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Charles Binyon's diary: October 1917

Diary Entry


Sun Oct 14 – Being Harvest Festival at Wickhamford, only service at 7 & 11 am at Badsey.  Grand day, frosty at first.  Started out 1.15 pm Hampton, thence past Hazelor to Elmley and Little Comberton.  Visited the church, fine tower, very patched nave much restored with Norman remains etc.  On to Great Comberton.  Church with very small nave and chancel, plain tower.  On to Nafford.  Lovely views of Bredon Hill.  Arrived Eckington 3.15.  Church with Norman arcades and chancel arch (much restored).  Back by Pershore and Hampton reaching Badsey at 5 pm.

Oct 15 – Visited Garnetts Ground.  AJT & Mitchell bursting up asparagus beds.  Letter from H D Bowden giving instructions concerning belladonna root.  Visited drying shed and Littleton & Badsey Growers office.  Tomatoes making 5/- chip at Wolverhampton.  Then to Workhouse to confer with the military as to their taking over of the buildings for German prisoners working on the land.  After careful consideration we offered the military the Tramp Wards and men’s side of the house.  The military want all the workhouse, but we felt we could not send away the infirmary patients, especially as many infirmaries have been given up to the wounded and so all are very full and the able-bodied women are needed to look after the sick, cooking, washing etc.  Captain Sprott said this offer could not be accepted as barbed wire across the windows is not enough.  Guards needed to be outside.  In this case the guard would be in the women’s quarter.  So we offered them the Tramp ward only for prisoners, and part of the male side for the guard.  The military are going to consider this. 

Bought this book and tools to lift belladonna roots, also small bottle of hydrochloric acid.

Germans have seized Oesel I at mouth of Gulf of Riga.  Flanders is now a swamp, things are for the moment at a standstill, which is a pity as we had been doing so well lately.  Tension in Holland over transit of gravel to Belgium.

After dinner tested the soil at Garnetts for lime.  Bubbled well.  Some from Under Badsey (A Boaler’s) did not bubble at all.

In the afternoon to Evesham again.  War Agricultural Executive – Mr Marsham from the Board of Agriculture present.  My plan and report on Littleton Pasture Farm approved.  On the question of prohibition of crops, it was decided to ask the Board of Agriculture to prohibit the growing of flowers, ie no one to be allowed to plant fresh plots.  Perennials not to be grubbed at present, but no new plots.  I objected to the compulsory planting of wheat for smallholders and suggested potatoes instead.  Our committee is very unbusinesslike.  I attacked the Chairman because of his refusal to study the agreement arrived at between the Army Council and Board of Agriculture as to the granting of certificates to men “employed whole time in agriculture”.  I hope I have driven the seriousness of the question home.  Back with W J Anderson.  Telegram from HDB asking for immediate delivery of belladonna leaves and stems.

Search lights at Birmingham plainly visible about 8.30 pm.

Beautiful day again.

Oct 16 – Making good progress with bursting the asparagus.  Visited drying shed.  Quite a lot of green in.  Spent morning at office as usual working out weekly pay.  Sprouts 5/-, Tomatoes 3/11, 3/- chip home.  £220 for produce this week.  Afternoon visited the kilns and arranged for belladonna stems to be packed with all speed.  Worked at drying shed till 5.30 pm.  Dull day, occasional rain.  Box of Colchicum Corms arrived.

War Aims meeting in evening, at which I presided.  Danger of inconclusive peace the chief topic.  A Mr Woodyer was the chief speaker.  Very eloquent, almost too fluent.  I should think he was a non-conformist preacher and socialist and chosen for that reason.  Not very good attendance, dark night. 

Oct 17 – Fine morning, wet afternoon.  Packing belladonna.  Interview with lime agent who did not convince me, so I did not order any.  After dinner visited farms in Bretforton.  Some of the tillage very foul.  It is not much use persuading farmers to break up green land when the cultivated portions are so badly done.  One man very sensibly had 4 acres of maize and cattle cabbage, to my mind quite the right idea.  Much more of this should be done.  Back to Wickhamford.  No success by persuasion, but compulsion will have to be resorted to get increased wheat production there.

The Government announce that relief will be given to air raid victims.  Sent off 2 tons of onions.

