Mentioned in the Gazette again

News of Burghfield men.

THE WAR

Honour
Lt-Col. H A Anderson, CMG, RAMC, again mentioned (Gazette of 3rd Sept.)

Casualties

W H Lay (Sapper RE), killed in action, August, 1918; Sidney Keep (1st Royal Berks), wounded, August, 1918.

Discharge
J S Rance (Royal Navy, HMS Rocket), 11th July, 1918, neurasthenia.

Burghfield parish magazine, October 1918 (D/EX725/4)

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Pray for Reading men

News of Reading men.

Notes from the Vicar

Intercessions list

Private George Palmer, Warwickshire Regiment; The Rev. Carey Cooper, C.F.; The Rev. Richard Alban Norris, C.F.

Prisoner
: Private A Bartlett.

Sick and Wounded: Private T. Tomkinson; A.M. Robert Bunting, R.A.F.

Departed: Privates Waters; William Neate; Mark Ewens; Pooley; George H. Hunt; Leslie H. Packer; Gunner G.W. Wall, R.F.A.; Harold Little.

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

“We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to smoking ruins”

Florence Image was devastated by the news that her beloved brother Sydney Spencer had been killed, just after returning to the Front after having shell shock.

29 Barton Road
7 Oct. ‘18

My very dear old man

You and your wife’s thoughts will, I know, be with us. We got home from London last Tuesday evening about 7. I was standing in hat and overcoat, my back to the fire, getting a warm. Florrie, the other side of the table, opened a bundle of letters. Suddenly – in a quiet, toneless voice, I heard her saying, “Sydney is killed”. I did not realise her meaning. It stunned me. And she, poor dear – I knew how passionate was the devotion between the brother and sister – and how he idolized her beyond any other woman in the world. She bore up, but I could not. To spare the old parents in their weakness, he (like his elder brother) had left all to her hands to manage. What a week!

The Major’s letter, scrawled in the hurry of the battle, is all that we have heard – and the pencil scrawl was but a few words.

“I am very, very sorry to have to tell you that your brother was killed on Sept. 24th.” (How matter of fact is the announcement!) “He was commanding B Company at the time. He was, I think, the keenest officer I have ever met. A shell burst near him and he was killed on the spot.”

We have heard no syllable since – nor could I find any mention of the Norfolks in the Times syllabus of those days. Poor boy! I told you how he was blown up by a shell on the fourth day of the advance, and how when he insisted on rejoining, the Colonel sent him down to the reserve, as not healed yet; but he wrote to us that he was less “tired” than those officers who had been years in the field – and he seems to have got his way – to this end.

But an end how glorious! He was BA of Oxford and was meaning to enter the church. Always he was doing something for others. It cheers me to remember that his was such a straight, clean, useful life. To us he is not, and never will be, dead.

Oh how I remember his leaving for the Front. He was staying with us, and went straight from our house without stopping, at so early an hour that I was not up. Florrie was with him to give him his breakfast: but I was abed still, when he came in for goodbye, and at the last moment he lifted to his lips my hand lying on the bedclothes. My last sight of Syd! He was so cheerful and so full of life.

Percy, the elder brother, is still at St Thomas’. The doctors marvel at their success with his left arm but he cannot move it yet: will he ever be able? His letter to her ended: “Thank God you have John, and thank God I have you both”.

The Impudence of the Kaiser! Announcing to the army that this tickling of the President was his own action; that he is still all in all. Wilson won’t be slimed over. We have lost men and millions, but these wretched French return to towns and villages that are smoking ruins – deliberately destroyed by the retiring Hun. I don’t care about a town for a town. We know that our squeamishness would let Germany off half price. No. We should compel them, by the labours of their own populace, to restore every ruined French town, every village, yes, every house: and keep military occupation of Germany until this has been done, and to France’s satisfaction.

Also, we should demand ample fines and indemnities.

Florence begs to join me in sending love to Mrs Smith and to you.

In all affection.

