Wireless messages concerning the armistice coming from an agitated operator at the Eiffel Tower, before many in authority knew what was being said

St Augustine’s was the only children’s home for boys run by the Community of St John Baptist. Many of its inmates went on to serve in the Armed Forces, and they shared their experiences with the Sisters.

June, 1919
Dear Friends of St Augustine’s Home

The health of the boys has been excellent this winter, for which we are most thankful. We had a bad epidemic of influenza a year ago, and when the disease made its re-appearance in Windsor in the beginning of winter, we trembled, but schools were closed, and we resorted to gargling and house-spraying, and had not more than half a dozen cases at most.

Our always kind doctor and dentist have returned home from war work, and again look after our boys…

We ended our financial year with bills amounting to more than £200 unpaid. We are printing not merely our last balance sheet, but a pre-war one, by way of an interesting and instructive comparison. One thing that may strike you is that not merely are our expenses heavier, but our subscriptions are considerably less. There have been so many claims on everyone, but we hope that as these lessen, the claims of a Home like ours, which has sent many sons to the front and is helping to train others to take the place of those who have fallen, may appeal not merely to former subscribers but to those who will become new friends…

Our household linen cupboard, and our clothes cupboard, were almost empty this spring… Then … came a large package of garments, cutlery and other things from a war hospital… during the last two weeks of March.

A number of kind friends at Eton and other places made a special Lent effort and sent us a nice contribution of stockings… If other friends would follow this example (perhaps some of those who have knitted so assiduously for soldiers) and ask their friends to do the same, the stocking basket would wear a more cheerful aspect…

August will soon be here, and we hope to see some of our old boys down for the holidays, though Peace celebrations may very naturally take them elsewhere. They have come and gone from time to time as leave allowed, and many thrilling things some of them have to tell – though told always in the simplest, most matter-of-fact way. Some have been in ships torpedoed, one received and transmitted wireless messages concerning the armistice coming from an agitated operator at the Eiffel Tower, before many in authority knew what was being said. And some of our boys will of course never return, but have won the “great promotion” of which the Home is so proud.

Yours very gratefully
The Sister-in-Charge

Letter to Friends of St Augustine’s Home, Clewer (D/EX1675/23/4/6)

Advertisements

“The case was not one in which the distress was due to the war”

The Berkshire branch of the National Relief Fund was still accepting applications for assistance from people whose lives had been disrupted by the war.

17 May 1919

The Chairman read the following report on cases dealt with since the last meeting [on 24 June 1918].

Mrs Coleman

Mrs Coleman was interviewed by the Chairman and Mr Bate as requested by the Committee at their last meeting and it was ultimately decided that Mrs Coleman should take a course of Business Training with Mr Taylor, Station Road, Reading. A sum of £30 was paid to Mrs Coleman in September, to cover the cost of the preliminary training and maintenance during such time, and in October a further sum of £37 was paid over. In January 1919, Mrs Coleman asked that a further £20 might be remitted to her and this was agreed to and paid over by the Government Committee. Mrs Coleman has now completed the training and is finding some difficulty in securing a situation, and on the 26th April asked for a further sum of £30 out of the balance of £163 now remaining. This application has been forwarded to the Government Committee before sanctioning any further payment of the grant.

Mrs Willis

In accordance with the instructions of the Committee at the last meeting, the case of Mrs Willis was referred to the Government Committee with a suggestion that a grant of a capital sum might be made in place of the monthly payment. The Government Committee were of opinion that the monthly grants should continue and Mrs Willis has continued to receive £2.2.0 per month. Whilst this grant continues it is doubtful if Mrs Willis will make any effort to render herself self-supporting.

Mrs Keefe

An application for assistance was received in January, 1919, from Mrs Keefe, 44 London Road, Newbury. Particulars were obtained and it appeared that the applicant was a widow who had had a small General Shop, but owing to heart trouble and difficulties due to the various rationing orders (mainly the former), she had given up the shop and taken lodgers. Subsequently the heart trouble increased and in consequence she was unable to work. These particulars were forwarded to the Government Committee who were of opinion that the case was not one in which the distress was due to the war and therefore not one which could properly be dealt with by this Committee.

