A resignation at the Berkshire National Relief Fund

Changes were afoot at the Berkshire Committee of the National Relief Fund, which made small grants to individuals who were in reduced circumstances due to the war.

9 February 1918

The following letter from Mr F H Wright resigning his position as Hon. Secretary was read:

Jan. 12th 1918

Dear Sir Reginald

I think the time has arrived when I should resign the Secretaryship of the Berkshire National Relief Fund. You may remember that I undertook this Secretaryship at the pressing request of Sir Robert Mowbray when the war broke out in August 1914, and that I devoted the latter part of my summer vacation to the organization of that work. when I undertook the work, it was on the understanding that I might not be able to help after the College Term began, but the invaluable assistance rendered me by the Assistant Secretary, Miss Gladys Pott, enabled me to retain the nominal Secretaryship so long as Miss Pott was Assistant Secretary.

As you know, Miss Pott had to resign last year and inasmuch as there is no room available at the Shire Hall, where all the books and papers referring to the Fund are kept, it would appear to be better for the Secretaryship to be taken over by one of the County Officials and I am given to understand that Mr Chambers would be willing to undertake the work.

Believe me to remain
Yours faithfully
(Signed) Francis H Wright

Registrar

Resolved: That the resignation be accepted with regret and that the Hon. Secretary be instructed to write to Mr Wright expressing the great appreciation felt by the Committee for all that he had done in organising and carrying on the work of the Committee.


Correspondence from the Foreign Office, the Government Committee and Mr Aldridge of Spencers Wood, relative to the case of Mrs Louise Swain, was read.

The Secretary reported that the Chairman and Mr Benyon had authorised a temporary allowance of 10/- a week for one month until Mrs Swain could obtain work.

A further letter was read from Mrs Swain stating she had been unable to obtain work, and after Mrs Swain had attended before the Committee, it was resolved that the allowance of 10/- should be continued to her for a further five weeks.

Application for a grant for the purpose of ploughing and fencing land at Lambourn was received from Mr E C Jennings of the Sheep Drove, Lambourn, and after his letter had been read and considered the application was refused.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

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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)

“This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one”

William Hallam was worried that bad weather would worsen food shortages.

29th August 1917

All night it rained too. This weather is getting serious for the crops and just when we want an extra good one.

It got brighter this evening tho’. An aeroplane went over just after 9 o’clock to-night. The latest I have seen one yet.

Diary of William Hallam (D/EX1415/25)

Ploughing the land

The local committee of the National Relief Fund, which aimed to help people thrown into poverty as a direct result of the war, decided to help out a mother trying to keep her son’s farm going.

21 April 1917
Application for Loan

The following letter from Mr W H Tottie was read:

Mrs Lake, Yew Tree Farm, Swallowfield
This woman has with her husband been looking after a farm for their son who is in the Berkshire Yeomanry. As her husband died recently and she has since then been quite unable to find or pay for labour she now wants assistance towards ploughing the land. A neighbouring farmer will do this for her and he asks £5, but Lady Constance Pasley thinks it could be done for less – say £3 – the Pensions Committee and the War Agricultural Committee have no powers to grant this and I would suggest that our National Relief Fund should help her. It is obviously desirable that the land be tilled. Mr Norland and the War Agricultural Committee have particulars.

Yours sincerely
(Signed) W H Tottie

The Committee decided that Mrs Lake be granted a loan of not exceeding £5, such loan to be repayable six months after the issue of the cheque and to be secured by a promissory note signed by Mrs Lake.

National Relief Fund: Berkshire Committee minutes (C/CL/C6/4/1)

Captain with a capital C

Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall (better known in later years under her married name Phoebe Cusden) was a young Post Office employee in Reading during the war. Later a leading local pacifist, at this stage in her life she was working with a Guide troop in support of the war effort. She wrote to her brother, who had joined up:

52 Beresford Road
Reading
30 Nov. 1915

My dear Hodge [nickname]

Here’s as merry a Christmas as circumstances permit. Guess it’s about the most novel one you’ve ever spent, eh?

My Guides are doing well – getting quite expert signallers besides learning first aid and other useful things. We hope to go to camp next year. I shall expect you to salute me when you come home, ‘cos I’m a Captain (with a capital C).

We have an OTC and a real live Sergeant Major drills us in the approved army style…

Best love and good luck old man
Your loving sister
Nell Blackall

(2 Cockney soldiers lent to a farmer to help with dairy work: one armed with milking stool and pail, other armed with gun, approaching cow). Man with gun: “It do seem a shime to kill the pore thing for the sike of a drop o’ milk.”

Letter from Annie Ellen Phoebe Blackall to her brother (D/EX1485/2/8)

Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister Florence again. He was not very flattering about artist brother Stanley’s potential as a soldier, but was concerned about newly commissioned brother Sydney.

