“News came that we were to train in billets as the French were very windy about air raids”

Sydney Spencer, who oped to train for the Anglican priesthood, disapproved of vulgar songs.

Thursday 18 July 1918

Got up fairly early. News came that we were to train in billets as the French were very windy about air raids. This we did & gave my platoon a talk about maps & did musketry & gas drill in the billet. The men were very pleased with the talk about maps.

After lunch little or nothing doing. I helped Plant with his Battalion dinner for tonight. It was not very successful, I thought. I hate big messes. There were 33 of us there. I rather deplored the songs which were sung after dinner.

I walked home with Kemp & Sergeant told us great news of a big French victory. Some 20,000 prisoners & 300 guns in all, south of us.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

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“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

Naturalization to be overhauled

Sir George Cave, the Home Secretary introduced plans to revoke citizenship from some naturalised Britons.

12 July 1918

Read long debate about aliens. Sir G. Cave made speech. End up German banks – not open for some years after war. Naturalization to be overhauled….

Letter from Phyllis from 4 London General. Thinks she will like it.

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

“Our memorial will need a great deal of money if it is to be a worthy one. “

Mortimer people were starting to contribute money towards the planned war memorial.

West End – War Memorial

Up to the end of May there has been collected from those who prefer to give in small monthly payments to this object the sum of £16 12s. 5d. Donors must not be dismayed at the thought of the time which must apparently still elapse before peace comes; they must remember that the cost of all materials is still rising and that our memorial will consequently need a great deal of money if it is to be a worthy one.

We would ask those who have elected to give their contributions in a lump sum at the end of the war to take this into earnest consideration and ask themselves whether they should not re-consider their position and set aside a small sum monthly now, in order that their offerings may not be less than those of the people who are contributing now to the collections made each month.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, July 1918 (D/P120/28A/14)

“Every war memorial should be worthy of the occasion and permanent in character.”

The Bishop issued some guidance as to suitable war memorials in Berkshire churches.

War Memorials

My dear Sir,

I commend to your notice the enclosed suggestions which have been drawn up by the Advisory Committee for War Memorials in this Diocese. Experience has already shown that it is most desirable that local effort should be concentrated on one common Memorial. It is also important to consider carefully the nature of any proposal made, and to obtain competent advice, if possible on the spot, so that every memorial should be worthy of the occasion and permanent in character. To obtain satisfactory results, some delay and great care are imperative. This I sincerely hope that, before determining upon any memorial, you will consult the Advisory Committee. The Secretary is the Rev. William C. Emeris, The Vicarage, Burford, Oxon.
Believe me to be, yours faithfully, C. Oxon.

The Advisory Committee for War Memorials in the Oxford Diocese desires to make the following suggestions.

(1) Advice should be sought when a Memorial is first proposed, and before the question of the form it should take is decided.

(2) The Committee urges the importance of concentrating upon one common design and the avoidance, if possible, of several small Memorials. The best and most permanent Memorial is that which best harmonizes with the building or surroundings in which it is placed. It is not intended to exclude separate Memorials erected under one common scheme, e.g., the fitting up of a chapel.

(3) The erection of a united Memorial should be postponed until the end of the war, though it may be of importance to decide beforehand what form it should take.

(4) The character of the Church (e.g., whether ancient or modern, whether of stone or brick) should be taken into consideration before deciding upon the best form of Memorial. In old Churches preference should be given to the replacing of the ancient ornaments of the Church, rather than to the erection of new monuments. As instances the following are suggested: the restoration of altars to their original dimensions, the re-erection of screens, both chancel and parclose, of roods and lots, canopied font covers, good bells, worthy “ornaments of the Church and of the ministers thereof”, such as the Prayer Book contemplates, and Churchyard Crosses.

(5) Local materials should in most cases be preferred to those brought from a distance. Lacquered brass or copper ornaments are deprecated, also designs submitted by Church furnishing firms.

(6) Special attention should be given to lettering. Roman characters should be preferred to Gothic. It is important to choose such material and lettering as will last for many hundred years. Quality, simplicity and permanence should be the guiding principles in carrying out the work.

(7) Where it is proposed to place the chief memorial in the open air, it is advisable that a record of names should also be preserved within the Church, engrossed on Vellum, in book form or otherwise.

