“Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker”

Here we learn of the war experiences of some of the Old Boys of St Bartholomew’s Grammar School, Newbury, who had lost their lives.

In Memoriam.

In reporting the deaths of the following Old Newburians, we take this opportunity of expressing our most sincere sympathy with the bereaved friends and relations.

N. G. Burgess.

Croix De Guerre

Lieutenant Nathaniel Gordon Burgess, Croix De Guerre, R.N.R., entered the N.G.S. in April, 1901, and left at Christmas, 1906, from the South House. He obtained his place in both the second Cricket and Football elevens in 1903 and got into both firsts in his last year. On leaving school he entered the Civil Service, but subsequently turned to the Mercantile Marine. His connection with the Senior Service dates from April, 1915, when his offer of service was accepted and he was granted the commission of Sub.-Lieutenant. The following September he was promoted to Acting Lieutenant and posted to H.M.S Conquest. While serving under the then Commodore Tyrrwhit he had the good fortune to capture two German trawlers laden with munitions; and the telegrams of congratulations, both from his Commanding Officer and the Admiralty, together with the battered flag of one of the trawlers, were among his most cherished possessions. The posthumous award of the Croix de Guerre was conferred on him by the French Government for his gallantry in the naval action off Lowestoft, in July 1916, when a German shell entered one of the magazines of his ship. Fortunately the shell did not immediately explode, and, by flooding the magazine compartment, the gallant officer prevented what might have been serious damage, his action being regarded very highly by the authorities.. thus it was a very promising life which was cut short when at the age of twenty-six, Burgess was lost at sea in March of this year.

J. V. Hallen.

Corporal John Vernie Hallen, School House 1905-1908, was born in 1894 and received his preliminary education at College House, Hungerford, thence going to The Ferns, Thatcham, from which school he finally came to the N.G.S., getting into both the Cricket and Football Seconds in 1907. After leaving here he became an expert motor engineer, from which occupation he joined up early in the war, determined at all costs to uphold the honour of his country. Such was his enthusiasm that he was led to write war verses with a view to stimulating the slacker, which we understand to have been always well received, and in the meanwhile he found time to use his great physical strength in winning the heavy weight boxing championship of his regiment, the 1st Surrey Rifles. Such was the man who was killed in action in France some three months ago.

F. C. Mortimer.

Private Frederick C. Mortimer, South House 1910-1915, who was reportedly killed in action “in the Field,” on Friday the 26th of April, was exactly nineteen years and four months old on the day of his death. He took a keen enjoyment in outdoor sport and got into the Second Cricket Eleven in 1914, while his dash was quite a feature of the First Fifteen in his last year here. Always cheerful and amusing, he was generally liked in his form and took his school life with a lightheartedness that made it well worth living. His last letter to his parents was dated on the day of his death, from France, whither he was drafted on the first of last February, after a year’s training at Dovercourt and Colchester. We cannot but feel that he died as he had lived, quickly and cheerfully.

R. Cowell-Townshend.

Second Lieutenant Roy Cowell-Townshend, R.A.F., Country House 1913-1916, was a promising Cricketer, having played for the first eleven both in 1915 and in his last term. On leaving school he wished to become an electrical engineer and entere4d into apprenticeship with Messrs. Thornycroft, on June 1st, 1916. Having reached the age of eighteen, he was called to the colours on February 17th, 1917, and went into training on Salisbury Plain, quickly gaining a stripe and the Cross Guns of the marksman. Soon afterwards he was drafted to the R.F.C. as a Cadet and went to Hursley Park for his course. From here he went first to Hastings and then to Oxford when, having passed all his exams, he was granted his commission on December 7th, 1917. He then went to Scampton, Lincoln, where he qualified as a Pilot, and afterwards to Shrewsbury, where he was practicing with a Bombing Machine he was to take on to France. Every report speaks of him as having been a most reliable pilot, and he had never had an accident while in this position, nor even a bad landing, and at the time of his death he was acting as passenger. The fatal accident occurred on May 29th, 1918, the machine, which the instructor was piloting, having a rough landing, and Townshend being pitched forward and killed instantaneously. His body was brought to his home at Hungerford, where he was buried with military honours on June 3rd.

The Newburian (magazine of St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury), July 1918 (N/D161/1/8)

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“For how much has God given us to be thankful”

Joan’s father escaped conscription at least for a while.

July 10th Wednesday

Daddie appeared before the tribunal yesterday unknown to us & got four months exemption with leave to appeal again. However the military representative may appeal against this, but it is by no means certain that he will, nor his success should he do so. For how much has God given us to be thankful.

Diary of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Notice to join the Army

Another headmaster was forced to join the army.

