Home from the Salonika Front for training in a Cadet Corps

Customers at Sulhamstead Post Office supported a canteen at railway stations for soldiers on the move.

THE WAR

SOLDIERS’ CANTEEN, S.E.R.

The amount in the box held by Mrs Winchcombe at the Post Office for this purpose amounted to 2s 6d.

Sergeant James Price has returned home from the Salonika Front for training in a Cadet Corps. His brother, Corporal Stanley Price, has been sent from India to Egypt, to be trained for a commission in the Royal Air Force.

We regret that Private Amos East has been returned home seriously invalided. Private Enefer is still in hospital in London, suffering from wounds.

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

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“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)

An enormous front to hold, with Lewis Guns as strong points

Sydney Spencer met an old friend.

Friday 19 April 1918

Rose at 7.30. A fine morning but very frosty. Day became wind & frost & snow & hail and sunshine. Spent morning up the ‘demmed hills’ again at BF PT & company drill.

After lunch we had a company tactical scheme under the CO. We had an enormous front to hold, & we simply put out blobs of ports, with Lewis Guns as strong points.

Arrived home, we had tea, got our mess rigged up in No. II Nissen Hut. Went down to Company QM Stores & arranged dinners for 5 new officers who arrived today. Capt. Leslie Shuter was one of the officers. I had not seen him since October 1915 when he left us at Brentwood for Egypt.

The B Company is in a scout squadron now, arranged for mess cart to be here at 7 am tomorrow to take me to D-lens to get goods for mess.


Diary of Sydney Spencer of Cookham (D/EZ177/8/15)

The bridegroom was under orders to hold himself in readiness for service abroad

A nurse married an army officer – and had to face the thought of his being sent to the front soon afterwards.

We present our congratulations to Miss Hilda Sturgess on the occasion of her marriage on April 16th with 2nd Lieut. Harold Bloomfield. Miss Sturgess was an exemplary Sunday school teacher previous to the war; since 1914 she has been a nurse in England, Eygpt, and France, and her long standing engagement ended with her marriage at the village church near Swindon camp, which was attended by the colonel and officers, who, by their hospitality in providing the wedding breakfast and enthusiastically welcoming the bride, more than covered the disappointment caused by the bridegroom being under orders to remain at Swindon and hold himself in readiness for service abroad.

Earley St Bartholomew parish magazine, June 1918 (D/P192/28A/15)

Letters of thanks for Christmas parcels have begun to arrive from Egypt and Palestine

Soliders were gratefuul for their Christmas gifts.

Letters of thanks for Christmas parcels have begun to arrive from Egypt and Palestine. A H.Bullock, C. Williams, E. Webb, W. Boswell, W.B. Skelton, J.W. Howell have written expressing their thanks to the Committee and whose who made the Parcels Concert success.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, April 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10/4)

“The bomb passed through the bows, exploding on the other side”

Three of the Sisters of the Community of St John Baptist, whose base was at Clewer, were shipwrecked on their way home from India thanks to enemy action.

April, 1918
My dear Associates

You will all be interested to hear that we have just welcomed home from Calcutta Sister Alexandrina, Sister Marion Edith and Sister Edith Helen after a really perilous voyage. The only route available was via Colombo, which they reached by train from Calcutta. The first part of the voyage through the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea was very enjoyable, smooth and lovely weather.

Good Friday was spent in the harbour of Suez, and Port Said was reached on Sunday morning. Along the banks of the Suez Canal they saw many races of the recent fighting in Egypt – deserted trenches and dug-outs, and in one place a camp of a considerable size, but their own course was perfectly uneventful.

After waiting four days at Port Said, their steamer joined a large convoy of vessels bound for England, protected by several destroyers and sloops. All went well during the first six days, and then, at 7 a.m. on a date I am not allowed to mention, the ship was struck by a torpedo. Mercifully no one was seriously injured, the bomb having passed through the bows, exploding on the other side.

