The chemistry of the gas helmet

After a period training at Kinmel Park in Wales, studying such matters as the workings of the gas helmet issued to troops, Percy Spencer wrote to sister Florence Image with good news.

Aug 10, 1917
My dear WF

Thanks to John my address is
Cadet P J Spencer
B Company
No. 5 Officer Cadet Battalion
Trinity College
Cambridge

All the bad men from Kinmel are here too, so at any rate I feel I shall have a moral advantage.

I’ve just been trying to get the rules and regulations into my head. Luckily I realised early that it couldn’t be done and gave it up….

You are quite right about Kinmel. I was awfully well and jolly there, and look and feel very fit. Even the lectures were entertaining, no matter how dry. For instance one lecturer (a schoolmaster before the war) taking us in musketry, and looking very brainy, explained (in fact he was so pleased with the idea, he explained it twice) that “an explosion is the immediate or spontaneous transition of a solid into a gas. Q.E.D., which those of you who have studied Euclid will know means Quod erat dictum!!!”

We also had some very interesting lectures on the gas or PH ‘Elmet. Really they were not so much lectures on the helmet as they were upon methods of dodging learned recruits. If I am unlucky enough to get hold of some recruit who evinces a knowledge of chemistry, I am to switch off on to the mechanism of the helmet, of which he’ll probably be ignorant, and vice versa. Presumably if one is unlucky enough to be landed with a recruit who knows both the mechanism & the chemistry of the helmet there is nothing to be done but to lead him gently to the gas chamber….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/62-64)

An organist is called up

A Wokingham church had to face the prospect of singing hymns unaccompanied when their organist was conscripted.

Organist.
We want an Organist. Mr. Collins, who most kindly came to fill the gap when Mr. Baker was called up, and who has performed his duties most efficiently, is unfortunately unable to remain permanently.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P154C/28A/1)

“The Great War in which our whole nation and indeed nearly all the world is engaged”

The anniversary of the war’s start was cause for the parish of Reading St Mary to take stock.

Intercessions

For those just gone to the front for the first time, especially Frank Taylor, our late Sacristan, and Edward Henry Bartholomew, one of our Choirmen, both of whom have gone to France; also Claude Towers, who has just started for Mesopotamia.

For the fallen, especially Richard Page (died of wounds received on June 7th), and Arthur Clements Hiberden.

All Saints’ District
The War

On Saturday, August the 4th (the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War) there will be a celebration of the Holy Communion at 8 O’clock, and on Sunday the 5th, there will be celebrations at 7, 8 and 10. Throughout the day the special services will be used, and copies will be provided for the use of the congregation. The collections will be for the Assistant Clergy Fund.

R.I.P.

Our deepest sympathy will be given to Mr. R. F.S. Biddulph and his family on the loss of his elder son Richard Herbert Hoel Biddulph who died of wounds in France on July 5th. He was a member of the Canadian Forces and volunteered for service immediately on the outbreak of war.

St Saviour’s District
August 4th

It will not be possible to pass this third anniversary of the Great War in which our whole nation and indeed nearly all the world is engaged, without some special looking to God, and renewal of national purpose. Probably Sunday August 5th, will be more specially kept as a day of United Prayer and renewal of purpose before God, and of thanksgiving too for renewal of purpose to united effort and sacrifice, which he has made, and is still making to us. Let us at S. Saviours come together before God in Church and there in worship, communion and prayer remember our nation, our church, our dear ones etc. and offer ourselves again to him to do and to suffer all that He wills.

R.I.P.

John Warren Wells, of the Canadian contingent, has been killed in France. As a small boy he lived in Garnet Street, and our sympathy is with his family and relatives, especially with Mr. George Wells, our sidesman. Among those recently wounded in France is, we are sorry to hear, George Jacobs, of 1 S. Saviour’s Terrace, we hope that his family will soon get news of his good progress.

St Mark’s District

We are glad to have good news of the S.Mark’s lads from France and elsewhere, though we are sorry to hear that Trooper H.T. Chamberlain has been in hospital at Alexandria for some weeks suffering from severe breakdown and shell-shock. We trust he will soon be quite restored to health again.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, August1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

Deserving of high praise

Biscuit factory workers at Huntley & Palmer’s gave some of their earnings for the benefit of wounded soldiers.

