“I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war”

A chaplain told his Maidenhead friends about his experiences with our Serbian allies.

Letter from Rev. J. Sellors

Dear Friends,-

To-day we have had some excellent news which will be old by the time you read this. We have just heard that Bulgaria has signed an unconditional peace, and I am hopeful that the next few weeks will see us very near the end of the war. At this stage I am allowed to say that part of my work was to visit a British battery on the part of the front where the Allies – Serbs and French – first broke through the Bulgar lines. It was in the sector between Monastir and the Vardar, comprising the Moglena range of mountains, which rise abruptly from a plain to a height of anything from 4,000 to 6,000 feet, bounded on the left by Mount Kaimachalan, over 8,000 feet high. When crossing the plain I could see the Bulgar lines near the crest of the mountains, and knew that from their observation posts in the direction of Vetrenick and Kozyak they could see my car approaching, and I rather sympathised with the rabbit (the wild one, not Mr. Chevasse’s variety) which knows there is a man with a gun in the neighbourhood, and wonders when he is going to fire, and if he is a good shot. However, I was fortunate enough to escape any shelling, although the roads and villages en route were on several occasions shelled shortly before or after I had passed by.

The enemy positions seemed absolutely impregnable, and we felt here the Allies had little chance of success if the Bulgars made a very determined resistance. We were immensely pleased and cheered to hear that after an intense bombardment of only seven minutes, an attack was made which broke right through the lines held by the very dazed surviving Bulgars, overcame all resistance offered in reserve trenches, and never stopped till the enemy cried for peace. The Serbs were simply magnificent. They bounded forward at the rate of some 40 kilometres (about 25 miles) a day. The enemy was given no chance to reorganize; a great part of his whole army was thrown into absolute chaos, and having lost practically the whole of its supplies, food, ammunition, guns etc., with a fortnight it acknowledged itself as beaten. Personally I do not think that without the Serbs the Allied victory would have been so speedy and complete. They are wonderful fighters, and charming, simple people. I see a good deal of them, as I am chaplain to the British units attached to the Serbian army and have my headquarters at a hospital for Serbs (37th General Serbian Hospital, Salonika Forces).

As I write, the units are scattered all over the country, but my parish used to extend about 50 miles of front and lines of communication, and I visited a battery, a number of transport companies, hospitals, etc., and had to use a motor car for the performance of my duties. (Don’t imagine me riding about in great comfort. The car was really a small Ford van, generally used for carrying shells and supplies, and we had to travel along very uneven roads, sometimes mere cart tracks, and owing to the consequent bumping, the intense heat of the sun, and that rising from the engine, together with the dust, riding was often the reverse of pleasant.)

I find that on the whole the “padre’s” work is very much appreciated, and one is constantly receiving proof that man instinctively wants God and reverences Christ, and it is a great privilege to take part in the work of proclaiming God to others and seeking to drawn men to Him. Men out here have been torn away from all the things which hitherto filled their loves, and I think this enforced detachment from normal pursuits has led many who previously luke-warm Christians to find that their religion alone in such times of stress can comfort, strengthen, inspire and sustain them. Thus I think the war will have the effect of deepening the religious life of many, even if it does not lead the indifferent man to faith in God through Christ.

I trust before many months have passed I shall be with you again in Maidenhead for a short time.

With prayers for you all, especially those in sorrow or anxiety,

Yours sincerely,

J. SELLORS, C.F.

Macedonia, Sept. 30th, 1918

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

Edible offal versus falling into a sewer

Food rationing had now hit the universities, accustomed to lavish tables. But if John Maxwell Image felt dismayed, he also knew of the privations at the front, and those suffered by French civilians, courtesy of his brothers in law.

