“Sometimes it’s a piece of shell – next day it will be a piece of bone”

Percy was clearly feeling a little better, and was able to observe life in his ward with his customary wry humour.

Bed 8, Florence Ward
St Thomas Hosp[ital]
SE1

Sep 1, 1918

My dear WF

Since Thursday morning I’ve lived – my arm went to sleep and has remained so. This morning the muck from it was much diminished and I am actually beginning to sleep without drugs and to walk a few paces. Two nights ago I indulged in the luxury of a bath and was strong enough to balance on one leg when necessary. In a few days time I am to be operated upon again to get at odds and ends of bone not wanted again. Of course I’m no end pleased at the prospect.

The fellow opposite is a perfect [illegible – source?] of wealth. They get something fresh out of him every day. He affords the sisters all the excitement of a bran pie insamuch as all the things are different – sometimes it’s a piece of shell – next day it will be a piece of bone, followed by a chunk of glass or a cork. I’ve got a small wager that inside a week they’ll find a bottle of whiskey in him somewhere.

I’ve asked No 9 (of Oriel College Oxford) what a “stunt” is and he confirms my opinion that today it has reached the stage when it means anything one likes to make it. Still I look back to the day when it was only applied to an out of the ordinary military minor enterprise. Nowadays, tricks in the air are stunts – so are raids – so is a disagreeable field practice or a route march – or the attendance at a court martial – and to go to big things, I remember that huge affair the battle of Messines being described as a “splendid stunt”. So carry on – make it mean what you like & look confident about it, you’ll worry through all right. I’m quite sure that will not satisfy John’s accurate mind.

No. 17 IBD “L” depot Calais means the “L” depot of the 17th Infantry Base Depot situated at Calais. It also means that Sydney having got beyond the point on the lines of communication from which officers are sent to rejoin their Battalion, has been sent back to the base depot, from there to be sent back to his Battalion when required or elsewhere possibly. Alternatively, assuming he is not yet fit, it means either that he is being sent to his base depot to convalesce, or being considered worn out he is there is do a few months tour of duty. Now I feel sure you must know exactly what it means.

This morning was very lovely. After I had been bathed, I lay and watched the Mother of Parliaments shyly move away from the night, down to the water’s edge and then silently and soberly await the first kiss and warm embrace of her other love. (It’s quite all right, I had some medicine yesterday.)

Just there I had to suspend operations for lunch – cold beef salad & potatoes: plum pie & custard. Unfortunately I had to refuse second helpings. However, as I lay here in the sunshine I feel that comfortable replete feeling stealing over me and presently I shall stretch forth my hand for John’s cigar and dissolve in smoke.

With my dear love to you both

Yrs ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/85-88)

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“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

Wounded warriors

Soldiers recuperating in the Katesgrove area of Reading had a pleasant summer afternoon courtesy of worshippers at Christ Church.

Entertainment of wounded soldiers

On July 15th our branch of the CEMS had the great pleasure of entertaining some of the wounded soldiers from our Reading hospitals. Thanks to the kindness of the Vicar the event took place in the Vicarage garden, now looking at its best, and St Swithun proving kind, a most enjoyable time was spent by all concerned.

Thirty wounded warriors, convoyed by Messrs Bell & Eldridge from No 5 (Katesgrove) War Hospital, arrived with military punctuality at 2.30 and were soon enjoying themselves in various ways on the larger lawn. Some played bowls with the ladies and members, others competed in clock golf and lawn quoits, whilst those who did not feel equal to much exertion reclined in deck chairs and listened to the pleasant strains of a gramophone. Meanwhile the ladies’ committee prepared tea on the smaller lawn to which the men were summoned at 3.45. After tea a short whist drive, arranged by Mr J Risdale, was carried through and prizes given to the winning soldiers. Cigars, the gift of Mr W R Howell, were then handed round and we said good-bye to our guests.

Our thanks are due to Mrs Morris, Miss Breedon and Mr Pole Routh for the loan of games; to Mr Cripps for the loan of crockery; to the many ladies who so kindly gave cakes and lastly to Mrs W J Brown who so kindly and efficiently managed the tea.

Christ Church parish magazine, August 1916 (D/P170/28A/24)

Cigarettes and cakes for wounded soldiers

The people of Earley continued to support entertainment for wounded soldiers, complete with food and smoking sessions.

EARLEY WOUNDED SOLDIERS’ ENTERTAINMENT FUND

Since my report of 28th February, two more Entertainments have been given, and as they have been on similar lines, there is no need for me to occupy space regarding same, except to say that they are still very greatly appreciated by our guests. In justice to those who have so generously supported us by contributions in cash and kind, I append a list, made up to date, in continuation of that published in December last, except the Christmas Entertainment which was reported in the March Magazine. In the March Report on the position of the Fund it was subsequently found that payment had not been made, as agreed, for the use of the Hall, or for hire of conveyances; consequently it was necessary to issue a further appeal, which I am glad to report has met with a most generous response, and there will be no difficulty in continuing the Entertainments up to Easter. The Committee desire em to express their gratitude to all.

