An aeroplane came down

Children at an east Berkshire school were far too excited to be expected to do any school work.

March 13th 1918

The last two lessons this afternoon were omitted as an aeroplane came down in a field near the school. All the children with the exception of the Infants went to see it and stayed until it went up again.

Littlewick C.E. School log book (85/SCH/5/2, p. 195)


“He displayed the greatest bravery and utmost coolness”

There was bad news for several Newbury families.


The deepest sympathy has been felt with Mr and Mrs Liddle in the death of their son, Lieut. Morton Robert Bridges Liddle, RN, at sea. Formerly a boy in the Choir, we had seen him grow up and develop into a smart young Naval Officer, respected and liked by all. Engaged in most dangerous work on a British Destroyer, he has now given his life for his country in the performance of his duty and has left an honourable name behind him. We trust that there may be given to his parents all the Divine help which they need in this time of grievous sorrow. We should like also to express our deep sympathy with Mrs Thomas on the death of her son, and with Mrs Perring on the death of her husband.

2nd Lieut. Ernest Henry Church has had to have his right foot amputated, after being severely wounded while flying in France in an unequal fight against enemy aeroplanes, in which he displayed the greatest bravery and utmost coolness. We are glad to know that he is progressing favourably.

We have been pleased to see Lieut. Richard Wickens at home on leave, though we were sorry for the occasion of it, namely the death of his mother, Eliza Wickens… He was not in time to see her alive, but got back in time for the funeral.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine (D/P89/28A/13)

The Royal Family visits Reading

George V and Queen Mary visited Huntley & Palmers’ factory in Reading, causing great excitement – as did a plane crash further west.

12th February 1918

Owing to the visit of the King & Queen to Reading, the attendance today has been very small indeed – number present this morning 108, this afternoon 73.

February 12th 1918

Several boys stayed away from school this morning to see an aeroplane which had come down.

Log books of Christ Church CE Infants School, Reading (89/SCH/7/6, p. 190); and Francis Baily Primary School, Thatcham (90/SCH/15/1, p. 45)

Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment

Big problems were faced by former soldiers who had been sent home because they were no longer medically fit to serve, often because they were now permanently disabled. The Burghfield parish magazine offered advice:

Discharged Soldiers and War Pensions

A man’s discharge dates, not from the day he leaves the colours, but from three weeks afterwards, ie. from three weeks after his return home. For those three weeks he should receive his pay, also a gratuity of £1 and an allowance of 17/6 in place of plain clothes, and also any arrears that are due to him. If a wife or dependant is receiving an allowance it should be continued, and the ring paper not withdrawn, for two weeks after the expiration of the three weeks. if the pension which is due after discharge is not paid, application should be made to the War Pensions Sub-committee, either through Mr and Mrs Willink, who are serving on it, or to the Secretary of that Sub-committee at the Shire Hall, Reading, any day except Monday or Wednesday.

If there should be a delay in the issue of the pension, this Sub-committee has power to give a returnable grant till the money is forthcoming. Training is given free to disabled soldiers who are unable to take up their old employment. The following are some of the trades being taught: Engineering, including Aeroplane work, Building and House Decorating, Printing, Furniture, Leather Goods and Boot and Shoe Making, Cane and Willow Industry, etc. A form is issued for each disabled soldier to sign and fill up, so that his case may be investigated should there be any distress or need.


Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

Working at the RAF

A teenager’s first job was working at the Royal Aircraft Factory in Hampshire.

December 7th 1917

Joseph Scott has left – being 14 – and obtained work in R.A.F. at Fanbaro.

Ascot Heath Boys’ School log book (C/EL110/4, p. 90)

“It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside”

Another army chaplain reports his experiences leading services and planning social activities very close to the front line.

5 December 1917

The following extracts are from 2 letters which Mother received lately from the Sub-Warden with the troops in France.

“This morning, I had an hour’s walk through mud & trenches, delayed by the unwelcome attention of a German aeroplane for a while, but otherwise uneventful, & at last arrived at a certain dug out. There was a steep staircase down about 20 ft, then a square flat, and then 5 or 6 more steps to the right. On the square flat I arranged a little altar. Men all up & down the stairs crouching to one side so as to leave me room to pass to communicate them, and a few outside in the trench kneeling in the mud. At the bottom, a few Non-Conformist officers were very reverent & interested… I reminded them that our Lord chose a “dug out” when He first came to earth… It was all very suggestive of Bethlehem, except for the noise of the guns outside.”

“We have discovered a large cellar beneath ruins close to the lines. There is plenty of room for a canteen, reading rooms & a chapel. The chapel is to be dedicated to St John Baptist. I wonder if the Community would furnish the altar for us; the Pioneers would make the altar… I said Mass there this morning & 60 men came & were very reverent and appreciative.”

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

“She is going to work at the military aircraft factory”

The high wages on offer in munitions factories even to untrained young girls attracted one young monitress, or trainee teacher, to abandon school work.

Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School
3rd December 1917

Ivy Middleton (monitress) left without notice as she is going to work at the military aircraft factory.