Oct 18 – Glorious morning.  A large consignment of belladonna, 4592 1b of leaves, 2600 1b stems is now ready.   This makes a total of over 8 tons 15 cwt of leaves this summer.  No trucks to be had.  I have telegraphed Joensson to that effect.  First lot of sage put in the drying shed.

Submarine bulletin this week.  12 ships over 1600 tons, 7 small ones, much the same as last week.  2124 arrivals, 2094 sailings.  Germans now masters of Oesel.  British airmen made a raid on factories at Saarbrucken, 40 miles over the frontier in daylight.

Flag Day for British Red Cross.

Maximum prices for tea fixed.  Great scarcity of tea and butter including margarine.

Nine new VCs.  Reading Macauley’s History at night, Toleration Act, Vol ii.

Oct 19 – Digging up Belladonna roots in Sand before breakfast.  Last belladonna leaves picked.  Went through Aldington to Offenham to make enquiries as to the granting of certificates of exemption from military service to certain land workers.

At 2 pm we were allowed a ventilated van and loaded it up.  Later on another van was placed at our disposal so we got off the whole consignment.

Mr Hawkswood came over about the army contract.  He still cannot get order for Savoys quick enough.  We have finished marrows and onions now.

Today’s news – naval battle in Riga Bay, the Russian Battleship “Slava” sunk.  It seems as if the Russian fleet if penned up in Moen Sound.  The Germans have captured Moen Island.  They claim to have taken 10,000 prisoners and 50 guns in Oesel.  If the Germans land near Moen they will compel the Russian line to fall back a great way and threaten Reval.  Artillery duels on western front.  Eleven German aeroplanes brought down.  Three of ours did not return.  Parliament is discussing the Reform Bill – redistribution of seats.  As usual trouble with the Irish.  Fine day.

Oct 20 – Letters did not arrive until 10.30 am and the paper at 5 pm.  This is stated to be due to an air raid on Birmingham last night.  Northfield is said to have been attacked but no authentic news.  Wilkins tells me he heard the bombs very distinctly last night about 11.15 pm.  News from Russia still very serious.  Reval is being evacuated and preparations are being made to move the seat of Government to Moscow.  The Germans claim to have captured 5000 Russians and the whole of Moen.  Germans report violent gunfire in Flanders.  Is Haig going to stake again?  AGG in the Daily News is anxious, and wants the conference of Allies to take place and formulate common war aims.  He says, truly enough, that the lesson of Trafalgar Day (yesterday) is that race hatreds are not enduring, our descendants will choose their friends for themselves.

Potato shortage in large towns owing to lack of trucks!  This afternoon I picked up belladonna roots.  They appear to average 2 1b a plant.  This equals over 4 tons to the acre.  Asparagus bursting at Garnetts finished.

The Vicar wishes to have the names of all those connected with Badsey who are serving with the Colours, so spent the evening with J E Knight in getting the list as complete as possible.  185 in all, 7 killed.

Oct 21 – Harvest Festival, church at 8 & 11.  Plenty of chimers for a wonder.  Gave Albert Dones a lesson on the 5th bell.  Afternoon on so to Bengeworth to post letters, on to Hinton Cross and over Blake’s Hill to Aston Somerville.  Then on to Buckland.  Very beautiful now with the woods just taking on their autumn tints.  Elms just flecked with yellow.  Walnuts nearly bare.  Sycamores bright yellow where not spotted.  It is easy to pick out the maple in the hedges now as they are bright orange to golden yellow.  Plenty of hips and haws, gooseberry bushes bright crimson.  Back by Childswickham and Wickhamford.  Cloudy with gleams of light.  Roads dry.  Nice October day.  Church crowded at night.  Offertories for Cottage Hospital at Evesham, £8-0-6.  Anthem solos, Cecil Harwood and Phil Crisp.  Sermon on duty we owe to sailors both of the navy and merchant marine.  List of names of those serving in the army read out after the sermon.

Oct 22 – Visited Garnetts.  Digging broad bean land, left orders for sprout picking later.  Went down to office.  Army Canteen Board have ordered sprouts and savoys.  Then to Evesham via Offenham Cross.  I managed to secure 12 dozen bundles of firewood from the Workhouse master for our school, as the paid correspondent seemed quite unable to get any.

