Playing at soldiers

Berkshire Education Committee was interested in national proposals for a scheme to train teenage boys not yet old enough to join the armed forces. A committee comprising councillor and chair of the committee, H G Willink and Messrs Mansfield and Childs of Reading University reported back. Their main concern was that the men most suitable for running such a programme were away at war, but they also felt that younger boys should not be militarised. Another big issue was the connection between social class and officer status.

Report of Cadet Training Sub-committee to the Education Committee

First report of the Special Sub-committee appointed on 29 April 1916 by the Berks Education Committee to consider the Lord Mayor of London’s “Scheme for the National Organisation of Cadet Training”.

We have met and considered this Scheme; and have also had before us a detailed Scheme of the Essex Education Committee “for the formation and organisation of Cadet Units”.

While not prepared to recommend either Scheme in its entirety, for reasons which will appear, we desire to express our appreciation of the aim underlying both, and to state that in our opinion there is need for some well-considered system by which lads below 18 years of age may not only gain the benefits of discipline but may also undergo a training which will exercise and develop their intelligence. We are convinced that this is essential if the youth of the country is to be adequately prepared either for future naval or military service or to be efficient and useful citizens of the Empire.

The Lord Mayor’s proposals fall under two heads, viz:

1. The establishment of a “National Cadet Council”, with certain relations to other authorities and with a quasi-subordinate system of City and County Cadet Committees…

2. The early introduction of a uniform system of training, upon lines following generally those of the Australian Cadet Scheme (which is established by law) but on a voluntary instead of a compulsory basis.

Under such a Scheme, lads above elementary school age and under 18 would be organised as Senior Cadets, who would receive a minimum of training in Physical Drill, Company (and some Battalion) Drill, Field Training, and Musketry. Boys from 12 to (say) 14, or Junior Cadets, would undergo a training which could only be called military in the sense of being preparation for military work. It would consist of Physical Exercises and Marching Drill, together with any two of the following: Miniature Rifle Shooting, Swimming, Organised Games, and First Aid. Senior Cadets to have a simple uniform, but Juniors none.
As regards the relations with existing formations – OT Corps would not come under the Council at all, the Boys’ Brigade, Church Lads’ Brigade, and YMCA, as well as the Boy Scouts, would remain separate, but close communication between them and the Council would be encouraged; and no objection is raised to lads or boys passing to or from them and Cadet Units, or even belonging to one of them and to a Cadet Unit also.

Note: The Essex Scheme, which contains no reference to the Lord Mayor’s proposals, invites “the co-operation of District Educational Sub-committees, School Managers, Teachers and others, with a view to the formation of Cadet Units”, the membership age to be from that of leaving the elementary school till 19, but no admission after 18….

The Scheme … lays down an elaborate curriculum of instruction, to be given in connection with the Evening Continuation Schools…

One further point may be noted. The Australian lad of 14 receives a “Record Book” in which his military history is entered up to the age of 26 years, and individuals unable to produce a Record Book with a clean service sheet are debarred from any service under the Commonwealth Government. There would, however, appear to be insuperable difficulties in the way of including this valuable feature in any voluntary Scheme, at any rate before the system was in practically universal operation.

Taking the Scheme as its stands, we are of opinion, in regard to the first “head”, that the establishment of some such central consultative body as the proposed “National Cadet Council” is desirable, provided that its functions are in the first instance confined to inquiry, ventilation and discussion; and do not extend to an immediate setting-up of a definite new Scheme, still less to its actual bringing into action.

We give due weight to the objection that the absence on active service, or the employment on other war work at home or abroad, of so many of the men best fitted to construct or introduce a system of such importance is a serious obstacle to arriving at a satisfactory decision upon the best lines for it. But we also feel strongly that the present united spirit of patriotism in public opinion ought to be utilized before reaction sets in, as may very likely be the case when the end of the war comes into sight…

The important point to bear in mind is that no new Scheme can be satisfactory which will not fit into a general plan for National Training for Home Defence, or which will in any way prejudge the question whether such training is to be on a voluntary or compulsory basis….