7th June 1918.
Alfred Randall 05/1842, who has been in charge of this school since November 29th 1910, ceases to be head teacher after today, he having received notice to join the Army on June 12th.

Aldermaston School log book (88/SCH/3/3, p. 89)

“Down here because the raids upset her so”

The Daniels family welcomed an additional guest fleeing from air raids in the East End – a young relative of their maid.

Florence Vansittart Neale
5 June 1918

Amusing lunch. Officers described German prisoners! They both left (Granville & Knapman).

Joan Daniels
June 5th Wednesday

Florence’s little sister came with her mending. Mummie has had her down here because the raids upset her so. They live in Plaistow & had bombs very near them last time. She is a most amusing kiddie…

Uncle Jack went to be medically examined & is passed Grade 3. That means if anyone goes it has to be Daddie, but it strengthens the latter’s position with regard to exemption.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and Joan Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1)

Medical Examination under the Military Service Act of 1918

Would the headmaster of Lower Sandhurst School have to be called up?

June 4th 1918
I was absent from School this morning having been called to Reading to undergo Medical Examination under the Military Service Act of 1918.

Lower Sandhurst School log book (C/EL66/1, p. 438)

“O Lord how long!”

The war was entering a crucial phase, with an intense need for men leading to new pressures in Ireland, still troubled by the aftermath of the Easter Rising.

10 April 1918

Still holding line but falling back. Hard fighting.

Lovely morning. K & I down in shelter – she read Lloyd George’s speech on manpower. Irish conscription & men up to 50. Clergy also. Must have more men. Civil servants and luxury trades drastic comb[at?]ants.

O Lord how long!

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The eternal question of Rations

The Dodeka Club in Reading debated rationing and conscription.

The 290th meeting of the club was held on Friday Ap. 5. 18 at Barkas’s…

There being apparently some misunderstanding as to the subject of the evening’s discussion, owing to more than one topic having been suggested, the host skilfully evaded the matter by touching on the “eternal” question of “Rations”. This, together with the possibility of some of our juvenile members being “conscripted”, provided food for an animated discussion, & at 10.50 a pleasant evening was brought to a close.

Dodeka Book Club minutes (D/EX2160/1/3)

“Folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France”

It may be fiction – and intended as political propaganda – but this story, written by Phoebe Blackall (later Cusden) does shed some light on some working class attitudes to the war’s impact on local schools.

Mrs Higgs Speaks Her Mind
IV – On Schooling

“Drat them children! What’s the use o’ me slaving myself to a skelington to keep the place decent when the young baggages keeps rampagin’ over my clean floor and makin’ enough noise to wake the dead?”

Mrs Higgs stood with her hands on her hips, ruefully surveying several muddy footprints …

“But there! What’s the goodo’ blaming the kids? They must let off steam somehow, else they’ll bust. It’s all along o’ this ‘alf-time schoolin’… ‘alf time school – ‘’alf their chance of learning gone – that leaves ‘em wi’ about a quarter of what the rich folks’ children gets …

I know they wants hospitals for the wounded soldiers – bless ‘em – but there’s plenty of other places they could turn into hospitals without taking our schools. I haven’t heard that the big country mansions, what’s only used for weekends, have been given up to the wounded, nor the big hotels and public buildings where they does nothing but waste public money by paying big salaries to people who don’t know nothing about the job they’re supposed to be doin’…

Ame old tale – when they wants cannon-fodder or money or munitions or buildings, they always looks round to see what else they can take away from the working folks, first they takes our men-folk, then they asks us for our savings – lumme! I should like to see some! – and when they wants hospitals they takes the Council Schools…

We never ought to have let ‘em have our schools, and if this war’s going to last much longer, they ought to let us have ‘em back.

Cost a lot? Course it would; but folks don’t cry out about the millions that’s being spent every day in killing our boys and smashing up all the beautiful churches and buildings in France.

A.P.E.B.

The Reading Worker: The Official Journal of Organised Labour in Reading and District, no. 13, January 1918 (D/EX1485/10/1/1)

He “saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire”

There was news of many Burghfield men, some of whom had performed acts of heroism at the front.

Honours and Promotions

We congratulate 2nd Lt Wheeler and his parents Mr and Mrs E C Wheeler on his promotion, he having been given a commission in the King’s Liverpool Regiment. His brother, T Wheeler, is now training as a Pilot in No 5 Cadet Wing, RFC. Cadet (ex Corporal) Alfred Searies is training in Scotland, having been recommended for a commission. He has been twice wounded, and has saved an officer’s life by carrying him on his back out of danger, under fire. The following are now Sergeants: E Cooke (5th R W Surrey), R J Turfrey (ASC< MT), E Wise (2/4th Royal Berks).