(8) Even for the simplest ornaments of the Church and Minister it is desirable that the services of an architect or artist, and not a firm of Church Furnishers, should be employed. The Church Crafts League, Church House, Westminster, is always ready to suggest names of competent artists and craftsmen.

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

The O.T.C. had never been so strong in numbers as it was now

Reading School boys did much to support the troops.

The O.T.C.

The O.T.C. had never been so strong in numbers as it was now. There were 158 in the corps, and there were 77 recruits. At the War Office inspection in June last the officer inspecting was greatly impressed with their “soldierly contingent,” and though great credit was due to the officers and instructor. The corps had suffered a loss by the retirement of its commander, Captain Crook. After a long period of service, and he was also sorry to say that Sergt- Major Green, D.C.M. had been obliged to give up the post of instructor owing to ill-health. It was agreed to give Sergt-Major Green some material recognition of his good services to Reading School, and a fund had been opened for that purpose. Mr Keeton referred to what the old boys had done during the War, as reported elsewhere.

Good work has been done in other directions, and the School workshops, under Mr. Spring, had turned out a great deal of material, such as crutches, splints, bedrests, &c., for the Reading War Hospitals. The boys had also helped in food production. Many had given up a portion of their time to gardening, and a squad of 50 boys did harvest work last year in the neighbourhood of Hastings. In the matter of war savings the School had subscribed £1,650.

Reading School Magazine, April 1919 (SCH3/14/34)

‘Both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club’

The Reading Dodeka club debated contemporary issues once a month.

7 June 1918

The 291st meeting of the club was held on Friday June 7th 18 at Gibbons’….

No paper being forthcoming, the remainder of the evening was devoted to settling the “food questions” – “conduct of the war”, & “peace terms” – the general feeling being that both the Kaiser & Lloyd George could be told a “thing or two” by the Dodeka Club.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely

The vicar of Reading St Mary encouraged parishioners to pray for all involved in the war.

The Vicar’s Notes

We are now in the thick of the most terrific struggle in the history of the world. We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely; they are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of all. The point is that they should be able to trust us, the civilian population; a great deal of the issue of this battle depends on the moral and spiritual backbone of those who are here at home. We ought at this critical time to make our prayers a deeper and greater reality and so I am putting in front of our magazine this month some simple heads of intercession.

Let us pray for:
Our King, and all our leaders at home and at the front.
Our fighting men and those of our allies.
The wounded and the prisoners.
The fallen.
The doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, the chaplains, on or near the field of battle.
The people at home that may be steadfast and true.
For final victory and after victory, lasting peace.

S. Mary’s Church is open each day till 9 o’clock in the evening so as to give opportunities of quiet prayer and intercession in this time of need.

S. Saviour’s District
R.I.P.

It is with great sorrow that we have heard of the death of George Courtnell, our late esteemed Verger, and our hearty sympathy is with Mrs. Courtnell in her sad bereavement. He died in the Canadian hospital at Doullens, having been brought there with many other wounded at the beginning of the recent big battle in France, and was buried with military honours near there. He died as he had lived, trying to do his duty. He was a faithful servant of Christ, and a loyal worker and helper at S. Saviour’s.

Our deep sympathy is also with Mrs. Lane, who has for the second time been called to make the sacrifice of a son, Henry Paice having been recently killed in France. He leaves a widow and children, to whom also, as to his mother, we offer our sincere condolence.

S. Mark’s District
R.I.P.

It is with sincere regret that we have to record the death of George Martin, one of our old S. Mark’s choir boys. He met with a very serious accident some six months ago, while engaged in the service of his country, from which he never recovered and passed away in the Royal Berkshire Hospital on April the 8th. He was most wonderfully patient and cheerful through all his illness. We offer his parents and sisters our sincere sympathy.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

Victory for Lloyd George, accused of making a mis-statement about man-power

Major General Sir Frederick Maurice made a controversial allegation that Parliament had been misled regarding the manning of the Western Front.

10 May 1918

Another officer here – Australian Captain Goudie – Artillery.

