“I keeps my pecker up”

Sydney Spencer greatly admired his commanding officer, Captain Dillon.

July 31st [1918]
My Dearest Florence

My clothes are literally falling to pieces & my batman is going on strike if I don’t soon do something about it. So here goes. Will you be sweet & send me my trousers & best tunic keeping the brass buttons on it as these brown buttons are an “anathema” in the regiment. Also the tunic will need Norfolk badges put on it if I remember. Don’t send the old trousers but the new ones (they are of the same material as the tunic is barathia)!!!

I have sent so much kit home that things are getting almost to an indecent stage! And I simply refuse to continue this existence in breeches any longer! Also my pyjamas (the one pair I have have parted company in the middle, almost. In a day or two I am expecting to put them on one leg at a time! I have to do that always, but you know what I mean! It won’t be funny much longer however. Also (patience darling, I hang on as long as possible & then ask for lots of things at once so as not to be continually worrying you), I need about 1 dozen dark collars size 14 ½, 6 handkerchiefs, 2 pairs of thin short pants & another thin shirt. Also (!!) my batman orders me to get at once some Proberts mahogany brown polish for my belt & boots. He nearly ticked me off yesterday because I hadn’t written before!

Now to be pleasant & chatty. Since I wrote you I have moved about 30 miles. The best of it is that the flies here are about 75 % less than down where we were. Moving in this broiling weather is very fatiguing. But I keeps my pecker up & there is always something funny or incongruous to be amused or puzzled over. I wish I had time to write you sketches of French life as seen in these funny little villages. Some would amuse, some would make you sad, others not bearing the repeating, being of a nature that although highly amusing, are so essentially ‘not done’ in England, that they would leave you breathless.

When I tell you that there are practically no sanitary arrangements, & that all French cottages possess manure heaps (of which even Job himself could not complain) in their front gardens, you can imagine that [there are] times when life is not only embarrassing but precipitate.

I told you about my platoon being the winner of competitions in my last letter. My skipper – Capt. Dillon to boot – was very pleased as it brought credit on his company. By the way, he has a great love for Gold Flake cigarettes. Would you like just to please me to send him a tin, only putting your name on it, as sending them. He would be delighted & I could tell him they came from you afterwards.

He is such a splendid chap & I would like him to feel that I appreciated him & a tin of 100 gold flakes would please him immensely.

His address is the same as mine. Captain G Dillon MC, 7th Norfolks, BEF.


All love to you both from your always affectionate Brer
Sydney

Diary
Wednesday 31 July 1918

Got up at 6.30 & went down to the stream at the bottom of the garden, & had a splash in the cool cold water. On parade at 8 am & did an hour’s march [in] full marching order. Then half an hour’s PT & ½ hour’s gas drill. Cut my foot slightly when bathing this morning. Having a rest surreptitiously on Dillon’s bed. Feel very tired after yesterday.

Letter and diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/59-66; D/EZ177/8/15)

Advertisements

£39 since December

Buscot children collected for the war.

1918 July 31st
The School War Savings today reached the sum of £39.10s.7d (commenced Dec. 8th 17).

Buscot CE School log book (C/EL73/2)

Veritable hell: “We knew that some one had blundered, but obedience is the first rule of the army”

Here is a dramatic account of life in the Army Service Corps taking water to the thirsty troops one terrible day in Mesopotamia.

(We publish the following account of an exciting adventure in Mesopotamia in justice to the gallant men of the A.S.C., in case there should still be any who are liable to despise the man not in the front line. ED)

“A Stunt.”
(By a FORD Driver in Mesopotamia)

We had just completed an eleven days’ continuous run, and were expecting a day or two’s well earned rest, but such was not to be.

We reached —— at midnight and “parked up” our cars outside the old Turkish Cavalry Barracks. I “clicked” for guard, and at 3.30 a.m. took a telegram from a despatch rider, containing instructions to move off and load up immediately, So at the first streak of dawn, amid much “wailing and gnashing of teeth”, we “wound up,” and after picking up supplies we started off on a joy ride across the desert to an unknown destination, for a journey of indefinite duration.

We arrived at ——, and to our great joy were informed that we were to rest for the remainder of the day. What hopes!

For the next two days we had barely time to eat the necessary “bully,” so busy were we rushing supplies of all descriptions to an advanced position.

At the end of the second day, thinking we had earned a little sleep, we had just got into our blankets when the whistle announced “fall in.”

This time (about 8.30 p.m.) it was to pick up troops, under sealed orders. For the first fifteen minutes all was well, then we pulled up, and the fun commenced. All lamps out, no smoking, talking or blowing of hooters, the greatest precautions to be taken.