Casualties

E N Pike (killed in action), P C Layley (scalded), J Cummings, A Newman, and A Ware (wounded). W Butler, whose parents long lived in the parish, but have lately gone to Sulhamstead, is also wounded.

Discharges

Jos. West, ex 2nd Rifle Brigade (wounds); Herbert C Layley, ex 5th Royal Berks (wounds); Fred W Johnson, ex 2nd Royal Berks (heart); Isaac Slade, ex 4th Royal Berks and RE (heart); J D Whitburn, ex Royal Berks (rheumatism), just moved to Five Oaken. Arthur L Collins, in last magazine, should have been described as ex 5th Royal Berks.

Other War Items

Lieutenant Francis E Foster, RNVR, of Highwoods, who since the outbreak of war has been looking for trouble in the North Sea, has been rewarded by transfer to a quieter job further south, for the present. Lieutenant Geoffrey H B Chance, MG Corps (of the Shrubberies) is in hospital in Egypt, suffering from malaria.

Roll of Honour
Mr Willink thanks all who have given him information. He is always glad to receive more. It is difficult if not impossible, especially since the Military Service Act, to keep the Roll up to date.

Obituary Notices

The following death is recorded with regret.

Mr E N Pike, of Burghfield Hatch, son of Mrs Pike of Brook House, lost his life as above stated, for his country on 11th November, less than a week after returning to the front from a month’s leave which had been granted him to enable him to get in his fruit crop. An officer in his Battery writes: “In the short time that Gunner Pike has been in the Battery we have learned to appreciate him not only for his work but for the man he was”. He leaves a young widow and a little boy. He had good hopes of obtaining a commission in time.

Burghfield parish magazine, December 1917 (D/EX725/4)

Cossacks fighting Bolshevists in civil war

The Revolution was not universally popular in the territories of the Russian Empire, and the reaction was underway.

21 December 1917

Civil war in Russia. Cossacks in Ukraine fighting Bolshevists.

Canada gone in for conscription.

Australia against it in elections.

Diary of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8)

The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation

The parish of Burghfield was keeping track of local men serving in the war.

THE WAR

The Roll of Honour

A list kept by the Rector, of those Burghfield men who since the beginning of the war have laid down their lives for their country and the just cause of the Allies, hangs near the reading-desk in the Church.

The full Roll, including those who have offered and been accepted for immediate or deferred service, is kept up to date by Mr. Willink so far as possible, and hangs in the Church Porch. The introduction of compulsory service has rather changed the situation: but he will be glad to receive names of men not already on the Roll but actually serving, together with the exact title of their ship or unit, also notice of any honours or promotions, wounds or deaths.

The list of wounded is growing long. Happily most cases are light. But it should be known by everybody that any disabled man is entitled to free training, if necessary or possible in some trade, and to be helped in finding employment. Information can be obtained at any Post Office. In cases of delay or difficulty in this matter, or in regard to Pensions or Allowances, applications should be made to the Berkshire War Pensions Committee through Mr. or Mrs Willink, who are on the Reading Rural Sub Committee.

Honours

Colonel Sir Wyndham Murray, of Culverlands, formerly C.B whose distinguished services in past times are well known, has been made K.C.B. He has acted as King’s Messenger during the War, and has repeatedly visited the front. He and Lady Murray have also received certain Japanese decorations.

Captain G. O. W. Willink was mentioned in Despatches in May, and has just been awarded the Military Cross for distinguished conduct in August. He has commanded “A” Coy in the 2/4 R. Berks Regt. Since he went out in July 1916, and has seen service in many parts of the line in France and Flanders.

Burghfield parish magazine, October 1917 (D/EX725/4)

An organist is called up

A Wokingham church had to face the prospect of singing hymns unaccompanied when their organist was conscripted.

Organist.
We want an Organist. Mr. Collins, who most kindly came to fill the gap when Mr. Baker was called up, and who has performed his duties most efficiently, is unfortunately unable to remain permanently.

Wokingham St Sebastian parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P154C/28A/1)

“May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world”

The minister of Maidenhead Congregational Church tried to encourage members to look on the bright side of life despite all the horrors and losses of the war.

May blossoms and war seem as though they ought to be impossible in the same world. The dreadful mud in the midst of which our soldiers have been living is more congruous with the spirit of warfare than sweet grass and hawthorn buds. Many letters from the front have spoken of the start of surprise with which a lark’s song is heard over the trenches. We have all, when some sorrow is heavy upon us, felt a sort of astonishment that the sun should go on shining, and the birds twittering, and passers by smiling, as though nothing had happened. But the worst of sorrows cannot cover the whole sky. We want taking out of ourselves at times. Evils won’t bear brooding over, we only make them worse. We shall be able to bear “the strain of toil, the fret of care” better, if we make rich use of the ministry of the blossoms.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are glad to hear that Reginald Hill is progressing, though slowly. He has had several operations, and probably must undergo two or three more. The doctors think he may have to be in bed for at least three months yet, but they hope he will make quite a good recovery.

