Living at an awful rate

Percy Spencer told his sister Florence about his experiences training as an officer.

No 5 OCB
Room G8
New Court
Trinity College
Cambridge

Aug 18
My dear WF

We’re living at an awful rate and feel very used up at the end of the week. No doubt as soon as we have the rough edges taken off, it won’t be such a physical strain and we shall all be as fit as fiddles.

At the Cadet Club my first cup of coffee was handed to me by the girl you introduced me to. I can’t think of her name.

A wounded soldier has recognised me. I couldn’t remember his name, but being reminded by him that he belonged to the 4th Welsh Fusiliers of our Division, I plunged desperately, addressed him as Sergeant Jones and won….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/65-66)

Goodbye to an Australian

The task of hosting a colonial officer ended early for the Vansittart Neales.

17 August 1917

Our Australian officer left by 9.45.

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

With the deepest sorrow

A Reading man was killed.

Sorrow

It is with the deepest sorrow that we record the death, on August 16th, of Lieut. Wilfred W. Drake from wounds received in action on that day.

We hope next month’s issue to give fuller expression of our appreciation and sympathy.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, September 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Plant food means human food

Local gardeners were encouraged to use chemicals to increase food yields.

PLANT FOOD means HUMAN FOOD!

Plants must have Food if they are to produce all they are capable of.
Much of the Land which has been newly broken up this season is sadly deficient in Plant Food. Farm Yard or Stable Manure has been very difficult – often quite impossible – to obtain. Unless means are adopted for Feeding the Crops, they will be small and disappointing.

The so-called Artifical Manures are really

CONCENTRATED PLANT FOOD

AND

You can Double Your Crops by their proper use.

We stock all the Standard kinds.

Sulphate of Ammonia and Superphosphate FOR POTATOES.

J. P. WEBSTER, FRHS, SEEDSMAN AND HORTICULTURAL SUNDRIESMAN,
124 High Street, & Station Front, Maidenhead
ALSO AT COOKHAM AND BOURNE END.

The Richer Your Land the Heavier Your Crop by the Use of Fertilisers.
Compete for our Handsome Challenge Bowl and Valuable Cash Prizes at Cox Green War Time Food Show, Aug. 16.

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“The shell-holes where so many of our boys are fighting must be drying up – an unspeakable boon to them”

A Reading man providing rest facilities for soldiers behind the lines reports on his first few days.


News from France

We are sorry not to be able so far to give much information as to Mr. Harrison’s doings.

The Army regulations and censorship of correspondence is now so very strict that such news as is let through is of the scantiest. We shall, however, all be glad to read the following :-

“I arrived safely at my destination on August 15th after a good journey. The Hut is certainly A1, and everything promises well. I am in charge with one helper, a young Church of England clergyman, and we have three orderlies under us.

Herbert Longhurst has just been in to tea. I was delighted to see him, and hope soon to come across some more of “our boys,” as I am told that several enquiries have been made for me during the last few days.

We are having perfectly lovely weather here now. The roads are hot and dusty, and the shell-holes where so many of our boys are fighting must be drying up – an unspeakable boon to them. Our great difficulties are the shortage of supplies and the insufficiencies of change, but we get along, and have crowds of men in.

Yesterday I was invited to tea with the Captain and Officers in their mess hut, and had a very good time with them. I am in excellent health.”

Trinity Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

To Windsor to see the Queen

The Vansittart Neales’ Australian guest, a wounded hero, got a royal audience.

14 August 1917

Captain Yates & I went dog walk – then golf and croquet. We all motored to Maidenhead, I to meetings about work – new secretary…

Captain Y[ates] to Windsor & saw Queen.

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

Helping sufferers in the countries devastated by the enemy

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood at Reading’s Broad Street Chapel promised to help out our allies in the countries invaded by the enemy.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Our Society intends to make a special effort in connection with the Continental Relief Fund for the help of sufferers in the countries devastated by the enemy.

To give us information on the Fund, Brother TJF Robinson of Staines visited us on Tuesday the 14th August, and met a number of our members and discussed the best ways and means of raising money.
At this meeting a strong committee was formed, and various suggestions were made which will be considered at an early date and acted upon.

Stamps, price one penny each, are on sale each Sunday afternoon, the proceeds of which sale will go direct to the Fund and they also help to make the fund known.

We in Reading cannot expect to raise a very large sum, but it is hoped that a sum of not less than £50 will be obtained for this most deserving cause.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Boating and bowls

Another group of wounded soldiers enjoyed a lovely summer’s day at Bisham Abbey.

13 August 1917

Had wounded soldiers – 16 of them. Fine day boating & bowls. Stayed [until] 7.30!

