A sergeant to tea

The Hallams invited a soldier to tea.

9 December 1917

A piercing cold wind, and damp too which made it worse…

We had a sergeant in the London Irish on to tea and supper.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

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War bread makes us itch

The poor quality bread issued in wartime sounds as though it may have caused allergic reactions in some people.

29th November 1917

F.B. went back to-night enroute to Italy he expects.

I went to bed at ½ past 9.

This war bread or something has given all of us a most irritating sensation like the itch.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A chum he last saw on the banks of the Somme

A friend of the Hallams had an unexpected reunion while home on leave, while a maid at Bisham Abbey had suffered a family bereavement.

William Hallam
25th November 1917

Up at ¼ to 7. Emptied the bath, lit fire and went to H.C. at St. Paul’s at 8. A bitter cold wind. I also went down to the XI [11 o’clock] Service with Muriel & Frank Britten. Coming out of church he met an army chum of his – a St. Paulite – Richards whom he last saw on the banks of the Somme.

Florence Vansittart Neale
25 November 1917

Colonel Wells to lunch about soldiers for allotments….

Annie off home, her brother killed.

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

Broken up

The Hallams had sad news of an Australian soldier they had befriended.

William Hallam
31st October 1917

This morning at Breakfast time we heard from Gordon Inglis one of those Tasmanians who used to come in to see us. He tells us Don Blackwell, one of the others, was killed at ½ past 10 at night on the 17th in Polygon Wood. We were all very much cut up at this news. He was such a fine fellow. The girls especially broken up.

Florence Vansittart Neale
31 October 1917

Busy preparing for the whist drive. Had about 165 in two rooms….

Bad raid in London. Not much damage, only 3 got through! But most of people up 3 hours.

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

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)

Food is very scarce

William Hallam (working the night shift in Swindon) heard of food shortages in the Midlands.

18th October 1917

A beautiful starlit night. Home at 6 this morning and lit the fire, washed and had my breakfast, and was in bed at ½ past 7 where I stayed till 4, but did not get a lot of sleep. My bro. George wrote from Coventry. He says food is very scarce there.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

All the fir trees are being cut down

The Canadian Forestry Corps had been specially created to provide wood for the needs of the Front. The woods of Berkshire provided much of the raw materials.

1st October 1917

A beautiful day again but quite an Autumn feeling in the air morning & night. Wife went up to Padworth to see her father’s grave. She says all the fir trees round them are being cut down by Canadian lumber men.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

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)

“Everything getting most scandalously dear”

William Hallam was shocked by the latest price rises, but was still patriotically investing in war savings certificates.

15th September 1917

Fine to-day again. Worked till 5. To-night after tea and I had washed, shaved and changed I went down to the Frome Hotel and got 2 pints of ale 1/= then along Bath Rd, bought a W.S.C. 15/6, then walked along looking in the shop windows. B[ough]t an oz of Red Bell tobaccos 6d. and a box of matches 1½d. Everything getting most scandalously dear. Coming back I went into Bath Rd reading room till ½ past 8. Very dark coming home. To bed at 10.

Diary of William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

“This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one”

William Hallam was worried that bad weather would worsen food shortages.

29th August 1917

All night it rained too. This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one.

It got brighter this evening tho’. An aeroplane went over just after 9 o’clock to-night. The latest I have seen one yet.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Aeroplanes overhead

Over in Swindon, aeroplane training was going on.

6th August 1917

Bank Holiday. Up at a quarter to 8. No work to-day. A dull morning but the afternoon and evening was much finer and bright – weather improving. Many aeroplanes over.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“One can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable”

Florence Vansittart Neale despaired of the situation on the Russian Front, while William Hallam and his wife offered some home comforts to Australian soldiers.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 July 1917

Russia hopelessly rotten. Retreating all along.

William Hallam
29th July 1917

Up at 10 past 5 and to work. How I am getting fed up with this week and work. Home at ¼ past 1 to dinner. Our Tasmanian came in to dinner and tea with his two chums Gordon Inglis and Percy Crane from Hobart. They are certainly 3 of the nicest fellows I’ve ever met and I feel one can’t do too much to make these young colonials comfortable and give them a home comfort when we can. Very wet, raining hard.

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

Aeroplanes flying about

Over the county border at Swindon, William Hallam was entertained by the sight of trainee pilots practicing their newfangled art.

23rd July 1917
Another hot day. 13 aeroplanes flying about here at dinnertime.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Several people try to see a plane

William Hallam heard the newfangled sound of an aeroplane overhead.

21st July 1917

Worked till 5 again. Got home at ¼ past 5. Dot was out so got my own tea. Then I cut up more wood and stacked away more coal. Washed, shaved and changed, and as usual along Bath Rd. Bought 4 War Savings Cert. 15/6 each. Then down Victoria Rd and bought a pair of working boots 10/9. Brought them home and then went to the Reading Room till nearly 9. Coming along Bath Road home I could hear an aeroplane but could not see it, it was too high up. Several more people were looking for it. A close and oppressive evening.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

War bread is such stale stuff

William Hallam did not care for the wholemeal bread produced in war time.

13th July 1917

Wages 2£. 18S. 7d. after 10/6 was deducted. We get 10d. extra now for Sunday work. Very hot and close again. If it wasn’t for the war bread I should some times take my dinner but it is such stale stuff. Coming up here from work at dinner time tires me out. The only thing I feel older in. Coming come from work to-night I called in at the barbers and had my hair cut. I was in there awaiting my turn past an hour.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)