“Anything that one can say sounds so trivial”

A friend who Florence had been visiting just before receiving the news of her brother’s death sent her sympathy.

78 Parkhurst Rd
Holloway
N7

Oct 7th 1918

My dear Florence

I do so wish that sad letter had found its way here instead of awaiting you at your home on your return. I feel we could have been a little consoling to you both & you would have seen your brother Percy too. I am filled with upset that I did not say “stay a day or so longer & we will chance strikes, etc”, I should have loved to.

Let me know if I can be of any service at any time. Anything that one can say sounds so trivial, so I send you both my best love & heartfelt sympathy.

Affectionately yours
Janet

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of Sydney (D/EX801/81)

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Going out to pick blackberries for the soldiers

Strikes at home caused problems for many people.

Little Coxwell
Sept 25th

The older children are going out to pick blackberries for the soldiers in the afternoon.

Lower Sandhurst
September 25th 1918

The last half-holiday for blackberry picking was given this afternoon. 258 lbs. picked. The School has picked in rather over a fortnight 2465 lbs. of fruit for the Ministry of Food.


Datchet
25 September 1918

Miss Riley absent through Railway strike – came in 10.30 & walked from Staines.

Sparsholt
Sept 25th

The children were granted a half holiday this afternoon to gather blackberries for the Ministry of Food.

Log books: Little Coxwell CE School (C/EL80); Lower Sandhurst School (C/EL/66/1); Datchet National Mixed School (SCH30/8/3); Sparsholt CE School D/P115/28/47)

Servant hunting

It was getting much harder to find young women willing to work in domestic service, when the war had opened up other opportunities.

25 September 1918
Busy morning [in London]. Servant hunting… Strike on, so advised to go not later than 3.20… Strike getting over.

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

No baskets owing to railway strike

Strikers threatened to put paid to the good work of Berkshire children.

Aldermaston
24th September 1918.

Half day for blackberrying, berries unable to be sent off as no baskets arrived owing to railway strike.

Datchet
24 September 1918

Blackberrying this afternoon.

Little Coxwell
Sept 24th

As the weather has been fine today I shall take the older children blackberrying today instead of Thursday.

Hampstead Norreys
24th Sep.

Took secular work from 9.30 to 11.30 to allow children to go blackberrying. Closed for the afternoon for blackberry picking.

Peasemore
Sep. 23 & 24

We took the children for blackberry picking in the afternoons.


Log books of Datchet National Mixed School (SCH30/8/3); Aldermaston School (88/SCH/3/3); Little Coxwell CE School (C/EL80); Hampstead Norreys CE School (C/EL40/2); Peasemore School (C/EL49/2)

A wild mass of soldiers

Railway workers went on strike.

Florence Vansittart Neale
24 September 1918

A & E to dine. E receiving War Badge from Sir F. Loyd. Paddington a wild mass of soldiers. Wicked strike of railway men. Government firm.

William Hallam
24th September 1918

Aeroplanes were flying over all night long last night.

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

“One of the men had his legs nearly blown off”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall but still had the war forced on him.

William Hallam
20th July 1918

This morning just after breakfast a merchantman’s crew were landed at St. Ives. About 20 Chinese and four English officers. One of the men had his legs nearly blown off and he was taken to Penange hospital. We heard 2 vessels had been sunk about 7 miles off. Stormy again.

Florence Vansittart Neale
20 July 1918

Heard Tzar really shot on 16th. Poor man.

More strikes threatened in Coventry &c. Hope they will come round!!

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

Germans 6 to our 1

The news was so bad that even militant union members were holding back now.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 March 1918

Bapaume lost. Germans 6 to our 1. Nice prayers by Archbishop. Boy & Bubs [Leo and Elizabeth Paget] left us for the White House.

William Hallam
26th March 1918

A meeting of the A.S.E. to protest against such a thing as striking in this crisis so I went to support it.

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

The horrible British workman

The news continued to be mixed. The upper class Florence Vansitttart Neale was outraged by men at home going on strike.

3 March 1918

Activity on front – most attempts repulsed.

Much better Russian news – they taking offensive.

Strike going on. Horrible British workman.

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

“Despite all the talk of brotherhood and solidarity, it is the hard bargaining of the Labour market to which the men will return from the trenches”

Socialist agitators were concerned that it would be back to the bad old days after the war.

