No champagne in the shops

Things were improving, so Florence Vansittart Neale made a short detour.

13 December 1918

Heard fair night. Cough bad. Went by way of Stone’s for champagne – could get none, then to A&N – none there. On to Hospital via Westminster. Saw submarines.

Found her rather drowsy – slept a good deal all day, but Dr [March?] more satisfied. We again alone most of afternoon & had tea. I left after 5.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Advertisements

German submarines fine ships but so badly kept, and crews like dirty pirates

29 November 1918

German submarines fine ships but so badly kept. Crews like dirty pirates.

Heard from Bubs. No flu at present….

Hear Belgian women most kind to all Allied prisoners. Taken risks to help them.

Heard Francis de Greef killed Oct. 14th. Modeste & Emil & Jean de Block back with their people.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

So many officers down with flu

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughters saw the German submarines being surrendered.

25 November 1918

Heard from Phyllis. They watched the submarines all Friday afternoon. Boy had to go to Felixstowe. So many officers down with flue….

Feel on a holiday. No soldiers, no officers! Captain Carswell left this morning.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Impertinent Germans

23 November 1918

Submarines arriving Harwich. Impertinents [illegible] would not sign till made to.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

‘Rather a rag after my “flue”’

The influenza epidemic meant that the toll of death was far from over.

22 November 1918

Submarines arriving at Harwich.

Have 10 gallons petrol a month for officers.

Felt rather a rag after my “flue”. Heard Fred Bennett died of it night before at Cliveden. He caught it at his brother Charlie’s funeral 10 days before. Fred in RFC looked so nice & handsome.

Canadians left 9.45. Captain C[arswell]. with them to Maidenhead.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

“Germans let prisoners loose, gave no food”

The British took charge of the entire German Navy. Every single ship was taken to Scotland, while the submarines were handed over at Harwich.

21 November 1918

German fleet in Scotland. 150 submarines to be given up. Sir R. Tyrwhitt receives them at Harwich. King up to Scotland to see Fleet.

Hear awful account of prisoners. Germans let them loose, gave no food. Many died on the road.

Canadians to play golf. Shaw caddied.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

German fleet begin surrender

Some severely wounded soldiers came to visit Bisham Abbey.

18 November 1918

Fleet begin surrender. Hope submarines going to Harwich.

Fine day. Henry & 2 officers motored to Oxford for the day….

Phyllis’s hospital party came. 3 men & a sister. Great success. They took them everywhere in bath chairs. Left about 4, after tea…

Many prisoners came back.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

White flags

The war definitely seemed to be approaching the end.

Will Spencer
28 October 1918

Seeing Herr Dr Mai in the Rondel, I asked him whether he had already been for his morning walk, & he replied that he had not, & would be glad to come with me. He told me that he had just fetched his paper, & seen that Ludendorff had resigned. I told him that I had just read in yesterday’s paper the report of a speech of Lloyd Geroge’s, in which he spoke of what England had still to learn from Germany – that the German people was a better educated people than the English, etc.

Florence Vansittart Neale
28 October 1918

Allenby in Aleppo! We still going on.

Balfour & Lloyd George went to Paris. Seems like preliminaries.

Submarines going back to base with white flags & saluting our merchant men!…

Made a helmet. Talk of Kaiser abdicating. Ludendorf resigned.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

“A torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall, but couldn’t escape the war.

William Hallam
16th July 1918

It was wet until dinner time then cleared and was a beautiful day. We had crabs for tea. This afternoon I took that book – rather big for a guide and went round identifying some of the old houses. The quaintest town – the old part – I was ever in but clean even in the lowest streets.

On the pier to-night we saw 2 merchant vessels come in for safety from the submarines and 3 chasers and then a torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 July 1918

Phyllis quite happy at 4 London General!…

Tzar shot by Bolshevists at Ekaterinberg.

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

Submarine menace annoying

Florence Vansittart Neale was anxious about the Western Front, but more optimistic about the Navy.

27 May 1918

Lovely day. We had 24! wounded by launch. All out in boats. Bowls & croquet.

German offensive begun. Fear French & us falling back.

Submarine menace annoying, but we have or can getting it under.