Fearing another attack, the Captain immediately transferred all the passengers to the boats, and after rowing about on a rough sea for two hours, a sloop picked them up, and conveyed them to Bizerta, a French town on the coast of North Africa, the actual site of ancient Carthage, about four hours by rail from Tunis. At once everything was done on a most generous scale for their comfort and protection, and four days later a mail boat from Tunis conveyed all the passengers to Marseilles, and from there the homeward journey was continued via Paris, Havre and Southampton….

Letters to Associates of the Community of St John Baptist (D/EX1675/1/24/6)

“Some “Johnny Turk” thought it was time I had one”

A Reading man who had been wounded was back in the fray, fighting in the Middle East.

Feb 21st

You will be pleased to hear that I have quite recovered from my wound and that I am now back up the line once again amongst the boys, feeling absolutely in the best of health. We were in some very hot fighting about nine miles north of Jerusalem, on the 21st November, when some “Johnny Turk” thought it was time I had one. I was wounded in the left thigh and right hip, and was very fortunate to have no bones broken. I spent Xmas in hospital at Alexandria having a top-hole time, and went to a Convalescent Home just outside Alexandria the first day of this year….

We are some miles behind our new line doing some very hard training, but you can guess we do not mind that after the hard and rough times we had in the great advance…

W. Palmer (OS)

Reading Broad Street Congregational Magazine, June 1918 (D/N11/12/1/14)

Trouble upon trouble

There was sad news for several Mortimer families.

West End

We offer our deep sympathy to the brothers and sisters of Cecil Hall who was mortally wounded in France on January 6th. He was one of those boys for whom everybody had a good word and we all mourn his loss.

We are also sorry to state that the enquiry department of the Red Cross has had to give up all hope of any further news of Osborne Lampert who was reported wounded and missing in Mesopotamia last February; and so we have had to add his name too to our list of those who have made the great sacrifice. May they rest in peace.

At the moment of writing Alfred Awbery in Alexandria and Harry White in France are both reported dangerously ill, so that poor Birch Lane has had trouble upon trouble.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, February 1918 (D/P120/28A/14)

Progressing favourably in Egypt

Ascot churchgoers continued to think of their men in the services.

On Wednesdays there will be an address after Evensong and War Intercessions at 7.30 and also on Fridays at 11, after the Litany.

The following have written thanking the Men’s Committee for Christmas parcels safely received :–

M. Sumner, W. Roots, F. Swayne, R. Sensier, F. May, J. Nobbs, J. Siggins, J. Williams, S. Waite, E. Butler, G. Larkin, G. Andrews, A Barnard, F. Barton, H. Wilderspin, C. Berridge, G. White, E. Dunstan, G. Talbot, W. Jones.

We are very glad to hear that Fred Talbot, who was reported dangerously wounded, is now reported progressing favourably in Egypt.

The collection at Evensong on Christmas afternoon when carols were sung, amounted to £2 10s. 0d. fot St Dunstan’s Hospital for Blinded Soldiers.

Ascot section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

“He died gloriously doing glorious deeds during the course of our brilliant advance “

Tribute was paid to former students at Reading School who had fallen in recent months.

Killed in Action.

Central Ontario Regt. Pte. F.C.(Eric) Lawes, eldest son of Mr. F.J. laws., of 116, Hamilton Road, Reading, aged 22 years. On August 8th.

Captain Brain, Killed In Action.

The sympathy of the whole town will go out to Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Brain in the loss of their second son, Captain Frances Sydney Brain, Royal Berks Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd October. Born IN 1893, he was educated at Reading School and Leighton Park School, and in 1912 he obtained a scholarship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. At the outbreak of the war he joined the Cambridge University O.T.C., and on February 26th, 1915, was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, being promoted Lieutenant on July 29th, 1918. He proceeded to France in June, 1916, and was recently promoted Captain. The news of his death was received by his parents on Wednesday, and was contained in a letter from the chaplain of his regiment, who wrote as follows to Mr. and Mrs. Brain:-

“I am so grieved to have to tell you of the loss of your gallant son in action on the 3rd inst. He was hit on the head by a shell during the course of our brilliant advance and died instantly. I hope it will be of some little consolation to know that he died gloriously doing glorious deeds. He is a great loss to the regiment, as he was one of our most promising officers. In him I, too, had a friend, and more than a friend, for we were both of the same Varsity, and had mutual friends. I was able to get his body and bring it back to a little cemetery which we started here, where he lies with others of his regiment. We had the service of the Church of England, the last post and a funeral party. My prayers go up that the Almighty will give you strength to bear your sorrow.”


