tales from army officers. “Dinkum” is actually an Australian word, and the story, ascribed to an Australian officer, is recorded as being in circulation elsewhere.

25 December 1916

Had 5 Remount Depot to dine with us.

Major Remount Depot told me – hear [Colonel?] RFA told him how a spy had been caught. Posed as a Major who came to their Division & gave orders to bombard [later?] a salient! Said he had been sent from the HQ, also seen and arranged for other divisions etc etc. A Canadian present said. “Is this dinkum”, a slang word meaning is this true. He answered Yes, I am Major Dinkum. Whereupon the C[anadian?] rushed on him & held him down & they found he was a spy & was taken out & shot.

One day the artillery was told to bombard heavily but unluckily the ammunition was forgotten!!

Hear the new Government dare not conscript Ireland.

I hear Sir D. Haig sent for 1000 miles of railway lines, 400 engine drivers & heaps of locomotives, & that has caused the reduction of trains & increase in the price of tickets to begin Jan 1 1917.

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

“The Huns ran from the tanks like hares”

John Maxwell Image wrote to a friend with his latest thoughts, and passing on brother-in-law Percy Spencer’s impressions.

29 Barton Road
Tuesday 10 Oct ‘16

My Very Dear Old Man

I quite understand, and share with you, the absorbing interest of the daily War News. Nothing else matters, now-a-days. What do you make of this morning’s news of the U boat blockade of the United States coast? If America really shuts them out from supplies in her ports, it must be over in a month or so – and if it succeeds, the exasperation of the Yanks’ commerce must kick Wilson into activity. Anyhow it is a risky move for Germany on the brink of a Presidential election. Therefore I should judge it a sop to soothe German home politics – now that things are growing so disastrous on the Somme.

I went last Friday to see the German “Albatross” (captured by us on 15 October last year) which the WO has presented to the University. It is said to be a fine specimen, tho’ the class has been cut out since. I was very little impressed. For one thing it was so much smaller than I expected – a snout nosed, biplane, 2 seater.

We have had 2 Zepp raids since my last letter. I slept peacefully through both. In the latter of the two the Zepp dropped a starshell on Grantchester: and then passed over Barton Road, probably over our own garden, for Prof. Stanley Gardiner (opposite us) heard its drone, and turning over in bed said to his wife, “the raid is over – there are the trains running again”. We were at tea in his lovely house and garden yesterday when he told me this…

Brandon, one of the two airmen who got DSO for bringing down the flaming Zepp was at Trinity Hall.

A Tank passed through Camb[ridge] on Friday. The Signora got an amusing letter from one of her brothers at the Front, last Saturday, in which he says of the Tanks, “they are very funny, but the boundless faith in them of the folks at home is even funnier. On the day when they were first used, the Huns ran from them like hares – this, although they were aware of their advent” (clearly, nothing can be kept from the Hun spy). Two are known to have got in once to the place near Thetford where the Tanks were secretly built. To go on with Percy Spencer: “One of these contraptions was observed going through the main street of a captured village with our boys riding all over her and hanging on the back.” His chief praise, however, is for our Aeroplanes. “In the air, the Hun is a nonentity – and he owns it every day” – and I remember how, when he first went out, he used to laugh and vow that he had seen hundreds shot at, but never one brought down!

These submarine brutes, who torpedo ships without warning! Did you notice that the first question asked by the Submarine at Newport was for the Bremen? Why, his Government, weeks ago, published to the world the safe arrival of the Bremen in America. Does he presume to disbelieve his own Government? The Americans honestly know nothing of her, but we in England for some time past have heard it whispered that she is safe at Falmouth. The Falmouth watch for U boats is very strict, and has been (so they boast) inordinately successful. A lady who came back a few weeks ago from a holiday, recounted to me how she was one afternoon walking by the shore when a destroyer tore past her in furious haste, all the funnels vomiting columns of black smoke. No sooner as she past Pendennis Point than the firing began. It died away – and presently, soberly and slowly, the destroyer came back, another destroyer keeping pace, and between them – the German submarine. What wouldn’t I have given for that sight.

I am told – by Ball, so it is likely to be correct – that Trinity expects this term 47 men of all years, including BAs!