Intercessions list

We are asked to remember the following who have gone “overseas”:

Privates J. Taylor, A. Victor Brown, Frank Griffin, 2nd lieut. G.A.F. Gillmor.

Missing: Lc. Corpl. Harold Walker (Essex Regt), Lc. Corpl. A.A.V. Smith (17th Middlesex Regt)

R.I.P.: Frederick J.T. Knoll (M.G.C.), Thomas Hook (Sussex Regt), William John Darboarn (Canadian Mounted Rifles), 2nd Lieut G.W. Baxter, Private A.G. Oliver (K.R.R.), Gunner A. Oliver.

The voluntary contributions made by the women employed at Huntley & Palmers factory for the wounded soldiers in Reading is indeed deserving of high praise. I see that from May, 1915 to June, 1917, they have contributed £286 13s. 7.5 d. I know the soldiers greatly appreciate their kindness.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P96/28A/32)

Gallantry in the field

Men from the Bracknell area had mixed fortunes.

Ascot

We are sorry to hear of the loss of Wm. J. Hawthorn in the “Vanguard.”

Bracknell

It has been reported that 2nd Lieut. R. F. Needham is missing. He was in the fight on the dunes on the coast when the Northamptonshire and K.R. Regiments suffered so heavily. The deep sympathy of many friends is felt with Colonel and Mrs. Needham.

Winkfield

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

We are proud to be able to record this month the decoration of three more Winkfield men for gallantry in the field. Lieut. Cecil Hayes-Sadler, R.E, who has been serving lately with the French forces has been given the Croix de Guerre. Lieut. Wilfred Lloyd, R.E., has won the Military Cross, after having been recommended for it once before, and Corporal R. Nickless, 6th Royal Warwicks, has been awarded the Military Medal.

We regret to learn that Pte. Joseph Baker is ill in hospital with gas poisoning. He was able to write home himself, so we hope he will soon be completely recovered.

Signaller Fred Holmes has been invalided out of the Army. He was a member of our choir and one of the first Winkfield men to volunteer in August 1914, and he has seen a great deal of service at the front. We sincerely hope that he will soon obtain suitable work and in time completely recover his health.

Sergt. Leonard Tipper (Middlesex Regt), has lately gone out to France and we trust will be remembered in our prayers.

Winkfield District Magazine, August 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/8)

Setting such a good example in food economy, that at present there is not much prospect of compulsory rationing

Reading clergy agreed none of their churches would put on a tea for Sunday School children this year.

THE VICAR’S LETTER

My dear friends,

The Bishop of Oxford, in the Diocesan Magazine for this month, calls especial attention to the effort that is to be made following on the National Mission of last year. To stimulate prayer and interest and self-sacrifice for the overseas work of the Church, Sunday, October 14th, and the days following have been set apart for this purpose in Reading, and we hope that there will be a wide response. The Bishop expresses his earnest wish that we and our people should realise the great obligations laid upon us by the war for the evangelization of the world…

At a meeting of the clergy, of all denominations in Reading, held a short time ago, it was resolved that there should be no Sunday School Teas as usual, but that an afternoon should be set aside for games and sports. We are sure that both children and parents will feel that at this time public meals of any sort are to be avoided. We understand that so many town, including Reading, are setting such a good example in food economy, that at present there is not much prospect of compulsory rationing.

Your friend and vicar,
W W Fowler

LIST OF MEN SERVING IN HIS MAJESTY’S FORCES

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list: George Bernard, Bernard Walker, Charles Simmonds, Ernest Dormer, William Cooper.

In addition to those already mentioned we especially commend the following to your prayers:

KILLED IN ACTION: Albert Denham, Frank Snellgrove, George Jeram.

SICK: Alban Fixsen, William May, Cornelius O’Leary, Francis Broadhurst.

WOUNDED: Frederick Smithers, Frank Taylor, Gilbert Adams.

MISSING: William Wynn.

Earley St Peter parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P191/28A/24)

“Three members have given their lives for their Country”

The Reading St Giles branch of the Church of England Men’s Society took stock of the numbers of their felllows who had joined up.

