Art in an internment camp

Albert Cusden, one of four Reading brothers in a civilian internment camp in Germany, wrote home enclosing some pictures of the camp. Albert was a talented amateur artist, and many of his sketches from Ruhleben can be seen at Berkshire Record Office. The camp was famous in later days for the educational efforts run by the internees themselves, many of whom were teachers and academics. Please forgive the non-PC description of an internee from the Caribbean.

Oct 13th 1917
My dear Parents

As mentioned on my card last week, Dick sent off a photo addressed to you, and I sent off five drawings, so they should have arrived by now. Early this week Dick sent off a second photo. There was a special one signed by the group… The ink sketch I sent was of the chemical lab[oratory in] the Camp School. Then there were two charcoal sketches, one a landscape scene and the other a head study. And two pencil head studies, one of a fellow dressed for a part in a play and the other of a darkie. This young darkie, who is from the West Indies, is himself an amateur artist, and has worked at sketching, painting etc quite diligently since he has been here. We have acted as models for one another….

The Savoy Association has been sending clothes parcels to men on their list. Arch & I have just received ours. They are very nice parcels and include a thick overcoat. We shall all four be well provided for in this respect this winter, so don’t worry. If you could send on a couple of reels of black cotton or thread we should be glad, as we cannot obtain this here now. Also just a little tape. Don’t send much. Thanks in advance…

We are keeping well in all kinds of weather…

With love to all,

Your affectionate son,
Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden in Ruhleben to Mr & Mrs Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/7)

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A great blessing to the hospitals

The work of women and children in Cookham Dean was gratefully received.

Cookham Dean War Working Party.

The Vicar has been asked to make the following known, through the Magazine:

From June 6th to Ocober 25th the undermentioned work has been sent out:

(A) To the Surgical Emergency Dressing Society at Maidenhead, 571 ‘T’ bandages, 14 flannel bed jackets, four nightingales, eight flannel shirts, 10 pairs of socks, 13 mufflers, 14 pairs of mittens, four helmets, 244 capelines;

(B) To Lady Smith-Dorrien, 68 hospital bags. The total number of articles being 950.

Mrs. Hunt and Miss Hawkes desire to thank all workers who have so kindly contributed to the result; those who have attended the working party; those who have done work in their own home; and last, but not least, the children in the mixed school who have given up their playtime, and who have helped on the work so willingly…

The following letter has been received from Miss R. Bulkeley:

Redcroft, Maidenhead, October 11th, 1917.

Dear Mrs Hunt, Miss Hawkes has sent me from your War Working Party such splendid hospital and other comforts, and I do not know how to thank you all enough. They are so beautifully made, and will be a great blessing to the Hospitals and Units to which they are sent.

In answer to their appeal yout ‘T’ bandages and capelines go regularly on the 6th of every month to No.2 New Zealand General Hospital, and they say they are just what they like.

Many, many thanks again for all your generous help.

Yours sincerely, Ruby Bulkeley.

Cookham Dean parish magazine nov 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Drawing on the nation’s too limited wool supply

By this point in the war 10 Berkshire policemen who were serving at the Front had been killed. Closer to home, demand for army uniforms was monopolising the nation’s wool supply. Most men’s outdoor clothing was based on woven woollen cloth, which was warm and waterproof.

6 October 1917
Clothing for 1918

The Acting Chief Constable has received the following letter from Messrs Titley, Son & Price, whose tender for the supply of clothing for the year 1918 has been accepted.

19, Cheap Street, Bath
13th Sept. 1917

Dear Sir

When we tendered for 1918 overcoats, something serviceable at old prices, we anticipated some difficulty but this has been increased by the few men, on the two lists we have received, who are doing without them. We calculated that we might obtain sufficient material to supply about half your force; and in the state of the wool market, which as you know is practically commandeered for military requirements, we do not see how we can fill more than that. We have plenty of blue to enable us to offer Capes, Serges, or Trousers in lieu, without drawing on the nation’s too limited wool supply. Could you kindly, at the next pay day, help us by causing to be discovered if there are not a large number of men with overcoats sufficiently new to enable the exchange to be made.

Yours obediently in all commands
Titley, Son & Price.

The Committee recommend that the Acting Chief Constable be empowered in all cases where the Superintendents report that the great coats now in the possession of the men are serviceable and likely to last until the next issue in 1920, to issue capes, serges or trousers in lieu thereof, or to grant, as compensation, £1.1s.0d on the understanding that in the event of a man’s coat not lasting until the issue in 1920, he shall repay an amount in proportion to the period unexpired.