Yours
Bild

Letter from John Maxwell Image, Cambridge don, to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

Victory over our brutal enemy is within sight

October

We purpose [sic] holding our Harvest Thanksgiving Services on the first Sunday in October [6 October]. Owing to War conditions we shall not be able to make our decorations as elaborate as in normal years; but if we do what we can in the right spirit to the glory of God, our efforts will be acceptable in His sight. This year we have especial reason to acknowledge His mercies, for we have practically passed out of the peril of a food crisis, although it is still incumbent upon us to be as careful and provident as possible. And while we thank Him for the Harvest we shall also be thanking Him with fervent hearts for the successes He has vouchsafed us and our Allies on the Western and Eastern Fronts. …

November

Our Harvest Thanksgiving on October 6 was a very happy festival …

This year our thanksgiving for the harvest was deepened by the thankfulness for the many and great successes recently vouchsafed to our forces and those of our Allies in the different theatres of war. At length it would certainly seem that we are getting to the end of the long lane, and that victory over our brutal enemy is within sight; we have no wish to be vindictive in the punishment of Germany, but we and the Allies must see to it that her punishment shall be adequate to her guilt. An American statesman put the case very well the other day when he said that, while justice without mercy is unChristian, so is mercy that forgets justice also unChristian….

The decoration of the church was less elaborate this year than on former occasions, but in the opinion of everyone it was very beautiful… For the general decoration of the church our Squire, Mr Heatley Noble, granted us the help of that estimable ex-soldier Mr William Charlton, and it is enough for us to say that his injuries received in war in no way hindered him from carrying the whole work through with real skill and taste.

Remenham parish magazine, October and November 1918 (D/P99/28A/4)

Thanksgiving for the uplifting news from the fields of warfare

The Hare Hatch harvest festival handed over many of the gifts to wounded soldiers.

Hare Hatch Notes

Our Harvest Festival was held on Sunday, Oct 6th. The Mission Church looked very pretty. We had good attendances both at the morning and evening services, nearly every seat was filled. We had the pleasure of the help of the Rev. H. M. Wells, who celebrated the Holy Communion at the morning service. The chief thoughts of the day were Praise and Thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest also the uplifting news from the fields of warfare. The gifts, especially the vegetables, were more than we have had before, and the object to which they were devoted made these gifts very acceptable. The children’s contributions at the afternoon service of new laid eggs and vegetables were very pleasing indeed. The offertories throughout the day amounted to £3 8s. 11d. letters of thanks and appreciation have been received as follows: –

Thank you so very much for sending us such a splendid consignment of vegetables and also eggs. The onions are especially valuable and I was delighted to get some apples they will be greatly appreciated by the men. We have 45 patients to feed and I find they thoroughly enjoy the liberal supply of vegetables I am able to give them through the kindness of our friends.
Mabel Young, Quartermaster

The Secretary of the Royal Berks Hospital begs to thank you for your kind present of Harvest Gifts for the use of the patients.
A.E.C.

Wargrave parish magazine, November 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)

“I have lost a friend”

A neighbour offers symapthy for the loss of Sydney Spencer.

Hedsordene
Cookham

3-10-18

My dear Floory

It was with the greatest sorrow Gwyn & I heard the sad news contained in your letter to Miss Bailey – Syd was such a ‘friend’ & we have known so much more of him during these years of war. He was so kind & cared so truly for others – poor or rich – & the pleasures he has given to Gwyn are numerous, helping her with her ‘collections’, badges or what-not.

G. was broken-hearted on hearing it, saying truly “I have lost a friend”.

Percy is down today – & he says Mrs Spencer & Annie are most brave – but Mr Spencer is feeling it very keenly – I feel so very sorry for you – you seem to have to shoulder all the trials & worries for your people. I do hope Mr Image will soon be better, but this sudden change to winter has been very trying.

I will call & see Mrs Spencer in a day or two, but I felt with Percy there, they would prefer to be alone.

Bess is staying with me for a few days. She is quite tired with her long duty at Hospital.

With our truest sympathy & kind regards to your husband –

Yours sincerely

Amy

Letter of sympathy to Florence Image on the death of Sydney (D/EX801/81)

“His soldiering days are probably over”

With six of their seven sons having joined the army, the Spencers of Cookham had a lot to worry about.

Will Spencer
30 September 1918

By the afternoon post a letter of Sept. 11 from father. They have had news from Stanley. They are not allowed to know Gilbert’s present whereabouts. Sydney has gone back to the front. Harold leading an orchestra (in Plymouth, Father believes). Horace is better, but Father thinks his soldiering days are probably over.

