“At least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew”

David Stad was a Dutch Jew aged 27 when he arrived at Reading Place of Internment in January 1916. He did not enjoy his internment, feeling isolated and discriminated against. In June 1918 he was transferred to Islington.

22.5.18
The Governor
P of I Reading

With ref: to the petition of D Stad dated the 13th inst of which the following is a precise translation:

He says that on the 23rd June he will have been interned 3 yrs, and that he has never been told the reason for his internment.

He has never received any order, as many other interned [prisoners deleted] persons have. He asks to have one.

He asks if, after 3 yrs, he may be allowed to go to Holland, and is prepared to give an undertaking not to leave that country again, at any rate in war-time.

He says that out of a total period of nearly 3 yrs internment he has been 2 yrs & 3 months at Reading Gaol, and feels his vitality diminishing: his appetite is bad, and he suffers from sleeplessness.
This, he says, is due to the unpleasant life he leads at Reading, where at least half of the interned prisoners refuse to associate with him, because he is a Jew.

He accordingly begs to be sent to Holland, or failing that to another camp, saying he even prefers Brixton so as no longer to meet the men who dislike him.

Unless this is done, he cannot hold himself responsible for himself.
He asks that all attention may be given to the question of his correspondence with Holland; he feels sure that his wife and relations write to him at least 3 times a month, but he has had no letters for 6 months.

Please furnish your observations on the statement as to his life at Reading, and the need, if any, for his removal, and also as to the facts respecting the letters he receives and sends.

W J Pond for Sec:

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

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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)

“Master Chaffinch sings near by me despite the swish of shells through the air or craaack of shrapnel”

Sydney Spencer took comfort in nature surviving the battlefield, but the nice weather meant easy pickings for the German artillery. Meanwhile their brother Will was in touch with a former pupil in Germany.

Percy Spencer
9 May 1918

A lovely day again, worse luck. Huns shelled our boys with 8” & gas. 14 gassed.

Dr Caux had tea with us & told us pretty story of old lady who refused to leave until her children left, asked how many she had, she replied that she didn’t know, & pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, exclaimed, “These are my children”.

Sydney Spencer
Thursday 9 May 1918

I was very cold in the night so felt rather cheap when I got up this morning. A glorious spring morning. The grass on which I lie now at 12.30 pm is sweet May scented. All around are the ubiquitous dandelions, daisies & buttercups, & here & there graceful patches of delicate green & white, made by the greater sketchwort. Master Chaffinch sings near by me despite the [illegible] and swish of shells through the air & the angry snip of 18 pounders, or craaack of shrapnel.

Now for some lunch. Saw a beautiful little ‘copper’ butterfly today. The last I saw was at dear old Thoresby Camp, Worksop, only 8 short months ago. After lunch a read or sleep & then worked out mess accounts. After tea continued on mess accounts. At 8.30 ‘stand to’. No 5 platoon dug my fire positions in new battle positions. Bed about 10 pm. Oh happy day. A long night’s sleep.

Will Spencer
9 May 1918

Was pleased to receive a long letter from Fraulein Hildegard Vogel from Cassel, telling me of her musical studies under Dr Zulauf (is now studying the Chopin Fantasia!) & enclosing a photograph of herself with her fiancé. J. thinks, from his uniform, that he is an officer in the Artillery. As the elder of her two brothers (aged 18) is in a Cadet School, & the younger, who is physically & mentally weak, is just going to a Waldpaedagogium in Berka in Thuringen, they (the mother and two daughters) are leaving Cassel next month & going to live in a smaller house in Naumburg a/d Saale, where they will be near Berka.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX802/28)

Both scout and cadet training should form part of the ordinary curriculum

Berkshire teenagers, whether they were still at school or had left to start work at 14, were encouraged to undertake semi-military training in cadet corps.

The following letters have been referred to us for consideration, viz:

9/3/18, from the Secretary of the County Territorial Association to the Secretary of the Berks Education Committee.
23/3/18, from General Sir R Scallon (Director General’s Department, War Office) to the said Association.
2/4/18, from General Sir H Sclater (GOC in C Southern Command) to the same.

The general effect of these letters is as follows, viz: The
Education Committee are specifically asked:

To give official recognition to the Cadet Companies already raised in the County Boys’ Schools of Windsor and Maidenhead, both of which units are recognised by the War Office and are affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks Regiment.

(Note – It is to be noted that the only other cadet units so recognised by the War Office as operating in the county are The Douai Cadet Company, affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks, and the 2nd and 4th Oxford Cadet CLB Battalions, both affiliated to the KRR. The Reading Cadet Company, affiliated to the 4th Royal Berks, is also mentioned as recognised, but this unit draws its recruits from the Borough rather than the County area.)