June 4, 1915
Dear Florrie

Here we are after a night move two days ago, a little move to the south and west. Jack Jackson’s regiment went by me in the dark but I didn’t catch sight of him. I expect he’s all right still as I believe our brigade has done most of the serious work so far.
This is a delightful and wealthy place – with a more glorious garden still than the last, and all the peace of a private farm, and all the joy of peasant men and women working about the place. But we are under the eye of the enemy so all our movements are dark and clandestine.

Mother’s letter was quite good. The artful touch about Edith French was very amusing. Edith will look perfectly charming in a nurse’s uniform, I agree. Tell mother I’m sure she’ll be wrapped up by the first sensible fellow fortunate enough to be wounded and nursed by her, and that I’ll try hard for the post.

By the way, the sweet little lady had written me a charming letter which I hope to answer. Why on earth isn’t she married? The men of her own wealth must be blind, or is it because she lives at the end of the world?

I do hope Stan will stick by the home. He really isn’t of much account for military purposes, but of course I understand it’s hard for him to remain out of this business, and he might be useful in the medical way.

Of course Sydney if he gets a commission and comes out soon will have the worst of it, and take exceedingly serious risks of at least being winged. Nobody except those who have been through it knows the cost and danger of an attack, and I don’t want him to be told, but, Flo dear, if he comes out as a subaltern, hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.


Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/32)

“A rummy go”: 10 miles from the fighting, farmers are at work

Percy Spencer wrote to his sister about life close behind the line.

April 12th 1915
Dear Florrie

You’re a marvel.

Never was there such a parcel. The ingenuity of it all passes the mere mind of a man. Thank you for all its contents – chocolate, [spiritives?], battery, tobacco, tripod, cap, matches – is there anything I’ve forgotten!

And thanks for the biscuits.

Yesterday we had some fun. A hostile aeroplane came over, fired at by our allies’ guns. Then some of our aircraft got up, but too late to engage, otherwise we were looking forward to a fight right over our heads. However the enemy was driven off and had again to run the gauntlet of gunfire.

We’ve lost a few of our men up to date, but not many, and they have created a good impression I believe in the fighting line.

I think I told you I had been pretty close up, and now I hear from Stan that one of the Kennedys had been killed just about where I was.

I wonder if H Jackson of the 7th will ever look in here – quite likely as they are in our Division. I suppose he’s a lieutenant…

While I’ve been writing to you an aeroplane has been skirmishing around and being shelled. It’s a rummy go. Guns going and rifles cracking a short distance away from peaceful agricultural employment. I think that struck me more than anything else. A short ten miles from the fighting line over ground which had been quite recently the scene of bloody engagements, farmers were at work again.


Yours ever
Percy

Letter from Percy Spencer (D/EZ177/7/4/22)

“The desolation of war is complete”

Percy Spencer occasionally wrote directly to his sister’s friend John Maxwell Image, a Cambridge don. He painted a vivid picture of the devastation of the area he was fighting in:

April 10, 1915
Dear Mr Image

We’ve struck a quiet patch, so I’m snatching the opportunity to square my letter writing account as far as possible.

Three or four times I commenced letters to thank you for yours and for your presents, but cannot remember if I was ever successful in finishing one. So I’ll make sure by thanking you now for all the things you have sent me including the feathers and the aluminium cup. I think WF [Percy’s nickname for his sister Florence] is a marvel of ingenuity. I still have a few of the feathers; I’m not so extravagant as I was, but it’s been a difficult job to hang on to them with an unfledged staff always around.

Did I tell you I had been up close to the fighting? The misery of the villages I have seen there makes me boil at the similar plight poor Belgium must be in. The desolation of war is complete, but not the hopelessness of a restoration. A very short distance out of rifle fire, farmers are at work upon ground that has recently been fought over, and I felt grateful for this evidence that “hope springs eternal in the human breast”.

The night before I went up, we billeted 2 miles or so from the fighting, immediately behind the village church, which had been aimed at by enemy guns but not hit. I hear it has now been struck and demolished. Did I tell you of the fun we had there through the fear of our cook for shells? If a shell had arrived I’m sure I should have died laughing – his little precautions were too funny. He “kipped down” as far as possible from doors and windows, removed the candle from the window and always cast an anxious glance around if he had to go into the yard.

We manage to get plenty of fun. For instance, ten days ago we witnessed an enemy aeroplane run the gauntlet of our allies’ guns. At one time we hoped to see a fight in the air, but our allies’ aero was not up quick enough.

Well, here’s to an early peace, not on the terms I saw recently in the paper, and a greater appreciation of the privilege and pleasures of peace.

Ever yours
Percy J Spencer

Letter from Percy Spencer to John Maxwell Image (D/EZ177/7/10/9)