George Palmer Boys’ School, Reading
3rd December 1917

His Worship the Mayor, F.A.Sargent Esq., and Mr Baseden, H[ead] Master of Swansea Rd School, addressed a joint meeting of Girls & Boys re Work of War Savings’ Association, from 10am to 11.

Log books of Abingdon Conduit Rd Infants School (C/EL4/2, p. 175); and George Palmer Boys’ School, Reading (89/SCH/8/1, p. 147)

“Everyone misses his smiling face”

There was good news and not-so-good news of Maidenhead men.


We are very sorry to learn that Ernest Bristow has been wounded, but there seems every hope that his injuries are not serious. One of his chums writes,

“He went up to one of our advanced dressing stations to take over stores, and it was while standing at the mouth of a dug-out that he was wounded. A Bosche fleet of aeroplanes came over, and a bomb dropped quite near, wounding some ten men and killing two others. He caught it in the left arm and in both legs, but his wounds are flesh wounds, and not dangerous. He suffered from a severe shaking up, but bore it extremely well. The sergeant who dressed his wounds thinks he will soon be all right again. Everyone misses his smiling face and bright personality, and none more than his sorrowing pal. We all feel that his loss to the Unit is irreparable… He was by far the best clerk, and one of the most popular in the Unit.”

We earnestly trust that the hopeful tone of this letter may be justified by events, and that Corporal Bristow will suffer no permanent injury.

Harold Islip, who returned to his post after leave about a month ago, has been in hospital suffering from dysentery. Cyril Hews, George Belcher, and Donald Wilson have been home again for ten days, all in good health and spirits. Herbert Brand, who has been Company Q.M.S. in the 8th Berks., has been for two or three months past in a Cadet Corps, and expects shortly to receive a Commission.

Wilfred Collins is now quite convalescent and was in Maidenhead a few days ago.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, November 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“We are soldiers”: German prisoners refuse to work beside the Conscientious Objectors

German society was even more strongly opposed to pacifists than their English counterparts.

29 Barton Road
13 Nov. ‘17

Today she [Florence] has had [visitors including] … one Oldham, a B.A. engaged in war work for aeroplanes.

A General from the Front was lunching in our Combination-room the other day, and said to us that in his section the German prisoners refuse to work beside the Conscientious O.’s “We are soldiers”, they say.

Ten days or so ago, at one of the dinners which the College gives to Cadets on receiving their Commissions, we had a couple of officers of Zouaves as guests. Mumbo (whose health is much improved) proposed their toast in French. Capt. Marcel (he looked a handsome Englishman) responded in his own tongue, and ended with a shout which sent the Cadets wild, “England for ever”!!

What think you of Ll. George’s speech in today’s paper? It is depressing but not depressed. I personally have no fear of any harm except what the English baser natures can induce our Government to do. Surely Russia teaches what must be the result to a nation of slaves who are suddenly emancipated from control. So will it be in Germany until they have settled down. Meanwhile it’s the present English people worth dying for?

Our love to you both.

Always affect. yours Bild.

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

“His machine nose dived to what seemed certain death”

There were varying fortunes for the men of Winkfield.


Much sympathy is felt for the family of Private Charles Mitchell, who we much regret to record was killed in action on October 11th. He was only 19, and had been at the front but a few weeks. A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 11th, at 6.30 at the Parish Church , when we have no doubt that many will show their sympathy by attending.

Stoker Karl Brant has been very ill with pneumonia but is now convalescent and home on leave.

Private Fred Fancourt has been wounded in the face; he is in Hospital in France and is doing well.

Flight Commander Foster Maynard met with an aeroplane accident which nearly cost him his life. It is reported that when flying, through some mishap, his machine nose dived to what seemed certain death, when it was held up by some branches and he sustained many cuts about the head and a badly broken arm, but is now doing well in hospital.

Private Albert Carter is ill with trench fever, he is in hospital in England and we hope progressing favourably.

We are glad to learn that Private John Carter who had a very long and serious illness, is now convalescent, also Private George Streamer is now almost recovered and able to take up light duty in Ireland.

Private William Burt has been invalided out of the Amy, the chronic nephritis from which he is suffering being brought on by the exposure and hardships of the trenches. He is much better now and will we trust in time get quite strong again.

We congratulate Sergeant Henry Oatway on his promotion to Sergeant-Major in the Engineers.


We have always remembered the Sailors and Soldiers from our Parish at Christmas, and sent them small Christmas gifts which they have greatly appreciated. Mrs. Maynard raised the fund for doing this last Christmas and the Christmas before by means of a rummage sale, but this cannot be managed this year and so we must fall back on the subscriptions as in 1914, but I am sure that we shall feel it a privilege to do our share in bringing some Christmas cheer to the men to whom we owe so much. About £15 will be required.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, November 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/11)

Camouflage with a vengeance

The Images experienced a power cut as a result of an air raid, and heard some interesting Navy news.

