God’s wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force

The first Sunday after the Armistice was the occasion for services of thanksgiving across Berkshire.

Newbury

Monday, November 11th, St Martin’s Day, will for ever be remembered in the history of our country as the day on which the greatest of all wars came to an end, and the strongest and most ferocious of military nations confessed itself beaten. It has been a tremendous triumph for right and justice, and we have endeavoured to express our thankfulness to Almighty God, who has so signally vindicated His mighty power and has so wonderfully blessed our arms and those of our Allies. May we now as a nation and Empire prove ourselves more worthy of His goodness to us, and endeavour to work together to make the world a better, and therefore happier, world.

Thanksgiving Services were held at the Parish Church: on Tuesday morning [12 November], a celebration of the Holy Communion, when there were 88 communicants; on Wednesday afternoon [13 November], when the church was full; and the following Sunday [17 November]. There was also a United Thanksgiving Service in the Corn Exchange, under the presidency of the Mayor, on Sunday afternoon, when there must have been 2,000 people present, and when several hundred failed to gain admittance. Mr Liddle had got together a splendid orchestra for the occasion. May this spirit of thanksgiving remain with us, and may we not forget the spiritual lessons of the war.

The streets presented a very gay appearance, and there were processions (authorised and unauthorised) much to the delight of the young. All the fireworks possible to be obtained were let off in the streets, and one unexploded bomb was found inside the Churchyard gates, and handed over to the police. It appeared afterwards that another member of the Police Force had put it there for safety. We were very glad to see the excellent and sober spirit of the merry-makers. It was indeed an occasion for rejoicing with great joy.


Speenhamland

It was with feelings of profound thankfulness that we heard the Armistice had been signed. Our feelings were deeply stirred at the thought that at last this terrible War, which has oppressed us for over four years, was over, and that there were good prospects of a peace being signed, which we trust will be a righteous and lasting one. Our rejoicings took various shapes during the week, and culminated in our services in Church. We were glad to see many at the Celebrations and at other services; and it was a happy thought to hold a joint service in the Corn Exchange, which was crowded with a devout and reverent congregation. We shall long remember the sight of that vast audience.

Earley

Sunday, November 17, being the first Sunday after the declaration of peace, naturally was observed as a day of thanksgiving. The families of those on our roll of honour responded quickly to the invitation to send flowers, which were massed on the window shelf and corner where the roll hangs. The black oak was relieved by a magnificent display of colour, by flags hanging from the rood loft on the west side.

Reading

Such tremendous things have happened since the last issue of the Magazine that it is almost impossible adequately to express all we should like to say. On S. Martin’s Day, November 11th, about 11.15, came the great news of the signing of the Armistice, and the cessation of hostilities. At 12 o’clock at S. Marys a short impromptu Service of Thanksgiving was held which was attended by quite a number of the faithful. None of us will ever forget the crowded Civic Service held at S. Mary’s, on Wednesday November 13th, when the Mayor and corporation came in state to render solemn thanks to Almighty God for His wonderful deliverance of our own nation and the world from the tyranny of lawless force. Sunday, November 17th was observed as the special Day of Thanksgiving. At the Eucharist at 11 and at evensong at 6.30 the Church was fuller than it has ever been of late years. This is an encouraging sign that our people in in times of joy, as well as in times of trouble and distress, turn instinctively to God.

At 3.30 on the same Sunday the Church Lads’ Brigade came in full strength to S. Mary’s for their parade service; several Officers and Lads were admitted, and the address was given by the Rev. Edgar Rogers, Chaplain at C.L.B. Headquarters in London, who also preached at Evensong. It should be mentioned among the special features of the service of this great Sunday that a large and handsome silk Union Jack was carried in the Procession and also two laurel wreaths to which were tied bows of patriotic colours.

“Deo gratias.”


Broad Street Brotherhood

The Brotherhood held a great mass meeting on Sunday, November 17th, to celebrate, and give thanks for, the Armistice recently concluded with Germany.

Principal Childs of the Reading College [later Reading University] delivered a most impressive address on “The Responsibilities of Victory”, which gave us much food for thought, and left with the members present a clear conception of the trying and serious times with which our country is faced. It was truly a great meeting, and our best thanks are due to the President for arranging it.

