“He died as he lived, trying to do his duty”

There was sad news for two Speenhamland families.

It is with great sorrow that we 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 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.

Speenhamland parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

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Magnificent raid on Zeebrugge

Edward Hilton Young, later Lord Kennet (1879-1960), grew up at Cookham. He was badly injured taking part in the major Zeebrugge Raid.

24 April 1918

Saw Mrs Howard & Will in his coffin. Looked very beautiful. Military funeral on Friday.

Magnificent naval raid on Zeebrugge – shook up the [illegible]. Hilton Young lost an arm.

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

“It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war”

Sydney Spencer was now very close to the action, as he confided in both his diary and a letter to sister Florence (written in pencil on a scrap of paper). His fluency in French meant he was the recipient of the sorrows of an elderly Frenchwoman.

Diary
Wednesday 24 April 1918

After a very peaceful night I got up at 7.30. after breakfast had a rifle inspection. Made up mess acocount. Wrote to OB. Sent cheque to W H Smith & Sons. We march off & dig in at 2 pm. We go to M-M. We arrived here at 8.45 pm. Our platoons dug in & made cubby holes. Before one could say knife they had scrounged any mount of loot & made cubby houses! One was named Norfolk Villa, another “Tumbledown Nest”. Another “Home sweet home”.

Two pathetic incidents, an old lady horribly crippled finished her plaint weeping, “Vous me donnerez, M’sieur, [meme?] grand service si vous tirez a moi”! [You will give me great service, sir, if you will shoot me.]

Another, outside our cellar here in the yard lies a cross with grave number & the legend ‘A British soldier’. Tonight Frost found some flour someone else went to move. Brought back some sort of [lime?]. The two were mixed before I discovered the mistake. Result chaos!

Guns are behind us now firing considerably in “crashes on suitable targets”!


Letter

24.4.18
My dearest Florence

A cellar in a ruined village, straw on the floor, 4 candles, a brazier, a table ‘scrounged’ from somewhere with glasses, table cover & supper in preparation. Artillery getting ever louder & nearer. And that is how I approach nearer the real thing. It all seems like a Cook’s tour to me instead of real war. I suppose it is a case of fools & angels again!

Only twice have I been made to feel the effect of war. Outside leaning against the wall is a small wooden cross torn up from goodness knows where & on it the legend “A British Soldier” and a grave number. An old lady, very crippled, who wept & spoke patois, poured her troubles into my ears, seated on a pile of wood & earth. I was the only one who could understand her so I had to bear the brunt of all her troubles. I will not tell you all she said, but when I told her gently that there was nothing I could do, she wept and pathetically asked me whether I would do her the kindness of shooting her! My captain, who says that he is a well seasoned soldier, was quite touched by the incident, so you can imagine that I had to take very great care to preserve an outward calm.

But still my darling Florence I am as I have repeatedly said, very perky & as well & vigorous as ever I have been. My tootsies are just a little weary after much walking about today, but otherwise c’est une bagatelle.

All love to you my darling sister &
Cheer Ho

Your always affectionate Brer
Sydney

Same address
I am Mess President of my Company. Tonight my [illegible] discovered some flour in a disused mill, another went for more & brought back some lime, both were mixed before I discovered mistake. Result chaos!!!

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter to Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/3/22)

News from a hospital

Florence Vansittart Neale recorded the loss of another family friend.

23 April 1918
Heard Will Howard had died on Saturday – heart at the end – in Plymouth Hospital.

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

Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.

O.R.NEWS.

Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.
(more…)

“10 seconds later his plane was crippled on the ground, enveloped in gigantic flames”

Sydney Spencer revealed life behind the lines in France in his diary, and wrote to his sister with more details.

Diary
Sunday 21 April 1918

Men bathed today from 9-4. So ‘Beer’ company officers had a rest in bed. Got up at 8.30, had a cold bath. After breakfast wrote to Mother & Father & Florence. It is now 11.15 am. A sunny morn & I am in a bit of pretty woodland. We parade at 11.30 am so I must go.