To urge upon other school masters the importance of raising cadet companies “in the schools throughout the County”.

It is, further, strongly recommended that a Committee should be formed in the County (Sir Robert Scallon suggesting that the Education Committee should undertake the formation of it) with a view to the development of the cadet movement. This Committee would be composed of the Director of Education (i.e. the Education Secretary), of leading gentlemen in the County who are interested in the movement, of employers of boy labour, of the secretary and representative of the Territorial Association, and of representatives of the volunteers and of labour interests. The functions of the Committee would be the encouragement and co-ordination of cadet corps, boy scouts, wolf cubs, and similar organisations, and would also have regard to boys outside any existing organisation. The Committee would not interfere with existing units. Sir H Sclater remarks that a Committee of this kind has been formed for Worcestershire and that it is doing excellent work.

It is pointed out that “the cadet movement is not a military one”, the aim being “the improvement both in character and physique of the boys”. Organised games should form a large part of the training.
Boys, it is considered by the War Office, should be encouraged to be scouts until aged 14 or 15; they should be cadets until 17, when “they might join Section C or the Volunteers if they are so willing”. Scouts wishing to be cadets need not cease to be scouts.
With regard to secondary schools, the writers suggest that both scout and cadet training should form part of the ordinary curriculum; also that school units should as a rule be grouped together, and not form part of either an adult unit nor of a cadet corps composed of boys who have ceased to attend school.
Corps composed of several school units should come together for the yearly Battalion camp, and be under the command of a suitably qualified man, whether a military officer or not.

We are not clear what “official recognition” of existing cadet companies would imply, or what expenditure by the Local Authority would be involved, or how far this could be legally incurred. Moreover, we are disposed to think that any recognition afforded to cadets should be available for scouts…

The Local Education Authority have no authority over secondary schools not maintained by them. Of boys’ schools so maintained, Wallingford School is the only one without a cadet unit. We recommend that the question of the formation of a cadet company at that school be brought to the notice of the governors with a view to their favourable consideration.

We think that such a Committee as is suggested might do good spade-work locally… Whether the Education Committee should take the lead in this matter, or whether it should be left to the Territorial Association is a matter for consideration. On the whole, having regard to the facts that the cadet movement is definitely non-military and that the Local Education Authority is likely to have increasing opportunities of keeping in touch with the lads, the advantages of the former course seems to us to be greater. On the other hand, the work, if taken over by the Education Committee, must eventually throw greater burdens on a depleted and overworked staff, and the suggested constitution of the proposed committee hardly seems to secure to the Local Education Authority such a voice in the proceedings as would be necessary if public money, assigned for educational purposes, is to be expended.

Report of Cadet Training Sub-committee to Berkshire Education Committee, 27 April 1918 (C/CL/C1/1/21)

“The main thing that prevents men escaping from here is their foreign accent which would lead to their re-arrest”

Hugh O’Rourke was a 23 year old ship’s steward born in Co. Tyrone and now an American citizen. Interned as a Nationalist following the Easter Rising, he would be transferred to Reading on 9 May 1918 from Islington Prison, and stay until he went to Brixton in 1919. It was feared that he would be a troublemaker.

April 23rd 1918
[To] Place of Internment, Reading

Hugh O’Rourke, an American, was of the Sinn Feiners and was at Cornwallis Road, is [recorded?] to be acting rather out of hand, and will probably attempt to break out if he remains here. So will you please say if you see any [illegible] [objection to be removed?].

[Ilegible signature]

I know nothing of this man.

The Commissioners, who have more information, can judge better as to what effect he would have, remembering that the men here are in constant association and out in the exercise grounds up to 7.30 pm with only one officer on duty, after 5.10 pm, in the grounds. The opportunities for causing trouble or escaping are infinitely greater here than in an ordinary prison, and I am unable to barrack [illegible… ] as is done in other Camps – consequently the safe… can be very general.

I am quite ready to do whatever the Commissioners [say].

C M Morgan
Governor

The main thing that prevents men escaping from here is their foreign accent which would lead to their re-arrest, and the poor results that have attended the many escapes from various Camps, and which they read about in the various papers, they freely admit.

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Adventures in armoured cars and tanks

Old Boys of Reading School continued to serve their country, and share their experiences.

O.R.NEWS.

Mr. A.J. Wright has kindly sent the headmaster extracts from a letter of R.F. Wright’s, who was then in the 2nd squadron Russian Armoured Cars. The letter gives a vivid description of the threat on the Galician front and for the adventures of the Armoured Cars. The most striking sight was the explosion of the huge ammunition dumps at Crosowa, – apparently caused by a chance shot,- which Wright witnessed from a distance of 5 or 6 miles. It was most fortunate that the British cars got away with such small loss.