Newbury St Nicolas parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P89/28A/13); Speenhamland parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2); Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P192/28A/15); Reading St Mary parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P98/28A/13); Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, December 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Blown into the air

While his wife Johanna was in Germany visiting her sister, expat Will Spencer heard that two of his brothers had been wounded, while a third had had a narrow escape.

2 September 1918

A letter from father. Percy in St Thomas’s Hospital with an injured wrist; Horace in a hospital at Edinburgh, suffering from exhaustion; Sydney in hospital at Rouen, suffering from “Debility, slight” – had written a cheerful letter home. Percy had been buried in the ruins of a building in which he was having supper with other officers when a bomb came through the roof. Sydney had been blown into the air by the explosion of a bomb in his immediate vicinity, but had not been wounded!


Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

And down came the bombs

Percy Spencer was making a good recovery.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]

Aug 27 [1918]

My dear WF

I’ve had some delightful letters from France. ‘Davey’ is the adjutant whose job I should have got had he not recovered and returned to the Battalion a week or so before me, and whose job I should eventually got [sic]. Dr [Camp/Lang?] is an interpreter, very literary fellow, who has done wonderful things in Spain. He was dining with me on the eventful night when hearing the old Bosch overhead I amused the fellows with a description of our real thoughts and the Hun plane’s thoughts on such an occasion – and down came the bombs.

Last night I got up for a couple of hours and didn’t feel too tired. Also last night I had a fairly good night without the aid of a sleeping draught. Mr Adams is satisfied with my hand – in fact all’s well again.

Can you send me Will’s address, and I should like the other boys’ addresses when you have time.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/82)

“Your brother did most excellent work in the last show, but unfortunately tried to accomplish more than a human being can out here”

Sydney Spencer had asked his sister Florence to send some cigarettes to his senior officer.

22 Aug 1918
Dear Mrs Image

I was astonished to receive a large parcel of cigarettes from you this morning.

In thanking you very much indeed, I realise the presence of your brother’s guiding hand. Further you must know that I am unable at present to share the cigarettes with those whom he would wish me to share with, for about five days ago I got a mouthful of gas & at present I am in bed in a Rest Camp behind the lines. I am ever so sorry that your gift did not go straight up to the fellows in the line for we have been on starvation rations for cigarettes lately & I’m sure they would burst into tears at a box this size.
However, as I expect to return in a few days I will see to it that some of the crumbs reach their hungry mouths.

Your brother did most excellent work in the last show, but unfortunately tried to accomplish more than a human being can out here. I felt sure that as a result he would break down as I could not prevail on him to take much rest. I am sure you will be glad to know he commanded the best platoon in the battalion, & we shall all be eager to see him back again but, as I wrote him, it must not be until he is really fit this time. However, a spell at Trouville should do him all the good in the world if this lovely weather continues.

I heard that another brother had been wounded by a bomb – I hope he got to Blighty & is making good recovery.

Please let me thank you again for an almost priceless gift as things are at present, though I fear I receive it under false pretenses.

With kind regards, I remain
Yours sincerely
G E Dillon

Hearty congratulations on your article in Punch – much appreciated by “the troops”.

Letter from Captain Dillon (D/EX801/78)

‘I got a revolver in my tummy for not “giving right password”’

Sydney Spencer’s platoon worked hard behind the lines.

Monday 29 July 1918

I liked today’s programme of work very much. We had from 8.30 to 10.30 out by the wood for platoon training. Took my men in close order drill, & did some communication drill with the NCOs, also PT. Got back to billets at 11. Found that all officers & NCOs from each platoon were to be on range at 2.20 for a demonstration. Tracer bullets were employed on targets. Also phosphorous bombs from discharge cups. Also the New T. Bombs. They seem very effective.

After tea a rest & some games of patience. Late dinner & then night operations. An outpost scheme. We were not informed that there was to be an enemy. This caused lots of “fun”. Major Gethen was captured. I got a revolver in my tummy for not “giving right password”.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Distressing news

A German-American family whose son was serving with the Allies faced the tragic loss of a daughter.

23 July 1918

About 11, as I was about to descend to the library with Johanna to play to her, came two postcards from Robert, dated June 16th & 17th. They were written from Brooklyn….

The card also contained the distressing news that Frau Dressler, whose only son is with the American Army in France, had lost their only daughter (whom we met with them in Zurich) & their son-in-law, the German doctor whom she married & with whom she was living in Stuttgart, both of them having been killed by a bomb thrown from an aeroplane. Their little two-year-old child was apparently spared.