We had our parade on some fields near to billets. Only a short inspection & a talk and organization of platoon. I take over No 6 Platoon. After lunch took out company for football. After tea went to church in ‘flying fox’ lecture hall. A good service with a band and some solos from Elijah. A lovely day with plenty of sunshine.

After dinner I tried on my field boots which came today. They fit well. To bed at 10. Read Tennyson.

Letter

7th Norfolk Regiment
BEF
France

Sunday
21.4.18

My Dearest Florence & Mr I

Just a short line to let you know that I am very well & quite happy. Nothing exciting has yet taken place. The great pleasure at present is coming across lots of men who used to be in our regiment, who shew in their slow Norfolk way a keen relish at meeting a man of the old (help! I nearly got within reach of the censor I believe!) regiment. Also I have come across two men who were up at Oxford with me, one yesterday & one last week. …

Yesterday night a man was ‘stunting’ in his plane just above us. One moment he was like a calm serene bird floating down the wind. 10 seconds later his plane was crippled on the ground, enveloped in gigantic flames. I only hope he escaped a horrible death!

All love to you both
Your affectionate Brer Sydney

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and letter to his sister and brother in law (D/EZ177/8/3/20)

The question of the employment of women as Clerks and Chauffeuses is under consideration by the Berkshire Constabulary

More Berkshire policemen were called on to join the army, leading to the county considering the drastic step of recruiting females for support roles.

20 April 1918
Identity books issued to Aliens

In March 1916 Identity Books were sent to the Acting Chief Constable from the Home Office with instructions for same to be issued to Aliens, for which a fee of 1/- each was to be paid, the same to be retained by the Police.

The Acting Chief Constable has recently written to the Under-Secretary of State for directions as to the disposal of the sums so received, and has been informed that it is left to the discretion of the Police Authority, the general practice being to credit such sums to the Police Fund or the Police Pension Fund.
… The sum of £38.16s.0d has been paid to the Pension Fund.

Application for Allowances to Wives

Application has been made by four Constables now serving in the Army for allowances to be made to their wives under the Police Constables (Naval and Military Service) Acts, 1914 to 1917.

These and 13 other Constables have (after first obtaining the permission of the Acting Chief Constable in accordance with the Regulations of the Force) married since joining the Army, and as in all (or nearly all) these cases applications to get married was only made after the Constables were selected to join the Military Forces, and no homes have been provided by the Constables for their wives, who are in receipt of the Army separation allowance, the Sub-committee recommend that the application be not acceded to.

Police for Military Service

The Acting Chief Constable has received a letter from the Home Office to the effect that, in view of the new emergency which has arisen, it has become necessary to make a further call on the Police to release at an early date a further contingent to join the Army. The quota … for Berkshire is 13….

As regards filling the vacancies caused by the Constables joining the Army, the question of the employment of women as Clerks and Chauffeuses is under consideration.

Recommended: That the Acting Chief Constable be authorised to make arrangements for such employment at 35s pay per week, and also for the calling up of further Police Reservists for regular police duty if necessary.
Adopted.

Col. Poulton has offered to release PC Wheeler (whose services as a Chauffeur the Committee allowed him to retain) for police duties.
Recommended: That his offer be accepted and that the 1/- per day hitherto paid to the County by Col. Poulton for PC Wheeler’s services be discontinued after 1 May.

I regret to report that PC 219, Alfred F. W. Davis, was killed in action on 20 January last. He joined the Force on 1 November 1913, and the Army on 19 June, 1915. He was 22 years of age at the time of his death…

PC 192, H. Boshier, rejoined the Force on 11 February, 1918, having been discharged from the Army as medically unfit. He has been examined by the Police Surgeon, who has provisionally passed him as ft for Police duty.

