Still alive but no chance of getting home yet

Farrier Harry Blackall had been co-opted by the army. His wife passed on news of him to her in-laws.

27/4/19
8 Lowestoft St
Swindon

Dear Mother, Father & Nellie

I am glad to tell you I had a letter from [her husband] Harry yesterday, he says he is still alive but no chance of getting home yet. Too much to do, he is fed up. He has got 140 horses & mules to keep shod. He is the only man left in his unit. All others were applied for [by their employers] and got home now. There are no shoes left, but he hopes when they get to Constantinople there will be a few stray ones about. They are moving in a day or so.

He sent me his photo. He looks very old and thin & worried, poor fellow. I wish he was home, it’s no joke being left all this time alone…

I remain your loving [illegible] Judy

Letter to the Blackall family of Cane End, Caversham, from their daughter in law (D/EX1485/2/16)

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Military distinctions awarded to Caversham men

Caversham men were honoured for serving.

Military Distinctions Awarded to Caversham Men

Second –lieut. D.T. Cowan, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Military Cross; Capt. C. Gentry-Birch, Royal Berks Regiment, Military Cross; Rev. C.W.O. Jenkyn, Royal Army Chaplains Dept, Military Cross; Capt. A. Hill, Surrey Yeomanry, Military Cross; Capt. (Rev) W.M. Austin, 1st Wiltshire Regiment, Military Cross; Capt. G.O. Taylor, R.E., Military Cross; Capt. E.F. Churchill, R.E. Military Cross; Lieut. Rollo, Scots Greys, Military Cross; Lieut. H.C. Powell, R.G.A., Military Cross; Sergt-Major D.E. Deane, R.A.M.C., Military Cross; Lieut F.C. Ransley, R.A.F. Distinguished Flying Cross and French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star; Lieut. B.J.E. Belcher, R.AF. Distinguished Flying Cross; Sergt. A. Price, R.G.A. Distinguished Conduct Medal; Pte. W. Shackleton, 3rd Royal Berks, Distinguished Conduct Medal; Pte J. Girdler, Distinguished Conduct Medal; *Pte. J. Cox, 1ST Grenadier Guards, Distinguished Conduct Medal; *Pte. H. Godwin, 1ST Berks Yeomanry, Military Medal; * Pte. F. de Grunchy, 4TH Royal Berks, Military Medal; * Pte. H. Simmonds, R.A.M.C., Military Medal; Pte. F. Neale, 1st Royal Berks, Military Medal; Pte W. H. Heath, R.A.M.C. Military Medal; Sig-Cpl. F.J. Pointer, R.G.A., Military Medal and Bar; Pte. H.D. Helmore, 1st Royal Warwicks, Military Medal and Italian Bronze Medal for Valour; Gunner T.W. Shuff, R.H.A., Belgian Croix de Guerre; Mec-Staff-Sergt. J.W. Beasley, Meritorious Medal.
*Formerly members of Caversham C.L.B.

