Wounded in his last stunt

The Hallams’ young friend had been injured.

13th August 1918

M. had a letter from Lieut Girling. He is now in hospital at Oxford wounded in his last stunt.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

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Shaken in body but in spirit still quite perky

Not only had Percy Spencer been wounded, but younger brother Sydney had suffered shell shock.

Aug 12th [1918]

My Dearest Florence

Just this line. I am safe but in hospital, unwounded. Was blown up with my men when sheltering in a shellhole. Am suffering from slight debility. Am shaken in body but in spirit am still quite perky.

Your affec Brer
Sydney

Note from Sydney Spencer written in pencil on scrap of paper (D/EZ177/8/3/68)

A sad casualty

Two men with Sulhamstead connections had fought their final battle.

Sergeant Major Robert East, Australian Expeditionary Force, has been obliged to have his leg amputated, and has returned to Australia for further treatment. He was to have been raised to the rank of a Commissioned Officer, but this sad casualty has prevented it.

ROLL OF HONOUR

We regret to have to announce that Mrs Painter has received news from the War Office that her husband, Private Albert Painter, Royal Berks, has been posted as killed. He was taken prisoner by the Germans on March 21st, and died on March 24th.

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

Still very good news

The Battle of Amiens was a success for the Allies.

11 August 1918

Still very good news. French retaken Montdidier!

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

To find a soldier’s rest

This poem was written by army chaplain the Revd Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy. It is entitled ‘Prayer Before An Attack’.

The following verses quoted by the Pastor in a recent sermon are given here by request:-

It ain’t as I think ‘E’ll keep me safe
While the other blokes goes down;
And it ain’t as I wants to leave the earth
And wear an ‘ero’s crown.
It ain’t for that as I says my prayers
When I goes to the attack;
But I pray that whatever comes my way,
I may never turn my back.
I leave the matter o’ life and death
To the Lord who knows what’s best;
And I pray that I still play the man,
Whether I turn East or West.
But grant me, God to do my bit,
And then If I must turn West,
I’ll be unashamed when my name is named.
And I’ll find a soldier’s rest.


Trinity Congregational Magazine, August 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

A splendid crop

It was good news all around.

Florence Vansittart Neale
10 August 1918

Still good news. 24,000 prisoners. 300 guns.

William Hallam
10th August 1918

I went up to Uffington by train at 5 past 2 then walked across the field (and nearly got lost) to Shellingford. Had a good look over the church. Very nicely kept – then copied down all the Inscrip. in the Ch.yard on the E & N. sides- many old ones obliterated and walked back to Uffing. station by the road.

Terribly hot. A lot of harvesting being done quite a lot of beans, oats and wheat cut. And the men at work I stopped talking to say it is a splendid crop. I was tired when I got home. I can’t walk about now like I could 10 years ago and only 50.

After I had my tea and a wash I went along to Bath Rd reading room to see the latest war news and it is still progressing favourably.

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

Little details of war

This is the fascinating account written by Sydney Spencer in hospital recovering from shell shock of his experiences at the front line in August 1918.

I have read many a glowing account of deeds & doings up there when men know each other as they are. Not one of these accounts gives for me at any rate, more than a very sketchy idea of the innumerable happenings which may take place in a few days. War is made up, so far as I have seen in my short experience, of little details done, undone, to be done, or to be undone, and unless these things are truly & patiently portrayed, the great with the little, the brave with the craven, then for those who yearn to know how things really happen there is little hope of arriving at an understanding of the atmosphere which surrounds warfare.

Before going any further, do not for one moment mistake me. I am not the old war worn man who has been out there for 3 years or more. My service out here is still in its babyhood. All I wish to do is to set down here as much in detail as possible the happenings of some eight days ending for me in the morning of August 10th, in the hope that should my ain folk ever read this, they may enter a little into what we do out here. Let the papers speak for themselves of vast movements, of cavalry, tanks, army corps, air fights, massings of troops, forward or retrograde movements, strategy & tactics. I mean to talk about much more humble things. How to get men’s socks changed. How to get shovels with which to dig in, under fire when no shovels are obtainable, how to carry the burden of 11 Lewis Gunners, when you only have four gunners left. How to walk that last kilometre when men are almost asleep as they walk. How to buoy men up when they are down. How to sympathize & yet be firm. How to be grim with the craven, & gentle with the exhausted ones.