There are certain points which to us seem fairly clear, and which may be worth stating, if only to elicit discussion.
(more…)

Advertisements

The Germans’ well laid plans

Ralph Glyn’s parents both wrote to him in Egypt after a visit to the Wake family at Courteenhall, whose father had just died. Joan (1884-1974), one of the sisters of Sir Hereward (1876-1963) mentioned here, was to become a pioneering archivist. One of the Wakes claimed to have evidence that the German invasion of Belgium had been long planned in advance. The Enver referred to is Ismail Enver Pasha (1881-1922), the Turkish Minister of War who had led that country into alliance with Germany and was responsible for the Armenian Holocaust of 1915.

March 21st 1916

Yesterday we went to Courteenhall and had a cosy hour & more with the dear people. It is good to know that Hereward wishes his mother & sisters to remain on. He has bought a house in London, & is now going back to the front as Lt Colonel, on OGS 1st Grade & will be with General Mackenzie’s Division. He goes about end of April, & he is now at Aldershot taking up his new work. Ida is to be his agent for Northants property, assisted by a good bailiff, & he has secured a good man for the Essex property who can always advise Ida when necessary. Phyllis is back at work nursing at Abbeville. Joan is at home helping all round. Lady Wake pays rent, & keeps up the house…

There is a most interesting & amusing nephew of Lady Wake’s in this Hotel, a Major Wake who has seen all sorts of service in E Africa, Egypt and Ulster!! And in between a recruiting job at home & Ulster he fought [for?] Turk against Italy! While so employed he shared a tent with 3 German officers who told him their well laid plans exactly! Even to the breaking through Belgium to destroy France, knowing her Vosges defences were too strong for other swift accomplishment of victory – but France destroyed, they would take us and Holland on – no wish to destroy either as all Teutonic peoples should come into the Zollverein which would then rule the world. Our practicality was required to wed with their “idealism”, & when this union was complete “we” would together be invincible. They said they liked us, but as long as we were separate they could not do anything, & must always come up against us. They expected all their colonies to be taken, but then at the crisis our Fleet was to be destroyed, & then they would regain their colonies & seize all ours. All this was described with perfect freedom to the English soldiers, and the answer to his enquiry “What do you wish to do with us”. They said this was all open unconcealed knowledge, and that we had such a wretched Government we would never fight, & though our Govt knew they would not prepare, so the thing was “fait accompli”. (more…)

The Broad Street Brothers continue to serve

Here is the latest list of men associated with the Broad Street Brotherhood asociated with Broad Street Congregational Church in Reading:

