“The bomb went almost as far as I expected it to!”

Sydney Spencer was frustrated by his men’s lack of shooting prowess.

Thursday 25 July 1918

Got up at 6.30. Route march from 7.15 to 8.45. After breakfast rested & played the skipper at double patience. At 11.35 we paraded with company for the range. I took the rifle bombers. Tried the unbulleted round for firing rifle grenades. The bomb went almost as far as I expected it to! About 30 yards & that is being very generous! It is very difficult to get any accuracy from men at present. They don’t seem to grip the idea altogether, of reckoning with wind, personal error, or the use of the gas check.

After parade, a lunch tea combined at 3.45. At 4.30 kit inspection. At 5.15 went with Dillon to Mappin terraces, & helped map out a scheme for a patrol with compasses. Saw my platoon about cleaning up for tomorrow.

Dinner at 7. Saw boxing competition. My observer won the bantam contest.

At 10.5 took out patrol. Very interesting & instructive. Hidden objects all found easily.

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

Advertisements

“Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker”

Here we learn of the war experiences of some of the Old Boys of St Bartholomew’s Grammar School, Newbury, who had lost their lives.

In Memoriam.

In reporting the deaths of the following Old Newburians, we take this opportunity of expressing our most sincere sympathy with the bereaved friends and relations.

N. G. Burgess.

Croix De Guerre

Lieutenant Nathaniel Gordon Burgess, Croix De Guerre, R.N.R., entered the N.G.S. in April, 1901, and left at Christmas, 1906, from the South House. He obtained his place in both the second Cricket and Football elevens in 1903 and got into both firsts in his last year. On leaving school he entered the Civil Service, but subsequently turned to the Mercantile Marine. His connection with the Senior Service dates from April, 1915, when his offer of service was accepted and he was granted the commission of Sub.-Lieutenant. The following September he was promoted to Acting Lieutenant and posted to H.M.S Conquest. While serving under the then Commodore Tyrrwhit he had the good fortune to capture two German trawlers laden with munitions; and the telegrams of congratulations, both from his Commanding Officer and the Admiralty, together with the battered flag of one of the trawlers, were among his most cherished possessions. The posthumous award of the Croix de Guerre was conferred on him by the French Government for his gallantry in the naval action off Lowestoft, in July 1916, when a German shell entered one of the magazines of his ship. Fortunately the shell did not immediately explode, and, by flooding the magazine compartment, the gallant officer prevented what might have been serious damage, his action being regarded very highly by the authorities.. thus it was a very promising life which was cut short when at the age of twenty-six, Burgess was lost at sea in March of this year.

J. V. Hallen.

Corporal John Vernie Hallen, School House 1905-1908, was born in 1894 and received his preliminary education at College House, Hungerford, thence going to The Ferns, Thatcham, from which school he finally came to the N.G.S., getting into both the Cricket and Football Seconds in 1907. After leaving here he became an expert motor engineer, from which occupation he joined up early in the war, determined at all costs to uphold the honour of his country. Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker, which we understand to have been always well received, and in the meanwhile he found time to use his great physical strength in winning the heavy weight boxing championship of his regiment, the 1st Surrey Rifles. Such was the man who was killed in action in France some three months ago.

F. C. Mortimer.

Private Frederick C. Mortimer, South House 1910-1915, who was reportedly killed in action “in the Field,” on Friday the 26th of April, was exactly nineteen years and four months old on the day of his death. He took a keen enjoyment in outdoor sport and got into the Second Cricket Eleven in 1914, while his dash was quite a feature of the First Fifteen in his last year here. Always cheerful and amusing, he was generally liked in his form and took his school life with a lightheartedness that made it well worth living. His last letter to his parents was dated on the day of his death, from France, whither he was drafted on the first of last February, after a year’s training at Dovercourt and Colchester. We cannot but feel that he died as he had lived, quickly and cheerfully.