Of course, you should know that we were on the desert, following a track which we had never travelled before, everything pitch black, laden with troops, with the knowledge that with us rested the success of the action planned for the following day break.

When returning the following morning, we could hardly believe our eyes, when we saw the route we had taken in the dark, deep, yawning precipices and huge boulders of rock, and the places of danger which we passed but “where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.” Anyhow, after about an hour’s ride or so, during which time we had relieved the tension on our nerves by smashing a few radiators, losing the column and sundry other mere “inconveniences,” it was decided to pull up for one-and-a-half hours till the moon should show just a glimmer, for progress under the circumstances was absolutely impossible.

This hour-and-a-half was even more nerve racking than driving, as we hardly dared to whisper, for here we were, stranded in “No Man’s Land,” where, apart from the actual enemy, viz.:- Johnny Turk, the great nuisances were the hostile and cunning Arabs, who do not at all object to using us as targets for practical jokes of a serious nature.

At last we started off again, and after many and indescribable difficulties, we parked up under the shelter of a big hill to drop our men and to wait for dawn and further instructions.

The day broke and with the dawn our brave men went over the top of the hill, but Johnny was not asleep this time, for he soon started throwing a few shells over, and we, being somewhat interested, stood on top of our cars to watch the proceedings, until one of the enemy’s aeroplanes “spotted” our “place of rest” and gave information to his artillery, who got our range to a nicety, and we (reckless, daring spectators) began to discover, a few at a time, that the underneath parts of our cars needed attention, but I freely admit, that to stand and allow someone to throw 6in. shells into our midst, while powerless to reply or defend ourselves, did not greatly appeal to me at least.

However, our time of idleness was brief, for word came through, even in the early dewy hours of the morning, that the only water available for our advancing troops was from the salt lakes.

Then we got busy, packets, tanks, buckets, petrol tins, canvas water carriers, everything capable of holding water is flung aboard and we dash off by two’s and three’s from our “park” to gain a river some few miles across the desert.

But Johnny had anticipated our movement and had the river banks nicely covered with snipers and machine guns, so instead of running “en bloc” and filling up altogether, we had to dash up one or two at a time and fill up our receptacles.

When all the difficulties were overcome, and we were ready to commence our return journey, it was approximately 10 a.m., with a temperature of 110° in the shade, when we regained sight of our troops it was practically midday, with a temperature of 128° in the shade.

Then came a veritable hell, the water had to be got to the troops and orders came through that the M.T.’s were to “carry on.”

We knew that some one had blundered, but obedience is the first rule of the army.

The M.T.’s had never been under fire in Mesopotamia before and never since, except in cases of single cars on special detail, but here we were, about eighty cars in column, ordered to practically reach the front line trenches, shells bursting right and left. Did someone mention “Brooklands?”

Never before had Ford cars travelled at such a speed, sixty pounders make excellent accelerators. There were many miraculous escapes, cars riddled with machine gun bullets and shrapnel, some cars put out of action, here and there was a man putting on a spare wheel under fire, but marvellous to relate, not one of our men was touched. I shall not forget a shell dropping and rolling under a car about two yards away.

Thank God, ‘twas a “dud.”

Eventually the trenches were reached, the sight was almost beyond description, dead and dying, troops mad with thirst, they had been drinking salt water, and more men had been “laid low” by sun and thirst than anything else.

Disregarding discipline, our cars were raided, the water speedily drunk, and all craving for more. Then we drove, hither and thither, picking up wounded and dying, and made our way to the field hospital. By this time it was “every man for himself,” and we practically worked individually, using our own discretion. During this time, two of our men gained Military Medals, and one of our officers was “mentioned” and has since received promotion.

Night was now drawing near, but it made no difference to us. Half was ordered to move the Casualty Clearing Station and then drive thirty miles (this time in safety) across the desert for more ammunition.

On the return journey, I, personally, and several of my “pals,” I know, fell asleep over the wheel, to be suddenly and rudely awoke by a “gentle” drop into a hole or a bump against a sand bank.
When we got back we found that our troops had retired about seven or eight miles, and while we were fetching the stores and wounded back, the Arabs had great sport “sniping” at us, and some of us nearly got into trouble for stopping to reply to their “overtures of good will.”