MEN OF THE BROTHERHOOD ON ACTIVE SERVICE, NOVEMBER 17TH, 1915

Bailey, 1932 Pte E G, 4th Royal Berks Regiment, 83rd Provisional Battery, Burnham on Crouch, Essex
Barrett, 2045 Sadler Sergt W, 4th Hants (How) Battery, RFA, Indian EF, Aden
Bishop, 4003 Corp. T E, No 1 Supernumery Comp., 4th Batt. Royal Berks Regiment, Barton Court, New Milton, Hants
Brant, 68686 Pte G P, RAMC, V Co, Hut 181, Haig Hutments, Tweseldown Camp, Surrey
Bucksey, 2697 Trooper C, 1st Berks Yeomanry, 2nd South Midland Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, BMEF
Burgess, 100747 Sapper J, D Co, RE, Inner Lines, Brompton Barracks, Chatham
Burrett, 4005 Pte W, 4th Royal Berks Regiment, Arnould House, High Street, Lowestoft
Chapman, Sapper E, RE, Wantage Hall, Reading
Cox, 888 Dr W J, 1st Berks RHA, 2nd South Midland Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, BEMEF
Cranfield, Pte G, 2/4th Royal Berks, B Co, 162 Upper Bridge Road, Chelmsford
Edwards, 4078 Pte H, Section 1, MT, ASC, 73rd Co, Attached 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Supply Column, EF, France
Elvin, 1702 Pte A C, RAMC, T, 4th London General Hospital, Denmark Hill, London, SE
Gooch, 2273 Corp. E, B Squadron, Berks Yeomanry, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Gooch, 1656 Trooper Percy, 1st Berks Yeomanry (wounded)
Gooch, M2/034985, 21st Division Supply Column, 273rd Co, ASC, MT, BEF, France
Goodyear, 69005 Pioneer J, 35th Division Signal Co, RE, Bulford Camp, Wilts
Grigg, Pte C A, RAMC, 16 Radnor Street, Chelsea, London, SW
Hawting, 15775 Pte H T, 1st Batt, Royal Scots Fusiliers, B Co, 3rd Division, BEF, France
Hunt, 9215 Rifleman J, Prisoner of War, 1st Rifle Brigade, English Gefengenem, Solton Colony Konigsmoor, 14P, Hanover, Germany. Letter address only. For parcel address see another entry, No. 37.
Lambden, P134777 Pte F, 9th Co, ASC, MT, Osterly Park, Middlesex
Lay, 1910 Pte W, A Co, No 1 Platoon, 1/4th Royal Berks Regiment, BEF, France
Lee, M2/035034 Driver W R, 345 Co, ASC, MT, 25th Division Sub, Anm. Park, BEF, France
Littlewood, B, RR
Mills, 13026 Pte C, B Co, 5th Platoon, 8th Royal Berks Regiment, BEF, France
Mills, 1621 Sadler Corp. H, 3rd troop, B Squadron, Royal Berks Yeomanry, 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade, 2nd Mounted Division, Albania Barracks, Cairo
Milner, 2678 Lance-Corp. H J, 1/6th East Surrey Regiment, E Co, Signallers, No 13 Bungalow, Kuldana, Murree, India
Parr, 71372 Sapper F C, Royal Engineers, 20 Lancaster Road, Hitchin
Pocock, 8607 Corp. E C, 4th Platoon, 33rd Division ACC, Hut 29B, F Lines, Bulford Camp
Pounds, Sergt M, Berks RHA, Reading
Richardson, 16895 Pte H J, RMLI, H Co, H3 Room, Chatham Barracks
Rolfe, Driver H E, 181, ASC, B Squad, Dorset Yeomanry, Cairo, Egypt
Smith, 10456 Pte C, 5th Royal Berks. Wounded.
Smith, L V, Friends Ambulance Unit, Army Post Office, S10, BEF, France
Ward, 1026 Pte F, C Co, 2/6th Cyclist Section, Royal Sussex Regiment, Potter Heigham, Norfolk
Waite, 13687 Gunner J H, 16 Eastney Road, Eastney, Portsmouth
Hunt, 9215 Rifleman Joseph, 1st Rifle Brigade, Konigsmoor Bie Tostedt, Kriegsgafangenew Lager, Kries Harberg, Deutschland. Prisoner of war. Parcel address only.
Shelley, 66407 Pte E, RGA
Gooch, Pte Stanley, Royal Engineers, Reading

In Memoriam
George Shearwood, 323 London Rd, who gave his life for his country whilst serving with the New Zealand Contingent in the Dardanelles
Keene, George, who after many months of service at the Front, in France, was killed whilst doing his duty in the trenches with the 1st Batt. Herts Regiment

From PSA Brotherhood
May, Brother V M, 219 Southampton Street, who was killed in action in October, with the 8th Royal Berks Regiment

Broad Street magazine, December 1915 (D/N11/12/1/14)

That dread word “missing”

Broad Street Church in Reading continued to care about its men who had gone to war.

November 1915

We desire also to express our sympathy with the relatives and friends of our brother, Trooper G P Lewis, of the Royal Berks Yeomanry. Mr Lewis has been a member of our church for some years. He was one of the first to respond to the call of his country in August 1914. He has been reported “missing” in the Dardanelles, for some weeks. We can imagine what that dread word “missing” means to his loved ones, and we tender them our affectionate sympathy.

News reached Reading a few days ago that Private Reginald S Woolley, son of our friends Mr and Mrs W A Woolley, 85 Oxford Road, had been seriously wounded “somewhere in France”. It is a pleasure to be able to report that our young friend is now making good progress towards recovery, and hopes before long to be home on sick leave. We congratulate his parents upon this relief from their anxiety, and we hope that their natural desire to have their son home may soon be realised.