29 Barton Road
5 May ‘18

My VDB

Your letter arrived on Friday, and I can’t tell you how it rejoiced me to find you writing in such good spirits. Cheltenham is the place for you, evidently… I am prostrated before… a Communal Kitchen that provides edible food. (So does NOT ours here.)
I am flooded with printed notices from Trinity “in consequence of a change in the Meat Control Regulations”. Butchers’ Meat will, from May 6 (tomorrow), be served in Hall only on Tuesdays and Saturdays. On which days a whole Coupon will be required from each diner.
If he dines without one, or is absent, sans notice, the Fellow incurs a fine of 5/-.

On Mondays and Thursdays, Poultry, Game, Bacon or “edible offal” (!!) will be served instead of Meat. (Note, every item headed with a capital, except “edible offal”.) “And on these days a half coupon only will be required.”

Anyhow, it is “for the period of the war”.

What is to be eaten on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday we are not informed. More “edible offal”?

But the word “Fish” is not mentioned once on these Bills of Fare!

Florence is a genius of a Food Provider. I don’t feel the pinch of hunger. Indeed she and Ruth (the Cook) dish up food that is distinctly “edible”. Salmon, Sole, Bloater, Woodpigeon, etc, and ‘made dishes’ that do the pair credit.

Florence’s two officer brothers write very cheerfully and much oftener than one would expect. Two of their epistles came with yours on Friday, both are in the middle of the great Push, and keep their tails up well.

One had difficulty in getting there. He and his men were stranded within 5 or 6 miles of the British line by the French “borrowing” their “train complete with kits and rations and half their men”.

“The climax (he went on) came when at 2 a.m. this morning one of the party pitched into a ditch which was really the outfall from a sewer. The proceedings were trying for the victim. However he’s quite scraped down now. We dried him in sections before some boilers, and if one keeps up-wind, he’s all right. The worst is, if his kit doesn’t turn up, he has nothing else in France to escape into”.

The other brother sent a very mixed bag. He had been out on a raid the night before. He spoke of cuckoos, housemartins, song birds – lying on his back in an orchard reading the Lady of Shalott, white and blue and tortoiseshell butterflies, – and “when the battery behind us ceased fire for the moment, chaffinches making melody on the trees above” (he must have read Chaucer as well as Tennyson) – then, more sadly, of a “poor old badly crippled woman” who sobbed, in patois, pouring out her troubles to him, and “pathetically asked me whether I would do her the kindness of shooting her! My Captain, who says that he is a well-seasoned soldier, was quite overcome by the incident, so you can imagine that I had to take very great care to preserve an outward calm.”

Most affec.
Bild

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

Newbury’s Roll of Honour: Part 1

So many men from Newbury had been killed that the list to date had to be split into several issues of the church magazine. Part 1 was published in March 1918.