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

German submarine base useless

The Vansittart Neales took their Australian guest out to tea.

12 May 1918

Henry & I & Captain Goudie to tea at Higginsons…

Ostend harbour filled up by the Vindictive. Submarine base useless.

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

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)

Many anti-submarine proposals have been received

An internee’s proposals for trapping enemy submarines were greeted with a signal lack of enthusiasm, while the imposition of rationing meant the Place of Internment (aka Reading Prison) had to revamp menus.


Board of Invention & Research
Victory House
Cockspur St
SW1

21-2-18

Sir

I am directed by the Board of Invention & Research to thank you for your letter of the 14th inst: transmitting particulars of anti-submarine proposals put forward by alien C. Slingeneyer, interned at Reading.

In reply, I beg to inform you that many similar proposals have already been received from various sources. If however the Inventor will be good enough to furnish a full description of the device to which he calls attention, the matter will receive careful consideration; and I am to ask that, if no objection be seen, alien C. Slingeneyer may be informed accordingly.

I am, sir,
Your obedient servant
Walter J. James

21-2-18
The Gov. P of I Reading

With ref: to the system of rationing which will shortly come into operation, the enclosed scale of dietary will be taken into use at your Establishment – as soon as you can make the necessary arrangements. The Commission desire to leave you a free hand as to the manner in which the ingredients shall be prepared and the Con: Pn: dietary is enclosed for your information. This, together with the present dietary for interned prisoners will be a guide as to the distribution of the various articles.

Fresh fish will be issued alternately with salt fish. The Commission are arranging for the supply of fresh fish to all Establishments and instructions will shortly reach you on this point.

The dietary cards at present in use will be withdrawn when the new dietary is introduced. On the introduction of the new dietary, no prisoner will be permitted to purchase rationed articles, or articles containing ingredients which are rationed. The rationed articles are bread, cereals (including flour, oatmeal, rice, tapioca, barley, beans, peas etc), meat, sugar, margarine or butter, fats, oils etc.

Signed Alfred Wall, Sec:

Breakfast Bread 6 oz
Porridge 1 pint
Margarine 1 oz
Tea or Coffee

Dinners

Sunday Bread 2 oz
[Illegible] Meat 2 ½ oz
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz (uncooked)
Jam 2 oz

Monday Bread 2 oz
Soup 1 pint (containing 3 oz clods, 4 oz peas, 2 oz vegetables, 2 oz onions)
Potatoes 16 oz

Tuesday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Rice 3 oz uncooked made into puddings

Wednesdays Bread 2 oz
Salt Pork 13 oz
Haricot Beans [1 ½ oz?]
Potatoes 16 oz
Apple rings or fresh fruit

Thursday Bread 2 oz
Beef 6 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz

Friday Bread 2 oz
Vegetable soup 1 pint consisting of 2 oz vegetables, 1 oz onions, ¼ oz fish, 5 oz peas
[Illegible]

Saturday Bread 2 oz
Fish 12 oz uncooked
Potatoes 16 oz
Tapioca 3 oz
Jam 2 oz

Suppers Bread 6 oz
Cocoa or Tea 1 pint
Margarine ¼ oz
Potatoes 6 oz
Cheese 1 oz

Fish – fresh and salt alternate days.

As the meat ration increases, the vegetable soup on Fridays will contain clods.

Fresh vegetables for part ration potatoes when obtainable.

These men can of course buy at the canteen or elsewhere such things as eggs, fruit, tinned fish &c: in fact anything that can be bought outside, not rationed, as in the past.

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“One of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across” offers an answer to U-boats

Gustav Stichl, alias Steel, was a German wool merchant from Hamburg, aged 48 on internment in 1916. He was clearly very disaffected, and the Governor of Reading Prison, or Place of Internment, was annoyed by his complaints of ill treatment. Another internee, Belgian Charles Slingeneyer or Slingermeyer, was an engineer from Bruges, aged 36 when interned in 1916. He was classified as ‘alien, not enemy’, and was trying to support the war effort with his ingenious invention, but remained at Reading Prison until 1919.

9th February 1918
G Stichl

As regards this prisoner’s petition, I have no knowledge of his treatment before he came to Reading – but during the time he has been here every consideration has been shown to him not only by the officers but by the other prisoners.

