Coal supply uncertain

Coal Clubs were common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and often based at churches. They enabled the poor to save money in a structured way and to get cheaper prices for bulk orders of fuel by banding together. But the shortages due to the war put paid to at least some of them.

The Coal Clubs

All the Coal Clubs in the parish must be closed as from the end of September. We are advised that this is necessary on account of the uncertainty of supply later on. Members are specially warned of the necessity of making arrangements to receive their coal as soon as their coal merchants can deliver it.

Members who have earned full bonus to the end of September, will be given the bonus for the remaining months.

Cards not yet made up must be sent in at once, to Miss Sturges, Miss Stanton, or Mr. Chenery as the case may be.

Wargrave parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P145/28A/31)

Suddenly discharged with TB

Berkshire County Council was concerned about the position of men released from the army because they had contracted TB – a highly contagious and often fatal illness.

Report of Public Health and Housing Committee, 30 September 1916

Treatment of discharged soldiers

After considerable experience it is found that the treatment at the Sanatorium of discharged soldiers is not as successful as it ought to be, owing mainly to the arrangements made by the Military Authorities. It appears that a man suffering from tuberculosis is suddenly discharged from the Army with instructions to at once proceed to a Sanatorium for treatment. With regard to his finances the separation allowance [to his wife] automatically ceases while facilities for the man to visit his family or friends before going into the Sanatorium are not accorded.

In the opinion of the Medical Officer of the Sanatorium these circumstances are not conducive to good results, as to receive the full benefit of treatment a patient must be freed from all worries, financial and otherwise. The Medical Officer suggests that a man should be allowed to visit his home before going into the Sanatorium, and that he should know definitely what his financial position will be whilst undergoing treatment. The Committee desire to draw attention to this matter, with the hope that publicity will result in improved arrangements being made by the Army Authorities.

Berkshire County Council minutes (C/CL/C1/1/19)

Whist with the Wargrave wounded

Florence Vansittart Neale and her sister in law Edith went to visit the wounded and play cards with them.

30 September 1916

E & I off 2 o’clock to Bear Place for whist drive with Wargrave wounded. Won a handkerchief….

Fresh move on. Took Le Gars.

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

“The Huns threw a lot of shells about” – and gassed one of their own men

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence with his latest news. This letter, which is, unusually for Percy, typed, is badly torn and parts are missing. He had been gassed, and met an old friend.


Life is such a harassing affair nowadays that I [never see]m to have both the time and the humour to write you … lines, but if I don’t soon send you a letter I [shall for]get altogether how to write one, so here we are, and … excuse the type.

This pushing business is business, but it’s very […] I can assure you. However, the Huns are absolutely […] and very much on the wobble, and I still hope for [the s]udden collapse I feel sure will be the end of this …

Since writing to you last I have added the experience of being lachrymatory [tear] gassed. It was jolly. [Every]one scrambling for helmets and goggles and crying […], the gas seeming to have caused an inflammation which [was] very much aggravated when one closed one’s eyes. At […] the enemy, and I had the pleasure of getting out […]ration orders wearing a gas helmet and goggles. We [wer]e a remarkable assembly – you couldn’t tell t’other from [whi]ch, and when I had finished at my typewriter I was surprised to find that the man at my elbow crowded on the dug-out steps was a German officer prisoner we had captured. It was rather a joke for this fellow to be brought in and suddenly hoist by his own petard, so to speak.

Since then we have had a “rest” – quite an eventful one, for on one occasion I spent a few thrilling minutes watching parachute descents from kite balloons and on another, after tea, lying out in the sunshine, suddenly I espied a splendid fox wending its way amongst some […] trenches and taking cover in the wire entanglement […] rank grass. We chivvied it out and had a small fox [hole?] all on our own.

The night we came out and went into rest we had […] welcome – the Huns threw a lot of shells about and […] knocked down the house opposite us. That’s the second time they’ve done that – it’s most inconsiderate.

By the way I’ve been looking out for Jack Jackson for a long time. He was wounded at LOOS and I imagine he […] long come out again. Anyway a short time ago toward the end of a pretty big do, I was going up in a Staff car [and] just as I was stepping in, who should go by but Jack. [We] only had time for a handshake, and then on he went up […] the line and I to the comparative safety of a dug-out. I hope he came through all right as the main part of that […] bump so far as his Brigade was concerned was then over.

