Killed instantaneously by a shell

Working in labour groups doing manual logistical work behind the lines could be as dangerous as actually fighting in the trenches.

We offer sincere sympathy to Mrs Canning, whose son Arthur has been killed in France, and also to Mr and Mrs Joseph Bosley who have also lost a son, Francis James. He was working with a Labour Battalion behind the lines, and was killed instantaneously by a shell.

Brevet Lt-Col. B J Majendie, DSO, recently commanding the 4th Batt. King’s Royal Rifles at Salonica, has been promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General in command of the 65th Infantry Brigade.

Capt. Wilfred Belcher has been promoted to the rank of Brigade Major.

RED CROSS WORK PARTY

The total amount collected from January to December, 1917, was £22. 8s. 6d. Twenty-three meetings were held during 1917, working for about 12 different objects, some two or three times during the year.

Newbury St Nicholas parish magazine, July 1918(D/P89/28A/13)

He “commanded his company with great courage & ability although it was almost halved by casualties”

Teenager Joan Daniels was impressed by the heroism of a family friend.

May 16th Thursday
Went to school. Mrs McKenzie was here when I got back as she had come to spend the day. They are of course all very proud of Cyril. In this last offensive commanded his company with great courage & ability although it was almost halved by casualties. That was why he got the DSO.


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

An air-ship passing over

Our new diarist Joan Daniels, aged 15, lived at 2 Southern Hill, Reading, where the family had moved from London to get away from the bombs. She was a pupil at the private Wilton House School.

Joan Daniels
1918
May 14th Tuesday

Had a postcard from [family friend] Mrs McKenzie saying that Cyril had been awarded the DSO. We were all ever so delighted as he has done so well altogether, going out as a 2nd Lieutenant & is now a Captain. All accounts of his deeds which earned him his medal on Thursday when she comes for the day.

William Hallam
14th May 1918

I heard a great noise of aeroplanes going over in the night but this morning I hear it was an air-ship passing over – following the Rly. so I wish I had got up and looked out of window as I had a good mind to but felt too lazy.

Diaries of Joan Evelyn Daniels of Reading (D/EX1341/1); and William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

“A dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all”

Percy Spencer wrote a long letter to his sister Florence based on his diary.

May 13, 1918

Ny dear WF

It’s along time since I wrote you, but now I swear to steal an hour and give you a sort of diary of events.

First of all, though, before I forget them list of wants –

Propane Royal Navy dressing
2 pairs long cord laces for field boots
Wrights coal tar soap

Also what does my baccy cost out of bond? What would 50 small size Meriel de luxe cigars cost out of bond? And what would 100 reasonably good Virginia cigarettes cost out of bond?

If you could do all that for me when passing the tobacconist, the chemist & Thrussell’s. I shall be very grateful.

I’m trying hard for your sake to keep a diary that is within the law. Just how far I had got in my last letter I forget, so forgive me if I repeat myself.

On My 3rd Ridley, my No. 6 in the famous Eight, turned up and talked over our Trinity days.

The next day was mostly solid work. Colonel P[arish]’s band played at mess, I think it was that evening the Mayor dined with us and we drank to France and the King, and everyone was awfully friendly and nothing disturbed the harmony except Col. P’s boyish anxiety for Paddy, a lovely Irish terrier, the regimental mascot, which is always being stolen. Paddy was tied to the big iron entrance gates while the band played, and every few minutes Col. P jumped up to see none of the crowd outside had borrowed him.

On the 5th the Padre, a delightful fellow, messed with us. The CO wound up a jolly evening with an imaginary stroll “down the Dilly”.
The next day was wet. M. Le Maire [the local mayor] dined with us and under the influence of his own good brandy made a clean breast of buried souvenirs de la guerre.

The 7th was a red letter day. Many honours were received by the Division, Col. P getting a DSO and our own CO his 2nd bar to DSO.
In the evening another padre came in and talked politics & economies till a late hour.….

The 8th was a lovely day. The field cashier turned up short of cash & I had to cycle to another village to get money for the boys. Me. Le Maire [the local mayor] again dined with us & collared lots of bread. Col. P spent the evening gloating over the anticipation of leave and going [on] imaginary walks all over London much to our CO’s disgust. The APM lunched with us and told us amusing “3rd degree” trial stories.

The 9th produced the best story I’ve heard for along time. Told me by an interpreter at lunch who had been engaged upon taking a census of people in a certain village in the forward village [sic] and persuading them to leave. An elderly lady refused to go without her children. And how many children have you, enquired the interpreter. I don’t know, she replied. But surely madam! Exclaimed the interpreter. Pointing to the yard crowded with Tommies, she exclaimed, “There are my children: when they go, I go.”