CAVERSHAM ROLL OF HONOUR
Third List
POWELL, Capt. E.I. Royal Sussex Peppard Road March 22, 1918
Bryant, Trumpet. F.N. R.E. 59, Queens’s Road July 16, 1917
Bryant, Cpl. S.C. R.E. 59, Queen’s Road
Bell, Cpl. A.J. R.E. 188, Westfield Road
Blackall, Pte. A.E.J. 2/4 R. Berks 8, Cromwell Road Dec. 7 1917
Briant, Pte. A.E.J. 6TH Royal Berks Emmer Green Aug. 15 1917
Bue, Pte. W. 27th Enniskillens Emmer Green Oct. 20 1917
Bennett, Pte. T.A. Gloucester Regt 92 Queens Road Dec. 5 1915
Bristow, Pte. H. R.E. 114, Queens Road Dec 21 1916
Carter, Pte. C. London Regt 69, Briant’s Av Nov 22 1917
Chamberlain, Pte. F. R.H.A., Berks Emmer Green Aug 28 1918
Cox, Seaman D.E. R.N. 18, Coldicutt Street Oct 1918
Doe, Bomb, S.W. R.H.A. 68, Prospect Street Nov 26 1917
Davis, Pte. J. Royal Berks 9, Donkin Hill May 31 1918
Eacott, Pte. H.W. 14TH Royal Warwicks 121, Gosbrook Rd Oct 26 1917
Fuller, Pte. F.G. Rifle Brigade 18, King’s Road May 9 1915
Goodwin, Pte. F.C. 6TH London 168, Hemdean Rd April 14 1917
Gibbins, L-Cpl. A.G. 28TH London 33, South View Av July 16 1918
Hatto, L-Cpl. H.H. 1/4TH R. Berks 111, Kidmore Rd Aug 16 1917
Havell, Pte. H.A. 2ND Ox and Bucks Emmer Green Nov 3 1917
Harrison, Seaman G. H.M.S. Victory 54, Briants Av Sept 4 1918
Higg, Pte. W. Rifle Brigade 105, Queens Road 1916
Jones, Pte, T.J. Northumb. Fus 100, Kings Road Dec 17 1916
Knight, Pte. R.R. Royal Berks 145, Queens Road Aug 26 1918
Morgan, Pte. S. Liverpool Regt 57, westfield Road June 20 1917
Martin, L-Cpl. B.E. R.M.L.I. 163, Gosbrook Road Aug 25 1918
Mott, Pte. S. R.G.A. 79, kidmore Road Sept 21 1918
Miles, Pte. G. R.F.A. 96, Kings Road July 31 1918
Nicholls, Lieut. H.G. 2nd Royal Berks 5, Queens Road May 28 1918
Nicholls, Pte. J. M.T. 3, River View Cots 1918
Povey, Cpl. J. R.H.A. 4, Queens Street April 16 1915
Palmer, Pte. H.T. 1ST Warwicks 34, George Street April 18 1918
Purvey, Pte. W. Oxon & Bucks 16, King’s Road Feb 25 1918
Purvey, Pte. E. R.A.S.C. 16, King’s Road April 12 1918
Rampton, Pte W. Labour Corps 35, Gosbrook St April 9 1918
Robinson, Pte. H. 7TH Queens 34, Priory Avenue Sept 22 1918
Swift, Pte. H.G. 3RD Rifle Brigade 31, Oxford Street May 19 1918
Semple, Pte. H. 2/4TH Royal Berks Emmer Green July 16 1916
Semple, Cadet. F.J.M. R.A.F. 23, Priest Hill Oct 30 1918

Caversham parish magazine, March 1919 (D/P162/28A/7)

“Folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France”

It may be fiction – and intended as political propaganda – but this story, written by Phoebe Blackall (later Cusden) does shed some light on some working class attitudes to the war’s impact on local schools.

Mrs Higgs Speaks Her Mind
IV – On Schooling

“Drat them children! What’s the use o’ me slaving myself to a skelington to keep the place decent when the young baggages keeps rampagin’ over my clean floor and makin’ enough noise to wake the dead?”

Mrs Higgs stood with her hands on her hips, ruefully surveying several muddy footprints …

“But there! What’s the goodo’ blaming the kids? They must let off steam somehow, else they’ll bust. It’s all along o’ this ‘alf-time schoolin’… ‘alf time school – ‘’alf their chance of learning gone – that leaves ‘em wi’ about a quarter of what the rich folks’ children gets …

I know they wants hospitals for the wounded soldiers – bless ‘em – but there’s plenty of other places they could turn into hospitals without taking our schools. I haven’t heard that the big country mansions, what’s only used for weekends, have been given up to the wounded, nor the big hotels and public buildings where they does nothing but waste public money by paying big salaries to people who don’t know nothing about the job they’re supposed to be doin’…

Ame old tale – when they wants cannon-fodder or money or munitions or buildings, they always looks round to see what else they can take away from the working folks, first they takes our men-folk, then they asks us for our savings – lumme! I should like to see some! – and when they wants hospitals they takes the Council Schools…

We never ought to have let ‘em have our schools, and if this war’s going to last much longer, they ought to let us have ‘em back.

Cost a lot? Course it would; but folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France.

A.P.E.B.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

The risk of prosecution for distributing pacifist leaflets

The Reading branch of the Women’s Peace Crusade had been formed in August 1917 by representatives of groups including the Quakers, and suffrage and left wing organisations. The chair was Phoebe Blackall. The group distributed pacifist leaflets, delivered by hand to homes in Reading and handed to worshippers outside churches. Lord Lansdowne’s letter was a proposal for peace, which was not well rrceived by the British public.

Dec 5th 1917

A discussion took place re leaflets, it being finally decided to suspend distribution of same, for the time being, owing to the risk of Prosecution.

Mrs Tyser raised the question of Lord Lansdowne’s letter, suggesting the sending of a resolution approving of his action.

Proposed by Mrs Coppuck, seconded by Mrs Stansfield and Carried.

Minutes of the Women’s Peace Crusade: Reading branch (D/EX1485/24/1)

Exempt from military service

William Bilson Blackall of Cane End, Reading, was a farrier who during the war was supplying horseshoes to the army for cavalry horses. He was over military age, but his son and assistant was not, and had been wrongly called up. This letter was sent to him:

Horse Shoe Depot
1 Ashby Road
Brockley
London, SE
13/Jun 1916

Please note that men who hold War Service Badges are exempt from military service, & no Tribunal has power to deal with them. You should therefore withdraw your appeal from the Tribunal & inform the Recruiting Officer that the man E W Blackall is badged. He will not then receive a notice to join the colours. Should he however receive a notice it should be sent on to us. In cases where employers make shoes they should be included on Register. will you please complete form & return same to us as soon as possible.