Diary of Will Spencer, Switzerland (D/EX801/28)

The NCOs do not seem to know a great deal about bombs

Sydney was battling through his digestive issues – not to mention his self confidence.


Monday 22 July 1918

As I had had a hard day yesterday, what with the reconnaissance & my indisposition, I did not attend the first parade but went to aid post & there obtained some castor oil for inspection uses.

Went on 9.45 parade. Did platoon training which included some interesting fire orders work. After lunch rested & censored letters.

At 5.15 gave a lecture to all NCOs on bombs, chiefly about the mills bomb. The NCOs do not seem to know a great deal about bombs. I hope I didn’t bore them stiff. After the lecture there were no other parades.

Spent remainder of day in writing, playing patience etc. To bed fairly early. Feeling better after castor oil!

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“The weather & the flies are very trying”

The heat was almost as troublesome as the enemy.

Wednesday 17 July 1918

Got up at 7.30 am. Flies were a nuisance. Air raid on village during night, about a dozen bombs dropped. 1 soldier killed, 5 wounded. A good parade this morning from 9-12.30. Inspection, Platoon & Section drill, PT, & BF. Break ½ hour. Rifle grenadiers from 11.30-12.30. Company arms drill. Marched home. Censored letters after lunch. Another broiling hot day.

The weather & the flies are very trying. After tea I began to fret. I wonder whether the photographer would turn up to take the officers of the Battalion. We were all at the orderly room at 7.30, but as a storm intervened he did not come. So I was unmercifully ragged by the CO who thought that it was my bad French which had made the muddle!

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

Showing off for the pretty girls

The Images were on holiday, where they observed pilots in practice – and taking girls for joy rides.

At Mr Linnell’s Bungalow
Heacham
Norfolk

9 July 1918

MVDB

[Florence] is off on her cycle to Hunstanton about registering for the new ration books…

We could not, for some time, realise the points of the compass here. Norfolk is in East Anglia, therefore the sea stretching before our windows was obviously to the East – that was self-evident – and when at sunset we were confronted by a crimson orb looking straight in at our French windows, we felt I don’t know how! Was it credible that the East and the Battle Ground lay at our backs?

We are in the vicinity of 2 large aerodromes and aerial messengers pass the lazy clouds all day long. On certain days they explode bombs in the sea at a target. These are advertised by a red flag. Once we watched with interest a pompous looking officer in khaki stalk out over about a mile of sand to the Wash. Just as he got there, one, two, 3 columns of water shot up in the air, apparently quite close to him, and of course with a thundering report. It was quite like the pictures of an attack at the Front. Promptly the gallant Warrior turned round and executed a movement to the rear, with slow dignity.

But on ordinary days the planes are simply flying for practice – and altho’ this is extremely dangerous and positively forbidden, a plane will fly down the whole line of bungalows, so close that you can see the men inside saluting the pretty girls they pass and skimming the roofs in the pride of showing off.

Yesterday, for instance, one of these mountebanks was exhibiting over the beach, looping the loop, and skimming the roofs, till all of a sudden he swooped down on to the shingle, in front of a bungalow where stood a tall fellow (in citi, how did he escape khaki?) with his 3 wives [sic], all showy, stylish girls. Out jumped a couple of well-bronzed, good-looking young officers, and the man and his wives accosted them. I heard the wives ask for a fly, and the officer’s reply was that it was “most strictly” forbidden.

Poor souls, an hour later (they had been having tea in the bungalow) they came down the beach, one flying man and one wife mounted the plane and up she started – (the ruts of her wheels on the beach remained till high tide) – and soared for 5 minutes: then, the wife descended, and another wife took her place for another 5 minute sail – and then, at 5.35, No. C6860 was off to Thetford, and I expect a wigging for her officers if they were found out.

Ever fraternally
Bild

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

“We are to use Stokes Guns & bombs from ‘cup’ attachments & ‘umpteen’ rounds of SAA”

Sydney faced another extended journey before being thrown back into the fray.

Wednesday 12 June 1918

Got up at 6 am. Got across to Candas exchange station. A kindly goods RE in the cook house shaved me with a safety razor, with much & very earnest care! Caught a supply train, which got us quite quickly to Puchvillers by 9 am. Here Graham caught a lorry for Toutencourt, so one more ship vanished in the night.