ROLL OF HONOUR

Copied and supplied to the Parish magazine by Mr J W H Kemp

1. Pte J H Himmons, 1st Dorset Regt, died of wounds received at Mons, France, Sept. 3rd, 1914.
2. L-Corp. H R Ford, B9056, 1st Hampshire Regt, killed in action between Oct. 30th and Nov 2nd, 1914, in France, aged 28.
3. L-Corp. William George Gregory, 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regt, killed in action Aug.10th, 1915, aged 23.
4. Charles Thomas Kemp Newton, 2nd Lieut., 1st Yorkshire Regt, 1st Batt., killed in action June 3rd, 1914 [sic], at Ypres.
5. 2nd Lieut. Eric Barnes, 1st Lincolnshire Regt, killed in action at Wytcheak, All Saints’ Day, 1914, aged 20. RIP.
6. G H Herbert, 2nd Royal Berkshire Regt, killed at Neuve Chapelle, 10th March, 1915.
7. Pte J Seymour, 7233, 3rd Dragoon Guards, died in British Red Cross Hospital, Rouen, Dec. 8th, 1914, aged 24.
8. Pte H K Marshall, 2/4 Royal Berks Regt, killed in action in France July 13th, 1916.
9. Pte F Leslie Allen, 2nd East Surrey Regt, killed in action May 14th, 1915, aged 19.
10. Pte Harold Freeman, 6th Royal Berks, died of wounds, Sept. 6th, 1916.
11. Joseph Alfred Hopson, 2nd Wellington Mounted Rifles, killed in action at Gallipoli, August, 1915.
12. Sergt H Charlton, 33955, RFA, Somewhere in France. Previous service, including 5 years in India. Died from wounds Oct. 1916, aged 31.
13. Harry Brice Biddis, August 21st, 1915, Suvla Bay. RIP.
14. Algernon Wyndham Freeman, Royal Berks Yeomanry, killed in action at Suvla Bay, 21st August, 1915.
15. Pte James Gregg, 4th Royal Berks Regt, died at Burton-on-Sea, New Milton.
16. Eric Hobbs, aged 21, 2nd Lieut. Queen’s R W Surrey, killed in action at Mamety 12th July, 1916. RIP.
17. John T Owen, 1st class B, HMS Tipperary, killed in action off Jutland Coast May 31st, 1916, aged 23.
18. Ernest Buckell, who lost his life in the Battle of Jutland 31st May, 1916.
19. Lieut. E B Hulton-Sams, 6th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, killed in action in Sanctuary Wood July 31st, 1915.
20. Pte F W Clarke, Royal Berks Regt, died July 26th, 1916,of wounds received in action in France, aged 23.
21. S J Brooks, AB, aged 24, drowned Dec. 9th, 1915, off HMS Destroyer Racehorse.
22. Pte George Smart, 18100, 1st Trench Mortar Battery, 1st Infantry Brigade, killed 27th August, 1916, aged 27.
23. Color-Sergt-Major W Lawrence, 1/4 Royal Berks Regt, killed in action at Hebuterne, France, February 8th, 1916.
24. Pte H E Breach, 1st Royal Berks Regt, died 5th March, 1916.
25. Pte Robert G Taylor, 2nd Royal Berks Regt, died of wounds received in action in France November 11th, 1916.
26. Alexander Herbert Davis, Pte. Artists’ Rifles, January 21st, 1915.
27. Rfn C W Harvey, 2nd KRR, France, May 15th, 1916.
28. 11418, Rfn S W Jones, Rifle Brigade, France, died of wounds, May 27th, 1916.
29. Alfred Edwin Ellaway, sunk on the Good Hope November 1st, 1914.
30. Guy Leslie Harold Gilbert, 2nd Hampshire Regt, died in France August 10th, 1916, aged 20.
31. Pte John Gordon Hayes, RGA, died of wounds in France, October 4th, 1917.
32. Pte F Breach, 1st Royal Berks, 9573, died 27th July, 1916.
33. L-Corp C A Buck, 12924, B Co, 1st Norfolk Regt, BCF, died from wounds received in action at Etaples Aug. 3rd, 1916.
34. Pte Brice A Vockins, 1/4 Royal Berks, TF, killed in action October 13th, 1916.
35. Edward George Savage, 2nd Air Mechanic, RFC, died Feb. 3rd, 1917, in Thornhill Hospital, Aldershot.
36. Percy Arnold Kemp, Hon. Artillery Co, killed in action October 10th, 1917.
37. Pte G A Leather, New Zealand Forces, killed in action October 4th, 1917, aged 43.
38. Frederick George Harrison, L-Corp., B Co, 7th Bedford Regt, killed in action in France July 1st, 1916; born August 7th, 1896.
39. Sapper Richard Smith, RE, killed in action at Ploegsturt February 17th, 1917.
40. L-Corp. Albert Nailor, 6th Royal Berks, killed in action July 12th, 1917.
41. Frederick Lawrance, aged 20, killed in action November 13th, 1916.
42. Pte R C Vince, 1st Herts Regt, killed in action August 29th, 1916, aged 20.
43. Pte Albert Edward Thomas, King’s Liverpool’s, killed in action November 30th, 1916.
44. Pte A E Crosswell, 2nd Batt. Royal Berks Regt, killed February 12th, 1916.
(To be continued.)

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

He “saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire”

There was news of many Burghfield men, some of whom had performed acts of heroism at the front.

