Tug of war

Sydney Spencer’s Sunday was a mix of attending church with the locals and sports with his platoon.

Sunday 28 July 1918

Had a glorious ‘louze’ [sic] in bed this morning until 8 am. After getting up so early lately it was strange to be able to lie in.

Took a gas parade at 10.15. Church Parade at 11.

At 12.15 heats for tug of war. No 6 platoon beat No. 5. No. 7 beat No. 8. At 4 pm No. 6 pulled No. 7 platoon, No. 6 winning, after losing the 1st pull.

After tea went to church with Kemp. French service was peculiarly noisy, all sorts of people continually moving & walking about. Little girls took the collection. An old man with a stick thumping vociferously on the floor with a heavy cane before them to remind us they were near us. Father Thompson dined with us.

In the evening after tea rode out to B- Y- with Dillworth & Dawkins a cheval [on horseback].

Diary of Sydney Spencer

Advertisements

The further call for soldiers brings home to us the coming climax of the War

There was still need for more soldiers.

The Vicar’s Letter

Dear Friends and Parishioners,-

… Last month was a busy one, and our record of it has to be compressed; nor can I find space for a letter from Mr. Sellors, who, I am glad to say, keeps well and fit at Salonika…

As regards to more serious things, we have to thank Mr. F. Rogers for two beautiful flags for the Church; they will be a valued reminder of all we have gone through together during the War. The further call for soldiers brings home to us the coming climax of the War. Still more families have a personal interest in the welfare of our Navy, Army and Air Force.

Let those of us at home turn still more earnestly to God for strength to do our duty and bear our burdens. For from him alone comes the power to be workers, and not drones, whether for God’s service, or that of our Country, or our Homes.

I remain, Your faithful friend and Vicar
C.E.M. FRY

PARISH MAGAZINE

Owing to paper shortage, we are only allowed about 525 copies of the “Dawn of Day” a month. So about 1590 people will have to be content with Parish matter only.

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

Expecting to be called to work with the Church Army

A Bracknell clergyman wanted to work with the troops.

The Rev. E. Grant is expecting to be called to his work with the Church Army on July 1st, or soon after. If he does not receive his commission as an Army Chaplain he hopes to return to his work here in six months time.

Bracknell section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, July 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/6)

Conspicuous bravery during the retreat

Various Old Redingensians (OLd Boys of Reading School) had been serving their country.

O.R. NEWS.

Deaths

Captain Lionel Tudor Wild, Somerset L.I., was the second son of Mr. and Mrs Aubrey S. Wild. Of 21, canning-road, Addiscombe, Croydon, and was born in 1888.Educated at St. Winifred’s, Kenley, and Reading School, he was for a short time in the service of the London and Westminster Bank, but afterwards turning his attention to motor engineering, he took up an appointment with Messrs Argylls (Limited) in Dundee, and was subsequently manager of the company’s branch in Aberdeen. For several years before the war he was a member of the Surrey Yeomanry, and attained the rank of sergeant, being one of the best rifle-shots in his squadron. On the outbreak of war he was mobilized with his regiment, and after some months’ training obtained a commission in the Somerset Light infantry, proceeding to France with his battalion in July, 1915. In 1916 he was appointed brigade staff captain, but eventually returned to his regiment, and was given the command of the company. He was reported “wounded and missing” on November 30th, 1917, and it has now been established that he was killed on that date, in an attempt to save the remnant of his company during the German counter attack near Cambrai, and was buried by the enemy at Masnieres.

On Saturday the death occurred at “Westdene,” Earley, the home of his parents, of Sec. Lieut. F.I. (Frank) Cunningham after illness contracted on active service. Deceased was educated at Reading School, from which he entered the City and Guilds Engineering College, London, and after going through the three year’s course he obtained a diploma in civil and mechanical engineering. In 1910 he went to Canada, and was assistant engineer on the Grand Trunk Railway. When war broke out he enlisted on August 14th, as a private in the Royal Highlanders of Canada. He was at Valcartier and Salisbury Plain, and in 1915 went to the front. At Ypres he was wounded in the foot, and after recovery was attached to the C.A.M.C., until 1916. He then obtained a commission in the R.F.C., which he held up till February the 3rd of this year, when he was invalided out of the service and granted the honorary rank of Sec. Lieut.

The funeral took place at St Peter’s Earley, on Thursday, April 11th. The officiating clergy were the Rev. W. S. Mahony, Vicar of Linslade, the Rev. Capt. A. Gillies Wilken (O.R.) Chaplain to the Canadian Forces ( lately prisoner of war in Germany), and the Vicar (Canon Fowler). The coffin was draped in the Union Jack.

