“The only way interest has been maintained, has been by wagers”

Percy Spencer told sister Florence he was enjoying his officer training – although he seems to have more out of the camaraderie and sports than the boring lectures on naval and military history. The German warship Emden was sunk by the British in autumn 1914.

Thursday Nov 22, 1917
My dear WF

These few lines to let you know how cheery we all feel in spite of a plague of lectures and the shadow of our final.

Yesterday we rowed a great race. Unprejudiced opinion is that we won: the verdict was a dead heat, and we have to row again. We did enjoy it.

Today we attended our 3rd Naval History lecture. Mr Dykes was there. It’s a terribly slow affair. At the conclusion of tonight’s lecture we had only got to the destruction of the Emden – or rather, to be exact, it was at 6.39 pm. I know, as the only way interest has been maintained, has been by wagers as to the lecture and at what time in that lecture she would be put out of action. Betting was about 6-4 in favour of 6 pm tonight. I think the lecturer must have had a lot of money on the other way.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to Florence Image (D/EZ177/7/6/72)

A long road still to travel

Members of Maidenhead Congregational Church had to face the fact that life was different in wartime. Particular difficulties were faced by Belgian refugees, who spoke little or no English in a less globalised world than today.

THE HOLIDAYS.
There has not been the usual spirit of happy freedom for any of us in this year’s holiday month. Some have not felt able to leave home at all, and others have been compelled to be content with a shortened time of leisure. But we shall do well to use every means to maintain our ordinary level of health and spirits. If “business as usual” is not an attainable ideal, we must try to live up to “health and nerve as usual.” It may be that we have yet a long road to travel before we see the end of the present horrors. It may be that anxieties and fears are yet to come to us in intensified forms. We must keep up heart. There is of course enough in the possibilities of everyone of us to make us depressed, if we calculate all the possibilities of evil, and sum them up into one terrifying spectre. There is nothing the heart of man needs more than a message of courage and confidence. And we can only get it out of faith, it grows as a blossom upon the plant of faith. Only as we learn to trust in God’s love, and become sure of the gracious purpose, can we maintain our hearts in balance and in peace.

OUR BELGIAN REFUGEES.
Some of our friends have been inquiring why the men of our Belgian household have not found some remunerative employment during these many months. As a matter of fact, they have not been altogether idle. Mr. Dykes kindly found them work on his farm for awhile, but the experiment was not wholly a success. The language difficulty was a serious handicap, they were quite unskilled in farming occupations, and there were other hindrances. One of them was for a time engaged in a local builder’s yard. At the time of writing one is at work for a boat builder in Oxford, and if the arrangement seems likely to continue, perhaps his wife and two little girls may join him there.

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“I was a stranger”: meet the Belgian refugees welcomed to Maidenhead

In October and November we heard about Maidenhead Congregational Church’s involvement with supporting Belgian refugees in the town. We can now update the story, and introduce the families the church supported:

OUR BELGIAN GUESTS.

The response to our appeal for weekly contributions towards the support of a Belgian Refugees’ Home of our own was prompt and generous. The committee appointed by the Church took 14, Fairford Road (the rent of which was guaranteed by the Adult School) and determined to invite a family of about eight persons to occupy it. On inquiry at Folkestone, three families, related by marriage, comprising ten persons in all, were allotted to us, and since Mr. and Mrs. Dykes of Hill Farm, Taplow, had generously offered to receive two refugees into their home while the need lasted, we accepted the allotment, placing eight in Fairfield Road, and two of the men at Taplow. But the two wives pleaded that they might not be separated from their husbands, and the committee felt that the request was reasonable, and must be met. So we have now ten in our home, three married couples and four little girls.

They all lived at Boom, a small town of about 18,000 inhabitants some 12 miles from Antwerp. M. Asselberghs was traveller for a milling firm; M. Van Hoof was the proprietor of a boot and shoe shop; and M. Van der Plannken was a boatbuilder on the banks of the river Rupel. They fled from their home on the approach of the Germans on September 29th and found a temporary refuge in Antwerp. On the day before the bombardment of that city, they were compelled to fly once more, together with tens of thousands of other homeless people, and went on foot to Ostend. After waiting two or three days, they were compelled to throw themselves upon the hospitality of the English people. They have received information that M. Van der Plannken’s house was demolished by shell fire immediately after they fled, and M. Van Hoof’s shop was looted by the soldiery. M Asselberghs and his sister Mme. Van Hoof are acquainted with the French language, the other speak nothing but Flemish. They all profess the Roman Catholic religion. The children attend the Roman Catholic school in Maidenhead, where a Belgian teacher (also a refugee) has been engaged to teach the many refugee children who are now resident in this neighbourhood. In doing what we can help our guests during their stay with us we shall feel that we are not only fulfilling the spirit of our Lord’s words when he said “I was a stranger and ye took me in,” but we are repaying to Belgium a small part of an obligation which seems greater the more we think of it.

Maidenhead Congregational Church magazine, December 1914 (D/N33/12/1/4)