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)

An inspiration to future generations

The needlewomen of Reading St John continued to beaver away, while ex-vicar T. Guy Rogers was regarded as an inspiration.

CARE & COMFORTS

The following articles have been sent by the Working Party:

9 helpless shirts, 41 pillow cases, 24 locker cloths, 12 bags, 1 shirt, 3 bandages, and 3 pairs of slippers; also 3 invalid caps given by Miss Bowyer and mittens from Miss Martin. Total with those already acknowledged, 2037. Miss Bell has kindly given one dozen yards of flannelette to the Working Party.

REV. T. GUY ROGERS.

An excellent portrait of the Rev. T. Guy Rogers in his Army Chaplain’s uniform has by his kindness been presented to the Church, and now hangs with the portraits of other Vicars of the parish in S. John’s vestry.

It is, and ought always to be, an inspiration to the parish to remember those who have ministered here, and the portrait of Mr. Rogers will speak to the present generation, and we hope also to succeeding generations, of one who for six years had charge of the parish and won distinction as an Army Chaplain in the Great War.

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

Truly Mortimer has done well, and the workers have earned the handsome official War Worker badge

The Stratfield Mortimer women were particularly industrious, producing almost three times as many bandages and clothing for the troops as every other village in Bradfield Poor Law Union combined!

The War-Working Party

Some account of this important piece of the parish’s activity has been long overdue. Workers have been numerous and diligent, much being done at home in addition to what is accomplished at the meetings. Mrs. Alfred Palmer, as organiser, has been indefatigable; and the tedious work of much cutting out has been in the capable hands of Mrs. Thatcher, Mrs. Charles Thorp, and Miss Illman.

The grand total of articles made from Dec. 1915 to Mar. 1917 is as follows:- Shirts, 109; bed-jackets, 188; mufflers, 117; Helmets, 46; pairs of socks, 146; pairs of bed socks, 42; pairs of mittens, 281; bandages of various sorts, 785; total 1,714.

This noble total gains its real significance when it is added that the number of articles made in all the villages in the Bradfield Union during the first 12 months was only 6,459. Truly Mortimer has done well, and the workers have earned the handsome official W.W. badge which has been granted to many of them.

And now about funds. More than £50 has been received and spent up to last Xmas. Some £30 or £40 more is needed, and quickly too: material, and especially the flannel material, which is a necessity, is now so dear. Are there any who are unable to come and work, who can yet give – to the encouragement of the actual workers? Gifts, large or small, would be welcomed by Mrs. Roalfe Cox who is Hon. Treasurer. The committee is about to discuss methods of getting more money, as unless this can be speedily provided it may be necessary to cease even giving out work after the end of this month.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P120/28A/14)

A shortage of starch

The Sisterhood of St John Baptist had to amend its habit due to shortages.

26 March 1917

Notice from Mother that owing to the difficulty in obtaining starch, we should discontinue wearing cuffs for the present as a war measure.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A most unsoldierly appearance

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence to gently discourage her frequent food gifts, as he felt guilty accepting them when he knew food was in short supply in England.

Mar. 6, 1917
My dear WF

Yes, I got the socks & very good & welcome they are.

I’ve just read a very interesting document on “Delousing”.
Camphor and Naphthalene are or is recommended. Can you in some odd corner of your time help me in the greatest problem of this part of the world next to shell dodging!

I loved your last letter: as I think I have told you already, my greatest regret is that I can’t preserve your letters. I keep ‘em till my pockets present a most unsoldierly appearance & then they have to go west. Why “west” by the way?

Garwood wishes me to thank you for the “rum” you sent him. It makes a splendid drink.

The food question seems to be acute, and I feel that we are probably living better here than the masses are at home. Of course I love your parcels, but don’t you think, dear, that the time has come when they should be suspended, or made more occasional, and the cake cut out altogether. Please don’t be hurt, we thoroughly appreciate your dear gifts, but personally I almost have a guilty conscience in enjoying them.