I want to get away from the newspapers’ broad sweeping view of things & come down to little things, nay, at times to talk of a yard or two of ground or an individual man. The yard or two of ground will not be one necessarily where deeds were done, the individual will not be a budding VC.

And so let us get away & follow these 8 days through. We had had a day’s rest at [censored], after coming up from down south, & then at an early hour of the 1st, Dillon had orders to reconnoitre line in front of [censored], & I was to go with him. (more…)

Severe gunshot wound

Florence Image was her brother Percy’s official next of kin. He was transferred to a London hospital later that day.

9 August 1918

Regret inform you Second Lt P J Spencer 21st Londons admitted 8 General Hospital Rouen August 9th gunshot wound left wrist and scalp severe.

Infantry Record Office

Official telegram to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/7/65)

Intercessions list

Reading churchgoers prayed for their men.

Intercessions List

Lieut. C.J. Grimes, R.E.

Prisoner: Lieut. F.R. Hill.

Departed: Sergt. Harold Willoughby.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, August 1918 (D/P96/28A/35)

Driving back the Germans

The news seemed to be promising.

7 August 1918

We all on the offensive – quite grand – driving back the Germans.

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

“Just after I had written to say the Hun had not got us yet, he came over & buried us”

Percy Spencer sent his sister a postcard to let her know the Germans had got him at last.

7/8/15
My dear WF

Don’t worry.

Just after I had written you yesterday to say the Hun had not got us yet, he came over & bombed our mess & buried us. I myself escaped with a fractured left wrist & slight scalp wound. I feel quite fine under the circumstances.

Yrs ever
P J Spencer

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/64)

Oh the brutes!

Reading teenager Joan Daniels was indignant about German targetting of the wounded.

August 6th Tuesday

Ambulance transport sunk & 123 lives lost by the Germans. This is what riles us more than anything. Oh the brutes!

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

“If only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to let her know how he was getting on. The following day he was to be wounded.

Aug 6, 1918
My dear WF

Almost I’ve forgotten how to write a letter. Lately I have been so busy picking up the threads and so on that I haven’t had time to write a line since July 14, I think it was – not even to write and wish you many happy returns of the 4th. However I’ll put the clock back a couple of days and do it now.

My diary has gone during the last few weeks and I’m racking my brain for news.

To go back, I finished my course on the 17th. My section, 4/7 of which was my Division, won the School cup. The runners up were also 4/7 my Division. So we set our caps at the Canadians, Australians & our friends from USA and swanked. Also individually my section scored highest marks in the examination. My own report read –
Qualifications Very good
Power of command Ditto
Keen

So there was much rejoicing and our [HLI?] instructor got very tipsy at our expense and insisted on singing all the Scotch songs ever written, and some which I believe had before scarcely escaped the boundaries of his “wee bit hoos ben” or some such foreign place.

After that I returned “here” – that’s interesting. From here I went up the line once or twice, and then went “there” and billeted the Battalion. With the aid of 200 men, made the area reasonably clean, and HQ habitable. There was even a piano and one evening we had our string trio over to play to us at mess, and afterwards the doctor (from USA) with a fine voice, sang to us and made us all homesick. And the adjutant begged for Raff’s [Cantina?] and got it, and wondered how I knew when I turned to him during the piece and said, “Your wife plays this”.

And then I came here again & the adjutant being inoculated & sick, I had to ride up the line and take over. And now I am here again (and it’s pouring with rain) in an abandoned cottage with an earth floor and leaky roof and really very comfortable. To a newcomer it would be startling to go round a battalion’s “billets” and hear our boys tell the visiting officer that they were quite comfortable in a tumbledown outhouse or barn. Someday again I expect we shall get luxurious again.

Had one very bad night here during an event I expect you are now reading about. Fritz bombed all night and generally played the devil. A few days before a billet of ours was gutted by fire due to another unit’s fault. Luckily overnight I had organised our people for such an event, and in 25 minutes we had it out and a large farm saved. The other unit having at last accepted liability, rebuilt the place. I remarked that if only Fritz would drop a bomb on it, it would save further argument. He did, but not till it had been rebuilt & occupied and the farmer was gloating over new buildings for old.