Food control meeting.  It was decided to have forms printed with the different joints of meat, the butchers to fill and send to the Committee every fortnight.  The next item was to fix the retail price of milk.  There was a great difference of opinion.  The farmers thought the price should be sevenpence a quart.  Mr Aldington, the Labour representative, urged fivepence.  The great danger to fear is that if the price does not allow sufficient margin for the distribution in retail, the farmers will send their milk by rail to the large towns.  They will be sure of 1/5 a gallon this month, 1/7 in November and 1/9 in December, January, February and March.  In the end I proposed that sixpence be the price for November and 6½d the price until the end of March.  Here, as in the Food Production Committee, we are working too much in the dark, but all these questions require more time spent on them than we are well able to allow.  My proposal carried the day.

A Tribunal followed.  Lieutenant Shelmerdine and Captain Glanfield were both present.  I explained my position and did not vote on cases investigated by me.  The military quite saw the very unsatisfactory way the “whole time” certificates had been granted and refused.  Two rejected men who had 4½ and 5 acres of their own to look after had been refused certificates, and passed for general service.  I am glad to say these were both granted conditional exemption.  In all, 16 cases, 6 conditional exemptions, 3 temporary, 3 cases adjourned and 4 refused.  Lunch at the Workhouse.  Interview with Miss McConnell as to the Food Control and Economy Campaign.

More news of the Zeppelin raid on Friday night.  Several bombs were dropped in the northern part of the county, but no one was injured.  One Zepp appeared over London quite silently and did considerable damage.  Total casualties reported 80.  It seems as if the return of the Zeppelins was blocked and they appear to have tried to get back through France.  At any rate, four Zepps were brought down in France, and two more very likely were lost.  Our aeroplanes bombed a foundry near Saarbrucken.  A very serious affair in the North Sea.  The German fast cruisers intercepted a convoy of 12 neutral vessels escorted by HM Destroyers “Mary Rose” and “Strongbow”.  The Germans escaped without much injury.

In the evening we packed up the fruit and vegetables in the church to be sent to Christ Church mission.

Oct 23 – Morning at office.  Pay over £300.  Tomatoes 3/9 to 4/-, sprouts 4/6 – 6/1, carrots 2/- a bag.  In the afternoon, Roberts and I got down the trays above the cabinets in the drying shed.  After tea War Savings.  We took just over £7.  In the evening I took an observation of Jupiter and by means of the eclipse of the second satellite found our time to be rather over 1 minute fast.  Stormy day with bright intervals.

It now appears 10 Zeppelins took part in Friday’s raid.  No more news of the last Zeps.  There was a debate in Parliament –much dissatisfaction because the guns were silent.  Haig reports successful minor actions near Poelcapelle and Houthulst Forest.  Lloyd George speaking at the Albert Hall to the National War Savings Committee says, “No peace yet.  Another war would be the Death of Civilization.”  He said also we had sunk more than twice as many German submarines in the last 10 months than in the whole of 1916.  Germans land in Riga Bay.

Oct 24 – Went to kiln.  The dray fetched all the packed dried leaves, about 7 cwt.  2 kilns to be used for storing onions for Cadbury’s.  Sent off 28 bags of sprouts to Wolverhampton.  We afternoon.  I wrote to the Director of Education, telling him of my scheme for dandelion root collection in the schools.  I suggest that the children be paid 1d per lb for washed fresh root and that a further sum, say ¼ lb be given to the Headteacher to be used at his discretion for the good of the school.

Visited Geoffrey Jones in the evening, he having had a bad attack of neuritis.  He said he found soldier labour very inefficient.  They complained that the German prisoners had more pay for themselves, ie 1d an hour, the soldiers only having 3/6 a week.

At 8 o’clock meeting of the Bread Trustees at Seward House.  95 loaves to be distributed this winter.

No paper today, but I hear of the French taking 7500 prisoners at Malmaison.  Sugar Card arrived.

Oct 25 – Very windy night.  Orchards unpicked are carpeted with pears and apples.  Pershore trees now quite bare.  First lot of belladonna root put in to dry at the shed.  We sent off today 48 bushels of sprouts to Glasgow.