Lieut. H.M. Cook Killed.

Lieut. Howard Mortimer Cook, who was killed on August 8-9, would have been 29 September 1st had he lived. He was the elder son of Mr. John R. Cook, late of Lloyds Bank, Reading, and Mrs. Cook, and grandson of the late Town Clerk of Reading (Mr. Henry Day). He was educated at Reading School and St Edmunds Hall, Oxford, where he rowed in the eight. Although his original intention was to take Orders, at the outbreak of war he was on the point of leaving for Holland to take up teaching in schools, and his passport bore the date of August 4, 1914. He applied for a commission at once, having in the meantime joined a Public Schools Battalion as a private, and in November, 1914, he was gazetted to the 6th Royal Berkshire Regiment. He went to the front in February 1916, being attached to the 5th Battalion, and shortly afterwards was wounded in the head by shrapnel but after a few months at home he returned to the front. He and two other officers were especially mentioned in certain orders of the day as having accomplished some very good work at Cambrai, in which the 5th Berks played so prominent a part. In May last he was transferred to the machine-gun corps. He was killed by the explosion of a mine when taking his section into action during the night. His commanding officer wrote that although he had only been in his battalion a short time he was very popular and his death meant a sad loss to the regiment.

Mathews.

Previously reported missing, now known to have been killed in action on the 31st July, Captain John Waldron Mathews, F.A.F., of San Julian, Patagonia, elder son of E.J. Mathews and Mrs. Mathews, Brockley Combe, Weybridge, aged 28.

Death of Lieut. F.L. Hedgcock.

We greatly regret to record the death of Second Lieut. Frederick Leslie Hedgcock, M.G.C., who was killed in action on Sunday Sept, 29th, at the age of 20, after having served with his Regiment in France over seven months. He was educated at Reading School and Brighton College, and was the youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. Hedgcock, of St. Margaret’s, Shinfield Road, Reading. Mr Hedgcock has two other sons serving in the Army, the eldest, Captain S.E. Hedgcock, now on the staff in Mesopotamia, and Lieut. S.D. Hedgcock, recently gazetted to the R.E. Both have been on active service, the eldest at Suvla Bay and the second son twice in France.

A brother officer writes: –

“we were fighting in a very important sector, and had done very well. Your son was shot through the heart, and was therefore instantly killed.”

His Major writes that he was killed while leading his men into action.

“On behalf of the officers and man of the company, I would tender you our heartfelt sympathy in your sad bereavement. We have lost an excellent officer and you have lost an excellent son.”


Pte. L.C. Shore

Pte. Leonard C. Shore, Lincolns, who died on August 19th of wounds received in action in France, was the son of Lance-Corpl. Shore and Mrs Shore, of 51, Francis Street, Reading, and was 19 years of age. He was educated at the Central School, and at Reading School, having won an entrance scholarship to the latter. Prior to joining up in April, 1917, he was in the office of the surveyor of taxes at Richmond (Surrey). His father, an old soldier, is serving with the Rifle Brigade in Egypt, where he has been for the past three years.

Funeral of Capt. S.J. Hawkes.

At St Bartholomew’s church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Capt. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt.

At St. Bartholomew’s Church, Reading, on Monday afternoon, a very large congregation assembled to pay their last tributes to Captain. Septimus J. Hawkes, Royal Berks Regt, who died suddenly in his barrack quarters at Dublin on the previous Wednesday. The Rev. T.J. Norris was the efficient clergyman, being assisted by the Revs. A.T. Gray, B. Mead and H. Elton Lury, C.F., the latter reading the lesson. The deceased officer was before the war, greatly in the boys of St. Bartholomew’s Church, and held this position of Scoutmaster of the St. Bartholomew’s Troup. Educated at Reading School, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps and of the Rugby xv. He joined the University and Public Schools Brigade. Soon after the commencement of hostilities, and subsequently transferred to the Military College, Sandhurst, where he obtained his commission in the Royal Berks Regt. He soon went to France, and after serving there for some time was wounded and returned to England, and later, with the rank of Captain, went to Ireland. As recently as last month Capt. Hawkes was on leave in Reading on the occasion of the wedding of one of his brothers, at which ceremony he performed the duties of best man. A short time ago Capt. Hawkes successfully passed the difficult examination for the Royal Air Force to which he had transferred just prior to his death.

