“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)

Several wounded since the late terrible fighting

There was worrying news for families in Mortimer West End.

West End

News of our Sailors and Soldiers

It was with deep regret that we heard of the death of Thomas Henry Dicker. He had recently been transferred to the Lincolnshire Yeomanry and was on the “Arcadian” when it was torpedoed and, unhappily, was amongst those lost. We offer our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Dicker on the loss of their eldest son.

News has been received of several wounded since the late terrible fighting. James Bailey writes cheerily of his wounds and it is good to hear that Arthur Penny’s are notified as slight while Gilbert Cowdry, at the time of writing, has gone to a convalescent home. Mr. Harry Trelawny, after having slight concussion of the brain, went into the line again but is once more in hospital, suffering from shell-shock.

Charles Murrell, R.N., has been home on leave and Alfred Cowdry has joined the Royal Navy.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

Gifts for the good cause

Warfield women were inspired to replace gifts for the troops which had been sent to the bottom of the sea by enemy action.

On Wednesday, May 30th, the Warfield “Shower of Gifts” to Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild was held by the kind invitation of Mrs. Shard at Warfield Hall. This was a scheme to provide from home the loss of many of the overseas gifts which had been lost by the work of German torpedoes. Mrs. Shard received the gifts in the garden, and the total amounted to 407. Such a number far exceeding anything that we had anticipated. All the donors were afterwards received at tea in the dining room, including a great number of children from the School who were all armed with gifts for the good cause; after which all the gifts were then packed and sent off to the Bracknell headquarters as a gift to Queen Mary for her birthday on June 2nd, to be distributed by her among our Soldiers and Sailors.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

Torpedoed off Capetown

More War Savings Associations continued to flourish.

Bracknell

A War Savings Association has been started in connection with the C.E.M.S. sharing-out Club, and there are already about 50 members.

Warfield

Our War Savings Association is thriving; we now have 100 members, thanks to the energy and zeal of our Secretary and Treasurer.

We welcome the return of Mr. T. Bowyer, jun, who was one of the engineers on the Cilicia which was torpedoed off Capetown and now has got back safely to Warfield.

Winkfield District Magazine, April 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/4)

Russian diplomats delighted at revolution

Florence Vansittart Neale reflects in more detail on her experience seeing the tragic sight of the sunken Gloucester Castle hospital ship.

5 April 1917
I saw the Gloster Castle partly submerged, it had been towed into the Solent. Hospital ship torpedoed, burnt engines, darkness, people in boats 2 hours before picked up by destroyer.

Heard our hospital ships painted black & no lights.

Phyllis tells me one ran into French mines, hit & then destroyer sank. No wounded on board but nurses& orderlies.

Mrs James says when 20,000 prisoners were taken there, we may [have] her flag & feel the end is nearly coming! She says Russian attache’s & legation delighted at revolution.

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

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)

“Spain may come in”

Florence Vansittart Neale had to deal with the practical implications of rationed food essentials, while hoping that neutral Spain might join the Allies thanks to the Germans’ aggressive targetting of all shipping.

7 February 1917

Mrs S. [the cook?] & I daily talks on food economy. 2 ½ lb meat – 4 lbs bread – ¾ lb sugar for each person.

Manpower 18-60. How many ought to go!!…

Germans refuse to stop torpedoing every ship – neutral or enemy. Spain may come in.

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

Torpedoed in night attire mid the cold wind and pouring rain

A Winkfield man returning to his job in the colonies was in a ship sunk by enemy action.

A member of our choir, Mr. J. Moir, has lately experienced an unpleasant and thrilling adventure. He left England early in October to return to duty at Nairdi, but in the Mediterranean his ship was torpedoed and sank in seven minutes.

Fortunately all were able to get into the boats safely, and after an hour or so were rescued by a British destroyer, but only just in time, for a great storm arose, and their plight on the deck of the little vessel in night attire mid the cold wind and pouring rain was far from enviable; however after a few hours they were safely landed, and Mr. Moir eventually reached England none the worse except for the loss of all his belongings.

