“Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French”

Percy Spencer was excited by his sister Florence’s getting a comic article published in Punch, and almost fell in love with a French girl.

July 14, 1918

My dear WF

Another week gone & here I am still at school & beginning to know something about musketry.

I’m very glad to hear Sydney is better again and delighted about the Punch article. Mind you send me a copy of the number.

This week I’ve been feeling very dicky myself. I think I had a touch of this strange fever, but a very slight one. Another officer here, I am sorry to say, has died with it.

Today I have been to a much bombed town near here for a holiday. There is quite a good officers’ club and one can generally meet old friends there and get a good dinner. It’s nice to sit in a pretty garden and receive tea from the fair hands of a wholesome English girl.

Today as you know is France’s National day. I went to the cathedral – which by the way has been rather badly bumped at the eastern end – and listened to a service. The singing was delightful, but it is difficult for me, much as I love the Roman Church’s seriousness, to refrain from smiling at their quaint beadles armed with swords and wearing mighty cocked hats, and at the endless collections.

Another good thing out here is the good nature of all motorists. One sets out to walk anywhere, hails the first car or bus or lorry, which always stops & takes you as far as it can. The other night a staff officer we coolly hailed drove us in here and offered to take us as afar as Paris if we liked. This however only applies as between Englishmen or as between French etc. but today I had quite a romantic experience.

Following the usual custom I stepped out to hail a car, but observing it was driven by a Frenchman, stepped back. However, it stopped & then to my pleasurable surprise I saw it was driven by a French GIRL. I’ve given her capitals as she was a capital girl. She wasn’t going very far my way but would give me a lift on my way. Well, the fair chauffeuse who was on her way to fetch the Prefect of the town we had just left melted, & when she got to her turning & I made to alight, she said she would drive me here and she did. After that we got very friendly and talked about London & the Thames, and she said that after the war she should come to London, and I said then I hoped we should meet again, whereupon she volunteered her address and I mine and neither of us could remember the other nor muster a pencil between us, so we pulled up at a cottage & borrowed one & some paper from an old lady who smiled approval at the beginning of a romance. And all the while the Prefect cooled his heels at some village down south!
I must be a lady killer after all!

Don’t worry, she can’t speak English & I could never make love in French, and Bordeaux (her home) is a long way.

Well, goodbye & God bless you both.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/53-55)

Our hearty good-will and our deep sense of all that France has and is suffering for the cause of freedom and the Allies

Bastille Day, the French national day, is actually on 14 July, commemorating the fall of the Bastille and start of the French Revolution. Berkshire schools clearly had a rather vague grasp of French history, but cannot be faulted for their admiration for our ally.

Aldworth
July 12th 1918

On Friday afternoon, being France’s National Day, the children were addressed by the Vicar, the French Flag saluted and the Marseillaise sung – the following letter was also sent to the President of the French Republic:

Aldworth Vicarage
Reading
England

July 12th 1918

Dear Mr President,

The inhabitants of Aldworth wish to take the opportunity, which France’s National Day affords, to express to you our hearty good-will and our deep sense of all that France has and is suffering for the cause of freedom and the Allies.

We also take this opportunity to assure you that we are determined that the war shall at length, at whatever cost, be waged to a victorious issue.

Believe us to be, dear Mr President, your most devoted Allies.

(signed) A. L Watson, Vicar of Aldworth, Chairman of the Parish Council

Coleshill
12th July 1918

At noon to-day the children first saluted ‘The French Flag’ and then our ‘Union Jack’ in the playground. After this they sang ‘the Marseillaise’ and our own National Anthem, this being ‘France’s Day’.

Aldermaston
12th July 1918.

Pamphlets have been sent by the local War Aims committee to be given to the children today to commemorate France’s Day July 14th. The Head Teacher will give a short explanation of the subject to the school.

Hinton Waldrist
July 12th 1918

France’s Day. Children assembled in playground at 1.30. An address given by Capt: J. Loder Symonds. The French Flag and Union Jack saluted. The Marseillaise and God Save the King sung.


Log books: Aldworth School (C/EL54/3); Coleshill CE School (D/P40/28/5); Aldermaston School (88/SCH/3/3); Hinton Waldrist C of E Schoolk (C/EL84/2)