“He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave”

There was news of a number of Maidenhead men, many wounded or ill. One had suffered a nervous breakdown.


Reginald Hill was able to pay a surprise visit of four days to his home, in the midst of his long and weary hospital experiences. He was looking well, considering all that he has borne, but he has one or two more operations yet to undergo. He spoke of a hope that he might be home shortly after Easter.

Ernest Bristow is progressing favourably, but the latest report that reached us spoke of another operation. He seems to be in excellent spirits.

Ben Gibbons is in hospital at Southall, suffering from debility. He was looking worn and depressed at his last leave, from which he had only got back to duty about a fortnight when he broke down and was sent to England, or rather (as we ought to say) Blighty.

Sydney Eastman is in hospital at Chatham, sent home for bronchitis. We may hope to see him shortly. The Medical Board decided that he could not stand the climate at the place where he was stationed.

W. Cleal is in hospital. No particulars known.

David Dalgliesh has received an appointment as Instructor at the Flying School at Winchester.

Hugh Lewis has been at home for a fortnight’s leave in excellent health.

Charles Catliff, too, has been home for his first leave; most of his time he spent at Bucklebury with his mother, who has been seriously ill.

Cyril Laker has had the thrilling experience of being torpedoed in the Mediterranean.

Herbert Brand has received a Commission, and when we last saw him was hoping to be attached to the 4th Berks.

Since the above was in type, a letter has been received from P.A. Eastman. He says:

“The mails where I came from have been very erratic, and some have been lost, including unfortunately the Christmas parcels. Davy Jones is now richer than all the other members of the great family of that name put together, to their and some other people’s impoverishment! ……

The medical authorities have thought it best to send me back after the first year out in the East; doubtless they have a reason. But I am glad to say I am now fairly fit, and hope to improve rapidly under the less trying conditions of English life. Very kind greetings to all West Street friends.”

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


“Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad”

Will Spencer heard from soldier brother Horace, who offered a pleasant view of army life, and from the wife of another soldier brother, Natalie.

19 March 1918

When I got back, Johanna asked me if it was my birthday. Letters from Natalie & from Horace, & a parcel [and letter from a Swiss friend]…

Reading the [three] letters to Johanna, with running comments, after dinner, was quite a long proceeding, as Natalie’s letter was one of 8 large pages!.

Horace writes to me,

“Perhaps you are sometimes pained at the conjectured hardships that we have to undergo, so I will try to relieve your mind on that point. Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad, there are kind words and deeds exchanged at all times, & so the atmosphere is pleasant. He has heard concerts & lectures, visited 6 cathedral towns in France, has learned to play chess, & read – amongst other books – Holmes’ Life of Mozart….

Natalie writes that Harold “had a rotten [underlined] time one way & another, tho’ now his lines seem to have fallen into pleasanter places”.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

100 miles an hour

Sir Henry Vansittart Neale was encouraging his tenants to keep pigs, part of the movement to encourage homegrown food.

Florence Vansittart Neale
17 March 1918

H arranging for “Pig meeting” in village.

Russians done for. Hopeless. Will Japan try & bolster them up?

William Hallam
17th March 1918

A very sharp frost. An air ship went over this morning but I did not see it. Some say it was travelling 100 miles an hour.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

A critical time

Reading churchgoers offered their prayers for the war.


For the entry of the British troops into Jericho.


For the spirit of self-sacrifice and perseverance in the nation.

For God’s blessing on Ireland at this critical time, especially on the Feast of S. Patrick (March 17th).

For the Russian people at this critical time in their history.

For all our fighting men and all suffering from the war, especially those in danger from air raids in London and on the East Coast.

For Horace Beesley, one of our altar-lads, just gone out to France as a volunteer carpenter.

For all the wounded, sick and prisoners on both sides.

For the fallen, especially Frederick Mott, Wine Place; John Hannon, Milman Road; William Mason, Stanley Street.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P98/28A/16)

Help our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy

Mortimer people were chastised for not contributing enough cash to the war effort.

War Savings Association

I am sorry to say that this deserving work of National importance is not receiving from the parishioners the support which it ought to receive.

Although started nearly eight months ago, the number of members is only about 110 – principally school children – and the total subscriptions are less than £100.

In comparison with other villages with similar populations and occupations these figures are lamentably below the average, and it is to be hoped that Mortimer will yet rise to a sense of its responsibilities, and do all in its power to help, by financial assistance, our brave sons and brothers who stand between us and our unscrupulous enemy.

Deposits however small, will be gladly received by the Treasurer, at Springfield, on any Friday evening between 5.30 and 6.30, or at S. Mary’s and S. John’s National Schools at any time during school hours.

War Distinctions

Mrs. Gould was at Oxford presented, by the Major-General in Command, with the Military Medal won by her husband Samuel Gould at the Battle of the Somme.

We also congratulate most heartily Driver William Milne on having received the Military Cross.

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

Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

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

Subjects closely connected with the War

Food shortages had led to a soup kitchen for children in Ascot.

The Lantern Services in the Parish Room on Fridays at 7 p.m. are being taken by the Rector and deal with subjects closely connected with the War. There was a very fair attendance at the first service, and it is hoped that it will increase as the services become more generally known.

By the effort of the Teachers a Soup Kitchen is being started as the Schools for the benefit of the children, and we are sure many parents will be most grateful for this help in this difficult days. The Managers have made a small grant towards utensils, and gifts of vegetables, or offers of personal help will be welcomed by the Teachers ….