List of Donors
£ s d
Nov. 29th Cash received to date 32 4 11
Miss George 2 6
Mrs Lily 5 0
Mrs Jordan 5 0
Mr Heelas 1 0 0
Heelas, Ltd 5 0
Anon 2 6
Miss Montizambert 10 0
Mr and Miss Jordan, for prizes 1 6
Miss Maurice 10 0
Collected by Miss Eileen Joel 3 0 0
Mrs Lilly 1 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr A C Jordan 10 0
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Mr Jas Hissey 10 0
Mr Rogers 1 6
Mrs Lilly 2 6
Mrs Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0
Anon 2 6
Mrs Witherington 5 0
Mrs Marshall 5 0
Ms Jordan 2 6
Miss Jordan 2 0

The following since second appeal:

Mr Wooldridge 2 6
Miss Goodwin 5 0
Misses George 5 0
Mr F F Ellis 5 0
Miss Pither 5 0
Mr and Mrs Francis 5 0
Miss Schofield 1 1 0
Mr and Mrs Robb 10 0
Mrs Marshall 2 6
Mrs Evans 2 0 0
Mrs King 5 0
Mrs Lilly 4 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0

Collected by Miss Eileen Joel as follows:
Mr Watson 1 0 0
Miss Eileen Joel 6 0
Miss Carlsson 10 0
Mlle Weill 10 0
Master Stanhope Joel 5 0
Master Dudley Joel 5 0
Mr Collins 5 0
Miss Dellow 2 6
Miss Goodfellow 2 6
Stud Groom 3 0
Miss Lovegrove 2 6
Miss Eyles 2 0
3 13 6

Mr E Shaw 10 0
Capt. Wheble 2 0 0
Mr Rushbrooke 1 1 0
Mrs Witherington 5 0
The Misses Hannaford 10 0
The Misses Beauchamp 10 0
Mr and Mrs S O Bastow 5 0
Mrs and Miss Jordan 5 0
Mrs Wilkinson 2 6
Miss May 5 0
Anon 2 6
Rev. Canon and Mrs Fowler 1 0 0

Total to date 57 13 11

Loan of motors since last report: Mrs Joel, Mr Barnard, Mr Heelas, Mr Richard Lea, Mr Helps, Mr Bonnett, Mrs Dunlop.

GIFTS IN KIND

Mrs Honey, Mr B Francis, Mr Hedington, Mr Culham, Miss Dellow, Mrs Masser, Miss Carlsson, cigarettes; Mrs Robb, cigarettes and cake; Mlle Weill, prizes and cigars; Miss Lea, cakes; Mrs Bright, cakes; Mr A C Jordan, sweets; Mrs Ballard, cake, bread and butter; Mrs Porter, cakes; Miss Pither, apples; Mr Harris, bread; The Misses Hannaford, cakes, Mrs Friedlander, apples; Mrs Dracup, prizes; Miss Carlsson, sugar and tea; Miss Wain, prizes; Mr and Mrs Masser, oranges.

NB – The Hon. Secretary, Mr Love, 55 Wokingham Road, would be obliged by a note of intended gifts in kind at least one day before an Entertainment, so as to avoid ordering similar provisions. Next Entertainment, Wednesday, April 5th.

Chas J Howlett,
Hon Treasurer
27th March, 1916

Earley St Peter parish magazine, April 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/4)

A very merry tea for the soldier-lads

Those wounded soldiers well enough to move were invited for a day out from temporary war hospitals in east Reading.

On January 22nd another invitation was given to the inmates of Redlands Hospital, and extended to those of St. Luke’s Hospital. Unfortunately, many of the men were confined to bed, so our numbers were rather smaller than we had anticipated.

Games again proved a source of much pleasure, during which Mr. Mobbs, a true friend of “the soldier-lads,” gave much pleasure with his gramophone.

After a very merry tea of sandwiches, cakes, fruit, etc., an entertainment was provided by the “Birds of the Air” Concert party. This clever and novel performance, consisting of songs, dances, etc., was greatly appreciated by the men, and called forth tremendous applause. The performers were the Misses Morris, Mr. Streeter, and Mr. Walford Knowles. Mr. J.A. Brain, home on leave, also delighted the audience with his comic songs, as did Private Scott with his witty stories.

Cigars and cigarettes were generously provided, and before our guests left, one of their number thanked us for the very enjoyable afternoon and started his comrades’ volley of ringing cheers.

Trinity Congregational Church, Reading: church magazine, February 1916 (D/EX1237/1/11)

“By far the best entertainment our wounded heroes get in the district”

The parish of Earley St Peter made something of a speciality of entertaining wounded soldiers.

EARLEY “WOUNDED SOLDIERS” ENTERTAINMENT FUND

In continuation of my account dated 25th November last, I am glad to report that there seems to be no lack of interest shewn by our friends and helpers in this deserving cause, nor in appreciation of our efforts by those whom we have been privileged to entertain.