If you could send me some gloves I should be glad.

I am now transferred to the A.S.C. but have no number at present. My pay is 3/6d per day as from Mar. 9th. You might make a note of this. I was sorry to transfer, but had to….

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/30)

Home wounded

A young man who had gone from teaching to the Front returned to visit his former pupils.

29th September 1916

Mr Gibbons, formerly student teacher, visited school today, being home on leave after receiving wounds at the Front.

Crowthorne: Broadmoor School log book (C/EL100, p. 166)

Wounded Australians visit Bisham Abbey

A group of wounded Australians came for an afternoon at Bisham Abbey.

29 September 1916
Dull day, some rain. Party of 17 Australian wounded came in afternoon about 3. Saw over house – had large tea in drawing room with maids. Miss Billyard Leake brought them! Maisie came & sang. Sapper Jones! Also. Left about 6.

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

Care and comforts in Reading

East Reading ladies were hard at work supporting wounded soldiers.


The following articles have been sent to the Depot: 2 pairs pyjamas, 4 vests, 1 bed jacket, 5 face cloths, 4 tray cloths, 1 pair socks, 53 lint bandages; together with those already sent, 1,582 articles.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

Darken the windows on account of Zeppelin raids

St Peter’s Church in Caversham decided to have curtains made rather than actually painting the windows with black paint, as had been done previously.

Parochial Church Council
We must have our church windows darkened before the end of September, on account of Zeppelin raids. The windows are in too bad a condition to endure being painted again. Perhaps some of the ladies might help us by making curtains of some cheap dark material.

Caversham parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P162/28A/7)

A sewing machine for the winter

Cranbourne women making clothes and bandages hoped to cut down on the intensive labour of doing it all by hand.

The Cranbourne Branch of the Voluntary Work Organisation (under the War Office) resumed its weekly meetings on Wednesday September 27th. The Committee of the Working Party will be very grateful if any lady will lend them a sewing machine for the winter or part of it.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/10)

Japanese attaches to visit the Somme

Japan had been allied with Great Britain since 1902, and during World War I they fought the Germans in the latter’s imperial possessions in the Far East. Captain, later Admiral, John Donald Kelly (1871-1936)

27 September 1916

We motored to [the] James – found her & Nina in. He goes to the Somme with Japanese attache’s…

Splendid victories Anglo-French….

Captain K[elly] gone to Scapa in new boat “Weymouth”.

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

“They have quickly finished their service and laid down their young lives in the great cause”

Many Bracknell families had reason for concern.

We have to record, with very much regret, and with great sympathy with those who are bereaved, that the following have fallen in action.-

William Collinson Harry Wilkes
George Rance Harry Winter
George Morton

Most of these are very young, and they have quickly finished their service and laid down their young lives in the great cause.

We also greatly regret to learn that Vernon Taylor, son of our Station Master, has died of his wounds.

Amongst the missing is Henry Hayles.

Walter Blyth is reported to be a prisoner, as is Charles Smee, who was serving in General Townshend’s force in Mesopotamia.

Amongst the wounded is Reginald Taylor, another of Mr. Taylor’s sons, but we hope that his wound is comparatively slight.

Arthur Jenkins, who was missing, is now reported amongst the wounded, and a postcard has come from Fred Morgan who was reported missing to say that he is a prisoner in Germany.

Bracknell section of Winkfield District Magazine, September 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/9)

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)

No bells at night

The Community of St John Baptist continued to fear air raids.

25 September 1916

On account of further air raids we had instructions to ring no outside bells, either Chapel or House, from 6 pm to 8 am.

Another air raid reported with considerable loss of life.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Another teacher joins up

Another teacher joined up.

September 25th 1916
Mr Cluff commenced active service in the army today.

Maidenhead Gordon Road Boys School log book (C/EL/107/1, p. 95)

He had sterling qualities and a great future

A young Earley man died of wounds.

In memoriam

It was with sorrow that we heard of the death of rifleman William White, Queen’s Westminster Rifles, who died of wounds received in action, on Sept 25th in his 20th year. Before leaving Radstock Road for West Reading, he belonged to our company of the CLB and was also a member of the Guild of the Holy Child. He was liked by all and was a boy of sterling qualities. He had many scholastic successes and doubtless a great future before him. We offer our sincere sympathy to his father, mother and brother in their sorrow.

Earley parish magazine, November 1916 (D/P192/28A/14)