“One of the men had his legs nearly blown off”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall but still had the war forced on him.

William Hallam
20th July 1918

This morning just after breakfast a merchantman’s crew were landed at St. Ives. About 20 Chinese and four English officers. One of the men had his legs nearly blown off and he was taken to Penange hospital. We heard 2 vessels had been sunk about 7 miles off. Stormy again.

Florence Vansittart Neale
20 July 1918

Heard Tzar really shot on 16th. Poor man.

More strikes threatened in Coventry &c. Hope they will come round!!

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

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“A torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle”

William Hallam was on holiday in Cornwall, but couldn’t escape the war.

William Hallam
16th July 1918

It was wet until dinner time then cleared and was a beautiful day. We had crabs for tea. This afternoon I took that book – rather big for a guide and went round identifying some of the old houses. The quaintest town – the old part – I was ever in but clean even in the lowest streets.

On the pier to-night we saw 2 merchant vessels come in for safety from the submarines and 3 chasers and then a torpedo boat came gliding in like a needle.

Florence Vansittart Neale
16 July 1918

Phyllis quite happy at 4 London General!…

Tzar shot by Bolshevists at Ekaterinberg.

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

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation

Beer was in very short supply.

William Hallam
9th June 1918

Much colder to-day and heavy storms which were wanted badly but a N. wind with it. Didn’t go out all day except at 1 with Geo. to the Frome to have a drink. He says the first comfortable drink in a pub he’s had for months, for in Coventry if a pub has beer in it’s a fight for it.

Joan Daniels
June 9th Sunday

[After description of pleasant family day]

Oh! what a blessing when families can be together in this dreadful time of strife & separation.

Diaries of William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25); and Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

A bolt from the blue

Aeroplanes overhead were becoming common both in France and on the home front.

Sydney Spencer
Tuesday 4 June 1918

I am seated in a waggon for 40 hommes or 8 chevaux at Candas! How do I come to be here? Well, hear my story with patience, my dear diary!

I rose at 6.30 as usual, on parade etc at 7 as usual, company training as usual till 10 am, & then a bolt from the blue! In other words a note from Mark Tapley to the effect that I would report Marronville for a gas course on the 7th, taking at least 36 hours to get there!

I promptly made up mess accounts. Came to P[u?]chvillers by mess cart with Fox, my batman. Caught a train at 4.30 & have now been waiting nearly 2 hours for this train to start!

The train started and we moved on in fits & starts. How many miles we moved I do not know, as I slept by fits and starts. Just before midnight, however, I woke to the tune of Fritz aeroplanes. He dropped sundry bombs starting a fire not far off to N. West.

William Hallam
4th June 1918

Last night I heard an aeroplane going over. I got up and looked out of the window and saw it drop a star light.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

Americans fighting now

Was the tide on the turn at last?

Florence Vansittart Neale
3 June 1918

Rather better news – done some counter-attacks. Americans fighting now.

William Hallam
3rd June 1918

Still on overtime…

To-night I wrote to my nephew in Mesopotamia who is in hospital wounded in the arm.

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

“Even here aeroplanes are more ubiquitous than motor cars and went droning thro the blue at a great height like beetles”

On an antiquarian trip to his home region in the Vale of White Horse, William Hallam took the time to pay his respects at a war shrine.

18th May 1918

Got up at 7. Went to Challow sta. at 20 past 9. Walked thro’ Goosey across the fields – then onto Charney. Here I looked in the church as a young woman was cleaning it and getting ready for a wedding she told me. Notice that queer carving in chapel. Then I copied down all the Inscriptions I could decipher. The I went to a cottage and enquired the way to Cherbury Camp but the old man said I meant Chawberry. He told me the nearest way but I mistook it and went a devil of a way round. However I enquired again and got there alright about 1 o’clock. I was surprised to find such a perfect camp still existing in the midst of agricultural land. I sat on the bank and ate my lunch of bread and butter and a hard boiled egg and revelled in the sun. The cuckoo had been on all day long. The first day I’ve heard him this spring. There was not a cloud in the sky and even here aeroplanes are more ubiquitous than motor cars and went droning thro the blue at a great height like beetles. I sat here and thought for an hour. I looked over the ploughed field in the encampment and found one flint chip.

I came back into Charney the way I should have come – much nearer- and went into the Pub and had a pint and a ½ of ale. This landlady Shepherd knew me by seeing me regularly at St. Paul’s as they lived at Swindon until 3 years ago when they took this Pub. Her husband a smith now working she told me at Cheltenham in aeroplane works and rides on a bike to & from every week end- 45 miles. I asked about this old house near the Church. She told me a lady had bought it 2 or 3 years ago and spent a lot of money on it – then before she had finished it got tired of it and sold it to a Col. Colmes for 1800£ and now he is spending as much as he gave for it in restoring it. Fortunately in antiquarian lines the chapel & all being put back as it should be. When I started back I sat on the Oak bridge and saw the wedding – not a khaki one – party came out – quite a village wedding – all walking.

