Some garments are still needed for our men at the front

9th – 13th December

Mistress could not undertake the usual quarterly examinations, as there has been so much sickness about and the attendances irregular owing to holidays for blackberrying in autumn, then illness with a month closure and lately heavy rains that it seemed more to the children’s advantage to teach those present, than to examine intelligent scholars. This week rain made sad havoc with the attendances, also many of the girls were taking part in various war concerts which necessitated their absence on afternoon, so that it seems almost impossible to make much progress…
The elder girls are busily engaged in their spare time producing some comforts for our men at the front. Some garments are still needed there.

Braywick CE School log book (C/EL65/4, p. 212)

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A club for ex sailors and soldiers on similar lines to the Recreation Huts so popular overseas

Ascot wanted to continue supporting servicemen after their return home.

The concert arranged by the R.A.F. in the Cinema on December 11th, in aid of our Christmas Presents for Men in the Navy and those serving overseas, was a great success. The ladies of the “Some Concert Party,” gave an excellent Entertainment to a crowded audience, and the receipts, after deduction of entertainment tax and expenses amounted to £37. Donations to the Fund, chiefly forwarded by Miss Tydd, came to over £8, making a total of over £46.

Some time before the performance 135 parcel presents had been despatched by registered letter post at an average cost of 5/- each. It has been suggested that the balance remaining in the hands of the Committee might well be transferred to a new fund for providing a club for ex sailors and soldiers in the parish, run on similar lines to the Recreation Huts so popular overseas.

Ascot section of Winkfield District Magazine, January 1919 (D/P 151/28A/11/1)

In aid of the Blinded Soldiers’ Children’s Fund

Dec: 11th

The children were given a half-holiday in the afternoon as they were giving an Entertainment in the Church room in the evening – in aid of the Blinded Soldiers’ Children’s Fund.

Log book of Peasemore School (C/EL49/2)

“Our pride and gratitude for the work so gloriously completed by our naval and military forces”

There were mixed feelings in Ascot as the war’s human price was still an open wound.

The Ascot Sailors and Soldiers’ Committee have decided that efforts must be made to let every man from our parish serving overseas receive a Christmas present and a message assuring him of our pride and gratitude for the work so gloriously completed by our naval and military forces. Arrangements have already been made for the sending of such presents by registered letter post, so that if not delivered they may be safely returned and presented to any who may have already returned home.

To raise the money required, the R.A.F. have most kindly offered to arrange a special performance in their Cinema, probably on Wednesday, December 11th. Please look out for the announcement and make sure that no seat is left vacant. Members of the Committee will be calling upon relatives to ascertain the latest addresses of the men abroad.

We congratulate Sergt. C.C. Parsons on the great distinction of receiving a bar to his military medal.

The Managers have decided to devote the money which would have been expended on prizes during the past three years, on a Christmas Entertainment for all the Children before the conclusions of hostilities.

While we are all full of thankfulness for the great victory, it is a specially sad to have to record the death of yet another Ascot man, who has died whilst serving his Country. George Smith, for many years in the service of Sir Charles Ryan, died in a military hospital at Tidworth, and was buried at Ascot, on Nov. 23rd. When he was called up for the R.A.F. last summer there were many who doubted whether he was strong enough for a soldier’s life, and our deepest sympathy goes out to his widow and little daughter.

We are glad to hear that George Maunder, who is suffering from gas poisoning, is making progress towards recovery, and we hope that this is the last casualty we shall have to record. We pray that very soon those who have relatives prisoners of war may be relieved of their anxiety, and that we may all share in welcoming them home in safety.

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

“His services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless”

Wounded soldiers in Reading were treated to a lovely day out.

River Trip for Wounded Soldiers

On Friday afternoon, September 13th, our own particular River Outing for wounded soldiers, under the auspices of the Care and Comforts Committee, took place under perfectly ideal conditions. After several days of somewhat broken weather, we struck the one bright sunny afternoon when the river was at its best. The arrangements on the steamer had been made as usual, by Mr. Awmack, whose services to the wounded in this respect during this and previous years have been simply priceless.

The “Merry Mascots” Concert party provided just the right sort of musical entertainment, with the songs that our soldiers delight in, accompanied by piano, harp and violin. The tea would have been very good in ordinary times – under present conditions it was marvellous. And the abundant supply of cigarettes handed round by Mrs. A.T. Watkins and Miss Shorter was evidently appreciated to the full.

The goal of our journey was Park Place, the residence of Colonel Noble, and it was good to see the enjoyment of our guests as they made their way up the green slope and through the famous tunnel to the fine historic mansion, with its glorious views, and enchanting grotto, and gardens.

Our party include men from many distant parts of the Empire as well as from the Old Country – from Australia and South Africa, and the Rocky Mountains. By their words and their looks, they left us in no doubt that the object we all had in view was fully attained, and the expedition will long live in their memory, as in ours who were privileged to go with them.