Fifty-five guests were entertained on the 1st inst. and 55 on the 15th, and it needs but little time to be spent amongst them to find out how pleased they are with the form of entertainment provided. Presents of fruit, flowers, smokes, sweets, cakes, &c, continue to be given, whilst additional games have been introduced; three especially good ones, “Fishing” and “Bombardo”, kindly introduced by Miss Joel, and Parlour Bagatelle by Mrs Helps, having proved a great attraction. The hat-trimming, hairdressing, bowling and other competitions continue in great favour, and the evergreen sketch, “Mixed Pickles”, by the Misses Hayward and E. Francis and Messrs Edwin and Maurice Love creates much amusement, in fact we now have the credit of providing by far the best entertainment our wounded heroes get in the district.

I regret the Editor cannot allow this report to stand over for the special event we hope to provide on Wednesday, the 29th instant. On that date we are arranging to give dinner to 60 at 12.45, followed by the usual amusements: and promises of joints, puddings, mince pies and other good things have already been provided, so that an excellent repast is certain, and the only difficulty we are likely to have to face will be the provision of motors. In regard to this branch of helpers we have had the assistance of Mr Friedlander, Mrs Joel (bus and car), Mr Ed. Heelas, Lieut. Usmar, Mr D. Helps, Mr Richard Lea, Mr O. Dixon, [and] Mr A. C. Jordan, and to them our grateful thanks are due.

It is impossible to write to all who may wish to contribute to this Fund, but our hon secretary, Mr Love, or myself, will be glad to receive any additional gifts at any time. Since my last report the following further gifts have been received. Our Lady Subscribers have been good enough to attend and give valuable help.

Chas. J Howlett, Hon. Treasurer
16 December, 1915

DONATIONS

Miss George (further donation) 2s.6d
Mrs Lily 5s
Mrs Jordan (further donation) 5s
Mr E. D. Heelas £1
Heelas, Sons & Co., Ltd 5s
Anon (further donation) 2s.6d
Miss Montizambert (further donation) 10s
Mr and Miss Jordan (donation, prizes) 1s.6d
Miss Maurice 10s

GIFTS IN KIND
Miss Eileen Joel, Cakes and Cigarettes
Mrs A. C. Jordan, Cakes
Mrs Friedlander, Fruit
Mrs Marshall, Cigarettes
Mrs Wooldridge, Flowers and Fruit
Miss Jordan, Prizes
Mrs Bright, Cakes
Mrs Masser, Cigarettes
Mr A. C. Jordan, Chocolates and Cigars
Lieut. Usmar, Cigarettes
Mrs Murton, Cigarettes
Miss L. Goodwin, Cakes
The Misses Beauchamp, Cakes
Miss Lea, Cakes

Earley St Peter parish magazine, January 1916 (D/P191/28A/23/1)

“In death, they were not divided”

The people of Ascot mourned the death of some of their sons who had lost their lives at the Front – including two brothers, a soldier and a sailor, killed on the same day. They also had a military hospital in the village, and contact with well-wishers in Japan (which was an ally of the British).

Roll of Honour
Oscar William Tottie R.I.P.
Eric Harold Tottie R.I.P.
Alfred Harry Tidbury R.I.P.
Bernhard Pratt-Barlow R.I.P.

A REQUIEM EUCHARIST for our Sailors and Soldiers is celebrated on Saturdays, in All Saints Church, at 8 a.m.

THOSE AT THE FRONT.

We have to add the following names to our List in the October Magazine.

NAVY – William Walter Paxford, Stephen John Waite, Egbert Arthur Tidbury.

ARMY – Sydney George Sumner, Charles John Walls, Ernest Monk, James Johnston, George Lappage, Ernest Oram, Harry Bonnard, Matthew O’Connor, Thomas John Minns, William Brown, Paul Meakin, John Henry Baker, Robert Waight Sensier.

LIEUTENANT ERIC TOTTIE, Northumberland Fusiliers, was wounded at the Front on Sunday, September 20th, and expired in the base Hospital on the 22nd, being the same day on which his brother Lieutenant Oscar Tottie lost his life on H.M.S. Aboukir. “In death they were not divided.” We can only repeat what we ventured to say last month in regard to the elder brother. We pray that GOD will comfort the father and mother of two noble lads. R.I.P.

A Memorial Service for the two young officers was held at All Saints Church on Tuesday, October 6th. It was largely attended.

“THE SUGGESTION” in last month’s Magazine has met with a most generous response, and a family of Belgian Refugees is happily installed at Easton Villa, Kennel Ride – resting after their sad flight on foot from Antwerp a short time ago. We know they will soon have many friends, for we feel sure that all who go to see them will want to go again. Anyone wishing to pay his or her subscription direct to Mrs. Elliot and “Sandridge” will find a box on her front door on Sundays, from 10.45 a.m. to 12 noon, and from 2.45 p.m. to 4 p.m. Envelopes to contain the subscriptions (on which the Donors names must be written) will be given on application to Mrs. Elliot – who is the Hon. Treasurer for all monies subscribed for the purpose.

THE ASCOT MILITARY HOSPITAL is, at the time that we write, full to overflowing with wounded and sick Soldiers. They seem happy in their quarters; and in many cases, what with Ascot air and good treatment, their convalescence has been rapid. Already several patients have sufficiently recovered to be dismissed.
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