A shoot against two anti-aircraft pits

An RAF officer with Sulhamstead connections was awarded with a medal.

In the latest list of awards to Officers of the Royal Air Force, the following occurs under the heading of Distinguished Flying Cross:

Captain J H Norton, MC (Egypt)
On all occasions this officer displays gallantry and devotion to duty, notably on July 29th when, in co-operation with our artillery, he carried out a shoot against two anti-aircraft pits. On approaching this target Captain Norton was wounded in the left foot; notwithstanding this, he continued to shoot, and succeeded in destroying both pits, thereby putting out of action two hostile guns.

Captain Norton is the grandson of the late Mrs J Norton, who spent her last years at the Rectory.

Sulhamstead parish magazine, March 1919 (D/EX725/4)

“Something attempted, and something done”: a bombing raid on a German Aerodrome

Here we get a rare first person account of an air raid over the German army.

The Vicar has received from one of our Cranbourne Airmen the following account of a bombing raid on a German Aerodrome. The fear of the Censor prevents us mentioning the name of the writer, but it will not be difficult to guess who is the writer. It only seems a few weeks ago since he was a boy in our Schools and singing in our Choir. We are sure Mr. Aldworth will be proud that one of his pupils can write so well and graphically. The following is the account:

“A slight mist hung over the Aerodrome as the bombing machines were wheeled from the hangers. One by one their engines were started up for nothing is left to chance on these strafing expeditions. Meanwhile myself and fellow airmen had been summoned to a little office to learn the whereabouts of our objective. After a few minutes consultation and map reading we made our way to the machines, which looked spick and span, ready for the coming strafe. In a short space of time all was ready and one by one the machines left the ground. Steadily the indicator of the alti-meter was registering, and I knew my machine was climbing well, and it grew colder and colder, although we were wrapped up well. Looking ahead I found the formation of which I was at the rear, in perfect order.

Suddenly a sharp crack under the tail of my machine told me that anti-aircraft gunners had spotted us and that we were over hostile country. A quick glance at my map to pick up my bearings and then one seems to possess the eyes of a hawk. All at once a signal was made by the squadron leader denoting that we were nearing the objective. The air by this time is thick with shrapnel bursts, and looking through the trap door perceived the hangars of the night raiders. A few seconds to take line of sight and then a quick pull at the bomb-wires. Suddenly a streak of light flashes by and looking round I espy a German machine coming full tilt with its pilot firing rapidly. Like a flash I swung my guns at the oncoming Hun, who finding it getting too warm thought discretion the better part of valour and made off. During this little scrap my pilot had got the nose of the machine well down for home where we arrived in a short space of time. I made my report of ‘something attempted, and something done’, had earned a night’s repose.”

We are glad to hear that Pte. H.W. Edmonds is progressing favourably.

Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, April 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/4)

All very war weary

The war was taking its toll everywhere.

22 December 1917

Air raid driven back at coast.

All very war weary. Hear stories of Germany being very short of food.

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

Cadets in training “lie on the floor, don’t need beds”

John Maxwell Image, the elderly Cambridge don who had married Florence Spencer from Cookham, wrote to a friend to express his frustrations with the lack of progress in the war, and to talk about wartime life in Cambridge.

29 Barton Road
12 March ‘16

I think I must copy you in reading the M[orning] Post. The rags we take in are D. Mail for me, and Times for la Signora, who won’t stoop to the Mail, tho’ aware that the letterpress in each is identical.
Jackson has once or twice indicated to me that his paper is now your MP. I used to value the Times for the letters written to it. But there are no good letter-writers now-a-days.

Perhaps the new man in East Hertford may wake up Independent Members next Tuesday, if there are any such in Parliament. The Air attacks, and the Naval attacks, which we must with certainty expect will involve novelties that our drones have never dreamt of.

We have more men, and better men, and more money. Yet there we stick, just to be attacked when and where Germany chooses. A fixed figure for the hand of scorn – yes, what scorn! All the trumps: but the player, Asquith! “What War needs is not men, but a Man”, said Nap.

The Zeps (or possibly a Zep) was over Camb[ridge] the other night. We slumbered peacefully and knew nothing till next day. One Airship was seen by the crew of the antiaircraft guns by Story’s Way on the Huntingdon Road. And the electric lighting was shut off at the works: so we heard from one or two people who tried in vain to turn on theirs that night. I don’t think that last precaution had been taken before, but I walked back to Trinity on the night of the Book Club Sale without a glimmer. I had ordered a taxi, and they phoned at the last minute that the fog (it was a sudden fog) was so blind that they dared not send a carriage out. I had in my pocket a flash torch – rapidly expiring – but it just lasted.

We are to have 400 Cadets (i.e. candidates for Commissions) in Trinity. I sat next Major Reddy, the Commanding Officer, who has most healthy ideas of taut discipline – e.g. 4 men to a set of rooms: “they lie on the floor, you know” said he: “don’t need beds”. They will begin in the New Court. How will you keep them quiet at night? I asked. They must be in College at 9.30, for they have to be up early, usw.

Our next door neighbours, the Comptons – he a young son of a Fellow of Caius, she, one of the most beautiful girls ever seen – are on very friendly terms. Alas, he goes off on War Work in May – and the home will be broken up. Yesterday the Signora [Florence] devoted herself to cutting out and sticking War clippings in our scrapbook, whilst I looked on….