The annual meeting of our branch of the C.E.M.S. was held on the 24th [July]. Three members have given their lives for their Country: Randolph Portnell, Reginald Golder, Harry Gorring; and 28 members are now in the Navy or Army.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P96/28A/32)

“Our prayers are needed for the people of Russia, that they may be united in their new liberty”

The parish of Newbury feared the Russian Revolution would make the war longer.

The War still drags on, and the Revolution in Russia has not tended towards making it shorter: our prayers are needed for the people of Russia, that they may be united in their new liberty, and may stand firm against the enemy.

The War has lately claimed two more of our men, and we offer our sincere sympathy to Mrs Cox, of 6, Rosemary Terrace, and Mrs Preston, of 3, Rosemary Terrace, on the loss of their husbands. Several of our CLB lads have lately had to join up. There is still urgent need for economy in the matter of our food, and a food economy exhibition has lately been held in the Corn Exchange.

It is most unfortunate that, just as new and most suitable premises had been secured for the Soldiers’ Club, all the soldiers should disappear from Newbury: and the committee are accordingly left in a difficulty as to what to do. At this moment the club is furnished, but is not open, and we cannot hear of any more soldiers coming. The Secretary and Treasurer of the Club is Miss Godding, and the Committee are Mrs S A Hawker, Mrs O’Farrell, Mrs H Hollands, Mrs Palmer, and Miss A Boyer. These ladies have made the Club a great success by their hard work, and with the assistance of other helpers.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P89/28A/13)

The treatment and training of disabled soldiers

The Disablements Sub-committee of the County Council’s War Pensions Committee reported with its progress finding training schemes for disabled former soldiers.

The Disablements Sub-committee beg to report that two Schemes for training disabled soldiers have been drafted after careful consideration and in consultation with Colonel Morrison, the authorities at Windsor Castle, the Windsor Institute and the University College, Reading….

These Schemes can only be successfully carried into practice under the Royal Warrant of April 17, 1917, which provides that the man’s pension shall temporarily cease while under treatment or training, and that all expenses and payments to an approved amount shall be made by the War Pensions Committee….

The period of training in the Gardens at Windsor should be at least 12 months, and should not be restricted to the period of 6 months stipulated I the provisional approval already received from the Statutory Committee.

It was also strongly urged that both these Schemes should be approved and put into operation immediately, because the delay which has already occurred has not only prevented several suitable men from receiving the benefits of this training, which they were at one time prepared to accept, but is likely, if continued, to endanger the success of any Schemes that may be introduced for the treatment and training of disabled soldiers….

The following statistics are reported to date:

Cases registered 927

Cases already considered 193

Cases needing no assistance 484

Cases which may need assistance 211

Cases to be re-considered 174

Cases awarded treatment 27

Cases awarded training 16

Approximate number of cases in hands of Sub-committee for investigation 300

Meanwhile, Berkshire County Council’s Higher Education Committee dealt with some financial implications of the war.

Higher Education Committee

In view of the uncertainties due to … the chance of termination of the War and return of teachers whose situations and annual increases have been guaranteed, it is recommended that the present arrangements should be announced as provisional…

Bursars and Student Teachers

Of 12 Bursars [trainee teachers given scholarships] appointed last year, one failed to take up the Bursary as he joined the Army… Of nine Student Teachers whose engagements terminate on 31 July, one is already on Military Service and one joins up in August…

Higher Education Sub-committee report to BCC Education Committee, 14 July 1917; Disablements Sub-committee of the War Pensions Committee report, 14 July 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

Police uniforms will have to be lower quality

The war continued to have an impact on the local police service.

7 July 1917

On 8 May last the Acting Chief Constable was informed by the Home Office that the War Cabinet had decided that further members of Police Forces should be released for military service; and that the minimum number to be supplied by Berkshire was 20. he accordingly released that number of the youngest Constables on 1 June, as follows:

PC 44, James H. Benson Married
PC 193, Wilfred Thomas Ditto
PC 192, Henry J. Boshier Ditto
PC 59, James Strange Ditto
PC 29, Charles J. Simmonds Single
PC 187, Harry Hankins Married
PC 180, George W. G. Plumb Ditto
PC 152, Bertie W. Smith Ditto
PC 4, Charles W. Green Ditto
PC 220, Bertram G. Sherwood Ditto
PC 207, Albert J. Harvey Ditto
PC 160, Allan Miles Single
PC 76, Kenneth Chapman Married
PC 157, James A. Butler Ditto
PC 191, Ernest Culley Ditto
PC 67, Ernest West Ditto
PC 53, Francis G. E. Bailey Single
PC 118, Frederick Bailey Ditto
PC 8, Charles V. Foster Married
PC 121, Thomas H. Fletcher Ditto

