He has given his health, as his brother has given his life

Burghfield men continued to pay a high price.

THE WAR

Honours and Promotions

Cadet Alfred Searies has been posted as 2nd Lieutenant to the Suffolk Regiment. Lance Corporal Percy Sheppard (Army Ordnance Corps) and Rifleman E Wigmore (Rifle Brigade) have been promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Casualties

Ernest Eaton (Royal Berks Regiment) wounded; 2md Lieut. F Wheeler (King’s Liverpool Regiment), Sergeant Wigmore (see above) and Private W H Brown (Royal Berks Regiment), Prisoners of War.

Discharges

Captain Francis A Willink (4th Royal Berks Regiment), Dysentery and Colitis; Isaac Osman (Labour Corps, ex Rifle Brigade), Rheumatism.

The promised statement about the late Captain George Willink is held over.

Congratulations to 2nd Lieut. Alfred Searies. He is the first of Mr Sheppard’s “old boys” of the Burghfield C of E School to obtain a commission. Let us hope he will not be the last, as he certainly will not be the least, either in stature or merit.

Condolences with Captain Francis Willink, who sorely against his will is, after fifteen Medical Boards, gazetted out of the Army “on account of ill-health contracted on active service”. He worked up from Private to a Commission in the Eton College OTC. On going to Oxford in 1910, he joined the 4th Royal Berks, and was a Lieutenant when war broke out, soon afterwards being made Captain and given command of “E” (the Newbury) Company. In March 1915 he went to France with the Battalion, which had then become the 1/4th, upon the formation of the 2nd unit. They went immediately into trenches at “Lug Street”, afterwards holding sections of the line by Bethune, and later at Hebuterne. The trying conditions of active service however told upon him and brought on dysentery and colitis, and after holding out as long as he possibly could, perhaps too long, he was invalided home in September 1915. Since then he has done a lot of useful work with the 3rd Line at Weston-Super-Mare, and Windmill Hill on Salisbury Plain, and for some time was Draft Officer. But his health did not really improve, and about a year ago he was transferred to Reserve, since which time he has been further twice medically examined and is now declared to be permanently unfit for medical service. He has given his health, as his brother has given his life. Fortunately there is still useful work open to him to do of national importance.

Burghfield parish magazine, June 1918 (D/EX725/4)

Advertisements

“Everyone misses his smiling face”

There was good news and not-so-good news of Maidenhead men.

OUR SOLDIERS.

We are very sorry to learn that Ernest Bristow has been wounded, but there seems every hope that his injuries are not serious. One of his chums writes,

“He went up to one of our advanced dressing stations to take over stores, and it was while standing at the mouth of a dug-out that he was wounded. A Bosche fleet of aeroplanes came over, and a bomb dropped quite near, wounding some ten men and killing two others. He caught it in the left arm and in both legs, but his wounds are flesh wounds, and not dangerous. He suffered from a severe shaking up, but bore it extremely well. The sergeant who dressed his wounds thinks he will soon be all right again. Everyone misses his smiling face and bright personality, and none more than his sorrowing pal. We all feel that his loss to the Unit is irreparable… He was by far the best clerk, and one of the most popular in the Unit.”

We earnestly trust that the hopeful tone of this letter may be justified by events, and that Corporal Bristow will suffer no permanent injury.

Harold Islip, who returned to his post after leave about a month ago, has been in hospital suffering from dysentery. Cyril Hews, George Belcher, and Donald Wilson have been home again for ten days, all in good health and spirits. Herbert Brand, who has been Company Q.M.S. in the 8th Berks., has been for two or three months past in a Cadet Corps, and expects shortly to receive a Commission.

Wilfred Collins is now quite convalescent and was in Maidenhead a few days ago.

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

“Only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully”

A man educated at Reading School reveals the horrors of being a prisoner of the Germans.

THE UNSPEAKABLE HUN.
A True Story.