PCs 158, Sidney H. Giles, 55, Percy Sellwood, and 71, George H. Wheatcroft, have I understand been wounded, but at present I have no information as to the extent of their injuries – except in the case of PC Giles, who is now convalescent.

Berkshire County Council and Quarter Sessions: Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

“It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here” – are piglets the answer?

One way around savage food restrictions was to buy your own piglet, and fatten it up on table scraps. Florence Image (nee Spencer) was inspired.

29 Barton Road
15 April ‘18
Beloved Signor

The Signora’s ambitious soul now requires Pigs! She learns that ownership of the unclean animal will entitle you to his entire carcase – (at all events, my lord R[hondda] is said to have granted so much to your first pig. She is full of hope and daring, has already purchased 2 little beasts, one white and one black. I, who am of soberer anticipation, went one day to see them – 10 weeks old. How horrible to feed and pamper creatures, not for their good but for their early death! Callous man!

She is just now in from a cycle flurry, thro’ howling wind and drenching rain, to Comberton, 5 miles off – in search of wood for the finish off of her stye for these two little beasts. It appears that the Meddlesome Food Tyrant demands permission and tickets for any member of the Middle or Upper Classes who wants to buy such a commodity as wood – unless it be old tarred wood. She rode first to Barton, where she had no success, but was directed to Comberton 2 miles further away. Her purchase is promised for delivery tomorrow. We won’t boast till it has actually arrived. But it really was a spirited expedition on a day like this.

It is incredible the difficulty of getting food here. We are fresh from a week of it in this house. Two of Florrie’s brothers, hurriedly recalled to the front, have successively been staying here to say goodbye – sickly that! (The most affectionate letter came here from the Colonel of one: he wrote like a father to his son. And another letter to the other brother from his Brigadier, equally flattering. Alas, since that was written, the whole brigade staff has been wiped out, except the Brig.-General himself, who is recommended for the VC.).

Then there was a cousin and godchild of my own – and my sister is staying with us. Finally a friend and his wife from next door – a Fellow of Caius, going out as Botany Professor to Capetown – when their house, No. 31, was gutted of all furniture, spent 4 days with us…

Well, we have 4 one-and-threepenny cards, per week, for meat. You may guess how thorny our task to feed these numbers. Fish we could get, tho’ not good, but, for meat, we had to bow our pride and accept help from our guests…

With our love to you both.

Affec.
Bild

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

Laid to rest: the Newbury roll of honour

The Newbury men who had been killed were listed in the church magazine by installment.

ROLL OF HONOUR

Copied and supplied to the Parish Magazine by Mr J W H Kemp

(Continued from last month.)

45. Pte Benjamin Weller Smith, Duke of Cornwall’s LI, killed in France, June 18th, aged 24. Laid to rest at Bus, France.

46. Corp. Harry Lawes, killed in Mesopotamia 21st January, 1914.

47. Pte Ernest Westall, Territorials, died 16th June, 1916, in hospital.

48. Pte William Oscar Wickens, 8th Batt. Royal Berks Regt, missing since Oct. 13th, 1915, now reported killed.

49. Pte Bertram Edgar Wickens, Inter-communication Section 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds April 17th, 1917.

50. Pte Gerald Lionel Wickens, 1/1 Trench Mortar Battery, 1st Infantry Brigade, killed in action August 27th, 1916.

51. Pte James Reginald Swatton, killed November, 1916. RIP.

52. Basil Henry Belcher, Royal Berks Regt, missing, believed killed, July 1st, 1916.

53. Pte Charles Whitehorn, killed in action July 3rd, 1916, 5th Royal Berks Regt.

54. Alan George Busby, killed in France June 9th, 1917. RIP.

55. In memory of Thomas Alfred Stillman, 2nd son of Mrs Stillman, of Market Street, Newbury, killed in action June 6th somewhere in France.

56. In memory of George Frederick Stevens, Qr-Master-Sergt, Royal Engineers, killed in France, July 10-11, 1917.

57. Sergt Frederick John Preston, 2/4 Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds, Le Trefont Hospital, France, 7th June, 1917.