I have been so busy I am sorry there is no time for more just now but to send you both my dearest love and to hope you’re both as fit as I am.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/24)

Fine clothes for wounded officers

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society had been very productive, sending masses of bandages, clothing and bedding for the uses of the wounded. Note the class-related distinctions, with officers given better quality items.

Wargrave Surgical Dressings Emergency Society
Feb 22nd, 1917.

Fifteen Bales have left the Wargrave workrooms since January 5th, 1917, in answer to the requisitions of the Director General of Voluntary Organisations.

Six Bales have gone direct for the use of the troops at the Front containing:
564 pairs of Knitted Mittens
277 Knitted Mufflers
148 Knitted Helmets
226 pairs of Socks (heavy hand-knitted)
12 heavy long sleeved Cardigans
12 pair of knitted Gloves
5 dozen pieces of Soap.
And oddments of knitted Comforts.

These all went addressed to the A.M.F.O., Le Havre, France, for immediate distribution.

The other Nine Bales contained:

228 Pneumonia Jackets
308 treasure Bags
156 Long heavy operation Stockings
58 pairs of fine pyjamas for Officers
16 fine Flannel Shirts for Officers
156 Surgical Boots and Slippers
13 Pillows
24 Pillow Cases
36 Handkerchiefs
108 Knitted Washcloths
6 double-lined fine twill Flannel Dressing Gowns for Officers
8 fine flannel dressing jackets for Officers
6 pairs of soft grey flannel ward suits for Officers

Hospitals sent to:

C.O 11 General Hospital, B.E.F., France
Sister-in-Charge, 8 Ambulance Train, B.E.F., France
Military Orthopaedic Hospital, Duncane Road, Shepherd’s Bush
The Stewart Norfolk War Hospital for Officers, Thorpe, Norwich
The Matron 17 Park Lane, London (for Officers)
The Highland Casualty Clearing Station, B.E.F., France
Military Hospital, Park Hall Camp, Owestry (Urgent).

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

“Only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully”

A man educated at Reading School reveals the horrors of being a prisoner of the Germans.

THE UNSPEAKABLE HUN.
A True Story.

It was Thursday morning, February 16th of last year [1917], and intensely cold, the thermometer registering 10 degrees below Zero. At 9 a German soldier came to tell me that I was wanted at the camp hospital. I was there met by the British doctor, Capt. Frank Park, C.A.M.C., who told me that their ere sixteen British Prisoners had just newly arrived from the station seven Kilometres away. With him I went into ward 2, and there saw 16 specimens of humanity. That is all you could call them, 16 frozen, hollow cheeked wrecks, the remnants of hundreds and hundreds of once strong, healthy men, who had been taken prisoners and kept to work behind the lines. Their comrades were dead.

Now these men were captured in September, October and November, 1916, and kept to work close to the front, working in preparation of the big German retreat then planned to take place in February and March, 1917. Their work was demolishing houses, bridges, felling trees, making roads and digging trenches, those called the Hindenburg line. This line and others were built by prisoners of war. We praised German engineering skill and paid silent tribute to the endurance and work of German working parties, but the work of prisoners, Russians and Rumanians in thousands and tens of thousands, and of British. They worked under appalling conditions, brutal treatment, blows, kicks, death if they refused, with housing and quarters not fit for pigs and food not enough to keep even body and soul together. What did it matter if they died, there were plenty more where they came from? Germany numbered her prisoners by millions. Prisoners they were, not prisoners of war; slaves, yea, worse than slaves.

These details these poor wretches told us with tears in their eyes when they spoke of some dear friend and pal who died beside them at his work, died of exposure, starvation, or our own shell fire. They told us of the clothes they had to wear. There was no need to tell, we saw it ourselves when we undressed them. Here is the list, and think of the temperature and cold as you read it:

Thin service tunic and trousers, old cotton shirt, socks and boots, and old cap. That was all, no warm under clothing, no great coat. All these the Boche had stolen under the plea they needed to be fumigated. But they were never returned.