Florence Vansittart Neale
30 September 1918

We reached Cambrai. 2nd Army with Belgians got Dixmade.

Diaries of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

Fruit, vegetables and eggs for wounded soldiers

Once more, harvest gifts were donated to wounded soldiers.

HARVEST FESTIVAL

On Sunday, September 29th, we held our Harvest Thanksgiving Services…. The church was once more tastefully decorated for the occasion, a plentiful supply of vegetables, fruit, flowers, eggs, etc, having been provided…

On the following day the fruit, vegetables and eggs were sent to the Royal Berkshire Hospital for our wounded soldiers, and the secretary of that institution has sent a letter in which he expressed gratitude for the gift.

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

“I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war”

A chaplain told his Maidenhead friends about his experiences with our Serbian allies.

Letter from Rev. J. Sellors

Dear Friends,-

To-day we have had some excellent news which will be old by the time you read this. We have just heard that Bulgaria has signed an unconditional peace, and I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war. At this stage I am allowed to say that part of my work was to visit a British battery on the part of the front where the Allies – Serbs and French – first broke through the Bulgar lines. It was in the sector between Monastir and the Vardar, comprising the Moglena range of mountains, which rise abruptly from a plain to a height of anything from 4,000 to 6,000 feet, bounded on the left by Mount Kaimachalan, over 8,000 feet high. When crossing the plain I could see the Bulgar lines near the crest of the mountains, and knew that from their observation posts in the direction of Vetrenick and Kozyak they could see my car approaching, and I rather sympathised with the rabbit (the wild one, not Mr. Chevasse’s variety) which knows there is a man with a gun in the neighbourhood, and wonders when he is going to fire, and if he is a good shot. However, I was fortunate enough to escape any shelling, although the roads and villages en route were on several occasions shelled shortly before or after I had passed by.

The enemy positions seemed absolutely impregnable, and we felt here the Allies had little chance of success if the Bulgars made a very determined resistance. We were immensely pleased and cheered to hear that after an intense bombardment of only seven minutes, an attack was made which broke right through the lines held by the very dazed surviving Bulgars, overcame all resistance offered in reserve trenches, and never stopped till the enemy cried for peace. The Serbs were simply magnificent. They bounded forward at the rate of some 40 kilometres (about 25 miles) a day. The enemy was given no chance to reorganize; a great part of his whole army was thrown into absolute chaos, and having lost practically the whole of its supplies, food, ammunition, guns etc., with a fortnight it acknowledged itself as beaten. Personally I do not think that without the Serbs the Allied victory would have been so speedy and complete. They are wonderful fighters, and charming, simple people. I see a good deal of them, as I am chaplain to the British units attached to the Serbian army and have my headquarters at a hospital for Serbs (37th General Serbian Hospital, Salonika Forces).

As I write, the units are scattered all over the country, but my parish used to extend about 50 miles of front and lines of communication, and I visited a battery, a number of transport companies, hospitals, etc., and had to use a motor car for the performance of my duties. (Don’t imagine me riding about in great comfort. The car was really a small Ford van, generally used for carrying shells and supplies, and we had to travel along very uneven roads, sometimes mere cart tracks, and owing to the consequent bumping, the intense heat of the sun, and that rising from the engine, together with the dust, riding was often the reverse of pleasant.)

I find that on the whole the “padre’s” work is very much appreciated, and one is constantly receiving proof that man instinctively wants God and reverences Christ, and it is a great privilege to take part in the work of proclaiming God to others and seeking to drawn men to Him. Men out here have been torn away from all the things which hitherto filled their loves, and I think this enforced detachment from normal pursuits has led many who previously luke-warm Christians to find that their religion alone in such times of stress can comfort, strengthen, inspire and sustain them. Thus I think the war will have the effect of deepening the religious life of many, even if it does not lead the indifferent man to faith in God through Christ.

I trust before many months have passed I shall be with you again in Maidenhead for a short time.

With prayers for you all, especially those in sorrow or anxiety,

Yours sincerely,

J. SELLORS, C.F.

Macedonia, Sept. 30th, 1918

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

Nothing but absolute fitness is any good up the line

Percy Spencer was recovering well, but worried about younger brother Sydney.