10th Paterson the popular officer of my old regiment dined with us.
On the 11th I had tea with my old friends Tyrrell, Garwood & a host of others. They all made me very welcome, only “Miss Toms” couldn’t remember to call me anything but “Sergeant Spencer”.

In the evening another Regimental Band played outside my orderly room, conducted to my pleasant surprise by the private in my platoon in England who is a Mus. Doc. [doctor of music] & deputy organist of St Paul’s. Col. P went on leave. I prosecuted in a case for him.

12th: a very uneventful day because I have heard the full song of a Bosch shell for the first time for 10 months. Had a long chat with the CO who said the folks forward were finding me very useful. A letter too from a wounded Major in England arrived saying nice things about me. I’m easily getting to the not altogether enviable position of having a reputation to live up to. By the way I might say here that KK has been perfectly charming to me.

And that brings me up to today – a dirty morning but bad for the Hun so it’s a good day after all.

Give my love to all at 29 & let me know if you don’t like this sort of letter.

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister (D/EZ177/7/7/35-36)

“His splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion”

An experienced officer who in peacetime had worked managing a Wargrave estate was one of the few to be honoured with the Victoria Cross for his great courage. Oliver Spencer Watson (1876-1918) is buried in France.

The Late Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, V.C.

A supplement to the “London Gazette” of May 8th gave the following particulars respecting the award of the V.C. to Lieut.-Col. O. C. Spencer Watson, D.S.O. (Reserve of Officers), late King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry:

“For most conspicuous bravery, self-sacrificing devotion to duty during a critical period of operations. His command was at a point where continual attacks were made by the enemy in order to pierce the line, and an intricate system of old trenches in front, coupled with the fact that his position was under constant rifle and machine gun fire, rendered the situation more dangerous. A counter attack had been made against the enemy position, which at first achieved its object, but as they were holding out in two impoverished points Lieut.-Col. Watson saw that immediate action was necessary, and he let his remaining small reserve to the attack, organising bombing parties and leading attacks under intense rifle and machine gun fire.

Outnumbered, he finally ordered his men to retire, remaining himself in a communication trench to cover the retirement, though he faced almost certain death by so doing. The assault he led was at a critical moment, and without doubt saved the line. Both in the assault and in covering his men’s retirement he held his life as nothing, and his splendid bravery inspired all troops in the vicinity to rise for the occasion and save a breach being made in a hardly tried and attenuated line. Lieut.-Col. Watson was killed while covering the withdrawal.”

“The Times” of May 11th gave the following particulars, respecting Lieut.-Col. Watson: –

He was the youngest son of the late W. Spencer Watson, F.R.C.S., and was educated at St Paul’s and passed into the Army from Sandhurst, being gazetted to the Yorks Light Infantry in 1897. He was invalided in 1904, after taking part in the Tirah campaign 1897-1898, in which he was dangerously wounded, and in the China campaign of 1900, receiving the medal for each of these campaigns, in the first case with two clasps.

In 1910 he joined a Yeomanry regiment, and on the outbreak of war went with them to Egypt as captain and took part in the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Promoted major, he came home to join a battalion of the Y.O.Y.L.I., going with them to France early in 1917. In May of that year he was dangerously wounded at Bullecourt, and received D.S.O. for gallantry and leadership.

He returned to the front last January, although he had not recovered from the effect of his wound; was shortly afterwards promoted lieut-colonel, and was killed in action on March 28th. Lieut-Colonel Watson was a keen sportsman, and was known locally as a good cricketer, boatman, and footballer, as well as a straight rider to hounds. Up to the time that he joined the forces in the present conflict he had been the estate agent to Sir Charles Henry, Bart., M.P., at Parkwood, and managed the Farm at Crazies Hill.

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

Sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones

Sydney had a day’s rest before venturing into No Man’s Land to set some barbed wire.

Sydney Spencer
Tuesday 7 May 1918

After a rather damp night I woke up at 6.30. ‘Stand to’ was off owing to rain (stand to in this back area being a sort of eyewash). Just going to put on my steel helmet when I found it full of water! Did not get very wet considering the streams of water I heard running through the roof in different places. I seem to have dodged them, thank goodness!

A freezing day and rained almost incessantly till about 2 pm. Still we had little else to do but snooze & eat all day long. Had a delicious bath at old brewery despite the rain! A swallow got among a pile of tangled hops the while & preened himself & murmured sweet memories of past summers & bold promises of future ones in my ear. After lunch slept.

After tea informed that I was in charge of a wiring party for no man’s land. Started out at 9 pm. Landed at spot at 11.45. Wire etc arrived at 1.45. Worked till 2.45. Got back at 3.45. Saw that men had some tea.