Mr E E Bishton

Mr E E Bishton, Florence Cottage, New Road, Ascot, on the recommendation of the Repatriated British Civilian Help Committee, applied to this Committee for a grant towards the purchase of necessary clothing, which he required before he could commence work. Mr Bishton was interviewed by the Chairman and the Secretary, who authorised the supply of clothing to the value of £10.10.6, and also a temporary grant of £4.

In the case of Mrs Coleman it was resolved:

To recommend to the Government Committee that an immediate payment of £30 be made as asked for and that the balance of £133 with interest be retained for the present.

On the suggestion of Mr Slade it was agreed that the allowance to Mrs Willis should be continued for a further period of 3 months to give her the opportunity of finding suitable work.

If at the end of this period it was found that she would require a certain capital sum to enable her to set up in business, the Committee would consider the advisability of recommending the case to the Government Committee for a capital grant.

The action of the Chairman in the case of Mr Bishton was confirmed.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

The amount of work done, even during the last year of the War, when people were so short handed

Tribute is paid to the women of Furze Platt for their contributions.

Report of the Furze Platt War Working Party

In March 1918, a special appeal was made for funds to carry on the work at a time of great national danger. That appeal received a steady response all through the year, bringing in a total of nearly £60. When the accounts are audited a full report will appear in the press. In the meanwhile the details of the actual work done are given below.

1916 1917 1918
Bags 30 300 –
Bed Socks 78 219 310
Bandages 265 45
Bed Jackets 115 64 57
Helmets 73 7 34
Dressing Gowns 3 – –
Nightingales 10 18 –
Mosquito Nets 70 84 –
Mittens 53 135 236
Mufflers 6 68 264
Socks – 9 57
Shirts 29 26 –
Sun Shields 50 161 –
Anti-Vermin Vests- 112 226
Pyjamas – 7 –
Slippers 77 21 135
Swabs – 300 –
Helpless-case – – 25
Work Totals 859 1476 1354

Subscriptions: 1916, £64 12s 1d. 1917, £54 12s 1½d. 1918, £39 0s 4d.

The amount of work done, even during the last year of the War, when people were so short handed and had very little time to give to outside work, is a very great credit to the workers of Furze Platt. I should like to express on behalf of myself and all those interested in this work, our appreciation of all that has been done by Mrs E H Wyatt and the Collectors to make the Furze Platt District of the Maidenhead Branch a capable and reliable contributor to the Voluntary Work Organisations of the Country.

G M Skrine, Hon, Sec.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, April 1919 (D/P181/28A/28)

“We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England”

The Van Hoof family, who had spent the war as refugees in Maidenhead, returned home.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEE FRIENDS.

41, Kapelstraat, Boom,
Prov. (Anvers), Belgie,

March 8th.

Dear Mrs. Lewis,-

I am very sorry I have not been able to write before, but we have been so busy that we have not found time to do anything but arrange things at home. We spent nearly a week travelling before we were home. Before going on the boat we had to stay two days in London, which we spent in sight seeing.

We went on the boat about one o’clock on Friday, 28th, and started to sail about 4 o’clock the same day. The weather was glorious all through the sea journey, so that we arrived in Antwerp on Sunday morning about 12 o’clock. Before we were off the boat nearly an hour had passed. One of my uncles was there to meet us, so that it was quite 5 o’clock before we got home. You can imagine our relatives’ joy at meeting us again. We spent the whole of that day in talking, talking, talking.

Our home was quite alright, but the furniture and many other things that were in it have been stolen or else much damaged. The blankets you gave us have come in very useful, for they are things of the past here. The people have suffered very much, and the clothing has been so dear that they used to have all spare blankets dyed (for garments). The food is now much cheaper, about the same as in England, except the meat and bread. That is nearly twice the price as that in England.