We must congratulate Capt. Rev. A.G. Wilken, Brigade Chaplain, Canadian Force on his return from Germany. He has been a prisoner of war for a year and eight months, during which time he has made the acquaintance of no less than six prison camps, Gutersloh, Minden, Crefeld, Schwarmstedt, Holzminden and Frieburg. We understand that some of these were comfortable enough, others very much the reverse. We hope that someday perhaps Capt. Wilken will tell us of some of his experiences.

Captain Haigh, M.C.

We are now in a position to publish news of the great honour which has been conferred upon Capt. Richard Haigh, M.C., Tank Corps, son of Mr. W. Haigh, of “Llanarth,” Hamilton Road, Reading. Capt. Haigh has been selected from all the officers of “His Majesty’s’ Land Ships” to take charge of the tank which has been touring Canada and the United states to help boom the U.S. Liberty Loan. He and his crew all of whom, by the way, have been wounded, have been touring the chief cities of the Republic for the past three months polarizing the great loan which our Allies have been raising. Such work is, of course, of the highest responsibility, and the fact that the gallant officer has been entrusted with this duty speaks well for his ability and for the confidence which the authorities place in him.

Educated at Reading School, where he distinguished himself in every form of athletics, particularly long distance running and football, Capt. Haigh obtained a commission in the Royal Berks Regt. just after the outbreak of war. He was wounded at Loos in 1915 and again on the Somme in 1916. In January of last year he was awarded the Military Cross, and for the last twelve months he has been attached to the Tank Corps.

Lieut. Fielding Clarke. – On Wednesday in the last week Captain Fielding Clarke of Ampthill, Craven Road, Reading, received a telegram intimating that his second son, Sec. Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke, R.F.C., was missing. The previous Saturday he had been with his squadron carrying out a bombing raid on and around Metz, and his machine was the only one which did not return. Lieut. Clarke, whose age is 18 and a half, was educated at Reading School and Bradfield College, and joined the R.F.C. at the age of 17 years and four months. He had been in France about three months and had just returned from his first Furlough. It is supposed that the cause of his failing to return must have been engine trouble, for on the occasion of the raid there was particularly little German anti-aircraft fire.

(Later). Lieut. A. Fielding Clarke is now known to be a prisoner of war interned at Karlsruhe.
(more…)

The bridegroom was under orders to hold himself in readiness for service abroad

A nurse married an army officer – and had to face the thought of his being sent to the front soon afterwards.

We present our congratulations to Miss Hilda Sturgess on the occasion of her marriage on April 16th with 2nd Lieut. Harold Bloomfield. Miss Sturgess was an exemplary Sunday school teacher previous to the war; since 1914 she has been a nurse in England, Eygpt, and France, and her long standing engagement ended with her marriage at the village church near Swindon camp, which was attended by the colonel and officers, who, by their hospitality in providing the wedding breakfast and enthusiastically welcoming the bride, more than covered the disappointment caused by the bridegroom being under orders to remain at Swindon and hold himself in readiness for service abroad.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

Fritz planes are busy overhead

Although his unit was still behind the front, Sydney Spencer could see evidence of the air war.

Friday 12 April 1918

Rose at 7 am. Breakfast and on road by 8.45. Arrived here in camp at 12 noon. Fritz planes are busy overhead, & one can see over to SE 5 German observation balloons. Our anti aircraft guns are pooping at Fritz as I write.

A glorious day and wonderful undulating country wooded in parts, & we are camped in an orchard, 2.45 pm. Just came across Rory [illegible], who was at Oxford with me! He looks well. He is brother to our Padre!

8 pm. I am going to bed soon as we stand to at 4.45 tomorrow morning. Cozens Hardy has made me Company Mess President. Have just been making up mess accounts. Have written to Col. Hallis. Have also got two blankets. Dinner tonight. Soup, fishcake, meat [illegible], custard & fruit.

Diary of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15)

“The bomb passed through the bows, exploding on the other side”

Three of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, whose base was at Clewer, were shipwrecked on their way home from India thanks to enemy action.

April, 1918
My dear Associates

You will all be interested to hear that we have just welcomed home from Calcutta Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen after a really perilous voyage. The only route available was via Colombo, which they reached by train from Calcutta. The first part of the voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea was very enjoyable, smooth and lovely weather.

Good Friday was spent in the harbour of Suez, and Port Said was reached on Sunday morning. Along the banks of the Suez Canal they saw many races of the recent fighting in Egypt – deserted trenches and dug-outs, and in one place a camp of a considerable size, but their own course was perfectly uneventful.