“After The War” Problems: 1. – The Class Struggle

It is first of all essential in discussing “after-the-war” labour problems to realise that at bottom they are precisely the same as the old “pre-war” problems… Europe – whatever the colours of its map – will be, after the wat, the same old Europe that we have known all our lives; a Europe inhabited by a few capitalists and a multitudinous proletariat – a Europe of heaven knows how many nationalities, but only two classes…

While the control of industry is in the hands of a capitalist oligarchy, and of the State they control, while Labour is a commodity to be bought and sold, there cannot be, in any real sense, a new England.

Despite all the talk of brotherhood and solidarity, it is the hard bargaining of the Labour market to which the men will return from the trenches. They may have saved England: but their share of the salvage will be only their own labour power, by the sale of which they must gain their livelihood. They may have won political freedom for the world: but they will have to begin again to fight for economic freedom for themselves.

And they will not be able to take up the battle where they left in in the summer of 1914. The fight will be the same, but the conditions under which it is waged will have been modified considerably – and modified greatly to the disadvantage of Labour…

Prices may fall at the end of the war, but they will not fall to the old level, and it will need a stiff struggle to bring the general standard of wages into conformity with the new prices. Every indication points to an even harder battle over the restoration of the rules and privileges which were so lightly abandoned in the hot fit of patriotism. Promise of restoration were cheerfully made, and trustfully accepted; but it is a long way back to March, 1915, and the capitalist press is already busy explaining why and how restoration will be neither practicable nor desirable. So, to, with the rights sacrificed under the Munitions Acts, with the concessions with regard to dilution, with every sacrifice of freedom or status that Labour has made. The employers have, naturally enough, little wish to abandon their gains; they have realised, too, the possibilities of the exploitation of patriotism, and will not forget the experience. Already the cry is being raised that in trade war which is to come with peace, the whole energies of the nation will be demanded; that strikes will still be acts of treachery to the nation. All that has been preached with regard to munitions of war will be preached with regard to munitions of peace.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

“Oceans of blood and billions of money squandered – and for nothing”

John Maxwell Image was outraged by the latest American peace proposals, as well as strikers in vital munitions factories. He would of course be proved right that a second war would follow 20 years later, though not about the cause.

29 Barton Road
15 January ‘18
My very dear old man

Do you see soldiers and men-of-war’s men in any numbers? I frequently wonder how appalling the dullness here will seem when the longed-for Peace removes our military element…

And about those gunshies [sic] in munition-works who have the daring rascality to threaten “down tools” and hang the war, should an attempt be made to comb them out. Surely the Defence of the Realm Act empowers the placing them under military law? Or will this, like evry other step of government, be taken just too late?

I was shocked by Wilson’s language. It used to be “no terms with the Hohenzollerns”. That we all understood and felt it to brace us up. But today an absolute disclaimer of any wish to interfere with the internal arrangements of Germany and its vassals. The military autocracy to be left in full possession (for how can it be deposed while it has the Army?) – and 20 years hence a fresh war upon a purblind and probably divided Europe. Oceans of blood and billions of money squandered – and for nothing…

Ever yours
Bild

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

Awfully bad war news

William Hallam, contemplating a return home to Berkshire, was disappointed by the war news.

29th October 1917

Up at 8 this morning. Awfully bad war news from the Western Front. Wrote to my sister in India, then went down to the Institute and changed Lib. book. I saw in the Reading Mercury that that old house at Harwell; which my brother said would just suit me; sold for 470£ a figure above my mark. Went to bed after dinner and got up at 5 tea and in to work at 6. Not so cold as it was. The boiler makers started work again after 4 weeks strike – scoundrels.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Ashamed to be connected with strikers

Lockinge-born William Hallam, living and working in Swindon, felt strikers and trade unionists were behaving in an unpatriotic way.

20th May 1917

There was a Trade Union demonstration and procession round the Town. I left it severely alone. Thousands of our T.U. men are out on strike in different parts of the country and as I told some of our fellows I should be ashamed to be seen in anyway connected with them by young fellows in khaki who have come from all parts of our Colonies to fight for us; for hundreds come in every Sat & Sun from Draycott Camp. Australians, New Zealanders & Canadians.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Food rations begin

Our diarists had a variety of interests. In Switzerland, Will Spencer saw the US was coming closer to war; in training, his brother Sydney was learning to shoot; and in Bisham, Florence Vansittart Neale was worried by food rationing and strikes.

Will Spencer in Switzerland
5 February 1917

News in the paper that diplomatic relations between Germany & the United States have been broken off by the latter.

Sydney Spencer in army training
Feb 5th

General Musketry course results (extract). Lt S Spencer, A company, Marksman 130. This was fired at Totley with 2 feet snow & hard ports!

Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey
5 February 1917

Expected men from Cliveden – arrived late as motor broken down. Came in 2 ambulances.