Honours and Promotions

We congratulate 2nd Lt Wheeler and his parents Mr and Mrs E C Wheeler on his promotion, he having been given a commission in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His brother, T Wheeler, is now training as a Pilot in No 5 Cadet Wing, RFC. Cadet (ex Corporal) Alfred Searies is training in Scotland, having been recommended for a commission. He has been twice wounded, and has saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire. The following are now Sergeants: E Cooke (5th R W Surrey), R J Turfrey (ASC< MT), E Wise (2/4th Royal Berks).

Casualties

E N Pike (killed in action), P C Layley (scalded), J Cummings, A Newman, and A Ware (wounded). W Butler, whose parents long lived in the parish, but have lately gone to Sulhamstead, is also wounded.

Discharges

Jos. West, ex 2nd Rifle Brigade (wounds); Herbert C Layley, ex 5th Royal Berks (wounds); Fred W Johnson, ex 2nd Royal Berks (heart); Isaac Slade, ex 4th Royal Berks and RE (heart); J D Whitburn, ex Royal Berks (rheumatism), just moved to Five Oaken. Arthur L Collins, in last magazine, should have been described as ex 5th Royal Berks.

Other War Items

Lieutenant Francis E Foster, RNVR, of Highwoods, who since the outbreak of war has been looking for trouble in the North Sea, has been rewarded by transfer to a quieter job further south, for the present. Lieutenant Geoffrey H B Chance, MG Corps (of the Shrubberies) is in hospital in Egypt, suffering from malaria.

Roll of Honour
Mr Willink thanks all who have given him information. He is always glad to receive more. It is difficult if not impossible, especially since the Military Service Act, to keep the Roll up to date.

Obituary Notices

The following death is recorded with regret.

Mr E N Pike, of Burghfield Hatch, son of Mrs Pike of Brook House, lost his life as above stated, for his country on 11th November, less than a week after returning to the front from a month’s leave which had been granted him to enable him to get in his fruit crop. An officer in his Battery writes: “In the short time that Gunner Pike has been in the Battery we have learned to appreciate him not only for his work but for the man he was”. He leaves a young widow and a little boy. He had good hopes of obtaining a commission in time.

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

“His keenness put him on a plane by himself, and it would be well for the Army if we had more like him”

Several Ascot families received bad news.

Miss Dorothy Innes Lillington is at the Church Army Club at Calais, and will be glad to see any Ascot men who may find themselves at that Base.

News was received on November 15th that Stewart Jarvis died in hospital of wounds on November 9th, and that George Taylor was wounded, both in Palestine. Deep sympathy will be felt for the parents whose son’s body lies in that Holy Land which he has helped to wrest from the Turks, and let us hope for good news of Taylor’s condition. Probably both received their wounds in that gallant charge near Gaza which was reported in the Press.

There are still a number of men’s names in the Church porch without any Christian names, – please try to supply these.

Mrs. Wye has received the following from the Captain of the R.H.A. Battery to which Victor belonged. He died on October 11th of wounds received on 9th.

“Sergt. Wye had not been with us long, but quite long enough to prove his sterling qualities as a No.1 in action. I have seldom dealt with a more enthusiastic N.C.O., and feel that we have lost a Sergeant of great potential value to the service. He was a thoroughly nice fellow, and all who knew him feel his loss. His keenness put him on a plane by himself, and it would be well for the Army if we had more like him.”

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, December 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/12)

“He died, as he had always lived with us, a brave and perfect gentleman”

Tribute is paid to two Caversham men.

S. Peter’s

IN MEMORIAM

Second–Lieutenant Thomas Clark Powell, R.G.A.

Born in 1897, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cotton Powell, of Fairlawn, Caversham, he was educated at Ashdown House, Forest Row, and at Shrewsbury. At the latter school he had a distinguished career: he became head of his house and a cadet Officer in the Officers’ Training Corps, and at the end of 1915 he was elected to an open Mathematical Scholarship at New College, Oxford.

