Land for a memorial

The Vansittart Neales were planning to provide the site for the Bisham war memorial.

21 October 1918

Met Maisie about the bit of land for memorial….

Soldiers came in afternoon. 16. Usual entertainment – tea – billiards & cards, after seeing house. Felt much exhausted!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9)

Christmas gifts for our sailors and soldiers

Another Christmas loomed.

A meeting will be held in the Brownlow Hall, at 8 p.m., on Thursday, October 3rd, to arrange for the providing of Christmas gifts for our sailors and soldiers, for which object it is hoped that a Whist Drive will shortly be held.

Warfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, October 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/9)

‘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)

“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)

“I get no time for reading so it takes me a long time to get to sleep!”

Sydney Spencer’s unit practiced their technical skills behind the lines.

Wednesday 24 July 1918

Got up at 6.45. Route march from 7.15 to 8.30. Dillon went to see tanks so that Dawkins was in charge of company. Parade at 10 am. My platoon did a stunt with Dawkins on a strong point watching an attack. By coincidence I worked the oracle in exactly the way he did, rifle section working down at side of the field, bombing section at corner of a copse, L Gunners on left. Remainder of morning in squad drill.

After lunch spent a long afternoon playing patience, & censoring letters. Likewise after tea I did not do a great deal. Managed to get a letter to Florence after a struggle. Her article in Punch has not appeared. It is called “Or Both”. Went to bed fairly early tonight. These nights I get no time for reading so it takes me a long time to get to sleep!

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

‘D’you remember’

Sydney Spencer had a nostalgic evening with old comrades.

Tuesday 23 July 1918

We had an early parade this morning, consisting of a march which lasted till 8.50. Parades after that were of a more or less easy character, so leaving me a certain amount of time free for preparing a dinner for the CO this evening.

Most of my morning being free I went round trying to get all sorts of goodies, with varying success, at any rate when the CO & Adjutant came to dine at 8 pm we had a very nice dinner waiting for them. The CO was very tired & did not play cards, so we sat & talked. Principally, each subject started with ‘D’you remember’! Tapley stayed till quite late.

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

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)

“This lying by & doing nothing, just resting resting resting has been not only a bodily but a true mental rest, & I would almost have wished my fever had lasted a bit longer”

Sydney was beginning to feel a little better.

Sunday 23 June 1918

Had a rather broken night. 50 officers came in with PVO, which rather created a flutter, & also I had a lot of stupid dreams. In consequence thereof I woke up with a very thick headache and feeling generally a bit peevish but this wore off.

At 6 my temperature was taken again. 98 something or other. Doctor when he saw me said I could get up so I went down to the stores & rescued my kit. Felt more like fainting with weakness but got me up & felt a little stronger each moment although I felt ridiculously peevish & weary. Thus does illness play with one’s fancies.

Lunch downstairs. Didn’t like going down much. My dear old diary, truth to tell, this lying by & doing nothing, just resting resting resting has been not only a bodily but a true mental rest, & I would almost have wished my fever had lasted a bit longer.

Played a game or two at Patience. By the way my bed is No. 11 & I am in ward OI, Rouen.

End of 11th week.

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

“The men always say we move on a Sunday”

Sydney was on the move again.

Sunday 16 June 1918

And so, my dear diary, once more we make a move on a Sunday! The men always say we move on a Sunday, although I have not specially noticed it.

Got up at 6.45. Went to Holy Communion at ‘Gaspers’ entertainment barn at 7.30. Took church parade for Dillon. An old French peasant kicked up a row. My knowledge of French led me into the task of getting rid of him!

At 12 noon we knew nothing about moving. At 1.45 Dillon & I were playing double patience. At 2 pm we marched off for a camp between F-c-v-e & H-d-v-e. Arrived there at 4.30 pm. Men under ‘Arab’ bivouacs in a corn field at edge of trench system, ourselves, 4 of us in a tent near road. A rest & bed by 10 pm. EA [enemy aeroplanes] heard overhead but no shelling except of V-ns.

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

A new star

Always interested in the natural world, Sydney Spencer was excited by news of a newly discovered nova.

Sydney Spencer
Saturday 15 June 1918

I was orderly officer today & got up at 5.45, & saw the men’s breakfasts. Came back to mess, washed & dressed. After breakfast I wrote to some Scotch firm about shortbread. Looked round billets, then gathered up officers’ advance pay books & orders for pay for Battalion. Dillon let me have his horse ‘Charlie Chaplin’ & I rode to Acheux & got the money. A glorious morning. Saw Barker’s batman & sent message to him. Got back at 12.30. Dished money out.

After lunch took drummers up to range & picked up clips & ‘empties’. After tea wrote letters. After dinner a staff parade. Capt. Weave is back with Battalion. Dillon taught me double patience & we played a game, up till 11 pm. I used my new field glasses to try & find the new star in Aquila but I couldn’t find it.

End of 10th week [at the front].