It was Thursday morning, February 16th of last year [1917], and intensely cold, the thermometer registering 10 degrees below Zero. At 9 a German soldier came to tell me that I was wanted at the camp hospital. I was there met by the British doctor, Capt. Frank Park, C.A.M.C., who told me that their ere sixteen British Prisoners had just newly arrived from the station seven Kilometres away. With him I went into ward 2, and there saw 16 specimens of humanity. That is all you could call them, 16 frozen, hollow cheeked wrecks, the remnants of hundreds and hundreds of once strong, healthy men, who had been taken prisoners and kept to work behind the lines. Their comrades were dead.

Now these men were captured in September, October and November, 1916, and kept to work close to the front, working in preparation of the big German retreat then planned to take place in February and March, 1917. Their work was demolishing houses, bridges, felling trees, making roads and digging trenches, those called the Hindenburg line. This line and others were built by prisoners of war. We praised German engineering skill and paid silent tribute to the endurance and work of German working parties, but the work of prisoners, Russians and Rumanians in thousands and tens of thousands, and of British. They worked under appalling conditions, brutal treatment, blows, kicks, death if they refused, with housing and quarters not fit for pigs and food not enough to keep even body and soul together. What did it matter if they died, there were plenty more where they came from? Germany numbered her prisoners by millions. Prisoners they were, not prisoners of war; slaves, yea, worse than slaves.

These details these poor wretches told us with tears in their eyes when they spoke of some dear friend and pal who died beside them at his work, died of exposure, starvation, or our own shell fire. They told us of the clothes they had to wear. There was no need to tell, we saw it ourselves when we undressed them. Here is the list, and think of the temperature and cold as you read it:

Thin service tunic and trousers, old cotton shirt, socks and boots, and old cap. That was all, no warm under clothing, no great coat. All these the Boche had stolen under the plea they needed to be fumigated. But they were never returned.

And what did the outside world know of this or care? It may have cared, it must have cared, but it knew nothing. Germany took great care of that. These men were reported in British Casualty lists as “missing,” and missing they will remain till the end of time. But they were not missing; they were once strong healthy men, prisoners of war. They were not allowed to write to their relatives, Germany did not want the world to know where they were, or of their existence.

Amongst the sixteen who reached Minden were men who had been prisoners four or five months. This I found out as a fact when I wrote home to their relatives. They told me of pals who died beside them and I reported them to the Record Office of their Regiments and my letter never got home. It was always a mystery to us that these sixteen and other little parties later ever got back into Germany. They attributed it to the fact that, being men of fine physique and health, they didn’t succumb as quickly as their comrades went to hospital suffering chiefly from dysentery, recovered a little strength, and the Germans, seeing it was no good sending them back to the line. Put them on a train and back they came into Germany.

This is just one isolated instance of many that might be quoted. What one must realise in relation to these crimes is that while primarily they may be said to be the work of the system and spirit inculcated throughout the German Army by “Prussian Militarism,” yet nevertheless they were perpetrated by the Boche generally, and that right down to the very last German soldier this devilish brutality is to be expected and looked for. This is not generally realized, and only those who have lived amongst the Boche can fully appreciate what it means to be at the mercy of a brutal bully. You have no possible redress, no chance of even making your conditions known to the outside world, and you have only your own British spirit to carry you through.

If you can realise what this means, perhaps then you can appreciate what the ex-prisoner feels when he tells you that never again can he hold out his hand in friendship to a German.

CAPT. REV. A. GILLES WILKEN.
(Late British Prisoner of War).

Reading School magazine December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

A terrible blow

A family friend or relative wrote to Ralph, shocked by Lord Kitchener’s death, and the casualties at the front.

Brocket Hall
Hatfield
June 13th 1916

Dearest Ralph

I was delighted to hear from you, & I am glad now to hear from Meg that you are with her. Do take care – & get rid of that dysentery before you start off again, or you will have to come back. This weather, which is simply beastly, is rather bad for you, but I don’t doubt that they [illegible] from chills!