He is a dirty, untidy and idle man. To my knowledge prisoners have cleaned up his cell for him on many occasions to avoid him being reported – and also because the smell was most offensive.
He has been offered every kind of work time after time, but refused all. The trade instructor by my orders has tried him 4 or 5 times at bags – he only spoils canvas. He refused cleaner’s work, and the only work he has attempted is unravelling some socks & balling the wool which he started a few days ago & which I gave him out of charity – but he won’t work full time even at that & earn the money he could, as after the Prisoners of War were removed to isle of Man, all men were located in one hall – this man considered it a grievance that he had to remove his furniture etc to his new cell & to assist other men in cleaning up the wing. The only one who [grumbled?].

As regards his teeth, his wife offered to pay half the regular charges if prisoner would work & earn the other half – he refused & did nothing. He is one of the most hopeless specimens of mankind I have ever come across and most of his troubles are of his own making. He has never been punished while here – simply because he is so hopeless & helpless – except by having his petitions stopped for a time by order of the Home Office.

C M Morgan
Gov.
9.2.18

February 9th 1918
Sir,

I beg of you to consider the following rough description of a device for dealing with U-boats.

Allow me to explain first on what grounds I based this device.
A Submarine is a very difficult thing to deal with, because:
1st It is always difficult to ascertain the presence of submarines without using detectors. (Without knowing how far the detectors in use are able to discover submarines I humbly remark here that if I had been able to work out my detector referred to in my letter to you on 4th of December 1916, I am almost certain that I would have had the means of not only detecting them but of “spotting” them also. Anyhow a detector, so constructed that by taking for instance the [main?] length for calculating the distance and the strength of sound for giving the direction, would enable vessels to keep out of the way in most cases.)

2nd A submarine is almost or wholly invisible to the vessel she intends to attack.

3rd Minefields are no barrier to submarines.

4th If a submarine is provided with a detector her commander must not fear to come to the surface and is guarded against unexpected attacks.

5th When destroyers or submarine chasers approach a submarine can dive and evade also her enemy.

Those five points are already enough to convince me that the best and surest way for dealing with submarines would be under the water, because it is the only way in which she cannot escape destruction, being caught unawares.

My device therefore would consist of a floating peculiar shaped nutlike structure, which lower part would reach the depth at which a submarine can safely remain under water, so as to prevent her from going under it or passing over it.

Floating body to be made out of mat[erial?] as invisible as possible from the surface.

Special mines to be attached to the aforesaid structure in such a way that, in the case of a submarine striking the structure they would without fail destroy her.

If this device were tried one would have the means of laying minefields against submarines as well as one has minefields against other vessels and the now dangerous zones could be well protected without loss of life or danger and operations by submarines as for instance at present in the Irish Channel could be made impossible.
If laid near a submarine base I am convinced that very few of them, if any at all, would pass through.

Nothing whatever will happen to any surface vessel on striking this structure.

Willing to answer any questions and to give all further necessary information on this subject if required, I remain, Sir,

Your humble servant
Charles Slingeneyer

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“2 Divisions ran away & so caused Cambrai defeat”

Florence Vansittart Neale was puzzled as how to manage Bisham Abbey with less food available, while the news – and rumours – continued to fascinate her.

1 January 1918
Worried morning over rations. Very difficult but must do it. Edith arranging next Sunday’s “chain of prayer”.

January 1918 [inserted at front, no date]

Hear Haig in London, very sick about things. He had refused to send Divisions to Italy, but had to. Wanted to resign. He said a great deal too much fuss made about Sir J Byng’s push & also a great deal about the subsequent retreat!

Hear we send up stuff against [balloons?] which make the men so deadly seasick they have to come down. On return Irish leave this Xmas, 1000s stuck at Holyhead 5 days. Too many submarines there. At last escorted over by American destroyer & gun boats.

Hear 2 Divisions ran away & so caused Cambrai defeat. Hear General [illegible] sent back after it., then returned by Army Council & again sent back after St Quentin retreat! Hunter-Weston “honouring heroic deed” (drunken Tommie). Foch becoming Generalissimo (March 1918).

Meat & butter rations begin.

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