We were very pleased that we spent those four terrible years in England, and by the help of the Committee we suffered nothing to complain of. Thanking you for your goodness towards us, and hoping to receive an answer from you,

I remain, yours faithfully,

J. VAN HOOF

Think of that from a little Belgian girl, who did not know a word of English when she came to Maidenhead!

Maidenhead Congregational magazine, April 1919 (D/N33/12/1/5)

Many months of anxiety and trouble for the alleviation of the sufferings of others

The hard work of women from Newbury and Speen during the war is reviewed.

RED CROSS WORKING PARTY

The Parish Red Cross Working Party, under the superintendence of Mrs L Majendie, was started by her at the Rectory, Newbury, on May 1st, 1915.

The first meeting was hastily summoned for the purpose of making respirators, but as it was found these were not required, being provided by the War Office, work for hospitals and other objects was substituted.

Mrs Majendie carried on the meetings at more or less regular intervals from a fortnight to three weeks, with suspension of these generally during Lent.

She was assisted, first by Miss Boldero (who also held a number of supplementary meetings for mending for Newbury District Hospital), and later by Mrs and Miss Majendie, Speen.

The number of names on the books was between 50 and 60, and of these over 30 attended regularly from the first meeting, May 1st, 1915, to the last, February 18th, 1919. Thanks are due to all the members, but more especially to these last, also to the various hostesses who provided tea, and lent their houses for meetings (many more would have been glad to do this, if lack of space had not forbidden it).

The hostesses were Mrs L Majendie, Miss Boldero, Mrs A Majendie and Miss D Majendie, Miss Godding, Mrs Gould, Mrs Hawker, Mrs Porter, Mrs Camp, Mrs O’Farrell, Mrs Colbourne, amd Miss Bellinger. Some entertained at their own houses, some at the Conservative Club, and a large number of meetings were held at the Parish Room.

Some members have left Newbury, including several Belgian ladies, who worked regularly for a time.

The objects worked for were very numerous, 24 in all, and included the following:

1. Reading War Hospital, twice.
2. Newbury District Hospital, 9 times.
3. Newbury War Depot, 6 times.
4. Miss Power’s Hospital, once.
5. General Hospital No. 18, France (to Miss Hayne), once.
6. The Minesweeper Newbury, 7 times.
7. HMS Conquest (to Lieut. Burgess), once.
8. Submarine F3 (to Lieut. Burgess, once).
9. The Navy League, 3 times.
10. Dr Heywood’s Hospital, Malta, once.
11. Malta and Near East Special Red Cross Appeal, once.
12. Dr Heywood’s Hospital, Rouen, twice.
13. Dr Heywood’s Hospital, Stationary, No. 3, France, 12 times. Extra parcels were often sent to Dr Heywood’s Hospital at other times.
14. Ripon Camp Hospital (Dr Mackay), twice.
15. French Red Cross, twice.
16. French War Emergency Fund, 11 times.
17. National Committee for Relief in Belgium and Northern France, twice.
18. Belgian Red Cross, once.
19. Italian White Cross, twice.
20. Russian Prisoners of War, once.
21. Serbian Relief Fund, 7 times.
22. Syria and Palestine Relief Fund, 5 times.
23. Air Raid victims in London, once.
24. Soldiers’ Children Aid Committee, twice.

Making 73 meetings in all.

The many grateful letters received are too numerous to quote, but each one showed clearly how much the recipients appreciated the parcels of well made clothing despatched from Newbury. Not only were new clothes sent, but many gifts of garments slightly worn, but in good condition were also sent to various Societies. These were received with special thankfulness for the many refugees in France, Belgium, and Serbia, and as the work of repatriation in some of these terribly devastated regions will have to be carried on for months to come, parcels might still be forwarded from time to time if members cared to collect for them.