Victory for Lloyd George. Asquith’s motion about Sir F. Maurice’s letter defeated. He accused Lloyd George of making a mis-statement about man-power. Mesopotamian troops & Bonar Law’s statement about the interversion of the line not settled in Versailles Conference.


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

Sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones

Sydney had a day’s rest before venturing into No Man’s Land to set some barbed wire.

Sydney Spencer
Tuesday 7 May 1918

After a rather damp night I woke up at 6.30. ‘Stand to’ was off owing to rain (stand to in this back area being a sort of eyewash). Just going to put on my steel helmet when I found it full of water! Did not get very wet considering the streams of water I heard running through the roof in different places. I seem to have dodged them, thank goodness!

A freezing day and rained almost incessantly till about 2 pm. Still we had little else to do but snooze & eat all day long. Had a delicious bath at old brewery despite the rain! A swallow got among a pile of tangled hops the while & preened himself & murmured sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones in my ear. After lunch slept.

After tea informed that I was in charge of a wiring party for no man’s land. Started out at 9 pm. Landed at spot at 11.45. Wire etc arrived at 1.45. Worked till 2.45. Got back at 3.45. Saw that men had some tea.

Percy Spencer
7 May 1918

Another wet day. Clearing towards evening. Hun attack expected tomorrow. CO Bar to DSO. Col. Parish DSO. Both dined with General [Mildren?]. Brown Wilkinson came in after mess & talked politics & economics till 11.20 pm. Good stories of parsons – “The first prayer ever addressed to a Boston audience”, & “Oh thou simplest of all beings – I wasna addressing my remarks to the congregation”.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15) and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“Our brave soldiers are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of us all”

Reading churchgoers were urged to pray.

We are now in the thick of the most terrific struggle in the history of the world. We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely; they are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of us all. The point is that they should be able to trust us, the civilian population; a great deal of the issue of this battle depends on the moral and spiritual backbone of those who are here at home. We ought at this critical time to make our prayers a deeper and greater reality and so I am putting in front of our magazine this month some simple heads of intercession.

Let us pray for:-

Our King, and all our leaders at home and at the front.

Our fighting men and those of our allies.

The wounded and the prisoners.

The fallen.

The doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, the chaplains, on or near the field of battle.

The people at home that they may be steadfast and true.

For final victory and after victory, lasting peace.

S. Mary’s Church is open each day till 9 o’ clock in the evening so as to give opportunities of quiet prayer and intercession in this time of need.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

“The British soldier was never so cheerful as when he was hopelessly and miserably uncomfortable”

Reading School pupils were urged to face the future.

Colonel Wilson’s Address.

Colonel Wilson, who was accorded a very enthusiastic reception, said he considered it a great honour to have been invited to present the School prizes. He wished heartily to congratulate the School on its record, particularly its war record, which was one of which any School might rightly be proud. They had, too, another record – that of being one of the oldest Schools in the United Kingdom, with a history extending over nearly 800 years, and, if he might offer a word of advice to the boys, it was that they should always remember their School after they left it, and never do a single thing that might put a black mark on this brilliant record. (Hear, hear.) The last 4.5 years had done a great deal to bring back to many of them memories of their School life, and the memories thus revived, when they had met with those with whom they had been at School, had always been happy ones. He was a great admirer of Kipling and of the patriotic spirit that permeated his writings. Patriotism, however, was something that was born in them. They did not talk about it very much, but they liked to think about it. He wished to say one word to them on the spirit that had animated the nation during the war – a spirit which he hoped and trusted would animate the nation during the serious and difficult times that lay before them. The generation to which he belonged was passing away, while the generation to which they belonged was coming on and would have to tackle the vast problems of the future.

The Old Spirit.

