“Things are pretty unbearable here, now”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence, asking for cigarettes and a treatment for lice. He was clearly greatly appreciated by his commanding officer for his remarkable efficiency, but was thinking of getting a commission.

Dear WF

Don’t worry about sending me anything at all except Fryers – that I can’t get here. By the way, do you get this “out of bond”? If ordered from a tobacconist to be sent out to me regularly, it would of course be much cheaper and save you some trouble.

The difficulties at home are of course unknown to us and I quite understand that you have a good deal of unnecessary worry over me, as you don’t know how well we are provided for or can provide for ourselves.

Thank you very much for the gloves and the helmet – they’ll be most useful, but don’t send any sweaters or comforters or spiritive, etc, as I have plenty of clothing and woollen things – our needs get simpler as we go on.

The dear old ladies of St Albans wrote and congratulated me on my medal.


Captain Holliday is to have 6 months home service. I don’t quite know what I shall do, but if he doesn’t get into something where he can get me with him I think I shall try for a cadet school course with a view to taking a commission. Things are pretty unbearable here, now.

The General was very sweet about my medal. When he wanted me to do some work, he called me in & said, “First let me congratulate you about your medal – we all know what you have done for the Brigade, and we appreciate it”. I value that far more than many medals. Also a short time ago when things were rather lively and all the officers had to be away or asleep for the moment, the question was raised by a fussy novice on the staff, “How would things be kept going in their absence”. The General at once replied somewhat irritably, “My dear -, Sergeant Spencer is here, and anything that turns up will be attended to alright”.

Another officer is here for the moment – one I did not think especially favoured me. He saw that I had no ribbon up, and on congratulating me very heartily asked me why. I told him it couldn’t be obtained for the moment. Early in the evening he came in & presented me with a piece he had obtained from somewhere. At Mess he stood up and drank my health, and later sent me in a bottle of whiskey to celebrate the event.

I’ve had a number of congratulations from all ranks within the Brigade and the Division, and my head is quite warm. I’m afraid you’ll think this all very egotistical.

When I shall get leave I don’t know, as, altho’ it is rather in my hands, I don’t take advantage of that fact. Garwood is just back [from leave], the QMS is about to go, and after that, I can’t think of anyone else more in need of a rest that myself, so perhaps sometime before Christmas, if there’s no more serious battle fighting, I shall get away.

Of course I have heaps and heaps to tell you, for we’ve had a very full time indeed, but I’ll reserve it all for a big powwow when I come home. Just one little story I’ll tell you that won’t disclose information of military value –

Way back in the summer, some of our drafts were the frozen limit in the little details of saluting, turning out guards etc, and raised the daily anger of the Major General.

One man in particular puzzled him with rage, and after he had endured the repetition of the wretched fellow’s performance half a dozen times, he yelled at the man – “You’re perfectly hopeless, what the devil were you before the war?” “Gabriel Ray’s dancing partner, sir!” the man replied.

There is an endless demand for sacks [not socks!] – and that reminds me, I badly need a vermin powder – Keating’s and sulphur powder is excellent. Can you send me some without blushing when you purchase.

Yours ever

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/5/35-36)

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