Thanks are specially due to those members who were kind enough to continually lend their sewing machines for ten meetings, and to several who undertook from time to time cutting-out at home.
The sum of £92 7s 8d was collected in donations and subscriptions, and was expended in flannel, flannelette, linen, twill, sheeting, muslin, gauze, lint, and cotton wool, which were all worked up into about 2,653 different articles, comprising, roughly speaking, the following:

735 treasure bags, 386 bandages, 376 miscellaneous things (such as washers, dusters, hot water bottle covers, table napkins, etc), 253 children’s garments, 210 men’s shirts, 177 knitted articles (socks, helmets, mufflers, operation stockings, etc), 128 collars and ties for hospital wear, 108 men’s vests and other underclothing, 106 women’s underclothing and blouses, 86 towels, 68 pillow cases and sheets, 20 pair steering gloves (leather palms): total 2,653.

The pleasant fellowship in which the members worked so untiringly through many months of anxiety and trouble for the alleviation of the sufferings of others, may well have strengthened not only parochial and personal ties, but also many wider ones with those they were privileged to help.

Newbury parish magazine, April 1919 (D/P89/28A/14)

Gay with flags and laurel leaves

There was a still a need to support the troops.

St Peter’s Notices

The Furze Platt Working Party meets at Furze Croft on Tuesday, 7th and 21st. The Secretary wishes to thank all workers and subscribers for their steady support through these years of war. No further funds will be collected for this society, but workers are asked to continue their efforts a little longer, as we have a certain amount of material in hand for making the garments which are still being asked for by the hospitals; also, Government has given us wool, as knitted garments are very much needed for the army abroad. A full account of the work of this branch of the Society will appear in the February or March number of the Magazine. I believe it will be found that more work has been done this year than ever before, and I am sure people will be glad to know that as the Society asked that games should be supplied for the troops, our December subscriptions provided some footballs and games for 2/4th and 5th Battalions of the Royal Berks and the 187 Light Trench Mortar Battery.

The Bazaar has realised £171 13s 3d. great credit is due to the workers. The Town Hall looked gay with flags, and the stall were most effective, draped with white, with a flag of one of the Colonies or of an Allied Power as a centre piece, and festooned with garlands of laurel leaves made by the boys of Furze Platt…

Now that there are fewer Collections for War Charities, will Church people consider the possibility of becoming supporters of the Free-Will Offering Fund? We, most of us, profess to believe in everybody getting a living wage, and yet this Fund has very few supporters.

Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, January 1919 (D/P181/28A/28)

No more fighting and killing, and our sailors and soldiers soon to come back

Families anticipated the return home of their loved ones.

CARE AND COMFORTS WORKING PARTY

Donations received during the month: Mrs and Miss Heywood, 5/-; Mrs Baughan, 10/-. Articles made: 6 pyjama suits, 4 mufflers, 2 pairs of gloves, 2 pairs of cuffs, 10 face cloths, 20 treasure bags: total, 3.354 articles.

SCRIPTURE UNION

I should think that you all must nearly have forgotten where Princes Street Room is by this time, what with having the “flu”, being away from school, and hearing all about the end of the great war. Just think of it: no more fighting and killing, and our sailors and soldiers soon to come back. It won’t be very long now before you see your dad again, or your brother, or uncle, or whoever it may be. We always used to ask God in our meetings to stop the war and keep them safe – be sure and not forget to thank Him with all your heart, and don’t forget either to ask Him to comfort all those boys and girls who have not got any soldiers or sailors to come back because they have been killed….

HHN

Reading St John parish magazine, December 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

Working to be repatriated as quickly as possible

The question of hiow to repatriate internees was beginning to be considered.

HM Prison
Reading
Nov. 26. 18

From the MO to the Governor
Concerning the state of body & mind of Ion Perrocino [?].

He has maintained his weight on a special diet that I have allowed him. No doubt he feels the cold weather.

He is depressed about his internment and gets very excited when he insists upon discussing his return to Brazil.

He is evidently working to be repatriated as quickly as possible. I do not believe he will take his life or go mad.

His behaviour to myself has always been correct.

W T Freeman

Reading Prison
26 Nov 1918

Sir

Owing to the absence of Clerk & Schoolmaster Mr Stevens, through influenza, I was working alone for a fortnight, during which the error in W Horlock’s account occurred. I greatly regret the submission of this error, but I was working under considerable pressure and difficulty, and did my best to keep the office work going and to carry out what checking I could.

