“The role of platonic friend is too difficult for me to sustain”

Percy Spencer found life at his parents emotionally challenging, so fled to his peacetime home in London, which was equally wearing.

27 Rattray Road
Brixton
SW

Decr 15, 1917

My dear WF

Cookham was a nightmare so I fled to London, and there I have been taking Dot out to lunch almost daily. She, I am happy to say, is quite normal again, but still very dependant upon her friends, so I think it has done her good to have me to talk to and detach her thoughts from the Battle of Cambrai. But the role of platonic friend is too difficult for me to sustain for long together, so just as your letter arrived I was writing to tell you that I am returning to 29 and peace on Monday 17th, please.


Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/74)

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An air of sadness as nature reclaims the countryside

Percy Spencer shared his sense of an abandoned countryside with expat brother Will.

15 December 1917

A letter from Percy to us both, which I read to Johanna in the verandah after breakfast. After telling us about his rowing experiences [in Cambridge while training as an officer there], he continues:

“At the moment I am on [sic] a loose end, but expect to be in France or elsewhere by the middle of January. Cookham is very empty & silent. There is some compensation in the re-asserted claims of nature in the quiet corners of the earth as man’s claims have slackened, but altogether there is an air of sadness about the countryside, very depressing. I feel the water rat would much prefer to plop hastily into the water at your approach & the moorhen to scuttle jerkily into the reeds, than to feed unmolested & fearless of disturbance.”

So Percy feels that the water rat & the moorhen wish too, that the old times were back. In this feeling that the wild creatures must feel the same as he does, Percy not only shows a deep love of nature & of man, but also something of the imagination of a poet.

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

£500 towards the war effort

A school war savings group reached a milestone.

December 14th 1917

The School War Savings Association this week reached a total of £500 in savings.

Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 307)

“The news of her boy’s death seems to have quite deranged her”

Percy Spencer, visiting his parents in Cookham, found a neighbour depressed by the death of a loved one.

Fernlea, Cookham
Decr 6, 1917

My dear WF

I find Dot [a neighbour?] very down and dismal. Poor girl, the news of her boy’s death seems to have quite deranged her for a while.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/73)

“My thoughts are with my country”

The exit of Russia from the war led expat Will Spencer to worry for the future of Britain.

1 December 1917

Have serious thoughts with regard to what the present defection of Russia may mean for the Entente, & particularly for my country. According to the papers, peace negotiations between Russia & Germany are to begin tomorrow.

Felt that my letter to Father, finished last night, talking chiefly about my new pupil, Pastor Burri, & about the beauty of, & my affection for Wimmis, was a strange one to have written under the circumstances. Was glad that I had just room to add the following postscript:

“I refrain from speaking about the war in my letters. I can only say that my thoughts are with my country & with you all.”

Diary of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

Germans “too downtrodden to rise”

Florence Vansittart Neale was glued to every wild rumour about the war, while Will Spencer’s love for his German wife had only grown stronger through their difficult years of exile in Switzerland.

Florence Vansittart Neale
November 1917
[inserted before 23 November]

Hear P. Innes says state of Germany awful. People too weak to rise, able bodied men only able to work half time, too downtrodden to rise.
Hear the Pope instigated the Italians to give up. He encouraged Austrian spies everywhere!

23 November 1917

Hear Boy cannot get Paris leave. Hope for January…. Hear most domestic servants to be requisitioned for work – only allowed 1 servant each person! Counting the gardeners!!!

Hear General Plumer & staff have been in Italy 3 weeks to see how many necessary to keep Italy. Our troops must go over Mt Cenes pass.

Hear through Marga that a Florentine Regiment who deserted was sent back to Florence with “traitors to their country” on their brassades.

Hear many battalions would willingly shoot 1 in 10 of strikers [illegible].

Will Spencer
23 November 1917

During the afternoon I called & had an interview with Herrn Fursprech Engeloch. Father need take no further steps to obtain attestation of my residence in Cookham before Jan. 19/15, as it may not be needed. As soon as the matter comes before the Gemeinde (I told him we had chosen Oberburg [as their official home town in Switzerland]. Herr E. will let Oberst Reichel know, in order that he can then write on our behalf, stating that we are friends of his, as he has kindly offered to do. Probably the best means of letting the German authorities know that I had become a Swiss subject would be to apply to have Johanna’s money sent here, mentioning thereby that I am a Swiss subject, & if that is questioned, to then place the matter in the hands of the Swiss Political Department. My naturalization cannot finally be ratified until the Grosser Rat has met again. It only meets twice a year, & will meet next, Herr E. said, in Feb. or March, or at the latest in April….