He left England again on November 17th and we sincerely trust that this time he will arrive safely to again take up his Government work at Nairdi.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1916 (D/P151/28A/12)

“The Huns ran from the tanks like hares”

John Maxwell Image wrote to a friend with his latest thoughts, and passing on brother-in-law Percy Spencer’s impressions.

29 Barton Road
Tuesday 10 Oct ‘16

My Very Dear Old Man

I quite understand, and share with you, the absorbing interest of the daily War News. Nothing else matters, now-a-days. What do you make of this morning’s news of the U boat blockade of the United States coast? If America really shuts them out from supplies in her ports, it must be over in a month or so – and if it succeeds, the exasperation of the Yanks’ commerce must kick Wilson into activity. Anyhow it is a risky move for Germany on the brink of a Presidential election. Therefore I should judge it a sop to soothe German home politics – now that things are growing so disastrous on the Somme.

I went last Friday to see the German “Albatross” (captured by us on 15 October last year) which the WO has presented to the University. It is said to be a fine specimen, tho’ the class has been cut out since. I was very little impressed. For one thing it was so much smaller than I expected – a snout nosed, biplane, 2 seater.

We have had 2 Zepp raids since my last letter. I slept peacefully through both. In the latter of the two the Zepp dropped a starshell on Grantchester: and then passed over Barton Road, probably over our own garden, for Prof. Stanley Gardiner (opposite us) heard its drone, and turning over in bed said to his wife, “the raid is over – there are the trains running again”. We were at tea in his lovely house and garden yesterday when he told me this…

Brandon, one of the two airmen who got DSO for bringing down the flaming Zepp was at Trinity Hall.

A Tank passed through Camb[ridge] on Friday. The Signora got an amusing letter from one of her brothers at the Front, last Saturday, in which he says of the Tanks, “they are very funny, but the boundless faith in them of the folks at home is even funnier. On the day when they were first used, the Huns ran from them like hares – this, although they were aware of their advent” (clearly, nothing can be kept from the Hun spy). Two are known to have got in once to the place near Thetford where the Tanks were secretly built. To go on with Percy Spencer: “One of these contraptions was observed going through the main street of a captured village with our boys riding all over her and hanging on the back.” His chief praise, however, is for our Aeroplanes. “In the air, the Hun is a nonentity – and he owns it every day” – and I remember how, when he first went out, he used to laugh and vow that he had seen hundreds shot at, but never one brought down!

These submarine brutes, who torpedo ships without warning! Did you notice that the first question asked by the Submarine at Newport was for the Bremen? Why, his Government, weeks ago, published to the world the safe arrival of the Bremen in America. Does he presume to disbelieve his own Government? The Americans honestly know nothing of her, but we in England for some time past have heard it whispered that she is safe at Falmouth. The Falmouth watch for U boats is very strict, and has been (so they boast) inordinately successful. A lady who came back a few weeks ago from a holiday, recounted to me how she was one afternoon walking by the shore when a destroyer tore past her in furious haste, all the funnels vomiting columns of black smoke. No sooner as she past Pendennis Point than the firing began. It died away – and presently, soberly and slowly, the destroyer came back, another destroyer keeping pace, and between them – the German submarine. What wouldn’t I have given for that sight.

I am told – by Ball, so it is likely to be correct – that Trinity expects this term 47 men of all years, including BAs!

The Fellowship dinner was for tonight. It is postponed till Thursday – after the funerals of Keith Lucas (killed from an aeroplane) nd poor Alfred Humphry. He is buried today at Thaxted…

Our most affectionate wishes to you both.
Bild

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

Union Jack at half mast as a nation mourns

Schools in Berkshire reacted to the death of Lord Kitchener at sea.

Warfield CE School
7th June 1916

We regret to hear the sad news of the death of Lord Kitchener and his staff with the crew of the HMS Hampshire torpedoed off the Orkneys on the night of June 5. Suitable prayers and reference to the country’s loss were addressed to our usual morning’s devotions. Pictures of the late secretary of state for war were hung in the school and the national anthem was most impressively sung. We will raise the Union Jack half mast when the sad news is confirmed.