Constables killed in action

I regret to report the death on active service of the following Police Constables, viz PC 111 Raymond E. Offer, PC 119 Charles Warman, PC 213 Arthur Frank Wheatcroft and PC 82 George William Bennett.

PC 111 Offer died on 20 July 1917 from wounds received in action, and PCs 119 Warman, 213 Wheatcroft and 82 Bennett were killed in action on 1 August, 16 August and 8 September respectively.

All four were unmarried, and so far as I am aware had no one dependent on them for support. Bennett joined the force on 1st January 1907.

This makes 10 Constables who have lost their lives during the war.

PCs 80 Pill and 41 Vile have rejoined the Force, the former on 1 September and the latter on 24 September.

Berkshire County Council and Quarter Sessions: Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

“I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses”

Civilians in wartorn northern France and Belgium suffered terribly due to the war.

Movement in Reading in aid of the Relief of Sufferers by the War in France and Belgium.

Friends at Trinity will no doubt be interested to know that a movement in the above direction has been initiated by the Reading Broad Street Brotherhood. The objective is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns and in the colonies, and in continuation of efforts already made which have abundantly testified to the Christian sympathy which exists towards those who have suffered so acutely through no fault of their own. A relief fund of £20,000 is contemplated, a very large part of which has already been subscribed by Canadians, by London and other cities, towards which also many small towns have contributed nobly and generously.

It is supposed that the good lead of Basingstoke with its generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, &C., Reading will not wish to be excluded from taking part.

It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind, as in some of the large townships in France (Lille in particular, which is the Manchester of France), the civil population – men, women and children – are in rags, not having had any opportunity of purchasing clothing and boots for 2.5 years (since the German occupation).

Clothing (cast-off and new) will therefore prove most acceptable, also boots.

Those who have seen tell us that the homes of the people in the country towns and villages are ruined-walls broken and roofs fallen. A witness on the spot says:

“In a large town it was my orders to report how many houses were fit for billeting British soldiers, and after visiting with a comrade every house in the place (about the size of Reading) there was not a single house with an unbroken roof, and I could not say there was accommodation enough for a pig (much less a man) anywhere except in the cellars of ruined houses such as I and my comrades occupied.”

Wood houses are already being prepared in sections in this country to be despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens-facilities having been promised for this purpose as soon as possible by our own Government. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men within a day of arrival, and it cost would be about £40. Seed for gardens, food, flour, blankets, &c will also be despatched.

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to the national Brotherhood Offices, 37, Norfolk Street, London, W.C., when they will be supplied with a pamphlet entitled “The Story of Lille, and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement,” and which describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 A.D. and the practical relief already given.

Locally, every Church, adult School, and Christian Society in Reading will later on be invited to join hands with the Relief Committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, the secretary being Mr. A. Woolley, 85, Oxford Street, Reading.

Further information may also be obtained from J. Harper, “Chelmarsh,” 42, Crown Street, Reading.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1917 (D/EX1237/1)

Dandelions and devastation

Members of the Broad Street Brotherhood, the men’s group at Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading were supporting the war effort in whatever ways they could; and also helping civilians in the devastated occupied regions. Regional rivalry came into play, with the men not wanting to show up poorly in comparison with Basingstoke.

BROTHERHOOD NOTES

Some of our members have intimated a desire to start a War Savings Association in connection with our Brotherhood, similar to what is being done at other Brotherhoods and churches up and down the country.

The matter has been carefully considered by a small sub-committee, and it is felt that it is hardly necessary to open a fresh savings department, but any member can purchase these War Savings Certificates through our already existing Savings Bank.

We most strongly recommend these war savings certificates to the earnest attention of every member as not only are they financially sound, but each one purchased is directly helping our country to victory.

Brother Hendey will be pleased to give particulars and carry through any transaction.

We take this opportunity of thanking many of our brothers who have during the past months loyally and painstakingly worked to keep the allotments in order for the brothers who are at the Front.

This has been a fine example of practical brotherhood work.

It is our sad duty to have to record the death of our Brother Frank Ward, who made the supreme sacrifice for us in France just recently.

He is the fourth member of our Brotherhood who has given his life for his country.

BROTHERHOOD CONTINENTAL RELIEF

Our constituency will no doubt be interested in the movement in Reading in aid of sufferers by the war in France and Belgium, which has been initiated by the Broad Street Brotherhood.