On leaving in 1916 he obtained a commission in the R.G.A., and went to the front in France in September of the same year. He was slightly wounded early this year, and on the night of July 14th was struck by a shell and mortally wounded, dying shortly after reaching the Casualty Clearing Station; and so closing a career of great promise.

An Officer of his Battery writes:

“He had been tending our wounded, and was mending the telephone lines, when he was hit. He died, as he had always lived with us, a brave and perfect gentleman.”

S. John’s

We regret to have to record the death of Harry Borton, sidesman at S. John’s. He is the first of the officials connected with the church in our district to give his life in war service at the front. He was not very well known to many at as. John’s. For he was of a very quiet and retiring nature and fond of his home. But he was regularly in church on a Sunday morning with his wife and used to sit well to back on the pulpit side. Mrs. Borton may be sure she has the sympathy of the congregation in her sorrow.

Caversham parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P162/28A/7)

Carrying on under exceptional circumstances

A Slough soldier came to visit his old school while home on leave.

July 30th 1917

Lieutenant Henry Chilverd R.F.A came to the school today. He was promoted to Sec[ond] Lieutenant in the regular army eighteen months ago for ‘carrying on’ with his battery under exceptional circumstances.

He had been in the army before the war and also served in the North West – Canada. His younger brother was the first of our old boys to be killed in this war.

Stoke Road School, Slough: log book (89/SCH/28/1, p. 399)

A marvellous piece of electrical work consisting entirely of lemons

Percy Spencer was having difficulty getting his commission organised. He wrote to Florence with the latest news – and a story from the Somme.

May 1, 1917

My dear WF

Isn’t it perfect weather!

And that’s just about all that’s perfect hereaway.

Thank you for all your frequent letters: they’re so refreshing. Your last about [censored] is too delightful. I sometimes quote extracts from your letters to the Mess, so you see you’re helping to cheer more than one lonely soldier. Your jokes are always hugely appreciated.

Tonight I am going to a town some miles back to drive with the original officers and sergeants of my old Battalion. I thought it was very kind of them to remember me as I have had so little to do with them.

And tomorrow I have to go and see a still greater brass hat about my commission. I have an idea that there is no intention to hurry my affairs, the reason being, of course, that my experience & weight here are difficult to replace. However sooner or later I expect I shall be an officer or an angel – I have had thoughts of becoming the latter quite frequently of late.

Rene Hunt tells me that [Percy’s brother] Horace is going to apply for a commission.

Before I forget it I must tell you a story of the Somme battle last year.

Our Headquarters were in some ruins off a very narrow and deep lane. On one side of the lane was a series of small splinter proof dugouts; on the other side a battery of guns. One of the splinter proofs just opposite a gun was occupied by “Baby” Huish, the Surrey cricketer (a splendid raconteur). “Baby” tells me that one morning, annoyed by a fellow walking about on his roof and throwing off portions of its brick and sandbag cover, he crawled out and asked the man what he thought he was doing. The man, ignoring him, continued to clear material from his roof and then turning towards the gun hailed the gunner in his gun pit. “How’s that, Bill, can you clear ‘er na?” Voice from gun pit – “Yes, that’ll be all right if we don’t ‘ave to drop below eighteen ‘undered”. Exit Baby to safer quarters.

A sad thing has happened to us. The rum issue has ceased, leaving us with a stock of lemons and a supply of all spice, cloves and cinnamon, no more rubbers of bridge and rum punch nightcaps. Jerome K Jerome’s “Told after supper” is nothing to our experiences in punch brewing – we can all make one pretty well, but there are some – well, I’m reckoned an expert.

A short time ago when moving into the line, the Signalling Officer noticed an ammunition box. “What’s that?” he asked. “Oh, that”, replied an innocent telegraphist, “is a test box Sapper Newport is making”. “Is it, I should like to see that”, said the officer, and opening the box all eager to examine the boy’s clever work (and he is clever) discovered a marvellous piece of electrical work consisting entirely of lemons!

