“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)

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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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I hope war may end this summer – and a national spirit of compromise will defeat party politics

A political contact of Ralph Glyn’s in Scotland, whose factory was involved in aeroplane manufacture, had news of the home situation.

2 April 1916
My dear Glyn

Thanks for yours of 19th ult. You of course understand that the financial deficit is mainly due to you not having paid in full your customary subscription. If you have decided not to do so I think it would be well to tell Nicol this definitely so that the Committee may know they must consider cutting down expenses, by getting a cheaper organiser or otherwise.

I agree that people generally are very sick of party politics but while I sincerely hope that after the war a much larger number will view matters in a broader & more national spirit, I much fear all the same that the party conflict will be keener than ever – it will be the parties that will differ & I hope to a large extent we may get rid of the “wait & see” lawyer class who have gone so near ruining the country.

There is some but not much improvement on our workmen – it is the women who are acting so nobly – but they have been so pandered to by politicians in the past that one can hardly wonder. I have a strong belief too that much of the trouble has been because of German money. I happened to be at Parkhead when the recent trouble broke out & I strongly urged that if the known leaders of trouble could not be shot they should at least be removed, & this latter I am glad to say was done & the trouble appears to be fizzling out. Our advisory committee has been kept very busy & I am told its work has been considered by the tribunal to be the best in the City.

You will be interested to know that I am one of the promoters of a Scottish Hospital for Limbless Soldiers & Sailors. We are getting a gift of Erskine House for the purpose – & the necessary land at agricultural value. Your Aunt HRH Princess Louise has agreed to be our patron & we have already collected about £25,000. By the way I had the pleasure of showing HRH over our works, in which she was tremendously interested, as wee were in her. She is a most engaging personality.

Did I tell you I had a flight in one of the aeroplanes we built? It was very enjoyable. We are building Zeps, so I hope to go up in one of them. I trust you are keeping in good health & that we may see you safely home soon. I still hope war may end this summer.

Yours very truly
J Smith Park

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/22)

A turning of the tide?

All of Ralph Glyn’s family were assiduous about writing to him regularly, and today we hear from all four. His mother Lady Mary first:

Feb 23, 1916

Belpston [visited for a confirmation] was interesting. The Zepps had been flying & were visible just over them and one old woman told the vicar it had followed her all up the street, & she had to take refuge in the chapel!! And another woman said it lighted her all up the village. They had shown no fear. The vicar and his wife heard the bombs drop & went out to look, but did not see it as the others did. They are a mile off at Etton & the Zepp was evidently not high on the horizon the other side of Belpston.

We had a very good meeting, the reality of the war had been brought home to that little outlying place so close to the Lincoln fen. The paper mills there were the only attraction for Zepps!…

They all listened when I told then in the hard days before us mothers must save their pence for their children, and then I told them how poor we all must be, and how they would then have no allowances & high wages, and how they were spending it all now and “the flood would come” – of even greater disaster than war. For it profit nothing to gain the whole world and lose our soul as a nation, a country, a people – or our own awful individual personal mysterious “soul”, and your letter today says much the same. I said about the soldier priests who had learned in this war the sacrifice of self and of all that made life good to them that they might save us, and sometimes I wonder if it can be saved, this country of ours!…

I think the war is making me less able to combat the conditions here…

Maysie writes cheerfully about the little house at Windsor, and she has got her little household together. He is enjoying the adjutant work…

Your own Mur

Ralph’s father the Bishop referred only briefly to war matters in his letter:

The Palace,
Peterborough
Wed: Feb 23 [1916]
My darling Ralph

I am sure your prophecy is coming true – & now the Russians have got Erzerum & are threatening Trebizond, I feel that we are really beginning to see hope of a turn in the tide.

Much love
Your loving father
E C Peterborough
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“Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind?”

Ralph Glyn had political ambitions, and the College constituency in Glasgow was being nursed for him. He had narrowly lost the 1910 election to a Liberal (he was a Conservative/Unionist). While serving in the army he delivered a lengthy statement to those he viewed as future constituents. Unfortunately for him and all his work, the constituency was abolished before the 1918 election. The paper itself, however, is an interesting insight into the views of an intelligent officer into attitudes at home and at the front.

GHQ
MEF
November 1915

I have been asked by one or two friends in the College Division to write a letter that may be a link between so many old friends of those former days, when Peace was not understood, and myself. To do this as I would wish by personal letter my work here will not allow. I must ask everyone who reads these lines to believe how sincere are my wishes for as happy a New Year as these days permits to be theirs.

I write these lines because I have always been open with my friends in Glasgow, and I believe you will all understand how it is impossible to write “news”.

There are many who have been all the time in France, or in Gallipoli, whilst some have been in both theatres of operations; but there are few officers now who have not spent some time at home, either wounded, or on leave or duty, and so it is possible to take a comprehensive survey of men, matters and means.

The newspapers are the only medium between the Public and events that happen behind the veil of the censor. Letters from friends and relations pass from the Front to those at home producing for a period a clear gleam of light – sometimes too vivid – of what is fact and reality at one small point of that vague term “The Front”. The days are shortening, the winter with all its horrors is close upon us and we are all well aware that if only something could be lifted the Future would be brighter and more easy to face. To arrive at any satisfactory conclusion we must try and see things as they are – undisguised but very possibly naked and ashamed. No time should be lost in establishing both at “the front” and at “the back” a “New Feeling” based upon the firm belief that at last true bearings have been taken, the clouds have lifted and the sun seen long enough to enable the exact position of the ship to be located, and that each and all having but the one port open to them are determined, in spite of all stress of weather, to reach their destination without undue delay.

Why is the atmosphere of life more cheerful nearer to all the horrors and ugliness of modern war than it is behind? There is nothing in any trench in France or Gallipoli to equal the gloom of many a house at home. The individual man is happy when he knows he is doing “his bit” and has that feeling down his back of something worthy of accomplishment being well done. But this same feeling should animate those miners, munition-workers, ship-builders and all that other host at home, whose work is as vital to the war’s success as any gallant action in the trenches. Why is there this feeling of unrest and mistrust in so many quarters? “Out here”, be it in France or Gallipoli, this war acts in one way all the time and without variation. The Regular Army has almost ceased to exist as it was before the war. Officers and men have fallen and others have taken their place. The tradition of a great regiment holds all the new comers in its sway and the magic mantle of “esprit de corps” stirs through the new blood of the recruit, officer and man, tempering and making him part of the original stock. The Reserve ceased to exist when war began; because by our system the fighting force of the country, Regular and Reserve, were and are one and indivisible. Any gunner will tell you that had it not been for the “dug out” the new armies could not have been born. The “dug out” has much to bear from the gibes of younger men who too often assume that all “dug outs” must be musty and old, stupid and out of date, but he can console himself with the knowledge that without him the Regular serving soldiers could not have kept the machine running.
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Strike ended

Florence Vansittart Neale was relieved but cautious that the miners’ strike had been called off.

2 September 1915
Strike ended for the present.

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

Welsh strike on again – thousands out!

Florence Vansittart Neale reports the latest news. Mass industrial action was a relatively new phenomenon, and the upper classes saw it as unpatriotic in wartime. Dennis Theodore Smith was the teenage officer son of friends from Maidenhead.

30 August 1915

Welsh strike on again! 1000s out! (coal)

Still persistent rumours. Observer rather pessimistic – must have big armies. Germans at Boulogne.

Dennis Theodore Smith killed.

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