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

Light dancing on the lawn heralds a death in action

Ralph Glyn’s cousin Niall, Duke of Argyll (1872-1949), the head of the Campbell family, wrote to his first cousin Ralph Glyn. He was known to be somewhat eccentric; this letter reveals a belief in the supernatural which helped with the sorrow of losing another cousin, Ivar Campbell.

22 Feb 1916
28 Clarges Street
Mayfair, W

My dear Ralph

I was glad to get your letter yester even. News at last about Ivar’s end, he was hit through the lungs 7th Jan and died on the 8th without gaining consciousness, it was on the 8th that the queer light dancing on the lawn appeared at Inveraray & Niky came to my room about 8 pm and told me of it and I made a note of it at the time. Within a week the fritts, though she did not see him, undoubtedly got a certain message from him to pass on to Aunt Sibell [sic] and once since then, viz last week she heard a certain thing which only Ivar could have said. He amongst other things said that as to the end he remembered nothing whatever and that he would try somehow to get through to Aunt Sib, hard as it was. But if she heard anything she would be sure to seek a cure in her pill box.

Tomorrow I am dining with French with whom I did a play etc about a week ago, and Thursday I am off to see the Argylls under Douglas Baird in France and have just been getting the passes etc. Nicky got to Coombe last Sunday morning. No express trains from Stirling now and it took her 23 hours…

Rutland gave me an account of the bomb within ¼ mile of Belvoir which fell in a field. The Granbys were honeymooning there which made His Grace deem is specially impudent…

I went to the opening of the HL [House of Lords] and heard Kitchener then and once since on the Air question. Victor Devonshire told me his younger children heard the Derbyshire bombs from Chatsworth. At Walmer a few days ago our airmen set up and fired merrily on each other, next the anti aircraft guns fired on both of them, and then knocked off the top of the church steeple and hurt some men in a barracks. The enemy were against the men & got away & most of our officers were feeding 2 miles away. A real Bedlam.

Oswald is in Egypt so you may meet him. He was off from London just before I got south.

I saw the D. of Atholl the other day, he snored somewhat and his neighbours had to bump his bench, he seemed cheerful, did not mention Geordie but said Bardie was in Egypt.

Erzeroum [sic] fell since your letter was written I expect as your date is the 4th of February.

London is more pitch dark than ever. I watched the Green Park Gun practice at 6.30 last night.

Your affect. Cousin

Niall

Letter from the Duke of Argyll to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C16)

Feeling is bitter against the strikers at home

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence on a rare quiet morning at the front with instructions as to the kind of things he wanted her to send – and the ones he didn’t. He also shared some views on strikes at home.


May 20, 1915
My dear Florrie

It’s a truly peaceful morning; the guns are practically silent; I’ve had five hours undisturbed rest, and moreover being situated in the section of the line known as the “rest cure” I’ve time enough and inclination enough to write.

Thank you for all the things you have sent me. For the present don’t send any more spiritive (while we are stationary I can’t use it except wastefully). Also don’t send matches – we have plenty, and don’t send much café’ au lait. If you send any of the latter, send the smallest tin you can get; it’s difficult to carry an opened tin about. Don’t send refills for torch quite so frequently – if you are now sending at intervals of a week, for the future send at intervals of ten days. But always have the refills treated before sending. The last but one was absolutely “dead” when it arrived.

Fruit is very difficult to obtain and so sometimes is bread, so if you can send me a little tinned or dried fruit occasionally it will be very welcome.

I like the “broad cut” Fryers but it’s very funny you should have tried so hard to get it and refused the “original” as I prefer the latter. I always seem to have plenty to smoke – perhaps a little less tobacco wouldn’t be a mistake.

It’s a fine day, suitable for aeroplanes and I hear the anti-aircraft guns at work, so soon I expect the big guns will begin to roar, and this lovely spring morning full of promise of happiness will be sullied. Well, we’ll enjoy it while we can, and I mean to stroll out directly into the brilliant sunshine and have a look at a bank at the end of the garden which is a mass of double daisies and forget-me-nots. There too I’m sure to find a nightingale singing in the branches of an ash tree undisturbed by the awful events in its neighbourhood.

There is a good piano in perfect tune in this house, and in the evening the Brigade Major usually sings a few of Boney Gray’s of Chevalier’s songs, or some of the soldiers’ ditties which I understand years ago he went to the trouble of collecting & publishing. He’s very much like Mr Ray in many ways and can sing his kind of song very well indeed….

Is Sydney taking a commission right away? I shall be glad to hear if so. He has written to me several times and must think I have forgotten him as I haven’t replied at all I believe. But I really haven’t had the time. Give him my love and tell him I’ll write when I can. Tell dear old Will the same. I have received his letters all right enough [from Switzerland] and you can tell him that very curiously they pass through the hands of an A.E. postal corporal somewhere at the base. This corporal prior to his promotion was attached to us, and he has sent me a message on the envelope of each of Will’s letters.

How are they all at home? I hope well. Father seems to be worried by the course of events at home. I do hope our nation won’t make itself a byword by losing its head and sanity.
Feeling here is very bitter against the strikers at home. Of course the men at home may be enduring hardships; but the men at the front are enduring even greater ones, and the time for adjustment is après la guerre [after the war].

I continue to astonish the natives with my French. Most of them understand me. Those who don’t, I enquire, “Do you speak English?” “No.” “Do you speak German?” “Of course not.” “Then what language do you speak? For you don’t speak your own.” They always take that as a huge joke and the domestic commissariat is generally immediately at my disposal….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/28-29)