58. L-Corp. William Crook, 94142, 128th Field Co, RE, killed July 1st, 1917, late of Diamond Cottages, Newbury.

59. Sergt W H Lake, 633 battery RFA, Indian Expeditionary Forces, died August 10th, 1916; prisoner of war in Turkey.

60. Pte Frank Pibworth, 6th Batt. Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds August 1st, 1917.

61. Pte Charles Mundy, KOYLI, killed Sept. 14th, 1917.

62. Pte Alfred John Aldridge, 16th Royal Warwickshire Regt, killed in action in France July 27th, 1916.

63. Pte Albert James Geater, A Co 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, killed in action August 16th, 1917.

64. Signalman Arthur William Stevens, 1st Devons, died of wounds in Hospital, France, October 4th, 1917.

65. Pte George Herbert Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in France March 10th 1915.

66. Pte James Henry Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in France August 27th, 1915.

67. Pte Edward Albert Smith, 6th Batt. Royal Berks, killed in action August 16th, 1917.

(To be continued.)

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P89/28A/13)

Are the Canadian war graves well cared for?

War graves in Wokingham were untended.

Last July the following paragraphs were inserted in the Magazine:-

Soldiers’ Graves.

It is hoped to arrange for the care of all the graves and more especially of those of men from Overseas, who have no friends here to do this. Several people have already undertaken this excellent work, and the Vicar would be glad if they would kindly inform him which grave they are tending, so that such a grave may not be apportioned to anyone else. He would also be glad to receive the names of any others who would like to undertake the care of the grave.

There was no response. This, to say the least of it, was somewhat disappointing. The Canadian Authorities have now written to ask if the graves are well cared for or whether they should make arrangements for getting the work done. We hope that it will be regarded as a privilege of the Parish to tend the graves of those who lie buried here.

We therefore draw attention to the paragraph above.

In connection with the care of graves it has often struck us that more use might be made of small plants and bulbs. If suitable ones are chosen they need but little attention and always look tidy.

N.B.- The Vicar has a few such plants which he would be glad to give anyone who applies.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P154C/28A/1)

Recommended for a commission

One Burghfield man was promoted, while another was reported killed.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Lance Corporal H Pembroke (ASC, MT) has been recommended for a commission.

Casualties

On 11th November 1917, in Palestine, Wilfred Tegg (Berks Yeomanry) died of wounds.

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

Such days as England never experienced before

The spring of 1918 saw a new onslaught at the front.

THE GERMAN FURY.

We have been passing through such days as England never experienced before. Defeat and disaster has seemed to be within measurable distance. If the British lines had been broken through, and the enemy had gained the coast; it is hard to see how we could have avoided surrender.

But through all our terrors and alarms we have never really believed that surrender was possible, not only because we trusted in the unconquerable British Army, but because we trusted in God. As the struggle lengthens out, and privations increase, our hope of endurance and final victory depends even more upon this flaming certainty, that this is the sacred cause of righteousness and God. We shall be traitors to heaven and earth if we allow war-weariness to abate our fixed resolve to continue to the end. Let us be quite sure that the end will be as we desire. It must be, because there is a justice immanent in things, and because God has bidden us defend the right. To leave our task half done would be to leave the world so shadowed by a great evil, that life would be monstrously burdened and spoiled, and happiness and rest for the nations would be impossible.

The nation is being called to still greater sacrifices, and every one of us must give his answer with a whole heart. Already there has been a wealth of sacrifice on all hands greater than we could have dreamed possible. Even we who thought best of our countrymen never guessed of the magnificent capacity for self-denial and service. And if more is demanded, shall we not all be ready? Whatever it is, economy in food or dress, or the rendering of such services in any form as may be in our power, or the brave bearing of the long strain, we must realise that our little counts, and that we shall never respect ourselves again if we do not play our part well now.