And what did the outside world know of this or care? It may have cared, it must have cared, but it knew nothing. Germany took great care of that. These men were reported in British Casualty lists as “missing,” and missing they will remain till the end of time. But they were not missing; they were once strong healthy men, prisoners of war. They were not allowed to write to their relatives, Germany did not want the world to know where they were, or of their existence.

Amongst the sixteen who reached Minden were men who had been prisoners four or five months. This I found out as a fact when I wrote home to their relatives. They told me of pals who died beside them and I reported them to the Record Office of their Regiments and my letter never got home. It was always a mystery to us that these sixteen and other little parties later ever got back into Germany. They attributed it to the fact that, being men of fine physique and health, they didn’t succumb as quickly as their comrades went to hospital suffering chiefly from dysentery, recovered a little strength, and the Germans, seeing it was no good sending them back to the line. Put them on a train and back they came into Germany.

This is just one isolated instance of many that might be quoted. What one must realise in relation to these crimes is that while primarily they may be said to be the work of the system and spirit inculcated throughout the German Army by “Prussian Militarism,” yet nevertheless they were perpetrated by the Boche generally, and that right down to the very last German soldier this devilish brutality is to be expected and looked for. This is not generally realized, and only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully. You have no possible redress, no chance of even making your conditions known to the outside world, and you have only your own British spirit to carry you through.

If you can realise what this means, perhaps then you can appreciate what the ex-prisoner feels when he tells you that never again can he hold out his hand in friendship to a German.

CAPT. REV. A. GILLES WILKEN.
(Late British Prisoner of War).

Reading School magazine December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

Thankofferings from the Christmas dinner table

Winkfield people continued to support our allies in beleagured Belgium, and more women were called to help making clothes and bandages for the wounded.

THE BELGIAN RELIEF FUND.

The envelopes for thankofferings from the Christmas dinner table, which were distributed throughout the parish, have been opened and the contents counted by the Vicar and Churchwarden. Ninety-two envelopes were returned and the total amounted to £12 2s. 5d., which was forwarded to the National Committee for Relief in Belgium.

Mrs. Maynard would be glad to receive the names of any from the Church end of the parish who would be willing to work for the Red Cross, either at home, if materials were provided, or at a Working Party at the Vicarage once a week.

Winkfield section of Winkfield District Magazine, February 1917 (D/P151/28A/9/2)

‘The “liveliness” hereabouts not at all conducive to steady nerves’

Percy Spencer wrote from the Front to his sister Florence to thank her for her gifts.

Jan 29, 1917
Dear WF

I’m a shocking correspondent these days, but business is fairly brisk, the weather simply freezing and the “liveliness” hereabouts not at all conducive to steady nerves and letter writing.

Thanks, dear, I’ve got all the clothes I want, except perhaps one or two pairs of socks, if I have any.

Did I ever thank you for the mittens – they are fine.

And the books too – I haven’t had an opportunity yet to read them but a friend of mine who is off duty sick has been devouring them with great relish.

The other week a subaltern RE in charge of the reconstruction of our NCOs mess turned out to be the younger of the Rev Lewis’s sons…

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/11)

Music and chess on leave

Will Spencer heard the details of a family Christmas at Cookham, with Percy and Sydney both on leave.

22 January 1917

Letters for us both, from Mother – a long one for me. When Florrie & Percy & Sydney were all at home, Annie played to them after supper, & they all enjoyed it. Annie practises every day, & plays “very well indeed” now. Percy played chess with Sydney, & afterwards Percy was Mother’s partner & Sydney Father’s in a game of whist. Percy visited “the Hunts & Captain Holliday” while he was over. (Is Captain H. no longer with Percy at the Front?) Mrs Raverat had sent 60 lbs of apples to Mother, & one of the officers’ wives had made an exquisite white wool shawl for her (Sydney paid for the wool). Mrs Philip Wigg had made some white wool bed socks for her.