Their object is to supplement the efforts now being made in other towns, and in the colonies (and in continuation of efforts previously made) to express the Christian sympathy which exists towards those victims who, although innocent, have suffered acutely through the war. The National Brotherhood Council are aiming at a contemplated relief fund of £20, 000, a very large part of which has already been subscribed. The Brotherhoods of Canada have sent large sums, as well as London and the great centres of industrial life in England. It is believed that Reading will not want to take second position to Basingstoke, where the generous promise of £100 in cash, besides clothing, books, etc, has been made. It is proposed to collect both in cash and kind.

In several of the large townships of Northern France and Belgium the civil population is in rags. For instance Lille (the Manchester of France), having been in the occupation of Germany for 2 ½ years, has had no chance whatever of providing her people with clothing, even if they had the means to purchase. Clothing, boots (cast off or new), seeds, blankets, or anything of portable, useful and lasting character will be acceptable, and later on fruit trees.

A witness on the spot (Near the Somme) says “the fruit trees, large and small, are ruined; but little remains of pleasing appearance except dandelions, and they cover desolation almost everywhere.” A large town (about the size of Reading) had not a roof left whole upon any one building. In a report given to headquarters he said there was no accommodation for men whatsoever (not even for a pig) except in the cellars of ruined houses, such as he then lived (slept) in personally.

The country people, who crowded into the towns, had to hurriedly vacate their homes which were in the path of the then advancing enemy, and could only carry what they stood upright in. They have had no chance, many of them, since to return; and if they had done so they would have found (as some did) that not a tree in the garden, not a vestige of furniture or other property, and a ruin of the actual building. The writer of the foregoing testimony says that for 9 weeks he never saw a civilian (man, woman or child) although frequently on the move, and for long distances.

Wood houses are being prepared in sections in this country for the purpose of being despatched to Northern France and Belgium directly the way opens, and facilities for this purpose have been promised by the governments of Great Britain and France as soon as possible. A wood house thus prepared can be erected by a few men, within a day, upon arrival at its destination, and its total cost would be about £40. Who will buy one for “La belle France”?

Interested readers can secure further information by sending two penny stamps to The National Brotherhood Offices, 37 Norfolk Street, London WC2, when they should ask for a pamphlet entitled “The story of Lille and its associations with the Brotherhood Movement”. This pamphlet describes the Brotherhood Crusade of 1909 AD and the practical relief already given. Locally, every church, adult school and Christian Society in Reading will be asked later on to join hands with the relief committee connected with Broad Street Men’s Brotherhood, whose secretary, Mr WA Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, Reading, is associated with Bros Mitchell, Hendey and Harper in this great work.

Broad Street Congregational Church magazine, September 1917 (D/N11/12/1/14)

A badge for those who sign a paper undertaking to continue their work until the end of the war

Winkfield women were recognised fror their hard work.

On Friday, 31st August, Lady Haversham motored over from South Hill Park and very kindly presented a badge to each of the members of Mrs. Harrison’s working party at Newington House. There were 20 claimants for the badge which is given by the War Office to those who have worked continuously for 3 months or more and who sign a paper undertaking to continue their work til the end of the war.
The number of garments made and sent to the depot at South Hill Park since April, when Mrs. Harrison undertook the working party is upwards of 260, and includes socks (80 pairs), shirts and bed jackets, &c.

It will be remembered that at the sale held at Newington House in June the sum of £46 was realised, all of which is being spent on buying materials that go to make up the garments. The working party is affiliated to the Berkshire Association Voluntary Organisation of Workers.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, October 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/10)

“All right, now mind all you – will attend the next – parade”

Back in the UK as he undertook officer training, Percy Spencer was amused by a sergeant particularly keen on ensuring religious observance.

July 29, 1917
My dear WF

Sunday, and if there could have been any doubt about it, this was settled by the burly orderly sergeant who appeared in our hut at 9.50 am and in stentorian tones demanded all Nonconformists on parade. Nobody moving, he added. “All right, now mind all of you – will attend the next – parade, C of E. Doesn’t matter a – what you are. Understand?” and I’ve no doubt he sings hymns beautifully.

There are strong rumours that we should be away from here by Friday next at latest. But I have nothing definite to go upon.

If I get 3 or 4 days I shall run up to London and get my kit together. Here I have nothing but army clothes. At the cadet school I shall want quite a lot of civilian things I have.