The call for recruits for the army and navy is sadly depleting our ranks in the Sunday School, and there is the possibility of further loss in the near future…

Talking of recruits reminds me that eight more names have been added to the church section of our Roll of Honour.
(more…)

Digging defences for London

In Essex, Sydney Spencer’s regiment had been set to digging out trenches for the defence of London in the event of an invasion.

Sept 7th
Left Thetford on to Brentwood for digging North London Defences. Mess address Brent House. Parcels each day at Wilson’s Monument. March 4 miles to Mount Nessing daily.

Diary of Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/12)

Germans in England claim to be Swiss

Florence Vansittart Neale and her Admiralty official husband Henry, owner of Bisham Abbey, were holidaying on the Isle of Wight, but kept in touch with war news.

28 February 1915

To Trinity – saw telegram of Dardanelles outer fort destroyed. “Queen Elizabeth” there. Heard from [illegible] officer there last Friday. Went to tea with Venables. Watched “Mine destroyers”, also ship at night – queer lights.

Heard new ship “Queen Eliz:” at Dardanelles. Three times put back – spies on board – narrow risk of explosion – changed suddenly whole of crew.

German here (Ventnor) Freemasons tavern always a German before the war, now says Swiss & put up sign “Hier spricht man Suisse”. V’s tell me a German tailor opposite called Fess – also man “Spenser” with motor boats & pilot boats for hire in secret service here. Rumoured also in German Secret Service. Had German uniform & refuses to let any of his sons fight for England. (Wrote Sir G. Greene March 21st.)

Heard from Mrs Sholto Douglas at that air raid in Essex, bombs fell only 200 yards from barracks (artillery) – full of terriers.

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

‘Up to our waist in mud and water’: talking to the Germans across the trenches

This letter appears to be from one of the soldiers Sydney Spencer had met while helping at a YMCA camp for soldiers early in the war. He gave Sydney a frank depiction of the grim reality of the trenches – but also some sense of fellow feeling with the enemy soldiers:

Pte S Brown
No 7799 B Company: 2nd Essex Regiment
12 Brigade: 4 Division
Expeditionary Force
14.12.14

My dear friend

Just a few lines to let you know I am still in the land of the living & in the best of health. I have wrote to Mr Hayes but have not received an answer up to yet so I expect he is travelling about. I have heard from Mr Warren at the Corp Stores at Packerton but received his letter a month late. It is rather wet out here in the trenches and we are up to our waist in mud & water, & are only 10 yards from the Germans’ trenches so they often shout to us & we shout to them. The other day we through [sic] a tin of meat over & they returned the compliment with a bunch of carrots so I think the Germans are as fed up of the war as we are. I often think the war won’t last much longer but on the other hand, I think that us & the French are relying on Russia too much & we shall have to do something to help them, & I expect that we shall have to lose a lot more men yet, but I hope it will not last much longer. I think this is all at present, hoping to hear from you soon. I enclose wishing you a merry Xmas & a happy new year, & remain

Yours sincerely

S. Brown

Letter from Private S. Brown to Sydney Spencer (D/EX801/78)

A husband and wife separated by the war

Will Spencer, formerly Professor of Music at Cologne [Koln], Germany, was temporarily residing in Cookham with his elderly parents, but unhappily separated from his German wife Johanna who had stayed behind. He wrote to his younger brother Sydney reporting what he knew about how poor Johanna was getting on:

Fernley,
Cookham,
Maidenhead

Nov. 5th, 1914

Dear Syd,

We have been getting very cheerful letters from Percy of late. I had one from him this morning, in answer to one I wrote him last Sunday. Of course you know he & his “lot” (including Capt. Ralph Holliday) are at present at Braintree, in Essex. His full address is –
Rose Cottage,
Bocking Place,
Braintree,
Essex,
– but in the letter which I have just received from him he says that he imagines that they will not be staying there much longer.