Military Cross

Capt. (A/Major) D.F. Grant, R.F.A., the son of Mr W.J. Grant, of 12, Glebe Road, Reading. Major Grant was educated at Reading School, and quite recently lost his eyesight in France but has since regained it.

Captain Arnold J. Wells, A.S.C., T.F. (Territorial Force), has been awarded the M.C. for meritorious service in Egypt. He has served in Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine.

Bar To Military Cross

Sec. Lieut. (A/Capt.) J.L. Loveridge, M.C., Royal Berks.

Mentioned In Despatches

Fullbrook-Leggatet, Capt. C.St. Q.O., D.S.O., M.C., Royal Berks Regt.

Military Medal

Corpl. H.C. Love, Despatch Rider, R.E., of Reading, has won the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery during the retreat March 23rd-30th.

The following is the official statement of service for which Lieut. O.S. Frances, M.C. Royal Berks Regt. Received his bar: –

“He marked out the assembly positions for the whole brigade before an attack and guided forward companies of two battalions over very difficult ground and under heavy shell fire.”

Corporal W.L. Pauer, a sniper in the Munster Fusiliers, has been awarded the Military Medal and also the Medaille Militaire. He has been twice wounded. During the retreat in March he was made a King’s Sergeant on the field and he has since been awarded a bar to his Military Medal.

Wounded.

Rees, Major R.A.T., L.N. Lan. Regt., attached South Staff. Regt. He was formerly classical master at Reading School, where he held the commission in the O.T.C.

Reading School Magazine, July 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days

Newbury’s clergymen were rejected for war work, while the parish magazine was at risk.

THE WAR

There are reported Missing – Alfred Dennis, William Smith, Mr Barlow, and Mr Marshall; Wounded – Ernest Giggs; Gassed – Jack Smart; Prisoners – Jack Cooke and William Selwyn. We offer our sympathy to the relatives and friends.

The clergy of the diocese have received a Form from the Bishop on which they could offer for War Service. The Rector stated on his Form that he would be prepared to go to a Church Army Hut for several months if the work of the Parish could be provided for; and he has received the following reply through the Bishop’s Secretary: “The Bishop says stay where you are”.

Mr Marle offered to go to a YMCA Hut for four months, but received the reply: “The Bishop certainly thinks that you should stay where you are”.

As with our food, our clothes, and our boots, so with our paper. We are continually being faced with a new situation. After urging our readers to continue to take in the Parish Magazine, we have received a communication from the publishers of the Dawn of Day [insert] that there is serious shortage of paper, or that there will be, asking us to cut down our number of copies. However, it appears that our circulation has been so far reduced that we shall not have to ask any of our subscribers not to subscribe; but whether we shall be able to make both ends meet at the end of the year is doubtful. Balance sheets are delightful things now-a-days.

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

Intercessions list: Reading St Giles

Reading churchgoers were asked to pray for their men.


Intercessions List

Sick and wounded: Kenneth Baines, Private Edwin Ritchie.

Missing: Alfred Henry Douglas. Harold Willoughby, Privates George May, Harry Kirkby, and Pavey.

Prisoners: The Rev. H.A. Smith-Masters, C.F. Lieut Cuthbert J.W. Trendall, Private Ernest Rogers.

R.I.P.: Driver Walter Browning, Corporal Frederick Browning, Captain Noel Thornton, Privates Ware, Connell and Dowler, Lieut. Mervyn Trendell.

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

We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely

The vicar of Reading St Mary encouraged parishioners to pray for all involved in the war.

The Vicar’s Notes

We are now in the thick of the most terrific struggle in the history of the world. We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely; they are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of all. The point is that they should be able to trust us, the civilian population; a great deal of the issue of this battle depends on the moral and spiritual backbone of those who are here at home. We ought at this critical time to make our prayers a deeper and greater reality and so I am putting in front of our magazine this month some simple heads of intercession.

Let us pray for:
Our King, and all our leaders at home and at the front.
Our fighting men and those of our allies.
The wounded and the prisoners.
The fallen.
The doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, the chaplains, on or near the field of battle.
The people at home that may be steadfast and true.
For final victory and after victory, lasting peace.

S. Mary’s Church is open each day till 9 o’clock in the evening so as to give opportunities of quiet prayer and intercession in this time of need.

S. Saviour’s District
R.I.P.

It is with great sorrow that we have 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 had 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.

S. Mark’s District
R.I.P.

It is with sincere regret that we have to record the death of George Martin, one of our old S. Mark’s choir boys. He met with a very serious accident some six months ago, while engaged in the service of his country, from which he never recovered and passed away in the Royal Berkshire Hospital on April the 8th. He was most wonderfully patient and cheerful through all his illness. We offer his parents and sisters our sincere sympathy.