Monday Sept 15 [1918] [date added by Florence, only Monday in P’s hand]

My dear WF

I won’t put the date on – it’s so long since I wrote you. Very sorry.

Tomorrow I hope to get out.

Since Friday night I have had practically no pain, but for some reason – probably due to returned circulation, consequent upon my getting up and walking about, one side of my hand has swelled pretty badly and the top wound is inclined to be dirty again. Nevertheless I haven’t a temperature and I feel much better in myself so there’s no need to worry. Also in parts of my little finger I begin to feel again.

I am so glad to hear about Sydney & hope his recommendation goes through. It is a pity he returned so soon, and I hope he’ll soon learn that nothing but absolute fitness is any good up the line.

It was a Captain Davenport. MC, who was with me on Thursday. I was his understudy & but for the accident of his arrival in France a few days before me and my casualty coming a few days before his, I should have had his job – adjutant. Altho’ hit in the leg & back (both slight) he crawled across London on strike to tell me all the news and to talk over “our campaigns”. I’m afraid Aunt Margaret felst sort of frozen out, altho’ I did my best to avoid this. It’s quite obvious I was lucky to get out so lightly – our fellows & officers have had a very thin time and suffered many casualties.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/92)

“When my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy”

We have followed the story of Sydney Spencer from timid young man scared by the roughness of the army, but driven to join up; through his finally ariving at the front in 1918, to an experience with shell shock in August. Sadly, he would not survive the war. This is the last full letter written by Sydney to his beloved sister Florence; a couple of field postcards followed, before his death in action less than two months before the end of the war. Here he describes his current bivouac, and spares a thought for the enemy. His story epitomises the tragedy of the war, and his spirit shines through the years between us.

Sept 15th 1918
7th Norfolks
My Dearest Florence

My pillow is my haversack containing iron rations, my bedding, borrowed Burberrys eyc. (My kit – all of it – is still wandering about between here & Cox & Co’s London!) Now for the door which is the chef d’oeuvre! It is about 2 ½ feet square i.e. the opening of it! The door is a lid of a sugar box which just fits it! Hence when I go to bed, I lie down on the ground & pull myself into the bivouac by my hands. When I go out, I have to go feet first, & back out probably looking about as dignified in the action as does a dog over whose head some wretched boy has tied a paper bag! Dear old Dillon [his captain] chuckles with delight when he sees me getting in & out. My batman is about as big as I am [Sydney was rather small] & he & I are about the only two who can fit inside! Mind you I believe that he & Bodger (Dillon’s batman) made the entrance small on purpose, a covert pulling of my leg. Nevertheless it is so ‘cumfy’ [sic] & warm & dry I love the little spot. Its dimensions are 7 feet length, 4 feet breadth. Height 2 ½ to 3 feet high. Voila ma cherie. Vous avez une phantasie vraisemblable de ma maisonette qui doit vous donner a rire? [This rather bad piece of French translates as “there you are, my darling. You have a vision resembling my little house which will make you laugh”.] …

Two nights ago German aeroplanes (note I say German, I hate ‘Hun’, ‘boche’ etc, it is petty!) came over on bombing intent. A low moon sickly behind a cloud hung (it could not do much else by the way!) in the sky! Planes over. Lights out! The usual boredom. Then about 14 search lights crisscrossed in the sky. Hallo, they have got one in the ray. I had my strong field glasses & there sure enough in the focus of about a dozen searchlights I could see him. He glowed against the deep blue green of the sky, like those lovely flies of May which have transparent emerald green wings. The usual rat-a-tan of machine guns & the muffled boom of shells bursting round him followed. Then high above him appeared a speck of light like a star which winked & glowed & winked again. Machine gun fire stopped. This was one of our men after him. A moment of waiting, a dull spark of light like a shooting star (a tracer bullet) sped by the enemy plane, another one, a momentary pause then a sheet of flame curved gracefully to earth followed by a brilliant stream of coloured lights – some mystic comet from a Miltonian chaos & dark night it looked – & the soul of an enemy passed into the infinite. Over lonely wooden crosses in shell holes one sees in German characters a name & above it the one word ‘Ruhe’ [rest]. I felt that for him. Through all this I cannot help preserving the thought that when my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy. Another enemy plane came, another fight took place & he sped to earth at a sickly pace, his signal rockets all colours bursting out behind him in reckless profusion. I suppose he crashed to earth too somewhere, but he did not set on fire.

