Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.


Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.

Killed in Action.

2nd Lieut. Walford Vernon Knowles, Royal Berkshire Regt, who was killed in action on Dec. 31ST, 1917, was the elder son of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Knowles, of Kendrick View, Reading. Born in January, 1898, he was educated at Reading School into which he took an open scholarship in 1909 – one of the first scholarships offered by the Reading Town Council. In 1916 he passed the Higher Certificate Examination with Distinction in French and German. During his last year at school he won the Laud Scholarship (the Blue Ribbon of Reading School). Also an exhibition at Worcester College, Oxford, and was further awarded the Ewelme Exhibition. Later he gave up the Worcester College exhibition in favour of an open Classical Exhibition at New College, Oxford.

It was not only in his studies that he did well, but in every side of school life he made his mark, becoming a member of the Rugby Football and Cricket Teams, a sergeant in the Officers Training Corps, and finally Captain of the School. Of those who in recent years held this converted position he is the third to make the supreme sacrifice during the war, the other two being W. M. Cooper and D. J. Davies.

On reaching military age he carried his characteristic energy into the sterner school of war, passing with credit through his cadetship at Gales, afterwards at Portsmouth. He went out to France early in October as a Sec. Lieutenant in the county Regiment, and in all his all-too-brief period of service had already won the affection and esteem of his comrades and superior officers;

“It is with the deepest regret,” writes Lieut.-Colonel C.M.H. Stirling, commanding his Battalion of the Berkshire Regt., to his parents. “That I have to tell you of the death of your son in action on Dec. 31st. His loss has made us all most sad, as everybody liked him and he was such a good officer.”

Bar To Military Cross.

Lieut. O.S. Francis, M.C (M.C. gazetted October 18th, 1917). As Forward observing officer to the brigade he occupied a shell hole in an exposed position during an advance, and sent back valuable information throughout the day. Later, when a withdrawal was necessary, he helped to rally the men and organise the defence under heavy fire, moving about in the open with absolute disregard of danger. When the line was established he took command of part of it, and by his example and precept inspired all his men.

Reading School Magazine, April 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

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