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

A very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep

Percy Spencer shared his latest doings with his sister.

May 21, 1918

My dear WF

I don’t appear to have written you a letter since the 13th. And there has really been no reason why not except a mass of work. I’m very glad to say that I can see the results of my labour, anyway, so that should console you, even if you don’t see many letters.

Well my dear girl, I’ve lately had a very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep. We’re in lovely surroundings in a wood on one side of a steep valley. The days are quiet and very hot and the night is filled with the roar of guns. On the other side of the valley from another camp every evening a very fine trumpet player amuses all the world with cheery music and beautiful clear toned calls. And when he ceases, the nightingales improve upon his performance and sing all through the night whatever the guns are doing.

We’re all more or less on tiptoe and I’m getting rather fed up with it, one gets so little time to oneself and the night has a nasty way of turning itself into day. Nevertheless even that sort of life has its compensations.

For instance on Whit Sunday I arose at 2 am and didn’t turn in again until I had strolled around our wooded hilltop with our padre (a delightful fellow) and watched the sun rise and heard the birds sing praises to his glory.

On the 16th I met Anderson. You will remember him at the Boarding House at St Albans. Did you meet his wife? He told me you did. The war has made him look sterner but he has not lost his delightful smile.

On the 18th we had a terrific thunderstorm and life was moist. I had a painful toothache and got our dentist to haul out a wisdom tooth. A very trying performance as the tooth had an unauthorised prong. However I daresay the extra prong accounted for my extreme wisdom, so that problem’s settled, and now I suppose I shall be very foolish.

On Monday (yesterday) our Follies gave an open air performance on the hillside. I was unable to get away to it, but it was very jolly to view from a distance.

Will you let everyone who ought to have a photo have one. If possible I should like to see one of each myself.

Could you send me a tinder lighter some time, and a refill for my short tubular torch. I also badly need a key ring. I’m so sorry to bother you about these things, but they are unobtainable out here….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/37)

“All through the bombardment, nightingales sang”

Percy Spencer endured a German attack.

19 May 1918

2 a.m. general alarm. Stood to & prepared to move. 3.40 a.m. stood down. Had tea & smoke. Strolled round wood on hill top with Padre and watched sun rise. Turned in 4.45 a.m. Slept till 7.30 a.m. All thro’ bombardment, nightingales sang. Bosch again expected to attack tomorrow.

Diary of Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

A manly sermon and modern religion

Sydney attended to the practical needs of his men while thinking about God.

Sydney Spencer
Sunday 12 May 1918

After a delicious night’s sleep in pyjamas on a semblance of a bed, I got up at 10 am! Wrote sundry letters. Made up my accounts. Went down & saw my platoon. They seemed very happy. Also to HQ Mess, settled wine account. After lunch got QM to change a cheque for 300 francs. Hence we have money again. Examined kits of platoon. Took them to a bath where they got change of clothes. Got their clothes and boots examined.

Tea & more letter writing. Heard from OB, Major Bracey, Field & Ruscoe. Got some money out of officers. Spent 47 francs on food for mess.

To evening service of YMCA. Christopherson, padre of Buffs, preached a manly sermon. Stayed to communion. About 60 men stopped. Had a talk with C afterwards. After dinner sat & talked ‘modern religion’ to Hervey & Rolfe.

Percy Spencer
12 May 1918

A wet day. But an eventful one because I have just heard my first shell since June last year. No connection, but the villagers are moving out in anticipation of Fritz’s attack, due originally on the 8th, next yesterday, & now fixed for the 14th.

Had a long chat with CO in the evening. CO told me forward HQ found my presence at Dept very useful. Major Woolley also wrote from England saying nice things about me. Another bad night owing to Bosch shelling & aircraft activity.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

Peaceful persuasion

Sydney Spencer moved to better quarters today, while Percy’s regiment was handing out food to starving locals.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 11 May 1918

Got up at 4 am. ‘Stand to’ and took men over to yet another new BP. Got back at 5.30 & slept till 9. Had breakfast brought to me in bivy. After breakfast a shave & wash & wrote long letters to Broadbent & Father & Mother. A note from the Padre re wine bills.

After lunch to change bivys with D Company. Completed by 3.45. Changed my socks & had tea. Wrote to the mother of one of my wounded men. During the ‘bivy’ [illegible] this afternoon saw a very comic fight between two men carrying petrol cans.

After dinner we all sat & waited to ‘scoot’ for A—s, which waiting lasted till 9.45, & then we took up our bed & walked. We arrived at midnight.

