The great German offensive

The Germans were fighting back in strength.

Florence Vansittart Neale
21 March 1918

The great German offensive begun – along a reach of 50 miles. Fear an awful tussle.

William Hallam
21st March 1918

An air ship went over the works to-day but I didn’t see it.

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


A Canadian home from France

Florence Vansittart Neale’s son in law was headed to a home posting, while the Hallams offered hospitality to Canadian on leave.

Florence Vansittart Neale
24 February 1918

Heard Boy [Leo Paget] is attached [to] 6th Reserve Battalion, go to Sheppey on Friday.

William Hallam
24th February 1918

J. Bier, a Canadian home from France, came to dinner and tea.

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

“A horse flesh shop has opened here now but I notice a good many more people were outside than in”

Food shortages had led to an attempt to sell horsemeat to the British – who were not keen.

15th February 1918

Down to Ship to pay A.S.E. then got our meat – a piece of pork. 5lbs to last us all the week. A horse flesh shop has opened here now but I notice a good many more people were outside than in.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“He looks bad and hates the idea of going back there”

A soldier on leave did not want to go back to the Front.

4th February 1918

A dull damp day. Jack Davis next door home from France on leave. He looks bad and hates the idea of going back there.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A child is killed

William Hallam was shocked by rising prices, while Florence Vansittart Neale was distressed by the latest air raid.

William Hallam
16th February

Paid 5/ for my boots being soled and heeled – could have bought nearly a new pair for this before the war.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 February 1918

Gave up golf…
Dover bombarded! 1 child killed. 2 women injured.

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

Our old German trade is going to Japan

Japan was an ally of the British during the First World War, and enjoyed an economic boom as a result.

William Hallam
1st February 1918

Down town to-night in the Woolworth Bazaar I bought two lead pencils, 1d, made in Japan. This made me think where our old German trade is going.

Florence Vansittart Neale
1 February 1918

Bad raid in Paris – several killed.

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

Invalided home from France

One of the Australian soldiers befriended by the Hallams would not be fighting any more.

18th January 1918
One of our Tasmanian friends came, P.Crane. He is invalided home from France.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A dead German’s Iron Cross

A soldier brought a poignant souvenir home – the medal won by a now-fallen adversary.

7th January 1918
I saw 2 curiosities to-day. Young Cox from Stanford in the Vale shewed me a 5£ piece and I was also shewn an Iron Cross a Swindon fellow had brought home from France which he took off a dead German.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

We lost a little more ground

Whiskey was in short supply.

William Hallam
24th December 1917

This morning I cleaned all my brass ornaments and nic nacs. Chopped up firewood, got in coal. In afternoon went for a walk with wife. Got my friend [in] the regt. at Draycott to bring me in a bottle of whisky from their mess. It is impossible to get any spirits in the town. Sold out weeks ago.

Florence Vansittart Neale
24 December 1917

We lost a little more ground. See Willie Packer’s death confirmed.

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

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)

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)