He often wondered when the war broke out, whether the spirit of the men of England, which had animated her soldiers on the battlefields at Agincourt and Crecy, and her Sailors at the Nile and Trafalgar, would manifest itself in the men of 1914, after the passage of so many years. It was only after the gallant old Regular Army and the French Army had had a really serious series of reverses on the Western front that the British nation said, “We are up against somebody who means to fight us and is trying to beat us” and it was then that the spirit of the nation awoke. This war was entirely different from any war in which England had fought in the past. It brought together men of all classes, the vast majority of whom never thought of the profession of arms as one they would ever be likely to follow. If the comradeship which they had made at the front was going to last, then it was the best thing that had ever happened to this country of ours. (Applause)

The British soldier – and he said this with no thought of detracting from our Allies – was entirely different from the soldier of any other country. The British soldier was never so cheerful as when he was hopelessly and miserably uncomfortable. When things were at their worst he was the most cheerful person he could find, but as soon as things were happy and comfortable, he started “grousing.” (Laughter.) But the British soldier had what was, to his mind, the greatest saving grace of all-and that was his wonderful sense of humour. It was the cheerfulness, the sense of humour, and devotion to duty which had characterized the British Soldier and the British nation that had enabled it to win through as it had won through.

Difficult times lay before them, and if they were to win through them also, he would advise his young hearers to imitate those men who had been through 4.5 years of war. Let them imitate the high sense of duty and the high sense of patriotism and determination which had characterised all of their actions. And he was sure that if they did in civil life as they had done in military life, there would be no doubt as to the future of the nation. He asked them to remember when they went out into the world, that other men had just as much right to live as they had, and that is was their duty to see that they had the same advantages as they themselves had had, if it was in their power to give them. He urged them to be patriotic. In this as well as in other lands there were lots of people who seemed to have far greater admiration for the laws and legislation of other countries than their own. Let them love and venerate their own country, and if they thought its institutions needed altering, well let them alter them, but that did not mean transferring their love to another country. He did not believe the cosmopolitan patriot- “the sturdy patriot of the world alone, the friend of every country but his own.” He begged them always to remember their duty to their country, for if they did so they would be sure of leaving it better and happier than they had found it. (Applause.)

Reading School Magazine, April 1919 (SCH3/14/34)

Consolidation of the floating debt will become urgently necessary when peace has been concluded

Local government finances were set to be strained for years to come, thanks to the war.

CONVERSION OF PASTURE

The Committee have received notification from the Berks War Agricultural Executive Committee that certain of the Council’s pasture lands in the parishes of Stanford-in-the-Vale, Charney and Cholsey, scheduled for conversion, have now been transferred to category 4; the field at East Hanney has been placed in category 3.

LOANS

A letter has been received from the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, on the subject of loans, stating that the board has been informed by the Treasury that the provision of capital from Government funds is likely to be impracticable both during the war and for some time after the conclusion of peace, and that any new issue of Local Loans Stock while war-borrowing is still going on or during the period of consolidation of the floating debt, which will become urgently necessary when peace has been concluded, must be regarded as out of the question.


Report of Smallholdings and Allotments Committee to Berkshire County Council, 27 April 1918 (C/CL/C1/1/21)

All day without a break people were in Church praying that God would guide and strengthen our nation

St. Peter’s Day of Intercession

St. Peter’s kept Wednesday, April 17th, as a Day of Intercession for the War. There were 47 Communicants at the 7 a.m. celebration, and a great gathering of residents and workers of Furze Platt for the Intercessions at 1.45, and again at 7 p.m., and all day without a break people were in Church praying that God would guide and strengthen our nation and our men, and grant us a righteous and lasting peace.

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

“Some of them still send letters from the fields of war to those who served them”

Maidenhead Congregational Church closed down the chome from home it had offered to soldiers in training.

THE CLUB ROOM.

The Schoolroom is a Soldiers’ Club Room no longer. For about 3½ years, with a brief interval, it has been the resting place, the writing room, the free library of the men in training. We may feel proud to have been able to render such a useful piece of service to those who felt keenly the lack of anything resembling the comforts of home life in a strange town.

When our ladies were present nightly to talk with them and bring them coffee, the men would frequently say that the Club Room did indeed seem like home, but with the abandonment of the refreshment tables, and the loss of its attendants, the atmosphere of the place inevitably became colder, and we did not know the men personally and by name as we did at first. But the habitués never stinted in the expression of their gratitude, and some of them still send letters from the fields of war to those who served them and made friends with them in the Club Room.

The premises look a little worn after their experiences, though we must not put down all dilapidations to the soldiers’ account. A little cleaning may be possible now, but anything like a thorough renovation must wait, like many other scheme, until après la guerre.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, April 1918 (D/N33/12/1/5)