“Don’t know how they expect a fellow to keep his temperature down to normal when he is subject to such distracting influences”

Percy had been worrying about younger brother Sydney’s fate.

Bed 8
Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]
Aug 19, 1918

My dear WF

Thanks as much as ever for your letters. Since “Aunt Margaret” was here today & pointed [sharpened] my pencil, Sister tells me I am not for the theatre tomorrow. Apparently all the tickets are not yet sold and they have postponed my appearance till Wednesday. Thursday I may or may not be a little unhappy so I suggest you come on Friday. But come just when you like, dear, or when John will spare you.

Last night I was inoculated and I haven’t been feeling very lively since, but Aunt Margaret’s visit today did me a world of good. She is so sweet & restful. Sister just loves her. By the way another nurse has come along, a very finely built & good looking girl. Yesterday too we had a Canadian Red Cross girl all day. Don’t know how they expect a fellow to keep his temperature down to normal when he is subject to such distracting influences.

It was more than kind of General Seagrave to write to you insamuch as he was not longer with or anything to do with the Battalion when I was hit.

Your fuel problem is a nightmare. You’ll have to collect wood.

Yesterday Mr & Mrs Curtis came to see me – bless their hearts. Mrs Curtis with a huge bunch of flowers from a garden at Loughborough Grove – by the way they had a quarrel about who should carry them – and Mr Curtis with 2 cigars. Mr Tom Curtis wanted to see me so he came on Saturday and talked solemnly for a couple of hours about soffits of staircases and dados and wall casings – it was funny.

Well, good night my darling sister.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

PS I was so thankful to get your news of Syd, as on the 7th in the hospital train, the wounded officer in the bunk above me, who happened to command the next platoon to Sydney in the Norfolk Regiment, told me Syd was going over in the attack.

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/77-79)

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May God grant us this perfect peace before 1919

Teenager Joan Daniels, whose family had been evacuated from London to Reading, was optimistic about the war ending, as we come to the end of her diary.

August 19th 1918

I have now written in this book for over three months and this page completes the first book. Let us hope that by the time that I finish my next book I shall be writing at home & we shall have the blessing of peace …

May God grant us this perfect peace before 1919. Reading itself is not a nice town but the surrounding country is really beautiful & we have had some glorious times.

Diary of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“I loved my men & they followed me wonderfully & I longed to remain with them, but I was for the time being the led & not the leader”

Sensitive Sydney Spencer had found the experience of hard fighting had led to shell shock.

August 19th 1918
73rd General Hospital
BEF France

My Darling Sister

Just this line or two to say that I am much much better. Thank goodness the effects I dreaded – sleepless nights & ugly dreams – have passed away quickly like a mist & although I don’t like to look back upon one or two incidents which I witnessed in the push of Aug 8th, 9th & 10th in which I took part, a merciful providence has given me a spirit with which to fight those weary thoughts which at first crowded my mind & spoiled my chances of getting well. As it is, I am quite normal & perky again & my happy old self except that I want to get back to the B[attalio]n & see how things are.

The history of my affair roughly is this. We were on a high plateau taken the day before. We were moved – I think unwisely – slightly forward (after having dug ourselves in & camouflaged ourselves too!) to dig in, in broad daylight. There was no place to dig in, so the co[mpan]y got into shell holes scattered here & there. A German aeroplane saw us, & then the shelling started. 7 of us were in one hole. Myself & a c[or]p[ora]l & 5 others. At last a shell landed right in the hole.

A man not a yard away from me was killed instantly being horribly smashed up. 5 were wounded. One wasn’t at all. I had a wee wee splinter cut my left arm. I held up for a time, then the effects of 8 days work with about 4 hours sleep, little food, & existing on a cup of whiskey every 5 or 6 hours told their tale, & I broke up, & was sent down.

Bitterly disappointed I was, I loved my men & they followed me wonderfully & I longed to remain with them, but I was for the time being the led & not the leader.

All love to you my darling Sister

Your always affect
Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/3/70)

“I am no longer the dismal mortal of Friday”

Percy now felt much better.

Sunday [18 Aug 1918]
My dear WF

These few lines till I can write you tomorrow to let you know that I am no longer the dismal mortal of Friday.

I’ve got back to normal again, and taking an interest in life once more.

Please excuse more as I am awful drefful [sic] tired & am going off to sleep.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/76)

Lining the chancel in memory of a popular athlete

A popular young man, one of the frst to join up in Cranbourne, was remembered.

The news of the death of Lieut. Eric Curtis, 8th Seaforth Highlanders, has been received with much regret in Cranbourne. He was well known here, and much liked by all of us. A keen supporter of the Windsor Forest Athletic Club, he was popular with all the members. He joined the colours in 1914, was severely wounded in 1916, and killed on the field of battle on July 29th.

Our deep sympathy goes out to his wide, and father and mother. A memorial service was held in the church on Sunday afternoon, August 18th. The Boy Scouts attended the service, lining the chancel in front of the choir stalls, and the Vicar said a few words of appreciation of Lieut. Curtis’s character.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, September 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/8)

“Avoid anything which would give the Germans ground for retaliating on our people interned in Germany”

Internees, like prisoners, were able to earn small sums of money by working.

[18 Aug 1918, in response to a complaint]

No man is paid more than 14/- a week for any work – upkeep of Prison or Mailbag by Prison. The system approved was that one man could work for another man and be paid by that other man: the actual sum is arranged between them.