The Fellowship dinner was for tonight. It is postponed till Thursday – after the funerals of Keith Lucas (killed from an aeroplane) nd poor Alfred Humphry. He is buried today at Thaxted…

Our most affectionate wishes to you both.
Bild

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

A light before the air raid

Spy fever fuelled claims of lights being left on to attract bombers.

5 September 1916
Heard from P. L. Joy – who heard raid & saw light in there! JLK ought to reach Hill last night.

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

“Our generation has learnt to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life”

Ralph Glyn’s sister Maysie was amused by their aristocratic mother’s depression at the thought of living on a reduced income now her husband was retiring, and had had a royal encounter in Windsor.

April 24/16
Elgin Lodge
Windsor

My dear darling R.

I wonder what for an Easter you spent [sic]. Very many happy returns of it anyhow. I got yours of 14th today. I hope you have seen Frank by now. How splendid of him to spend his leave in that way. Your weather sounds vile, still you are warm & here one never is. I hear from Pum [Lady Mary] today that Meg is in bed with Flu & temp 102. I am so worried, & hope she will not be bad. I must wait till John comes in, but feel I must offer to go to them, but how John is to move house alone I do not know! We move Thurs. My only feeling is that it may distract the parents somewhat during this trying week….

[Mother] takes the gloomiest view of household economies etc, & is determined it will all be “hugga mugga”, “She was not brought up like that & you see darling I have no idea how to live like that” etc etc. I tried humbly to suggest that one could be happy from experience & was heavily sat on, “it’s different for you young people”. Of course it is, & I wasn’t brought up in a ducal regime, still one can have some idea – also possible if Pum had ever had Dad fighting in a war she’d find more that nothing mattered. I think our generation has learnt that, & to think of settling down to end one’s days together in safety seems all one asks of life perhaps! You can well imagine tho’ nothing is said, how this attitude of martyrdom reacts on Dad. In fact he spoke to John about it. One does long to help, but one feels helpless against a barrier of sheer depression in dear Pum…

There seems little news to tell you. The King came Thurs, & has been riding in the Park. We ran into all the children, 3 princes & Princess M pushing bikes in the streets of Windsor on Friday. It was most surprising. They have got two 75s here as anti-aircraft, one on Eton playing fields & one Datchet way. They say if they ever fire the only certainty must be the destruction of the Castle & barracks!!

You know all leave was suddenly stopped on the 18th & everyone over here recalled. We all thought “the Push” but Billy writes the yarn in France is, it was simply that the Staff and RTs wished to have leave themselves – but then one can hardly believe, it’s too monstrous to be true. However John Ponsonby has written about coming on leave the end of the month so there can’t be so much doing yet. The news from Mesopotamia is black enough, one more muddle to our credit & more glory through disaster to the British Army.

I wonder what you think of the recent political events. Pum nearly or rather quite made herself ill over it!…

Billy has I fancy been pretty bad. The bed 10 days at some base hospital, bad bronchitis & cough….

Bless you darling
Your ever loving
Maysie

(more…)

Raid on Zeebrugge successful

Florence Vansittart Neale reports the latest at home and abroad.

22 March 1916

Henry long day at Maidenhead – District Council in morning, Tribunal afternoon….

Read “German Secret Service”. Air raid on Zeebrugge successful. German ships [illegible] injured.

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

Sabotage in America

Franz von Papen (1879-1969)was a German diplomat based in the US. He was expelled for allegedly inciting acts of sabotage at the end of December 1915, and returned to Germany, where he liased with Irish rebels. He entered politics after the war, serving as German Chancellor in 1932 and making the fateful decision to admit the Nazi party into government.

16 January 1916
Von Papen’s papers giving large sums to those who killed & destroyed bridges & factories in America. We gave him safe passage back to Germany.

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

Irregular VADs a spy risk

Lady Mary Glyn had another rant about her difficulties with rival Red Cross work in Peterborough.