I was sorry to have to tell Johanna how long we might have to wait for the ratification of our naturalization. After we had had coffee in Johanna’s room, something moved me to tell her that I had learned to know her better & that she had become more to me than ever during these last years – in some ways years of trial – in Switzerland. Johanna had afterwards to go into the town, but she would not let me go with her, as I was not quite up to the mark, & she thought it better for me to rest. When she returned, she thanked me again for what I had said. I said that I was sorry that they were only words that I had spoken, that I felt such things were better expressed in deeds, but she comforted me with the assurance that what I had said had not been merely words.

Diaries of Florence Vansittart Neale of Bisham Abbey (D/EX73/3/17/8); and of Will Spencer in Switzerland (D/EX801/26)

“They would be bitterly disappointed if they could see how few really care”

Enthusiasm was flagging among those who had committed to praying for the troops in Cookham Dean – but the village’s children cared about injured horses.

The Vicar’s Letter

Might I plead once more for more regular attendance at our ordinary Intercession Services? Why has the attendance dropped in numbers so seriously – especially on Wednesdays at 11? As far as possible I vary the Services so that they should not be the same – and I would urge those who began well and attended so regularly during the first months of the war to begin again. ‘Be not weary of doing well’, says St. Paul, who there enforces a lesson we all need to learn over and over again. The thoughts of so many on Active Service turn for comfort and support to the thought that at certain times, ‘Many are gathered together praying’ for them in the Church which at home they know best and love most; and I fear they would be bitterly disappointed if they could see how few really care to come with any regularity to the Services provided for them. Do think of this, and act upon it.

The Roll of Honour

The promotion of Pte. E. Blinko to be Corporal should have been notified some months ago. We should like to congratulate most heartily Capt. Vesci Batchelor M.G.C. (elder son of the Vicar of Cookham), who has recently been promoted Major, and 2nd Lieut. C. Edwards promoted Lieut.

Parish Registers

The children of the school have made a Collection on behalf of the Wounded Horses Fund, and have sent up £1 to the R.S.P.C.A. Society.


Cookham Dean parish magazine, November 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)

Commence the 1918 food campaign

Maidenhead gardeners and allotment holders were urged again to make the most of their vegetable gardens.

Great Success of Webster’s Noted Seeds at Cox Green Show.

Many Valuable Prizes won by our Customers.

COMMENCE THE 1918 FOOD CAMPAIGN
By Sowing at once the Fine Stocks of

WEBSTER’S PEDIGREE ONION.
WEBSTER’S SUPERB CABBAGE.
WEBSTER’S CHOICE TURNIPS.

Perfect your present Crops by Dressing with Good CHEMICAL FERTILISERS.

WE STOCK ALL THE STANDARD KINDS.

J. P. WEBSTER, FRHS, SEEDSMAN AND HORTICULTURAL SUNDRIESMAN,
124 High Street, & Station Front, Maidenhead
ALSO AT COOKHAM AND BOURNE END.

The Richer Your Land the Heavier Your Crop by the Use of Fertilisers.

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, September 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

Temporary residents

A head teacher in Cookham was disinclined to take in evacuee children staying in Maidenhead.

Cookham Alwyn Road School
September 7th 1917

I am constantly receiving applications for admission of [Maidenhead] borough children, mostly temporary residents, but as I am very closely approaching maximum on roll, I am refusing to admit these borough children, and am sending them on to the borough school.

Cookham Alwyn Road School log book (88/SCH/18/1, p. 302)

Potatoes for victory

Boys in Datchet were growing potatoes to help feed the country, while children in Cookham and their parents were putting their savings in the care of the government, for use in the war.

Datchet National Mixed School
5 September 1917
The potatoes were set, the weather most favourable & the boys are employed in the half-acre “Victory” Plot until further notice.

Cookham Alwyn Road School
September 5th 1917

The War Savings Association continues to do good work. The takings this week were much above the average, and reached £20-5-5.

Log books of Datchet National Mixed School (SCH30/8/3, p. 400); and Cookham Alwyn Road School (88/SCH/18/1, p. 302)

Plant food means human food

Local gardeners were encouraged to use chemicals to increase food yields.

PLANT FOOD means HUMAN FOOD!