As I have never allowed men to retain money in their possession, though there was no rule against it and it is done in every other Camp, the only way men can pay another for doing the work is by transferring the agreed sum of money to him, and consequently it appears in the earnings book.

In a similar way men who were tailors bought cloth and made civilian clothes for other men who were interned, the transfer in these cases sometimes amounting to several pounds. My instructions from the Commissioners were that this place was so far as possible to be run as a Camp and not a Prison – and Prison was to be kept out of it – especially as there were over 40 prisoners of war here.

In all forms, books, writing paper &c, the word “Prison” was to be erased & the name of Trial earnings book is a misleading one. It is really a book shewing a man’s receipt of money from whatever sources, and his expenditure, which may be canteen, clothing, any outside shop, watch repairs, transferring money to another man, &c. In each case the man spending signs for the expenditure, & if it is a transfer the man receiving does the same. I only allow men to transfer or send money once a week – each Tuesday.

As this is the only Place of Internment under the Commissioners, they gave me a free hand to draw up rules as were found to be practicable by actual experience. This I have done from time to time, and had them approved by the Commissioners. A point kept in view by Mr Dryhurst, instructions being to avoid anything which would give the Germans ground for retaliating on our people interned in Germany and which would enable these men after release to say they were interned in a Prison under Prison rules.

C M Morgan
18.8.18

[to] The Gov

Please note the following modifications.

I. The practice of one Alien working for another on Governor work will cease.

II. As from the 21st inst, the maximum amount of weekly earnings may be extended to 21/- in future in individual cases at your discretion.

By order EB 19/10/18

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Welcome home after arduous and trying experiences in Russia

WELCOME HOME

We have all been pleased to see Private H H Taylor (elder son of our friends Nr and Mrs Dakin Taylor) once more in our midst after his arduous and trying experiences with the Royal Scots in North Russia. We give him a most cordial “welcome home”.

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, August 1919 (D/N11/12/1/14)

The air is full of rumour

Ralph Glyn’s mother looked forward to visiting her daughter in London to get the latest news.

St Mary’s
Bramber
Sussex

17th [October 1918]

Tomorrow 30 Half Moon Street. Today fine sunny October day & the air is full of rumour and London will be interesting. We only get papers here – no other news and one can hardly realise what the commotion of soul is now – all over the world…

Own Mur

Lady Mary Glyn to Ralph (D/EGL/C2/5)

“I do not believe that he has suffered seriously from his internment”

The British authorities were concerned about the physical and mental health of internees.

H M Prison
Reading

Aug, 17, 1918

From the MO to the Governor
Concerning the petition of Fritz Herman Veltmeyer.

I have interviewed him today and do not believe that he has suffered seriously from his internment. His mental balance seems correct.
He has lost some weight and if he continues to do so I propose to allow him some extra food.

W T Freeman

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Convoy attacked

The Harwich Force was a Navy squadron tasked with protecting shipping.

17 August 1918

Heard 2 destroyers Harwich base sunk. 26 lives lost. Convoying ships from Holland.

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

“We hope he will be spared to return home”

More news of Reading men.

S. Marks District

We are thankful to say we have good news of S. Mark’s lads from France and elsewhere.

We were very pleased to see both Pte. W. Denton and Pte. Fred Taylor home on leave and to know that they are recovering from their wounds.

Another of our servers, D. Pocock, has had to join up, and is now in training with the R.A.F. at Bath. We shall miss him much, and hope he will get on well and be spared to return home.

Reading St Mark section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, August 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

“If they dress my hand in the morning you mustn’t expect me to be very lively”

Percy was still suffering in hospital.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]
London SW

Aug 16, 1918

My dear WF

Had a pretty bad night and a frightful head this morning. However a couple of [illegible] and a morning’s sleep put me all right again. My hand was dressed partially without pain today. To make up for it they “re-adjusted the extensions”. However, I feel much comfortabler.

Aunt Margaret is writing to you about Tuesday. The surgeon has chosen that day to reset my wrist. But I believe Aunt Margaret has squeezed Sister for you to come & see me in the morning. But if they dress my hand in the morning you mustn’t expect me to be very lively, dear.

So Bates & Sgt Newton have written you. The former is a most excellent & interesting fellow, very much under the spell of the East. Newton was the fellow I was training as orderly room sergeant – has done some gallant things and got the Military Medal.

I’ll write later on to Gen. Kennedy, dear.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/7/73-74)

A much better time than usual

Percy Spencer told Florence he had had a better night.

8 Bed, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]

Aug 15, 1918

My dear WF

A few lines to let you know I’m feeling fit after a good night and good day. Sister Kirby dressed my wound for me and I had a much better time than usual.

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/72)

Very good news

Lady Vansittart Neale visited her married daughter on the east coast.

15 August 1918

Bubs’ birthday. Boy on manoeuvres all day. We all 3 sat out on beach, then to Felixstowe for afternoon. Many battle cruisers out. F. nice cheerful town….

Very good news. Lassigny Heights taken by French.

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

“He hated Germans, who had ruined his country, Russia”

The perennially dissatisfied internee Herman von Schlapowsky was certainly not pro-German.

15 August 1918

That I spoke to Herman von Schlapowsky this morning about his health, and suggested that he might write a petition to be sent to Germany as the newspapers talked about repatriation of certain Germans.

He stated that he was not a German, and would not go to Germany or Poland or any country under German rule or in the occupation of Germans, and wished to be sent to Russia or to Switzerland, of which country his wife is a native, but he hated Germans, who had ruined his country, Russia.

C M Morgan

[to] The Under Secretary of State
Home Office

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)