On the Wednesday (Oct 28th) I received a letter from Johanna’s brother in New York (Robert) enclosing a letter which his wife had received from Johanna, from which I saw that she was worrying a good deal because she did not know what I thought about the war, nor whether I was influenced by what the English papers were saying about the Germans. I have since had a nice letter from Johanna that has cheered me up again, but before that I was feeling very depressed, not only because of Johanna’s misgiving that we might disagree when we met again, but also because I did not know whether she had received the letter which I had written to her on Oct 15th & 16th. For I had written those letters in English (at her suggestion) instead of writing in German, as I had done up till then, & I had a misgiving that Johanna might have been mistaken in thinking that it was better for me to write in English, & they might not reach her. But the letter which I received from her yesterday has reassured me on that point. She received them both.

Letter from Will Spencer to his brother Sydney (D/EZ177/3/1/3)

Digging trenches in Essex – because the train service is so bad

Florence Spencer wanted to visit her brother before he went off to the Front, but Percy gently discouraged her.

Rose Cottage
Bocking Place
Braintree
Essex

Nov 3. 1914

Dear Florrie

Here, there is nothing worth seeing except me, and, I am afraid you would find the place dreadfully slow. All the good accommodation too is taken by military. Moreover the train service is the limit. I think that is why we are here trench-digging – some obstacles are necessary to impede the German progress long enough to enable the Great Eastern to convey troops here. We’ve a wonderful War Office – it thinks of everything…

Yours ever

Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/21)

The importance of administration in an army

Before heading to the Front, Percy Spencer’s brigade was sent to Essex to dig trenches. He revealed to his sister Florence that army censors were not just keeping sensitive information secret – they were getting clues about how soldiers saw the Front, and making use of that information:

c/o Mrs Spurgeon
Rose Cottage
Bocking Place
Braintree
Essex

Nov. 1st, 1914

Dear Florrie

I’ve just written a fairly long letter home, which no doubt you will see, and as for news, therefore, I’m afraid I’m about spun out.

We are down here to dig about 20 miles of trenches and lay some hundreds of miles of barbed wire. This may be merely practice for the men in soil similar to that in France, or a precautionary measure in a particularly vulnerable point. The work won’t take us very long, and when it is finished I believe we are to return to St Albans for a time before we go out – if ever we do.

My work at the orderly room is really a farce. Of course there is a certain amount to be done, but it is quite amusing to me to listen to my superior, a quartermaster sergeant who thinks we are “rushed”. I suppose the explanation is, he is a solicitor’s clerk in private life, and doesn’t know what work is.

It is very interesting to read the private observations of officers at the front giving the lessons they have learnt for the benefit of the troops training at home. These observations are circulated and acted upon by officers here, as our men should know better how to go on out there when we do arrive on the field. The administration of a moving force is a wonderful piece of work – in fact I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the domestic side of the business and field discipline are very important, if not the most important factors.

We were all at St Albans. In less than 12 hours, 3000 of us (1) had received orders to clear out, (2) had entrained and armed at Braintree, and (3) settled down there and got going there, as though no move had taken place. It’s wonderful.

Yours ever

Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/20)

Rubbing up his French before going to the Front

Ready for his move to the Front, Percy Spencer was advised to brush up his rusty French, so he dashed off a note to his sister Florence:

c/o Mrs Spurgeon
Rose Cottage
Bocking Place
Braintree
Essex

31.10.14

Dear Florrie

The above is now my address.

Can you send me a cheap French sentence book, and have you a grammar you can loan me?
My governor advises me that I should rub up my French.

Yours ever
Percy
in great haste

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/19)

‘Knowing nothing about a rifle, they can’t put me in the firing line’

The camping stove Florence Spencer sent to her brother Percy had one flaw – he couldn’t make it work! The time of his going to the Front seemed to be approaching…

Silverdale
Belmont Hill
St Albans
Oct 28.14

Dear Flo

How do you work your stove – should there be a wick or a piece of gauze over the oil well? Or should the oil well be filled with a wad soaked with methylated?

I’m off to Essex on Friday for a short time. Then back to St Albans, and then I am informed, to France.

That last will be a jolly game for a raw recruit who hasn’t handled a rifle yet – it will at least reassure you that I shan’t run any risk, as, knowing nothing about a rifle, they can’t put me in the firing line.

Excuse this brief note.

Yours ever Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer to his sister Florence (D/EZ177/7/3/18)