Trinity Congregational Magazine, October 1918 (D/EX1237/1)

“Competitors to walk 50 yards smoking a cigarette”: competitions for wounded soldiers

On Wednesday 10 July 1918, Reading Philanthropic Institution mounted a Wounded Soldiers’ Outing at Rectory Grounds, Caversham, placed at the disposal of the committee by Lady Moseley.

The day consisted of the following programme:

2.30

Sports programme

1. Guessing Competition.
The Secretary of the Institution [J H Smart of Beresford Road, Reading] was born in the year 1841. What was his age in days on July 1st, 1918, estimated at 365 days per year?

2. Threadneedle Race.
Wounded Soldiers and Ladies – Soldiers to thread needle.

3. Slow Walking Race.
Competitors must place one foot after the other in a forward movement; to stand still means disqualification.

4. Egg and Spoon Race.
Teams of three; each competitor to cover 25 yards.

5. Necktie Competitions.
Conditions explained at the start.

6. Toy Symphony.
Competitors to walk 50 yards playing “toy instruments”.

7. Whistling Competition.
Conditions explained at the start.

8. Animal Imitations.

9. Musical Chairs.

10. Potato Race in Pairs.

11. Feeding Bottle Contest.
Competitors to walk 50 yards smoking a cigarette, drink contents from feeding bottle suspended without using their hands, cigarette to be kept alight until the finish of a further walk of 25 yards.

12. Bowling Competitions.

13. Fixing The Donkey’s Tail

14. Band Race

7.30
Lady Moseley will present the Prizes to the winning competitors.

From 5.45 to 7.30 the sports were accompanied by a concert by Reading Favourites Concert Party, followed by the band of the 1st battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

Wounded soldiers’ outing programme (R/D137/6/3)

Asked to give an entertainment to the wounded soldiers

Clewer girls were asked to put on a concert for recuperating soldiers.

June 14th 1918

The school has been asked to give an entertainment to the wounded soldiers at [King] Edward VII Hospital on Saturday next – the performance will be rehearsed this afternoon so the timetable will not be observed.

Clewer St. Stephen Intermediate Girls School log book (SCH/8/8/2, p. 177)

Shelled at dawn

It was a dramatic day for Percy Spencer.

22 May 1918

Shelled at dawn. Doe & I dressed hurriedly as we were getting a lot of backwash. Marvellous escape of 2 bivouacs due I think to AP shell. Horses moved. Bankes hit & died of wounds. All officers out except me. Went down to Bd. and was strafed re claims.

Went to Follies in evening with Davis.

Diary of Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

A very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep

Percy Spencer shared his latest doings with his sister.

May 21, 1918

My dear WF

I don’t appear to have written you a letter since the 13th. And there has really been no reason why not except a mass of work. I’m very glad to say that I can see the results of my labour, anyway, so that should console you, even if you don’t see many letters.

Well my dear girl, I’ve lately had a very sketchy but very jolly time – perpetual movement and precious little sleep. We’re in lovely surroundings in a wood on one side of a steep valley. The days are quiet and very hot and the night is filled with the roar of guns. On the other side of the valley from another camp every evening a very fine trumpet player amuses all the world with cheery music and beautiful clear toned calls. And when he ceases, the nightingales improve upon his performance and sing all through the night whatever the guns are doing.

We’re all more or less on tiptoe and I’m getting rather fed up with it, one gets so little time to oneself and the night has a nasty way of turning itself into day. Nevertheless even that sort of life has its compensations.

For instance on Whit Sunday I arose at 2 am and didn’t turn in again until I had strolled around our wooded hilltop with our padre (a delightful fellow) and watched the sun rise and heard the birds sing praises to his glory.

On the 16th I met Anderson. You will remember him at the Boarding House at St Albans. Did you meet his wife? He told me you did. The war has made him look sterner but he has not lost his delightful smile.

On the 18th we had a terrific thunderstorm and life was moist. I had a painful toothache and got our dentist to haul out a wisdom tooth. A very trying performance as the tooth had an unauthorised prong. However I daresay the extra prong accounted for my extreme wisdom, so that problem’s settled, and now I suppose I shall be very foolish.

On Monday (yesterday) our Follies gave an open air performance on the hillside. I was unable to get away to it, but it was very jolly to view from a distance.

Will you let everyone who ought to have a photo have one. If possible I should like to see one of each myself.

Could you send me a tinder lighter some time, and a refill for my short tubular torch. I also badly need a key ring. I’m so sorry to bother you about these things, but they are unobtainable out here….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/37)

Entertainments for the War Supply Depot

Datchet School was used to hold concerts to raise funds for materials used to make bandages and clothing for the wounded.

1 & 2 May 1918
School was closed on account of the Entertainments (3) on behalf of the Datchet War Hospital Supply Depot.

