“He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave”

There was news of a number of Maidenhead men, many wounded or ill. One had suffered a nervous breakdown.


Reginald Hill was able to pay a surprise visit of four days to his home, in the midst of his long and weary hospital experiences. He was looking well, considering all that he has borne, but he has one or two more operations yet to undergo. He spoke of a hope that he might be home shortly after Easter.

Ernest Bristow is progressing favourably, but the latest report that reached us spoke of another operation. He seems to be in excellent spirits.

Ben Gibbons is in hospital at Southall, suffering from debility. He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave, from which he had only got back to duty about a fortnight when he broke down and was sent to England, or rather (as we ought to say) Blighty.

Sydney Eastman is in hospital at Chatham, sent home for bronchitis. We may hope to see him shortly. The Medical Board decided that he could not stand the climate at the place where he was stationed.

W. Cleal is in hospital. No particulars known.

David Dalgliesh has received an appointment as Instructor at the Flying School at Winchester.

Hugh Lewis has been at home for a fortnight’s leave in excellent health.

Charles Catliff, too, has been home for his first leave; most of his time he spent at Bucklebury with his mother, who has been seriously ill.

Cyril Laker has had the thrilling experience of being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Herbert Brand has received a Commission, and when we last saw him was hoping to be attached to the 4th Berks.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from P.A. Eastman. He says:

“The mails where I came from have been very erratic, and some have been lost, including unfortunately the Christmas parcels. Davy Jones is now richer than all the other members of the great family of that name put together, to their and some other people’s impoverishment! ……

The medical authorities have thought it best to send me back after the first year out in the East; doubtless they have a reason. But I am glad to say I am now fairly fit, and hope to improve rapidly under the less trying conditions of English life. Very kind greetings to all West Street friends.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, March 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)


Torpedoed but able to land!

A hospital ship was attacked.

15 March 1918
Glenart Castle torpedoed but able to land! All saved I think.

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

No warning as a hospital ship is targetted

The hospital ship Rewa was sunk just of Harland Point in Devon on 4 January 1918. Florence Vansittart Neale was appalled.

4 January 1918

Hospital ship Rewa torpedoed in Bristol Channel, no warning. All [illegible] cases saved in 20 minutes!

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

“Scalps” secured by our airships

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

Polcurrian Hotel
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.


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.


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.

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

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.

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)