Barker & I got our breakfast at 10.30. Caught a lorry to end of Puchvillers. Lorry jumped from there to Reinecheval, & finally to Argueres where he came & had lunch with us.

Dear old Peyton I find has gone to A Company as 2nd in command. I am very sorry although he well deserves the rise. After lunch saw Barker off, called on Peyton.

After tea went out to range & practiced an attack for a scheme tomorrow morning before our new corps commanders, the ‘23rd corps’. We are to use Stokes Guns & bombs from ‘cup’ attachments & ‘umpteen’ rounds of SAA. After dinner the CO came in & talked about scheme, then to bed.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15)

“Down here because the raids upset her so”

The Daniels family welcomed an additional guest fleeing from air raids in the East End – a young relative of their maid.

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 June 1918

Amusing lunch. Officers described German prisoners! They both left (Granville & Knapman).

Joan Daniels
June 5th Wednesday

Florence’s little sister came with her mending. Mummie has had her down here because the raids upset her so. They live in Plaistow & had bombs very near them last time. She is a most amusing kiddie…

Uncle Jack went to be medically examined & is passed Grade 3. That means if anyone goes it has to be Daddie, but it strengthens the latter’s position with regard to exemption.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

A bolt from the blue

Aeroplanes overhead were becoming common both in France and on the home front.

Sydney Spencer
Tuesday 4 June 1918

I am seated in a waggon for 40 hommes or 8 chevaux at Candas! How do I come to be here? Well, hear my story with patience, my dear diary!

I rose at 6.30 as usual, on parade etc at 7 as usual, company training as usual till 10 am, & then a bolt from the blue! In other words a note from Mark Tapley to the effect that I would report Marronville for a gas course on the 7th, taking at least 36 hours to get there!

I promptly made up mess accounts. Came to P[u?]chvillers by mess cart with Fox, my batman. Caught a train at 4.30 & have now been waiting nearly 2 hours for this train to start!

The train started and we moved on in fits & starts. How many miles we moved I do not know, as I slept by fits and starts. Just before midnight, however, I woke to the tune of Fritz aeroplanes. He dropped sundry bombs starting a fire not far off to N. West.

William Hallam
4th June 1918

Last night I heard an aeroplane going over. I got up and looked out of the window and saw it drop a star light.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

Pot shots over the parapet

Soldiers coped with the onslaught in different ways.

Sydney Spencer
Sunday 26 May 1918
(written retrospectively on 28 May)

I came on trench duty at 12.30 am till stand down (normally at 4.30, but as the mist was very strong & heavy we stood to till 7). I then went on strike & had breakfast after 5 ½ hours trench duty!

At 7.30 I found Rolfe & Peyton taking pot shots over the parapet with Mills bombs & rifle grenades. Just for the sake of old times I threw one through the crater. It fell in our wire. At 10 the Bosche started a strafe on the whole of our front. This lasted until 12.30. I & my platoon grovelled on the trench bottom & made accusative remarks about his bad shooting, & Corporal Bindey [?] & I studied an ants’ nest to while away the time!

After lunch I was on duty again from 2 till 4 pm. After tea for about 10 minutes I suffered complete demoralisation, goodness only knows why! I slept for 1 hour & then as no evening hate took place at 6 pm I went to company headquarters & rested till dinner time.

After dinner I got ready to hand over after 9 days in line! Then came orders to stand to as a raid was expected. Discovered a ground search light on our front at 2.35. It played all along our front.

Percy Spencer
26 May 1918

Communion service in grass avenue outside chateau. Went over a tank.

Moved up close to Lavieville. Not bad quarters but well bombed all around & no protection. Hartley joined us.

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

“Was it a bomb?” “No, a mouse got in”

Joan Daniels’ father inspected the damage from the air raid on his factory.

May 23rd Thursday

Daddie did not come home to lunch as he had to settle up some things about the bomb. They now find that there were two dropped a few yards apart. Daddie told us rather an amazing thing. An old lady was peering in between two sheets that have been fixed across one of the windows now that the glass is gone. The fat old policeman who was on guard came up & said “Ere mother, you clear off”. She turned to him & said “Was it a bomb?” “No” he whispered, “a mouse got in”.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

“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)