In accordance with the Committee’s decision on 5 July, 1915, the allowance to the wives of married Constables during the latter’s absence on military service will be the amount the Constables were receiving from Police Funds for pay and war bonus – less the amount received from Army Funds … and the wives will be allowed to remain in their houses on payment of half the usual deduction for house rent.

As regards the single Constables, PC 29 Simmonds alone has been contributing regularly, 6/- per week to the support of his relatives, and the Sub-committee recommend that an allowance of 6d per day be granted in this case.

No further First Police Reservists have been called up for active Police duty, and endeavours will be made to manage with the assistance of the Special Constables whenever practicable.

Three of the Constables who have now joined the Army formed part of the number furnished under agreement to Newbury Borough, and have not yet been replaced pending the reconsideration of the agreement.

Clothing and Helmets for 1918

A tender was obtained from Messrs Titley, Son & Price for the supply of Police clothing for 1918, but the prices being so much in excess of the previous contract, they were communicated with, with a view to the prices being reduced; and they subsequently offered to supply the clothing at the same prices as in 1917, but stipulated that, while the material would be serviceable, it would be of a lower quality. The overcoats, capes and undress trousers would be of the same weight and appearance as, but would not be, all wool. At the same time they strongly recommended the retention of the Sergeants’ and Constables’ winter trouser material at the price quoted, viz £1.1s.0d, instead of 16s 0d as last year. It is recommended that this offer be accepted.

The garments required for the 1918 issue will be Great Coats, Serges, Dress Trousers, Undress Trousers, and Summer Helmets.

Messrs Christy & Co are at present unable to tender for the Caps and Helmets, owing to the Government having commandeered their stock and, as the Committee understand other firms are in like position, it is recommended that tenders be not invited this year.

Adopted.

Class “B” First Police Reserve

The position and pay of Class “B” men on the First Police Reserve – some of whom have been on duty since the beginning of the war – have been brought to the notice of the Sub-committee. In view of the present high prices of food, etc, the Sub-committee recommend that their rate of pay be increased from 5/- to 5/6 per day as from 1 April, 1917…

Carried: That Class “B” First Police Reserve be granted a bonus of 3/6 per week as from 1 April, 19817, instead of the increased rate of pay as recommended by the Finance Sub-committee.

Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

“Shell shock rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time”

There was sad news for some Winkfield families, although other men had distinguished themselves.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

We tender our heartfelt sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Thurmer, who have to mourn the loss of their son Fred (of the Royal Berks Regt.) killed in action. This is the third son they have lost in this War and all will earnestly hope that another son now at the Front will be spared to return home safely to them.

Much sympathy is also felt for Mr. and Mrs. Holloway, who soon after hearing of the death in action of the second son they have lost in the war, were informed that a third son, Charles, is missing and probably a prisoner of war.

Pte. F. Onion has been ill with trench fever but is now well on the way to recovery, and we are also glad that Pte. Albert Carter has quite recovered, and that Pte. John Carter is going on well. Pte. George Higgs has been ill in France, but is now convalescent.

Trooper Alfred Brant lately sailed to join the Mediterranean Force and his parents have just heard of his safe arrival in Egypt. Pte. Fred Johnson and Pte. Fred Blay have gone to France. We regret that inadvertently we omitted to mention that Lance-Corporal Frank Brant is now serving in France, and has been at the Front for some time.

We are delighted to hear that Lieut. Cecil Ferard has won the Military Cross at Salonika, and tender warm congratulations. We also heartily congratulate Pte. James Winnen who has been recommended for the Military Medal “for gallant conduct in the field on March 21st” (which happens to be his birthday). He hear the good news whilst in Hospital, suffering from shell shock which rendered him unconscious for five days, and left him deaf and dumb for a time; but he has, we are glad to hear now completely recovered and re-joined his regiment.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, July 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/7)

A real “Godsend” to the boys

Churchgoers in Reading and Windsor paid for a recreation “Hut” behind the front lines.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions list

Ptes. W.G. Pearce, 2nd Worcestershire Regt,; H.A.T. Wicks, 33rd Training Reserve Batt,; H.W. March, 47th Canadians.

