Glorious sunshine – good for the Bosch, worse luck

Sydney Spencer was poised to move up the line to the worst action.

Sydney Spencer
Friday 17 May 1918

After a very good night’s sleep I got up at 3.30 after smoking a cigarette & taking an infinite childish delight in watching the bewildering clouds of vapours curling along the narrow slant of the shaft of sunshine which came through the small attic window in my room.

After breakfast I took rifle inspection afterwards. Sat & worked at mess bills & got them settled thank goodness. After lunch I went round to B HQ, settled up wine bills & left 80 francs with Sergeant Green for buying stuff while we are up the line.

It is now 4 pm & at 8.30 we go up the line again. So, my dear diary, I close your pages for a few days, as although I have been very careful to tell you little or nothing that is compromising, I dare not take you near where you might be taken prisoner! So au-revoir!

By the way, last night the Buffs made a big raid. Killed about 300, took prisoners, & got off with less than 10 casualties. It is a scorching hot day. We started out for the front line at 8.30 & got there at 11.15 & took over the trench without further ado – had absolutely no excitement getting there either.

Percy Spencer
17 May 1918

6 pm report from QM re petrol tins.

The best day since I arrived, a glorious sunshine. But good for the Bosch, worse luck. Division to be relieved tonight. We endeavouring to stay in Warlos for a might at least. Got NCO promotions nearly up to date, & a letter register started.
Pushed out of Warlos by 58th. Went to camp on hillside. Close quarters but lovely day. CO went to command 141.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

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A manly sermon and modern religion

Sydney attended to the practical needs of his men while thinking about God.

Sydney Spencer
Sunday 12 May 1918

After a delicious night’s sleep in pyjamas on a semblance of a bed, I got up at 10 am! Wrote sundry letters. Made up my accounts. Went down & saw my platoon. They seemed very happy. Also to HQ Mess, settled wine account. After lunch got QM to change a cheque for 300 francs. Hence we have money again. Examined kits of platoon. Took them to a bath where they got change of clothes. Got their clothes and boots examined.

Tea & more letter writing. Heard from OB, Major Bracey, Field & Ruscoe. Got some money out of officers. Spent 47 francs on food for mess.

To evening service of YMCA. Christopherson, padre of Buffs, preached a manly sermon. Stayed to communion. About 60 men stopped. Had a talk with C afterwards. After dinner sat & talked ‘modern religion’ to Hervey & Rolfe.

Percy Spencer
12 May 1918

A wet day. But an eventful one because I have just heard my first shell since June last year. No connection, but the villagers are moving out in anticipation of Fritz’s attack, due originally on the 8th, next yesterday, & now fixed for the 14th.

Had a long chat with CO in the evening. CO told me forward HQ found my presence at Dept very useful. Major Woolley also wrote from England saying nice things about me. Another bad night owing to Bosch shelling & aircraft activity.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

The bravest man in the trenches

Many of the former pupils of Reading School were serving with distinction.

O.R. NEWS.

Military Cross

Temp. 2nd Lieut. F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berks Regiment.- For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy twice attacked under cover of liquid fire, 2nd Lieut. Edwards showed great pluck under most trying circumstances and held off the enemy. He was badly wounded in the head while constructing a barricade within twenty-five yards of the enemy.

2nd Lieut. (Temp. Lieut.) W/C. Costin, Gloucester Regiment. – For conspicuous gallantry during operations. When the enemy penetrated our front line he pushed forward to a point where he was much exposed, and directed an accurate fire on the trench with his trench guns. It was largely due to his skill and courage that we recaptured the trench. An Old Boy of Reading School, he won a scholarship at St. John’s College. Oxford.

2nd Lieut. D.F.Cowan.

Killed in Action.

Lieut. Hubert Charles Loder Minchin, Indian Infantry, was the eldest of three sons of the late Lieut-Col. Hugh Minchin, Indian Army, who followed their father into that branch of the service, and of whom the youngest was wounded in France in May, 1915. Lieutenant Minchin, who was 23 years old, was educated at Bath College, Reading School, and Sandhurst. After a probationary year with the Royal Sussex Regiment, he was posted to the 125th (Napier’s) Rifles, then at Mhow, with whom he served in the trenches.