We regret deeply to have to record that John Boyd, formerly the Caretaker of the Chapel, was killed in action on March 29th. He enlisted in the 2nd Berks. In June 1916, and was sent to France on Sept. 22nd. He was a most genial and kind-hearted man, and had a wide circle of friends among whom he was very popular. We offer our Christian sympathy to Mrs. Boyd and her family.

It is distressing too to hear that Stephen Harris is returned as “missing.” The Captain of his Company has written to Mr. and Mrs. Harris that he has made all possible inquiries and can gain no information. The best that can be hoped for is that he may be a prisoner in German hands. Robert Harris was killed in July last. May God grant His patience and consolation to the distressed parents.

Wallace Mattingly has been admitted to Sandhurst Military College for eight months’ training. G. Frampton is expecting to be called up immediately. We are glad to see Cyril Hews at home again on leave, looking in the pink of health. P.S. Eastman writes in good spirits from “somewhere in the East.”

He says, “I have not yet left for the special work for which I was sent out, but may do so any day now. In the meantime I have had quite a variety of work, until at present I find myself in the C.O.’s office. Yesterday I had a line from Frank Pigg, who is with the R.F.C in Salonica; may be one of these days I shall be able to pay him a visit.”

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, May 1917 (D/N33/12/1/5)

We shall all share in the blessings of Victory as we should all share in the Miseries of Defeat

A rousing call to arms, or rather to joining in the National Service Scheme to help out on the home front.

Twelve good Reasons

1. BECAUSE the Greatest War the World has ever seen is nearing its climax, when we and our Allies must either conquer or be conquered.

2. BECAUSE Victory will mean the preservation of our homes, our lives, our liberties and all we hold dear, while Defeat will mean the loss of all these things and triumph of a Despotic Military System which seeks to destroy the British Empire and impose itself on the whole world.

3. BECAUSE having passed laws to compel men of certain ages to fight it is the bounded duty not of one man or one set of men, but every man to see that the Army and Navy are provide with everything they need to secure Victory, and to help to that end as far as possible.

4. BECAUSE our food supplies from abroad being threatened or reduced, and many agriculturists at home having been called up, men are urgently required to maintain and if possible to increase, our home supplies.

5. BECAUSE we cannot do these things unless all the manpower of the country is available and is properly organized, for which purpose the National Service Department has been formed.

6. BECAUSE our enemies the Germans are already organizing every man, woman and child for a similar purpose, but by the much less desirable method of Industrial Compulsion, which we are especially anxious to avoid.

7. BECAUSE if everyone helps who can , the war will be shortened, thereby saving at least six million pounds per day in money, and what is of infinite greater importance the lives, limbs and health of human beings, including in many cases our own relatives and friends.

8. BECAUSE every right-minded and patriotic man desires to help, but many do not know how or where to begin. Like an untrained and undisciplined Army, we are helpless without organization.

9. BECAUSE the National Service Department provides this organization, and when it has the names and qualifications of every one between the ages of 18 and 61, it will be able to supply man power where it is most needed, and to prevent the waste of it by putting “round men into round holes and square men into square holes” the right man in the right place.

10. BECAUSE certain occupations are essential while others are non-essential, and at any cost to ourselves or our comfort, the former should not want for a moment for labour which can be supplied by those engaged in the latter, or by those who are not engaged in either.

11. BECAUSE we shall all share in the blessings of Victory as we should all share in the Miseries of Defeat and it is therefore “up to” everyone of us to offer our services, whether they are accepted or not. To take part in civil occupations of National Importance involves little sacrifice when compared with that which we call upon our Soldiers and Sailors to make.

12. BECAUSE every man who enrols will be able, with a clear conscience, to reflect that in the hour of the Nation’s peril, he offered “to do his bit” by placing himself at the service of his country.

Note. If you agree that the above reasons are good reasons why all should enrol, go to the nearest Post Office, National Service Office or Employment Exchange and get a free form of application , fill it up (whether you are engaged already in work of National Importance or not) and post it (unstamped) to the Director General of National Service.

Reading St Mark section of Reading St Mary parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P98/28A/15)

All Germans of military age to be called up

Swiss newspapers had access to the latest news from Germany. Will Spencer heard of the death of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, inventor of the Zeppelin airship which had become so feared in Britain.

9 March 1917

News in the paper of Graf Zeppelin’s death (aged 79). Also a statement that all Germans of military age were about to be called in.

Diary of Will Spencer (D/EX801/27)