Reading School Magazine, December 1918 (SCH3/14/34)

“We had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

Christmas cake was much appreciated behind the front line.

The Vicar has received many letters from our men who are fighting for us or are in training. They all ask for their thanks to be conveyed to all their Cranbourne friends who joined in sending them the cake and Christmas card.

The following extracts from some of the letters may be of interest.

“Please convey my best thanks to my Cranbourne friends for their kindness in sending me the cake and Christmas card. I am sure the gift will be fully appreciated by all to whom it was sent.”

I appreciated the cake very much for it brought with it memories of the dear old village, where we all hope, if it is God’s will, to meet again and enjoy the benefits of an honourable and lasting peace. I offer to Cranbourne friends many thanks.”

“It is quite a treat to get something to remind one of Blighty.”

“It is nice to feel that one is not forgotten”

“The cake arrived in good condition and was quite a treat, for we don’t get many of those nowadays. It makes it seem like home to have one.”

“The cake was all the more welcome as it was so unexpected and came at a time when we had just got back from a very rough time up the line, and a cake comes in very nice after one has been on biscuit and bully beef for some time.”

We are sorry to hear that Rifleman Ernest Jones is ill in Hospital in Egypt and that Private Alfred Jones is a prisoner in Germany.

News has come that Private W.W. Goodchild previously reported missing is now “assumed killed in action” on the 28th of April, 1917. Our deep sympathy is with Mr. and Mrs. Goodchild in their sorrow.


Cranbourne section of Winkfield and Warfield Magazine, February 1918 (D/P 151/28A/10)

Oil found in Palestine

A discovery with long reaching effects was made in Palestine, newly conquered by British troops.

8 January 1918
Oil wells found in Palestine. Enough to supply Egyptian army.

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

“Life here promises to be frightfully monotonous after I get to regular regimental duties”

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence as he approached the end of his training as an officer.

21st (Res) Battalion Lon[don] Regiment
G Lines
Chiseldon Camp
Near Swindon

Jan 4, 1918

My dear WF

What a glorious day it’s been. Today I’ve been on the hill tops watching boys doing an attack practice with live ammunition – quite exciting. A delicious day. What must it have been from your friendly bay windows.

Life here promises to be frightfully monotonous after I get to regular regimental duties. At the moment about 50 of us kill time at what is termed a Brigade Class. This carries on for about 3 weeks; then there is a 4 day revolver course, and then we footle around until our orders come through for France or Egypt. We then get about 5 days leave, after which we may flit at any time.

There is a medical examination before we go, and I propose if my teeth do not improve to have them put right before I go out. Conditions here not being very good, I find my teeth giving me a certain amount of trouble, so I think it advisable to get them seen to before I’m called upon to stand the harder conditions of France or Egypt.

[Censored by Florence]

Very shortly I am leading a patrol of young officers around some infant mountains, returning about 1 a.m. if I don’t get lost in the Wiltshire hills, so I’m now off to study the map.

With my dear love to you both

Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/7/1-2)

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)

“We were unfeignedly glad to greet them again”

Some of the Earley soldiers came home on leave.

We have had the pleasure of welcoming home lately several boys from the front, and we were unfeignedly glad to greet them again. Some had been absent nearly two years, Mr L Martin from France, also Mr Earley, Mr Reginald Sturges from Egypt and Palestine. Messrs T and H Fullbrook have also been home, and Mr Jupe. Mr Hugh Kenney also obtained short leave which was very acceptable to him after his serious illness.

Earley St Nicolas parish magazine September 1917 (D/P192/28A/14)