This afternoon I was in my nothings & a very smart sergeant came up to me & said, “Are you Sydney Spencer”? Well I thought “Yes I am Sydney Spencer as it happens but anyway what the – is it to do with you”, & then “My word, it is Frank Godfrey!” My dear, I was so overwhelmed at meeting someone from Cookham, that I nearly fell on his neck in front of the whole company – all with their nothings on – & wept. I had not seen him since Aug 1914. Thus does anyone from home stir one!

Percy. How is he? I hoped he would be held in bed for months to prevent his coming out soon….

Leave. Think, Florence, I have been out here 6 months & possibly before Christmas I may get leave! And then a rug in front of a warm fire, your sweet selves to charm me to laziness and – oh well – let’s wait till it comes off. I might get impatient if I wrote more on that score. …

Cigarettes. By the way, you said in one of your letters that you had sent Dillon 500 cigarettes. I think from a business point of view you should know that the parcel contained 200. He did not tell me for a long time, but when he did, I thought you ought to know in case Coln Lunn [the merchant] made a mistake & only packed 200, charging you with 500.

The men were delighted with the share they got of them. Dillon, dear old chap, was almost pathetically grateful….

My kit & cheque book are wandering about somewhere in France or England & have been doing so for the last about 40 days, & at present I sit twiddling my thumbs & waiting! When I came out of hospital, lo! I had no hat, no belt, no change of linen, no nothing except for a pair of Tommy’s slacks & a tunic! I managed to go to Le Havre where I spent fabulous sums on making myself look like an officer, having managed to borrow a cheque, which I changed at Cox & Co’s…

By the way, darling, you may send that kit for which I asked although probably by the time I get it all my other kit will come tumbling back & then I shall be once more told I possess too much.

All love to you my sweet sister & to John, of whose approbation – told me through your letters – I am more proud than I can say

Your always affectionate Brer Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/3/79-82)

A necessity & convenience in these times

Anthracite is a particularly efficient kind of coal.

13th September 1918

Anthracite Stoves.

It was proposed by Colonel Muir that in view of economy of coal, & as a necessity & convenience in these times, anthracite stoves be provided for the night nurse in the dining room, and one in the matron’s room. It was resolved that Col Muir be authorized to carry out the proposal, exercising his discretion until repaid to the expenditure.

Maidenhead Cottage Hospital governors’ minutes (D/H1/1/2, p. 364)

Wounded at Cliveden

Wounded were received at the Cliveden estate, just outside Berkshire, for most of the war.

13 September 1918
Wounded at Cliveden Hospital.

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

“His services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless”

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a lovely day out.

River Trip for Wounded Soldiers

On Friday afternoon, September 13th, our own particular River Outing for wounded soldiers, under the auspices of the Care and Comforts Committee, took place under perfectly ideal conditions. After several days of somewhat broken weather, we struck the one bright sunny afternoon when the river was at its best. The arrangements on the steamer had been made as usual, by Mr. Awmack, whose services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless.

The “Merry Mascots” Concert party provided just the right sort of musical entertainment, with the songs that our soldiers delight in, accompanied by piano, harp and violin. The tea would have been very good in ordinary times – under present conditions it was marvellous. And the abundant supply of cigarettes handed round by Mrs. A.T. Watkins and Miss Shorter was evidently appreciated to the full.

The goal of our journey was Park Place, the residence of Colonel Noble, and it was good to see the enjoyment of our guests as they made their way up the green slope and through the famous tunnel to the fine historic mansion, with its glorious views, and enchanting grotto, and gardens.

Our party include men from many distant parts of the Empire as well as from the Old Country – from Australia and South Africa, and the Rocky Mountains. By their words and their looks, they left us in no doubt that the object we all had in view was fully attained, and the expedition will long live in their memory, as in ours who were privileged to go with them.

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

At home awaiting discharge after severe wounds

There was news of Ascot men.

Since our last issue news has been received that both Victor Ednie and Arthur Francis are prisoners and unwounded, while Percy Mortimer has been reported missing, and Ernest Collet severely wounded. Fred Talbot is at home awaiting discharge after his severe wounds.

Congratulations to J. Ferns on his promotion to a Commission in the Royal Navy.

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