But we successfully completed the retirement, and Johnny did not follow up, so the “stunt” s finished, and we returned to —- for a rest, — what hopes, we were dead beat, no sleep for over fifty-six hours, but within twenty-four hours we were again on our ordinary work of carrying supplies from one dump to another, to be forgotten until the next stunt, but don’t forget, — when the M.T.’s are wanted again, they will be there.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

Three sons, all engaged in the war

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

We desire to express our deep sympathy with Brother Andrews in his sorrow. Brother Andrews had three sons, and they were all engaged in the war. The eldest has been killed in action, the second was drowned in the Lismore Castle, and the third is reported “missing”.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, July 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Donations gratefully received

Reading women continued to support wounded soldiers.

CARE AND COMFORTS WORKING PARTY

Donations have been gratefully received from Miss Britton, 10/-; the Misses Thorogood, 15/-.

List of articles made this month: 4 pyjamas, 33 treasure bags, 64 face cloths, 5 white shirts, 17 cushion covers, 1 bed jacket.

Total articles already sent, 3,221.

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

A good billet

Sydney was on the move.

Tuesday 30 July 1918

Was awakened at 6.30 by Home, Dawkins’ batman, with the news that we were moving! So had to get a move on. Paid billets, got packed & ready to march off by nine. Got mess kit packed up & sent off too. At 9.30 inspected billets. At 8.45 am ready to march off. Moved off about 10. Marched to a place called P-z!

Entrained & travelled for about 3 hours north, & slightly west; unloaded & marched here to this pretty village, whose name would make a man turn round if one called it out behind his back! Found the men, then billet after much trouble. A good billet too. Our mess & sleeping quarters as at 44A. A beautiful garden at back & a stream in which I had a bath at bottom of garden. To bed at 10 pm. Feeling very tired after this very hot day!

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

‘And that was the worst of all’

A Sunningdale man tried to save his officer.

We have great pleasure in recording that Gunner K. T. Robinson, R. G. A., of The Rise, Sunningdale, has been awarded the Military Medal for Bravery and Devotion to Duty.

It was won by a deed of great courage and devotion indeed for Gunner Robinson carried a wounded officer back through water and along roads under incessant shell fire, during which the officer was twice more wounded while in his arms. He reached an ambulance but the officer alas died shortly afterwards. ‘And that was the worst of all’.

Sunningdale parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P150B/28A/10)

On a football field in France

Old Boys from St Bartholomew’s Grammar School in Newbury shared their news.

Several letters have come our way from O.N.’s, among them being one J. Allee, who wants to know if there are any other O.N.’s in Palestine, where he is serving as a Captain in the A.S.C., as he has seen no one but Brooks since he has been there, for nearly three years. He seems rather disappointed with Jerusalem, but says that the country around the Dead Sea and the Jordan was well worth seeing, the hills being ablaze with flowers.

H. Pappin, in another letter, tells how he met Newman on the football field in France, where they both had been picked for the same team, the latter recognising Pappin’s name in the list. There seems a favourite place of recognition, for it was in Egypt that Pappin met Hobbs and Beard under similar circumstances. He has been running his battery team, “The Lily Whites,” all the winter, a combination in which what is lacking in science is made up with enthusiasm.

Two most interesting letters have come to us from F. W. Taylor and W. H. Bradfield. The former, who is serving with the Nigeria Regiment at Zungeru, has met our plea for an article by saying that he is writing a Grammar of the Fulani Language, but promises to do his best; while Bradfield, who is with the R.F.A. in France, is in the thick of the present heavy fighting.

J. J. Hurrell, who left the N.G.S. for Bradfield College, in 1913, has just passed through Sandhurst and goes into the Indian Army in September.

A double good fortune is the lot of D. W. Rosling, who is serving at Salonica; for simultaneously with his majority comes the following announcement: May 28th, at Cambray House, Carmarthen, to Florence, wife of Major D. W. Rosling, The King’s Liverpool Regiment, the gift of a son. – Congratulations.

We also have to congratulate two O.N.’s on their marriages; Lieut. E. J. Widle, T.M.B., to Miss Daphne Collette, at St John’s Church, Oxford; and Henry Hoskings, 1st Life Guards, to Miss Phyllis Richens, at St Anne’s, Westminster.

Our casualties are again heavy, though the proportion of wounded is, as last term, small. A. B. V. Brown and I. C. Davidson are both in hospital in England, after having been gassed, while A.L. Sandbach has been discharged through his wounds, after an exciting career. Volunteering for service on the outbreak of hostilities in Africa, he served against German West Africa, under Botha, in Greyling’s Commando, where he was one of the sole two white men serving. German West having been quelled, he returned to his civil duties, but soon after answered the call for men for German East. This time he joined the 2nd South African Horse, with whom he saw some hard fighting, on one occasion having his horse shot from under him. He was promoted to Sergeant and served for about three months longer, after which time he was hit in the thigh by shrapnel at Germinston, with the result as stated that he has been invalided out, returning to his work at Johannesburg. By a curious coincidence, each of these in this branch of the list is an old Victor Ludorum, Sachbach having also tied with Evers for a second year, while the dates of Brown and Davidson respectively, are those immediately preceding the War.