I am
Sir
Your obedient servant
M N Loarn
Steward

[to] The Governor

[The error related to a purchase of liberty clothing for the internees.]

HM “Place of Internment”
Reading

26th November 1918

Sir

I have the honour to acknowledge your letter … dated 21st November 1918 on the subject of the interned Alien Albert Hemmerle.

The prisoner states that the Duchy of Lichtenstein is at present in a state of revolution, but that he will write to his parents and request them to obtain from whatever form of Government there may be, the required guarantee that he will remain in Lichtenstein if deported there.

I have the honour to be
Sir
Your obedient servant

F G C M Morgan
Governor

[to] The Under Secretary of State
Home Office
London SW1

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

“Nothing that the war has brought me is anything to compare with your suffering, and no courage I have shewn, can compare with your superhuman endurance”

Florence Image reveals the strain it took to stay strong for her family in the face of Sydney’s death.

29, Boston Road
Cambridge

Oct. 29 1918

My own dear Stan

John says, “Are you writing to dear old Stanley? Then tell him his letters give me the greatest pleasure to read.” Well my darling, I do pray you will get some of our letters soon. I am getting yours so quickly – less than 3 weeks! I was dreadfully bothered about you. Do ask for leave. The infantry won’t know you have been 2 ¼ years without any. When you get back to your unit, beg the Colonel to grant you either (a) your overdue leave – or (b) sick leave with a view to discharge. Tell him how many times you have had malaria. Lloyd George promised you all leave in the spring. Last week the WO said they were granting leave as fast as possible – and again they assured the House of Commons that something like 1500 had had leave recently from Salonika – I enclose a cutting. But I hope the Min. of Inform. Affair will come off soon, if the war isn’t over first. I do long to hear the story of what you did for your Captain darling.

I feel your letters acutely darling. If my letters seem prosaic and material it’s because I have had a tremendous strain on my emotions, and I hardly dare take out my thoughts and look at them at all – because I’ve got to keep well, & be strong for all your sakes. I’ve written reams on your account – and it’s for you & Gil, and to keep Mother & Father going, for your sake, and for Perce [sic] – as well as my beloved John – I’ve got to keep going – or rather keep the ship going – See? But of course nothing that the war has brought me is anything to compare with your suffering, and no courage I have shewn, can compare with your superhuman endurance. My only struggle is not just to keep myself going – but to keep the ship going – do you understand? And so I am the most extraordinary creature apparently. I haven’t cried about Syd – and every time dear John attempts to be even sad about it – I am quite firm & cross. In fact it’s carry on – carry on – carry on – all the while – and snub every gust of longing or regret, love & hatred (like you I get awful fits of hatred as well as love) and save up all your energy for the end of the war and the radiant return to the old order – for you the front bedroom of a sunny warm day – with [Tobit?] – when the war is over. I’ll burst – and then you’ll be astonished at all I say. I get madder & amdder & madder with those who have not been wrenched up by the roots in this war. “Why cumbereth it the ground?”

Well, this is an ugly letter. It’s all imported rage with those who don’t dream what you in Salonika endure – and if they did wouldn’t dream what you in particular endure. But I do – and meanwhile I am trying to get you some light books to carry. I have ordered Andrew Marvell, and hope to get it in a week. His poems. Do you want his Satires too? And have you got a Bible? And do express any other longing you have. What you tell me of Heine & Goethe is so interesting. I’d no idea they had the taint. Tell me one or two nice things you would like to beautify your dust-bins out there. I do hope you will get the parcel with biscuits I sent you.

I heard yesterday that Syd has been awarded the Military Cross for what he did on Aug. 8th, and am vain-glorious enough to be glad, because he told me before he was killed, he was recommended for it, and was very pleased, because of the pleasure he knew it would confer on us…

Your own loving
Flongy

Have you plenty of shirts etc?