After the engagement at Givenchy on December 20th, 1914, he was reported missing. Sometime later an Indian Officer, on returning to duty from hospital, reported that he had seen Lieut. Minchin struck in the neck, and killed instantly, when in the act of personally discharging a machine-gun against the enemy. The Indian officer has now notified that he must be believed to have fallen on that day.
2nd lieut.

F.A.L. Edwards, Royal Berkshire Regiment, awarded the military cross, died of wounds on August 10th. He was 23 years of age, and the youngest son of the late Capt. H.H. Edwards, Royal Navy, and Mrs. Edwards, of Broadlands, Cholsey. He was educated at Reading School and the City and Guilds College, Kensington. He had been on active service 10 months. His Adjutant wrote:

“He was the bravest man in the trenches. All the men say he was simply wonderful on the morning of August 8th. We lost a very gallant soldier and a very lovable man.”

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“I don’t think we grudge these sons of ours if their death removes once and for all the horrors of war for future generations”

The vicar of Reading St Giles reported on the news of many young men from the town serving at the Front. Several had fallen in action.

Notes from the Vicar

To be added to the intercessions list:
Charles Barber (H.M.S. Ajax); lieut. James McNie Campbell, 12th Royal Scots; Lce. Corpl. E. Jardine, 5th R. Berks Rgt.; Trooper P.O. Jardine, Berkshire Yeomanry; Lieut. S.H. Jardine, 17TH R, Fusiliers; Private L.F.Jardine, 12th R Warwickshire Rgt; Ernest William Wheeler, R.F.C.; Fredk. H. Goddard, Queens Own Dorset Yeomanry; Leslie Victor Peirce, 3rd R. Berks; A. Williams, R. Fusiliers; Private Charles A. Bartlett, 1st Garrison Worcester Regt.; Private Henry Adams,1st Buffs; Lydall Savill, Eric Savill, Alfred Savill, Cyril May.

Sick and Wounded:
Corpl. Arthur Smith, C.G. Gutch, Private Albert Bendall, Private William Long, Private Leonard Smith, J. W. Redston, Private Ernest James Wise, Sergt. Clemetston, Private R. Crawford, Lieut. B. Lloyd, Drummer W.G. Stevens, Private C. Greaves, Private Thatcher, Departed: Lieut. T.G. Haughton, Capt. Bruce Smith-Masters, Driver R. Lund, R.F.A. Lieut. G.E. Maggs, Sergt. J. Eaton, Private Stanley Durman, Private Victor Burgess, Private Albert Bowley, Private T.J. Tollman, C.V. Tollman, R.N. Lieut. S. Sneider, Private G.H. Wellings.

We are sorry to hear that Sergt. R. Golding is among the “missing.”

Our sympathy goes out to the relatives and friends of these brave men who have so nobly done their duty. I should like to quote one sentence I received from a mother. “I don’t think we grudge these sons of ours if their death removes once and for all the horrors of war for future generations, as we trust it will; the only thing to do is to look steadily at the happiness of those who have passed.” They will always be remembered at S. Giles as their names are on the Roll of Honour.

I think a good many of you would like to read the letter sent by one of Captain Bruce Smith-Masters’ brother officers.

“Capt. Smith-Masters, who was my company Commander on active service for 15 months, was a magnificent type of the British Officer, as we know them. He was looked up to and admired by his Officers, and worshipped by his N.C.O’s and men. It was a tremendous shock to us to hear that he had been killed, as he went into the battle as cheerily as could be, and I certainly expected him to survive. He had been our constant companion for a long period of the campaign, and I think I am right in saying that he was the making of his company. Keen on sports by nature, and an athlete himself, he trained his men excellently, and was the means of their keeping fit. He always had an eye on their personal comfort, and anything that could be done for them, he did. In short, he was an awfully good fellow, and I am terribly sorry to think that he has gone. A finer company commander I never had, a keener officer never breathed.”

S. MICHAEL’S DISTRICT

To the list of the fallen in the war I have with great regret to add the names of Victor Burgess and Ernest Goddard. The deepest sympathy of us all goes out to the relations of these men and others on our list who have given their lives for their country.

Harold Baker is reported as missing in the recent fighting in Franc, but up to the moment of writing this has not been officially posted. We shall, I hope remember in our prayers his relations and friends, and others who are in anxiety and suspense because of the absence of definite news of their missing relations.

Reading St Giles parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P191/28A/24)