Lower Sandhurst School
June 7th 1916

School Flag at half-mast to-day. Nation mourning Lord Kitchener.

Cookham Alwyn Road School
June 7th 1916

Miss J Smallbone absent today: requested leave to go home to bid farewell to her brother, who is proceeding to the Front.

Warfield CE School log book (C/EL26/3, p. 344); Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 365); Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 274)

“If only there was a man at the Head with more heart, more imagination, & less astute worldly wiseman view of the Church and its interests!

Sybil Campbell wrote to her sister in law Lady Mary Glyn with exciting news of a shipwreck in the Inner Hebrides.

Ap. 10/16
Tiree

My dear M.

Tomorrow is mail day, & my daily Light is full of memorial dates. I am here for the Red Cross, & odds & ends. Rather a sad island, hating “the Tribunal”, & the compulsion. A really sad lot get off on physical defects, but of 19 attested, 13 had varicose veins, & other things speaking of inbreeding. But, the spirit is not of submission to the “will of God”.

We have had a shipwrecked crew on the island. The Admanton, 4000 ton coal for fleet from Cardiff, sent down by the fire of a submarine between Barra & Sherryvore, about 10 miles off us. Heavy firing was heard by many & the coast watchers were reporting, then at 2 a large ship’s boat of very exhausted men made for “Sahara”, the one port on the north side, & that a mere creek.

About 7, seeing nothing, they were fired at, the shot passing over the bridge, then a torpedo passed under the boat, but as she had discharged the cargo she was light & it passed under the bow. One German, knowing her unarmed, proceeded to finish her with shell. The men tumbled to their boats, the Germans left these alive, “behaving well as they could have shelled us under in no time”. It was a rough wild morning & a very frozen crew of 9 with the captain landed after battling from 7 a.m. to 2. The captain got a change & some tea from the township, & then drove over to Island House to report to the Admiralty & owners. They came from Cardiff, a little Welshman.

I happened to be at Island House as he drove up. It was curious to see & hear all 1st hand. They say that 7 have been destroyed lately on this line to the main fleet. MacD[onald?] a patrol captain in Oban, & to the Rear Admiral at Cromarty. The 2nd boat separated. She was seen further east & the captain thought she would get into Coll.

On Sunday a.m. the patrol boats came racing in here. The Oban one took off the crew, & were able to report the 2nd boat had been picked up off the kairns of Coll & taken to Tobermory. Several injured men in her, then a 2nd patrol boat is now stationed here, & cruises round. She has Marines on board,& they landed yesterday & were at various houses asking for a drink of milk, & getting it, & tho’ they offered money none would take it. I daresay the patrols are a little annoyed for an islander saw & reported the conning tower of a submarine between us & the Dutchman, & tho’ a patrol came, I fancy they were all a little incredulous.

We think this beat has not been enough patrolled, the patrols lying thick in & around Stornoway. This boat is to make Tiree its headquarters for a month. It is rough & bitter work for all concerned.
(more…)

90 noncombatant lives lost

Florence Vansittart Neale noted the loss of a British civilian vessel carrying passengers from several neutral countries. The dead included a member of the Persian royal family.

26 March 1916
“Sussex” torpedoed in Channel. Nearly 90 lives lost.

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

A sad day

Florence Vansittart Neale has some more Navy news.

10 March 1916

Captain Kelly to say goodbye – going up to join his new ship “Devonshire”….

“Airman” Col in for Herts. Destroyer & torpedo boat sunk by mines off east coast. Sad day.

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

A girl and a gun

Florence Vansittart Neale heard a number of stories of heroism, treachery and incompetence from her circle of acquaintances. Some of them may be more reliable than others, but it shows the kinds of stories that were circulating at home. Queen Sophia of Greece was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. She and her husband (the uncle of the Duke of Edinburgh) sympathised with the Germans, while the Greek government leaned towards the Allies.

11 November 1915

Germans torpedoed “Ancona”, Italian ship.