Letter from Florence Image to her brother Stanley Spencer (D/EX801/110)

How the high wages are spent

Good news was tempered with sadness as men continued to die.

Florence Vansittart Neale
19 October 1918

Dear old Christopher died of pneumonia or flu. None of his family there. Up at the Orkneys. On hospital ship “Agadir”….

Had letters from girls. Wonderful entrance into Lille – all inhabitants kissing. Bring sugar & sweets for our soldiers.

William Hallam
19th October 1918

This afternoon I went through the town.… I could not help noticing this afternoon all the people especially women are dressed up to the nines and even then looking into the drapers windows for more clothes. This is how the high wages are spent.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/9); and William Hallam of Swindon (D/EX1415/25)

To save coal is to save lives

The patriotic were urged to make every effort to save fuel.

THE COAL CRISIS.

At the request of the Controller of Coal Mines we bring the following facts to the notice of our readers in the confidence that we shall all do our best to help our country in this particular need:-

Coal is the very key industry of Great Britain and the Allies, and the outlook to-day is very much more serious than is generally realised. The causes of the shortage are:-

1. The call to the Colours of 75,000 miners to meet the peril of the German offensive in March; and
2. The almost complete stoppage of the mines in Northern France as a direct result of the German advance in the West.

Coal is the source of power; it makes gas, electricity and steam. It drives the ships and it drives the trains.

The coal of England must be shared with our Allies – France, Italy, and America. It helps them to move their army while in France and it keeps their soldiers warm.

It is sold to neutrals to buy shipping to bring American troops over and is exchanged for food which would otherwise go to Germany.

Coal is the source of power wanted to end of the war. Coal burned in a house in excess of absolute need is power wasted. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone to save coal, because to save coal is to save lives.

HOW TO SAVE COAL.

Mix coke with it; a third of coke will have no bad effect upon the fire.

Use fire bricks to reduce the size of the grate, or have a false bottom fitted.

Put the poker out of the way. Never let a fire burn fiercely. Use the small coal to damp down the large.

Keep your pans and kettles clean outside as well as inside. Dirt and soot absorb and waste heat.

Never use gas for cooking when the kitchen fire is alight. Do not light the kitchen fire for cooking when you can use gas instead.

Take out the electric light bulbs that are only a temptation. Put in smaller bulbs and smaller gas burners where less light will serve.

Never mend a fire late at night Take the coal off when you go to bed. Save the cinders.

Burn all your rubbish. Remember the dustbin often contains a supply of fuel of sorts. The kitchen fire will burn all sorts of fuel.

CARE AND COMFORTS WORKING PARTY

Donations received: Miss Bowyer 10/-, Miss Gilmore 3/6, Miss Bradley 2/6.

Things made: 4 white shirts, 12 pairs pants, 11 cushion covers, 14 treasure bags, 11 face cloths, 1 muffler, 1 pair gloves.

Reading St. John parish magazine, October 1918 (D/P172/28A/24)

The Aliens, having been interned in some cases for four years, have practically worn out all their original clothing

The provision of clothing for internees was a thorny matter. Jackson’s, the store mentioned, was something of a Reading institution, remining in business until 2013.

16th Sepr: 1918

Re letter 18902/35HF d/d 14.9.18

1. The Interned civilians have not been allowed ordinary liberty clothing. When theirs was worn out they had to wear blue dress by the Commissioners’ orders – but protested strongly against it.
2. Those who have ordinary clothing have purchased it out of their earnings. The Irish refuse to work.
3. It is now noted that they will receive ordinary liberty clothing.
4. How should this clothing be obtained please?
5. There is a local firm Messrs Jackson & Sons who supply ready-made outfits of all kinds, & also make cheap quality clothing &c to order. I am informed that at the present time the cost of clothing would be about £3.10.0 for the cheapest quality, boots about 35/- a pair, under-clothing is of course much above the normal rate.
6. The anticipated cost will be about £6.10.0 per man for the 14 Irish internees, Alien side 38 men at the same rate. It is quite likely that some of the Irish may not require a complete outfit at the present time, as they have only been interned a few months. The Aliens, having been interned in some cases for four years, have practically worn out all their original clothing.
7. As soon as it becomes known that the liberty clothing is allowed free, these men will buy no more.
8. The clothing of some who earn no money, and who refuse to wear the blue dress, is in a bad way.