The CO has just turned up so I’ll close while I have the opportunity.
With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/58-60)

“Major Smith has been associated with the Tank Corps from the beginning of its operations and he has rendered splendid service”

There was news of three Reading men.

PERSONAL

We offer our heartiest congratulations to Major L. Victor Smith, MC, on his recent promotion. Major Smith has been associated with the Tank Corps from the beginning of its operations and he has rendered splendid service. We are glad to know that he has come safely through many dangers, and we pray that he may have the continued protection of the Most High in all the days that lie before him. It was a pleasure to see him looking so fit and well when he was home on furlough.

Private Gerald S. Hampton, only son of our friends Mr and Mrs A. S. Hampton, has recently been in hospital in one of the base camps, “somewhere in France”. We are glad to hear that he is now well again, and able to take up his duties. We pray that he may come safely through all the dangers of the trenches.

The latest news of Private E. Layton Francis is that he is in a military hospital in Cairo and making good progress. His many friends will wish that the progress may be accelerated, and that before long he may be home on furlough.

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

Earnest supplication that the righteous cause for which we have made such heavy sacrifices may be speedily crowned with victory, and a just and lasting Peace come quickly.

Churches in the Bracknell area commemorated the fourth anniversry of the start of the war.

August

Ascot

SUNDAY, August 4th, will be the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of War, and special forms of Prayer and Thanksgiving will be used throughout the Country on that day. The hours of service at All Saints’ will be as usual.

Bracknell

THE WAR – On Sunday, August 4th, when we shall enter on the fifth year of the War, we are called to come together to seek for God’s help and guidance, and to offer our thanksgivings for the success that has been granted to our efforts. The services will be at the usual hours, but will be of a special character. It can hardly be necessary to urge that there should be a large attendance. We need God’s continued help, and we must seek for it by persistent prayer. The collections at all the services will be for the British Red Cross Society.

Warfield

On Sunday, August 4th, the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of War, there will be celebrations of the Holy Communion at 7, 8, and 12 o’clock. Morning Prayer and Intercession Service for Children at 3. Evening Prayer, Intercession, reading of the Roll of Honour, and Sermon at 6.30. May we, like the good king Hezekiah of old, go up unto the house of the Lord, at this great crisis in our nation’s life, and spread out our cause, our troubles and anxieties, national and personal before the Lord.

Winkfield

For the first time, the 4th of August, the anniversary of the beginning of the War falls on a Sunday. The government have decided against a week day commemoration, so that the whole nation, it is hoped, will observe the occasion as a day of National Intercession to God on behalf of our country, with earnest supplication that the righteous cause for which we have made such heavy sacrifices may be speedily crowned with victory, and a just and lasting Peace come quickly.

We earnestly hope that this parish will respond, as never before, and that no family will be unrepresented in this parish church on such an occasion, when, as our Prime Minister writes:

“It is fitting that the nation should remembering the services of the men who are fighting for the preservation of civilisation, and should once more reconsecrate itself to the high ideals for the attainment of which the Allied Nations have sacrificed so much”.

The names of all our men serving at the front will be read out and commended to God in prayer, and the offertories at all the services will be devoted to fund helping to send comforts to Winkfield men now prisoners of war in Germany.

September

Bracknell

THE WAR – The Services held in August 4th – the fourth anniversary of the commencement of the War – were well attended. There were many communicants, and the church was really full, both at 11 and 6.30. The special services were used, and seemed to strike the right nore, as the services were specially earnest and reverent. The good news of the Allies’ successes deepened the feeling of thankfulness and hope in all hearts. £21 18s. was collected for the Red Cross and Prisoners of War Fund.

Cranbourne

WAR ANNIVERSARY — The services on August 4th were well attended, especially in the evening. The collections were for the Prisoners of War Fund, and amounted to £11 10s. 6d.

Warfield

It was a great pleasure to see such splendid congregations and above all so many communicants, on Sunday, August 4th, the fourth anniversary of the Declaration of War. In the evening the body of the church was quite full, and the congregation joined most heartily and earnestly in the service. The collection £6 9s. 7d. was in aid of the parochial fund for providing parcels for prisoners of war, of which Mrs. Wood is secretary.

Winkfield

The services on August 4th were well attended, especially in the evening. The offertories for Prisoners of War amounted to £12 10s and on the following Sunday £7 was raised for the Mission to Seamen.


Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, August and September 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/7-8)