“The attempt of our enemies to starve us has practically failed”

In Earley people were grateful for good weather, which looked set to relieve the pressure on the food supply.

The Vicar’s Letter

My dear friends

Autumn is drawing on apace, and we have again reached the time for our Harvest Thanksgiving, which is fixed for Sunday, October 7th.

This year we ought to be especially thankful. At one time our outlook as regards food appeared to be far from satisfactory, but God has blessed us during the past month with such weather that in most districts the greater part of the harvest has been gathered in without much damage, and the attempt of our enemies to starve us by unrestricted submarine warfare, though still serious, has practically failed. Surely we ought to join together in our thanksgivings, and especially at Holy Communion, with a deepened sense of what we owe to God for our nation and for ourselves.

And while we are thanking God for our material harvest, let us all think of those fields which are ripe for the spiritual harvest in India, Canada, South Africa, and throughout the world… Do we realise as we ought the enormous responsibility that will rest upon our country after the war for the spiritual harvest of the world?

Your friend and Vicar
W W Fowler.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, October 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

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Escape in a barrel

Florence Vansittart Neale’s nephew Lieutenant Paul Eddis was a submarine officer who had been interned in neutral Denmark for some time. He made a daring escape hidden in a barrel.

Florence Vansittart Neale
30 September 1917

Exciting letter of Paul’s escape. He home Friday. Got in barrel….

Too full moon! Fear raids. General Maude’s victory in Mesopotamia very good.

30th week of air raids. Met by barrage of fire. 3 balloons brought down.

Heard of Paul’s arrival & escape in barrel to waiting yacht 15 hours! Evading destroyers [illegible] to Helsingborn.

William Hallam
30th September 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and working from 6 till 1. Beautiful weather still and the nights as light as can be with a full harvest moon – just right for those air raiders. After dinner – roast lamb fowl too dear; 1/9 a lb, I went to bed … A gloriously bright moonlight night.

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

Safe in Sweden after escaping

Florence Vansittart Neale was thrilled to hear that her nephew Paul Eddis, who had been interned in Denmark with his submarine crew, had managed to escape!

22 September 1917

Exciting news about Paul’s escape. Safe at Gothenberg!!

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

Scarborough under attack

Sir Henry Vansittart Neale served on the local (Maidenhead) Tribunal hearing conscientious objectors’ and essential workers’ cases against conscription. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire town of Scarborough was being attacked from the sea.

5 September 1917

Men out on river. About 40 came. Henry at Tribunal & Food Production meetings…

Bombardment of Scarborough.

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

A German commander with a sense of humour

On their trip to Cornwall, Florence and John Maxwell Image heard an entertaining if unlikely tale.

29 Barton Road
27 Aug. ‘17
My most dear old man

On Thursday to Landsend, stopping our car for tea at the famous Gurrend’s Head. Here was current a pleasing myth. It is a desolate scene, with one tiny farm house and a shabby aleshop calling itself an Inn. To this latter came, recently, an affable stranger in mufti, who called for a drink, wrote his name in the guest book, and went. Not until afterwards was he discovered to have been the Commander of a U-boat in the sea below! That man had a sense of humour.

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

“Scalps” secured by our airships

Even an idyllic seaside holiday for the Images was interrupted by the war.

Polcurrian Hotel
Mullion
S. Cornwall

Monday, Aug. 6, 1917

My very dear old man

O but this is a heavenly morning! Brilliant sky, such as I never saw in England before, in August – and the bay underneath my window of such glorious dazzling blue as I think would equal – or put to shame – South Seas or Tropics – and underneath it all, the sneaking deadly submarine. One came in here ten days ago, but had to quit re infecta, without any murders.

But a couple of young ladies from this hotel actually saw, last week, at the Lizard, 6 miles away, a U-boat torpedo strike a steamer and heard the explosion. And a man, who had cycled over, described to me the passionate race of 3 English destroyers to the rescue and our own Mullion airship hovering overhead. They did not get that submarine, though: or at least will not own to it. Discipline makes them very reticent. Still, in less guarded moments, hints are dropped as to several “scalps” secured by one or other of the airships….

Letters tell us … of two raids there – raids never mentioned yet in any newspaper!

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

‘I shall probably have to do the common or garden “over the bags” stunt one merry morning’

Percy Spencer’s hopes of a commission seemed to have been dashed, but now at last he was going to get the opportunity – although he would have to undergo extra training, and would probably not get the administrative job he was most suited for.

June 11, 1917
My dear WF

You’ll think I’m a dreadful correspondent, but you’ll have guessed the reason of my silence – I’ve been terribly busy.

My commission papers went up with an application for a direct commission to be granted to me from the OC of the Battalion I was and am wanted for. (By the way this CO is now a Brigadier.)

Well, there is a rule that no direct commissions are to be granted. So altho’ my application was recommended by the Divisional Corps & Army Commanders & a special application was made to the war Office, the WO has refused to allow me to hold commissioned rank, unless I first come home for a cadet course. The reason given being that it has been found undesirable to grant direct commissions whatever the circumstances to men who have been mainly engaged upon clerical work. Isn’t it funny – and isn’t it a nasty sort of reflection upon “clerks”?

Just then was not an opportune moment for going into such matters. So it was put on one side until today.

Tonight my papers have gone up again for a cadet course in England; and if I dodge the shells & the submarines I ought to be in England within 3 weeks for a cadet course somewhere.