It was dear of you to write. I am only too glad to have been able to cheer up your beloved father & mother. They were so dear & delightful about it all, & I saw it all. By the way, I meant them to, & it makes me so happy that it has cheered them at a time which must be very trying to them. There never were two more unselfish, singleminded people, & anyone who knows them & loves them as I do, can only rejoice to be able to do anything, however small, that will make them more comfy. Uncle George was so anxious for this. How I wish we were in London, but if you do find a moment, here we are, but the weather is too bad for anyone to visit the country, unless obliged.

How dreadfully Lord Kitchener’s death must have shocked you. It is a terrible blow, & one really could not take it in at first, & it did sadden one. I am told the King feels it too dreadfully. It is a personal loss to him, as Lord K was such a help, so honest & straightforward that HM could always depend on him.

Do thank Meg for her letter this morning. What a time “Jim” must have had – & what a splendid fight it was. The Admiralty ought to be whipped for their r[o]tt[e]n report – on Friday night it was quite unpardonable. Alfric is very well & looks beautiful. My little Robbie is so jealous that he won’t let Alfric come near me if he is present, so I have to see Alfric by stealth!

Bless you. Much love to you & Meg, & pray be careful!
Yours ever

Evan

PS The Canadians have had an awful time at that horrid Ypres Salient. We have a nephew there, who writes us an account of it. He only lost 2 officers killed in his battalion, but of course had many casualties. The only thing that seems of any avail is “heavy guns”. One prays they have enough. But have they?

Letter to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C32/38)

The final run for life

Lady Mary wrote to her son Ralph Glyn with more news of her Red Cross work, and the family’s responses to the death of her nephew Ivar Campbell. She had also heard a first hand account of the last stand at Gallipoli.

Jan 17th [1916]

5.30 service, and then I ran down to the Rest Room & found we were to expect 40 sailors tonight and 60 soldiers, the sailors at 11 pm and the troops at 6 am. So the Canteen had to be replenished & sufficient help made sure.

This morning I had to prepare for the Red Cross Work Room tomorrow, and ghet a cupboard for material, & I collected cutters out to prepare the work, and I cannot tell you how willing and good people have been – and you were right to encourage me. I know nothing more of the town row and the investigation, but evidently my Room is not to be interfered with. I hear rumours of the Enquiry and of the town talk over it….

I saw Colonel Collingwood today for a few minutes. He is always full of enquiry for you, and loves to think of you in Egypt.

The papers are full of indigestible matter, and the accounts from the Tigris will give Aunt Syb a worse horror, for the fighting must have been very severe and one dreads that there must have been delay in moving the wounded down. Aunt Eve has now seen Aunt Syb, and very anxious we should see her, but no, she refused to see dad, & writes, “he will understand”. I think it best to keep away. They all have a shunning of religious expression, and it does so hurt him and puzzles him – dear darling Dad with such a longing to love and to comfort and to help.

I hear of Uncle Henry gone to to the Front from Eisa Middleton, and I do dread its risks for anyone of his age. He goes as the head of the Northern Territorial Division, but for how long I do not know.
Darling, I do so love your New Year’s Eve letter, and when I can bear it more I read it, but letters make me so hungry for you. I so understand all you feel about the Dardanelles, and there was the great venture and the quest. It might have come off, but if the Allies had got to Constantinople it would not have prevented the Balkan imbroglio? And our troops and ships would have been unable to prevent Salonika becoming a base – in the end I believe it will save bloodshed and massacre that the fall of Constantinople is postponed.

We have been seeing here parents of a boy who was left in the rear guard on that night of the evacuation, and I have seen a wonderful letter he wrote to his mother, with the evident belief it would be his goodbye to her. He tells her to think always of the honour done to his family he should be in that lot, and now the Brigadier had given each man his choice, of the chance, little or none of their getting away. Another a wonderful account of the final run for life, 3 miles, while time fuses & bombs were still going off from every part of the trenches. A wonderful story told with the simple joy of the venture, & of the miracle of escape, of a boy of 21.