29 Barton Road
22 Oct. ‘17
My Most Dear Old Man

On Friday evening we were at dinner – the clock, I remember, was in the middle of striking 8 – when, in a flash, down went the electric light, and up bounced Florence to find whether it was so all through the house. It was! and we had in a candle, to the accompaniment of bombs and anti-aircraft guns, seemingly 2 miles away to the north. I wonder, were they trying for the aerodrome at Hardwick? for they are reported to have attempted that at T in Norfolk. Well, we went unconcernedly to bed, and were awakened by a glare at 2.10 – sign that the raiders were clear of England. But oh how humiliating! They can drop bombs at will, and unharmed, in England. Once cross to France, and they are chivvied and hustled, go wherever they attempt. The French can bring them down. Never has there been such a field day before, for Zepps.

Some friends, fresh from Liverpool, told me the other day of the steady silent inundation of Americans now overflowing the place. Especially of the hundreds upon hundreds of Yankee aeroplanes, beautifully packed, daily landed on the quays.

In one dry dock these people came across a large Yankee man-of-war, painted blue with pink spots (or was it, pink with blue spots. Those were the colours anyhow.) Camouflage with a vengeance: but it has the effect of destroying outlines and muddling them up at a distance. This they observed especially in the case of HMS Ramillies lying out in the stream – a battleship, painted the most bizarre horror, chiefly black and white stripes.

All this is very fine – but as today’s Daily Mail asks, in Italics, ‘Who commands the North Sea?’ The British navy may be the ‘incomparable’ weapon we hear it called, but it is bluffed by the Huns and its convoys and their escort snapped up by a small force of 2 raiders, almost in hearing of the Grand Fleet. The Kaiser’s vaunt of Germany’s future being on the water looks justified – Nelson went to the Gulf of Riga – but we can’t.

Our united love to you both.
Ever yours,

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

“Now what’s up? Well, I have been up! Yes, up in an aeroplane!”

Sydney Spencer was enthralled with the experience of flight.

At The Race Course
Sunday Sept 24 [1917]

My Dearest Sister Mine

Now what’s up? Well, I have been up! Yes, up in an aeroplane! I am part of an advance party for our B[riga]de & am billeted with the 41st RS Flying Corps for about 3 weeks & well I got round a delightful flying pilot of the name of Hirst to take me for a joy ride! This morning I walked into the aerodrome & looked charming & when Hirst came along & said that he thought the air was not fit for flying but he would just go up & test it, I smiled & said let me go too, & lo & behold, yes in a quarter of an hour I had been for a flight over fields & woods & seem people down below (only 500 feet though) & cows & trees & roads looking like a nursery Noah’s ark affair.

I have never had such a sense of exhilaration in my life. In the last few seconds when we seemed to make a clean dive for the earth & one looked over the nose of the car & saw the great earth loom up & such to met you, as it were, I could have clapped my hands with delight like a foolish child.

One confession however. I was not strapped in, preferred not to be. The Pilot said, “when we come down you will want to grab at something I expect, so grab at the struts on either side”. Well, I thought to myself, Pah, who wants to grab at struts? But at the first dive, what do you think I did? Well, I made a momentary grab at the struts, but only momentary. I felt wild with myself for shewing ever such a small show of feeling.

My dear lady, what do you think of that now for an experience?

All love to you both from

Letter from Sydney Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/8/2/22)

In a nervous state due to air raids

Air raids were traumatic for children, prompting some families to move out of targetted areas.

King Street School, Maidenhead
10th September 1917

Twelve children have been admitted from raid areas in London & elsewhere & in most cases parents stated children were in a nervous state or asked for special care & treatment while at school.

Abingdon Girls CE School
1917, 10th to 14th September

Ten girls came too late to be marked on Monday afternoon. They had been to see an aeroplane which had come down in a field near Culham.

Wallingford Boys Council School
1917, 10 September

Re-assembled after 5 weeks’ holiday. Commenced collection of Horse-Chestnuts for Ministry of Munitions of War.

Log books of King Street School, Maidenhead (C/EL77/1, pp. 399-400); Abingdon Girls CE School (C/EL 2/2, p. 147); Wallingford Boys Council School log book (SCH22/8/3, p. 63)

A continuous bombardment

The war was getting closer for British expat Will Spencer. On holiday in the town of Rheinfelden, on the River Rhine near Basel, close to the German border, he and wife Johanna could hear the guns at the Western Front. Alsace was contested territory between France and Germany.

Will Spencer
4 September 1917

Saw a soldier on the tower of the Town Hall looking westward through a binocular. (Watching for aeroplanes?) Afterwards I went for a wander in the woods. Again heard the sound of a continuous bombardment in Alsace, as we did on Sunday [2 September].

Florence Vansittart Neale
4 September 1917

Lt Kelly returned after smash from aeroplane….

Air raid in London – Chapel St, Edgware Rd. Mr A[ustman] slept under tree at night!!

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/27)

“This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one”

William Hallam was worried that bad weather would worsen food shortages.

29th August 1917

All night it rained too. This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one.

It got brighter this evening tho’. An aeroplane went over just after 9 o’clock to-night. The latest I have seen one yet.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)