It was a scalding hot day and as I sat on a heap of stones resting and having a smoke 2 Swindon men passed by and had a chat on their way to Longworth. Further along the road I turned off and went to Denchworth & looked over the Church & churchyard and here I saw the first war shrine. A frame with a crucifix and list of the names of all the young men gone from the village with a prayer for the passer by to offer up for them so took off my hat and said it. Before it on a ledge were 2 brass vases of fresh flowers. I got back to Challow St. at 6 o’clock and got up home here at ½ past 7. The Country is at its best now especially the Vale.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

An air-ship passing over

Our new diarist Joan Daniels, aged 15, lived at 2 Southern Hill, Reading, where the family had moved from London to get away from the bombs. She was a pupil at the private Wilton House School.

Joan Daniels
1918
May 14th Tuesday

Had a postcard from [family friend] Mrs McKenzie saying that Cyril had been awarded the DSO. We were all ever so delighted as he has done so well altogether, going out as a 2nd Lieutenant & is now a Captain. All accounts of his deeds which earned him his medal on Thursday when she comes for the day.

William Hallam
14th May 1918

I heard a great noise of aeroplanes going over in the night but this morning I hear it was an air-ship passing over – following the Rly. so I wish I had got up and looked out of window as I had a good mind to but felt too lazy.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Too exciting to enjoy

Patriotic enthusiasm in Swindon was aroused by the public exhibition of a tank and a flying dispay.

4th May 1918

An ideal day. After dinner I chopped up fire wood for a week then shaved and washed and dressed and with wife and Mur & Marj. went down to the Public Offices. Great crowds there. Wife & I went into the Pub. Off. and each got a W.S.C., then down into the enclosure where the Tank was and had a tank stamp put on it and poked in our heads and looked round it. Not much room for the poor devils who worked them…

After tea I went to Bath Rd reading room, then hearing a lot of flying going on I went down the Town, and was glad I did, for an aviator was giving a most marvellous display of flying at the Town Hall. He seemed capable of doing anything with his machine. Looping the loop and flying down under the telephone wires and round the clock and coming up over the roof and round the corners enough to frighten one to death. Expected him to come a crash on the ground or into the walls every minute. It was too exciting to enjoy it. Men like this I should think too valuable to risk losing.

I heard 120,000£ has been invested this week in Swindon in the War Loan.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

A most queer looking article: first sight of a tank

Percy Spencer was struggling with morale in France, while a tank visited Swindon.

Percy Spencer
29 April 1918

Letter to COs re deficiencies. Battalion moved by lorry to [Warlos?]. Rotten trip. Feeling wretched myself. Had to bolt for it during a check, close to French troops playing games & using [untrailleuse?]. Splendid troops. Long hopped till I caught column. A bad move – billets not fixed up.

William Hallam
29th April 1918

This morning bitterly cold – enough for snow – the wind still N or N.E. I cam home at ½ past 5 to-night and rushed over my tea and washed and dressed and with wife went over Hay Lane into Victoria Rd to see the Tank Julian come down from the Square to the Public Offices. A most queer looking article. I never saw such a crowd in Swindon before. Could hardly move out of the crowd all round the Town Hall when once we got in. The kids and hooligans swarmed up those lime trees round the space at the back and broke them about something scandalous.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 April 1918
Modeste left. George Harding came to say goodbye. Going depot at Dover. Soldiers came [and] cleared later. Some out on boat, bowls, billiards.

Diaries of Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); William Hallam (D/EX1415/25); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

How long shall the ungodly triumph?

The Germans seemed to be triumphing, as prices continued to rise at home.

Florence Vansittart Neale
27 April 1918

Germans claim 6000 prisoners, mostly French. Other parts held. May have to evacuate Ypres! Oh! Lord how long! How long shall the ungodly triumph….

News better but Kemmel still in enemy hands.

William Hallam
27th April 1918

This afternoon cut up firewood and then painted our garden gate and clothes posts and spouting and coal hole door. Everything now is double the price- even paint.

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

The war news is most depressing

The Vansittart Neales were holidaying on the Isle of Wight. The closeness to the Channel made naval news a little closer to home.

Florence Vansittart Neale
11 April 1918

Only 4 big vessels sunk last week.

William Hallam
11th April 1918

Another wet day. Funny weather- murky, damp and foggy, and the war news most depressing.

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

“A pint of ale or rather Government control rubbish”

William Hallam was fed up with the way the government had reduced the strength of beers.

William Hallam
6th April 1918

A very dull morning. I went up to Wantage Rd. by 10 past 2 train. Had a walk to the station in a pouring wet rain, but it cleared up before I got to Wantage Rd so had a dry walk up from the station.

I had a red herring for my dinner to-day and it made me so thirsty; it was that salty that I had to go into the pub at Wan. Rd. and have a pint of ale or rather Government control rubbish which was all they had in.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 April 1918

Our line still held. Cheerful letter from Percival. Think they see the end in sight.

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

Germans 6 to our 1

The news was so bad that even militant union members were holding back now.

Florence Vansittart Neale
26 March 1918

Bapaume lost. Germans 6 to our 1. Nice prayers by Archbishop. Boy & Bubs [Leo and Elizabeth Paget] left us for the White House.

William Hallam
26th March 1918

A meeting of the A.S.E. to protest against such a thing as striking in this crisis so I went to support it.

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

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)