How sad it is to lose one’s friends in this terrible war

Sydney’s university landlady sheds new light on him as a soucrce of comedy.

12 Southmoor Road
Oxford

Oct. 4th / 18

Dear Mrs Image

Your sad news came as a great shock to myself & Mother, we do indeed feel Mr Spencer’s loss very deeply, he was a true friend & we always enjoyed his company. He did one good with his bright ways. We never enjoyed a good laugh so much as when he was here. How sad it is to lose one’s friends in this terrible war. Please accept our deepest sympathy, for you have lost a dear brother, & I feel so for his mother, how terribly grieved she will be.

It was good of you to write to tell me. As regards his wish which I appreciate very greatly, will you kindly choose something for me, what you think he would like me to have.

Yours very sincerely
Mary Hobbs

Letter of sympathy from Sydney Spencer’s former landlady (D/EX801/81)

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Churches are to be rationed

Churches feared a chilly winter to come.

THE COAL SHORTAGE.

The shortage of coal may possibly be a serious matter for places of worship this winter. We are distinctly told that Churches are to be rationed, though the method has not yet been made public. Several months ago the deacons appointed a sub-committee to consider the question of our fuel supply and economy, and certain alterations in the method of heating our premises are recommended. When our Church was first erected no provision for heating was made; apparently in those days all places of worship were left at the mercy of the seasons, our fathers being content, it would seem, with an extra coat! But in these days a cold Church would be left empty. Hugh Bourne, one of the Primitive Methodist founders, on a freezing morning when then the chapel stove refused to draw, observed, “I never knew a sinner yet who was converted with cold feet.”

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

Trinity roll of honour

Trinity Roll of Honour
Robert Howard Freeman, Signal section, R.N.

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

Hot and fly-plagued

A Berkshire army chaplain had news of the war in Italy.

The Italian Front

Mr. Bowdon arrived on the 29th, very well, and very full of Italian news. He has recently been in charge of a British hospital at Taranto in the extreme south, hot and fly-plagued; but hopes to return to the front on the Piave.

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

“If they dress my hand in the morning you mustn’t expect me to be very lively”

Percy was still suffering in hospital.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]
London SW

Aug 16, 1918

My dear WF

Had a pretty bad night and a frightful head this morning. However a couple of [illegible] and a morning’s sleep put me all right again. My hand was dressed partially without pain today. To make up for it they “re-adjusted the extensions”. However, I feel much comfortabler.

Aunt Margaret is writing to you about Tuesday. The surgeon has chosen that day to reset my wrist. But I believe Aunt Margaret has squeezed Sister for you to come & see me in the morning. But if they dress my hand in the morning you mustn’t expect me to be very lively, dear.

So Bates & Sgt Newton have written you. The former is a most excellent & interesting fellow, very much under the spell of the East. Newton was the fellow I was training as orderly room sergeant – has done some gallant things and got the Military Medal.

I’ll write later on to Gen. Kennedy, dear.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/7/73-74)

Killed instantaneously by a shell

Working in labour groups doing manual logistical work behind the lines could be as dangerous as actually fighting in the trenches.

We offer sincere sympathy to Mrs Canning, whose son Arthur has been killed in France, and also to Mr and Mrs Joseph Bosley who have also lost a son, Francis James. He was working with a Labour Battalion behind the lines, and was killed instantaneously by a shell.

Brevet Lt-Col. B J Majendie, DSO, recently commanding the 4th Batt. King’s Royal Rifles at Salonica, has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in command of the 65th Infantry Brigade.

Capt. Wilfred Belcher has been promoted to the rank of Brigade Major.

RED CROSS WORK PARTY

The total amount collected from January to December, 1917, was £22. 8s. 6d. Twenty-three meetings were held during 1917, working for about 12 different objects, some two or three times during the year.

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

“A bicycle made for two”

More from the Spencer brothers.

Will Spencer
15 May 1918

Some French soldiers were resting on the benches on the paved platform between the two buildings of the Blumlisalp Hotel. For the first time I had the feeling that the [interned] soldiers at this hotel were in some respects better off than those at the Waldpark. The hotel has more the unpretentious character of an Inn – is more rustic & more cheerful, with its water trough by the road & its tree-planted space between the two buildings. One of the soldiers was whistling the tune of “A bicycle made for two”, & I was surprised & amused to find that J. knew the words to almost the whole of the tune – which was more than I did.

Sydney Spencer
Wednesday 15 May 1918

3.30 pm. I am seated now, guess where, my dear diary? At Major Bracey’s working table at his billet! Only 3 kilos from where I at present live. I have just ridden over on Capt. Rolfe’s gee. Major Bracey is out however & won’t be back till 5, so I shall stick here to see him & having the football match I half promised to play in. I hope there won’t be a dust up about it though. It will be splendid to see old Bracey again, it is 14 months since I last saw him. Had a day off today. Dear old Rolfe, he did the straight by me after my two rather thorny days on Monday & Tuesday. Have just written to Father & Mother.

At 5.30 pm.
Major Bracey did not turn up. I waited till nearly 6 pm. Rode back. Watched football match between officers & men – a drawn game. After dinner walked over, saw dear old Bracey who cheered me up immensely. He walked back part of the way with me. To bed at 10.30 & read more of my book.

