Shot in cold blood, and now “beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”

Cambridge don John Maxwell Image was excited by the new tanks rolling into action; philosophical about air raids – and horrified by first-hand stories of the executions of young men for cowardice or desertion.

29 Barton Road
[Cambridge]

23 Sept. ‘16

Mon Ami!

I share your views about the ghastly War. With its slaughters and its expenditure, where shall we be left after it is over. Any peace that leaves Germany still united – united for evil – is a fool madness that deserves the new War it will render a certainty.

I am in a fever to see the photograph of a Tank in action. I can’t imagine its appearance. I don’t believe them lengthy like caterpillars – but more like mammoths, Behemoths – “painted in venomous reptilian colours” for invisibility – and “waddling on” over trenches.

Today’s paper speaks of a seaplane over Dover yesterday. This is the very general prelude to a Zepp raid: and we expect one accordingly tonight, if their courage hasn’t oozed out. There is a Flying Camp near here – at Thetford, I believe. Daily, Planes soar over us – a sight I view every time with fresh pleasure. Twice we have had an Airship – huge, but not like the pictures of the German Zepps. I may as well tell you of our own experience on Saturday 3 weeks ago. Peaceful and unsuspecting, we were sitting in the drawing room at 10.30 when suddenly the electric lights went down and left the house in darkness. This is the official warning of Zepps. So we went out into Barton Rd. Not a glimmer, nor a sound. Quite unimpressive.

We turned in to bed – all standing (in Navy language) – and I into the deepest slumber, from which I was eventually shaken to hear an agitated voice, “they’re here”. I bundled out, lit a match and read on my watch 2.50. There was no mistaking – a thunderous drone, such as I had never heard before – and, seemingly, exactly overhead. We hurried down into the road. The roar grew fainter, and then began – deep and dignified – the guns. I guessed them to be on the Gogmagogs – then sharp explosions, which we took for bombs, thrown haphazard by the Zepp which was undoubtedly fleeing for the coast.

Robinson’s Zepp had come to earth at 2.30. Possibly ours was the wounded bird, which dropped a gondola or something in Norfolk when making its escape?

At 4.5 our electric lights went up again, and we to bed. Decorous night-rails, this time.

The Signora has a wee aluminium fragment from the Zepp that was brought down at Salonica. It was picked up by a young soldier who had been in her Sunday School Class. We had a sudden visit from her youngest brother, Gilbert, home on 6 days leave from Salonica. You have heard me speak of him as the rising artist who at 20 years of age sold a picture for £100, and is now a Tommy at 1/- a day. I fell in love with him on the spot. So simple, so lovable, – above all, such a child – going about the world unprotected!

By the way Gilbert saw the Zepp come down in flames at Salonica.
He had many yarns. The one that most made me shudder was of the announcement at a morning parade, “Sergeant So-and-so of the Connaught Rangers was shot this morning by sentence of a Court Martial for refusing to obey an order”. Just that! I have heard of these shootings in cold blood, several times, at the Front in France. Always they made me feel sick. A boy (on one occasion) of 17 ½, who had fought magnificently at Hill 60: and then lost his nerve, when his 2 brothers were killed in the trench at his side. Pym (our TCC [Trinity College, Cambridge] chaplain) sat with him all night and gave him the Sacrament. He

“could only feel what a real comfort it was to know that the boy was now beyond the reach of human injustice and incompetence”.

Letter from John Maxwell Image to W F Smith (D/EX801/2)

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A soul-stirring example in Cookham Dean

Cookham Dean was proud of the many young men who had answered the call of their country, including those who had been killed. Unusually, they also honoured the men who had volunteered, but been rejected on medical grounds.

The Roll of Honour.

It is with very mingled feelings that this paragraph is written. Cookham Dean may well be proud of its Roll of Honour, which is published again this month. Many names have been added to it, since it was issued last in April, of lads who have responded to their Country’s Call and whose names are now added to those who earlier set them such a soul-stirring example.

One name is removed from the list of the living and finds a place among the honoured dead who have given their lives for their country- Major Richard Saker, Connaught Rangers, recently attached to the 5th Batt. Australian Infantry. He took a gallant part in the action on the occasion of the landing of the Expeditionary Force at the Dardanelles, was wounded, but, after receiving surgical aid, immediately returned to the firing line and was shot down at once by an enemy sniper. Major Saker had served in the South African War and held the Queen’s Medal, with four clasps. He was in the 38th year of his age, and leaves a widow and a dear little boy to mourn his loss, to whom we offer our respectful sympathy. A Memorial Service for Captain Saker was held in Church on the Sunday after the sad news had been received, June 27th.

Since the April list was issued Major Henderson has been mentioned in despatches and promoted Lieut.-Colonel. 2nd Lieuts. Brian Lawrence (‘Dial Close’) and Russell Simmons have been promoted Lieutenants. Sergeant William Markham distinguished himself at Hill 60, near Yprès, in a gallant action and the D.C.M. (Distinguished Conduct Medal) has been conferred upon him; he merits our very heartiest congratulations this distinction. Pte. Ernest Blinko, with others in his Company, 9th County of London (Queen Victoria’s Rifles) has been offered a commission, but, after consideration, preferred to remain as he was; nevertheless, the offer itself is a compliment which onwe are certain was well deserved. Pte. Charles Piercey has been promoted Sergt., and Pte. Ernest Horne is now Corpl.