Found my platoon’s billet a very cosy one. Came here to our billet. Jolly comfortable. A small room each, and a mess room decked with French flags! Probably an old café’. To bed in my flea bag & valise with clothes off for first time for 15 days, with exception of taking them off for a bath!

Percy Spencer
11 May 1918

A good day. Had tea with my old chums of the 1&2. Called on Blofeld of the TMs, who was full of glee over his TM barrage which led to the 23rd killing 70 Bosch. Met Lynes whose company lost the bit of trench afterwards retaken. He told me trench was full of kit & pillows!

25-0 band conducted by a private (my old friend at Chiseldon – [Henry?] Doe & varsity man – deputy organist of St Paul’s) played outside my orderly room.

A good deal of misery in village owing to a shortage of food, army fed these poor folk. Have an idea this is part of peaceful persuasion scheme. Col. Parish on leave – a great loss to the mess. I prosecuted in SIW case for Col. P. & man was convicted.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

Sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones

Sydney had a day’s rest before venturing into No Man’s Land to set some barbed wire.

Sydney Spencer
Tuesday 7 May 1918

After a rather damp night I woke up at 6.30. ‘Stand to’ was off owing to rain (stand to in this back area being a sort of eyewash). Just going to put on my steel helmet when I found it full of water! Did not get very wet considering the streams of water I heard running through the roof in different places. I seem to have dodged them, thank goodness!

A freezing day and rained almost incessantly till about 2 pm. Still we had little else to do but snooze & eat all day long. Had a delicious bath at old brewery despite the rain! A swallow got among a pile of tangled hops the while & preened himself & murmured sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones in my ear. After lunch slept.

After tea informed that I was in charge of a wiring party for no man’s land. Started out at 9 pm. Landed at spot at 11.45. Wire etc arrived at 1.45. Worked till 2.45. Got back at 3.45. Saw that men had some tea.

Percy Spencer
7 May 1918

Another wet day. Clearing towards evening. Hun attack expected tomorrow. CO Bar to DSO. Col. Parish DSO. Both dined with General [Mildren?]. Brown Wilkinson came in after mess & talked politics & economics till 11.20 pm. Good stories of parsons – “The first prayer ever addressed to a Boston audience”, & “Oh thou simplest of all beings – I wasna addressing my remarks to the congregation”.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15) and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

“Our brave soldiers are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of us all”

Reading churchgoers were urged to pray.

We are now in the thick of the most terrific struggle in the history of the world. We can trust our brave soldiers absolutely and entirely; they are fighting with a magnificent spirit and courage that is the wonder and admiration of us all. The point is that they should be able to trust us, the civilian population; a great deal of the issue of this battle depends on the moral and spiritual backbone of those who are here at home. We ought at this critical time to make our prayers a deeper and greater reality and so I am putting in front of our magazine this month some simple heads of intercession.

Let us pray for:-

Our King, and all our leaders at home and at the front.

Our fighting men and those of our allies.

The wounded and the prisoners.

The fallen.

The doctors, nurses, stretcher-bearers, the chaplains, on or near the field of battle.

The people at home that they may be steadfast and true.

For final victory and after victory, lasting peace.

S. Mary’s Church is open each day till 9 o’ clock in the evening so as to give opportunities of quiet prayer and intercession in this time of need.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, May 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)

“In this wretched country, in these wretched conditions, I’m very happy”

Percy Spencer told sister Florence he was having a good time.

May 5, 1918

My dear WF

The CO has borrowed my pen so you’ll have to put up with pencil.
I’m having a fine time working hard re-organising our office, and in the mess enjoying the society of gentlemen.

2 colonels are living with us (having a rest), one has commanded this regiment and the other does. They’re like a couple of schoolboys and spend a lot of time pulling each other’s legs.
John would love one of them in particular. As each of our shells hurtle over he counts the seconds to the burst and describes the damage to the Hun. If only each shell did the damage described, the war would be over.

[censored]

The Padre is a perfectly delightful fellow. In short, in this wretched country, in these wretched conditions, I’m very happy.
All the boys of my old staff are here and seem to take a mighty pleasure in saluting me.

Last night we dined in state with the Regimental Band playing. The CO had invited M. Le Maire [the local mayor] – an ancient old fellow with flowing whiskers. It was a great affair, especially the wine drinking and tasting when the French & our own National Anthems were played.

I told you how I ran into 2 of the fellows we rowed against at Cambridge.

Well, yesterday my rough diamond (No. 6) found me out and we had a long talk together.

Sydney has written me again. He doesn’t seem to like shells, curiously enough, but appears quite happy.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/7/33-34)