Percy Spencer
15 May 1918

A glorious sunshiny day. A good deal of trouble over billets. Trying to hang on in Warlos for a night at least. Division to be relieved tonight. Up half the night sorting details. Eventually turned in at 3 am after champagne supper & slept on floor in a company mess. Fritz bombed outskirts of village.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX802/28)

A lovely evening for 18 wounded soldiers

A party of wounded soldiers visited Bisham Abbey by river.

13 May 1918

Had 18 wounded. They came by steamer rather late. Played outdoor games, billiards & river. Lovely evening.

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

Awful fighting

Florence Vansittart Neale was disturbed by the latest reports.


26 April 1918

Bad news in paper. Fear Mt Kemmel taken by Germans – awful fighting.

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

In open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea

Three Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist had a terrifying experience as they travelled home from India.

20 April 1918

Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen, who had left Calcutta March 9th, arrived safely after an adventurous voyage. They had only been allowed to travel with special permission from the Government of India on account of Sister Alexandrina’s state of health, which made it necessary for her to leave India.

Their ship was torpedoed by an enemy sub-marine in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Africa. Then passengers were transferred to the ship’s boats and all were saved. They were in open boats for about 2 hours in a rough sea. The Sisters & their companions were picked up by a British sloop-of-war and landed at Bizerta, where they remained for 4 days. Then they were taken on board a French mail boat carrying troops and were safely landed at Marseilles after a very uncomfortable voyage owing to the crowded condition of the steamer.

From Marseilles they travelled by train to Paris & Havre, & from thence crossed to Southampton.

Owing to rationing orders limiting the quantity to each House of certain articles of food, & the scarcity of others, the Sisters from the other Houses cannot for the present come to the House of Mercy for tea on Sundays, as has been the custom, nor have their meals there when having day’s retreats.

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

“You put such a lot of energy and enthusiasm into your work as brigade gas officer that I always knew things were going well”

Sydney Spencer must have cherished this letter from a former commanding officer, as he kept it safe.

11.4.1918

My dear Spencer

I was sorry to hear that you had left the brigade, but glad for your sake; but it makes no difference to me as I too have left the brigade, and am now commanding the 214th brigade at Colchester.

Many thanks to you for all your help; you put such a lot of energy and enthusiasm into your work as brigade gas officer that I always knew things were going well, and I had the greatest confidence in that part of the Brigade Training.

Write to me when you get to France and if you want me to write to your CO or brigadier let me know the name and I will write to him about you.

Best of luck to you

Yours sincerely

A G Pritchard

Brigadier General
214th Brigade
Colchester

Letter to Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/78)

“A pint of ale or rather Government control rubbish”

William Hallam was fed up with the way the government had reduced the strength of beers.

William Hallam
6th April 1918

A very dull morning. I went up to Wantage Rd. by 10 past 2 train. Had a walk to the station in a pouring wet rain, but it cleared up before I got to Wantage Rd so had a dry walk up from the station.

I had a red herring for my dinner to-day and it made me so thirsty; it was that salty that I had to go into the pub at Wan. Rd. and have a pint of ale or rather Government control rubbish which was all they had in.

Florence Vansittart Neale
6 April 1918

Our line still held. Cheerful letter from Percival. Think they see the end in sight.

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

“A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image struggled with the newly implemented food rationing. John Rawlinson, an Old Etoniam and alumnus of Image’s college, Trinity, was MP for Cambridge University (a constituency specifically to represent graduates across the country). A former international footballer, he was patriotically dieting.

29 Barton Road
25 March ‘18

This morning have arrived our Food Tickets. Oh, I gape! Florence professes to understand them. All I can utter is ‘Pests’. Cnspuez Rhondda!

Yesterday, in the Bowling Green, we met Rawlinson, MP, who vowed that he had for weeks been existing on a hebdomadal 1/3 of meat (so at least, he seems to say), and that he found the Fellows far too fat and well liking to have been loyal.

A Pacifist peace means Armageddon for our children. Who in honesty denies that?

Veni sancta Columbia.

And you prefer Margarine to Butter? I haven’t yet, to my knowledge, tried it. Devonshire Butter I count the noblest relish on earth. We can’t get Cheese, off which I regularly used to lunch.


Ever yours
Bild

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

Decided to send him back to America

Alfred Egbert Whisperry, formerly Wurzburg, was a journalist from the USA with German ancestry. He had been at Reading since 1915, when he was 24. He must have been relieved to be going home at last.

2 March 1918
Reading PI

Please inform Alfred Wurzburg & Whisperry that the Secretary of State has decided, after communication with the American Authorities, to revoke the Internment Order under which he is now detained, and to send him back to America.

Please therefore transfer this man to Brixton Prison in order that he may be handed over to the police when called for. The Governor there should note this instruction.

[Faded signature]
Secretary
Noted at Reading Place of Internment. He will be transferred to Brixton Prison on Tuesday the 5th inst:

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Happier news all round

Florence Vansittart Neale anxiously awaited rationing at Bisham.

26 February 1918

Seems happier news all round….

Our meat & butter to begin March 18th.

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