Submarine bulletin:  Ships, 17 sunk over 1600 tons, 8 small ones.  Arrivals 2648, departures 2689 (5337).  Rather more vessels sunk.  Much heavier sailings.  The French seem to have done excellently near Laon.  German losses are put at 26,000.  70 guns captured.  Our line north of Ypres in Houthulst Forest attacked several times without success.  Germans helping Austrians in new attack on Rouzo front.

In the evening a committee meeting of LBG was held.  The chief subject of discussion was the army contract.  I tried to ring up the Canteen Board in London but the wires have been blown down.  The Savoys grown for the army are all spoiling, as they will not take delivery fast enough.  Letters are to be written to the authorities about this.  We also decided to ration out henbane seed which is very scarce this year.  The turnover of the Society has reached £10,000 for the first time.  One new members was admitted.  I sent down 33½ lb belladonna root for a start.

Oct 26 – Started off on journey at 9.55 am.  Glorious day, fresh west wind.  TO BE CONTINUED – NORTHLEACH, FAIRFORD, ETC.

Oct 29 Monday – Very serious news from Italy.  Gorizia and Cividale have been lost.  The Germans claim 1000,000 prisoners and over 700 guns.  The Italians have lost all the Territory they had won except on the Carso, and seem to have suffered a very severe defeat.  In Flanders, the French have captured ground north of Mercken.  The list of new medical categories has been issued by the Army Council.  They appear to be A 1, 2, 3, 4, B 1, 2, 3, D & E.  C is done away with.  New civilian Directors of Recruiting have been appointed.  Mr Thomas Shaw, a Labour man is our one.

Men sprout picking and digging under Badsey.  I am trying to get some ploughed.

Petty Sessions – Only two cyclists without lights and one car.  7/6 no rear light, 5/- and £1 fine.  Home by way of Aldington Kilns, one of which is now used for storing onions.

After dinner to Evesham again to the Food Production meeting.  Mr Lander seemed very pleased with the suggestion that potato growing should be made compulsory.  The whole question of smallholdings was left to Fisher, Anderson and I.  We are to recommend what to prohibit and suggest means whereby the production of useful food may be increased.  A very serious view is now taken by the authorities of the food question, as France seems on the verge of starvation.

A conference on coal prices followed.  Smithin and I represented the Rural DC.  Evesham TC had 4 members and Pebworth DC 2.  We concluded that the suggested prices were too high and agreed to take 35/- a ton as a base charge for delivery etc in the country to be added on.  Got home about 6 pm.  In the evening went to the Adult School Club and had an informal discussion on matters affecting the district.  Gale at night.

Oct 30 Tuesday – Men sprout picking.  22 bags sent yesterday.  Shortage of trucks still continues.  I went to office as usual to work out weekly pay to Growers.  Total £280.  Sprouts 6/-, Toms 4/6, Savoys £3 ton.  All belladonna leaves now dry.  I wrote to HDB telling him we could not supply sage at £70 owing to the high price of green sage.  I had an interview with Anderson about cropping restrictions.

War Savings weekly meeting in school.  Discussed cropping with H Hall.  I have come to the conclusion that a list of crops really useful should be drawn up and the grower to put in a large proportion of his acreage with these crops, choosing any or all.  This would restrict the growth of unsuitable crops.

Today’s news:  Prompt allied help to be given to Italy.  What kind?  The Germans have taken Cormons and are close to Udine.  They do not appear to have made much progress near the coast, but the situation is extremely grave.  No doubt Germany is hoping to get a separate peace with Italy.  Hostile air raid failure last night.  Parliament thanks to fighting forces.  Lord Curzon announces we have taken 150,000 prisoners since war began and captured 1,244,000 miles of territory!

Oct 31 – Enemy have taken Udine.  We have gained 1000 yards near Passchendaele.  Fourth vote of credit this year £400,000,000!

Went to drying shed and office to get some accounts square.  In the afternoon dug up Belladonna roots at the Sand.

In the evening went with Anderson to W A Fisher’s house.  We decided to draw up two schedules, one consisting of crops – compulsory, giving a choice to consist of 1/6 of whole area.  The other crops restricted, of which the total may not exceed one tenth of the whole area.

Type of Document
Twelve pages in a hard-covered notebook containing diary entries 1916-1919
Location of Document
In private ownership