Endorsed in pencil by William:

Gentlemen – noted.

I enclose the notice to join the colours which E W Blackall has received.

Particulars regarding myself have now been entered on the Register.

Yours faithfully
W B Blackall

Letter to William Blackall (D/EX1485/1/25)

Captain with a capital C

Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall (better known in later years under her married name Phoebe Cusden) was a young Post Office employee in Reading during the war. Later a leading local pacifist, at this stage in her life she was working with a Guide troop in support of the war effort. She wrote to her brother, who had joined up:

52 Beresford Road
Reading
30 Nov. 1915

My dear Hodge [nickname]

Here’s as merry a Christmas as circumstances permit. Guess it’s about the most novel one you’ve ever spent, eh?

My Guides are doing well – getting quite expert signallers besides learning first aid and other useful things. We hope to go to camp next year. I shall expect you to salute me when you come home, ‘cos I’m a Captain (with a capital C).

We have an OTC and a real live Sergeant Major drills us in the approved army style…

Best love and good luck old man
Your loving sister
Nell Blackall

(2 Cockney soldiers lent to a farmer to help with dairy work: one armed with milking stool and pail, other armed with gun, approaching cow). Man with gun: “It do seem a shime to kill the pore thing for the sike of a drop o’ milk.”

Letter from Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall to her brother (D/EX1485/2/8)

This war is getting worse every day: a child’s view

Young Harold Blackall, whose father had joined the army, wrote to his aunt Phoebe in Reading with his hopes and fears.

24.10.15
Burford
Dear Aunty

You seem to be getting on well with your Guides and I think we ought to do something at home as well as the soldiers out there. I don’t think there is anything better than a Bible that I should like for Christmas but I think we ought to go without some presents this year and send the soldiers some instead. I have not heard from father since he went away, I hope he is all right, he will be quite safe I know….

I think this war is getting worse every day, but I think we shall win in the end…

Your loveing [sic] nephew
Harold

Letter from Harold Blackall to his aunt Phoebe (D/EX1485/2/7)

No leave for a new recruit until he has passed drill

An anxious mother from Cane End near Reading had written to her son’s commanding officer regarding his chances of leave.

From Officer Commanding, 17th Reserve Battery RFA
To Mrs H A Blackall, Cane End, Reading

Exeter, 2nd September 1915

Madam,

With reference to your letter regarding your son No. 102277 Gunner H Blackall of the Battery under my command; it is not customary to grant leave to recruits of a few weeks service until they have passed their drills. As soon as your son has passed his drills, which will probably be in two or three weeks time, he will be given a leave and a free Railway Warrant, enabling him to have four clear days at home.

I will see that, so far as it is in my power, he is not sent to the Front until he has had his leave.

Yours faithfully
C J Mull
Captain RFA
Commanding 17th Reserve Battery RFA

Letter to Mrs H A Blackall (D/EX1485/1/23)

Some hustle training recruits

New recruit and trainee gunner Harold Blackall wrote to his sister Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall, describing his experiences as part of the great war machine.

17.8.15
17 Battery
13 Hut
Topsham Barracks
Exeter
Dear Nell

I have been inoculated this morning & have 48 hours sick leave… Recruits’ drill starts 9 am, drill through 11 am. They are rushing them through here with some hustle. Sunday Church Parade at 8 am, parade at 6.15 pm again at 8 am for church at 11 am for ordinary drill 6.15 to 5 & sometimes 7 pm, every day, Sunday & week day. They reckon a man is fit for active service in 2 months or less if he has brains. No leave. The War Office grant leave from Thursday night till Wed morning & free railway warrant once after he’s passed out as a gunner to enable him to go home once before going to the Front, so if you would be so kind as to take this on for me (of course you will have a free hand), I should be very much obliged when you write to me again, put the number 102277 under my name as I have only just got your letter because they said there was no number, only officers are allowed to have their letters sent with no number – we are only parts of the gun. The postmark obliterated the number you sent because it was over my name.

They send about 50 from here every week so you see there is as I said some hustle.

Some say the RFA are catching it hot out there, others say it is for an enormous bust up for Kaiser Bill, anyhow the fact remains all the RFA Depots in the country are bunging ‘em out there….

Your loving bro, H Blackall

Letter from Harold Blackall to his sister (D/EX1485/2/9/4)