R. Cowell-Townshend.

Second Lieutenant Roy Cowell-Townshend, R.A.F., Country House 1913-1916, was a promising Cricketer, having played for the first eleven both in 1915 and in his last term. On leaving school he wished to become an electrical engineer and entere4d into apprenticeship with Messrs. Thornycroft, on June 1st, 1916. Having reached the age of eighteen, he was called to the colours on February 17th, 1917, and went into training on Salisbury Plain, quickly gaining a stripe and the Cross Guns of the marksman. Soon afterwards he was drafted to the R.F.C. as a Cadet and went to Hursley Park for his course. From here he went first to Hastings and then to Oxford when, having passed all his exams, he was granted his commission on December 7th, 1917. He then went to Scampton, Lincoln, where he qualified as a Pilot, and afterwards to Shrewsbury, where he was practicing with a Bombing Machine he was to take on to France. Every report speaks of him as having been a most reliable pilot, and he had never had an accident while in this position, nor even a bad landing, and at the time of his death he was acting as passenger. The fatal accident occurred on May 29th, 1918, the machine, which the instructor was piloting, having a rough landing, and Townshend being pitched forward and killed instantaneously. His body was brought to his home at Hungerford, where he was buried with military honours on June 3rd.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

“It’s entirely up to you whether you have an easy or hard time”

Percy Spencer had a few more trenchant comments on his experiences as a trainee officer.

21st (Res) Battalion London Regiment
G Lines
Chiseldon Camp
Nr Swindon

Jan 27th, 1918

My dear WF

I’m still here and finding life pretty strenuous, it’s entirely up to you whether you have an easy or hard time, but the man who can sit down and let things rip isn’t much account.

Today I held the finals of my platoon boxing competition. They were gory affairs but fought out in good spirit and with plenty of spirit. For the moment I’m frightfully popular. Tomorrow at inspection time they won’t like me a little bit.

Tonight I’ve again been to the little church of Lyddington. It is so restful to get away to real village life and the walk back again in the moonlight through scattered groups of white rubble, thatched cottages and farmsteads a happy recollection.

Yesterday the subalterns were instructed by the senior subaltern in mess etiquette. The meeting was too funny, as, without prejudice, the boot is on the other leg, and a good many of us weren’t afraid to say so. Altogether I think the meeting did good inasmuch as it cleared the air.

And now I’m smoking my pipe and writing a few letters – and don’t I wish it was in the cosy drawing room at 29 [Florence’s house]. Der Tag!

With all my love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/9-10)

“There’s some fun in this life though the monotony and drudgery”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence with his impressions of the camp where he was undergoing officer training.

21st (Res) Bn, London Regt
G Lines
Chisledon Camp
Nr Swindon

Jan 13, 1917

My dear WF

Tomorrow I intend to see the MO here and try for leave to get dental treatment in London. If I fail, I shall in any case get 4-6 days before I go out and shall, of course, come to see you.

It is still bitterly cold here, but today has been very fine and I have enjoyed myself though on duty.

As company orderly officer I had to inspect huts this morning. In two huts men were standing about instead of being on parade. Most of them informed me they were an ablution fatigue, and until they moved off to the washing sheds I had to appear wise, though at a loss to know what they meant. One poor little fellow who looked ill and who I assumed to be sick, when asked what was the matter with him, replied, “Religion, Sir”. He eventually explained he was a Jew.

So there’s some fun in this life though the monotony and drudgery of feet & kit inspections and so on are trying at times.

I have bought my boys a few books and some boxing gloves. If you at any time have any cheap books you have done with, I shall be very glad to have them….

Of course there are a lot of officers here I know very well.
Unfortunately there are several here who wish they hadn’t reason to know me, and therefore I am not as happy or comfortable as I should be as a stranger to the Division. However, I can’t help that.

Now I’m off to church so I’ll say goodbye.

With my dear love to you both
Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/8-9)

Reading boys killed in action

Former members of two boys’ clubs in east Reading had been reported killed in action.

CHURCH LADS’ BRIGADE

It was with the greatest sorrow that we heard that Horace Gibbard had been killed in action. Horace was one of the first members enrolled when our Company was formed, and to the last one of its keenest members. After he enlisted in the Army, he was stationed in Reading until shortly before he went to the Front, and during that time he gave us most valuable assistance by drilling the Company and conducting the band practice. We had hoped to have him with us again after the war, but now we can only thank God for his short but manly life, and his splendid example to his fellow NCOs and lads in the Company. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to his parents and brothers, one of whom is engaged in dangerous work in the Navy.

RONALD PALMER LADS’ CLUB

Once more we have to chronicle the death of one of our members: Ralph Shepherd was killed in action. The tragedy of his mother’s death following on the receipt of the news made it even sadder. Ralph was once our champion against the CLB representative in a boxing contest – a successful champion too. He had been wounded earlier on.
W. Wheatley we hear has been wounded; while Lieutenant Eric Sutton had been down a good many times helping in the work and officering of the Club.

The Club is closed for the moment, but hopes to re-open very shortly.

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