New Years Day [1916]

I don’t know what has happened about the town committee but Madame Page won’t speak to me! & looked away with determination when I had hoped to wish them the Good New Year. The VAD which was a sham has somehow also got them into trouble & the trains for the wounded are not allowed to stop here. I had warned them over & over again! As it was no VAD and now Sir Edward Ward has put all irregular VADs to the rightabout & only genuine ones can serve & they must be in uniform. It is self-evident how dangerous they might be & useful for spy knowledge if managed as they were.


Letter from Lady Mary Glyn to her son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)

Will the government have enough pluck to shoot those who oppose conscription?

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him on New Year’s Eve. The good bishop was quite gung ho (and one might think not very Christian) about deporting Germans and even shooting conscientious objectors! Lady Mary was still fussing about her quarrels with a rival Red Cross workroom.

The Palace
Peterborough
Dec 31 [1915]

My darling Ralph

Here is my New Year letter to you…

Things at Salonica [sic] seem doing well – & our forces must be growing there – as we see daily accounts in the papers of “more troops arriving” – and I am glad that the French General has taken the enemy consuls & staff & put them on board of a French man-of-war – so they have got rid of them as spies – & it is good. Tonight’s paper tells of an English cruiser blown up in harbour – “HMS Natal, captain Eric Back, RN armoured cruiser sank yesterday in harbour as the result of an internal explosion”. This seems to me only another reason why we should ship away every German in England & send them to their own country, as it is no use keeping the enemy here to do such mischief as blowing up our ships in harbour – as I should say it must have been done by some bomb put on board by a German.

We have got our conscription so far, & shall hear all about it on Thursday. It is high time the “Government” (so-called) made up their minds to the inevitable – & the “country” will back them up certainly – & now we shall “wait & see” if the Government will have pluck enough to shoot those that oppose them.

Much love – & take care of your dear self.

Your loving father
E C Peterborough

Dec 31 1915
My own darling own Ralph

The news of the loss of the “Natal” has come this evening to us here – and one dreads to think it may be another treachery or labour trouble – but the news is good of the full Cabinet meeting and one feels sure that the country will be sound on the question of these men who have held back…

I hear of Edith Wolverton coming here but not to see us. I think the war makes these women quite queer. They are so anxious to be petite maitresse & do not understand how it is all lost in provincial towns where everyone on the spot wishes to emulate any “star” that wishes to “shoot”. We are very happy with our canteen and it will give us plenty to do and I shall hear I suppose soon about the other crazy emulation over Red Cross. They are all quite sick with anger I have my private workroom and the Sham Committee find they are quite powerless to stop it but I am quite willing to co-operate it when they become real. I am in close touch with Headquarters. Oh! me, when will these silly little fusses be read over by you and where! And it will all seem so silly and so paltry and hard to believe that men and women can be so mean and self seeking over work for the sick and wounded at the Front.

We keep quite quiet and say nothing, but they are spluttering into the papers with their silly complainings. It may have to end in a private official enquiry but Winfrey has managed to save his face by registering one committee under all three – Queen Mary’s Needlework, Sir Edward Ward’s Voluntary Association & the Red Cross! All this with one Fund and the same little creature as accountant that went against affiliation to centre at the beginning & start of all the fuss. I am afraid the expenses are enormous, and that I shall have difficulty in getting the money unless we can get the whole thing put under one authority & one Fund….

Letters from E C and Lady Mary Glyn to their son Ralph (D/EGL/C2/3)

A girl and a gun

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a number of stories of heroism, treachery and incompetence from her circle of acquaintances. Some of them may be more reliable than others, but it shows the kinds of stories that were circulating at home. Queen Sophia of Greece was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. She and her husband (the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh) sympathised with the Germans, while the Greek government leaned towards the Allies.

11 November 1915

Germans torpedoed “Ancona”, Italian ship.

Heard through Meg of brave French girl aged 17 at Loos. Phil Carr met her & heard story from Dr. Saw Germans were sniping a dressing station & covered the front door so no one could go out to hit them. This girl who lived near & knew the place well ran out behind with a pistol, into the house & killed them both. Came back, put down revolver & just said “C’est fait” & went on with her dressings.

Phil Carr, rescuing people from Loos, met an old woman carrying her mattress & 2 live rabbits! She had been told she could only bring what she could carry.