Wild argument from miners!…

Food rations begin. 2 ½ lb meat – 4 lbs bread or flour – ¾ lb sugar per week.

Diaries of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27); Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EX801/12); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Pray for wisdom in dealing with the objectors to military service

The Earley parish magazine was to be sent out to men from the parish serving overseas.

The following are extracts from the Bishop’s message in the May Diocesan magazine:

Your prayers are asked specially…

For candidates for Holy Orders: for the maintenance of vocation in those who have gone to the war: and an increased supply after the war….
For our army in Mesopotamia.
For guidance for our rulers.
For the maintenance of industrial peace.
For wisdom in dealing with the objectors to military service.
For British and other prisoners of war in German camps.

C.E.M.S.

It has been suggested that some of those now on Active Service would appreciate a copy of the Parish magazine or the quarterly magazine of the C.E.M.S., and the members of the Earley Branch have undertaken to forward a number of copies each month.

If this should come to the notice of anyone living in the parish who has a friend or relation at the Front or with the Fleet likely to be interested in a copy, I should be grateful for his name and full service address.

Wm H Keep
Acting Hon. Secretary
7, Melrose Avenue

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:
Herbert Bacon, Robert Neale, Philip Pocock, Percy Smith, Louis Taylor, Albert Davies, Jesse Chivers, Frank Burchell, Arthur Hosler, Owen Lewington, Walter Copperthwaite, George Smith, Reginald Merry, Tom Bosley, Frank Fowler, Albert Newberry, Sidney Newberry.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

Sick: Renton Dunlop.
Killed in Action: Sidney Marshall.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, May 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/5)

A terrible price – are we worth it?

Eric Guy Sutton, a member of the wealthy family which owned Sutton’s Seeds, Reading’s iconic horticultural business, had joined up soon after the start of the war. He was awarded the Military Cross a year later for saving a fellow soldier’s life, but was killed in action in April 1916. His home church, St John’s, was devastated by the news.

It was with great sorrow and deep sympathy for the bereaved family that we heard of the death of Lieut. E. G. Sutton. This most promising young officer, who had already been awarded the Military Cross for an act of great courage and self-sacrifice, was killed on Saturday, April 8th, in the gallant performance of his duty. We shall hope to publish some details of his career in the next issue of the magazine.

“Ye are not your own. You are bought with a price” (1 Cor VI.20)
Most of us were moved, I think, a few weeks ago by a story of almost unexampled heroism given in a list of recently conferred V.C.’s. A young officer attempted to throw a bomb into the enemy’s trench. The missile, however, struck his own parapet and fell in to his own trench. The officer cried a warning to his comrades and himself sprang back into safety, but then noting that his warning had been unheeded, turned back, flung himself upon the bomb and was destroyed by its explosion. And I wonder what were the feelings of his comrades and whether the thought of our text came into their minds, and they said to themselves: “We are not our own, we have been bought with a price.” And I wonder how many of us at home had the same thought in our minds as we read the account, or whether we have ever sufficiently thought at all that not to one such glorious act of heroism, but to countless splendid and ungrudging acts of devotion, do we owe today the security of our shores, the air we breathe untainted by foul poison emanations, the food we eat unstinted in quantity, our women their honour, our children their deliverance from brutality, our old people the quiet, even tenor of their placid lives, and all of us our immunity from the horrors that have desolated Belgium and Poland and Serbia.

We are bought with a price! Who will deny it? Vicarious suffering! Vicarious death!, say some. “We can’t understand it, we can’t accept it!” To such, I say: Alas for the poverty of your intellect and the hardness of your heart, when the very thing is happening today before your very eyes and crying to your souls. When not one minute passes, but even now in France, in Russia, on the seas, wherever the ceaseless battle rages, a man dies that other men may live. We are bought with a price, and day by day in that pitiful concentration of tragedy we know as the casualty list, the bill is presented, and every now and then, at longer intervals, the account is rendered up to date. And how stands it today? Some half a million of Englishmen slain, mutilated, sick, languishing in pestilent Wittenberg prison camps – for us. Mown down by machine guns, crashing from the air in the shattered aeroplane, settling to the ocean-bed in the sunken submarine, buried beneath the soil, buried beneath the waves, unburied in the hideous no-man’s-land between the trenches, tossing in our hospitals, limping about our streets, cry of the wounded and sob of the broken of heart, laughing boys who do not know what awaits them, grave-faced men who do, going forth in courage to do their part – behold the price that is paid; the price that is paid for us; in virtue of which we sit tranquilly in this church this morning, and shall walk tranquilly home to our tranquil and ample dinners.

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