Plants must have Food if they are to produce all they are capable of.
Much of the Land which has been newly broken up this season is sadly deficient in Plant Food. Farm Yard or Stable Manure has been very difficult – often quite impossible – to obtain. Unless means are adopted for Feeding the Crops, they will be small and disappointing.

The so-called Artifical Manures are really

CONCENTRATED PLANT FOOD

AND

You can Double Your Crops by their proper use.

We stock all the Standard kinds.

Sulphate of Ammonia and Superphosphate FOR POTATOES.

J. P. WEBSTER, FRHS, SEEDSMAN AND HORTICULTURAL SUNDRIESMAN,
124 High Street, & Station Front, Maidenhead
ALSO AT COOKHAM AND BOURNE END.

The Richer Your Land the Heavier Your Crop by the Use of Fertilisers.
Compete for our Handsome Challenge Bowl and Valuable Cash Prizes at Cox Green War Time Food Show, Aug. 16.

Advertisement in Maidenhead St Luke parish magazine, August 1917 (D/P181/28A/26)

“Battles are nothing to what I have had to endure the last 4 days”

At last Percy Spencer was on his way back home, to undergo training as an officer in North Wales.

July 2, 1917
My dear WF

At last my soul is my own.

Battles are nothing to what I have had to endure the last 4 days.

Anyhow, here I am, just arrived from Southport with 15 days leave and orders to report on July 16 to GOC 13th Training Reserve Brigade, Kinmel Park, near Rhyl.

I did not receive your letter saying Col Ready had applied for me.

My programme is to go to Cookham for 3 or 4 days or perhaps a week & then I should like to come to you, supposing you’ll have me, and I am not coming to Trinity….

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/6/42)

A splendid address on Duty and Patriotism that even the tiniest could understand

Empire Day was the focus for patriotic expressions in schools across the county.

Piggott Schools, Wargrave
Empire Day

The children of the Piggott Schools celebrated Empire Day (May 24th) in right loyal fashion. They assembled at the School, and with flags flying, marched down to Church where a short service was held. The Vicar gave an appropriate address. Re-assembling on the Church Green they proceeded to the Schools and took their places round the flag pole from which the Union Jack was flying. A good number of parents and friends of the children with many of the soldiers from the hospital were waiting their return. As the boys passed the soldiers they gave them a salute in recognition of what they had done for their country.

The National Anthem was sung, and the flag saluted, and Miss. E. Sinclair gave a splendid address on Duty and Patriotism in such a way that even the tiniest could understand it. Capt. Bird proposed a vote of thanks to Miss Sinclair and hearty cheers were given in which the soldiers joined. Three Patriotic and Empire Songs were sung by the children, the Vicar called for cheers for the Teachers, and Mr. Coleby announced that Mrs. Cain had most kindly provided buns and sweets for all as they left the grounds. Hearty cheers were given her for her thoughtfulness. Cheers for the King concluded the proceedings.

Alwyn Road School, Cookham
May 24th 1917

Empire Day was celebrated today. The Headmaster addressed the children assembled in the Hall, and the National Anthem was sung. The children then went to their classrooms and ordinary lessons proceeded till 11 o’clock. Each class teacher then gave a lesson on “Empire” and kindred subjects till 11.30. This was followed by a Writing Lesson when some of the important facts were taken down.

The school assembled in the Hall again at 11.55 and after a few more remarks by the Headmaster the national Anthem was again sung and the children dismissed.

Opportunity was taken of this morning’s addresses to instil into the children’s minds the necessity of economising in the use of all food stuffs, and more especially of bread and flour.

A holiday was granted in the afternoon. (more…)

Promoting the economical use of foods

The Education Committee was at the forefront of war savings schemes locally. School were also to be used to promote changes in people’s habits with regards to food and cookery given the food shortages resulting from the war.