[C M Morgan]
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

16th Sepr: 1918
H. Schraplowsky
22.6.15 S of S Order, Aliens Act, Deportation

The above named Alien prisoner was visited on Saturday the 14th inst: by his wife and Miss Chronig (friend) of 66 Station Rd, Church End, Finchley, N.

The conversation was on business affairs, chiefly about Mrs Schraplowsky leaving this country, and the disposal of her belongings.

[C M Morgan]
Governor
[to] The Commissioners

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

“When my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy”

We have followed the story of Sydney Spencer from timid young man scared by the roughness of the army, but driven to join up; through his finally ariving at the front in 1918, to an experience with shell shock in August. Sadly, he would not survive the war. This is the last full letter written by Sydney to his beloved sister Florence; a couple of field postcards followed, before his death in action less than two months before the end of the war. Here he describes his current bivouac, and spares a thought for the enemy. His story epitomises the tragedy of the war, and his spirit shines through the years between us.

Sept 15th 1918
7th Norfolks
My Dearest Florence

My pillow is my haversack containing iron rations, my bedding, borrowed Burberrys eyc. (My kit – all of it – is still wandering about between here & Cox & Co’s London!) Now for the door which is the chef d’oeuvre! It is about 2 ½ feet square i.e. the opening of it! The door is a lid of a sugar box which just fits it! Hence when I go to bed, I lie down on the ground & pull myself into the bivouac by my hands. When I go out, I have to go feet first, & back out probably looking about as dignified in the action as does a dog over whose head some wretched boy has tied a paper bag! Dear old Dillon [his captain] chuckles with delight when he sees me getting in & out. My batman is about as big as I am [Sydney was rather small] & he & I are about the only two who can fit inside! Mind you I believe that he & Bodger (Dillon’s batman) made the entrance small on purpose, a covert pulling of my leg. Nevertheless it is so ‘cumfy’ [sic] & warm & dry I love the little spot. Its dimensions are 7 feet length, 4 feet breadth. Height 2 ½ to 3 feet high. Voila ma cherie. Vous avez une phantasie vraisemblable de ma maisonette qui doit vous donner a rire? [This rather bad piece of French translates as “there you are, my darling. You have a vision resembling my little house which will make you laugh”.] …

Two nights ago German aeroplanes (note I say German, I hate ‘Hun’, ‘boche’ etc, it is petty!) came over on bombing intent. A low moon sickly behind a cloud hung (it could not do much else by the way!) in the sky! Planes over. Lights out! The usual boredom. Then about 14 search lights crisscrossed in the sky. Hallo, they have got one in the ray. I had my strong field glasses & there sure enough in the focus of about a dozen searchlights I could see him. He glowed against the deep blue green of the sky, like those lovely flies of May which have transparent emerald green wings. The usual rat-a-tan of machine guns & the muffled boom of shells bursting round him followed. Then high above him appeared a speck of light like a star which winked & glowed & winked again. Machine gun fire stopped. This was one of our men after him. A moment of waiting, a dull spark of light like a shooting star (a tracer bullet) sped by the enemy plane, another one, a momentary pause then a sheet of flame curved gracefully to earth followed by a brilliant stream of coloured lights – some mystic comet from a Miltonian chaos & dark night it looked – & the soul of an enemy passed into the infinite. Over lonely wooden crosses in shell holes one sees in German characters a name & above it the one word ‘Ruhe’ [rest]. I felt that for him. Through all this I cannot help preserving the thought that when my enemy is dead then he is but a soul thrown into the boundless space of infinity, & he is no longer my enemy. Another enemy plane came, another fight took place & he sped to earth at a sickly pace, his signal rockets all colours bursting out behind him in reckless profusion. I suppose he crashed to earth too somewhere, but he did not set on fire.