But, alas, those days are over – over for good I hope.

Well, dear girl, goodbye.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/30-32)

A chaplain’s fine and gallant work under fire

Although they took no part in the actual fighting, army chaplains were not always safe behind he lines. A brave Berkshire clergyman was honoured for helping tend to the wounded in the most dangerous of circumstances. Cyril Walford Osborne Jenkyn (1874-1933) was born in East Garston, where his father was the vicar, and in peacetime was the chaplain at Queen Anne’s School in Caversham. He was gassed during the war, and his death some years later was linked to this.

CONGRATULATIONS.

Another of our parishioners has been awarded the Military Cross for gallant conduct on the field of battle. A little while ago the Cross was awarded to Sec. Lieut. D.T. Cowan, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, of Upper Warren Avenue. It has now been given to Rev. C.W.O. Jenkyn, Army Chaplains’ Department, of Peppard Road.

“When one of the batteries was heavily shelled, he went at once under shell fire and assisted the medical officer with the wounded. On another occasion he did fine and gallant work under fire.”

Caversham parish magazine, October 1916 (D/P162/28A/7)

Guns as thick as blackberries in September

Army chaplain T Guy Rogers reported his latest experiences to his old friends in Reading.

LETTER FROM T. GUY ROGERS.

August 15th, 1916.
My Dear Friends,

I wish I could give you some idea of all the wonderful sights one see on the march. It is true one only sees under difficulties. Great clouds of dust half blind and choke us as we go. The blazing sun makes even the hardiest warrior droop his head a little as we traverse the rolling hills. Sometimes we become too preoccupied with mopping our faces to do any justice to the landscape. But when the ten minutes’ halt comes- ten minutes to the hour – when ranks are broken, and we lie down on the bank, or in the ditch, or on the heap of stones by the road, we find ourselves in more observant mood. Perhaps we have halted near some bivouacs and see hundreds of naked forms bathing in some tiny stream which would have been utterly despised in days of peace. The British soldier is not proud like Naaman! If he cannot find Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, he is content with any trickling or shallow Jordan which come his way.

Perhaps we have halted near some batteries and admire the cleverness with which they have been screened from aeroplane observation. The whole country is stiff with guns. Though there may be good reason to smile at some statements made by politicians, believe all that you hear about the guns. They are as thick as ‘leaves in Vallombrosa’ or blackberries in September. Whole batteries of – spring up like mushrooms in a night; our old eighteen pounders are, like silver in the days of the great King Solomon, ‘nothing accounted of’ for their number.

I wish too, I could repeat for you some of the stories I have heard of the tremendous fighting of the last six weeks. All honour to the armies we call by the name of the great Kitchener. To-day I hear of a boy under age for military service, who, with a handful of men, has held a position for three days against German attacks, when the rest of their Company was killed. The deeds of heroism are without number. Alas we say for those who have fallen. Such sad news comes to me from home of our brave fellows from S. John’s who have laid down their lives in the great advance. But our last word must not be ‘Alas.’ I like that custom of the French Government which consists in congratulating as well as commiserating with the relatives of the fallen. And even though from constant reiteration those fine phrases ‘The Last Debt,’ ‘The Supreme Sacrifice’ may have lost something of their pristine glory, the simple testimony still remains, ‘Greater love hath no man than this- that a man lay down his life for his friend.’

My own life is full of the kaleidoscopic changes of an army in motion. This evening I am in a chateau with ample grounds. I lunched (is the word permissible?) to the roar of a 9-inch gun. Last night I slept in a cellar, full of empty wine bottles, and most inconveniently damp; another night a little farther back in a dug-out in the front line, after burying some poor bodies lying out upon a recent battlefield.