I. K. Fraser, whom we reported as having been wounded, in our last number, has so far recovered as to be able to pay us a visit towards half term. He is looking remarkably fit in spite of all.
Congratulations to G. W. Hall on his Mention in Sir Douglas Haig’s last despatch, and also to J. Allee on his mention in General Allenby’s.

John Cannon has been transferred from the A.S.C. to the 1st Somerset Light Infantry, and is now in the trenches.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

Sickness among the children

29/7/18

Change of staff, sickness of the staff & influenza & other sickness among the children have made it impossible to hold a term examination this time.

Cookham Rise County Primary School log book (C/EL71)

‘I got a revolver in my tummy for not “giving right password”’

Sydney Spencer’s platoon worked hard behind the lines.

Monday 29 July 1918

I liked today’s programme of work very much. We had from 8.30 to 10.30 out by the wood for platoon training. Took my men in close order drill, & did some communication drill with the NCOs, also PT. Got back to billets at 11. Found that all officers & NCOs from each platoon were to be on range at 2.20 for a demonstration. Tracer bullets were employed on targets. Also phosphorous bombs from discharge cups. Also the New T. Bombs. They seem very effective.

After tea a rest & some games of patience. Late dinner & then night operations. An outpost scheme. We were not informed that there was to be an enemy. This caused lots of “fun”. Major Gethen was captured. I got a revolver in my tummy for not “giving right password”.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Tug of war

Sydney Spencer’s Sunday was a mix of attending church with the locals and sports with his platoon.

Sunday 28 July 1918

Had a glorious ‘louze’ [sic] in bed this morning until 8 am. After getting up so early lately it was strange to be able to lie in.

Took a gas parade at 10.15. Church Parade at 11.

At 12.15 heats for tug of war. No 6 platoon beat No. 5. No. 7 beat No. 8. At 4 pm No. 6 pulled No. 7 platoon, No. 6 winning, after losing the 1st pull.

After tea went to church with Kemp. French service was peculiarly noisy, all sorts of people continually moving & walking about. Little girls took the collection. An old man with a stick thumping vociferously on the floor with a heavy cane before them to remind us they were near us. Father Thompson dined with us.

In the evening after tea rode out to B- Y- with Dillworth & Dawkins a cheval [on horseback].

Diary of Sydney Spencer

Garments are so very urgently needed for the wounded

Burghfield people continued to make clothes and hospital supplies for wounded soldiers.

Holiday House

The Committee regret that they are unable at present to arrange for any Evening Entertainments &c, due to the Lighting restrictions.

The Holiday House work party wish to thank all those who so kindly subscribed to the thousand penny fund, which was raised in answer to the appeal for funds from the Reading Depot. The amount subscribed more than reached our expectations, and we were able to send the sum of £7 10s 0d in all to the depot, £3 (i.e. 720 pennies) profits on a Whist Drive and Dance at Holiday House, and £4 10s 0d (i.e. 1,080 pennies) collected.

The Work Party would be glad to welcome more workers, as garments are so very urgently needed for the wounded, and also any help in providing wool for “operation” stockings.

Burghfield parish magazine, July 1918 (D/EX725/4)

“The many bigamous marriages which have been contracted”

Many soldiers got married while on leave. Shockingly, we discover some of them were not actually free to marry…

My Dear Friends,

We have nearly reached the fourth anniversary of the war: The end is not yet in sight, but there are great reasons for hope, and we have very much to be thankful for. June and July were to have been two of the months in which we were told to expect the greatest scarcity of food, but the supply has been increased rather than diminished, and as regards to the war itself, our anxieties are certainly less than they were a month or two ago. Let us remember to keep August 4th as a special day of prayer and thanksgiving. We shall have a better opportunity of doing so as this time it falls on a Sunday.

I should like to call particular attention to the notice in the Bishop’s Message with regard to the “Marriage of Soldiers from Colonies and Dominions.” Men often require to be married quickly on short leave, and hitherto I have been able to marry them, provided that they have known each other for a considerable time, and that the parents of the intended bride have made enquires and satisfied themselves that all was right.