Heard through Meg of brave French girl aged 17 at Loos. Phil Carr met her & heard story from Dr. Saw Germans were sniping a dressing station & covered the front door so no one could go out to hit them. This girl who lived near & knew the place well ran out behind with a pistol, into the house & killed them both. Came back, put down revolver & just said “C’est fait” & went on with her dressings.

Phil Carr, rescuing people from Loos, met an old woman carrying her mattress & 2 live rabbits! She had been told she could only bring what she could carry.

Kitchener was asked why he sent out such an “awful ass” as Ian Hamilton. He said because he had no other “awful ass” to send.
I hear that why John [Burres?] left the Cabinet on account of us going to war was because he had been so bamboozled by the Germans while he was there some 2 or 3 years ago, & they persuaded him to put all the money he had in German things – he thought after the war he could get them to give him back his money in consequence.

Germans tell our Tommies across trenches “Gott sei dank! You’ve killed our Prussian commander.”

Hear Queen of Greece stabbed Tino [King Constantine]. So he took to his bed…

Hear Captain Kelly gone on secret expedition. Can’t write to Maisie for some time.

Hear English airman caught in German lines. 2 German officers insisted on his taking them to his machine to see the English lines. He looped the loop & they fell out! He had tied himself in.

Hear so many Belgians are spies, helping Germans – will do anything for money.

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

Knocked down and out in the trenches

Maysie Wynne-Finch wrote to her brother Ralph Glyn about the arrival in England of her wounded husband John.

Oct 23/15
11, Bruton Street, W

My darlingest R.

This has been a week of great & lovely happenings for me & Meg. I think you heard John was wounded the 9th. The following Sat after having given up all hopes of seeing him at all, I git a wire to say he was coming. The same day Meg had a wire from Jim that he was coming so it was a wonderful day. Jim arrived 6.30 Sat last 16th, looking so well, & in great form. He has arranged very well as he has brought another ship to refit so one hopes he’ll get his Royalist refit too! Also there seems good reason to hope that Royalist & Rupert’s ship will really shortly change places – I do hope so for Meg’s sake. I had got hold of Sybbie Samuelson as soon as possible & she agitated to get John to her hospital & joyful to say succeeded. I was woken at 8.30 to be told John had arrived at her hospital 4 am that morning, 17th. I saw him at noon, & he was down (in pyjamas of course) & we had a lovely day in Sybbie’s room, & oh, it was interesting & thrilling to hear all about everything too.

He was hit on Saturday afternoon leaving the trenches by an aerial torpedo they say. It made 3 small holes in him, the largest is now about the size of 2/6 bit on the shoulder blade. It knocked him down & out of course & some of the trench fell in on him making him very bruised & stiff & he’s also rather deaf – & was a bit concussed, but the most painful thing has been an awful abcess that started in his face. It gave him gyp & his face swelled up miles. It burst the day he got to London – & all the poison in him apparently came away. A good thing I expect, as his wounds had been rather dirty. Now the great jaw expert Farmer who has been attending him in hospital finds he has a bit of dead bone in his jaw – which is at the bottom of the abcess. How or why is a mystery but they think in any case this would have come, but the wounds & shock & poison hurried it up. So now he has to be treated for this – they hope to wriggle the dead bit out & not operate, for this purpose they dig about & stuff acids in etc – not at all nice. But his face is no longer tied up & has gone verynearly down. He had a Board two days ago & got 2 months. The lot will have to be spent in being treated up here I suppose. He left the hospital yesterday – but goes in every morning to be “dressed”. I do feel I am too lucky for words. It’s rather nice, Feilding the Brigadier sent a message to Mrs WF to say John had done particularly well this last show. Ever since the 9th the Div has been more or less at it, having the h— of a time from all accounts, I’m afraid without much result….

The Zep agitations continue. We did hit one last time they came anyhow, but not very hard I fear.

I would like to know what you feel about Carson. He’s the only honest man in the country, one feels anyhow…

The Zeps last week had a go at Uncle Henry’s powder factory at Chilworth, mercifully they missed….

Your own loving Maysie

Letter from Maysie Wynne-Finch to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/2)