Nearly all my services of late have been in the open air. I can recall so many which could not but touch the least sentimental, and which leave behind unforgettable memories – memories of men kneeling on the slopes of a hillside in the early morning to receive the sacrament, memories of services held between long aisles of waving pines, and on the tops of downs swept by the evening breeze.
Amidst all the sadness – and there is much – when friends (and one has so many now) are struck down by shot or shell, there is an uplifting sense of God’s presence, and we can feel it even in the valley of the shadow. And even if called upon to face sterner ordeals in the immediate future, ‘out of the depths’ shall we still praise our God.

Your sincere friend,

T. GUY ROGERS.

Reading St. John parish magazine, September 1916 (D/P172/28A/24)

The Last Post for a manly Ascot lad

An Ascot teenager who had died of pneumonia, no doubt the result of the wet cold conditions in the trenches, was given a full military funeral.

THE WAR.

With real sorrow we have to record the death of Driver Charlie Thompson, aged 18, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, the Lodge, New Road. Educated at our Ascot Schools, a keen and faithful member of our Church Lads’ Brigade, a communicant, and a manly lad through and through, we had a very affectionate regard for him. He passed away in Monkwearmouth Hospital, Sunderland, from an attack of double pneumonia.

An Officer of the Battery in France to which he had been attached writes:-

“It is difficult to say how much we shall miss Driver Thompson. He showed such special adaptability in his work, and was always so willing and cheerful. He was popular especially in his own subsection; but he was known throughout the battery for his good and soldier-like behaviour.”

There was a Military Escort to Sunderland Railway Station. The coffin was drawn by 8 horses of A sub-section 127th (Bristol) H.B.R.G.A. The 3rd Battalion Sherwood Foresters lent their Band. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack; and 3 wreaths were placed on it from Officers and N.C. Officers and Gunners and Drivers of the Battery. As the train started the trumpeter sounded “the Last Post.” The body of our dear Ascot lad was reverently laid to its rest, in the Priory Road Churchyard, on Tuesday afternoon, December 14th. Our deep sympathy goes out to his parents, who have two other sons serving in H.M. Forces. R.I.P.

LANCE-CORPORAL ARTHUR JONES was with us again, hale and hearty, for a week last month. We need not add how warmly everyone welcomed him.

OUR PRISONERS OF WAR are being looked after: and Mr. Tottie and his zealous band of laymen who are working with him, are in touch with most of our Ascot lads who are serving their country, and with the Ascot homes from which they have set forth.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Monthly Magazine, January 1916 (D/P151/28A/8/1)

Bullets through the walls

Lieutenant Percy Lewis of Maidenhead describes his harrowing experiences at the Front.

Aug. 15th
Our men are now in the trenches. We arrived here two days ago and will remain for about sixteen days. My quarters are in an old house, or rather what is left of it. It is the only place left standing in the village, which has been practically razed to the ground. There are no windows left whole, the openings where windows used to be are boarded up and sand-bagged. We are quite surrounded by batteries. Shells are going over our heads almost continuously day and night. Headquarters are about two hundred yards away, quite safe to reach in the day, but very dangerous at night. We never put our noses outside the door at night, as the bullets sometimes come through the windows and even the walls. There has been only one casualty in our regiment since we came, but there have been several from the batteries in our vicinity. I have three men waiting to be buried now. I cannot get hold of a parson, so I have found a Prayer Book in an old cupboard here, and I am going to read the Service myself to-night at ten o’clock.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, September 1915 (D/N33/12/1/5)

“A rummy go”: 10 miles from the fighting, farmers are at work

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister about life close behind the line.

April 12th 1915
Dear Florrie

You’re a marvel.

Never was there such a parcel. The ingenuity of it all passes the mere mind of a man. Thank you for all its contents – chocolate, [spiritives?], battery, tobacco, tripod, cap, matches – is there anything I’ve forgotten!

And thanks for the biscuits.

Yesterday we had some fun. A hostile aeroplane came over, fired at by our allies’ guns. Then some of our aircraft got up, but too late to engage, otherwise we were looking forward to a fight right over our heads. However the enemy was driven off and had again to run the gauntlet of gunfire.

