A heavy death toll

Our diarists heard the distressing news of massive air raids in other parts of the country.

Florence Vansittart Neale
13 June 1917

To tea with Krohutres. Mrs Iscombe there – told us about London air raid…

Big air raid in East End, London. Heavy death toll – school & near Liverpool.

William Hallam
13th June 1917

Great excitement amongst the people to-night hearing of a great air raid on London.

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

Heavy raid on the south coast

A massive air raid hit the south of England, the news making waves for our own diarists.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 May 1917

H[enry] took Ag on river and brought back word heavy raid on S C woods. Lot of casualties.

William Hallam
26th May 1917

A great Air Raid on S.E. coast in to-night’s papers.

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

Ashamed to be connected with strikers

Lockinge-born William Hallam, living and working in Swindon, felt strikers and trade unionists were behaving in an unpatriotic way.

20th May 1917

There was a Trade Union demonstration and procession round the Town. I left it severely alone. Thousands of our T.U. men are out on strike in different parts of the country and as I told some of our fellows I should be ashamed to be seen in anyway connected with them by young fellows in khaki who have come from all parts of our Colonies to fight for us; for hundreds come in every Sat & Sun from Draycott Camp. Australians, New Zealanders & Canadians.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

The King orders food economy

The Food Economy Campaign was launched by a royal proclamation read aloud in every church in the country. Two of our diarists were present.

William Hallam
6th May 1917

Up at 8. To St. Paul’s at XI. A bright day- no rain. But a bitterly cold E. wind until the afternoon. The King’s proclamation was read out in Church before the sermon – ordering economy by everyone in the matter of food stuffs.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 May 1917

Willy [the vicar of Bisham] read King’s Proclamation & preached on Food Economy, & again in evening.

Heard from Phyllis: she on duty straight away. Sleeping in Merton. Meals Masonic Hall!

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

No potatoes and poor quality beer

Shortages were beginning to bite for William Hallam in Swindon.

14th April 1917

All the greengrocers shops had notices up “No potatoes”. So we shall have to do without this Sunday. After tea I went along to Bath Rd Reading Room till nearly 8. Beer and stout is now 6d a pint and poor stuff at that price but I got some to-night for supper.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/26)

War loans purchased with legacy

William Hallam cleared an outstanding debt by buying war loans for his brother.

William Hallam
3rd April 1917

I received my Certificate of War Loan Stock for 50£ from Simonds at Wantage, and 50£ for my bro Geo. Purchased with the legacy of 100£ from my father so I am out of his debt now.

Florence Vansittart Neale
3 April 1917

Intercession service – very short.

Diaries of William Hallam (D/EX1415/26); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Killed in France

William Hallam heard of the death of an acquaintance.

6th March 1917
I heard to-day young Lt. Fricker has been killed out in France. I was speaking to him a week before Xmas, the day previous to his going to France.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Six months on the Somme underage

Florence Vansittart Neale and William Hallam came from different backgrounds, but both their daughters were affected by the war. Phyllis Vansittart Neale, now 25, was nursing, while the teenage Muriel Hallam’s boyfriend had been called up, having already seen service underage.

Florence Vansittart Neale
9 January 1917

Got telegram from Phyllis, arrived Monday night in London – crossing 5.45. Henry went to [illegible] & on to London, & came down same train. I met them at Maidenhead on my way from Polly….
Phyllis seemed very well, except chilblains on her hand.

William Hallam
9th January 1917

Poor Muriel’s sweet-heart Frank Brittain has been called up again for the Army. He had 6 months on the Somme and was then claimed by his father as under 18. Now he is 18 this last week & has to join up again.

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

Belgians want peace at any price – and no wonder

Florence Vansittart Neale was depressed by the war news, while Lockinge-born railway worker William Hallam was making weapons for the war in Swindon.

Florence Vansittart Neale
8 December 1916

Lloyd George forming a ministry. Things in bad way. Greece blockaded. Fear for troops in Salonika….

Met Gustav Kupor. Feel very sorry for Belgian soldiers. No wonder they want peace at any price.

William Hallam
8th December 1916

In to work at 6 to night and by the morning I had finished this war work. Howitzer gun arches.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Guns like thunder

William Hallam, originally from Lockinge, but now living in Swindon, could hear the roar of guns from army training camps miles away on Salisbury Plain.

29th October 1916

Very heavy firing all day from Salisbury Plain. It must have been big guns from the reports – like thunder.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

A dark night

Dark nights were a blessing in wartime.

24th October 1916

A dark night but keeping free from Zepps.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Just the night for Zeppelins

The fear of air raids meant people were constantly on edge even when it was a quiet night.

19th October 1916

Just the night for Zepps. Dark and still but we had no alarm.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Working on howitzer guns all night

Night shifts at the munitions factory in Swindon continued to be hard work.

14th October 1916

When I got home at ¼ past 6 this morning I lit fire, washed, fried some sausages for breakfast and got to bed at ½ past 7. Got up at 3 and went down town to get some safety razor blades sharpened and stamps for Income Tax. Home and had my tea and in to work again at 6. Working on 6” howitzer gun arches. A rough windy night.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Night shift in the munitions factory

William Hallam was doing night shifts making guns at the GWR works.

10th October 1916

Dull again. I have to shift on to another lathe to-morrow on gun work and work nights. A very rough night.


Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24)

Woke up and cussed the Kaiser

The war was hitting home, with our diarists. William Hallam in Swindon faced regular air raids, while Florence Vansittart Neale’s friends had been bereaved. Seymour Court in Marlow belonged to wealthy local brewer Thomas Wethered (1832-1921), whose daughter Edith was married to John Danvers Power (1858-1927), a barrister. It was their son, Lieutenant John Wethered Power (1894-1916), who had been killed in France.

William Hallam
26th September 1916

Last night at 12.30 the hooter blew a Zepp warning. I woke up, cussed the Kaiser and went to sleep again after a time.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 September 1916

To Seymour Court. The Powers had just lost their son.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/24); diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)