Almost every preacher during this Eastertide seems to have likened the anguish of the nation to Christ’s Gethsemane and sacrifice. Surely the resemblance is a real one. If we take it aright, the whole strife and agony of the nation to-day is of a piece with the cross of Christ. Christ’s cross was a voluntary suffering for the advantage of the race. And if we will consciously take it so, our suffering is a willing burden and anguish for the sake of the world and its peace. All those who have willingly risen up and taken arms against the monstrous scourge that threatens us, though some of them had perhaps little thought of religion, are really fighting in Christ’s cause against Antichrist.

And let those who believe in prayer pray. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world knows of.” Shall not the need of to-day teach us to pray with new faith and insistency? So let us pass through these days of pain as Christians should, in the trust that God is, that God sees, that God works, that right is right, and that right is might.

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

“Again bereft of a son in this terrible war”

Reading dignitary Leonard Sutton’s second bereavement of the war was honoured by a charity on whose board he served.

2nd April 1918

At a meeting of the Committee held in the Board Room on Tuesday 2nd April 1918.

It was moved by the President, seconded by the Rev. R Wickham Legg, and resolved unanimously:-

“That the Committee of the Reading Dispensary Trust have just heard, with the deepest regret, that their President has again been bereft of a son in this terrible war; if they desire to express to Mr Leonard Sutton and his family their truest sympathy with them in the death of Lieut. Eustace Sutton R.E.”

Reading Dispensary Trust Minutes (D/QRD1/12)

Pray for victory in the great struggle in the west

Reading people continued to support the war effort in various ways.

The Vicar’s Notes

Reading did well during its “Monitor” Week; we were asked to raise £250,000 and we actually raised over £376,000; so that we can well imagine the pleasure with which our Mayor was able to tell His Majesty the King of the real success gained largely through the efforts of the Reading Chamber of Commerce, and of Miss Darker and her workers at 6 Broad Street. We should also like to take this opportunity of congratulating all those connected with S. Mary’s Parish who had the honour of being presented to the King and Queen.

Thanksgiving

For the happy visit of our King and Queen to Reading.

Intercessions

For all our fighting men, especially among the wounded, Charles Gould, one of our Choirmen.

For victory in the great struggle in the west.

For the fallen.
R.I.P.

Mission to Seamen

Help is urgently needed. Subscriptions or donations, however small, will be most gratefully received, or any information as to other ways of helping will be gladly given by the Hon. Secs. For Reading: Miss Fanny Bird, Ivy Bank, Downshire square; Mrs Laing, 80 Crescent Road.

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

Lonely homes and aching hearts

This poem was published in Newbury parish magazine.

“GIVE PEACE IN OUR TIME, O LORD”

O God of Mercy, God of Love,
“Our Father which art in Heaven above,
Give us this day our daily bread”;
These were the words the Saviour said,
And taught us prayer.

A sparrow’s stricken fluttering fall
Is known to Thee, Thou lovest all;
Great God in mercy let Thy hands
Fall lightly on these sorrowing lands,
And shew Thy care.

To mothers, wives and children dear,
To whom life’s future’s lone and drear,
Who long for touch of vanished hands
Of loved ones, laid in foreign lands;
Give them Thy peace.

O God of battles, shew Thy will
Unto the nations struggling still;
Support the right, Thy glory show
Unto the people who here below
Shall honour Thee.

Restore the faith, give clearer sight
Of awe, and majesty, and might;
Ambition, lust of power, displace,
Let love for others take their place,
And wars shall cease.

O God of Justice, through Thy Son,
Who taught us that “Thy will be done
On earth as Heaven”, give us the power
To say in this our darkest hour
“That we forgive”.

The broken tie Thy mercy heal,
Let lonely homes Thy Presence feel,
Fill aching hearts with Love Divine,
“The Power and Glory’s ever thine”.
Lord give us Peace.

HB, Newbury.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, April 1918 (D/P89/28A/13)