We’ve lost a few of our men up to date, but not many, and they have created a good impression I believe in the fighting line.

I think I told you I had been pretty close up, and now I hear from Stan that one of the Kennedys had been killed just about where I was.

I wonder if H Jackson of the 7th will ever look in here – quite likely as they are in our Division. I suppose he’s a lieutenant…

While I’ve been writing to you an aeroplane has been skirmishing around and being shelled. It’s a rummy go. Guns going and rifles cracking a short distance away from peaceful agricultural employment. I think that struck me more than anything else. A short ten miles from the fighting line over ground which had been quite recently the scene of bloody engagements, farmers were at work again.


Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/22)

The Italians “prefer money to fighting”

Ralph Glyn, a young officer attached to the War Office, was on a diplomatic mission to our allies in Serbia. He took the opportunity of a break in Rome to report on a country preparing to join the war – sometime. Colonel Sir Charles Lamb http://lafayette.org.uk/lam2898.html (1857-1948) was the British military attache at Rome, while the less positive Captain William Boyle (1873-1967) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Boyle,_12th_Earl_of_Cork was the British naval attache. Both were from upper class families – Lamb was a baronet, while Boyle was cousin and heir to the Earl of Cork and Orrery. Italy eventually declared war on Austria in May 1915, and on Turkey and Germany in August. We will be hearing much more from Ralph Glyn and his family – see the Who’s Who page for more information.

Private
Syracuse 26/1/15

Dear General

We have arrived here after a very good journey with a break at Rome. We cross to Malta tomorrow night arriving there on the 28th. I don’t know whether we shall leave that day or the following but it is blowing a bit and I doubt if we shall reach the Piraeus before the 31st.

When I was in Rome I had a long talk both to Colonel Lamb & to Captain Boyle. They have both the fixed idea that Italy will not come in for some little time. Boyle is doubtful if they will come in until some very good excuse is forthcoming. He thinks that the Italians would feel some difficulty in going against their old ‘friends’ without some obvious cause. The northern manufacturing centres are making so much profit that they prefer money to fighting. Their naval yards are working overtime but very few extra men are being employed. All the energy is being devoted to military rather than naval work. Boyle pretends to believe that he will know the Italians mean to fight when they ‘come in’. I rather think he wants to get a ship out home!

Lamb on the other hand, although he has only been out a very short time, has found out a very great deal. Nobody better could be in his job. He has looked up all his old friends & learnt a great deal from them. Besides this the King gave him a long audience when he went to the Quirinal. Colonel Lamb was when I saw him writing a long report which will be in your hands as soon as this. From what I gathered Lamb is sure that Italy will come in – late in April. The transport section is the difficulty. There is no organised mechanical transport & the Rome WO is divided into two – Operations & Transport. All the Transport staff officers on mobilization go to their various districts & there bring together what transport is on the district list. It is now thought to be too late in the day to have a service for ‘conductors’ & the trouble already looms large. To operate until the snow is off the hills is almost impossible. Bologna will be the advanced base, & the doubling of the railway through the Appennines is not yet completed – this is another worry. The whole of northern Italy was full of troops on the move as we came through & the Swiss have strong guards at all the stations. There is an idea in Rome that the Germans & Austrians are now massing troops near Triest [sic] & that their objective is not Servia [sic].

It is difficult to believe this as they can have no object in bringing Italy in against them, & much might happen if they give the Serbs a knock before Italy or Roumania [sic] come in.

The Italians have found that much of their Krupp bought shells are loaded with faulty powder. They are busy now emptying & refilling. This puts their normal output back a good deal. They can put 1,200,000 men in the field with 259 4-gun batteries. The Deport gun is great success & the mobile militia batteries are being given the Krupp guns as the Deport are given to the active batteries.
These are only very rough impressions – I know you will so soon have full details from Col: Lamb.

I shall hope soon to send you other letters more worth reading.

I am, Sir,
Yours,
Ralph Glyn

Letter from Ralph Glyn to General Charles Callwell (D/EGL/C24)