The crab of the business is that it will only be by the veriest luck that I shall get an administrative appointment at the end of it, and shall probably have to do the common or garden “over the bags” stunt one merry morning.

Anyhow, I feel I ought to hold commissioned rank, whether as a fighting or an administrative officer – and this stigma upon clerks must be removed, what!

If and when I come home I shall have some long stories to tell, some of which I’m sure John will wholly approve….

Yours ever
Percy

The asparagus was great. Never was it eaten with such relish or in such extraordinary circumstances.

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/38-40)

“If we waste bread, we are helping the Germans to win the war”

Newbury people were urged not to waste food, particularly bread.

The King has issued a Proclamation on food saving, which is being read, by Royal Command, in Church, but it would perhaps be also as well to put the case in plain language:

1. The stock of bread in the country is not sufficient.

2. The German submarines may make it still more in-sufficient.

3. Therefore we must save all the bread we can.

4. We must not catch horses with bread.

5. We must not give crusts to birds or pigs.

6. We must not throw bread into the street, canal, or dust-bin.

7. We must not cut the crusts off toast.

8. We must eat as little bread as is consistent with health.

9. If we do otherwise, we are helping the Germans to win the war.

The Soldiers’ Club is moving on June 2nd, to “the King’s Arms” in the Market Place. This Hostel must now resign itself to the provision of temperance drinks only. The ladies in charge will be glad of any help in money or kind.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

Hard fighting in France

Florence Vansittart Neale was cheered by the latest from the Front.

18 May 1917

Bullecourt finally taken by us after hard fighting – attacks [illegible] since May 5.

French say we have sunk 23 submarines between May 1-5.

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

Trapped in London

A Swiss acquaintance of Will Spencer had a business journey abroad interrupted by the British fear of anyone with German connections.

16 May 1917
After supper Frau Block chatted with us in the veranda. Her husband only got as far as London on his way to America. By the time he had got the papers which he required for travelling to America, the Dutch boat by which he intended to cross had sailed. Then came the “verschaufter U-Boot Krieg”, & now, as the son of a German mother, he has not yet obtained leave to return here.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

Are You GROWING all the FOOD you can for YOURSELF and THE NATION?

Entrepreneurial Maidenhead nurseryman J P Webster encouraged people to buy his products to tackle food shortages.

“The U-Boat Problem is not solved, and the real problem threatens the food of the people to an extent that no one could have anticipated.”

First Lord of the Admiralty, 8th March, 1917.

Do You

REALISE THE EXTREME GRAVITY OF THAT STATEMENT?

Are You

GROWING all the FOOD you can for YOURSELF and THE NATION?

The Nation

APPEALS to YOU to cultivate every yard of Land you can in this time of her trial!

OUR SEEDS ARE UNSURPASSED

And will ensure you Good Crops.

And Crops are largely increased by the use of Chemical Fertilisers. We stock all the standard kinds.

J. P. WEBSTER, FRHS, SEEDSMAN AND HORTICULTURAL SUNDRIESMAN,
124 High Street, & Station Front, Maidenhead
ALSO AT COOKHAM AND BOURNE END.

Valuable prizes offered at all Local Shows.

“Unless the nation as a whole shoulders part of the burden of victory it will not profit by the triumph, for it is not what a nation gains, but what a nation gives, that makes it great”

– Prime Minister.

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Submarine destroyed

Florence Vansittart headed home after her Isle of Wight holiday, and witnessed an exciting naval fight. She also saw the sad remains of the Gloucester Castle, a hospital ship which had been sunk by the Germans a few days earlier.

4 April 1917
Nice crossing on deck. Saw submarine dest[roy] a submarine; also the Gloucester Castle here under water. Last hospital ships torpedoed off Culver (Sat).

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

Where are they?

Holidaying on the Isle of Wight, Florence Vansittart Neale’s attention turned to the plight of prisoners of war, and the fear of submariners landing secretly.

31 March 1917

Ventnor. A wife of a Turkish prisoner taken at Kut is here. They are so far treated well, but the poor Tommies, they are afraid of them – to fear out of the 6000 taken whether any will return. It is supposed that the Turks do not ill treat them themselves but give them over to the Arabs & Kurds.

I hear that a captain of a German submarine was taken & a bill for dinner was found in his pocket a few days old from an hotel at Bournemouth.

A submarine was found caught in the boom outside Cowes, but no crew. Where are they?

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

Netted submarines

Henry Vansittart Neale’s late sister Henrietta, to whom he had been very close as a child, had married into the Dickinson family.

21 March 1917

I hear that Dover Harbour is full of netted submarines (Muriel Dickinson).

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

21 March 1917

Wrote a letter to Percy, wishing him many happy returns from us both, & thanking him from us both for handing in an enquiry to the British Graves Commission with regard to our missing relative. Asked him to mention to Florrie some books or songs or some other little thing he would like to have, which she could then send him on my behalf. To assist him in choosing (if he decided for books), gave him alist of about 25 volumes in the Everyman’s Library Series, a catalogue of which I have here. Johanna brought a copy of the photograph Frau von Tobiesen took of us at hergiswil, which I enclosed.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)

“The German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us”

Florence Vansittart Neale’s Admiralty official husband, or one of his colleagues, was encouraging about the Navy’s successes.

19 March 1917

I hear through the Admiralty we think we have mastered the submarines, but the mines are still troublesome & will be for some time.

Also the German retreat is only taking place because they are pushed by us.

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