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

Holidaying dressed in khaki, with a string of medal ribbons

Holidaying in Cornwall with his Cookham born wife Florence, John Maxwell Image noted a senior officer on leave.

Polpurrian Hotel
Mullion
S Cornwall
12 Aug. ‘17
My most dear old man

The Hotel is becoming abominably full. This morning we beheld, in khaki, and a string of medal ribbons, a Brigadier General…

Very affect.
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

“We could hardly realise that our popular Big Drummer would never return to help us again”

Teenage boys from Earley had the fun of a camp dispelled by sad news of old friends who had gone to the Front.

CHURCH LADS’ BRIGADE AND SCOUTS

We had a most enjoyable time on the School journey in spite of the weather. A very full account is being published in the “Reading Observer”, and we are hoping that Mr Albert Smith will be able to spare the time to come and give us a Lantern Lecture describing our travels, so we shall not enter into details now. Several of the Cadets and two more Scouts joined us at Hungerford when we spent a most delightful four days, everyone showing us the greatest kindness.

The news of the death of our late Staff-Sergeant George Maskell came as a great shock to us on our return, and we could hardly realise that our popular Big Drummer would never return to help us again. We had a Memorial Service after Matins on Sunday, August 12th, some of our friends from St Giles’ and St John’s Companies joining us for the Parade Service and staying to the Memorial Service. We offer our deep sympathy to the relations and friends of one whom we all loved – RIP.

On going to press we have just heard of the death of another of our CLB Staff Sergeants, John Parker. Jack was one of our very keenest and best CLB workers and we shall miss him terribly. We offer our deepest sympathy to his mother and other relations and friends. RIP.


Earley St Peter parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

A happy visitor

The latest vistor to Bisham Abbey was evidently having a good time.

11 August 1917

Officer easy to amuse.

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

Back to Australia

Bisham Abbey had two visitors. Phyllis Vansittart Neale was at home for a break from nursing, while a wounded Australian visited before being sent home.

10 August 1917

P. had long lie…

Captain Yates (DSO) came. Fractured skull. To go back to Australia.

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

The chemistry of the gas helmet

After a period training at Kinmel Park in Wales, studying such matters as the workings of the gas helmet issued to troops, Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence Image with good news.

Aug 10, 1917
My dear WF

Thanks to John my address is
Cadet P J Spencer
B Company
No. 5 Officer Cadet Battalion
Trinity College
Cambridge

All the bad men from Kinmel are here too, so at any rate I feel I shall have a moral advantage.

I’ve just been trying to get the rules and regulations into my head. Luckily I realised early that it couldn’t be done and gave it up….

You are quite right about Kinmel. I was awfully well and jolly there, and look and feel very fit. Even the lectures were entertaining, no matter how dry. For instance one lecturer (a schoolmaster before the war) taking us in musketry, and looking very brainy, explained (in fact he was so pleased with the idea, he explained it twice) that “an explosion is the immediate or spontaneous transition of a solid into a gas. Q.E.D., which those of you who have studied Euclid will know means Quod erat dictum!!!”

We also had some very interesting lectures on the gas or PH ‘Elmet. Really they were not so much lectures on the helmet as they were upon methods of dodging learned recruits. If I am unlucky enough to get hold of some recruit who evinces a knowledge of chemistry, I am to switch off on to the mechanism of the helmet, of which he’ll probably be ignorant, and vice versa. Presumably if one is unlucky enough to be landed with a recruit who knows both the mechanism & the chemistry of the helmet there is nothing to be done but to lead him gently to the gas chamber….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/62-64)

24 hours

Florence Vansittart Neale’s daughter came home on leave.

9 August 1917

We fetched Phyllis home for her 24 hours…

Heard officer wished to come next day for a week.

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

A real work of loving service for our brave soldiers and sailors

Newbury women were hard at work sewing for various deserving war causes, while even the mayor (a local solicitor) had joined up.

The members of the Red Cross Work Party continue their labours with undiminished energy. They have up till now held 40 meetings, and have sent work to the British Red Cross Society, the French Red Cross, the Belgian, Italian and Serbian ditto, the Russian Prisoners of War Fund, the Navy League, HMS Conquest (Lieut. Gordon Burgess’s ship), the mine-sweeper Newbury, the War Depot at Wickham House, the Newbury Hospital, Park House Hospital, the Ripon War Hospital, and Hospitals in France and Malta. The Work Party may well be proud of such a record, but we know that it is with all the members a real work of loving service for our brave soldiers and sailors…

We were pleased the other day to see the late Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Bazett, back in the town, looking particularly well. We wish him all success in the Army, and hope that he will come back safe and sound.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)