I am writing on the front at Abergele, a very quiet little place, charmingly situated north of St Ormes Head. On Tuesdays we come here to bathe – a great privilege but rather spoilt by the march here which the officer who takes us tries to do at 150 paces a minute, a frightful step.

I’ve heard from Will this week. He seems very well and still deep in the heights of mountains and size of lakes.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/58-61)

Voluntary workers get badges

Ladies from Crazies Hill were honoured for their hard work sewing and knitting for the wounded.

Crazies Hill Notes

With reference to the Working Party, Miss Rhodes has kindly forwarded the following:-

The Director General of Voluntary Organizations has issued Voluntary Workers’ Badges to the following members of the Crazies Hill Working Party who are entitled to a Badge, under the rules of the Association:-

Mrs. French Miss Kate Willis
Mrs. Whiting Miss Fleming
Mrs. Light Miss A. Fleming
Mrs. Waldron Mrs. Barfoot
Mrs. Habbits Mrs. Norris
Mrs. Stephens Miss Goodall
Mrs. King Mrs. Huckle
Miss Rose Mrs. Rhodes
Miss Mary Rose Miss Rhodes
Miss Beck

A letter received from the Secretary of the Hon. Lady Monro’s Hospital Depot says:

“Will you congratulate your workers for the splendid way in which they have worked and for the quality and quantity of their work and that we shall expect and hope for their help next winter. The following is a list of the things made:-

Pyjamas 132
Slippers 28
Mufflers 24
Slings 18
Socks 7 pairs
Mittens 13 pairs
Bed Socks 3 pairs
Helmets 112
Swabs 11
Bed Jackets 11
Treasure Bags 30

Sent to Bartholomews Hospital:-
4 Bed Jackets
13 Bed Gowns.”

Wargrave parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

“Nowadays there is not much time for letter writing”

Reading women made clothes and bandages for wounded soldiers, while both ladies and gentlemen contributed to the cost of materials.

CARE AND COMFORTS WORKING PARTY

We acknowledge with many thanks the following donations: Miss Hewitt, 2s 6d; Mrs Morley, 5s; Mr Howard Allsop, 10s; Mr W R Cook, 10s; Mr H Pretty, £4 6s 3d (being one penny for each day of the war). The garments sent during the month are: 9 white shirts, 4 helpless shirts, 21 bags, 4 pairs slippers, 4 longtailed bandages, 28 face cloths. Total with those already acknowledged, 2.364.

Funds were getting very low, so a few letters were written to some of the gentlemen of our congregation who cannot be expected to sew themselves, inviting them to help us, but nowadays there is not much time for letter writing, so will some more of our men folk be so kind as to send us contributions. They may rest assured that the work is well done and much appreciated.

Reading St. John parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P172/28A/24)

Police uniforms will have to be lower quality

The war continued to have an impact on the local police service.

7 July 1917

On 8 May last the Acting Chief Constable was informed by the Home Office that the War Cabinet had decided that further members of Police Forces should be released for military service; and that the minimum number to be supplied by Berkshire was 20. he accordingly released that number of the youngest Constables on 1 June, as follows:

PC 44, James H. Benson Married
PC 193, Wilfred Thomas Ditto
PC 192, Henry J. Boshier Ditto
PC 59, James Strange Ditto
PC 29, Charles J. Simmonds Single
PC 187, Harry Hankins Married
PC 180, George W. G. Plumb Ditto
PC 152, Bertie W. Smith Ditto
PC 4, Charles W. Green Ditto
PC 220, Bertram G. Sherwood Ditto
PC 207, Albert J. Harvey Ditto
PC 160, Allan Miles Single
PC 76, Kenneth Chapman Married
PC 157, James A. Butler Ditto
PC 191, Ernest Culley Ditto
PC 67, Ernest West Ditto
PC 53, Francis G. E. Bailey Single
PC 118, Frederick Bailey Ditto
PC 8, Charles V. Foster Married
PC 121, Thomas H. Fletcher Ditto

In accordance with the Committee’s decision on 5 July, 1915, the allowance to the wives of married Constables during the latter’s absence on military service will be the amount the Constables were receiving from Police Funds for pay and war bonus – less the amount received from Army Funds … and the wives will be allowed to remain in their houses on payment of half the usual deduction for house rent.

As regards the single Constables, PC 29 Simmonds alone has been contributing regularly, 6/- per week to the support of his relatives, and the Sub-committee recommend that an allowance of 6d per day be granted in this case.