Kitchener was asked why he sent out such an “awful ass” as Ian Hamilton. He said because he had no other “awful ass” to send.
I hear that why John [Burres?] left the Cabinet on account of us going to war was because he had been so bamboozled by the Germans while he was there some 2 or 3 years ago, & they persuaded him to put all the money he had in German things – he thought after the war he could get them to give him back his money in consequence.

Germans tell our Tommies across trenches “Gott sei dank! You’ve killed our Prussian commander.”

Hear Queen of Greece stabbed Tino [King Constantine]. So he took to his bed…

Hear Captain Kelly gone on secret expedition. Can’t write to Maisie for some time.

Hear English airman caught in German lines. 2 German officers insisted on his taking them to his machine to see the English lines. He looped the loop & they fell out! He had tied himself in.

Hear so many Belgians are spies, helping Germans – will do anything for money.

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

We must win or die

Florence Vansittart Neale was greatly excited by the latest rumours. Claude Grahame-White (1879-1959) was a pioneer of aviation who was the first Briton to hold a pilot’s licence, and also made the first aerial post delivery, from London to Windsor. He served in the Royal Naval Air Service at the start of the war, before turning to manufacturing aircraft for the war effort. This particular rumour was a very wild one.

29 September 1915

Still advancing. Many more prisoners. Awful slaughter. Joffre says must win or die now! Letter from Ken – he safe. 40 [of] his company killed, & 7 officers, altogether 300 men!… Bubs’ day changed to Wednesdays. They have had convoy.

Heard Grahame White is a spy! Been shot!!

Hear that 24 aeroplanes had been tampered with so could not start that night. One man found & shot.

Heard many spurious officers found out by army orders given out, no khaki to be worn for 24 hours by officers! Many found out in consequence.

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

“Mother, mother, save me”

William Hallam relates a spooky story about a fallen soldier from Wantage, while Florence Vansittart Neale has more spy rumours.

William Hallam, 14th September 1915
Mrs Hallam came down from Wantage. She told us a strange thing. Young Bobby Lovegrove was killed in the Dardanelles the other Sunday. His mother was in Wantage Church and was seen to look ill and get up and leave the church, and when her friends asked her what was the matter she said she had heard her boy’s voice say quite distinctly – “Mother, Mother, save me”. This happened the same Sunday he was killed before she knew even he was in Gallipoli. Young Eady too was killed the same time.

Florence Vansittart Neale, 14 September 1915
Heard 2 submarines (Germans) sunk in Bristol Channel & one beached. Shaw also saw one being chased near Lundy, & was caught.

Hear submarine catch nets made at Appledore.

Hear now they have guns at Woolwich which can go 10 miles. Also that the man [who was?] head of our aeroplanes is a spy! All changed now!!!

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24) and Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“The bomb went into a water tank”

Florence Vansittart Neale was excited by the news of a near miss for St Paul’s Cathedral – and a related spy scare.

3 September 1915

Heard Liverpool St Station a ruin by Zep. raid Sep. 3rd but instead now hear the bomb went into water tank & did no harm. Just escaped St Paul’s.

Hear signalling seen close [to] Woolwich Arsenal during raid. House located & people all caught.

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

Spicy news about spies

Florence Vansittart Neale in Bisham was excited by the war news, including spy stories, while William Hallam in Swindon scoffed at rumours that the war was causing bad weather.

Florence Vansittart Neale
7 June 1915

More Zeppelin raids (Gravesend). Our aviator brought one down in Belgium….

Mr Courtney [came] with very spicy news – spies here!!

I hear spy told about ship full of explosives at Gravesend. Zeppelin came, but did not hit it. Demolished a whole street, & according to the Maidenhead tailor, soldiers got out 15 of hand & shot 15 of Zeppelin crew (but I don’t think we got it in England!!)

Hear that Selfridge is full of explosives!!

Hear much damage done at Woolwich arsenal by Zeppelin.

William Hallam
7th June 1915

Very hot and dry again yet according to some – a good many in fact – foolish people, we should have had it wet all the time this war lasts, for a time ago when it was so wet they said it was caused by so much heavy gun fire. Very hot to-night.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale (D/EX73/3/17/8) and William Hallam (D/EX1415/23