After waiting four days at Port Said, their steamer joined a large convoy of vessels bound for England, protected by several destroyers and sloops. All went well during the first six days, and then, at 7 a.m. on a date I am not allowed to mention, the ship was struck by a torpedo. Mercifully no one was seriously injured, the bomb having passed through the bows, exploding on the other side.

Fearing another attack, the Captain immediately transferred all the passengers to the boats, and after rowing about on a rough sea for two hours, a sloop picked them up, and conveyed them to Bizerta, a French town on the coast of North Africa, the actual site of ancient Carthage, about four hours by rail from Tunis. At once everything was done on a most generous scale for their comfort and protection, and four days later a mail boat from Tunis conveyed all the passengers to Marseilles, and from there the homeward journey was continued via Paris, Havre and Southampton….

Letters to Associates of the Community of St John Baptist (D/EX1675/1/24/6)

An attack of seagulls

Some of the difficulties arising at Reading Prison during its time as a Place of Internment for foreigners thought to be a threat to the country were outlined by the governor.

3 April 1918
Place of Internment
Reading

Gentlemen

I have the honour to submit my annual report on this Place of Internment.

The conduct of the officers has been good and they have willingly, and without a grumble, come in for extra duty each evening from 5.10 pm to 8 pm to supervise the Aliens who are in association, either in the Halls or garden up to 8 pm. Two officers have volunteered each evening, and been paid back the time owing when convenient.

The conduct of the Interned Aliens has been fair. Last autumn they gave trouble owing to

(a) Long internment with no definite time of release.
(b) The many nationalities, some fourteen in number, with corresponding temperaments, which led to quarrels.
(c) The social grades ranging from ex-officers to the convicts and petty thieves.
(d) The feeling that in many cases they were entitled to be treated as prisoners of war with corresponding privileges, and their knowledge of the few officers available to maintain order in the evenings.

In November a military guard was provided for about six weeks. This enabled active measures to be taken against the ringleaders and the tone of the place at once improved.

Towards the end of November about 40 aliens were re-classified as prisoners of war and removed to the Isle of Man Prisoner of War Camp.

The dietaries have been good and varied and the majorities of letters written speak well of the treatment.

The fire arrangements are satisfactory and fire practice has been regularly carried out.

The water supply is adequate, and there is sufficient pressure to reach to the top of the buildings.

The lighting throughout the prison is good.

The contractors’ supplies have been good except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

The garden has yielded good results, much better than was anticipated owing to the severe weather last spring, and the consequent influx of seagulls, who cleared off every green thing – over 200 being counted one day in one portion of the garden.

The Visiting Committee have attended regularly but have not been called on to adjudicate in any cases.

One man has been certified as insane and removed to the asylum at Moulsford [actually Cholsey].

There have been no deaths.

The Royal Berkshire Hospital have very kindly and generously taken in and treated such cases of illness as were too serious to be treated in cells.

The rules as laid down for this Place of Internment have been carried out except in such cases as have been reported to the Commissioners.

I have the honour to be
Gentlemen

Your obedient servant
C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Prison Commissioners
Home Office

Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

“Our small tent collapsed in a blizzard”

Army chaplain J Sellors reached his post in southern Greece, where he found the weather not conducive to a good night’s sleep.

Letter from the Rev. J. Sellors

Dear Friends,

I last wrote to you when I was on my way out here. I have now been here for about a month, and my address at present is 28th General Hospital, Salonika, where any letters you may wish to write will find me. (We are not allowed to put our address at the top of letters).

I cannot give details of my journey, but I think the censor will allow me to say that shortly before reaching here there was no railway for a distance of about thirty miles, and we had to take motor lorries. For fifteen or more miles we passed through a valley completely filled with olive trees, then we had to climb over a mountain pass. We ascended to a height of between 3,000 and 4,000 feet, and saw around us deep valleys and snow-tipped mountain peaks, which glistened like silver in the sunlight. In several places we were only a few feet from the edge of a precipice without any protecting wall; a little carelessness on the part of the driver, and – imagine the result!

When we arrived at Salonika we were sent to a camp for a few days to await orders. The weather was beautifully warm and bright until we arrived here, when it changed suddenly, and a bitterly cold wind sprang up and the rain came in torrents.

The second night we had a blizzard, and just after, two of us Chaplains, who were together, had retired to rest, our small tent collapsed, and we had an exciting few minutes extricating our bedding and seeking dry quarters in a hut, where we spent the remainder of the night. Next morning we found part of our belongings covered with several inches of snow and mud. We had scented trouble before going to roost, so were not altogether unprepared for our experience.