“That nothing be lost” and in the gathering up of the fragments of that wonderful story the glory of England is not dimmed, and this war will not be won on so many acres of material soil, but by the spirit which is to overcome and master the Brute Beast – a spiritual warfare, and you are all raising and lifting the spirit of man as it has never been raised before, for this, I believe final assault, when Satan is unloosed, to bring in the glorious shout that is to sound through Heaven and an earth renewed – “Hallelujah – for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth”.

I think of you in Egypt, and love to think of you there and hearing the muezzin call to prayer and the still sunlight in the depths of space, the stars and the moonlight, the littleness of European civilisation, and dwarf Roman the parvenu Latin peoples. Is the world war to have an end where east and west shall meet?…

A business/political acquaintance also wrote to Ralph:

1 Howard Street
Strand
London, WC
17th January 1916

Dear Capt. Glyn

I hope you are fit again. I heard you had a bad attack of dysentery at the Dardanelles.

How awfully sad Ivar Campbell’s death is. It must be a terrible blow to the family.

Yours sincerely
Robert Pollock

Letters to Ralph Glyn (D/EGL/C2/3; C32/2)

War in a nutshell

Ralph Glyn wrote to his father from the Dardanelles. He painted a vivid picture of the compact fighting area, not to mention the shirtless Australians.

HdQr XIII Division
August 27th [envelope postmarked Field Post Office Aug 27, 1915]

My darling Dad

The weather is changing a bit & it is blowing great storms of dust all over us. I together with four other fellows have had a go of dysentery – but after an injection I am nearly all right. It takes it out of you all the same. Nearly everyone here is the same! Aubrey Herbert who is with the NZ Division next door has had it badly & is being sent on board a hospital ship today.

I have now been with the general round all the [fire?] trenches of our own & the adjoining Brigades. It is like trying to capture Gib: & the moral is that the men had been able to do what they have done. As for going further from their spot I rather doubt it being worth the inevitable cost. The Divisions all are reduced to about ½ strength but reinforcements are on their way. We are having shells all round us today & a good many bullets. The casualties have not been heavy so far. One great difference between the fighting here & in France is that here everything is so much more compressed – sort of war in a nutshell. The firing line is close by – not more than a few hundred yards in some cases. Then close behind are the supports & reserves – hospitals, cemeteries – supply depots. There is therefore no peace for man or beast.

Last night was lovely & calm. We have our ‘mess dug-out’ in the side of the hill facing the sea about 50 ft up. One cannot go down to the sea-edge because they can snipe out – here we are just sort of round the corner from direct fire. Well, about 9 last night up came a destroyer & monitor close off shore & put her search-light on a Turk trench at the top of the cliff behind. In a minute the row was tremendous – the 6” guns & the machine guns & rifles action. It soon died down but was lively whilst it lasted. There is so little elbow room. That’s what one feels. And all the time in spite of all these difficulties the spirit of the men is splendid & they are cheery & happy all the time. The physique of the NZ & Australians is extraordinary. They wear nothing except a pair of shorts & are burnt by the sun as dark as Indians.

There is a move in the wind for this Division. We shall go for a period in reserve. I don’t know yet how long I’m to remain with this Division. It is all very interesting & the General was very kind indeed. I shall, I think, have to go to GHQ again before I’m sent back with dispositions by Sir Ian [Hamilton]. One knows very little being here – even in comparison with GHQ, & then the outside world is fairly remote. I’m longing to know what is going on – usually I know so much that I suppose I’m spoilt!

I wonder if my other letters have fetched up all right…

Yours
Ralph

Letter from Captain Ralph Glyn to his father E C Glyn, Bishop of Peterborough (D/EGL/C1)