At a War Savings Conference held at the Reading Rooms, Sunninghill, on Wednesday, February 20th, it was resolve to form a local War Savings Committee for the district to be known as “The Sunningdale and Ascot District War Savings Committee”, its chief object being to establish as many new Associations as possible in the neighbourhood, the ladies and gentlemaen elected being Mr. Percy Crutchley (Chairman), Messrs. H. J. Whitehead and A.J. Merton (Hon. Secretaries), Col. Blackburn, (Hon. Treasurer), Mrs. Ninian Elliott, the Hon. Miss Gordon, Mr. E. Wolseley, Heresy Marchioness of Linthgow, Mr. G. J. Francis, Mr. F. J. Patton, Mr. C.W. Searle, Mr. J.W. Abbott, Mrs. Trotter, Mr T.A. Woods. The Committee was given power to add to its number, and it was intimated that if Sunningdale cared to join up with this Committee, the inclusion of this parish would be cordially welcomed.

The Ascot War Savings Association has just completed one year’s working. The total number of certificates sold during that time being nearly 1000.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

Torpedoed but able to land!

A hospital ship was attacked.

15 March 1918
Glenart Castle torpedoed but able to land! All saved I think.

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

Added to the prayer list

More Earley men were serving.

List of men serving in his Majesty’s forces

The following additional names have been added to our prayer list:-

John Bowden, Frederick Llott, Richard Polden, George Anderson, Alfred Parsons, Lawrence Parsons, Hugh Parsons, Cuthbert Parsons, Leonard Streak, Albert Fostekew, Stanley Tanner, George Roberts, Henry Attwood, Thomas Cloke.

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

Sick: Harold Ballard. Killed: Ernest Shears.

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

Some comfort in memories so full of sadness

A Sulhamstead family who had lost their son were invited to take pride in his heroism.


Mr and Mrs Leake have received the following letter from the War Office. It is indeed to be hoped that the gratifying appreciation of the services of Captain G E A Leake, DSO, may be of some comfort in memories so full of sadness:

“I have it in command from His Majesty the King to inform you, as next of kin of the late Second Lieutenant (Acting Captain) George Ernest Arthur Leake, DSO, of the London Regiment, that this Officer was mentioned in a Despatch from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, dated 7th November, 1917, and published in the third supplement to the ‘London Gazette’ of the 21st, dated 24th December, 1917, for gallant and distinguished service in the Field.

I am to express to you the King’s high appreciation of these services, and to add that His Majesty trusts that their public acknowledgement may be of some consolation in your bereavement.

G Leake, Esq.,

Sulhamstead parish magazine, March 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Till we meet again


Private Charles Holloway has long been reported missing, and the War Office has now sent an intimation that he must be “assumed killed in action.” Our deep sympathy is with his widow, and his parents, who have now lost three sons in this war.

Lance-Corporal Leonard Cox has been wounded and is now in hospital in England and is progressing favourably.

We were glad to welcome home on leave this month Privates Broadbent, F. Johnson, and J. Sumner.

The Vicar has received the sum of £1 from sale of waste paper collected in the parish, and this money has been devoted to providing comforts for our two prisoners of war in Germany, Privates W. Harwood and F. Onion.

We hope to send to all our men who are serving an Easter card of greeting with the message “May the Risen Christ, who left His home for us, have you in His keeping till we meet again”; and the assurance that we shall be remembering them at our Easter Communion.

Winkfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

The fall of Odessa

The short-lived Bolshevik Soviet Republic of Odessa in southern Ukraine had been founded in January 1918. It came to an ignominious end following the conquest by the Germans.

13 March 1918
Odessa entered by Germans.

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

Re-kindling our interest in Serbia

There were Serbian child refugees in Reading.

Miss Parkinson’s lecture on Serbia should go far towards re-kindling our interest in Serbia, and especially in the Serbian boys living amongst us here in Reading. There will be special collections for the local work of the Serbian Relief Fund at S. Mary’s on Sunday, March 10th.

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

Marvellous recuperative powers

A young man from Earley was badly injured.

We greatly regret to say that Pte Walters, our cross-bearer, has been much more severely wounded than we at first supposed. After his Christmas leave he returned to France on Jan 7th and rejoined his regiment. On the 22nd he was struck by an exploding shell, and his leg was so shattered that it had to be removed above the knee.

His recuperative powers were so marvellous that he astonished both doctors and nurses and was able to reach London within three weeks of the operation. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to him and Mrs Walters under this blow.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, March 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

“This front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe”

A member of Broad Street Brotherhood wrote home from service in a bleak part of the Balkans.

Somewhere in Macedonia
5th March 1918

I am taking the first opportunity of writing to thank you and the friends at Broad St for the nice Xmas parcel which arrived safely last week. It is indeed most kind of you all to think of me in this distant land, and I can assure you your kindness is keenly appreciated.

I must heartily congratulate whoever was responsible for the selection of the contents. They were just what I was in need of – especially the writing pad, toilet soap and cigarettes. These things are very difficult to obtain in our part of the line, which is in a most deserted and desolate area, far removed from any YMCA tent or EF canteen, and 50 or 60 miles from Salonica…

Of course I cannot give you any details of our doings out here, but I can assure, you, this front is not so quiet as the papers would have you believe. Praying that the Almighty’s richest blessing may crown all your efforts to brighten matters in “dear old Blighty”.

W J Dance (OS) [on active service]

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