Florence Vansittart Neale
15 June 1918

Expected 2 officers but they did not come.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer in France (D/EZ177/8/15); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

“We had a sort of bet as to whether I should scream or not. I didn’t so I won!”

Sydney’s soldiers were not keeping up to the standard he wanted. To make matters worse, he had toothache.

Sydney Spencer
Wednesday 29 May 1918

Got up at 7.45 am. After breakfast on parade at 9 am. Inspected platoon. It was dirty.

At 9.30 to platoon & tried to get them ready for company inspection. The Gods were against me. Sergeant Leigh was Battalion Orderly Sergeant, & Corporal Wise was company orderly sergeant. Net result, inspection, despite my immortal efforts to get the men clean, a ‘fiasco’. Let down by one man with a dirty bayonet.

After lunch sat & waited for orders to come through about fires. There arrived at 3.30 & we all proceeded to write them out. I live in tents, mark you, & I have to hang up orders reference woodwork (being stoves) being inspected if orders about asbestos floorings etc [sic]!

After tea I took the bull by the horns, in other words I visited the American MO & he tugged out my bad tooth. He had two tries & got it out. We had a sort of bet as to whether I should scream or not. I didn’t so I won!

Percy Spencer
29 May 1918

A lovely day. Our planes very active over Bosch lines. We move today. Played bridge with Major P[arish] as partner until relieved. We won, altho’ I didn’t call but once.

Florence Vansittart Neale
29 May 1918

News not very reassuring – but line not broken.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer (D/EZ177/8/15); Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67); and Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The Irish prisoners are to be treated exactly the same as the men already interned

There were instructions for the restrictions to be imposed on the new influx of Irish internees.

24 May 1918

A copy of telegrams received this afternoon from the Commissioners is attached.

My instructions from the Commissioners are that the Irish prisoners when they arrive are to be treated exactly the same as the men already interned here, with the exception that they are not allowed letters or visits.

Consequently they will – unless I receive further instructions – have following treatment:

Cells open 7.10 am to 7.45 pm – unlimited exercise between those hours except at meal times. Smoking – English newspapers (I propose to restrict all Irish ones as I did before – though I still have the list of those formerly approved) – Canteen – purchases from other shops of articles not prohibited by Food Controller – Furnish their cells with comforts &c – Cards – games.

C M Morgan
Gov

Transcription of telegrams received from the Commissioners 24.5.18

No. 1
Handed in at Parliament St
Allow Irish prisoners to smoke.
Commissioners

No. 2
Allow Irish prisoners to purchase unrationed articles of food.
Commissioners

24.5.18
[to] The Governor
Reading P of I

With reference to the recent instructions sent to you to receive certain “Irish” prisoners into your custody, please note that the dietary to be used for such persons will be the Local Prison one, but the prisoners may be permitted to purchase for their use unrationed articles.

A J Ward
Sec:

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

Slush, real Flanders slush everywhere

It was a gloomy day, but a more cheerful evening, for Sydney Spencer and his fellow officers.

Thursday 18 April 1918

Got up at 7.30. A miserable day, wet & slush, real Flanders slush everywhere. Parades up on the high ground at the range, not of the most cheerful with a biting wind & drizzle, but we got through alright. We had some gas stunts very like what we had in England, except that the Div officer had not the stuff I could use.

After lunch went down to billets & gave two lectures on gas to the company, & there was a kit inspection. After tea wrote a few cards & a letter to Florence. Also packed some spare kit to send home. Washed & changed & bad dinner.

The other chaps are now playing vingt et un, & I am going to be OC gramophone, & then to bed to read Tennyson.

8.45 pm. A fine moonlight night.

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

Handsome prizes

There was support for the wounded in Warfield.

On February 12th the Brownlow Working Men’s Club organised a Whist Drive in aid of the Warfield Branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild for our wounded Sailors and Soldiers. There was record attendance, the players numbering 186. Mrs Herbert Crailsham very kindly presented the handsome prizes.

Warfield section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, March 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/3)

Showing generals how to perform card tricks

Will Spencer was glad to hear how his soldier brothers and family friends from Cookham were getting on. One brother, Horace, was a professional conjurer in peacetime, a skill which entertained his superiors.

13 January 1918

Read a long letter which had come for me by the morning post from Mother, describing their quiet Christmas – none of the boys, & Natalie [wife of Harold Spencer] not able to come, through having an influenza cold. Percy had been with them on the 22nd, leaving on the 23rd. Notwithstanding that the plums Mother had obtained proved to be old ones, the puddings, of which she made two, had been pronounced to be a success. Percy had said they were the best of her making he had ever tasted. She wished I might have been there, & then also have had a piece. The second pudding was still intact, save for the piece cut out which Percy had….

Katie Poskett’s elder boy is in the army, & the younger called up. She finds it difficult to bear. That Percy had passed all his exams I had previously heard. Mother now writes that he is Second Lieutenant & down in Wiltshire. Horace, in France, has been showing generals how he performs his card tricks, & then talks of ‘his friend General — ’ to comrades who “can only boast of corporals’ friendships”.

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