This afternoon I was in my nothings & a very smart sergeant came up to me & said, “Are you Sydney Spencer”? Well I thought “Yes I am Sydney Spencer as it happens but anyway what the – is it to do with you”, & then “My word, it is Frank Godfrey!” My dear, I was so overwhelmed at meeting someone from Cookham, that I nearly fell on his neck in front of the whole company – all with their nothings on – & wept. I had not seen him since Aug 1914. Thus does anyone from home stir one!

Percy. How is he? I hoped he would be held in bed for months to prevent his coming out soon….

Leave. Think, Florence, I have been out here 6 months & possibly before Christmas I may get leave! And then a rug in front of a warm fire, your sweet selves to charm me to laziness and – oh well – let’s wait till it comes off. I might get impatient if I wrote more on that score. …

Cigarettes. By the way, you said in one of your letters that you had sent Dillon 500 cigarettes. I think from a business point of view you should know that the parcel contained 200. He did not tell me for a long time, but when he did, I thought you ought to know in case Coln Lunn [the merchant] made a mistake & only packed 200, charging you with 500.

The men were delighted with the share they got of them. Dillon, dear old chap, was almost pathetically grateful….

My kit & cheque book are wandering about somewhere in France or England & have been doing so for the last about 40 days, & at present I sit twiddling my thumbs & waiting! When I came out of hospital, lo! I had no hat, no belt, no change of linen, no nothing except for a pair of Tommy’s slacks & a tunic! I managed to go to Le Havre where I spent fabulous sums on making myself look like an officer, having managed to borrow a cheque, which I changed at Cox & Co’s…

By the way, darling, you may send that kit for which I asked although probably by the time I get it all my other kit will come tumbling back & then I shall be once more told I possess too much.

All love to you my sweet sister & to John, of whose approbation – told me through your letters – I am more proud than I can say

Your always affectionate Brer Sydney

Letter from Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/3/79-82)

Liberty clothing for internees

The Irish internees, who were held without trial, were not to be treated as prisoners, and could wear their own clothes.

Prison Commission
Home Office
Whitehall SW1

14th September 1918

[to] The Governor
Reading PI

With reference to paragraph 4 of the Regulations as to the treatment of Irish Internees, please note that if any of them do not obtain supplies of clothing from their friends, or purchase further articles as they become necessary, they will be provided with ordinary clothing when necessary, like other interned civilians, ie liberty clothing instead of that prescribed for prisoners awaiting trial.

Be good enough to amend the copies of the Regulations in your possession accordingly.

W J Pond
For Secy

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

Ordinary men and boys who have paid the extraordinary personal price

A new London hospital helped badly injured soldiers.

Wounded Soldiers

Miss Sinclair sends the following description of the Manor Orthopaedic Hospital, North End Road, Hampstead, which is the scene of her new work:-

“This Hospital is for the after treatment of discharged men from the army. Any man who has been a soldier and who in the opinion of his own doctor, would benefit by special expert treatment, can come to it, recommended by his own doctor, through the Pension Board. Everything in the Hospital is done for the patients but no one is accepted whose case is hopeless.

The Hospital is just starting and is growing at a wonderful rate, but it cannot grow quickly enough and there is a long waiting list.

These men are in their own clothes, many of them shabby and poor. But they stand for England’s Liberty, for the Liberty of the world, if they had not come out at the first call where would we be today? Where would all our homes be? They are ordinary men and boys. But they have paid the extraordinary personal price, which we have not paid, and can only pay by looking after them, and teaching the children to remember what they owe to the wounded men.

We have to thank the Surgical Dressings Society for coming quickly to our aid and for sending us promptly many beautiful gifts, to help meet the growing necessities of the Hospital wards, where we have so little, the help is enormously appreciated, and most of the articles sent are already in use.

Wargrave men can be sent here for treatment, our patients come from everywhere”.

Wargrave parish magazine, September 1918 (D/P145/28A/31)