Henceforward, however, I can neither grant a licence to or marry any man from the Colonies or Dominions unless I have received the certificate of the officer in charge of military records. I am sorry to say that this order on the part of the authorities is due to the many bigamous marriages which have been contracted. A short while ago I heard of an officer forbidding five sets of Banns in one Church at one time because the men were all married.

It has been certain for some time that such protection was needed and the rule is an excellent one, but it will inevitably cause delay and disappointment. The best plan will be for any man, whether at home or abroad, who thinks there is a chance of his getting leave and being married within three months (during which period Licences and Banns are available) to write to me stating his native country, and also his rank, regiment and number, so that the certificate may be obtained, in which case no delay need take place.

Your friend and Vicar,

W.W. Fowler

Marriages of Soldiers from Colonies and Dominions.

It is my duty to call attention to a notice issued by authority as follows:

It is necessary to make sure that there is no matrimonial impediment to the marriage in England and Whales of men of all ranks serving in the Overseas Contingents. Every Clergyman therefore who is asked to publish the banns of marriage of such a bridegroom, whether Officer, Warrant Officer, No-Commissioned Officer, or Man, is requested to explain to the parties that before doing so he must receive the Certificate of the Officer in Charge of Military Records.

Australia
Officer in Charge of Records.
Telephone No. Victoria 8860.
Australian Army Headquarters,
130, Horseferry Road, S.W.1.

Canada
Officer in Charge of Records.
Telephone No. City 2691
Canadian Record Office
Green Arbour House, Old Bailey, E.C.

Newfoundland
Chief paymaster and Officer in Charge of Records.
Telephone No. Victoria147.
Newfoundland Army Contingent,
58, Victoria Street, S.W.1.

New Zealand
Officer in charge of Records
Telephone No. Museum 3360.
New Zealand Army Headquarters,
Southampton Row, W.C.1.

South Africa
Officer in Charge of Records
Telephone No. Victoria 4911.
South African Army Record Office,
65, Victoria Street, S.W.1.

Written on official paper stating the marital condition of the bridegroom as entered in the records. It is recognized that delay will be caused to those who wish to be married quickly. The certificate should be preserved.

This notice is issued in conjunction with the Military Authorities who are prepared to assist in this matter as and when the occasions arise. Similar instructions are being given to the Diocesan registrar with reference to the issue of marriage licences on behalf of such men.


List of Men Serving in His Majesty’s Forces

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list: Robert Whitworth, Albert Hannay, Freeman Holland.

In addition we commend the following to our prayers :

Died of Wounds or Illness: Edward Broad, Charles Cripps.

Wounded: Fred Brooker, Richard Embery.

Prisoner: Arthur Hosler.

Missing: Alfred Levens.


Earley St Peter parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P191/28A/25)

The further call for soldiers brings home to us the coming climax of the War

There was still need for more soldiers.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

… Last month was a busy one, and our record of it has to be compressed; nor can I find space for a letter from Mr. Sellors, who, I am glad to say, keeps well and fit at Salonika…

As regards to more serious things, we have to thank Mr. F. Rogers for two beautiful flags for the Church; they will be a valued reminder of all we have gone through together during the War. The further call for soldiers brings home to us the coming climax of the War. Still more families have a personal interest in the welfare of our Navy, Army and Air Force.

Let those of us at home turn still more earnestly to God for strength to do our duty and bear our burdens. For from him alone comes the power to be workers, and not drones, whether for God’s service, or that of our Country, or our Homes.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

PARISH MAGAZINE

Owing to paper shortage, we are only allowed about 525 copies of the “Dawn of Day” a month. So about 1590 people will have to be content with Parish matter only.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P181/28A/27)

Killed instantaneously by a shell

Working in labour groups doing manual logistical work behind the lines could be as dangerous as actually fighting in the trenches.

We offer sincere sympathy to Mrs Canning, whose son Arthur has been killed in France, and also to Mr and Mrs Joseph Bosley who have also lost a son, Francis James. He was working with a Labour Battalion behind the lines, and was killed instantaneously by a shell.

Brevet Lt-Col. B J Majendie, DSO, recently commanding the 4th Batt. King’s Royal Rifles at Salonica, has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in command of the 65th Infantry Brigade.

Capt. Wilfred Belcher has been promoted to the rank of Brigade Major.

RED CROSS WORK PARTY

The total amount collected from January to December, 1917, was £22. 8s. 6d. Twenty-three meetings were held during 1917, working for about 12 different objects, some two or three times during the year.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, July 1918(D/P89/28A/13)