I will endeavour to tell you a little about my work when next I write. I am quite well, and happy in my work.

March 22nd, 1918

Yours sincerely, J. SELLORS, C.F.

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

Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

“Camp life makes them familiar”

Thousands of civilians from interned countries were housed at a camp at Holzminden in Germany throughout the war. Ernest Delfosse, a 32 year old motor mechanic from Belgium, 5 foot 6 ½ inches, with brown hair, was among the inmates there, until he escaped to England with the help of his sweetheart. Sadly, this did not mean freedom, as he was arrested on arrival as a suspected spy. He was transferred to Reading from Brixton Prison on 5 February 1917. He was classified as a Friendly Alien but stayed at Reading and was eventually deported in 1919.

HM Place of Internment
Reading

6th March 1918

Sir

With reference to your letter … dated 5th March 18 on the subject of correspondence between the interned alien E. Delfosse and Mrs E Owen, 54 New Compton St, London EC.

The first letter received from Mrs Owen by Delfosse was dated 22.12.17. This was sent to the Commissioners and I drew special attention to it, giving such information as I was able. It was passed.

Prisoner replied on Jany 5th 1918 – submitted & passed. A second letter was received on 12th January 1918 – submitted and passed. Both these letters are attached to this [though not to the letter book copy]. Please send them back as prisoner does not know they have been forwarded to the Home Office.

Prisoner’s reply to the last letter is the subject of the Home Office letter.

The history of the prisoner’s acquaintance with this woman appears to be:

He was interned at Holzminden, a camp of about 24,000. Men and women were allowed to mix for the purpose of visiting restaurants and cinemas in the grounds. He struck up friendship with this woman – also interned – [he] believes for trafficking in letters – but not sure. The majority of the women were interned for that reason. She stated she was a Russian. (I cross-examined Delfosse, who admitted that she might be a German Pole). He cannot (or will not) remember her name – always called her by her Christian name of Emmy. Camp life makes them familiar. She could speak no English and but little French – he could not speak Russian. Conversation carried on in German, in which both were fluent. Does not know if she was then married – thinks not – her maiden name could be obtained from his note book, black, 9” x 4” (about), taken from him by police at Gravesend 20th Oct 1916 (plain clothes man).

On 7th Oct: 1916 Delfosse escaped from Holzminden, “Emmy” keeping the sentry in conversation while Delfosse got away.

Heard nothing more of her until the letter dated 22.12.17. Does not know how she escaped.

Learns she is married to a Canadian officer. Does not know him. She wants to come & see him. Would like to see her.

I think that is all the information I have obtained.

I am Sir
Your obedient servant

C M Morgan
Governor

[To]
The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
Whitehall


Reading Prison [Place of Internment] letter book (P/RP1/8/2/1)

Coming to the Front?

Florence Image sent her brother some gifts ready to take to the Front.

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

Feb 28, 1918

Dear WF

Very many thanks for the books and for the soap case…

Since [his last letter] an officer from Gen Kennedy’s Brigade has been here who introduced himself to me & told me Gen Kennedy talking to him the other day had told him I was coming out to the 15th. But I have no further news direct….

Yours ever

Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/17-18)

“Orders have a way of descending from the blue and we may get ours at any moment”

Percy Spencer anticipated his return to the Front would come at any minute. The battle of Bourlon Wood had occurred at the end of 1917. Captain Walter Stone won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his heroics.

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

Feb 24. 1918

My dear WF

It seems ages since I wrote to or heard from you. So I’ve filled my pipe (my nicest & foulest one) with the fragrant Mr Fryers and sat myself down to write you a line.

My principal news is that I’m still here with no news of going. It occurs to me that the cadet course having been lengthened there should be a gap in home recruits which we may stay at home to fill for a few weeks. On the other hand orders have a way of descending from the blue and we may get ours at any moment, and incidentally a few days leave.

Did you read of the 47th at Bourlon Wood and the gallant fight put up by Capt. Stone & Lieut. Burgeery? The man next door to me was Capt. Stone’s CSM. I think he almost wishes he was with him, altho’ he would now be dead.

Well, I suppose we shall soon have another chance of doing real things, and none of us will be really sorry. Life here is frightfully destructive and only endurable by fighting for reforms. So far as I can see the main return a grateful country has obtained from me to date is the issue of overalls for mess orderlies.

We’re having pretty mixed weather. Thursday was glorious and I thoroughly enjoyed our route march – once away from the camp, the country is delicious.

I’ve had a letter from the red haired Australian (No. 6) and the cox; what’s happened to the rest, I don’t know.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/14-16)