Datchet National Mixed School log book (SCH30/8/3, p. 403)

Letters of thanks for Christmas parcels have begun to arrive from Egypt and Palestine

Soliders were gratefuul for their Christmas gifts.

Letters of thanks for Christmas parcels have begun to arrive from Egypt and Palestine. A H.Bullock, C. Williams, E. Webb, W. Boswell, W.B. Skelton, J.W. Howell have written expressing their thanks to the Committee and whose who made the Parcels Concert success.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, April 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/4)

“Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad”

Will Spencer heard from soldier brother Horace, who offered a pleasant view of army life, and from the wife of another soldier brother, Natalie.

19 March 1918

When I got back, Johanna asked me if it was my birthday. Letters from Natalie & from Horace, & a parcel [and letter from a Swiss friend]…

Reading the [three] letters to Johanna, with running comments, after dinner, was quite a long proceeding, as Natalie’s letter was one of 8 large pages!.

Horace writes to me,

“Perhaps you are sometimes pained at the conjectured hardships that we have to undergo, so I will try to relieve your mind on that point. Providing a man is practical & unselfish, the life is not bad, there are kind words and deeds exchanged at all times, & so the atmosphere is pleasant. He has heard concerts & lectures, visited 6 cathedral towns in France, has learned to play chess, & read – amongst other books – Holmes’ Life of Mozart….

Natalie writes that Harold “had a rotten [underlined] time one way & another, tho’ now his lines seem to have fallen into pleasanter places”.


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

Up to your eyes in mud and water – or a howling wilderness of desert sand

Reading men at the front write home with more news of their experiences, and hopes for the longed-for period after the war.

We still manage to keep smiling, with the hope that this war will soon come to an end. We are now (March 16th) at work loading and unloading material, and taking it up the line on the light railways. We have exciting times some days. I hope to have a leave before long, if all goes well. It is just on 12 months since I crossed the Herring Pond…

The weather out here has been like summer these last few days, but of course it is very cold in the early morning. It’s rotten out here when it is wet. The least drop of rain, and you are up to your eyes in mud and water…

G. Thatcher (OS)

I wonder if you have the same crush into your Soldiers’ Club as there is in all such places out here in the camp where I am working. At the YMCA here it is the usual thing to have half an hour queue wait to get a cup of cocoa in the evenings. All religious services on Sundays are full to overflowing three quarters of an hour before starting time, and it is advisable to get there an hour before time to get a seat. Needless to say concerts and lectures are as bad. I hope the Brotherhood is still flourishing. The attendance is, I magine, largely of greybeards – the old faithfuls. The choir is, I suppose, practically defunct for the present – awaiting a glorious resurrection when the boys come home…

With best wishes to all at Broad St.
Chas A. Grigg (OS)

I should just love to visit a place such as you have (the Soldiers’ Room) but my place at present is a howling wilderness of desert sand. We have done great work, the boys of the Berkshire Battery, for which we have been praised – also the Yeomanry, too…

This week we have had a very bad time for rain and wind. I have changed three times today (Feb 19th) owing to getting wet through. The towel you send me came into use directly I opened the parcel; and the other contents I can honestly say came in extremely useful. I am writing you the first letter out of the writing pad you also were good enough to send me…

Please give my fondest regards to the Brothers…

God bless and keep you all.

A. W. Slatter (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, September 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Grow more potatoes

The need to grow more food inspired lessons for West Berkshire children.

Aldworth
22 February 1918

The children have this week written an essay on the potato and need of extra cultivation this season on account of the shortage of food – Prizes (in the form of seed potatoes) are to be given by Mr Roscoe of Streatley to the children who have written the best essay.

Reading
February 22nd 1918

Schools closed this afternoon on account of Children’s Concerts to be given in Large Town Hall for Wounded soldiers.

Wounded soldiers in a farce

Struan House in Maitland Road, Reading, was one of the big houses used as hospitals for soldiers. Some of the walking wounded were improving well enough to take part in local life.

Short notes

We welcome Nurse Sturges back from France for a while.

We also regret to learn that Pte. W Waters has been wounded and has been sent to Base hospital. We sincerely hope the wound is a slight one. Up to the time of printing, Mrs Waters had only received a field card dictated by her husband, and characteristicly (sic) making the best of it.

Entertainments

The last month saw a good many of these. First in order came the annual gathering of the Mothers’ Meeting in the Parish Hall, a packed room of over 200 persons with a most excellent programme. The tea of course was dispensed with. The chief feature of the evening’s amusement was a farce entitled “Mary’s sister John” performed by wounded soldiers from Struan House Auxiliary Hospital, Lce.Corp A Snow, Pte. Kirkham, Pte. J Whyte, Pte. E P Proctor and Pte. Newman. The part of the widow was played by Pte Whyte, Lucy by Pte Proctor, Mary by Pte Newman, Septimus Liverpad by Pte. Kirkham, Jack by LceCorp Snow. The farce was extraordinarily amusing from start to finish.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)