Missing: Lce,-Cpl. Harold Walker.

Sick and Wounded: Pte Green; Pte. Bailey.

Departed: Lce,-Cpl. J. Cole; Gunner W. Shaw. R.I.P.

C.E.M.S.

The following report has been received about the Reading and Windsor Federation Hut.

“Everything has been done to make this Hut one of the most attractive and comfortable in this area. Crowds of men pass through daily, and much use is made of the stationary Literature, and Games provided for their comfort. Concerts are held, Lantern Services and Voluntary services of all kinds. It’s a real “Godsend” to the boys.”

Subscriptions are still needed to supply the above Hut. And will be gratefully received by the Hon. Sec. Mr. Lane, 5/-

H.J. HINDERLEY, Hon. Sec.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, May 1917 (D/P96/28A/34)

A teacher leaves for war service

A middle aged head teacher left her job for war service.

June 22nd 1917

The Head teacher has been allowed to “terminate present engagement as Head Mistress of the Infants’ Departments: of Grey Friars’ School”….

The managers have agreed to re-appoint to present position if desired as soon after the termination of the War as may be expedient.

[In the index to the book:]

Florence Annie Chaudlen
Certificate 1891 & 1892
Appointed Sep: 28th 1896
Age 16/10/68
British Infants School
Left for War Service 22/6/17

Reading: Grey Friars Infants’ School log book (R/ES4/2)

Beginning military service as a chaplain

The Community of St John Baptist said goodbye to their warden, who was starting his service as an army chaplain.

21 June 1917

The Sub-Warden went away to begin his military service as Chaplain at Strensall Camp near York. The 7 am celebration [of Holy Communion] was at the High Altar followed by the Travellers’ Service.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

Do the German hear our starlight singing in their distant trenches?

There was much news of soldiers from Maidenhead Congregational Church.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to be able to report that Reginald Hill is so far improving, that he has been able to sit up a little each day. Thomas S. Russell has been called up, and is in training with the Motor Transport Section of the A.S.C. G.C. Frampton after about two hours drill was considered advanced enough for foreign service, and left England for France on May 18th. He is gone into Military Canteen work.

An interesting letter has come to hand from Sidney Eastman, which may justly be described as lengthy, for it is written upon a piece of paper some seven or eight feet long, and covers both sides. It is mostly occupied with a description of his travels and of the sights he has seen, and we are glad to gather that he is in good health and spirits.

G.C. Frampton has been unpatriotic enough to take German measles, and is in Hospital at Etaples. We hope to learn very shortly that he is quite well again.

Alfred Vardy, after a severe bout of pneumonia, caught on his way to the Front in France, is now at a Convalescent Camp in Thetford, gaining strength before returning to duty.

Wilfrid Collins is in hospital at Reading, suffering from heart weakness following upon a severe attack of “Trench fever.”

Reginald Hill has been out of bed for an hour, and is going on satisfactorily, though slowly.

Cyril Hews had a somewhat narrow escape recently. He was out with his motor-bicycle upon a French road during a thunderstorm, when the lightning struck a tree by the road-side, and a large branch fell upon the handlebars of the machine, providentially leaving the rider untouched.

Alfred Lane, after more than a year’s training in the Home Counties’ Engineers at Maidenhead, has been sent over with a draft to France.

Harry Baldwin, having attained the age of 18, and being called up, has elected to enter the Navy, and will probably enter a Training School.

One of our young men, who took an active part in the Messines victory, writes:

“Rather a good sight yesterday. I attended with my men a very large open-air drum-head Church Parade Service, as a sort of Thanksgiving Service for our recent great victory. A large number of Welshmen were present, and it really was great to hear these fellows sing “Aberystwith” and “St. Mary,” accompanied by a band.”

The papers, by the way, have been recently telling us that in all the Welsh regiments there are “glee parties,” who sing under the stars, until the Germans must hear and perhaps wonder, in their more or less distant trenches.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, June 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)