Diary of Will Spencer, 1917 (D/EX801/27)

Some internees mope about all day long

Artistic Albert Cusden, interned in Ruhleben camp near Berlin with three of his brothers, wrote regularly to his family safe in Reading. Brother Len was the recipient of this letter. In return, the family and other friends back home sent the Cusdens food and other essentials.

18 Jan 1917

Dear Len

I received Lucy’s letter of the 4th a few days ago. The money sent for Swiss bread in December was apparently used for sending a small parcel of food in place of the bread, as Dick received a card from the Bureau to the effect that a small parcel of provisions was being sent from Shrimpton’s, and Arch & I received similar advice as from you. These parcels arrived early this week, so suppose everything is now settled. I note Lucy states you still do not know particulars of the new parcel system, but I gave details in my letter to Father & Mother, so I daresay you understand everything now. We are receiving the new parcels regularly and as regards quantity, quality & variety, the food is very good and we shall be very satisfied if things go on like this. We are also able to obtain as much bread as want, as regular supplies of Danish bread are sent to our camp captain for distribution. This Danish bread is white and superior to the Swiss. I wrote sometime ago asking for soap, but just too late for you to send before December. Since then we have obtained some extra soap and one of the standard parcels contains soap, so we have now enough. But I believe that anything not in the nature of food, e.g. clothing etc, can be sent by private individuals, but through the Central Organisation. So if we require anything like this we will let you know….

I haven’t been doing so much drawing lately, the weather isn’t so favourable. Winter seems really to have come now, plenty of snow and frost, but it is chiefly dry and as long as it remains so I don’t mind how cold it be, except of course from the point of view that I don’t do so much drawing. The changes in the weather form, I suppose, the chief changes in the life here, but the time doesn’t hang so much as it might easily do. It depends mostly upon the person. There are some who mope about all day long and won’t or can’t take up anything. Did the Camp magazine reach home? My drawings didn’t come out well, the originals were too small. And I haven’t done much with ink yet…

Your affectionate brother

Albert

Letter from Albert Cusden to L W Cusden, 57 Castle Street, Reading (D/EX1485/4/4/5)

An end to afternoon tea

The war effort and the German’s attacks on civilian shipping combined to restrict many goods. Among those economising as a result were the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist.

12 January 1917

Special notice sent to all the Houses about economy to be practised during the war in obedience to the appeal of the Government to the nation. Mother directed (1) that all afternoon teas were to be stopped, (2) care was to be taken that every railway journey should be strictly necessary, (3) every effort was to be made as to clothes, to make them last as long as possible. This was important on account of the difficulty in getting materials.

Annals of the Community of St John Baptist, Clewer (D/EX1675/1/14/5)

A picture postcard of Warfield for Christmas

Soldiers from Bracknell, Chavey Down and Warfield were among those to get Christmas gifts from home.

Bracknell

A scheme has been arranged under which a Christmas present will be sent to all our men from Bracknell parish who are on active service, either in Navy or Army.

A Committee has been formed to collect the necessary funds, and very many people have gladly contributed. There are now about 200 men on active service, so that it is no light task to do up and despatch the parcels. The Chavey Down parcels are packed by Miss Lang with others to help, and the Bracknell parcels are done up by a number of kind people who meet at the Vicarage Parish Room. A letter is sent in each parcel to explain that it is a small gift sent from friends at home, as a token that our husbands, sons and brothers, who are fighting for us, are never forgotten.

Warfield

Warfield Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Presents Fund seems a long title. Last year we had two funds running, one in connection with the Brownlow Hall Club, the other for non-members of the same. This year there has been an amalgamation, and through liberal donations from one and all, the sum has nearly reached £20. May I state here, in the event of this coming for the first time to the notice of any of our friends, that the Secretary and Treasurer to the Fund is Miss Hardcastle, Rectory House, Warfield, by whom further donations will be thankfully received. We are chiefly sending socks, mittens, cocoa, chocolate and cake, and a picture postcard of Warfield containing 8 views.

Winkfield District Magazine, December 1916 (D/P151/28A/12)