On the Supplementary List, alas, we have lost two. 2nd Lieut. Bian Lawrence (‘Mountfield,’ Maidenhead), only son of our kind friends, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lawrence, was killed in action on June 1st; he was only 17 years of age, but had already proved his worth a gallant, reliable officer, and was a young soldier of the greatest promise; he had endeared himself alike to his brother officers and the men under his command. The dear boy has given his life for his country, and we are proud to think that his boyhood’s days were spent in this parish; had it been possible, we would have considered it a great honour if his body could have been laid in our Churchyard. To his parents and grandfather we offer our deepest and most respectful sympathy, well knowing that life in this world can never be the same for them again. Sergent Ernest Lemmon died of wounds on May 9th; he was not known here, but for months past our prayers have been offered for him and others that God would save and defend them, and we believe that those prayers have been answered as God knows best.

It is only right that the names of those who would otherwise have been on the Roll of Honour but for the misfortune that, after examination by Military Doctors, they have been pronounced medically unfit to join His Majesty’s Forces, should be recorded in the Magazine: – Albert Harris (nr. Dean Farm), Sidney George Hunt (Spike Hatch), Harry Jordan (Dean Farm), Alfred Luker (Orchard Cottages), James Price (Primrose Cottage), Harry West (School Cottages), have all offered themselves, all honour to them, but for the above reason could not be accepted. It may be that there are one or two more whose names have not reached me. It is most satisfactory to feel that there are very few young men in this place who are content to abide at home when a Call, such as never before, has sounded in the ears of the Nation, has been made to them. Why in their case has the Call been made to them in vain?

Cookham Dean parish magazine, July 1915 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Honour the dead – but first honour and inspire the living

Some of the Earley men who had joined up had paid the ultimate price before the end of 1914. But the Earley parish magazine had a trenchant message for parishioners regarding the way soldiers were indulged with alcohol.

Roll of Honour

We deeply regret the increasing list of those who have either laid down their lives or been wounded in the service of their country. Of this large number some are connected with our parish, and we offer our most heartfelt sympathy to their families, especially to Mr and Mrs Fisher of S. Bartholomew’s Road, and Mr and Mrs Kintchin of Filey Road, whose sons have both been killed in action. No particulars are to hand of William James Kintchin except one sad event: but we may say, without breaking confidence, that the account sent of Edward Fisher (a reservist and sometime postman of Reading) shows he died a most noble death immediately after carrying out of action a wounded man.

We at home cannot realize, indeed can have no idea, what battle actually means to those engaged, but we can honour them in life as well as in death; and the meaning of all the meetings recently held in the town hall, and in our own club for girls, is to impress upon them the all-important need of shewing honour to those who are about to fight for our hearths and homes. The streets of our town too often and too sadly shew how difficult it is for many to learn this elementary lesson. Those who are ready to honour and mourn the dead have first to learn to honour and inspire the living. The soldiers’ great enemies are the thoughtlessness and frivolity, the want of seriousness, and miserable treating to strong drink on the part of those who call themselves their best friends. Alas! That it should be so; that many men, women and girls should need to be roused to their sense of duty, when at this time it is so self-evident.

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Soldiers and sailors from Earley

The roll of honour of Earley parish was quite an impressive one even this early in the war.

The following are the names of the sailors and soldiers on the roll of this parish. A note of interrogation signifies that the name of the regiment or ship has not been furnished us.

On Active Service

Albert Ernest Allnutt HMS Iron Duke
Arthur Sidney Allnutt
James Allen Royal Berks. Regiment
Ernest Brown Ryl Oxfordshire Regt.
Edward Brown HMS Weymouth
George Bond Royal Berks. Regiment
Cecil Caulfield Royal Scottish Rifles
Herbert Collier Ryl Oxfordshire Regt.
Alfred Eyres Royal Berks. Regiment
Edward Fisher Grenadier Guards
Thomas Fullbrook HMS Blake
Stephen Gibbons ?
Alfred Gibbings Royal Navy
Sydney George Gough HMS Glasgow
Charles Samuel Gough HMS Larne
William Golding Royal Field Artillery
William Grace Life Guards
Edgar Robert Gunningham HMS Amphitrite
Ernest Holton (Surgeon) HMS Goliath
James Hussey Royal Berks. Regiment
Percy Walter Hewett HMS Fearless
Ernest Albert King Rifle Brigade
William James Kinchin Royal Berks. Regiment
Leonard Love Royal Horse Artillery
William Walter Love HMS Venerable
Thomas Pilkington Norris Royal Engineers
Edward Parvin HMS Tiger
William Henry Pomeroy HMS Magnificent
William Poffley Grenadier Guards
Ralph Pusey Grenadier Guards
Albert Povey Royal Berks. Regiment
Edward Price Royal Berks. Regiment
George William Rixon HMS Euryalus
Francis Harry Stevens HMS Euryalus
William Davis Stevens Ryl. Warwickshire Regt.
Lieut. Robert Sturgess HMS Exmouth
Lieut. Austin Charlewood Turner Connaught Rangers (P.O.W)
Joseph Tull Rifle Brigade
Harry Wise Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders (wounded)
Charles Henry White Royal Berks. Regiment
Frederick Charles Edwards HMS Bramble on service in
China
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