No further First Police Reservists have been called up for active Police duty, and endeavours will be made to manage with the assistance of the Special Constables whenever practicable.

Three of the Constables who have now joined the Army formed part of the number furnished under agreement to Newbury Borough, and have not yet been replaced pending the reconsideration of the agreement.

Clothing and Helmets for 1918

A tender was obtained from Messrs Titley, Son & Price for the supply of Police clothing for 1918, but the prices being so much in excess of the previous contract, they were communicated with, with a view to the prices being reduced; and they subsequently offered to supply the clothing at the same prices as in 1917, but stipulated that, while the material would be serviceable, it would be of a lower quality. The overcoats, capes and undress trousers would be of the same weight and appearance as, but would not be, all wool. At the same time they strongly recommended the retention of the Sergeants’ and Constables’ winter trouser material at the price quoted, viz £1.1s.0d, instead of 16s 0d as last year. It is recommended that this offer be accepted.

The garments required for the 1918 issue will be Great Coats, Serges, Dress Trousers, Undress Trousers, and Summer Helmets.

Messrs Christy & Co are at present unable to tender for the Caps and Helmets, owing to the Government having commandeered their stock and, as the Committee understand other firms are in like position, it is recommended that tenders be not invited this year.

Adopted.

Class “B” First Police Reserve

The position and pay of Class “B” men on the First Police Reserve – some of whom have been on duty since the beginning of the war – have been brought to the notice of the Sub-committee. In view of the present high prices of food, etc, the Sub-committee recommend that their rate of pay be increased from 5/- to 5/6 per day as from 1 April, 1917…

Carried: That Class “B” First Police Reserve be granted a bonus of 3/6 per week as from 1 April, 19817, instead of the increased rate of pay as recommended by the Finance Sub-committee.

Standing Joint Committee minutes (C/CL/C2/1/5)

Regular orders for definite hospitals

The Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society was now run on more organised lines.

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society

Since April 25th, 1915 to January 9th, 1917, the Surgical Dressings Emergency Society has sent out from Wargrave Station – to Casualty Clearing Stations, Hospitals in France, in Gallipolli, Mesopotamia and Salonica,

344,866 Dressings
8,447 Comforts such as Shirts, Pyjamas, Shoes, Bed Jackets, Mufflers etc.

The Society is now working under the Director General of Voluntary Organizations (War Office) and he has somewhat changed the system of working.

We have now regular monthly orders for definite hospitals; a certain number of Dressings and Comforts to provide –

Dressing Gowns, Slippers, Bed Jackets, Handkerchiefs, Towels, and Socks are needed next month – besides the Dressings.

Wargrave parish magazine, June 1917 (D/P145/28A/31)

Furze Platt has no lack of War Workers

The women of Furze Platt were hard at work.

Furze Platt War Working Party

The following work has been completed during the last six months:- Mosquito Nets 59, Anti-Vermin Vests 44, Sun Shields 85, Bandages 46, Shirts 21, Bags 133, Bed Socks 80 pairs, Slippers 21 pairs, Nightingales 18, Bed jackets 41, Swabs 300, Mufflers 35, Mittens 61, Socks 7 pairs, Helmet 1.

The subscriptions have fallen by about 15/- a month, as against the amount subscribed at this time last year, and the cost of wool and material has greatly risen. Thanks to having some material in stock at the end of last year, the Working Party has been able to furnish almost the same amount of goods for hospitals and troops at the front; but I should like to call people’s attention to the position of affairs, and to beg them, as far as is in their power, to keep up their subscriptions.

The fact that so much work has been done shows that Furze Platt has no lack of War Workers, and we may be proud of the fact that no work has been returned to us by the Depot as incorrectly done.

G.M. Skrine, Hon. Sec. and Treasurer

June 26th 1917

Furze Platt War Working Party

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, July 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

A wonderful escape from death

Several Winkfield men had suffered severe wounds.

OUR MEN WHO ARE SERVING.

Lieut. George Ferard has been severely wounded; he had a wonderful escape from death, for not only has he bullets in both thighs, and was shot through the arm, but he also had 5 bullets through his clothes and his revolver smashed by another. He is now in Hospital in England, and we rejoice to learn that he is doing well.

Lance-Corporal Wallace Nickless has been invalided out of the Army, for the wound in his left hand has rendered it useless for military service. Private Alfred Thurmer has also received his discharge through ill health, and we trust that both will find suitable and useful work.