Percy Spencer
7 May 1918

Another wet day. Clearing towards evening. Hun attack expected tomorrow. CO Bar to DSO. Col. Parish DSO. Both dined with General [Mildren?]. Brown Wilkinson came in after mess & talked politics & economics till 11.20 pm. Good stories of parsons – “The first prayer ever addressed to a Boston audience”, & “Oh thou simplest of all beings – I wasna addressing my remarks to the congregation”.

Diaries of Sydney Spencer, 1918 (D/EZ177/8/15) and Percy Spencer (D/EX801/67)

Some comfort in memories so full of sadness

A Sulhamstead family who had lost their son were invited to take pride in his heroism.

THE WAR

Mr and Mrs Leake have received the following letter from the War Office. It is indeed to be hoped that the gratifying appreciation of the services of Captain G E A Leake, DSO, may be of some comfort in memories so full of sadness:

“I have it in command from His Majesty the King to inform you, as next of kin of the late Second Lieutenant (Acting Captain) George Ernest Arthur Leake, DSO, of the London Regiment, that this Officer was mentioned in a Despatch from Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, dated 7th November, 1917, and published in the third supplement to the ‘London Gazette’ of the 21st, dated 24th December, 1917, for gallant and distinguished service in the Field.

I am to express to you the King’s high appreciation of these services, and to add that His Majesty trusts that their public acknowledgement may be of some consolation in your bereavement.

[To]
G Leake, Esq.,
Sulhamstead

Sulhamstead parish magazine, March 1918 (D/EX725/4)

He went up the trenches and 48 hours later had died of wounds

Reading churchgoers were encouraged to pray for our oppressed allies.

S. Mary’s (Lent 1918)
SUGGESTED INTERCESSIONS

In connection with the war

Sundays The gaining of a permanent peace.
Mondays Our own sailors, soldiers and Airmen.
Tuesdays All war workers, men and women at home and abroad.
Wednesdays The sick, wounded and prisoners, and anxious and bereaved on both sides.
Thursdays Our allies, and more particularly the oppressed nationalities of Belgium, Serbia, Roumania, Montenegro, Poland, Armenia and the populations of occupied territories of France and Italy.
Fridays Our enemies.
Saturdays The fallen.

Congratulations
Our heartiest congratulations to Lady Carrington, whose second son Lieut. C. W. Carrington of the Grenadier Guards has recently been awarded the Distinguished Service Order. It will be remembered that her eldest son also gained the D.S.O. and the youngest son the Military Cross.

R.I.P.
Our deepest sympathy has been given to Mrs Montague Brown, on the death of her husband. He went up the trenches on a certain date, and news came forty eight hours later that he had died of wounds. May the God of all comfort console those who are mourning his loss!

S. Saviours District
Our hearty congratulations to Lieut. Fred White on gaining the Military Cross and to Corporal Will Taylor on gaining the D.C.M., and being now out of Hospital.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P98/28A/13)

Probably we are nearing the final stages of this trouble

There was sad news for some Reading families, while others could be proud of their loved ones’ medals.

It was with extreme regret that we recorded in our November issue the news of the death of Private F. R. Johnson of the Machine Gun Corps, who was killed in action shortly after he had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Previously to his joining the Army he had been a member of our Choir and was deeply interested in all that concerned its well-being. We now have to announce a very kind and thoughtful act on the part of his parents. He left behind him a certain sum of money which they decided to hand over for the benefit of the Choir and it is proposed to invest this sum in War Loan and to the use the interest in case of sickness among the men or boys of the choir. There may be times when tickets for the Convalescent Homes and railway fares to the Homes may be very acceptable, and we are much indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson for their generosity. It is proposed to call the Fund the “Johnson Benevolent Fund” and we hope it may prove the nucleus of a Fund to which other members of the congregation may like to add from time to time”.

Our heartiest congratulations to Lady Carrington, whose second son Lieut. C. W. Carrington of the Grenadier Guards has recently been awarded with the Distinguished Service Order. It will be remembered that her eldest son also gained the D.S.O. and the youngest son the Military Cross.

Our deepest sympathy has been given to Mrs. Montagu Brown, on the death of her husband. He went up into the trenches on a certain date, and news came forty eight hours later that he had died of wounds. May the God of all comfort console those who are mourning his loss!

Our hearty congratulations to Lieut. Fred White on gaining the Military Cross, and to Corporal Will Taylor on gaining the D.C.M., and being now out of hospital.

This will be one of the most solemn Lents we have ever known. We all feel more and more that great changes are taking place in the world and that probably we are nearing the final stages of this trouble, the ultimate result of which it seems impossible to tell but one thing we are certain that we must not slacken our prayers – but rather increase them and deepen the spirit in which they are offered.

Reading St Mary parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P116B/28A/2)