Report of Berks War Savings Committee

The War Savings Committee submit the following report of their work since the report to the July meeting of the Education Committee:

In accordance with the powers given to them on appointment, the following additional members have been co-opted:

Mr G F Slade
Mr T Skurray

During July and August last… Local Committees for War Savings came into being at Abingdon, Windsor and Maidenhead. Since that date, as a result of public meetings addressed by Miss Fraser of the National War Savings Committee and the Education Secretary, Local Committees have been started at Pangbourne, Thatcham, Newbury, Wallingford, Bracknell, Hungerford and Wokingham. Up to the 31 March, War Savings Associations have been established under the control of these Local Committees as follows:

Abingdon, with 6 Associations

Wallingford, 15 Associations

Pangbourne, 4 Associations

Hungerford, 7 Associations

Newbury, 15 Associations

Thatcham, 5 Associations

Wokingham, 13 Associations

Windsor

Maidenhead, 32 Associations

Bracknell, 13 Associations

As a general rule, these local committees deal only with their immediate areas, but efforts are being made by the National War Savings Committee to secure the extension of their activities to the surrounding parishes; e.g. the Associations of Marcham and Moulsford are affiliated to the Abingdon and Wallingford Local Committees respectively, and the War Savings Associations at the Cookham, Alwyn Road Council School, and Clewer S. Stephen’s School are affiliated to the Maidenhead and Windsor Local Committees respectively, whilst the Earley CE School War Savings Association is affiliated to the Reading Central Committee.

The Associations in connexion with Windsor Castle and the Broadmoor Asylum are affiliated directly with the National Committee.

The number of War Savings Associations (in addition to the above) in the Rural Parishes formed up to the 31 March, is 56; at least one half of these are in connexion with the schools….

The average amount saved by each Association during the quarter January to March, 1917, is £217. These figures do not include the grouped Associations, and relate only to the smaller Rural Associations, where the opportunities to save are less than in the larger centres of population.

The Berks Teachers’ Association officials in January consented to help in the work, and have been successful in arousing and maintaining interest in the movement. Messrs Camburn, James and Fryer, in particular, have done most valuable service.

The National War Savings Committee have been invited by the Ministry of Food to assist in the Food Economy Campaign, and the Berks War Savings Committee have had before them the Central Committee’s suggestions for Local Authorities and War Savings Committees, and in conjunction with the School Management Sub-committee, they have approved the arrangements embodied in the following memorandum:

FOOD CAMPAIGN

The Food Controller, in conjunction with the National War Savings Committee, has suggested that “Under the auspices of the Education Authorities a Conference might be called in every area with a view to enlisting the enthusiastic support and active help of teachers. In the case of ordinary schools, the children will form a means of securing the interest of the parents, and invitations to meetings and special classes can be issued through them. The Domestic Science teachers will be wanted to take charge of such classes.

After consultation with HM Inspector, the following preliminary Scheme has been drafted:

That the Instructresses be instructed to modify their syllabus with a view:

To promote the economical use of foods of which there is an available supply in the locality.

To prepare specimen menus for family use based on the above, with notes on the quantities required to give a proper diet.

To arrange to have the cooked meals on view after the lessons, so that the mothers can see them and ask questions.

To confer with the Head Teachers of the neighbouring schools as to the best way of spreading useful information among the parents of children not in attendance at the Centres, either by inviting visits which could be regarded as object lessons or by co-operating in drawing up a scheme for simple instruction in the schools.

It is to be noted that:

While it is important to keep the full record of all meals and their cost, it is not to be expected that the employment of substitutes will effect any substantial saving in cost, as the price of substitutes must rise as the standard foods become scarce.

It is most important to give guidance as to the feeding of children, as in some families there may be a tendency to reduce the food value of their meals.

Where milk is obtainable, it will be very useful to emphasise its uses in cookery.

It is hoped to hold a conference as soon as the Instructresses have drawn up their Scheme, and it is most important that the scheme should be prepared as soon as possible.

This Conference was held on the 20th April and the preliminary steps have been already taken to start work.

Report of Education Finance Sub-committee

The Sub-committee have arranged with certain employees on Military Service, who were receiving allowances from the Committee, to invest on their behalf part of their allowances in War Savings Certificates.

Reports to Berkshire Education Committee, 28 April 1917 (C/CL/C1/1/20)

War Savings Associations in Cookham schools

Schools in Cookham were keen to embark on war savings schemes with the children and their parents.

Acting under the advice from the Education Authority, at Reading, War-Savings Associations have been formed in connection with the Schools (Mr. H. Edwards, Hon. Sec.; Mr. James Tuck, Hon. Treasurer). Sums from 1d to 15/6 may be paid in once a week. Miss Lomas has kindly undertaken to issue Coupon Cards and to receive payments from residents and children of Cookham Dean, on Tuesdays, at the Schoolroom, from 4 to 4.30pm, commencing Tuesday, April 3rd. Arrangements for receiving payments are also in force at Cookham Rise and at Cookham School.

Cookham Dean parish magazine, April 1917 (D/P43B/28A/11)