Winkfeld section of Winkfield District Magazine, May 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/5)

Fallen on the field of war

Warfield’s women had contributed large amounts of clothing and bandages for wounded soldiers, while two more of the parish’s men had lost their lives.

Since our last issue we have to record the deaths of Major Alexander Wood and Walter Parsons who have fallen on the field of war. We desire to express our sincere sympathy with their respective widows and families.

It will be of some interest to the parish to hear some account of the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild in Warfield. Since its institution, in 1914 no less than 430 articles (including vests, sandbags, housewifes, treasure-bags, bed-jackets, gloves, pillows, hot water bottle-covers, shirts, operation stockings, sun shields, surgeon’s coats, slippers, jug-covers, quilts and pyjamas) have been sent to Head-Quarters; also 79 pairs of mittens to Colonel Burgess, and 407 bandages with 156 face-swabs to the Mayoress of Reading for the War Hospitals of that town.

Warfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, May 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/5)

“No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”

Percy Spencer wrote to Florence asking for some
Lysol petroleum jelly, an antiseptic. He had recently attended a dinner with old comrades, which had both tragic and comic elements.

May 3, 1917
My dear WF

This is just a few scrambled lines, mostly to ask for things.

I should very much like a tube of Lysall [Lysol] petroleum jelly, or a small bottle of Lysall and some phospherine tablets.

Also some ink to fit my box.

If I have any merino underwear or any shirts, I should like them please!

I’m sorry I can’t think of anything more to ask just now!

Well, I saw the Big Brass Hat yesterday and he said “H’m yes” 3 times, so I expect I’m in for something pretty bad – probably a month’s training in the trenches – or “something worth boiling out in it”.

We had a first rate dinner the night before last – the surviving officers & sergeants of my old Battalion, numbered just 18, 15 of whom were present. It was a right good evening, tho’ it had its tragic side.

By the way I am the only original member of the staff left: also I am the only remaining Staff Clerk in the Division who came out with us. The only original Quartermaster in the Division (of my old Battalion) was at the dinner. In fact so many of us were the only remaining something or other, we felt quite lonely.

Well, dear girl, I’m sending you the souvenir of that event. “Pat” enlisted as a private tho’ in private life he is Paterson of the Home Office – head of the Prisons of England – a fine man with a grand head. Dear old RSM Fisler’s speech was too funny. Private Pat, Corporal Pat, Sergeant Pat & 2nd Lt Pat of No. 4 Platoon was the well beloved of this Battalion of rough lads, and the fine old RSM ran himself high & dry on the rock of affection for the battalion idol: “that’s about all I’ve got to say, I think, sir”, he concluded lamely after a long pause.

The Sergeant Cook was pressed to sing – everyone knew he wanted to sing, and what he wanted to sing, and what he would sing – still he announced as he reluctantly rose to his feet, it would be a sad song. Nobody said, “We know; it’s going to be “Speak not ‘er nime”, tho’ everyone knew that “Speak not ‘er nime” it would be notwithstanding the cheering effect of a [bumper?] of port & Kummel shandy the worthy fellow had mixed for himself under the impression the harmless looking liquor was a sort of Perrier.

And so the evening passed. We talked of the St Albans days & the early days out here, of this good fellow and that, of a stout hearted Sergeant who wouldn’t be put off his game by enemy shelling before the battle of Loos – “What’s that?” exclaimed a jumpy platoon sergeant as a crump landed near. “Spades trumps” replied the other, and as the next one landed even nearer, “Clubs laid, your turn to play.”

But always we got back to Pat – to the early days out here, when as a Lance Corporal he “borrowed” the transport officer’s mount and a local landau & drove his “boys” out, only to run into the Divisional General. Of the Divisional General’s wrath & enquiry as to disciplinary action taken, & the CO’s reply – “This NCO has been promoted to Corporal”.

And I reminded him of the day when talking to the RSM he passed by en route for the guard room, there to comfort one of his platoon with all the food & illegal things he could buy.

Oh, the discipline of No 4 was awful, but they’d follow Pat anywhere.
Pat had to go away for a long time – upon returning he asked how things were with No. 4. “Oh, they’ve gone downhill fast, sir, since you left”. “No better discipline or anything of that sort, I hope”, Pat enquired anxiously. “Oh no” replied his informant in a horrified tone.

And now this same Pat is our Divisional Lecturer on “Discipline”.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/33-35)